Pitkin County Republicans gathered at the Hotel Jerome on Saturday to rally around a long list of local, state and national candidates running for election this fall. There was a strong turnout... especially for a county better known for its left leaning constituents. The main event was Congressman Cory Gardner, who’s taking on Democratic incumbent Mark Udall.
As the hallway leading into the ballroom fills, dinner hasn’t started yet, and longtime Republican Sabrina Stratford is enjoying a drink. It’s her first political event in the Roaring Fork Valley
“Just moved up from Denver a couple of years ago, course voted last year, but haven’t been really plugged into the political scene. So now getting more and more concerned about issues, I kind of want to start showing up.”
Stratford lives in the Woody Creek area, and says one motivator is fracking.
“And I think that we can be responsible conservative Republicans and still take care of the planet, so I’m really interested to see how we approach that from a middle of the road space.”
Eddie Kessler, of Aspen, is frustrated with what he believes is a trend toward over- regulation. Red tape is getting in the way of creating jobs.
“And the middle class is suffering. Most of the people in this room are not suffering, but the middle class, and the poor people, are the people really stuck between a rock and a hard place, due to economic policies.”
As dinner begins, featured speakers repeat those worries about a hamstrung economy. But they’re also nearly ecstatic about how many Republicans are in the room… a testament to how the Pitkin County contingent has grown in the last few years. To the enthusiastic crowd, a range of GOP candidates make their case for donations. Right in the middle is Don Suppes. He’s running for the Colorado State Senate seat that includes Pitkin County.
“Senate District Five, is this state’s best chance for Republican majority in the State Senate. We are one seat shy from taking away the majority, from the Democrats. One seat.”
There are a few attacks on Democrats and their policies, mostly about the Affordable Care Act… otherwise known as Obamacare.
Special guest and U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner goes last. Silver haired and baby faced, the thirty nine year old is bursting with energy… largely about improving the economy.
“But we have another task before us, as Republicans. We must refuse to be the party of no. But instead be the party that is committed to getting government out of the way, and letting America work.”
Gardner has galvanized the party, showing a good shot at beating incumbent Democrat Mark Udall. It’s had an effect nationally, with the race part of a larger GOP game plan to retake the US Senate. After the official talk, someone brings up the elephant in the room. Senator Udall’s TV advertisements have followed a Democratic blueprint, attacking Gardner for his views on abortion, rape, and other issues dubbed “The War on Women.” Republicans argue some of the ads are patently wrong. Tonight, Gardner clearly doesn’t want to go there, instead choosing a side blow.
“No one has suffered more in this economy than women around this state and country. Because of the lack and jobs and good opportunities. That’s the war on women.”
Gardiner also doesn’t address his change of heart on personhood, which legally recognizes a fertilized egg as a person. That could severely restrict abortion and some forms of birth control. In an interview earlier Saturday, Gardner says he changed his stance after learning more about the issue.
And with dessert finished, Lincoln Dinner attendees start trickling out. Lynnette Marie Lacerda shakes her head about The War on Women. It feels, she says, like a manufactured issue; a distraction. She believes its up to voters to dig deeper.
“It’s not enough to just vote any more. We need to get involved, we need to do our homework, it doesn’t matter whether they’re Republican, Independent or Democrat. Find their voting records and try to sift through and find the authenticity of the person that we’re giving the responsibility to.”
The November election is now, just three months away.