THE BLOG
02/16/2011 03:38 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What Kind of "Real Conservative" Will Be the Next Dick Wadhams

A couple weeks ago, KHOW's Dan Caplis asked State Sen. Ted Harvey, who's one of the people vying to be the next Dick Wadhams, "Do you believe if someone supported Ref. C , it shows they are not a real conservative?"

"I believe that Ref. C was a poor initiative to put forward for Republicans and that those who supported it obviously are going to have to defend their positions on why they supported it. It is an issue, and we can't deny it," Harvey replied, adding that "I'm not going to be saying which issues are off limits and which issues are on limits."

Referendum C allowed the Colorado state government to keep for five years tax dollars that would otherwise have been returned to taxpayers under TABOR rules. Critics, including the Independence Institute, celebrated the end of Referendum C in July.

Caplis told Harvey earlier in the interview, which aired Feb. 8, that the Referendum C "hatchet needs to be buried" because it's causing us to "eat our own" and "costing us elections." On his radio show, Caplis frequently whines that Jane Norton would have easily beaten Sen. Michael Bennet last fall.

One "particularly destructive" attack against Norton, Caplis said to Harvey, was that because Norton supported Referendum C, she "wasn't a real conservative."

Harvey replied, "I don't believe the Ref. C issue is what lost the election for Jane Norton, nor do I believe that Ken Buck beating Jane Norton is what lost us the election to Michael Bennett."

The next day on his radio show, Caplis was asking similar questions of Ryan Call, another candidate for the job of Colorado State Republican Chair.

Call told Caplis:

It was interesting; you obviously had one of my principle opponents in the race on yesterday. When you asked him if he would stand up as party chairman and encourage Colorado Republicans to bury the hatchet on Ref. C, which is what I think you referenced, and other divisive issues, he kind of dodged that question.

I asked Call to explain in more detail why he thought Harvey dodged Caplis.

"You can still support Referendum C and be a good Republican," he told me, adding that he personally voted against it and is pro-life. "You can support referring matters to voters on TABOR and still be a good Republican. You can vote in favor of civil unions and still be a good Republican, as long as you share, by and large, those core principles. You can be a good Republican and be in favor of banning gay marriage and cutting the size of government down pea stamp, if that's what you want to do.

"That's what I was going for," he said, "and I think it was a fair criticism with respect to, when asked from multiple angles and in questions on the show, whether Sen. Harvey would be a unifying force for Republicans, or would he take sides on who is a true conservative?... Despite the recent news reports that claim that I'm friends with Democrats, I hope I can be their worst enemy. I want to put them in the minority for good."

The dispute between Harvey and Call reminds me of a paragraph from Dick Wadhams' good-bye letter to Republicans, in which he said he's tired of GOP activists who see "conspiracies around every corner" while simultaneously "saying 'uniting conservatives' is all that's needed to win tight races" in Colorado.

To me, and apparently to Dan Caplis and others, Referendum C gets to the heart of the matter. No one will say it's a litmus test. But which candidate sounds like they're having it, ahh, both ways?

In addition to Harvey and Call, Bart Baron and Leondray Gholston are in the race for Wadhams' job. Others are considering entering, according to the Colorado Statesman.

As to who will win, Wadhams recently told the Post that, "If Harvey thinks he has the votes now to be elected, he is delusional."

You might think Wadhams was posturing, given that he would have faced Harvey if Wadhams hadn't resigned and because the Tea Party seems to have control of the Colorado GOP, at the grassroots level anyway. (See Maes, Buck.)

But as Patricia Calhoun explains nicely in Westword, it looks like the grassroots wing of the GOP will be sending fewer "bonus delegates" to sit on the Republican State Central Committee, which will meet March 26 to select the new chair, than in the past.

In 2009, the GOP central committee had about 400 delegates. This time, it will be closer to 300, because so few Republican votes were cast in 2010. As Calhoun reports, the group of 300 will include 90 GOP elected officials, 192 Republican Country Party representatives, plus state GOP officials, like Wadhams, and other bonus delegates.

So the campaign to be the next Dick Wadhams could be as intense an insider brawl as the Colorado GOP has seen in years, and we all know its insider brawls have been monumental of late.

This presents reporters, and media types like Dan Caplis, with the chance to pin down the candidates on the key issues. Would Harvey, for example, vote for a candidate who supported Ref. C if another GOP candidate in the same race did not? That's the kind of question that might bring some of the Both-Ways candidates out of the closet.