Underlying the notoriety of Colorado Republican primaries for U.S. Senate or House of Representatives are several lesser-known state legislative races. Although not has highly publicized, these races are deemed critical to capturing a Republican majority in both state houses ahead of redistricting.
One race, in particular, bares resemblance to the U.S. Senate primary between Jane Norton and Ken Buck. This is the race for Colorado’s Sixth Senatorial District where a neophyte political candidate is challenging a well-entrenched state Representative hoping to move to the senate.
The newcomer, Norwood resident Dean Boehler, is making a run at the state senate seat coveted by Representative Ellen Roberts of Durango. Roberts has served as representative to the 59th House District for the past four years. Considered a moderate Republican, Roberts had anticipated an unopposed path to the Sixth Senatorial District Assembly on April 17th.
Just eighteen days before the assembly, Boehler filed papers to enter the race. Through a campaign of phone calls to assembly delegates from all eight counties within the district, Boehler stunned the Republican establishment by taking a full two-thirds of the delegate count.
Boehler has based much of his campaign on seeking the support of Tea Party and 9/12 Project members. He holds many of the same values and positions as these groups and believes that other politicians ignore these grassroots activists at their own peril.
In many ways, the Sixth State Senate race mirrors what is happening in the U.S. Senate primary between Jane Norton and Ken Buck. Buck seems to be attracting the conservative Tea Party and 9/12 groups who consider Jane Norton the political “insider”.
In a year when incumbents and political insiders are dropping like flies, it remains to be seen how voters will react. While Norton is certainly not a moderate on core issues important to Republicans, Buck falls even further to the right.
One interesting common element to both of these races is Norton campaign manager Josh Penry. Penry, a Colorado State Senator and former senate minority leader, endorsed Ellen Roberts early on in her bid for the state senate. In fact, Penry went so far as to call Boehler and suggest that he shouldn’t run against Roberts.
It may be that Penry believed Roberts was the only candidate who could defeat appointed Democrat State Senator Bruce Whitehead. However, the support of many conservative groups seems to be coalescing behind Dean Boehler.
Now, as Jane Norton’s campaign manager, Josh Penry is, once again, finding himself pitted against a conservative Republican who appears to be solidifying the support of Tea Party groups.
It will be interesting to analyze the results of both these primaries after August 10th. Will these races confirm a pattern that has developed through Utah, Kentucky and Nevada? That pattern being a groundswell of Republican voters gravitating towards staunchly conservative candidates.
I, for one, welcome the opportunity to support common sense conservative candidates. That is why I am working hard to see that Colorado’s conservative values are represented in the November elections.