OK, to be precise, former state GOP Chair Ryan Call never actually went away. Yet, a lot of us were wondering what was next for the 41-year-old Denver attorney and longtime party insider after the abrupt end last year of his successful-if-tumultuous tenure riding herd over a boisterous Republican rank-and-file.
As it turns out, he has a new gig, a new focus—and newfound freedom. Same dynamic, articulate and affable manner. Same lawyerly bearing. Only, now, instead of muting his words in measured tones on behalf of an entire party, he can speak his mind.
“It has been liberating,” Call says of his new role as the Denver-based senior fellow and central region director for upstart Washington, D.C. think tank R Street Institute. It means, for a change, he can concentrate more on promoting public policy than on mediating partisan politics.
It also means that when he does talk politics, he can call it as he sees it. Especially when assessing the prospects of a party in disarray amid a presidential election year like no other.
“The Republican Party in Colorado is deeply fractured,” he says. “There are many factions dividing us.”
He was on the receiving end of that factionalism in 2015 when he stood for re-election to a third term as GOP chair following a series of successes at the helm, only to be dumped unceremoniously in favor of current Chair Steve House.
During Call’s tenure, GOP skyrocket Cory Gardner picked off incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Udall. Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman was able to defend his seat in metro Denver’s highly competitive 6th Congressional District against a formidable challenge from perennial Democratic darling and former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff—and win by nine points. The Republicans even reclaimed the Colorado Senate and held the Secretary of State’s Office with the election of Wayne Williams. Party fund-raising soared, too.
His reward? Call was shown the door. There is of course a lengthy backstory to his ouster and plenty of different opinions to go around. To a great extent, though, he says it boils down to the nature of the job.
“Even with all those successes, every time you make a decision, you’re going to have a quarter of the people mad at you. It’s a challenge to keep all of the egos and all of the personalities happy,” he says.
“It’s the ultimate thankless job,” adds Call, who continues to serve of counsel at law firm Hale Westfall LLP.
Now at R Street, Call is devoting his energy to advancing the institute’s brand of pragmatic and sometimes-unconventional conservatism in Colorado and other Western states. R Street bills its agenda as, “Free Markets. Real Solutions.” A Wyoming newspaper recently carried his commentary chiding that state’s policy makers for taxing wind power, and the Pueblo Chieftain published his call for nuclear power in the Steel City.
“R Street takes the world as it is and asks, ‘How do we move the ball in the right direction?’” Call says.
In a state some say is growing ever more purple, promoting even pragmatic conservatism may be a more challenging job than it once was. At least, it won’t be a thankless one.