Baisley elected new vice chair of state GOP

The Colorado Statesman

The Colorado Republican Party central committee on Saturday in Denver elected a new vice chairman who hopes to offer a grassroots balance to Chairman Ryan Call’s agenda.

Douglas County Republican Mark Baisley, who challenged Call earlier this year for the chairmanship, will replace Don Ytterberg of Jefferson County, who is exiting in order to explore a run for congress in the 7th Congressional District.

Baisley and Call faced off in March during a polarizing race. Call had the endorsements of the state’s entire Republican congressional delegation, as well as statewide office-holders. Baisley, on the other hand, had the support of Republicans he said were fed up with the party’s poor performance in recent elections.

The new vice chairman hopes that with his election, he can help build a bridge between various factions within the Republican Party, including those representing liberty groups and the more mainstream.

“We just have this kind of polar thing going that I don’t think either one of us had planned,” opined Baisley, the former chairman of the Douglas County Republican Party.

He immediately sat down with Call on Monday to discuss strategy moving forward. Baisley said they have been discussing the possibility of working together on unity so that the GOP can win back a majority in Colorado.

“I told him, ‘Don’t see me as someone coming in to slash and burn, but rather see me as someone who is bringing the folks who are not already enthusiastically engaged behind you, and you bring the folks that are already not enthusiastically engaged by me,’” recalled Baisley.

He is tired of infighting, suggesting that the energy spent clashing within the party is taking away from the goal of beating Democrats.

“If we were way ahead of the game and we had time to fight amongst ourselves, OK, let’s have a brawl,” opined Baisley. “But we are not ahead, and we don’t have any energy, time, money or anything to waste on poking at each other. We only have time and energy to try to fulfill our mission.”

He said the central committee meeting on Saturday offered hope that the party can move forward in a unified manner. While many were expecting fireworks, the focus was spent more on attacking Democrats and figuring out ways to gain back the majority.

“We need to save our country, frankly,” said Baisley. “And if I can help towards that then I will enthusiastically run in that direction… I can bring folks to the table who were under-voting.”

He believes he can unite liberty groups under one umbrella of the party by simply reminding everyone of Republican principles.

“One thing that I bring up with them is the Republican Party platform because when they read that platform, they relate to it because it is very liberty oriented, it is very reflective of the national founding principles, and it’s something that makes you proud to be associated with,” explained Baisley.

That said, he also believes there is a need for improvement: “The party has behaved in a way that was too central-oriented and was not inclusive enough in ideology and debate and input from everyone who is to the right of center who would associate with the Republican Party,” he said.

A ‘Call’ for moving ahead

Call believes that under his direction, the Republican Party is making great strides to include everyone. He does not fear a grassroots uprising.

“An honest review and analysis of the types of institutional reforms that have come to our Colorado Republican Party under my leadership significantly forms to the way that we have a much more open and transparent and much more representative process, budgetary process, with our executive committee,” said Call.

“We’re doing innovative new things with technology, with media, with candidates and outreach support to engage and involve people in our party in much more meaningful ways…” the chairman continued.

Call pointed to the party’s new year-round field program, suggesting that it is helping to bring all factions into the fray.

“We want to help bring folks to the table whether they’re from the faith community, religious conservatives, libertarian tea party representatives, college students, Hispanics, African Americans — we’re putting into practice the promises we’ve made to try to make our party more engaged and more effective at persuading people to join our cause and supporting Republican candidates,” declared Call.

He expressed his excitement for working with Baisley, suggesting that the bitter campaign they faced against each other was fueled by outside interests. He said he and Baisley are “buddies.”

When Baisley was chairman of the Douglas County GOP and Call was chairman of the Denver Republicans, the two would “commiserate together,” laughed Call.

“He’s got a tremendous amount of experience and years and support of the Republican Party and I’m excited to be able to work with him…” said Call. “He comes from maybe more of a social conservative arm of the party from Douglas County. It’s a challenge to recognize that there are a lot of different members of our coalition, and I’m excited about the valuable contributions he is going to be in a position to bring to our state committee.”

The chairman believes it is a benefit to have differing perspectives make up the party.

“Regardless of those differences, the thing that brings us all together is that we’re conservatives, that we care about the future of our state, of our country…” said Call. “Our party is absolutely committed to advancing a positive proactive vision for the future of our state and nation that’s grounded in those time-tested conservative principles of free markets and constitutional respect for law, and all of those things that the Republican Party has stood for since our beginning back in 1854.”

Say goodbye to the former vice chairman

As for Ytterberg, who is stepping down to explore challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Golden, he said working with Call over the past two-and-a-half years was an all-inclusive process that was usually drama free.

“One of the things that I had been doing around the state was trying to work with all the different groups that put themselves in the Republican coalition, and I always found them easy to deal with and very, very productive,” explained Ytterberg.

He hopes that his successor will offer the balanced approach that both Baisley and Call spoke of.

“We need to have a great blend between all of those different people into the coalition,” opined Ytterberg, who added that unification should be a priority.

“I was in the field an awful lot, so I had the opportunity to talk with folks firsthand, and of course one of the things I was talking about frequently was unifying this coalition to try to win elections,” Ytterberg continued. “While there were folks that were critical of the Republican Party’s activities, both in Colorado and throughout the country, I always thought that we were making progress toward more of an open dialogue and greater involvement.”

Grievances surface

But despite the efforts at harmony, discontent has continued. A group of Republicans frustrated with Call reportedly suggested bringing boxed chicken lunches to Saturday’s Central Republican Committee meeting.

The idea stemmed from two separate incidents in an interim legislative task force examining ways to reduce poverty in Colorado.

The first incident involved Republican Sen. Vicki Marble of Fort Collins, who suggested during the Economic Opportunity Poverty Reduction Task Force on Aug. 21 that there is a link between poor health within black and Latino communities and diets and foods like barbecued chicken. The statement caused uproar, as many — especially within minority communities — perceived it as condoning racial stereotypes.

Republican Rep. Lori Saine of Dacono then exacerbated tensions by bringing a box of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen chicken for lunch during the next task force meeting on Sept. 4. Saine brought the chicken despite a meal having already been provided to task force members. Some felt she was trying to be disruptive in a “silent protest” to support Marble.

In both cases, Call condemned the conservative lawmakers. He called Marble’s statement “careless,” and said that Saine’s actions “do not represent the Colorado Republican Party,” adding that she was “insensitive” and “hurtful,” and suggested that she apologize.

Saine repeatedly told The Colorado Statesman that she brought the boxed chicken to simply supplement the meal provided to task force members. There is no definitive evidence to prove otherwise. It is simply a story of dueling accounts.

She said she was a “little shocked” that Call so quickly threw her under the bus.

Frustrated by Call’s criticism of the two conservatives, upset Republicans suggested that they bring boxed chicken to the central committee meeting. An email obtained by political reporter Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post apparently outlined 14 complaints with Call and the current direction of the party, while drumming up support for Baisley.

The email shows that it was sent from an account belonging to Lana Fore-Warkocz, secretary of the party, but she did not sign it, according to The Post. Fore-Warkocz says that the protest was not her idea, and that she actually encouraged people not to bring chicken.

“I don’t think the issue is about chicken,” she said. “I cannot stand the chicken debate. It’s done, let’s get over it.”

Fore-Warkocz pointed out that she is half Asian, suggesting that Asian people are skinny because they eat healthier foods than other cultures. She doesn’t understand why dietary habits should be connected to a conversation on political correctness.

“My gosh, I’m Asian. If you want to eat egg rolls, go ahead,” said Fore-Warkocz. “I don’t get the political correctness, and I will not be politically correct.

“That’s why Asian people are skinny, because they eat lots of vegetables…” she continued.

She said she supports Marble and Saine completely, and was angered by Call criticizing them.

“I don’t agree with the statement that was issued… I don’t think it was even necessary to bring up,” Fore-Warkocz said of Call. “But I think moving forward, let’s just put the past behind us and move on.”

When asked about Call’s messaging, which includes rebranding the party so that it gets away from certain divisive social issues, Fore-Warkocz declined to comment.

But she does like a new marketing strategy that includes transforming the Republican Party from the “Grand Old Party” to the “Grand Opportunity Party.”

She believes reforms are necessary when it comes to including more grassroots, liberty factions of the party. She said the recent recall elections, in which a grassroots base unaffiliated with the Republican Party successfully ousted two Democrats, serves as evidence.

Fore-Warkocz points out that she was not the party’s first choice, having run against El Paso County Republican Bob Balink. Balink had more mainstream backing, while Fore-Warkocz represented more of the grassroots.

“I wasn’t endorsed by any of the old guard…” she said. “I was told that we could no longer be the party of the white-haired angry old rich man, and I said, ‘Great, then I must be everybody’s endorsement because I am not.’ I’m half Asian and I’m a woman. But all of a sudden it was, ‘No. We don’t want her.’ But I won because I won the hearts of the state to bring back our conservative values.”

Fore-Warkocz is excited about Baisley coming on as vice chairman, suggesting that he can add balance to the chairman’s current message.

“We will go out and we will promote the platform, the values, the principles of the Republican Party,” she said. “I won’t waver. I am a conservative, and I will not waver on issues.

“We will hold people accountable for what they are doing… I want to stand with the party of liberty, and that’s what we are,” Fore-Warkocz continued.

Call said it is understandable that not everyone is going to agree all the time.

“There may always be a few differences of opinion with respect to tactics or particular decisions. Of the 100 decisions that I have to make every single day, invariably one or two, someone is going to disagree with,” he said.

“Any organization, especially one that is driven by such a great diversity of folks, and also recognizing that we are really making some fundamental reforms, and any time that there are reforms and change from the way that we have been doing things as a party for so many years, invariably there is going to be folks that prefer the status quo…” Call continued.

Ytterberg believes that the current caucus process already offers an avenue for differing ideas and perspectives to be heard.

“There are some whose perspective is that they have the best answers all of the time, and I think that’s perhaps the nature of politics…” he said. “Folks who are trying to gain influence are advocating for a particular view. As to whether or not that really constitutes reform or whether they are actually getting what they are asking for through the caucus process, I guess I would have to say that some of them are really getting that.”

Peter@coloradostatesman.com