ENGLEWOOD–Ryan Call won a second term as Colorado Republican Party chairman Saturday against challenger Mark Baisley at a meeting that also served as a pep rally for conservatives in need of a picker-upper.
Call won by 272-1/3 to 158-2/3 after receiving the backing of most of the state’s elected officials at the state party central-committee meeting, held at Cherry Creek High School.
He was officially nominated by Rep. Cory Gardner and endorsed in speeches by state Rep. Frank McNulty, state treasurer Walker Stapleton and Republican National Committeewoman Lilly Nunez.
“I don’t believe Colorado or America needs two liberal parties, or a liberal and a moderate party. It needs an effective, persuasive conservative party,” said Call. “It’s my desire and hope that I can continue to be that kind of hands-on chairman and experienced leader that the party needs in these challenging times.”
Still, Call was seen as vulnerable after Colorado Republicans took a drubbing at the hands of Democrats in November, losing the state House and failing to deliver the swing state for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Baisley, the former Douglas County Republican Party chairman and the favorite of grassroots and Tea Party activists, pointed out that eight years ago, the GOP held both Senate seats, the governor’s office, and majorities in the state House and Senate.
“In November, we just lost the last of those strongholds. The Democrats have taken every one of those,” said Baisley. “We cannot continue to have the same practices and expect different results.”
Simmering beneath the surface were smear campaigns aimed at both candidates. Foes of Baisley posted online a copy of a foreclosure notice issued on his house, prompting him to respond that his business struggled as a result of the economic downturn under President Obama, but that he was able to rally and save his home.
Meanwhile, Call’s opponents distributed a mug shot taken of the chairman after he was arrested in 2011 for failing to appear in court to address a string of traffic tickets. The result was a running series of jokes during the meeting about Call’s penchant for putting the pedal to the metal.
After a speaker mentioned Colorado’s 64 counties, Call quipped, “As some of you have seen, I probably have speeding tickets in half of them.”
Following the vote, Republicans insisted the nastiness would soon be forgotten.
“That’s what Republicans do,” said state Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray). “We’re independent thinkers. But right now, we’re singularly focused on kicking the Democratic Party’s butt.”
Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) told Republicans still reeling from the party’s November losses to “shake it off.”
“The overreaching liberal, big-government, big-spending agenda is exposing the Democrats for what they truly believe,” said Cadman. “They’re coming after our money, our businesses, our health care, our schools, our constitutional rights, and this week, they’re coming after our guns.”
Discussion of the Democratic legislature’s gun-control bills dominated much of the meeting. A half-dozen firearms bills are slated for hearings before Senate committees Monday. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a Facebook post last week that he intends to sign at least three of them.
State Rep. Jim Wilson (R-Salida) may have had the best line of the day with a crack about House Democrats who advised college students to use pens and rape whistles as protection on campus, rather than carrying concealed weapons.
“I just want to tell you how safe I feel today,” said Wilson. “I have my pen and my concealed whistle.”
Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck urged Republicans to stick to their conservative principles.
“I was pretty disappointed to hear Republicans say that if we just become more like Democrats, we could win. That’s nonsense,” said Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck. “There has never been a point in time in this country’s history where Republicans needed to act more like Republicans than today.”