Tea Party Brewing Strong in Colorado

Colorado Springs, Colo.—When “tea partiers” nationwide met in Phoenix for a convention over the weekend on the second anniversary of the launching of their movement, pundits and pols debated how the Tea Party is getting along within the Republican Party and whether it will continue to be the force for conservative GOPers that it was in 2010.

In Colorado, HUMAN EVENTS found during the weekend that the alliance between tea partiers and the Republican Party is a marriage that seems lasting. 

More than 700 participants swarmed the Broadmoor Hotel here for the Leadership Program of the Rockies, an annual training session for Republican candidates and campaigners.  At several times throughout the three-day conference, organizers pointed out not only that this is the largest-ever LPR, but that at least one-third of the particpants were newcomers to the GOP who became politically active through the Tea Party movement.

“There’s no question about it—the Tea Party movement is a major presence at the LPR this year,” said former Rep. and GOP U.S. Senate nominee Bob Schaffer, who has overseen the much-praised political training session since 2007.

Many of the Tea Party trainers had worked in the nearly successful Senate campaign last year of Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck.  Fueled in large part by eager volunteers from the scores of disparate Tea Party chapters throughout the Centennial State, Buck won the Republican nomination over a more moderate “establishment” Republican and then lost a squeaker of a fall race to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

Lesley Hollywood—that’s her real name—is director of the Northern Denver Tea Party and helped mobilize support among fellow tea partiers for Buck in the early part of his campaign.  Hollywood believes Buck lost because he backed away from his Tea Party base in the fall and relied too much on the regular Republican organization.

That said, LPR participant Hollywood fully intends to be active in Republican Party activities and plans to bring the 1,000-plus activists in her Tea Party group into the party and its campaigns.

Dr. Joel Champion, who was recently elected Republican chairman of Boulder County, is proud of his ties to the tea partiers.  Champion spoke of his efforts to give recognition to various Tea Party groups in his county, but, he said, “State party rules make it a bit difficult to give recognition to groups outside the party.  We’ve got to change this.”

Others were like Molly Vogt of the Denver-9-12 organization, who freely volunteered that this was her first-ever Republican event and that she was planning to be “a party activist.”

Although Democrats won the governorship and Senate races, Republicans won three other statewide offices and a majority in the state house of representatives, and elected two new U.S. House members.

“And in all those winning races, you saw Tea Party members at the campaign headquarters and working hard,” outgoing state GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams said.  “The Tea Party movement has been an important part of our party organization and will be in the future.”

If there were any words of caution voiced about the influx of tea partiers into the Republican Party, they came from venerable radio talk show host Mike Rosen of 850 KOA in Denver.  Rosen, an airwaves fixture in the Rockies for decades, told HUMAN EVENTS during the LPR banquet Friday evening, “It’s good [the tea partiers] are learning campaign techniques.  However, they must also learn that not every candidate is going to be with them 100% of the time, but that doesn’t mean they should walk away from that candidate.”