GOP Bid for Governor Imploding in Colorado

When widely respected Republican former Sen. Hank Brown last week withdrew his endorsement of Colorado’s Republican candidate for governor, Dan Maes, it represented just the latest blow—most of them self-inflicted—by the state’s incredible shrinking candidate.
Brown broke open the dam, following which Maes was unendorsed by a pantheon of substantial Colorado Republicans, including Senate candidate Ken Buck, former President of the State Senate John Andrews, Rep. Mike Coffman, and former Rep. Bob Beauprez.

The race is ripe for Republican pickup after years of uninspiring and big-spending government by Democrats. The Democrat candidate, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, has very little traction with the public. Yet despite these factors, Dan Maes is moving backwards at astonishing speed.

Prior to these unendorsements, a Rasmussen Reports survey of likely voters in Colorado showed all three candidates for governor losing ground in the past two weeks, with Maes and Hickenlooper each dropping 7% (to 24% and 36%, respectively) and third-party candidate, former Rep. Tom Tancredo, dropping 4% (to 14%). “Some other candidate” is up 3%, while undecided is up a stunning 15% (to 20%) in just 18 days.

But Dan Maes’ last polling result is probably a level he won’t achieve again with what seems like one mini-scandal each week regarding the incredible shrinking candidate:

• Dan Maes had posted on his web page claims that while serving as a police officer in Liberal, Kan., he had been tasked as an undercover agent with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. According to the Denver Post, when asked about Maes’ involvement the KBI said “it has no record of Maes working with the agency.” Maes has since taken down the undercover agent claims from his web page, saying “some people are probably taking [his claims] a little too literally.”

• Freda Poundstone, the Republican activist 83-year old former mayor of Greenwood Village (a town on the edge of Denver), has said that in late 2009 Dan Maes asked her for help because he was having trouble making his mortgage payments. She gave him some cash, thought to be at least $300, which Dan Maes now claims was a campaign contribution even though cash contributions over $100 are illegal and Ms. Poundstone is not listed on official documents as ever having donated to the campaign. At a Republican meeting several days ago, Mr. Maes dropped a check for $300 into Ms. Poundstone’s handbag. The check offers as many questions as answers: it was a starter check with “Dan Maes for Governor”—an entity which is not known to exist—typed in the name, with no entry on the “Memo” line, and it was unsigned.

• Several weeks ago, the Maes campaign paid the largest fine for campaign finance reporting violations in Colorado history. While the particular violations strike many as unworthy of large penalties, the episode put a sense of Maes’ incompetence in the minds of voters.

• Then, when Maes’ tax returns were released, they showed a man who has had extremely little income for a decade or more. While that alone might not argue against a candidate, Maes had implied throughout his campaign literature and rhetoric that he had been a successful small businessman. It’s true, as Maes notes, that he never said he was a multi-millionaire. But he did not discourage people from thinking he was. Adding the undercover agent claims, Maes appears to be Colorado’s own Walter Mitty.

• When Maes tried to make a campaign issue—in this bike-crazy state—of a Denver bicycle-sharing program by arguing that it is part of a sinister plot by the United Nations, it didn’t help anyone’s view of Maes’ competence or even his sanity, even among those of us who dislike and distrust the UN.

As Friday’s ballot certification deadline loomed, many Coloradoans waited anxiously, hoping that Dan Maes would abandon his 15 minutes of fame and exit the race in time for the GOP to fill the vacancy. Unfortunately for Republican chances of taking back the governor’s mansion, Maes’ ego is bigger than his interest in his adopted state, his stubbornness stronger than the will of the people he claims to want to work for. Dan Maes is staying in the race, and the ballots will, even if he were to drop out in the future, have his name on it.

Dan Maes is the candidate who reached third base through a wild pitch and a couple of errors but wants credit for hitting a triple. He won the state assembly by 16 votes out of more than 1,700 votes cast as former Rep. Scott McInnis provided as unappealing an alternative as one could imagine. Even with the McInnis implosion, Maes then won the primary by only 1% on the strength of naïve but well-meaning Tea Party activists who seemed to think that Maes’ utter lack of qualifications for the job of governor made him their perfect candidate. Yes, Coloradoans had a choice between unqualified and disqualified, perhaps explaining why there were 5% fewer votes cast in the GOP gubernatorial primary than in the Senate primary.

At this point, Colorado conservatives’ best chance of winning is the intelligent but controversial former Rep. Tom Tancredo. Tancredo jumped into the race intending to leverage Maes and Scott McInnis out. Tancredo would then have also exited the race in favor of a quality Republican replacement candidate. At this point, however, Maes is in, Tancredo is raising money, enjoying himself, and seems in for the duration. Although he’s not everybody’s favorite candidate, even among conservatives, with each passing day Tancredo increasingly represents the best chance of keeping John Hickenlooper out of the governor’s mansion.

With upcoming redistricting (redrawing the lines which define congressional districts), winning governorships is a high-priority goal nationwide for Democrats and Republicans alike. Colorado’s race should be a lay-up for the GOP, but the implosion of Dan Maes, almost entirely of his own making, seem likely to hand the election to John Hickenlooper—radical environmentalist, friend of Van Jones, leftist wolf in moderate clothing who runs a sanctuary city and believes that taxes are “about as low as we can go.”

In other words, thanks largely to the errors of those who gave us Dan Maes and to Dan Maes’ ego keeping him from getting out of the race, Colorado seems likely to elect our very own Barack Obama.