Heidi Ganahl

Heidi Ganahl

The “war on women” began as more pomp than circumstance in the political theater, but if there’s a war for women, the Republican Party is losing.

A recent Politico article talked about how national Republican Party leaders are trying to recruit more women to run for Congress in the 2020 election, but still failing to provide enough campaign support to make it a reality.

As next year's field continues to take shape in Colorado, conservative women and the support they get from their party will be two of the most compelling storylines. 

Republicans' thin bench of candidates is of their own making.

When former Republican congressman Bob Beauprez ran for governor in 2014, his pick for a running mate, former Douglas County Commissioner Jill Repella, proved a brilliant move that helped make a tough race for incumbent John Hickenlooper's second term.

She was smart, forceful candidate and spoke with a sensibility of a middle-class suburban mother of three, as well as the daughter of a Reagan Republican father and a Kennedy Democrat mother.

Five years later, the party has failed to capitalize on Repella’s potential. One and done. In Colorado, men can lose two or three races, but women apparently don’t get a do-over.

As I said, Republicans in Colorado don’t have a deep bench of fresh talent at the moment, and political retreads such as Tom Tancredo and Douglas Bruce repel younger voters. The more moderate and more telegenic members of the state party -- George Brauchler, Cole Wist and, at one time, Walker Stapleton -- can’t find a place in their own party, which makes it hard for them to have a place in statewide elected office.

When I moderated a panel for the Common Sense Policy Roundtable a few weeks ago, I said I’d been meaning to write a column about the GOP bench, but “I don’t know if I have 800 words to say about Heidi Ganahl.” 

She’s a successful businesswoman with strong spine for conservative principles. As the University of Colorado regent at-large, she was elected statewide.

On top of being qualified, Ganahl is the kind of candidate suburban women could aspire to emulate. Her potential scares the daylights out of Democrats, or it should.

Republican woman in the legislature provide a great starting point for the grand old party.  Rep. Susan Beckman is a well-spoken former Arapahoe County commissioner who was a finalist for the state party chair this year.

That job ultimately went to U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, who won it over three other candidates, including Beckman and outgoing state GOP Vice Chair Sherrie Gibson.

State Rep. Lori Saine, a former Dacono council member, is a skilled orator and the target of a Westword piece this year called “5 Reasons Why Lori Saine Is Colorado's Nastiest, Most Clueless Politician,” meaning fellow Republicans would love her for getting under the media’s skin.

Saine, you might recall, was arrested at Denver International Airport with a gun in her bag. She carries it so often, she forgot it was there.

GOP women in the statehouse, however, hold just eight of the 24 seats held by Republicans in the House and one of 16 in the Senate.

Democratic women make up 26 of their party's 41 seats in the House and 12 of 19 in the Senate. Fifteen Democratic women are first-time legislators, compared to just one new lawmaker who is a Republican.

She would be a long shot, but state Sen. Vickie Marble from Fort Collins would be a lot of fun to watch in next year's race for the reliably liberal Boulder-based Congressional District 2, an open seat won by Joe Neguse last year with 60% of the vote.

Marble, a former liquor store operator, bail bonds agent and actress from Fort Collins, takes what other politicians call gaffes and baggage and owns it like a conservative family bible.

She's been called a white nationalist by the Aurora Sentinel for saying, on the Senate floor, white men have done a lot for this country.

Like Saine, Marble could set the loft on fire at a GOP barn dance. But the party has to give her a chance and meaningful support.

I had breakfast with a top-shelf Democratic operative recently who was miffed that some in her party, and the press, think abortion is the key issue of next year’s election. That leaves a lot on the table that Coloradans care about deeply, including climate change and, of course, President Donald Trump, she said.

There's a good reason Democrats might not want to play the gender card as their ace against U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in his bid for re-election next year.

In 2014 when Gardner was a member of the U.S. House, he beat Democrats at their own game to ascend to the Senate. Incumbent Mark Udall of Boulder pushed the abortion and contraception issues so hard he was dubbed “Mark Uterus,” while, accurately or not, Gardner played the moderate.

Republicans can ill afford to lose more ground with suburban moms and ambitious millennial women.

Beating the drum on issues such as abortion and tilting against legislation such as equal pay is fighting yesterday’s culture wars, not building a political operation for the future.

Colorado Republicans have to get smart around the fact that they have to show progress with women.

(1) comment

Vanderwerf Stan

Joey, Thanks for the article but I'm not sure I agree. As a statistic, we have what we have, but there is a deep bench of women in the Republican Party. As a County Commissioner in El Paso, two of our 5 Commissioners are Republican women, two of our House reps from our area are Republican women. So I would be interested in knowing if the postulate you offer here also applies at the local level.

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