In lengthy Statesman interview, Wadhams fends off critics, weighs future

The Colorado Statesman this week published a massive interview with Colorado GOP Chair Dick Wadhams. The reading is good but, for the most part, the information he relates is not that new.

It’s a good read, and the first major interview he’s given since the election but there’s not much there to make either his friends or enemies slap their foreheads with an “ah hah.”

He does imply that former Congressman Scott McInnis might have been able to win the nomination for governor and the general election had he not blamed his plagiarism scandal on an elderly researcher working for him. He also says Jane Norton’s original campaign manager gave her bad advice in her primary contest with Ken Buck for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.

He again discounts the notion that the Democrats utilized a strong ground game in keeping Michael Bennet’s U.S. Senate seat in Democrats’ hands.

Instead, he points to Republican Ken Buck’s own mistakes and “reprehensible” ads by liberal groups for turning the tide toward Bennet in the weeks leading to the election.

… the Bennet campaign embarked on a very smart strategy the last three weeks — in conjunction with massive spending by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the National Education Association, ASCME, and some other 527s — zooming in on a very specific message to attack Buck on his Personhood support, his abortion stand, which did not include exceptions for rape and incest, and the fact that he had — and they honed in on that rape case that became controversial in the end. By doing that, what they did, they made Ken unacceptable to that narrow slice of the electorate that was still up for grabs. And it is always the demographic group that waits until the last minute to decide who to vote for: unaffiliated women, particularly in the suburbs of Jeffco and Arapahoe.

While blaming some of the independent liberal groups for making Buck “unacceptable” to voters, Wadhams also notes that Buck did it to himself with his own comments.

So what I do know is that the Democrats employed a very smart strategy at the end, taking advantage of comments and positions that Buck had taken. And given the voters that were still up for grabs, it worked. And it’s unfortunate, because I think many of the ads were reprehensible and deceitful and made Buck into something he is not. But you know what? Unfortunately, Ken gave them a lot of the ammunition to shoot back.

Talking about Buck’s support for the Personhood Amendment, Wadhams notes that many prominent Republicans opposed Personhood, either this year or when it was on the ballot in the past.

You will recall two years ago, Archbishop Chaput and Bob Schaffer both opposed Personhood. In fact, there was a huge split within the pro-life community itself. Many pro-life leaders opposed that amendment. If he had taken just a few minutes to sit back and make a phone call to somebody or check it out. And so that was too bad.

On the subject of Republican nominee for governor Dan Maes, Wadhams was blunt: “Frankly I have nothing to say to Dan Maes.”

Asked if he thought Maes had a future in the party, he said he does not. “No, I do not. Maybe he does with some people, but he doesn’t, as far as I’m concerned.”

On Republican Scott Tipton’s victory over incumbent John Salazar in the 3rd District, Wadhams said he knew that if Republicans could shift the discussion from whether people like Salazar to how he voted, then Tipton would have a pretty good shot.

I felt coming into this election year, after watching Salazar stand there and cheerfully vote for the Stimulus Bill and then he was right — he was standing — and probably the moment I realized that Salazar was probably vulnerable was the day after the first health care vote in the House. And there in the photo op was John Salazar proudly standing just behind Nancy Pelosi. And I remember thinking, you know what? If we can move this election from whether we like John Salazar to how John Salazar votes, we can win this thing. Because, if the question was, do we like John Salazar, well, we lose, because everybody likes John Salazar. I like John Salazar — everybody likes John. And he’s a good person and you know, you can’t — wonderful personal attributes, all that stuff. But he honestly was cavalierly voting for this Pelosi/Obama agenda that his district opposed and so I always felt — And that’s why when Scott Tipton called me whenever he started to get to wanting to run and was just asking my opinion, as he was asking many people, if I thought the race was winnable, I told him I thought it was. But nobody thought it — not many people thought it was at that point. But I said, “Scott, because now people are going to be focusing on his votes and not whether they like John.” And I said, “If you can hammer away on the votes…” Even Cap and Trade, which he voted against, remember how he did it? He wouldn’t tell anybody how he was going to vote.

On campaign finance reform, Wadhams said it won’t happen until people become more fed up than they are now, but that when it happens it will be sweeping.

CS: Full disclosure?
DW: Any amount of money from any entity any time with full, immediate disclosure and let the people decide. It will be self-enforcing, we won’t have to have the bureaucracy of the Federal Election Commission or the Secretary of State’s office telling us what is bad for us. I mean the bottom —

CS: And you have the technology, with the Internet, to do it.
DW: Exactly, exactly. And you know what, there will be enough public scrutiny of contributions that candidates and parties will have to say, “Do I really want to take this amount of money from this entity?” And it will be self-enforcing. And then the voters will decide on Election Day. That will be part of their decision making process. Because these campaign reformers — and there are plenty of Republicans who voted for McCain-Feingold — they think voters are stupid, that they have to be protected from themselves. That voters are just not smart enough to figure this out, to understand when a candidate or a party is unduly influenced by contributions. And it’s just dumb, it’s just stupid. So I mean the system is going to continue to get worse and worse and worse and worse as long as we have any of these campaign finance laws on the books. My hope is that it becomes so hopelessly lost and that it might have to reach a total breaking point and finally, my campaign finance reform plan (laughs) — and I’m not the only one who talks about this obviously — but it will finally come to fruition.

Wadhams also disputes the notion that he or the party should do a better job of vetting candidates and denies having any role in forcing Josh Penry from the race for governor.

Any links added from material quoted from The Statesman were added by The Colorado Independent.

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Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.