Colorado's CD-5 Explodes in Controversey
Friday's 5th Congressional was supposed to be typically uneventful and the emails preceding it indicated that. We were to select our Representative to the U.S. House and Doug Lamborn was running unopposed and recently voted the most Conservative member of Congress.
We also had a candidate for the State Board of Education, Paul Lundeen, who was also running unopposed and endorsed by his predecessor. As one contributor to a liberty oriented email list put it "I don't see any reason to go to the 5th CD convention. Unless you like rah, rah sessions." but I was awake and had taken the time to get myself elected delegate so off I ventured to Loveland, CO.
First a little background, within days of the El Paso county Republican Assembly Jane Norton announced that she was pulling out of the Assembly process and going to get on the primary ballot via the petition process. A move that would leave her unable to attend the Assemblies in an official capacity, display signage at the events, or address them as a candidate.
This move perplexed many as she had been anointed from on-high, the National Senate Republican Committee (NSRC), and was receiving considerable funding from the East coast establishment. It is the NSRC that is used to bypass CO's rules for candidates as the Party can't support one until they are designated for the ballot or win the primary. This usually happens at the State Assembly but if more than one candidate gets 30% or more of the vote then there is a primary (held in August) and candidates can't be supported until after. (For a more in depth expose of the NSRC see my previous article.)
The NSRC is the good ol' boys' back room of the 21st century. They are one of the main reason that the average person scratches their head in November and wonders how we got stuck with a particular clown. I'm not sure what the Democrats call its counter part but I'm sure they have one as evidenced by some of those clowns.
Speaking with Robin Coran, Ken Buck's El Paso county campaign coordinator, I discovered that her team had called almost all the delegates (I didn't get a phone call but recently changed my number) and they were leaning almost 75% towards Buck. Norton would need to get at least 30% at the State Assembly to get on the ballot. Getting trounced by an upstart opponent when she is the party's chosen one wouldn't look too good. Failing to get 30% would be worse, if that's possible, as she wouldn't get on the ballot at all (and it would be too late to petition on). That is why she likely chose to go the route of petitioning on; after all you can always pay people to stand in front of China-Mart and collect signatures on your behalf. I suppose that's what you do when your grass-roots support is really only grass-trimmings: a claim made by someone with no depth of support.
El Paso county is conservative central in Colorado and if she can't win here then she can't win. Boulder and Denver, CO are our counter weight and could be called progressiveville. If a Democrat wants to win a state wide seat they must take Boulder and Denver by a significant margin. If a Republican wants to win a state wide seat they must, likewise, take El Paso county. Norton's prospects must have looked much more bleak than any of the establishment media let on for her to opt for the petition route. That said the stage was set for the Assemblies.
The doors to the 5th CD opened for credentialing at 2:30pm and an agenda and proposed rule packet were handed out along with credentials. Unnoticed to all but a few, or the one that spoke up, was a change in the rules allowing for a candidate to speak if another candidate for that office was also allowed to speak. Ken Buck, heavily endorsed by the TEA Party movement, was of course going to be allowed to speak. That opened the door for Norton to speak under the newly adulterated set of rules. These nuances eluded me, and most of the delegation at the time, and only became clear after speaking with Kay Rendleman, former Chair of the El Paso county Republicans.
Kay actually attended a gathering of the Ron Paul Republicans back in 2008 and narrowly won the Chair in 2009 with the support of the Ron Paul Precinct Leaders and others voting. She was an extremely fair and process oriented Chairperson with a depth of knowledge exceeding most members of the party. Her recent resignation was to take the lead in Ken Buck's campaign and show her colors, something that was never evident while she held the position of Chairperson. I would like to thank Kay for taking the time to explain the technical details of Friday's events to me as this article wouldn't be complete without them and her insights and thoughts are interlaced with the events below.
As the Assembly got underway it built up momentum as there was no reason to even seat the alternate delegates as nothing was supposed to be contested. A rah, rah event as mentioned above. In fact the floor was never opened for discussion of the rules. Point of Order came a cry from behind me. I thought great, a chance to see Robert's Rules of Order in action.
The point was made about discussion of the rules while I'm reading through them and talking to a delegate friend, Chris Nixon, sitting next to me and attending his first CD-5 Assembly. I was completely wrong in my analysis at the time as I thought he was trying to weasel a speaking slot for Jane Norton.
The Assembly was stopped and the rules reviewed. His point was soundly defeated. Not because people wanted Norton to speak but because they didn't. At least those that respected the Assembly process.
In hind sight, and with the benefit of Kay's insight, the mistake the objector made was not first calling for a Point of Information and explaining to the delegation exactly what was going on. Had the delegation been aware of the rule change and the significance thereof he would have had much more support.
He then could have called for a Point of Order and would have probably been victorious. Had the delegation been aware of the reasons then those supporting the CO Republican Party rules, and the Assembly process, would have supported him and defeated the rule change allowing Norton to speak. And quite frankly this would have been preferable to what happened next when former Lieutenant Governor, not really an outsider, Jane Norton did get the microphone.
At this point the significance was crystal clear to many and soon to be to everyone. A quick glance of confusion towards my newly minted active friend, Chris, he leapt to his feat calling for a Point of Order. When Chris was ignored by Lisa Taskerud, Chairman 5th Congressional District Republican Central Committee, he was no longer in participant mode as a delegate; he was on home turf as an agitator.
Chris is also a member of We are Change and quite comfortable taking on the establishment. Having 30-40 other people in the room, me being one of them, screaming Point of Order at the same time didn't exactly have a calming effect on Chris. He looked at me and said "walk out?" I saw the microphone being taken back by the chair, Ms. Taskerud, and raised my hand as if to say hang on a second to Chris.
When the first words out of Ms. Taskerud's mouth were something about respect it was all over. You see Scott McInnis had spoken a short time earlier and although he wasn't a friend of the TEA Partiers he was shown the respect due a Republican that was going through the Assembly process. This wasn't about respect for the GOP by the radicals, it was about respect for the process by the members of the process. Allowing Norton to speak was about disrespecting the process and back room maneuvering by the power players, those of whom had no respect for the rank and file nor the process. I looked at Chris and simply said "Go!"
Chris and I turned and started walking towards the doors. We were not alone. I called a friend of mine (I think he might be hiding out with "Where's Waldo?" Bruce somewhere) to explain what had just happened. After laying out the details he asked how many people left. "I don't know, I was one of the first ones out the door." was my reply.
At this point I realized the mixed blessing of the parking situation when Chris reminded me of the rather large bullhorn he keeps in the car. The thought of him returning to the Assembly with a bullhorn and calling for a Point of Order is still entertaining me two days later. That might not have ended well as the Sargent at Arms, I believe the Park County Sheriff, had removed the original protester from the reports I got later. Then again, perhaps that would have made a better story as I'm sure that bailing Chris out of jail would have involved a camera crew and a hundred of his closest friends with many bullhorns and large signs. Chris was out of his element inside the party process; standing outside of it and screaming is akin to his back yard.
On the drive home the emails and phone calls started coming in. Initial reports were fully half of the delegation had walked out on Norton. Surely keeping her mouth shut and not wielding the big money donors to get a last minute rule change would have been preferable to the events that transpired. Later reports were as low as a third of the delegation but the statement was made and the effects can't be repealed. Norton may be the favorite of the donors but she is no favorite of those seeking to restore the Republican party to a place of honor and respect.
To Kay's credit, even as someone that plays her cards extremely close to the vest, she thought the events were tacky. To Ken's credit, he has a chosen a consummate professional to help with his campaign. And to Lisa Taskerud's discredit, she chose to adulterate the rules accepted by the party by making a slight, and almost unnoticed, change to the letter of those rules to enable her, and the anointed one, to violate the spirit of those same rules, and completely disrespect the Assembly system.
I would love to have an insider's report on the events that transpired prior to Crist's abandonment of the Republicans, the events of Bennett's defeat in Utah, and as an ultimate prize, the events that led to the absolute slaughter of Kentucky's anointed one: Trey Grayson. I am by no means an insider so let's call this a participant's views on the process. Imagine being a fly on the wall when the power brokers of any of these states met to discuss their failures and the TEA Party's successes. Particularly in Sarah Palin's dressing room.
You see, the rumor all day at the Congressional Assemblies was the purported endorsement of Jane Norton by the Grizzly-Mom, moose hunter herself: Ms. Palin. All day the subject had come up. The first day, Friday, was the Congressional Assemblies to be followed on Saturday by the state wide Assembly and Sarah was to speak that evening. "Was it inappropriate for Sarah to steal the thunder of Colorado's Assembly process by speaking hours after it ended?" "Was she angling for a Presidential run and hoping for Norton's big money donors?" The questions and speculation flew all day long and the only real fact was that she was speaking. Well Sarah Palin did speak and she did not endorse Norton. I'll leave any further speculation to the reader.
The Republican Party establishment is being exposed and called out at every turn by the TEA Parties so I'd like to conclude with a message for the Democrats: You clean your house and we'll clean ours!