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Mesa County’s Kevin McCarney switches to Colorado Republican Party vice chair race

Author: Ernest Luning - March 14, 2017 - Updated: March 14, 2017

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Mesa County Republican Kevin McCarney, right, participates in a forum for Colorado Republican Party state chair candidates officiated by Highlands Ranch Republican organizer Jeff Wasdon, on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, at Salsa Brava restaurant in Highlands Ranch. On Tuesday, March 14, 2017, McCareny announced he was runnng for state vice chair instead. (Photo by Ernest Luning)
Mesa County Republican Kevin McCarney, right, participates in a forum for Colorado Republican Party state chair candidates officiated by Highlands Ranch Republican organizer Jeff Wasden, on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, at Salsa Brava restaurant in Highlands Ranch. On Tuesday, March 14, 2017, McCarneyy announced he was runnng for state vice chair instead. (Photo by Ernest Luning)

Mesa County Republican Kevin McCarney announced Tuesday he’s switching from the race for Colorado Republican Party state chair to the race for vice chair, saying he believes there is a “competitive void” in the race and a lack of Western Slope representation among state GOP leadership candidates.

His announcement leaves two candidates — former congressional candidate George Athanasopoulos and former El Paso County GOP chair Jeff Hays — in the running for state chair and also makes it a two-candidate contest for vice chair. Colorado Springs organizer Sherrie Gibson had been the only candidate running for the vice chair position.

“As one who lives on the Western Slope, I can ensure a congruent campaigning and fundraising effort between the 22 counties in the Western Slope and the rest of Colorado,” said McCareny, who chaired Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in Mesa County, in an email to supporters. “I am also willing and eager to work with whomever may win the chairmanship, to ensure a stronger Republican Colorado in 2018.”

Colorado Republicans elect party leadership for two-year terms at the state central committee’s reorganization meeting on Saturday, April 1, at Englewood High School.

Two of the three incumbent officers — state chair Steve House and vice chair Derrick Wilburn — are declining to seek second terms, while party secretary Brandi Meek is running unopposed for reelection. (Meek, a former chair of the Moffat County Republican Party, hails from the Western Slope, like McCarney.)

McCarney’s shift was the second — or third, depending how you look at it — shake-up in the GOP state chair race in less than a week. Last Thursday, former state vice chair Mark Baisley said he was running for state chair only to step back from the contest late Saturday.

Gibson sounded unfazed at McCarney’s entrance into a race she’d had to herself.

“We are continuing to travel across Colorado with our positive message of bringing unity, expanding our voter base and making sure that all 64 counties have a voice,” she told The Colorado Statesman in a statement. “I think folks will appreciate my consistency in putting them first.”

McCarney is a former vice chair of the Mesa County GOP, managed state Sen. Ray Scott’s successful 2010 House campaign, and chairs Freedom! Colorado, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to promoting constitutional principles, according to the group’s website. He joined the chair race about a month ago, declaring himself an “everyday Republican,” stressing the urgency of Colorado Republicans retaining the blue collar and middle class voters who voted for Trump in last fall’s election.

Campaigning on a plan to turn Colorado red in the 2018 and 2020 elections, McCarney released his ambitious “Red Colorado Project,” which calls for opening “key offices” in Pueblo, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction, with the goal of establishing others in Alamosa, Boulder, Aspen, Durango, Steamboat Springs and Limon. As far as party fundraising, he proposes securing annual $25 commitments from fellow “everyday Republicans,” yielding $10 million a year.

Colorado Democrats met to pick party leadership on Saturday — former Senate President Morgan Carroll was elected state chair, Martelle Daniels ran unopposed for reelection as party secretary, and Rita Simas won election as treasurer — although two of the statewide officer elections weren’t resolved at the party’s central committee meeting.

The Democrats’ 1st vice chair race was thought to be tied after balloting Saturday, but party officials announced Monday that Denver political consultant and Colorado Young Democrats President David Sabados had won election by a single vote over Larimer County organizer and former union leader Gil Barela after one voted ballot was ruled ineligible.

Since none of the multiple candidates in the race for the state party’s 2nd vice chair received a majority of the votes after three rounds of balloting, Democratic officials said Monday they plan to convene another central committee meeting in the near future to resolve that election.

ernest@coloradostatesman.com

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.


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