April 11, 2009

Colorado 2010 US Senate Race: Ryan Frazier An "Untraditional" Candidate

The local media (InDenver Times) has picked up on the increasing profile of Ryan Frazier in an update on the looming GOP primary for the opportunity to unseat the appointed Michael Bennet:
Republican Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier said Wednesday he is “seriously considering” running for U.S. Senate in 2010, though he acknowledged his toughest fight may come from the more conservative wing of his own party.

Frazier stopped short of saying he will definitely run. But the 31-year-old Navy veteran has been making the rounds, meeting with potential supporters and attending county party gatherings. At a dinner in Douglas County – one of the state’s most conservative areas – Frazier got about 60 percent of the vote in a straw poll, besting more conservative Republicans such as radio host and attorney Dan Caplis, former Congressman Bob Beauprez and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck.
. . .
A native of North Carolina who has lived in Colorado for 12 years, Frazier describes himself as “not a typical Republican” and “very independent.” He knows his stance on certain issues, such as benefits for same-sex partners, may rankle the far right. But he believes he is better positioned to win statewide, much as Democrats have dominated recent elections with more centrist candidates such as former Sen. Ken Salazar.

“It’s going to be a real question for the Republican Party: ‘Are they ready for someone like me?’ ” Frazier said. “It shouldn’t be a question of surviving a primary. It should be, ‘Are you ready to win? Or do you want to continue down the road of a string of losses?’”
That's up to the Colorado GOP--establishment vs. activists, and the mythical "base" of social conservatives vs. center-right, fiscally conservative voters statewide. The GOP primary, depending on who actually jumps in, should give us a clearer picture of where the party insiders stand, as well as where the rank-and-file Republicans are leaning. Expect more libertarian-minded folks and those "unaffiliateds" to take a good look at Frazier's "live-and-let-live," limited government, and economically-minded positions over other potential GOP competitors.

That won't stop the criticism, however:
Most recently, Frazier was one of the driving forces behind the “right-to-work” initiative known as Amendment 47. Voters rejected the measure, which would have banned agreements that require workers to pay union dues if they fall under a collective bargaining contract.

But Frazier also supported benefits for same-sex partners of city of Aurora employees. And in 2006, he joined with Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper – a Democrat – to publicly endorse Referendum I, which would have given domestic-partner benefits to same-sex couples statewide.

Frazier said he’s been told by many people – inside and outside his own party – that his support for those measures will be “the arrow on my back” in a primary battle.

“They will come at me hard on that,” he said.
Based on the somewhat coordinated comments seen so far, they sure will.

But Frazier's initial strength lies in being outside the traditional party structure that ultimately alleviates any associated baggage from a recently weak Colorado GOP, and is more concerned with moving forward than looking back a decade:
“These are untraditional times that call for untraditional people to step forward,” he said.

Frazier said his top issues would be the same issues he believes are most important to voters: the economy, energy, education, defense and government reform.

Frazier also said he isn’t dissuaded by Bennet’s stellar fundraising in the most recent quarter, in which the former Denver Public Schools chief and businessman raked in nearly $1.4 million.

It’s a good start, Frazier said, but added that whichever Republican takes Bennet on, “the money will come.” And he said he has had Democrats and unaffiliated voters encourage him to run.
Regardless of the candidate, the GOP will push hard for this Senate seat--the question of degree of broader support will ultimately depend on what kind of candidate the GOP settles upon, both for Senate and for Governor.

Real grassroots support will play an extremely large role in this primary--although there will be the temptation to coordinate astroturfing campaigns in order to "demonstrate" real support among GOP voters, however far-fetched.

Incidentally (via RockyMountainRight), at the most recent Denver County GOP First Thursday Breakfast (April 2), Frazier and State Sen. Josh Penry won informal straw polls for Senate and Governor, respectively. Penry spoke at the breakfast, and Frazier is scheduled for the May meeting. While the results are unscientific and very, very early, it looks more and more likely that many Republicans are at least prepared to take a look at younger, next-generation, not-as-established candidates. Much will depend, as indicated earlier, on who eventually runs and who can create the necessary ground game for primary victory. Fundraising and messaging will be important as each candidate seeks to establish his own "base" within the party.

If the party truly wants to create a 64-county, all district, renew-the-bench strategy to reinvigorate GOP voters, increase registration, and re-connect with unaffiliateds, then it will need a fresh vision for the state. Relying on late '90s electoral messaging, final-weekend get-out-the-vote campaigning, and retread candidates will not be the way to electoral victory in the critical 2010 election. With redistricting looming and five state-wide offices up for grabs, the top of the ticket--the U.S. Senate and Governor--should be viewed as the vehicles for electoral coat-tails. Mediocre and uninspiring candidates will be shunned by activists, won't attract much national attention or fundraising, and will depress voter turnout if they can't engage on a meaningful level, especially on economic issues. Elections have consequences, and Colorado can't afford a repeat of the 2004, 2006, and 2008 elections.

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