DENVER–Members of Colorado Tea Party and 912 groups and the libertarian think tank Independence Institute attended a “grassroots session” and rally sponsored by Americans For Prosperity at the Capitol Wednesday. The activists met with GOP lawmakers for a strategy session in the Old Senate chambers and then gathered on the capitol steps. The rally lured a familiar group of Republican lawmakers, led this time by Yuma state Rep. Cory Gardner, who is also running to represent the Fourth Congressional district in Washington.
“I represent a district that is tired of taxes, tired regulations, tired of policies that push oil and gas out of a district where we say energy independence is where we ought to be,” Gardner told the crowd. “I am tired of stimulus packages that bail out Wall Street and take money from our pockets. I am tired of a Government that is fighting Tea Parties and 9/12 groups– people who are getting involved and standing up for our rights and our liberties. And I am tired of a government that puts veterans, second amendment believers and other activists on terrorist watch lists.”
It was a version of the speech Gardner has been sharpening on the stump since the summer and at Tea Party events throughout the Frontrange Fourth District, one that references anti-Obama administration Tea Party themes and story-lines and one that this time conflated the stimulus Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the TARP bank bailout program. It also made no mention of the boom in gas drilling the district will see this year as Houston-based Andarko Petrolium begins to erect new rigs and drill thousands of wells in Weld, Adams, Boulder, Broomfield and Larimer counties.
Gardner, who has drawn heat from Democrats for missing votes in the House this week because he was campaigning in Washington, told the crowd that Colorado Republicans have an excellent opportunity this year to win back key offices. He said Democrats were out of touch with voters.
“If you don’t listen to the people the people are going to fire you and they are going to kick you out of office.”
Also attending were Republican Senators Dave Schultheis, Colorado Springs, Scott Renfroe, Greeley, and Kevin Lundberg, Berthoud, joined Republican Representatives Jim Kerr, Littleton, Larry Liston, Colorado Springs, and Laura Bradford, Grand Junction. Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Tom Wiens also made an appearance.
AFP State Director Jeff Crank talked about the “grassroots advocacy session” held ealier in the day with GOP lawmakers. The session saw Tea Party representatives meeting in the Old Senate Chamber with Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry and Rep. Frank McNulty.
“We had about 70 activists who are representing various groups around Colorado who came together and talked about how do we keep the movement going? How do we stop the health care bill in Washington DC? How do we stop them from raising taxes and continuing to raise taxes here in the state of Colorado?”
“We are organized. We are disparate groups. We have different visions. But we all work together and we are going to continue to do that for the cause of freedom on Colorado,” Crank said.
The Independence Institute’s Jon Caldera said Tea Party and 9/12 groups are forcing Republicans to uphold a fiscally conservative agenda.
“Why are Republicans talking like Republicans? Do you think that it is because of them?” Caldara said, pointing to the capitol. “No. It’s because of us.”
The grassroots session and the rally underlined again a new dynamic on the right in Colorado this year, one that mirrors changes across the country, where grassroots groups in an election year after steep GOP election losses in 2008 are shaping Republican politics– on the stump and in the legislative chambers.