Colorado Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Maes’ disaster of a 2010 campaign could turn into a four-year embarrassment for state Republicans. It’s been one blunder after another for Maes since he barely won the August 10 primary over former Rep. Scott McInnis, whose campaign was done in by a plagiarism scandal. But if Maes fails to get 10 percent of the vote on election day, his legacy won’t be the U.N. bike plot warning or the tall tale of working undercover as a cop in Kansas. It will be leaving Republicans with minor party status in Colorado until 2014.
After weeks of declines in the polls, the TPM Poll Average now shows Maes coming in at 9.3%.
As The Denver Post reported back in September, minor party status means that Republicans wouldn’t appear at the top of the ballot with the Democrats in 2012 and 2014. Instead, they’ll be listed down with the Libertarian, Green Party and other third-party candidates.
“I think it is fairly minor — not to make a pun out of it,” Secretary of State Bernie Buescher told the Post at the time.
But while Buescher and state GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams have been playing down the impact of minor party status, a memo written by Arapahoe County Republican Party Chairman Dave Kerber obtained by the Post in early October spells out some serious consequences.
Our state house and senate candidates will similarly be relegated to bottom positions. In 2014, when we have our US Senate, Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer etc races, again, we will be at the bottom of the ballot fighting the libertarians etc for ballot placement. As we all know, being at the top or toward the top can mean several percentage points in the vote, enough in a close race to secure victory.
The Post reports that in 2008, Barack Obama and John McCain were joined by 12 other candidates for president on the ballot in Colorado.
In addition to the effects of ballot position, minor party status might hurt the finances of Republicans running at the state level. According to the Associated Press, a “minor party cannot raise money for both primary and general elections unless it has more than one candidate in any primary race,” whereas a major party must hold a primary, even if a candidate is unopposed. Kerber writes:
The problem arises in that campaign finance rules allow for a State House candidate, for example, to raise $200 in the primary election and $200 in the general election. As a major party and therefore a primary, all our Republican house candidates can raise $400/ donor. As a minor party, that candidate would only be able to raise $200/donor for the general election only.
Still, state GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams told the AP that things would be fine. “[H]e believes the state Legislature will change the law to avoid the embarrassment of treating Democrats differently than Republicans, especially with a presidential election.”
But state Senate President Brandon Shaffer told the AP that if Democrats keep their majority, they won’t be going out of their way to help Republicans.
“I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Dick Wadhams,” Shaffer said. “It’s his job to recruit good candidates for the Republican Party and he failed.”
According to the Post, Republicans represent the largest voting bloc in the state, with 852,790 registered voters. Democrats have 794,678. The final irony here is that the American Constitution Party, with just 2,330 registered members, will likely get major party status as a result of Tom Tancredo’s last-minute gubernatorial run, and Tancredo only ran after Maes refused to drop out.
The TPM Poll Average for this race shows Hickenlooper (45.6) leading Tancredo (41.3) and Maes (9.3).
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com