InnerView: State Chairs Ryan Call and Rick Palacio
The Colorado Statesman
State Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio and his Republican counterpart Ryan Call have a lot in common. Both are Colorado natives with lengthy political resumés, and both worked their way up through the party structure with relative speed. Palacio, who emerged from a crowded contest to helm the Democrats last year at age 36, was the youngest state party chair in memory. He lost that distinction a few weeks later when Call, who is a few months younger, managed the same feat on the Republican side.
Just over a year into their two-year terms heading Colorado’s two predominant political parties, Palacio and Call sat for a wide-ranging discussion with The Colorado Statesman. The spirited conversation covered the upcoming campaign season, the just-finished legislative session, and prospects for both parties in a state many believe could hold the key to November’s presidential election.
Palacio grew up in Pueblo, where he made a bid for county clerk in 2006. He worked at the Capitol for the House Democrats, had jobs with U.S. Rep. John Salazar and, most recently, worked for then-Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat who was second in command to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she ran things in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Colorado’s Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call and Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio stand in front of a historic flag at the offices of The Colorado Statesman on May 30 in Denver.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Call grew up in the Denver area, led campus Republican organizations, chaired the Denver County Republican Party, and served as legal counsel to the state GOP for several years before running for the top job. He is an attorney with the Denver firm Hale Westfall.
Palacio and Call joined Statesman editor and publisher Jody Hope Strogoff and political reporter Ernest Luning for an interview that lasted over an hour in the newspaper’s Capitol Hill offices on May 30. Palacio was accompanied by the state Democrats’ communications director, Matt Inzeo.
The Statesman regularly conducts in-depth interviews with prominent political figures, including a conversation with both Palacio and Call just over a year ago, right after they had taken office. The Statesman also conducted regular interviews with Palacio and Call’s predecessors, former three-term Democratic state chair Pat Waak and former two-term GOP state chair Dick Wadhams, and at the beginning of this year’s legislative session, the newspaper held separate interviews with legislative leaders. Find transcripts of The Statesman’s interviews with dozens of Colorado politicos archived online at www.coloradostatesman.com/innerview.
Below is the transcript of The Statesman’s conversation with Palacio and Call. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Colorado Statesman (CS): It’s been a little over a year since we all sat down together, after you both just took office. That’s another way to say, you’re a little over half way through your (two-year) terms?
Rick Palacio (RP): That’s right. That’s true.
CS: Are you where you thought you’d be, half way through?
Ryan Call (RC): You know, it’s an exciting kind of dynamic challenge. Obviously there’s been, on the Republican side, an interesting contest in the presidential election and lots of efforts with local candidate recruitment as well. I feel pretty good about where we stand.
RP: Well first, congratulations on picking your nominee, that’s very exciting. [Ed. note: The night before, Mitt Romney secured enough delegates in the Texas primary to be assured of the Republican nomination for president.]
RC: It is, he’s a good one, he’s a good fit for Colorado.
RP: Obviously, it feels good to have that all behind you. Looking back at the course of the last year — I guess it’s probably been a little bit over a year — I think I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but it has been an incredibly exciting year. It’s a lot of time on the road, a lot of time talking to Democrats and other people throughout the state. The presidential campaign, on both sides, has been a whirlwind. I don’t think that I would have expected the president to have made this many visits to Colorado in just over the course of a year, but, from my book, he’s always welcome back. So that’s probably the most exciting piece, is just having so much attention on Colorado.
CS: Could that be a sign that the president is going to have a tougher time this year than four years ago, and that’s why he’s coming back, or do you think there are other reasons?
RP: I think that it’s because the campaign understands and the president understands that Colorado is definitely in play this time around. I think there was certainly confidence going into the 2008 election, but there were also other states that were at play in 2008 that are not at play in 2012.
CS: Like Indiana, for instance?
RP: Like well, North Carolina, perhaps, and Virginia, perhaps, that were more in play in 2008 than that are in play now. So it makes Colorado all the more important.
CS: And likewise, we’ve had Gov. Romney in the state.
RC: Yeah, twice in just the last month or two.
CS: As recently as yesterday. [Ed. note: Romney gave a speech in Craig the day before the interview.] Probably four or five times since early February?
RC: We expect to see him come back quite a bit as well, recognizing that Colorado is going to be, in my opinion, one of just a handful of states at the end of the day that decide the outcome of the contest. And you can go through the electoral college math but I think everybody knows it, you put Indiana and you put Virginia and North Carolina in the Republican camp, and then you’re looking at Ohio and Florida, and then after that, I mean that gets you to 266 [electoral votes], it’s not quite there…
CS: Is that the 3-2-1 scenario [Ed. note: a path to 270 electoral votes described by Republican strategist Karl Rove]?
RC: That’s the 3-2-1 scenario that I think is probably the most likely. Obviously, when you have states like Wisconsin that are now potentially a unique pick-up opportunity for Republicans, that tends to broaden out the map a bit, and that’s an exciting place to be as well, when you’re talking about the issues. It’s gratifying to see Gov. Romney come out, in particular in talking about some of the issues that are important to Colorado voters —not just the Denver metro area but a lot of rural Colorado and other parts of the state too.
CS: Does it strike you as a little bit, not so much strange but different, that the governor has gone to places like Fort Lupton or Craig — obviously intentionally?
RC: Oh, sure. I don’t think it’s strange at all, in fact I think it’s very much in line with a very thoughtful strategy and a real sincere effort to connect with folks not just in the Denver metro area. And sometimes those smaller communities allow the message to get through, and, for example, doing the event in Fort Lupton really helped drive home the message of energy and natural gas development. Having it in a small town like Craig showed the effect of the president’s policies on smaller towns in America and in Colorado, as well as giving the governor the opportunity to talk about coal and other aspects of energy development that sometimes might get lost if you were just kind of in an urban or a suburban setting.
CS: Right. How confident are each of you that President Obama and Gov. Romney will be able to carry the state? Can either of you say you feel confident about that?
RP: I have confidence. I think that, regardless of which way you cut it, it’s going to be a tough fight but I have certain — certainly, when you have a president I think who has shown bold leadership and you have things moving in the right direction, I think it certainly cuts in our favor but, regardless, it’s going to be a tough fight.
RC: I’m cautiously optimistic, but I also understand that it’s going to be a hard-fought campaign and could very well come down to a handful of votes and the efforts of the respective party committees in terms of our turnout operation and our ability to make this campaign largely a referendum on Barack Obama’s record. And I think that, by doing that and by keeping the focus on the economy and job creation and the issues that are really important to most Colorado voters, that’s where and how Republicans will carry the day.
After joining The Colorado Statesman for an in-depth interview state GOP chair Ryan Call and his Democratic counterpart Rick Palacio pause in front of the newspaper’s wall of campaign memorabilia on May 30 in Denver.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
CS: Chairman Call, you’ve said before that that’s a Republican strategy, the Republican intent, to make sure that the voters aren’t distracted by “divisive issues that are not important.” It’s something you said in another interview, talking about “divisive social issues.” Does that seem to be the playing ground the opponents want to play on or is that something that people are genuinely interested in? How does that work?
RC: That’s a great question. It’s interesting to kind of, to really largely contrast the tone and approach that Barack Obama is taking in this particular election. And I think what it underscores is the fact that, No. 1, his record isn’t something he’s pointing to, he’s trying to make it about something other than his own record, but the other aspect of it is that we’ve lost that optimistic unifying force, that hopeful force, that was his campaign, that a lot of Colorado voters responded to. Instead, we’ve been left disappointed and largely disillusioned by the way that he has governed, not from the center like he promised, not in a unifying way like he promised, and not in a way that would help inspire those great things about America. He’s adapting instead, a very negative, divisive attack and approach of pitting one class of Americans or one group of Americans against one another. That’s not the sort of hopeful, optimistic, unifying force that folks were promised in the last campaign. And I think it’s that aspect of we were promised one thing and we got something else that causes voters to say, “Look, I don’t want four more years of the same, I want to say, kind of head in a different direction.”
And that’s why I’m excited about the campaign, because the upcoming campaign can be about big issues — the direction of the federal government in terms of regulation and overreach, that proper balance between the federal government and the states, and the spending — the fact that we’re borrowing 42 cents out of every dollar the federal government spends — those are big challenges that this president has not been willing to tackle and a lot of promises left unfulfilled. And I think folks are going to look at that and they’re going to say, “You know, we know what we’re going to get with Barack Obama, we don’t like the direction that we’re going, we have an opportunity to change course and change direction with Mitt Romney and a more thoughtful and prudent approach to the challenges of the day.”
RP: Well, I just think it’s interesting, the rhetoric that’s used from the Republican Party, and your question was about divisive social issues. The divisive social issues have not been topics that the Democratic Party has brought up. The social issues have come up as a result of Republican attacks on women’s rights to choose. You look at the [GOP House Speaker John] Boehner-led House of Representatives and how many votes Republicans have had and Boehner’s just put on the floor related to elimination of federal funding for Planned Parenthood or numerous other sorts of attacks on women’s issues, things that certainly people care about, whether it be elimination of the Medicare system as we know it.
The reaction that you see, the social issues that you see coming up, are simply a result of Republicans bringing them up. If Mitt Romney and Republicans don’t want to talk about social issues then I think they need to have a conversation with John Boehner and make sure that his Tea Party folks are not bringing them up. But it’s a direct result of those efforts in the Congress. And talking about the tone of this election and the tone of the campaign, it’s, I think, this incredible attempt by the Republican Party and Mitt Romney to distract voters from what the real record of Barack Obama and his leadership actually has shown. Mitt Romney was in Craig yesterday talking about how terrible things were. In reality, people in Craig actually think things are going quite well. He was talking about how there’s some sort of an attack on the coal mining industry when Colorado is producing more coal than it’s produced in a number of years. So it’s a complete distortion of the record of the president, and that seems to be the only thing that Mitt Romney and his friends are even capable of talking about right now.
RC: I guess I’ll respectfully disagree with my friend Rick Palacio and, you know, we look forward to certainly a robust campaign and these are going to be important issues we will get a chance to talk about. I think he’s mischaracterizing many of the issues, especially this notion of attacks on women or trying to reform Medicaid. The reality is, some of these, many of these programs like Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security are going bankrupt, and we can’t continue to sustain this trajectory of trillion-dollar deficits year after year without significant risk of devaluing the dollar and eliminating much of the wealth of America.
We talk about those trillion-dollar deficits but we also have tremendous, 32 to 38 trillion (dollars), depending on how the calculation is done, of unfunded liabilities, with many of these programs, especially like Medicare and Social Security projected to go bankrupt within my generation, within the next 15 to 20 years. We have some very tough, difficult and hard choices to make, and the president seems unwilling to tackle many of those pressing issues.
RP: Actually, the president has been willing to tackle them and Republicans have refused to even play along. You want to talk about deficits and the future of Medicaid and Medicare and other programs like that, then you need to talk about the tax code and restructuring the tax code.
RC: Well let’s see what the proposal is. The Republicans put forth five different versions of the budget to the Senate —
RP: — and President Obama has proposed eliminating $4 billion in tax subsidies to the largest oil companies and eliminating also the Bush tax cuts —
RC: It’s been three years since the Senate has even adopted a budget. How are we supposed to plan and how is business and government supposed to operate if it goes three years —
RP: If you want to talk about future revenues and having the ability to fund the programs that we have in place, and having the ability to fund Medicare for seniors, then you have to be able to — everyone has to pay their fair share —
RC: Well then what’s the plan, Rick? I mean that’s the problem, is the Democrats who’ve had majorities in the Senate —
RP: You can’t say, “We cannot afford these, but we’re going to continue to give $4 billion in tax cuts to the oil companies and the richest Americans.”
RC: — Democrats have had majorities in the Senate for the last three years and they have yet to pass a single budget. Every time the president puts forward a budget, his own party rejects his budget time after time —
RP: You want to talk about class warfare? Class warfare is what goes down when you talk about giving tax credits to the ultra-wealthy and making sure that the middle class and elderly are paying more. That’s fundamentally what the issue is, when you talk about class warfare, is that Democrats are fighting for middle class, for small businesses, for senior citizens and for school children, and the Republican Party of 2012 seems to be fighting for the ultra-wealthy and biggest oil companies. It’s about priorities.
RC: This is exactly what we’re talking about, this pitting of certain classes and groups of Americans against one another while the president —
RP: You can’t take things off the table and say that they’re not fair game. If you want to talk about deficits and if you want to talk about the future of Medicare, then you have to be able to talk about what is creating the — what could help us pay for all of the things that Republicans claim to want to save.
RC: The only proposals that are being put forth are coming from Republicans. Democrats have had majorities in the Senate for the last three years, have failed to even pass the budget proposed —
RP: What about eliminating tax cuts for oil companies?
RC: We can deal on specific issues, but we’re talking about the bigger issues.
RP: I mean, it’s $4 billion. That’s a huge issue. What about allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire?
RC: Why has the president’s party failed to pass — why has the president’s party, in control of the Senate for the last three years, failed to even propose or pass a budget?
RP: I mean, this is the —
RC: You’ve had filibuster-proof majorities for the first two years.
RP: — distraction sort of politics that are so easy to play. A budget — I mean we’re talking about why the Senate has not passed a budget, and we can’t actually have a conversation about the policy items that matter to people. You want to change the structure of Medicare because you claim that you can’t pay for it. If that’s the problem then end subsidies for oil companies and make rich people who make $1 million or more a year start paying their fair share. There may be more money —
RC: What’s their fair share, 50 percent of what they make, 40 percent of what they make?
RP: How about prior to —
RC: When you’ve got —
RP: How about the same rate that they were paying prior to the Bush tax cuts?
RC: Okay, well we can argue and fight over these policy differences but —
RP: Would you be willing to say that the wealthiest Americans should pay 1 percent more? Or half of a percent more?
RC: What you’re saying is in terms of some — you’re seeing Republicans put forth thoughtful, reform-minded plans like Paul Ryan’s budget that has been talked about in the House and passed the House —
RP: That changes Medicare, which is the most popular program —
RC: It has to change or go bankrupt.
RP: Well then I easily could say draw the line and say, “We have to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires or we’re going to go bankrupt.” It’s the same argument, it’s drawing lines in the sand. I mean, if Republicans really wanted to work with the president then they would march on down or be willing to sit around the table with the president and their Democratic colleagues in the Senate, and sit down and actually get things done. And instead, you see the policies that they’re putting forward. It’s absolutely a ridiculous argument to say that a party who is dead set on saying no and obstructing absolutely everything is a party that should be in charge.
RC: And this is exactly the false narrative talking about. The party that is in charge, the party that is in charge and has majorities in the Senate, is failing to govern, failing to follow through on some of their principle responsibilities in terms of even enacting a budget or even pulling it up for a vote. And that’s the kinds of things we’re talking about. The House is governing, they’ve adopted over 32 bills, the vast majority of which had significant bipartisan support, and they’re sitting and languishing in [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid’s inbox. Let’s put those up for a vote, let’s put up some of the different job creation and reforms that the Republicans have passed in the House.
RP: Sure. So let’s talk then about the Wind Energy Tax Credit that actually has real jobs in Colorado attached to it, I think there are over 1,000 jobs in Pueblo that are attached to it. So why not put the Energy Tax Credit to a vote?
RC: That’s a great question, why not put the Keystone Energy Pipeline up for a vote? Why not —
RP: There has been a vote.
RC: There has been a vote, that’s correct, and lots of Democrats voted for it and the president continues to try to block it.
RP: But there has been a vote on the Keystone Pipeline. There has not been a vote on an extension of the Wind Energy Tax Credit and those are jobs — those are real jobs.
RC: We could go through all sorts of specific bills that he’s going to put forward or I’m going to say Democrats and Republicans are dropping, you know, and —
RP: Right, but instead, what Republicans are doing is they’re putting bills forward that eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.
RC: That’s right, it’s not the taxpayers that are funding those jobs.
RP: Those are not jobs. I mean, you want to talk about jobs, Republicans, Mitt Romney wants to talk about jobs, but we’re not talking about jobs under Republican-controlled Congress, we’re talking about women’s health.
RC: We have to start making some very difficult decisions about what the proper role of government is. And if folks want to have abortions —
RP: I thought we were talking about jobs.
RC: We’re talking about that as well too. You’re talking about bringing up those issues as well.
CS: It sounds like there might be a difference of opinion on this issue —
RP: But there are some things I’m sure we could agree on.
CS: Absolutely, and in Colorado, Republicans and Democrats did agree on the budget here.
RC: That’s a great example of where Republicans and Democrats did work together to pass that.
CS: By historic margins.
RC: You bet. And it helps that we’re required to adopt a budget, but so is the federal government.
CS: Right, but they were able to do that —
RC: But that’s just it. And that’s why I think Republicans are going to continue to push for a balanced budget amendment at the federal level and get us on the track towards that. Is it something that can be enacted immediately? Probably not because of the way we currently have our funding structure, it’s going to take some time to get back to an appropriate balance of revenue and appropriate reforms to the tax policy. But I think that Republicans and Democrats have demonstrated a willingness to put aside those partisanship issues and do what’s right for the people of Colorado in many instances.
CS: But on the other hand, the session ended and we had a special session — it wasn’t all love and friendship at the very end. How would you assess this past session? Is there a person or party to blame, or what happened?
RC: I don’t think you can judge an entire legislative session on a particular bill that failed. You look at a lot of the bills that did pass and a lot of the bills that were modified or amended or in some cases killed in both chambers by the Democrats or by the Republicans, and yet a lot of good legislation was able to work through with the appropriate bipartisan compromise and meaningful things were able to be accomplished. So, you don’t want to boil it down to just a particular bill because there’s always going to be some differences of opinion.
CS: May I ask you to boil it down, though, to a particular grade, if you had to grade the Legislature, looking at what was promised at the beginning when it was “jobs, jobs, jobs,” and where we wound up? How did the Legislature do, overall? What grade would you give?
RC: Hard to assign kind of a letter grade. I think overall, I think a good B-minus.
RP: I would say a B. I think that they did a great job of working together to get things done on behalf of the people of Colorado. We have a very long history of working together. We’re constitutionally required to. I mean if you have a two-party, you have to have members of both parties to pass things like a budget, so we’ve respected that for the most part in the years past. There’s certainly instances where that did not happen this year and previous years as well, but I think that the Legislature, I think did a very good job in governing the session.
RC: Yeah, you really do have to applaud the leadership of, I think, both parties, in the House and in the Senate in being able to shepherd through especially some of the big issues, like the budget, in ways that were able to get good support.
CS: There are other constitutional requirements for the Legislature, including redistricting, which hasn’t happened in decades in the Legislature —
RC: Not without the courts.
CS: — that the Legislature passed a redistricting plan.
RC: I think that was a real failure on the part of the Legislature. I do think that Republicans went into it with honest intentions, and Democrats wanted to put Boulder in with Grand Junction. They’re not reasonable plans to put forward. I’d like to see a model perhaps that like Ohio does where you get a little bit more of a non-partisan staff that looks at more objective criteria than some of the partisan interests first, and I think that that would in the long run probably serve Colorado citizens much better.
RP: I think the process could have played out a little bit better. I’m not going to put partisan blame on the way the process played out, I think that while the Legislature as a whole I would give a B, there are certain issues where I think that there was an inability or an unwillingness of Republicans to meet Democrats at the table and try to produce something. And redistricting was absolutely one of them. I think we acted in good faith to bring proposals forward and, instead, it was slapped down as being a partisan attempt.
There are, regardless of who is in charge, you’re always going to have a partisan bent. If the Democrats are in charge, the Democrats are going to want things to prevail on the Democratic side, Republicans on the Republican side. So we’re never going to have an instance where everyone is being 100 percent fair, but you have to at least have an ability to sit down and have conversations about things.
CS: Would you support the creation of some sort of different method to do redistricting, like is done in Iowa?
RC: I think for congressional redistricting.
RC: Retaining that as part of the legislative function is an important check and balance on the process. I think the process — I was thinking of, more about the legislative reapportionment, where you’re really drilling down into local neighborhoods a little more and local communities and making sure that those communities of interests kind of do play themselves out. I was looking at a map just the other day, and I’m trying to remember which district it was that includes Sheridan, Superior and Black Hawk, and wondering how those communities have much in common. But that’s part of the nature when you’re trying to get a population together and drawing these district lines and nothing’s going to be entirely perfect. But I do think that from a perspective of the role of government, that is an important check and balance on the process, to maintain a degree of accountability by having elected officials being responsible for drawing the congressional lines.
RP: I think that there’s an important accountability and transparency piece to this when the Legislature is actually in charge of this. If you punt it to some sort of a commission, there’s always going to be questions as to the bent of individual commissioner and how they ended up as commissioners. So, while it’s disappointing that the courts ended up deciding the congressional redistricting case, ultimately, the process played itself out.
RC: And this was the first year they did these really, what I thought were great hearings all around the state. That was the first time they did that, to really get a lot of input and shine a lot more transparency on that process. And I thought that was a great thing that both party leadership agreed to do and that was something I hope to see the next time too.
CS: When we talked for the first interview [in March 2011] you both voiced optimism about your crop of candidates for the Legislature, and you both talked about the importance of recruitment and you felt good about your people that you had recruited. Can you talk a little bit about the legislative races in general, and in particular, and whether you feel confident that either your party will prevail or there may be a change in leadership in the Senate or the House?
RP: I think we have a great crop of candidates in the state legislative races. I think, looking back a year ago, there were certainly some people that I never would have thought of that weren’t on the radar that have popped up. One of the more competitive state senate districts is the new state Senate District 35 in the San Luis Valley. It’s actually 16 counties — incredibly rural and we have a primary on the Democratic side, and I think that it’s going to be a very healthy primary. Both the candidates on our side of the aisle have incredible resumés. As a mostly rural senate district, you have a Costilla County Commissioner, Crestina Martinez, who’s absolutely been dynamic, she’s a rising star. Her family have been farmers and ranchers in the valley for many, many generations. You have Armando Valdez — Armando is a farmer and rancher himself, he’s a professor of business at Adam State University. So I think that representing the rural values of those 16 counties, regardless of which one we choose in the primary, I think we’re going to get that in one of these two candidates.
Generally, we have some very good candidates around the state and from what I’ve seen they’re all raising money and they’re all working incredibly hard. They’re out knocking on doors and getting to know their neighbors, if they don’t already. We are certainly poised to make some gains in the state House, and I think that we will hold our own in the state Senate. I think what’s going to happen in November, or actually January of 2013, is we’re going to have Democratic majorities in both the chambers.
RC: I think that’s unlikely, but I appreciate the optimism of my friend. The redistricting has created a lot more competitive districts and I am really encouraged by, again, the caliber of candidates that we have running in some of these districts. You mentioned the race down in southwestern Colorado [in Senate District 35]. Larry Crowder is the Republican candidate running unopposed [for the nomination], and so he’s working really hard and has very good, deep roots in that community as well.
Some of the candidates we’ve recruited and that are running in some of the key races, especially for the state House and state Legislature are some of the best I’ve seen in many years, especially in some of these swing districts. You’ve got folks like Rick Enstrom or Amy Attwood running out in Jeffco. You’ve got a candidate like Brian Watson, which brings a lot to the table and an exceptional talent running against Dan Kagan in that district in Englewood and Greenwood Village. Great candidates for the state Senate — Lang Sias and Dave Kerber and Larry Crowder and a number of others.
And Republicans this year have recruited and are running candidates for the state Legislature and the state House and the state Senate in every single district, we’re giving the voters a real choice. The Democratic Party has been unable to field candidates in a number of races, and I think that creates a competitive advantage for the Republicans, as we’re competing for those votes in every single district and in every single neighborhood with a caliber of candidate that I haven’t seen for a lot of years. They’re also doing a great job at raising money, they’re out there walking their districts and connecting with individual voters and talking about the issues that are important to those local communities. So I’m encouraged, I think Republicans are going to not only retain the majority in the state House but expand it, and we’ve got a very good shot and a great pathway to the majority in Senate as well.
CS: Can you talk a little bit on the congressional races? You’ve got a primary in the 5th, a Republican against a Republican. And also in the 2nd — and in the 1st.
RC: And in the 1st! You can’t forget about Danny Stroud and our truck-driving friend [Stroud’s primary opponent Richard Murphy].
CS: That’s right. But there’s also, partly because of the new districts, but there’s more seats that are kind of up for grabs than there have been in previous years.
RC: You bet they are.
CS: There’s probably two on the Republican side as well as two on the Democratic side.
RC: The Democratic Party I think probably thought they were pulling a fast one in terms of redistricting by taking it to the courts. But in reality, I think it actually created more opportunities for Republicans to expand our representation. The district that Ed Perlmutter has been representing has shifted significantly. It’s lost a lot of, some of the Democrat leaning territory out in Aurora, and has picked up more Republican friendly territory in Jeffco and a couple of other areas. And so with a candidate like Joe Coors with his business background and deep roots of philanthropy and engagement in the local community, he’s an exceptional candidate to be running in the 7th Congressional District as it’s newly configured.
Mike Coffman, while again there’s been lots of talk by [Democratic candidate Joe] Miklosi and the Democrats that they think they’re going to take him out, this newly configured district, now that it includes Buckley [Air Force Base] and all of the city of Aurora, actually plays to a lot of Mike Coffman’s strengths. He grew up in Aurora, he went to high school there. And the fact that his leadership positions and his great leadership that he’s exhibited on many of the subcommittees and the Armed Forces Committees in the Congress make him a great fit to be able to represent the 6th Congressional District that now includes Buckley.
And then for us in the 3rd Congressional District, with Scott Tipton, not a lot of change in terms of the map, I think Lake County ended up moving back, it’s been kind of hunted back and forth with the last few cycles.
RP: Yeah, and it lost Las Animas County —
RC: That’s right, but I was up in Lake County and Leadville for their Lincoln Day Dinner just about a week and a half ago, and they were pretty excited about being able to be represented by Scott Tipton.
CS: But on the other hand you have a candidate, Tisha Casida [an independent supporter of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul running in the 3rd CD] —
RC: Oh, sure. Well, we may end up having —
CS: — who may siphon some votes off, or do you —?
RC: I think that that’s unlikely. Most voters, I really think, understand that it’s between two competing visions and that a vote for anyone other than Scott Tipton is a vote for Sal Pace and a vote for anybody other than Mitt Romney is a vote for Barack Obama, whether you’re looking at top of the ticket all the way down. Voters understand, and I think they’re pretty sophisticated about understanding the value of their vote and wanting to make sure that it counts. We have two very clearly competing visions for the role of government and tackling many of these issues between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party and I think that’s what this upcoming campaign is largely going to be about. Those two competing visions for the direction of America and for our own state.
CS: Rick, can I ask you about the congressional map?
RP: I think Chairman Call’s absolutely right, you have two competing visions. You have Ed Perlmutter and Joe Coors in the 7th Congressional District, you have Ed Perlmutter who is absolutely the hardest working member of Congress that we have probably out of the 435 members that are in the country.
RC: Mike Coffman works pretty hard too, though.
RP: We’ll get to Mike Coffman. But, you know, Joe Coors, I think, was probably, is being celebrated on the Republican side because he’s a self-funding candidate, and the Republican Party I think is going to have — they have a lot of competitive districts not just in Colorado but across the country, and they’re going to have to use their resources wisely. When you have subpar candidates running for the U.S. House, not just here in Colorado but everywhere — you have a presidential candidate who is subpar — you have to expend your resources wisely. Joe Coors is —
RC: Now see, those kinds of personal attacks are unnecessary, Rick.
RP: It is absolutely —
RC: To characterize a candidate like Mitt Romney or Joe Coors as subpar is wholly off base.
RP: There’s nothing personal about it. You have a guy like Ed Perlmutter, who’s the hardest working member of Congress that you have there, that is in his neighborhood and in his grocery stores every single weekend ensuring that he’s fighting for the middle class families and for small businesses, and you have the president of a country club, who is for extending the Bush tax cuts and again, making sure that the richest people in the country have it a little bit better off than the working people.
RC: See, I think that’s a mischaracterization. I think you need to look at Joe Coors as a guy who’s been an incredibly successful and hardworking businessman who understands what it takes to create jobs and make a payroll and balance a budget. You see a fellow who’s been incredibly engaged in very generous philanthropy, in giving back to the —
RP: Who, just like Mitt Romney, is incredibly out of touch with the rest of the country.
RC: Absolutely not.
RP: And then you go on to the 3rd Congressional District, and you have Tipton, who has voted for the same things that we talked about earlier, numerous times, which is ensuring that Medicare is not a continued program for future generations, ensuring that Pell grants are reduced for students trying to go to college. An incredibly out-of-touch individual, who oftentimes can’t even be found in the 3rd Congressional District. You talk about the 6th Congressional District, which is thankfully much more competitive because I don’t think that the people of the 6th Congressional District realize that they actually had a birther on their hand until a couple of weeks ago.
RC: Now see, you’re mischaracter — again, I —
RP: “Mischaracterizing” would be Mike Coffman questioning the intent and the heart of the president of the United States. I think that’s a mischaracterization and I think that again —
RC: And he quickly, he apologized for misspeaking and —
RP: He apologized and then on [the KHOW radio show] Caplis & Silverman said he apologized because it was essentially the political thing for him to do. I mean, (he), completely unaided by the audience, questioned the intent and the heart of the president of the United States. I just don’t think that the people of the 6th Congressional District really can have faith in someone who is an extreme candidate like Mike Coffman. Mike Coffman up to this point…
RC: If you’re going to try to characterize Mike Coffman’s record of service, both in the military, the Marines, and the state Legislature —
RP: I think it’s interesting that people actually try to boil it down to Mike Coffman’s record in the military —
RC: And try to boil it down to one —
RP: And Mike Coffman did the same thing when he tried to go back to his record in the military. And, unfortunately, I think that it’s a complete and total distraction from the real issue. Mike Coffman, while he is a veteran and a hero to the country for his service, and I think his service absolutely should be acknowledged, and he should be thanked for his service, his record of service should not detract people from the fact that he is a birther, he is an extreme candidate for Colorado, not just for the 6th District.
RC: And that’s a mischaracterization of Coffman’s position. He apologized for misspeaking, we all sometimes say things in ways that are inartful or that are not representative, and he apologized for the way that he misspoke. And for you to try to characterize his entire career both in public service and in military service, and try to make it about one comment that he quickly apologized for —
RP: I actually didn’t try to characterize his record of military service, nor his public service. I said that currently, as of two weeks ago, he said that he was questioning the intent of the President of the United States, saying that in his heart he is not American, he is not sure whether he was even born in the United States of America. And that was completely unaided from the audience, it’s not as though someone asked him a question about where he believed that the president was from.
RC: I have every confidence —
RP: Mike Coffman walked out to Elbert County thinking that he was in friendly territory, and it turns out just like everywhere else in this state and everywhere else across the country, if you’re a congressional candidate, you should be aware that that stuff is being recorded. It seems to me that he was speaking from the heart, and on Caplis & Silverman admitted he only apologized because it was the political thing in which to do. I’m not trying to characterize his military service. I’ve not said that. I said that I thank him for his military service to our country and he absolutely should be applauded for that, but you cannot hide behind your uniform when you say things like he said about the President of the United States.
RC: And I’m not suggesting — I’m talking about not only his military service but a tremendous record of public service in the state Legislature, in the State Treasurer’s Office, in the Secretary of State and in the Congress. And the voters —
RP: Yes, he has for the most part flown under the radar.
RC: — and the voters in Aurora will judge him —
RP: He has played himself to be a moderate Republican. And what happened two weeks ago is he proved to people that he is not a moderate Republican, he is an extreme right wing birther Republican just like so many Tea Partiers are across the country.
RC: And this is going to be the Democratic Party’s attack. They’re going to try to make every single Republican, whether it’s Mike Coffman or whether it’s Mitt Romney, into this crazy right wing birther extremist. This is the same tactic the Democratic Party has used for countless years. They said it about Ronald Reagan, they said it about a number of other Republican candidates. It seems like every cycle they just recycle that same old line in saying, “Candidate So-and-So,” it doesn’t matter, insert whoever —
RP: Coloradans don’t vote for extreme candidates.
RC: And so your attempt to try to characterize every single Republican as a quote-unquote extreme candidate is a cynical political tactic that the voters in the upcoming election are going to reject. They’re going to judge them on their record —
RP: Well then perhaps the Republican Party should choose some candidates that are not so extreme. I mean, what happened to the moderate wing of the Republican Party? What happened to Republicans who actually believe in things like comprehensive immigration reform the way that John McCain did before he was against it, the way Mitt Romney did before he was against it? I mean, what happened to those guys? What happened to the Republican Party that believed in actually sitting down and working with people? I mean, you take a step to our neighbors to the west. You know, you had [former Utah Republican] Senator [Bob] Bennett, who was primaried, you have [incumbent Republican Sen.] Orrin Hatch, who’s being primaried, by candidates who are much further to the right than they are. And in their entire history in the United States Senate, no one would have ever said that they were moderate Republicans. It’s this constant shift and shift and shift and shift to the right. In my opinion, and I think from the people that I’ve talked to across the state, those are candidates that Coloradans don’t choose.
RC: Well, and respectfully, I would disagree with how you’re characterizing many of our candidates, especially candidates like Mike Coffman and Mitt Romney and some of these candidates we have running for the Colorado State Legislature this year around. They’re thoughtful, prudent, balanced candidates who understand that if you’re going to address the issues that are facing Colorado and the nation it requires a balanced and in many case a bipartisan approach. But I do also say that there are some very clear differences in terms of approach and that’s what this upcoming election’s going to be about.
CS: You were asked about Mike Coffman. Let me ask you about [6th CD Democratic candidate] Joe Miklosi. How do you think he is as a candidate and how confident are you that he’ll do well in his race?
RP: I think Joe is a great candidate. He has a tremendous record of public service himself. He has always chosen the side of Colorado’s middle class families and small businesses, he has voted that way, his public record has shown that. He is working very hard to ensure that he has the necessary resources in place to defeat Mike Coffman in November.
CS: Yet as recently as a couple of months ago there were Democrats still looking for another candidate. Do you feel like Democrats have coalesced around —
RP:I’m not sure which Democrats were looking for another candidate but —
CS: The DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] was making calls in December and trying to encourage some people to enter the race. That was also when Perry Haney jumped in. [Ed. note: Haney was a Democratic candidate for the 6th CD but dropped out before precinct caucuses.]
RP: Yeah, I mean Perry — sort of an anomaly. I mean you’re always going to wonder, and I think this was actually pre-redistricting. I think once the maps were finalized I think there was no question that we had the right candidate in Joe Miklosi but prior to —
CS: That was for the weeks following that, in early December —
RP: Well, I’m not sure what D-trip [Ed. note: shorthand for the “D-triple-C”] —
CS: — until [former state House Speaker] Andrew Romanoff pulled himself from contention —
RP: You know, there are always going to be people that try to float their names out there for candidacy of one type or another, be it for Congress or president or for governor, for that matter, but I think that Joe Miklosi is a very strong candidate, I think that he is a very good fit for the people of the 6th Congressional District, and I think that he is positioning himself well to defeat Mike Coffman in November.
CS: Chances of getting some upsets, some incumbents voted out of office in Congress this year?
RC: I think the chances (are good) of upsetting Ed Perlmutter when you look at his voting record. He likes to style himself as a moderate, pro-business for the Democrat when he’s here in the district. When he goes back to Washington his voting record speaks volumes to the contrary, and so I think what voters are looking for this time is a change on that and I think that they’re also looking for a change from the current incumbent in the White House, and I think we’re going to see a change there as well.
CS: Think there are any Republicans that are at risk?
RP: You know, I think every time you’ve got some shifting around for some of these state House and state Senate districts, I think that’s always a potential. The candidates that we have running this year are very, very strong and we feel pretty optimistic about them.
CS: You think any good pick-up opportunities?
RP: Sure, I think that Coffman and Tipton are both incredible pick-up opportunities for Democrats. You know, looking at the maps, looking at the candidates that we have and looking at the incumbents that our candidates are running against makes them, while not easy, I think with the right resources and a lot of hard work, I think it’s certainly achievable.
CS: You mentioned, and I don’t want to bring this focus entirely on the Civil Unions Bill, but can you talk a little bit about the process? And you’ve already been asked this but do you feel okay about how it ended with special session being called because — I mean, there’s two different — well, more than two, but different interpret —
RC: There’s a lot of different views or interpretations on it.
CS: How —?
RC: Now, Jody, my job is fairly simple. I mean, we elect Republicans — that’s the job of the State Republican Party Chairman. It’s not to second-guess our elected officials. We elect them, and I think Speaker McNulty has demonstrated great leadership on a lot of important issues. And in this issue my job is pretty clear, it’s to give him a bigger majority the next go around.
CS: Do you think that what happened could potentially hurt Republicans running for the Legislature?
RC: I think voters in the upcoming election are going to be much more concerned about the current status of the economy and job creation, and they’re going to be looking at the failed record of Barack Obama and other Democrats and saying, “We’ve got to change direction,” and be willing to confront some pretty serious challenges that we face as a nation and we can’t continue down the same path as we’ve been going because we’ve seen where that leads. We’ve seen it play out on the pages of the newspaper right now in terms of Greece and other failed states, and I don’t think that that’s really where we need to go.
CS: The House Majority Project [an organization that works to elect Democratic state House members] has been voicing a little more confidence and optimism since the end of the session — perhaps they have a rallying point because of what happened to the Civil Unions bill. Can you comment on that?
RP: Well you know, I think that, myself, I think the majority of people in Colorado actually believe that the legislative process should be allowed to play out in the way that it was designed to play out. What happened to civil unions, I think, was absolutely failed leadership on the part of Speaker McNulty. You had a piece of legislation that moved through the Democratic-controlled Senate with Republican votes; you had it move through three committees in the Republican-controlled House with Republican votes; and you had a piece of legislation that was absolutely poised to pass with a lot of Republican votes in the full House, the full chamber of the House. And what happened is essentially unfair — you had Speaker McNulty and his friends on the far right that decided that they would hijack the process 24 hours before the end of the legislative session to kill one piece of legislation that had passed every single test that it needed to pass to get to where it was going. And they should have given it an up-or-down vote, and they failed to do so.
I think the interesting thing here, though, is not — it’s not necessarily about civil unions, it’s about allowing the process to play out the way that it was designed. And that’s, I think, what has turned people off more than anything else because civil unions, the day before the session expired, was not the only thing that died, Republicans in holding it up held up something like 30 other bills, including some critical water projects that should have made it to the floor the following day as well. It was all procedural tactics, certainly the speaker is within his right to play the games that he played, but I think that Speaker McNulty, and any speaker, for that matter, sometimes needs to be reminded that they’re the speaker of the whole House, not just the speaker of one political party. And it’s unfortunate that for political reasons they didn’t give the bill a fair up-or-down vote.
CS: Chairman Call, you’ve talked about not pulling the strings in the Legislature, or being kind of a party boss, like some party bosses have been in the past in this state — electing Republicans, not setting the agenda, not telling folks what to do. Yet on the failure of the ASSET Bill [Ed. note: a bill that would have created a state college tuition rate higher than in-state tuition but lower than out-of-state tuition for resident children of undocumented immigrants] which was also killed and had bipartisan support, a lot of Republican support, some of the business wing of the Republican Party was solidly behind that. You expressed some regrets that that didn’t make it through.
RC: I did. We all have our own personal opinions about particular legislation, and so we have those. But as it relates specifically to the other bill we’re talking about, we’re going to move ahead and forward and looking at the upcoming election on the issues that really are important to Colorado voters, and that’s largely the direction of the economy and job creation.
CS: Has this been fun for you gentlemen, or more work than you had anticipated? Can you just talk about the actual job itself? More traveling than you thought — any surprises?
RC: Well you know, it’s interesting. I remember when you and I met last time around, you had been in your post for about a couple of months already.
RP: I think so.
RC: I had just been in there a couple of weeks and I commented, I think I observed that having closely been involved with the party as the legal counsel and as county party chairman, I was probably a little bit more familiar with the workload that was required. And it’s exceeded that — it has been a lot of work. It’s challenging to keep the members of the coalition all together, and yet also very exciting for the Republican Party at this moment in time when we’ve got a lot of big issues that we’re confronting and great candidates that we get to support. And so, for me, it’s been very rewarding and challenging at the same time.
RP: I’m not sure what I expected the workload to be, so I can’t say that it’s been more work than I thought that it would be, but it has been a tremendous amount of work and every minute of it — very exciting. I have an opportunity to travel around the state and visit with people that I probably would not have had an opportunity to meet. Spending time in very rural counties at picnics, places where there are more cattle than there are people, is actually a lot of fun to me. You see, from my experience, the energy building, leading up into 2012. When I feel like it couldn’t possibly be an energy level greater than this, the next week it is an energy level greater than this. So I’m excited about the next five and a half months, five months, because Colorado, as we’ve seen just in the last year, is an exciting place to be and I think it’s going to be even more so, exciting, before the November elections.
RC: For me, I think the most rewarding aspect of this position is the opportunity to travel the state and to meet with and to visit with some of the best, hardworking activists that we have out there. These are — just the level of dedication and hard work and individual sacrifice that many of our volunteers and local county party leaders and Republican elected officials, whether it’s the county assessor in Garfield County that I was just visiting with yesterday, or whether it’s a county commissioner or local mayor or the local county party vice chairman or precinct leader, who’s volunteering their time to talk to their voters and reach out to folks and talk about issues. The level of energy, enthusiasm and engagement by those good citizens who are doing it because they care about their country, they care about their state, they care about their local communities and their families, and they’re willing to volunteer and sacrifice of their time and means for the party and for candidates and for these big issues. That’s been the most rewarding and humbling aspect of the job for me.
CS: Just five months to go to the election and one critical component — though there’s going to be a lot of ads, there’s going to be a lot of visits by the candidates, there’s going to be a lot of grassroots work — is the vote itself and you’ve both had some things to say about that. Rick, a few months ago you said that after some testimony in the Legislature, the Secretary of State, Scott Gessler “has once again prioritized his partisan agenda” and (you would) “consider all avenues necessary to remove him.” I believe Matt [Inzeo, the Colorado Democratic Party’s communications director] answered a question from a reporter saying that that would include a recall. That seems to have not really gone anywhere, if that was indeed the intention. What are your thoughts on that?
RP: Well, my thoughts on that, and I think specifically the question was, does that include a recall? And I think the response was, I think, that would leave all things on the table. Gessler, I think, for the last several months has largely quieted down, but during the legislative session he certainly raised a lot of eyebrows and kicked up a lot of sand, and it certainly drew him some attention. The intent was not about recall, simply about getting people’s attention outside of the Capitol and outside of the Denver metro area as to what actually was going on that Gessler was trying to exert his control over. And I think that we certainly accomplished the goal — he has been in the public eye and every time that he turns around and he tries to change some election law or voting requirement, there are people that perhaps otherwise would not have been paying attention that are paying attention now. So we have accomplished a goal in making sure that people were sitting up and listening to the things that he was saying.
CS: There’s still a long way, though, between now and November. If you remember, in the 2008 election there were some complaints from both sides about voting eligibility and voting lists and names being thrown off the list at the last minute. Are you confident that this is going to be a free and fair election?
RP: I’m optimistic, because I think that I’m always optimistic and hopeful. But I think that we certainly have at any point in the next five months, we have a secretary of state that easily could be another Katherine Harris [Ed. note: the Florida Republican involved in that state’s recount after the 2000 presidential election]. Colorado could be a repeat of Florida in the sense that there are last-minute changes, there are eligible voters who could be purged from the lists, and I think that people need to ensure — a way to combat that is people need to constantly verify the registration.
CS: Okay. Chairman Call?
RC: I think to threaten something like a recall over a difference of public policy is the worst sort of irresponsible partisanship. And we can disagree in terms of things like requiring voters to demonstrate photo ID in order to prove eligibility to vote, but to characterize that as trying to intimidate or disenfranchise voters is inappropriate and very inaccurate in terms of what was being argued about. When we’re talking about different policy changes that the Democrats were trying to push through the Legislature that would have dramatically changed some of the standards with respect to active versus inactive voters to create a partisan advantage for one party, and then to go out there and say that they were sort of coming from the other end, I think is just inaccurate.
And I am confident that we’re going to have the election laws of Colorado fairly and appropriately followed. There’s going to be obviously legal teams and volunteers and lawyers and party officials watching this process and working very hard to make sure that we’re maintaining the integrity of the ballots and the voting lists — and that’s appropriate. Colorado is very fortunate, we do not have a history in any appreciable way of voter fraud or voter intimidation, despite what some candidates or parties may choose to use as a political tactic to try to drive turnout. We just don’t have that history.
And Republicans are absolutely committed in every sense of the way to ensure that eligible voters have an opportunity to freely and fairly cast their vote and have that vote counted. We want to make sure that elections are conducted with integrity, and so that the vote reflects the will of the people, but we also want to make it, while easier to vote, we want to make it harder to cheat. And so there are safeguards that need to be put in place and followed to make sure that we’re maintaining the integrity of our elections. And I’ve got every confidence that not just the secretary of state but (county) clerk and recorders — Republican or Democrat — are going to put partisanship aside and focus on their duty to make sure we run fair and free and accurate elections.
RP: I actually think — Chairman Call made reference to the fact that historically we don’t have these issues in Colorado. Voter fraud, the instances of voter fraud, I think, is actually, I’m not sure that you could even prove half a dozen instances of voter fraud in the State of Colorado, people that are trying to vote that are ineligible to vote. I think that, to me, says that, then, why change things? What Scott Gessler has been trying to do, and what he actually did, was change a person’s eligibility status. And there’s been no question that these individuals are citizens, that they are eligible to vote but Scott Gessler, because they skipped an election, changed their status to inactive.
RC: But that’s what the law requires, that’s what the law that — Ed Perlmutter, when he was in the Legislature, voted for that law. So you want to change the law to grant partisanship advantage.
RP: I’m not an election lawyer — Ryan is an election lawyer — but I think it’s important for me to ensure that there is some integrity there and you can’t just willy nilly go and change people’s status the way that Scott Gessler has been trying to do.
RC: Well, to be very clear, no one has been disenfranchised —
RP: — yet! —
RC: — no one has been dropped from the voter rolls. Anyone who’s on, whether they’re active or inactive —
RP: Our attempt is to ensure that those sort of things didn’t happen. But what the secretary has done is change people from active to inactive because they have —
RC: In following the law, the law requires him to do that.
RP: And I think that there is certainly some question as to the interpretation of that law, and it’ll certainly be decided in the courts as to what the correct interpretation is, and whether or not the secretary even has the authority to make changes like this.
RC: When you make a change from someone’s active to an inactive status, it doesn’t disenfranchise the voter and it doesn’t preclude them from voting.
RP: No, they have to take an additional step in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
RC: We all have to take steps to exercise that vote.
RP: When you have to take an additional step versus one other person who may be sitting next to you who for no other, there’s no other difference except that they voted last year and didn’t, unlike you who may have waited for three years to vote — that has the potential to disenfranchise people. And statistically, those people that potentially are being disenfranchised are the people that are minorities, the poor — and those are the things that we’re trying to protect.
CS: There’s another component to that, that Democrats and the Obama voters sat out the last two elections, the 2010 and 2011 elections, to a much larger extent.
RP: True, but that doesn’t make them ineligible or that shouldn’t —
RC: And no action taken by Secretary Gessler or the Legislature makes them ineligible to vote either, all they have to do —
RP: No, it changes them to inactive which means that they don’t automatically get the ballot that they probably checked off the box to say that they wanted to receive.
CS: If they’re on the permanent mail list, they don’t get the ballot if they inactivated in 2010 and 2011?
RC: That’s correct. So a voter has to take some modicum of effort to go online to the Secretary of State’s Office and in about 30 seconds they can update their status from inactive to active. Or they can show up to any polling place in their county on election day.
RP: And it is creating a hurdle for people to exercise their constitutional right to vote, a hurdle that some other person does not have to jump.
CS: Ryan, you said in an earlier interview that the Republican Party wants to make it “easier for people to vote but harder to cheat, and our political opponents want the opposite.” Do you find evidence of that? Is this the kind of thing you’re talking about?
RC: Well, the Democrat Party apparently seems to want to change the law to benefit a particular class of voters that sat out —
CS: Who didn’t vote?
RC: — who didn’t vote in the last couple of elections. Now, they’re not ineligible to vote, if they took the effort to go and — whether it’s going online to reactivate or whether the party contacts them and sends them a form to reactive or whether they just show up and vote on election day like voters have been doing for hundreds of years. That’s not an undue hurdle for them to show up and vote on election day like voters have been doing at a polling place. Not a single voter will be turned away if they show up to vote. And every single vote will be counted fairly and appropriately.
CS: Rick, are the Democrats making it harder to vote and easier to cheat?
RP: No, I think what that is, I think is — (laughs) Are the Democrats making it harder to vote and easier to cheat? It’s fear mongering.
RC: Well the law was enacted — look, the law was enacted —
RP: And it’s an interpretation of a law.
RC: The law was enacted to change someone’s voter status from active to inactive —
RP: It’s an interpretation of the law that even the courts have said is probably not a correct interpretation.
RC: — recognizing that in Colorado in particular we have a fairly transient population, people move around county to county, from neighborhood to neighborhood. And so when you go for four years without voting —
RP: Which many people do.
RC: Absolutely. And they are still entirely eligible —
RP: They are eligible voters.
RC: Exactly, they’re entirely eligible to vote, but they have to show up and vote at the polling place or take a small step of contacting their clerk’s office or going online or having the party committee hand them a form that they can sign and send in to be able to say, “I’m still living here, send me a ballot.” Yeah.
CS: That’s been on the books for some time but the convergence here is between that and the mostly all-mail and permanent mail-ballot elections, right? Is that something that needs to be resolved?
RC: We’re seeing an increasing change, trend towards that, but there’s going to be a lot of voters, whether that’s 20 percent or 30 percent, depending on the county or area, that are going to say, “I want to still vote on Election Day.”
RP: And they have the right to do that.
RC: Absolutely right.
RP: And the Democratic Party wants to ensure that, regardless of the mechanisms by which you vote, that you’re able to exercise your constitutional right to vote without impedance. And creating hurdles makes things more difficult.
RC: Colorado’s laws provide one of the easiest ways to — you can vote early, you can vote by absentee, you can show up on the polling place and vote.
RP: Do you agree that it’s creating a hurdle?
RP: That it puts a hurdle in place for people who are eligible to vote?
RC: It’s an appropriate balance in terms of not —
RP: But do you agree that it’s creating a hurdle?
RC: No I do not. I don’t think it’s —
RP: So going online or going to your county clerk or filling out a form is not an additional step that someone else who may have voted two years ago does or does not have to take?
RC: The law is designed to provide the appropriate balance of making sure that we’re maintaining the integrity of the voting list and not sending out a bunch of mail-in ballots to people that we don’t know if they’re still there or not. Now, clerk and recorders consciously send out postcards, they make all sorts of mailings and outreach. And if there’s no response from the citizen over a period of two or three or four years — you know, citizenship and the opportunity to exercise these rights comes along with it certain duties and responsibilities.
RP: Which is to register to vote, and these people have all registered to vote at some point in their life.
RC: And they are still registered to vote.
RP: But they’re no longer active, which means —
RC: They are still registered to vote. They are still eligible.
RP: — that if they checked off a box that says, “I want to receive a permanent mail-in ballot,” they will not receive a permanent mail-in ballot.
RC: That’s correct, because the law —
RP: And unless there’s some other definition of what the word “permanent” means, I think it should be fairly clear-cut that the Republican Party’s trying to put a hurdle in place to some voters.
RC: They’re checking the box, checking the boxes is in accordance with the laws of the state that says we’re going…
RP: The laws of the state that Scott Gessler is interpreting to his own will, that even the courts have said are probably incorrect interpretations.
RC: Well we’ll see what the court says on that, but the statute was enacted —
RP: Right, and until then the Democratic Party is going to continue to fight to ensure that, regardless of whether you’re a Republican or an unaffiliated or a Democratic voter, that you have an ability to go to the polls or get your ballot in the mail and send it back in, or early vote or absentee vote or whatever the case may be — that everyone who is eligible to vote has the same ability to vote without impedance.
RC: And that is something the Republican Party shares —
RP: Except when you don’t.
RC: — and we believe that nothing is impeding any eligible citizen who is registered to vote to cast that ballot or to request that ballot or to show up on the polls on election day and vote for their candidate of choice.
CS: One last question. Do you have a question for each other? Is there anything you would like to ask your counterpart, and vice versa?
RC: I think we’ve hashed it out pretty good.
RP: Yeah, I think so.
CS: One more, then, since we didn’t do that question? Do you get to spend some time outside politics, or for the next five months is that a fool’s errand?
RP: I do. I certainly find time to spend with family and with my partner and biking or skiing or just wandering, camping, hiking, whatever it is. So 90 percent of the time it’s politics but there’s some time where I have an opportunity to decompress and get away.
CS: Okay. Ryan, you’ve got a bunch of kids there?
RC: I do, and so you have to make time for it, for the daddy/daughter dates and for the —
CS: Is it hard?
RC: It is.
CS: They don’t let you just talk politics.
RC: No they don’t (laughs), and we try to do that, and we try to make sure that we plan for family time and we make family time. I’m taking my son camping this weekend after dragging him to a Lincoln Day Dinner, sorry, but that’s what you have to sort of do in some cases. And I find some balance by volunteering and teaching a Sunday school class on Sunday and helping out with the Boy Scouts occasionally or different things like that. And one of the other, I think, neat opportunities that Rick and I probably both have is, in this capacity, you get a chance to interact with some great civic organizations. You get invited to various events and community-oriented events and you see the good work of philanthropy and civic engagement on a whole host of things that aren’t just politics, but it’s giving back to the community. And that’s pretty neat to see too, so those are fun experiences.
CS: If anyone else is thinking about running for state chair, in one word, would you encourage them to do it?
RC: (Laughs) I don’t know if I’d wish this on anybody.
RP: (Laughs) I’m not sure that I would either.
RC: It’s very challenging but very rewarding too.
CS: Maybe in a state that isn’t the pivotal one in the nation and the most important election of our lifetime?
RC: That’s what makes this fun. If there was nothing sort of at stake, it’d be boring. That’s what makes things fun, competition.
CS: Thank you both too for coming by. I know you’re both incredibly busy, and we really appreciate you taking the time, sharing your thoughts —
RP: Of course. I’d say any time, but not any time. (Laughs)