DENVER –– Colorado Republicans unveiled Monday the Contract with Colorado, a conservative set of principles aimed at boosting the party’s prospects in 2010 just as the Contract with America did for House Republicans in 1994.
The contract, also called the Platform for Prosperity, emerged after weeks of talks with top Republicans in order to unify the party behind gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis. The former six-term congressman, viewed as a moderate, was facing a likely primary battle against a more conservative rival.
Instead, Mr. McInnis won the endorsement of Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, who withdrew his candidacy for the GOP gubernatorial nomination earlier this month. Mr. McInnis also received the support of former Rep. Tom Tancredo, who was inches away from entering the race after Mr. Penry pulled out.
All three had a hand in shaping the document, which focuses on economic issues such as job creation, taxes and spending, while giving a nod to traditional GOP constituencies such as gun owners, home-schoolers, and pro-life voters.
Colorado eminence grise Bill Owens, the former two-term governor and the last most successful Republican in the state, also threw his support behind McInnis at a press conference Monday at a pipe-manufacturing plant in Denver.
“The Republican Party is very strong,” said McInnis at Monday’s event. “We feel very united and we’re going to deliver not just a message, we’re going to deliver prosperity for the state of Colorado. We care about jobs and we want to put people back to work.”
While the contract was crafted specifically with the governor’s race in mind, Colorado Republican Party chairman Dick Wadhams said he viewed it as a document that could give direction and shape to Republican campaigns statewide.
“It lends definition to the entire Republican campaign for next year,” said Mr. Wadhams. “This agreement is something candidates for state and legislative races can easily endorse.”
Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, who took the unusual step of preempting Monday’s announcement with a Sunday night press conference, implied that McInnis had agreed to adopt the contract out of political expediency rather than belief.
“McInnis agreed to certain things as part of being able to run without an opponent,” said Ritter. “So we’ll probably be debating and fighting a sort of Tom Tancredo-type agreement whether he’s in the race or not.”
Democratic jabs aside, the Republican accord could prove a master stroke for the McInnis campaign. Before Monday’s announcement, McInnis faced an expensive, bitter primary battle against a more conservative challenger, probably Tancredo, that would likely divide Republicans and threaten their best chance in years to recapture ground from state Democrats.
Ritter is widely viewed as vulnerable in his campaign for a second term. A July poll conducted by the Tarrance Group showed the governor’s approval rating at 44 percent. As of Monday, the website ColoradoPols.com had the governor’s race handicapped as a dead heat.
“Mainly this demonstrates that the Republican Party has unified at a very early stage in the game,” said Denver pollster and analyst Floyd Ciruli. “With Penry and then Tancredo, it was looking shaky. To resolve it the way they have, with the contract, with these principles, is a good launch. It’s a good start for them.”
It’s likely Colorado Republicans haven’t forgotten the last gubernatorial primary, which pitted then-Rep. Bob Beauprez in a bruising battle with former University of Denver President Marc Holtzman. The Holtzman campaign ran ads calling Beauprez “Both-Ways Bob,” a label he was never able to shake in his general-election campaign against the Democrat Ritter. Beauprez lost by a margin of 57 to 40 percentage points.
“At this same moment four years ago you had Beauprez in desperate trouble, and he never really recovered,” said Ciruli.
Once dominated by Republicans, Colorado has seen Democrats take over both Senate seats, five of seven congressional seats, the governor’s mansion and both houses of the legislature in the past eight years. The state’s status officially swung from red to blue when voters opted for Barack Obama in 2008. Republicans may have reached the point where they have nowhere to go but up.
CONTRACT WITH AMERICA
The 1994 Republican Contract with America vowed to bring House bills to the floor within the first 100 days of the 104th Congress to do the following:
-Enact a balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item veto;
-Reduce crime with stronger truth-in-sentencing requirements, exclusionary-rule exemptions, effective death penalty provisions, and cuts in social spending to fund prison construction and law enforcement;
-Discourage illegitimacy by prohibiting welfare to minor mothers and denying increases in AFDC for additional children while on welfare;
-Reinforce families by enforcing child-support payments, offering tax incentives for adoption, strengthening parents’ rights in their children’s education, toughening child-pornography laws;
-Offer a $500 per child tax credit, begin repeal of marriage-tax penalty, create American Dream Savings Accounts to provide middle-class tax relief;
-Prohibit U.S. troops from U.N. command and restore national-security funding to strengthen defense;
-Raise Social Security earnings limit, repeal 1993 tax hikes on Social Security benefits, and provide tax incentives for private long-term care insurance;
-Create jobs and raise wages by offering small business incentives, capital-gains cut and indexation, neutral cost recovery, risk assessment/cost-benefit analysis;
-Implement legal reform by enacting “loser pay” laws, setting reasonable limits on punitive damages and reworking product liability laws;
-Replace career politicians with citizen legislators through term limits.
CONTRACT WITH COLORADO
Top Colorado Republicans unveiled Monday the Contract with Colorado, also known as the Platform for Prosperity, a set of principles for candidates in the 2010 campaign that pledges to:
-Create jobs by limiting taxes, opposing fee hikes, encouraging business investment, and imposing caps state spending above an annual 6 percent increase;
-Repeal Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter’s executive order allowing state employees to unionize;
-Support legislation and rules that will promote development of energy, including wind, solar, hydroelectric, oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear power;
-Control health-care costs by backing insurance portability, reinstating ban on taxpayer funding for organizations providing abortions, allowing patients to purchase insurance across state lines, opposing single-payer health care;
-Expand school choice by supporting charter schools and magnet schools, and protect rights of home-school families;
-Protect states’ rights by opposing federal stimulus bills;
-Require the verification of workers’ immigration status through the federal e-verify program and oppose sanctuary policies;
-Oppose policies that would curtail the right to bear arms;
-Undertake a comprehensive review of state government to eliminate waste, fraud, excess and abuse.