Dan Maes: Did he lose to John Hickenlooper for guv because people thought he was Mexican?

John Hickenlooper's inauguration as governor, slated to start shortly, stirs thoughts of those Hick defeated -- not just Tom Tancredo, but also Republican nominee Dan Maes, whose campaign imploded so spectacularly. Since then, Maes has released occasional musings on issues, including one in which he (sorta) accuses Tancredo supporters of engaging in a whispering campaign suggesting that he's Mexican.

Here's Maes's memorable essay, sent to folks on his e-mail list. It's entitled "'Race' in the Governor's Race."

I was sickened when I was leaving the state assembly last May when someone from the Hassan campaign, I do not remember if it was Ali himself or not, advised us that the word "Muslim" was written on the back of some of their yard signs placed outside. This came up as part of the conversation we were having as we exited the Budweiser Arena in the context of how much of a blow out the Treasurer's race had been between Ali and JJ Amment (Walker Stapleton had skipped the assembly and won the primary and general election). The large spread of high seventy's by JJ to Ali's low 20's shocked the hall. Ali had worked too hard to get that low of a vote. Race had to play a part.

I had not heard much about race in the campaigns up until that point. I had certainly benefited from some Latinos warming up to me as a result of their affinity to the last name Maes. Many recognized the name as Latino in Colorado and whether I was or not did not seem to matter to them. That was enough for some. But it all changed when the third party candidate got closer to jumping into the race. I started to get phone calls (this was still when I was answering my own phone), from people asking about my ethnicity. Hostile voices accused me of being Mexican, as if that were a crime in itself. A couple of my supporters who were past supporters of the third party candidate specifically asked me what my ethnicity was before they tentatively supported me only to leave me when the new arrival came to the race. Racism had landed on the Maes campaign doorstep. I often challenged the callers with it being a non-issue what my race was but most often informed them it was German/Dutch and that I had been raised in the upper Midwest. On the other side of the coin were Latinos who contributed to my campaign specifically because they did not want the third party candidate anywhere near the governor's office. They had felt the sting of racism even though they were native Coloradans.

As with many subjects, we had to decide if we were going to make it an issue. We chose not to. Racism has become a label used by progressives against us if we even look sideways at the President or whisper about illegal immigrants. Like many over used adjectives it has almost lost its significance. We can't let that happen.

It was my trip to Gettysburg this past week that drove home the incredible sacrifice our country went through to preserve the union and to rid it of slavery. We can debate the cause of the Civil war but slavery and the treatment of one race as inferior to another can not be debated as a prime cause. Illegal immigration is a modern day issue that is splitting our country and I for one still stand strong against it when perpetrated by any race or individual of any country. Why race became an issue when the third party candidate entered the race is something I can not explain nor is an explanation necessary to my point.

My first speech in front of 700 plus republicans was in March of 2010 when Michael Steele made his visit to Lone Tree. I spoke of a new generation of republicans that will move the party forward to success. That success will only come when race is not an issue but immigration is. We seemed to have taken the life issue out of the spot light in 2010 without it losing its significance as an issue. Except for one or two single issue life groups that cause more damage than good (a subject for another article) life was not in the spotlight this season at GOP events. The sooner single issue illegal immigration fans learn the same lesson the better off the GOP will be.

The wacky nature of this item speaks to the colorful Maes administration that might have been. But too late now, Denver!

More from our Politics archive: "Dan Maes: Five more terrifying ways Denver is turning into the United Nations."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts