Ready for the political junkie season |

Ready for the political junkie season

Randy Essex
Staff Photo |

Being a political junkie, I’m about to go on a months-long jag, with the national party conventions at the end of July kicking off a little more than three months of extreme anxiety about the future of the country.

Close to home, we gain some clarity Tuesday with the Colorado primary. We’ll learn who the Republican Senate candidate will be challenging Michael Bennet, whether Scott Tipton is able to swat aside upstart Alex Beinstein of Carbondale and, closest to home, whether John Martin will be the Republican nominee for what would be his sixth term as a Garfield County commissioner.

A good friend of mine in Iowa, where he is a Democratic insider, once told me that it’s easy to sound smart on Wednesday. He said that right after telling me early in the afternoon of Election Day 2004 that John Kerry would defeat George W. Bush for the presidency, proving that it’s also risky to try to sound smart on Tuesday.

He was seeing high turnout numbers, which ordinarily are good for Democrats. But that year, Karl Rove had led a strategy that put social issues on the ballot in several states on gay marriage and abortion that successfully enticed Christian conservatives to the polls to vote for their heartfelt causes and also for another term for W.

Kerry probably would have been a one-term president because the housing bubble was just about fully inflated by November 2004, and was going to blow up the economy regardless of who was president. That means, Republicans, that had Kerry not been smeared by Swift Boat lies, you never would have gotten Barack Obama as president, or he would have had to wait until at least 2012 to run, and the Republican incumbent could have successfully claimed credit for the tepid recovery that has been a persistent line of attack on Obama.

Politics is sure messy.

OK, back to trying to sound smart on Monday.

John Martin is going to beat Aron Diaz. We all know lots of folks are fed up with Martin, but he also has loyal supporters and plenty of name recognition. More importantly, Diaz has not run an aggressive campaign to get his name out among rank-and-file Republicans and to overcome doubts that some municipal and Republican leaders have spread about him.

We were criticized a little bit for our editorial not endorsing either man due to reservations about each and for also saying that it is unlikely — not impossible, but unlikely — that a Democrat will unseat Martin this year.

So here’s your Monday smarts: Long live King John.

(Disclaimer: That’s said in an attempt at wry humor.)

The race that intrigues me is for the Third Congressional District.

Scott Tipton is the incumbent, and he’s drawn plenty of criticism mostly on two points: His move to offer a draft bill on a potential Thompson Divide lease swap that was mostly written by SG Interests, his largest campaign donor; and a growing sense that he is aloof from the district. Tipton and his campaign staff didn’t respond to several requests for comment on a story the PI’s John Stroud did on his re-election effort.

Like all politicians on our general election ballot, he will show up around the Western Slope for the fall campaign.

Tipton has completely ignored his primary opponent, Beinstein. The incumbent congressman has, literally, more than 100 times more cash on hand than the 28-year-old from Carbondale, $762,000 to about $6,400. If you want to believe that a person can win election to Congress without massive amounts of money, which is a lot like believing in unicorns, Beinstein is your guy.

He’s run mostly to the right of Tipton, and his big issue is the United States’ kid-gloves treatment of Saudi Arabia, a repressive regime whose internal politics have led to financing and the spread of radical Islam. Beinstein isn’t wrong about Saudi Arabia, at least in theory, but it’s hard to see that capturing a majority of Republican primary votes.

While he was able to get support of 40 percent of the delegates at the Third District GOP assembly in early April and make it onto the primary ballot, Beinstein is going to get stomped.

This pearl of Monday wisdom is drawn from the fact that Tipton hasn’t even acknowledged that he has a primary foe. Tipton has money for polling, so he may have numbers or he may just be taking the approach that paying any attention to an underfunded, obscure foe would help Beinstein’s name recognition.

Tipton won’t, though, be able to ignore Gail Schwartz, the former regent and state senator who will be the Democratic nominee in the district. While Ballotopedia currently ranks the race “safely Republican,” the district has a history of switching from one party to the other over time, and Schwartz is both known in much of the district and well-financed.

Schwartz raised $353,973 in the most recent Federal Election Commission reporting period, compared with $182,580 for Tipton. He still has more than double the cash on hand of Schwartz, but she will tap all of the resentment and vulnerabilities that Tipton has built. Her fundraising will continue to be strong. When she says “Scott Tipton is not listening to communities,” it will resonate in many spots.

Tipton will have to come to the district and engage Schwartz or he will lose. He might lose anyway. You won’t know till November how smart that Monday morning assertion is.

Randy Essex is editor of the Post Independent.

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