( – promoted by Middle of the Road)
First, this is Colorado Springs, perhaps the most conservative district in the nation.
There are a lot of people involved with “Tea Party” type groups. About 1,000 attended last night.
Second, while almost everyone there would agree that the GOP is corrupt and beholden to a narrow group of special interests, they also are convinced that they are powerless to change that, and they believe the Democratic Party is even worse. So they will be voting for the lesser of two evils in November, not for good governance.
That said, this was pretty much a GOP event. Libertarians were permitted to set up tables and hand out literature, but not to participate in the debates. Constitution Party representatives were allowed to hand out literature.
There were three debates, which started after what seemed like 45 minutes of introductory remarks. These featured the GOP candidates for Senator, Treasurer and Governor.
One candidate, Steve Barton, fell through a hole in the stage. At one point, Ken Buck introduced himself as Steve Barton. Sympatico ?
The best debate, the only actual debate where candidates went after each other, was between JJ Ament and Ali Hasan.
Big picture, JJ said that there had not been a qualified financial professional as State Treasurer for forty years, and that the head of that office needed to be someone with years of experience analyzing financial statements, bond ratings and coupon yields, and suggested that being a filmmaker was not adequate preparation.
Ali countered by indicating that there are already plenty of qualified professionals doing the nuts and bolts of accounting and treasury management, and what the office was needed was a leader with vision and principles.
They disagreed over whether the state is currently invested in banks that received bailout funds, apparently including a bank that JJ works for. Ali had a persuasive visual aid on that point, but JJ had a counter argument I couldn’t follow, but may have had merit.
Overall, JJ won the text voting, 45 to 25 to 1 for an absent Stapleton. Ament had a significant cheer section up front, but Ali seemed to get stronger responses from the crowd, if that section up front was excluded. It was the best show of the night.
To JJ’s credit, he never mentioned Ali’s religion. Classy. I call it for Ali, though I may be biased. I hope someone can post the votes collected on paper ballots.
The Governor contest was more lopsided. Dan Maes was the clear crowd favorite. Scott McInnis plaintively pleaded for realism – he lamented that, if the GOP kept paring revenues, he would not be able to govern. Roads are essential, and education investment necessary for our future. He argued that we could put ourselves into a death spiral if we kept cutting fees and taxes, even while the state struggled to cope with a $1 Billion deficit.
Dan had a pretty succinct formulation for solving the deficit, and said that the McInnis “Prosperity Plan” deal was cut in a backroom. The next time Scott spoke, he was drowned out with shouts of “backroom.” If he ends up Governor, I hope he forgets how he was treated last night.
The debate among the Senate candidates was pretty much what I’ve seen before, except Jane Norton was there to speak on behalf of Jane Norton. If you cheer for underdogs, Steve Barton is still your guy. Some people thought that Ken Buck was mocking him, but I didn’t take it that way.
Tom Wiens was a little off; I’ve seen him do better. Cleve Tidwell toned down the “Georgia country boy” stuff and came across more as the competent international corporate executive. Can’t say if it helped with this particular crowd, but I thought it was a big improvement.
Barton was as uncomfortable as ever. If he wasn’t LDS I would suggest that he take a drink of whiskey before going onstage. It may have even helped him take the fall off the stage. He still puts a lot of emphasis on his educational qualifications, and the GOP in this city is somewhat anti-intellectual.
The one constant: everyone thought that the Obama Presidency was leading to the decline of the nation. Some want him impeached, others want him countered and delayed until the GOP sweeps into office in November. However, most acknowledge that they see little difference between their party and the Democrats. They are mad about the way things are going, and came last night to vent their frustration, but few believe they can actually do anything about the mess we’re in.
Conclusion: the Tea Party movement has been absorbed into the GOP here in El Paso county, and once the election is over, its back to business as usual.
Final note: almost every notable local Republican was there last night. Doug Bruce, Dan May, Ed Bircham, Tom Tancredo, Greg Hollister, Gallagher, Clark, and many I couldn’t put a name to.