Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Dick Wadhams, not running to lead Republicans in CO, is tired of carping, conservative strategies

Yesterday morning, I was talking to Dick Wadhams, the chair of the Colorado Republican Party, about the upcoming State Central Committee meeting, where he would be going for a third term. Yesterday evening, I was talking with Wadhams about his sudden announcement that he would not run again.

It was perhaps the last surprise of the 2010 campaign season, which had more twists and turns than the Mind Eraser. But the past was not what pushed Wadhams.

In 2010, a year when a Republican tidal wave swept over most of the country, Colorado threw a life raft to incumbent senator Michael Bennet, who'd been badly trailing Republican challenger Ken Buck just weeks before. And then, of course, there was the gubernatorial race, in which just 11 percent of the vote trickled in for Republican candidate Dan Maes.

Back in 2009, conspiracy theorists fretted that "we'd hand-selected candidates here and demanded that we stay out of the nomination process," Wadhams remembers. At last year's caucuses -- attended by 25,000 Coloradans, double the amount of previous years -- those conspiracy theorists and others eager to elevate outsiders wound up giving Maes top billing in the primary against insider Scott McInnis -- who was done in not by a rush of support for Maes, but by his own limp response to plagiarism charges.

"The very people who are now attacking me and this office for not vetting Dan Maes are the same people who'd told us to stay out," Wadhams says. "The irony is breathtaking."

Wadhams was not just tired of the conspiracies and the "incessant carping," but he was looking at a tiring "authentic conservative leadership" strategy." In a letter sent to the state Central Committee yesterday announcing that he would not run again, he warned, "The ability of Colorado Republicans to win and retain the votes of hundreds of thousands of unaffiliated swing voters in 2012 will be severely undermined."

And the fight had gone out of him -- at least for that fight. "The deeper I got into this, the more I thought there were other thing to do," says Wadhams, who's run numerous political campaigns in his career, and will no doubt do so again. "I've had a fun four years, and this was one of the most exciting things I've ever done -- but on the other hand, maybe it's enough."

There are three other candidates in the race -- state senator Ted Harvey; John Wagner, who ran the Senate campaign of Clive Tidwell; and Bart Barton, a Michigan transplant. "None of the three are anyone I could support," Wadhams says. "One or more other candidates will get in now... there's a lot of time between now and the state central Committee meeting.

Over seven weeks, in fact. Time for endless twists and turns on Colorado's political rollercoaster.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Roseanne remembered the words to 'The National Anthem,' unlike Christina Aguilara."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun