At the end of 2010 I announced I would not run for a fourth term as Chair of the Colorado Democratic Party. Dick Wadhams, the chair of the state Republican Party, planned to seek re-election. He announced Monday night that he was withdrawing from the chair's race.
The Denver Post, which loves Dick and his many controversial comments, quotes him today as saying, "I have loved being chairman, but I'm tired of the nuts who have no grasp of what the state party's role is," he said.
Chairs of political parties have some pretty defined responsibilities. The first one is to make sure that our caucus, assembly and convention process runs within the boundaries of state party rules and state statute. All of that ensures that the candidates selected by the party gets legally nominated in order to be on the ballot. While people can petition onto the ballot, most candidates want the precinct, county, Congressional District and state units to function properly so they can get their name before the voters.
We do recruit candidates, especially where there is a potential vacancy. And we navigate the background waters where advice and counsel are necessary to make sure candidates understand what is involved in running for office. Many people decide they want to serve in a public office before they know the process.
There are other duties of state chairs: fundraising, press and organizational oversight. However, the governance of the party is focused on getting the best people to successfully serve.
Anyone watching Colorado is aware that last campaign cycle was a test of leadership for both parties. Democrats had a Senate primary that created hard feelings in the party. We have gone through this three times in the past seven years.
Republicans seemed to fall apart around their Governor and Senate races. There were tales of back room deals and lack of vetting. Everyone is pointing fingers.
Are they nuts for doing that? Not so sure we can assume that everyone who disagrees with us is automatically a nut. However, it is correct that in the state of Colorado our political parties are more ideological than is prudent to win elections. And the job of the chair is to try and keep them focused on their job: fielding candidates and winning elections.
Purists exist in every party. However, the world is not a pure place. Gradations exist. Compromise is necessary. And what the voters want is respect and results.
If you aspire to be a political strategist, running a state party curtails your actions. The party chair must keep all those diverse groups together to win elections. It is hard work and pretty thankless.
So I wish Mr. Wadhams well, as I do the three candidates seeking to guide the Colorado Democratic Party and are running for election on March 5, 2011. I once said at a state executive committee meeting that I loved 90% of being chair. However, the 10% that I didn't love was really, really bad.
My actual quote was a little more colorful; however, unlike my counterpart , I am a little more judicious with my public comments. My point is that I guess Dick was no longer willing to deal with the 10% or else it grew in size.