Dick Wadhams announced Tuesday that he will run for a third term as Colorado Republican Party chairman. The news comes as little surprise to watchers of the proud party boss, but Wadhams will surely face strong opposition among Republicans who view this past election year as a mostly missed opportunity to regain control in purple state Colorado.
In a year that saw historic gains for Republicans around the country and where Colorado hosted one of the most enthusiastic conservative-voter Tea Party movements in any state of the union, Colorado Republicans won the state treasurer and secretary of state offices, a one-seat majority in the state House and two Congressional seats. Democrats, however, retained their majority in the state Senate, won the governor’s office and retained full Democratic representation in the U.S. Senate.
Wadhams came under fire after the election for mishandling the governor’s race, where six-term GOP Congressman Scott McInnis, tangled in a plagiarism scandal, lost in the primary to amateur politician Dan Maes. Maes then suffered a humiliating loss to Democrat John Hickenlooper in a three-way race that split the conservative vote between Maes and right-wing icon Tom Tancredo and where Wadhams’ loyalties were similarly mixed. Critics also jabbed Wadhams for failing to push strong candidate Ken Buck over the top in his neck-and-neck U.S. Senate race with Michael Bennet and for failing to recruit and support stronger down-ticket candidates for the state House and Senate. A surprising number of 2010 down-ticket GOP candidates carried histories of violent criminal offenses that included domestic abuse, shootings and drunken brawls with police officers.
Wadhams opened the release announcing his candidacy by listing his accomplishments over the last two years, a list of what seem merely party-leader responsibilities, on one side, and vague messaging and networking tasks, on the other.
Two years ago, I promised a competitive, fair and open nomination process where any Republican candidate could compete for our nomination and where all Republican voters… could participate. And that’s what we did.
Two years ago, I promised to expand our candidate and campaign manager training. And that’s what we did.
Two years ago, I promised to build upon the successful 2008 state convention and efficiently execute the 2010 Colorado Republican State Assembly with absolute integrity in the balloting process. And that’s what we did.
Two years ago, I promised to continue to aggressively challenge Democratic elected officials and candidates and their liberal agendas. And that’s what we did.
Two years ago, I promised to expand our communications with our county Republican leadership. And that’s what we did.
Two years ago, I promised to expand our use of social networking. And that’s what we did.
Two years ago, I promised to continue to travel across our state meeting with and speaking to Republicans across Colorado. And that’s what I did.
Two years ago, I promised to continue to work directly with our Republican legislative leadership in publicly supporting their agenda and recruiting state legislative candidates. And that’s what we did.
Wadhams also laid out his priorities for the coming years:
I want to serve as state chairman during the 2012 election cycle because of the extraordinary opportunities Colorado Republicans have to dramatically impact our state and nation.
Colorado will be a heavily targeted state — again! — in the 2012 presidential campaign.
Our precinct caucuses on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 will help determine our Republican presidential nominee. As you recall, more than 70,000 Republicans participated in our first ever Presidential Preference Poll at our 2008 precinct caucuses which was non-binding. I will propose changing our Colorado Republican bylaws at our Fall 2011 meeting to make the 2012 Presidential Preference Poll binding on our national convention delegation. Making the poll binding will enhance the role Colorado Republicans will play in what will be a very competitive presidential nominating process.
Colorado will be one of a handful of states that will determine the presidency in 2012 because of the possibility it will shift from Blue to Red. Since the presidential campaign is the only statewide campaign on the 2012 ballot — we have no governor or senator race up next year — our entire statewide focus will be on defeating President Obama and giving our nine electoral votes to the eventual Republican nominee.
In 2008 with Wadhams at the helm of the state GOP, Colorado Democrats made unprecedented gains, sending five Democrats to Congress to dominate the seven-member delegation in the House, installing Democrat Mark Udall in the U.S. Senate with Democrat Ken Salazar, taking control of all branches of state government and joining with most of the country in voting for Democrat Obama over Republican John McCain for president.
In the election last week for Republican National Committee chairman, Wadhams threw his support behind Michigan party chairman Saul Anuzis, who lost to Wisconsin’s Reince Preibus. In 2009, Wadhams also backed Anuzis, who lost that year to Michael Steele.
News of Wadhams announcement has so far generated little reaction on the right. Last week, conservative blogger Joshua Sharf at the People’s Press Collective blogsite defended Wadhams, but mostly by arguing that the power of the party chairman has diminished in recent years.
“The party chairman is no longer the guy with the biggest cigar in the smoke-filled room,” Sharf wrote. “Changes in campaign finance laws mean that the party machine plays little if any role in branding the party. That comes from the candidates. And the candidates meet directly with… the ones who’ll fund their campaigns, rather than going through the party hierarchy to get there…
“Leadership… needs to come from somewhere, and if the party chairman can’t do it… then someone outside the party hierarchy needs to play that role.”