Republican underdog hopeful despite long odds

Danny Stroud looking to upset incumbent Rep. DeGette in CD 1
The Colorado Statesman

The redistricting that was finalized last year has re-shaped the way Republican Danny Stroud views his chances of defeating Democratic incumbent Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, even though he plans to run in what is considered the safest congressional district for Democrats in the state.

Stroud, who chairs the Denver County Republican Party, believes that the newly re-drawn 1st Congressional District is more favorable to Republicans now that its borders have expanded to the south to include larger portions of Jefferson County.

Danny Stroud

Before redistricting was finalized in December, Democrats enjoyed a 51 percent share of registered active voters compared to the Republicans’ 20 percent, according to the secretary of state’s office. The number of unaffiliated voters accounted for 29 percent.

The secretary of state’s numbers from the beginning of February show that the district added more than 60,000 active registered voters since then. The percentage of voters who are registered as Democrats shrunk to 47 percent, while the Republican share ticked up to 23 percent.

The share of unaffiliated voters remained at 29 percent. One percent of voters are registered to the Green or Libertarian parties.

“In this election year, there are more Republicans in CD 1 than there was before,” Stroud said. “And the unaffiliated voters that we got are not coming from Denver County, but mostly from Jefferson County, where the preference of the unaffiliated leans Republican.”

Gabriel Schwartz, chair of the CD 1 Republicans, was less optimistic about the new district numbers.

“I think the numbers are so small that it’s not going to make any significant changes, unfortunately,” Schwartz said.

DeGette has served eight terms since her election to CD 1 in 1996. In the 2010 election, she raised more than $800,000. Her Republican opponent, Mike Fallon, raised about $200,000.

Stroud has not yet begun fundraising, but said it was “important to note that dollars don’t equal votes.” He said he doesn’t anticipate raising more money than DeGette, but he does expect more interest from outside groups.

“Because of redistricting, we’re going to have a lot more interest from sources and people that may have held their money back in the past,” Stroud said. “They used to look at CD 1 as a lost cause.”

Stroud said his biggest issue with the way DeGette has represented CD 1 is her position on the oil and gas industry. DeGette has advocated in Congress for regulations on hydraulic fracturing to protect drinking water supplies, an issue Stroud called a “red herring.”

“We pass these bills about disclosure and put this additional layer of bureaucracy and regulation on the oil and gas business, but it’s not going to make any difference,” Stroud said. “I’m all for people being responsible for what they’re doing in the environment, but this is head-fake.”

He also criticized DeGette for being “out of touch” with her district and for consistently voting the Democratic Party line.

CD 1 Democratic Chair, state Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, said she gets the sense that voters in the 1st CD are satisfied with their representative.

“The majority of folks have been kept apprised pretty well of what she’s doing and how she’s voting, and they’ve been supportive of that,” Guzman said. “From my perspective, it’s been very positive.”

Stroud is in the process of interviewing potential financial directors for his campaign. He said he has about 40 volunteers so far.

Stroud, who attended West Point Academy and served in the military for 13 years, plans to draw off those experiences and utilize a “de-centralized approach” to winning the election. The strategy focuses on delegating responsibility to activist Republican groups.

Fallon said the biggest challenge of running in CD 1 as a Republican was getting the people of the 1st CD to “open their minds to the possibility of changing their voting pattern.

“For so long they’ve voted as Democrats even though many of them agreed with the ideas I had,” Fallon said. “It was hard for them to be willing to change who they vote for.”

Offering his advice for Stroud, Fallon said, “Get out there, knock on doors and meet a lot of people. You have to really hit the streets and win them over.”

Schwartz is disappointed Fallon decided not to run again, and appeared to be anticipating defeat in the 2012 election.

“I was hoping Mike would do it again, but Danny stepped up to the plate,” Schwartz said. “I’m hoping Danny would be willing to commit to a second go-around.”

So far, Schwartz said he is unaware of any other potential Republican candidates seeking the nomination in CD 1, but he said that anyone might be nominated at the assembly.

Recently, DeGette has come to the forefront in the battle over the contraception coverage mandate for employer and group healthcare providers proposed by the Obama administration. She is also co-chair of the Pro-choice Caucus and has been an outspoken critic of anti-abortion legislation proposed by the 112th Congress.

Stroud said the debate about contraception coverage was a “deflection” by the Obama administration, and that the actual issue was an “assault on the First Amendment and religious freedom.”

“Anybody who wants contraception can get it,” Stroud said. “Focusing on Christians and Catholics and making that an issue is horrendous.”

On abortion, Stroud said he is personally pro-life, but falls “somewhere in the middle” from a legislative standpoint.

“I would probably legislate from a more libertarian perspective and try to push the issue out of government and into churches and communities,” Stroud said. “It’s absolutely not a place for the federal government to be involved.”

Stroud has two daughters in college and is in a committed relationship. In his free time, he enjoys riding his Harley Davidson and tending to his rose garden.

Ben@coloradostatesman.com