Maes tops McInnis in a GOP revolution

By Leslie Jorgensen

LOVELAND — The Republican “revolution” erupted at the state GOP assembly — anyone who underestimated the power of the grassroots “tea party” was shocked when frontrunner candidate for governor former 3rd District Congressman Scott McInnis was ambushed by Evergreen businessman Dan Maes, who won top line on the primary ballot by 16 votes.

Dan Maes squeaked by Scott McInnis to earn top line designation for the August primary. He’s pictured after results were announced at the state assembly, with wife Karen, left, and daughter Jordan, right, on stage.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

“Wow!” exclaimed Maes as he stood on the stage at the May 22 state GOP assembly at the Budweiser Event Center and observed several hundred gleeful campaign volunteers and supporters shrieking, clapping and hugging each other.

“This is not about me — it’s about you,” said Maes, taking a deep breath. “This is about people standing up and making their voices heard, telling us what is important, telling us what you want from government and not the other way around.”

Looking stunned and taking a breath, Maes asked everyone to give his candidacy respect and attention.

“Don’t fight me,” Maes said, encouraging Republicans — from delegates to elected officials — to get aboard his campaign or be run over by the train.

The delegates favored political outsider Maes over insider McInnis, 1,741 to 1,725 votes or 49.35 percent to 48.89 percent. The winner of the Republican primary will battle Democratic gubernatorial candidate Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

The hair-splitting margin wasn’t a mandate for Maes, however, it bucked conventional political expectations that McInnis at the state assembly would have pushed well beyond his 59 percent win in preference polls conducted at the GOP caucuses in March. Then, Maes said he was disappointed by his 40 percent share in the poll and vowed to work harder for support from delegates.

Surrounded by supporters, former 3rd District Congressman Scott McInnis billed himself as the only candidate to beat Democratic candidate Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper in the race for governor.
Photo by Leslie Jorgensen/The Colorado Statesman

Both candidates had pushed conservative platforms in their speeches to delegates at the state GOP assembly — from securing the borders to cutting the state budget. McInnis called for immigration reform and touted his endorsement by the champion of that cause, former 6th District Congressman Tom Tancredo.

The minor difference in campaign platforms was that Maes pledged that, if elected, to abolish an amendment, passed by voters in 2000, that legitimized the distribution of medical marijuana. That assertion even surprised some of his supporters who are Republicans and “Constitutionalists.” They noted that Colorado voters had approved that amendment and no governor can usurp the rights of the voters.

Maes, who clocked more than 70,000 miles in zigzagging across the state to court Republicans, had captured endorsements from numerous anti-establishment groups such as the Northern Colorado Tea Party, the Southern Colorado Tea Party, the Evergreen-Conifer Tea Party, the Independence Caucus, ROAR America, the Teller Tea Party and Hear Us Now.

About 10 days before the convention, Maes told The Colorado Statesman that he was concerned about the large number of delegates who were undecided. The campaign contracted Bill Tucker of Tucker & Associates based in McLean, Virginia to persuade undecided delegates to vote for Maes. The decision paid off.

Arapahoe County Republican and high profile Denver metro realtor Edie Marks and state GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis.
Photo by Leslie Jorgensen/The Colorado Statesman

McInnis had been endorsed by the “A-list” of Republican powerbrokers and politicians, but his best nod might have come from Margo Knudsen of Douglas County, a “tea party” and “9-12 Project” activist who decided to switch her support from Maes to McInnis.

“I vetted and vetted and vetted Scott McInnis,” said Knudsen. “He is the only one who can beat Hickenlooper.”

After his speech, McInnis shook hands with supporters, answered questions of “on the fence” delegates and even autographed children’s copies of the state part’s assembly program before leaving the assembly to participate in daughter Tessa’s wedding in Estes Park.

The delegates cast their ballots and time drug on and on. The vote was so close in this race that a recount was necessary before the final results were announced. On the back row of the event center sat a half-dozen key members of McInnis’ campaign staffers who looked tired and glum. They disappeared just before the vote tallies were announced.

An astounded Maes bounded on stage to deliver his nomination acceptance speech. In Estes Park, McInnis was walking his daughter Tessa down the aisle to wed Matt Canterbury, and he learned that his daughter Andrea Pollock is expecting a second child. Sometimes politics does take a backseat.

“The outcome was not a great shock to us,” said Mike Hesse, McInnis campaign political consultant.

“We had been polling delegates. They are about 1 percent of the Republican primary voters,” he said. “We’re focused on winning the primary and beating Hickenlooper in the general election.”

In the primary round, both candidates face challenges.

Candidate Scott McInnis speaks on May 22 during the Colorado Republican State Assembly at the Budweiser Event Center in Loveland.
Photo by Jamie Cotten
The Colorado Statesman

Despite the political race handicapping and forecasting by political pundits and bloggers, the McInnis campaign has no plans to dump staffers or make dramatic changes. The Maes campaign plans to turn up the steam.

Maes said that he has discussed strategy with Tucker and updated his core staff this week.

“We will continue our grass roots strategy with a new and strong focus on fundraising,” said Maes, who added that financial contributions are pouring into the campaign.

The Maes campaign plans to hire a finance director to organize and coordinate fundraising effort and work in conjunction with a finance chair, a person who has statewide name recognition, and hire a professional campaign manager.

“In the mean time we continue on with the great volunteers that have got us this far and with the grace of God to guide us,” said Maes.

Judy Anderson, campaigner for candidate Dan Maes, struts her stuff during the Colorado Republican State Assembly.
Photo by Jamie Cotten/The Colorado Statesman

Maes has also initiated a new fundraising drive to pay for the new campaign gurus and media to promote his name statewide. Previous statewide polls registered Maes name recognition in the 10-15 percent range.

Hesse said that there will be no major changes in the McInnis campaign staff or strategy.

“I think there will be more opposition research on Maes,” said Hesse. “Up to now, I don’t think that the press has taken him seriously. He’ll be under more scrutiny.”

Hesse may be right. The delegates who supported Maes apparently weren’t concerned about the complaint filed by attorney Erik Groves on behalf of Christopher Klitzke of Grand Junction that accused the candidate of misusing campaign funds.

Maes was paid $31,135 as mileage compensation by the campaign from October through December 2009.

As The Colorado Statesman reported in January, the Maes campaign expenditures turned into the Colorado Secretary of State raised questions. The candidate was repeatedly paid $1,000 one day, several hundred dollars a couple of days later for mileage throughout the report without description or documentation. He even was compensated for a $25 parking ticket in Denver.

Candidate Dan Maes, right, shakes hands with Washington, D.C. political consultant Bill Tucker, who helped sway undecided delegates to Maes at the state aseembly. Karen Maes is at left.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Maes said the 2009 fourth quarter report included compensation for mileage since March 2009, before the campaign had raised funds.

In January 2010, the candidate was reimbursed $7,599 for expenses and since February, he has received a set prepayment of $5,000 per month for mileage.

The complaint had been scheduled for a hearing May 20, but was postponed until after the state GOP assembly.

But, as one Maes supporter said, “Anyone can file a complaint. It doesn’t mean anything until it sticks.”

Some “undecided” delegates, such as Francis Peter Makson, an Arapahoe County delegate to state, said they switched their support from McInnis to Maes based on unanswered questions.

Makson said that he had been a McInnis supporter until he listened to a conservative radio talk show on the morning of the assembly that raised questions about why McInnis has not disclosed charitable contributions.

“It looks like he’s hiding something,” said Makson, who worried that the money was given to moderate or even liberal causes.

Hesse said that McInnis’ contributions to charities and foundations are public record.

Between now and the August 10 primary, the candidates can anticipate that everything from their charitable contributions to corporation records will become public and perused.

McInnis should know, but Maes might now be realizing the side effects of aiming to become a public servant.