The Colorado Repub­li­can Party shouldn’t can­cel its 2018 pri­mary.

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE - By Dick Wad­hams

Win­ning in pol­i­tics is the art of ad­di­tion, not sub­trac­tion, and the Colorado Repub­li­can Party will soon de­cide if it wants to re­main rel­e­vant in an in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive state.

Un­der Propo­si­tion 108, which was over­whelm­ingly passed by vot­ers last year, un­af­fil­i­ated vot­ers will be sent both par­ties’ pri­mary elec­tion bal­lots and the voter must choose one to vote in. But 108 also em­pow­ers the state cen­tral com­mit­tees of both po­lit­i­cal par­ties to can­cel pri­mary elec­tions which would al­low a party to ac­tu­ally nom­i­nate can­di­dates at the state as­sem­bly. The state cen­tral com­mit­tee can only can­cel a pri­mary with a vote of 75 per­cent of its mem­bers.

The Colorado Repub­li­can State Cen­tral Com­mit­tee meets in Septem­ber and ap­par­ently there will be an ef­fort to can­cel the 2018 Repub­li­can pri­mary. Let there be no mis­take about it: If the pri­mary is can­celed and nom­i­na­tions are left to a few thou­sand ac­tivists while mil­lions of Repub­li­cans and un­af­fil­i­ated vot­ers are es­sen­tially shut out of the process, Repub­li­cans will pay po­lit­i­cally.

The math is clear. The Colorado Sec­re­tary of State’s of­fice re­ports that as of Au­gust 1, 2017 there were 1,187,916 (35.6 per­cent) un­af­fil­i­ated vot­ers while there were 1,046,832 Democrats (31.3 per­cent) and 1,041,051 Repub­li­cans (31.1 per­cent).

Repub­li­cans are only com­pet­i­tive in statewide elec­tions when can­di­dates are nom­i­nated who at­tract sup­port from that 36 per­cent of the elec­torate who are un­af­fil­i­ated. What mes­sage would this send to Repub­li­can and un­af­fil­i­ated vot­ers who are de­nied the abil­ity to vote in a pri­mary?

Propo­si­tion 108 em­pow­ers more than 2 mil­lion Repub­li­can and un­af­fil­i­ated vot­ers to vote in a statewide GOP pri­mary elec­tion. The Colorado Repub­li­can Party says that 60,000 Repub­li­cans at­tended their precinct cau­cus in 2016 which is the first step to­ward elect­ing a few thou­sand del­e­gates to the Repub­li­can State As­sem­bly.

So if the pri­mary is can­celed, those few thou­sand del­e­gates elected by the 60,000 or so Repub­li­cans who at­tend cau­cuses would de­cide the Repub­li­can nom­i­nees for gover­nor, at­tor­ney gen­eral, state trea­surer and sec­re­tary of state along with a mul­ti­tude of con­gres­sional and state of­fices. Mean­while, more than two mil­lion Repub­li­can and un­af­fil­i­ated vot­ers will be de­nied a vote in the pri­mary.

Repub­li­can can­di­dates should em­brace 108 as an op­por­tu­nity to craft their cam­paign mes­sages to not only re­flect Repub­li­can prin­ci­ples but to at­tract un­af­fil­i­ated vot­ers as well. We saw once again in 2016 that a hard-edged cam­paign that runs as far as pos­si­ble to the right in the pri­mary is not suc­cess­ful in the gen­eral elec­tion.

One only needs to look at suc­cess­ful Repub­li­can can­di­dates for gover­nor and U.S. sen­a­tor go­ing back four decades to see this. U.S. Sens. Bill Arm­strong, Hank Brown, Wayne Al­lard and Cory Gard­ner along with Gov. Bill Owens all ran strong Repub­li­can cam­paigns that at­tracted un­af­fil­i­ated vot­ers rather than re­pelling them.

Colorado Repub­li­cans should never for­get these sober­ing facts:

Owens was the first Repub­li­can gover­nor to be elected in 28 years when he won in 1998 and is the only Repub­li­can gover­nor in the past 42 years. In fact, there have been only two Repub­li­can gover­nors elected in the past 62 years.

Elim­i­nat­ing the pri­mary would be the first step in re­pelling un­af­fil­i­ated vot­ers in the gen­eral elec­tion and set­ting the stage for a fourth con­sec­u­tive gu­ber­na­to­rial loss. I am hope­ful that the Colorado Repub­li­can State Cen­tral Com­mit­tee will strongly re­ject can­cel­ing the pri­mary.

Dick Wad­hams was chair of the Colorado Repub­li­can Party from 2007-11.

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