Colorado Confidential met with Pat Waak, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party, as she visited Glenwood Springs for a Garfield County Democratic Party meeting-an almost 500 mile round trip from her home in Weld County. Our interview covered various topics– from the 2006 election to future party plans. Q: Why do you think Democratic candidates did so well in the 2006 elections?
A: Our candidates ran without “left” or “right” labels. For instance, Bill Ritter is an authentic person with an interesting life story that voters could identify with. Plus, Bill toured all the counties listening to what mattered to these voters.
We were able to raise money. The party itself had a $1.2 million budget not to mention what the candidates were able to raise. Our candidates also had great 527 organizational support. I am so proud that we met our goals: we kept the statehouse and senate and even increased our numbers; we won the governorship; and we are sending another Democrat to the US Congress.
Our party had a 64 county strategy and our field workers were a tremendous help to county organizations. In the 2004 elections, Ken Salazar carried 27 out of 64 counties. Bill Ritter in comparison carried 38 counties. Ten of those 11 counties that went Democratic in 2006 were rural. We knew Bill had won the governorship even before Denver’s vote came in.
We took on Trailhead early in the campaign and we feel that our efforts undermined its effectiveness.
Q: What was the Democratic message that you think voters responded to in the 2006 election?
A: The average person wants a good job, the human dignity to take care of themselves and their family, and they want to provide kids with a better life through a good education. I think our Democratic candidates were successful in addressing those concerns in their campaigns.
Across the nation, the Democratic National Committee polled voters about issues. Jobs, health and education were the top three. Colorado was no different until it came to the fourth issue. Most voters rated national security as number four, but in Colorado we felt protecting our natural resources and environment were paramount.
Q: What’s in store for the Colorado Democratic Party during the next two years leading up to the 2008 elections?
We will continue to build the party, recruit good candidates and increase communication. We will also keep improving our voter files. I’ll continue going across the state to learn what worked and what didn’t, so we can build on our successes.
We have 10 different voting styles in Colorado. So, I hope to work with Senator Ken Gordon about election reform to eliminate the problems we had in Denver, Douglas, Routt and Montrose.
The party especially wants to reach out to our young people to get them involved with the political process and we need to outreach to the Latino community, too.
Photo: Pat Waak, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party by Leslie Robinson