The major GOP races in Colorado don't want for drama this year -- or comedy, depending on your perspective. Tom Tancredo's high noon ultimatum to Scott McInnis and Dan Maes was followed by Ken Buck's "Weld County bullshit" statement and another comment in which he called Tea Party birthers "dumbasses." What's 9.12 Project Colorado Coalition chair Lu Busse got to say about these topics? Plenty.
First up: Tancredo, who says he'll announce his candidacy for governor on the American Constitution Party ticket after noon today if McInnis and Maes don't pledge to drop out of the race if they're trailing in the polls after winning the August 11 Republican primary.
Busse's organization, joined by numerous other 9.12 Project groups and a few Tea Party organizations, sent Tancredo an open letter yesterday evening (read it below). In it, they remind him that he'd encouraged them not to try to change the Republican Party from within, rather than starting a third party, in an open letter of his own back in December, as well as at a January gathering of 9.12 and Tea Party supporters. (A video from that meeting is on view below as well.) The latest letter's signatories urge Tancredo to reconsider his ultimatum.
"I really don't understand why he thinks going third party is going to solve problems," Busse elaborates. "We still have a primary, we still have the voters on each side who are going to nominees for the Republican and Democrat parties. So let's see what happens with the voters. Trust us to make an intelligent, informed decision, and don't truncate the process.
"Don't go around us and try to manipulate us -- and that goes for the GOP as well as Congressman Tancredo."
The mention of the GOP in Busse's last comment is in part a reference to state Senator Greg Brophy's suggestion that whoever wins the August primary, McInnis or Maes, withdraw from consideration immediately thereafter and leave it to a Republican Party committee to choose a candidate with a better shot at besting presumptive Democratic nominee John Hickenlooper in November. This plan would seem to fly in the face of 9.12 Project and Tea Party calls to open up the political process, rather than relying on party big shots to decide what's best for supporters -- and Busse and many of her colleagues are deeply troubled by it.
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"We are in disagreement with that," she confirms. "Huge majorities are in disagreement about it. It is a bone of contention that we are concerned about, although, so far, it's just Greg Brophy and a couple of others who are saying it. The GOP hasn't officially endorsed it."
In the meantime, Busse isn't ready to declare a winner in the primary.
"I realize that the establishment and the media just keep reporting that Scott McInnis is going to win," she notes. "But that's not reflected in what we hear -- and not just from Liberty Movement individuals, but from everyday Republicans we're talking to. There's at least a chance that Dan Maes will win the Republican primary. And so far, the things they've tried to throw at him are not serious -- they're not things that would keep him from winning."
As Busse concedes, "that's a matter of debate." While McInnis has been accused of plagiarizing a Supreme Court Justice in his "Musings on Water," a series of articles for which he was paid $300,000 by the Hasan Family Foundation (an amount McInnis is pledging to return), Maes has been dogged by reports about hefty mileage reimbursement submissions and a significant fine for campaign-reporting errors, as well as suggestions from the Denver Post and other media outlets that his tax returns shows he's a lousy businessman.
This last argument strikes Busse as particularly suspect.
"They're trying to spin that he wasn't that successful, because he didn't make as much money as they think he should have gotten from his businesses," she says. "But it looks to us like he's a regular small businessman -- and that any of us could have had tax returns like that. And since we're wanting more people like us in office rather than career politicians, it doesn't play the way with the average voter as it does with the media and the establishment and the elite.
"Why should they get to decide what's enough executive experience? It comes back to our basic feeling, which is, what makes them think they're better than the rest of us on the elite side?"
According to Busse, Liberty Movement outfits that continue to stick by Maes have been dismissed as "zombies and thralls." But there's a better reason for their loyalty, she believes.
"When people hear him speak and he allows them to ask questions -- he doesn't just give a stump speech -- they get a sense that this man has his heart in the right place, and he really wants to do what's best for Colorado. So I encourage media and voters to actually go to one of the events and listen to the people asking him questions, and to ask their own questions, and listen to his answers. Because we've interacted with him for a long time, and we've gotten a feel for him. And I don't think he's a good enough actor that he could have totally snowed this many people."
As for Buck, the latest controversy swirling around him involves a recording of him speaking to a Democratic Party operative. In the clip obtained by the Denver Post, Buck says, "Will you tell those dumbasses at the Tea Party to stop asking questions about birth certificates while I'm on the camera?"
The Jane Norton campaign, which has already made hay with a clip highlighting Buck's "Weld County bullshit" remark, as well as a line about about deserving votes because he doesn't wear high heels, is jumping on the "dumbasses" aside; look below to see a comment in which Norton's spokeswoman calls Buck a "fraud" for pretending he's a Tea Party guy, and for criticizing mentor Tancredo during an event at which the latter lambasted President Barack Obama as the greatest threat to America today.
But Busse thinks all of this chatter is much ado about nothing.
"My first general statement is, why in the Senate race, especially on the Republican side, are we talking about high heels and a candidate using bad words in an unguarded moment, instead of the real, substantive issues? That just strikes me as silly."
Regarding the "dumbasses" remark, she says, "I don't recall Ken Buck claiming he was a Tea Partier. I've always heard him talking about being a grassroots candidate. And I think it's a little much to call him a fraud if he occasionally slips and criticizes someone, or uses a name in an unguarded moment.
"Most of us took the 'high heels' line as a joke. If you hear the laughter and what he was saying beforehand, it was obvious."
Not that the gag was a work of genius. "One of the things I've learned is that people running for office shouldn't try to be comedians," Busse concedes. But while a few of the smaller Liberty Movement groups are upset at Buck over his Tea Party/birthers line, she thinks other voters who don't like organizations like hers may gravitate to the candidate -- "so I think it'll all be a wash."
About "the Tancredo thing," as she refers to it, "who hasn't been frustrated at some of the things Congressman Tancredo has said over the years?" she wonders. "All of the different political ideologies can get a little frustrated with him. I guess you'd have to say we're a little frustrated with him at the moment, too."
Busse doesn't think Tancredo will drop his candidacy because of the aforementioned open letter. But if he did, "we'd view it as the Tom Tancredo we've come to know and respect -- more like him than what he's been saying these past few days, which seems totally out of character to many of us without a good explanation."
Page down to see the open letter, the video clip of Tancredo at the January gathering, and the Norton campaign release about Buck:
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Open Letter to Tom Tancredo from Colorado Liberty Groups
July 25, 2010
Dear Congressman Tancredo:
Many Coloradans and liberty movement individuals respect you for your courage and honorable service to this state. But, we ask what really has changed, and how your High Noon ultimatum issued July 22nd reflects the principles and values you have long stood for? This ultimatum seems out of character and completely contradicts the sage advice you offered us in an open letter on December 21, 2009 and reiterated again passionately at a joint 9-12 Project/Tea Party event on January 16, 2010.
We would like to remind you of this particular section of your open letter, which continues to resonate with us even today:
Yes, over the last decade, many individuals left the Republican Party because George Bush led the national party to abandon its principles and support several big government programs. But leaving the party is not the answer. Fighting for your principles and reshaping the party is the answer.
Throughout our nation's history, third parties have never succeeded in taking power and running the government. They have sometimes succeeded in pushing a major party in a new direction, but just as often, they succeeded only in electing the more liberal candidate after many conservatives waste their votes on a third party candidate. Remember 1992? Ross Perot never had a chance to be president, but he did help elect Bill Clinton.
Here in Colorado we have an uphill road in 2010, but the good news is we have the opportunity for a broad resurgent victory if we work together. -- Tom Tancredo
Over 800,000 Coloradans or 33% of likely voters, including almost 550,000 or 64% of likely Republican voters in our state, have joined the "Tea Party* movement in the past 17 months. We clearly demonstrated at the precinct causes and state assembly a significant portion of the 9-12 Project, Tea Party and other pro-liberty grassroots individuals have worked tirelessly for more than a year championing our principles, becoming engaged and informed, learning the political process, vetting candidates at all levels, and also reshaping the Colorado Republican Party as you advised. We trusted and listened to you among others; but, now you do not trust the Republican voters of Colorado to thoughtfully and logically evaluate the choices before us. You want to impose your personal choice and will over the will of the people. You are subverting the process and our will. This is the opposite of the liberty movement and what we are about.
Since your ultimatum, several liberty groups have queried their members and found about 2/3 (66% of 754 responses -- over 250 more than used in Rasmussen polls for Colorado) of the responders to this non-scientific internal survey would not vote for you in the Governor's race. This does not foretell a conservative victory, but rather an impending disaster, assuring victory for Mayor Hickenlooper and the liberal agenda in Colorado for at least four more years.
Congressman Tancredo, together our groups strongly urge you to reconsider, withdraw your ultimatum, stay in the Republican Party, let the process play out for the Governor's race within the rules already set forth, and continue to help us improve this party, its candidates, and the process -- in other words to trust and respect the newly awakened, energized and informed voters of Colorado.
Pledging our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to Colorado and our Constitutional Republic, the United States of America --
9-12 Pikes Peak Patriots
9-12 Project Liberty Circle
Broomfield 9-12 Project
Cherry Creek District 9-12 Project
Colorado 9-12 Project (Including Denver metro area, Front Range communities & Eastern I-70 corridor)
Elbert County Tea Party
Four Corners 9-12 Project/TEA Party Patriots (Cortez)
Four Corners Liberty Restoration Group (including Bayfield & Durango 9-12 Project/Tea Party)
Greeley 9-12 Project
Longmont 9-12/Tea Party
R Block Party
South Denver 9-12 Project
The 9-12 Project Colorado Coalition
The912Project.us Network - Colorado Chapter
The Constitutionalist Today Editorial Board
Tri-County 9-12 Project (Delta/Montrose/Ouray)
Two Rivers 9-12 Project
Vail Valley 9-12 Project
We Will Not Fall - Fort Collins 9-12 Project
Western Slope Conservative Alliance
Windsor 9-12 Project
Jane Norton campaign release:
KEN BUCK TRASHES TEA PARTIERS
Buck Dishes Out More Profanity, This Time at Tea Parties
Denver, CO -- Today, Ken Buck was caught on tape again. After spending the week explaining his high heels comments, today Ken Buck is explaining why he said he was "sick of Tea Partiers."
Said Norton campaign spokesperson Cinamon Watson, "Ken Buck is two steps short of a fraud. He's a self-proclaimed tea partier who trashes tea partiers when he thinks no one is looking. He's an alleged fiscal conservative who increased his budget by 40 percent. He's a Tom Tancredo disciple who trashes Tancredo when he thinks the mic is off. Ken says he can appeal to swing voters and beat Michael Bennet, and then trashes the roughly 50 percent of voters who wear high heels. Bottom line: the voters of Colorado can't trust Ken Buck."