Tea parties factor into Mesa County Republican races

Zoe Grimes, right, and Sharon Bradshaw tally votes for candidates for U.S. senator and Colorado governor from straw-poll ballots during Tuesday’s Precinct 22 caucus at Fruitvale Elementary School.

Republican caucuses in the Grand Valley took on a distinct tea-party tinge Wednesday as party members marked the beginning of the political season.

Still, some Republicans gathered on Grand Junction’s east edge and in Fruitvale acknowledged and, in some cases, reveled in tea-party participation, but also noted participation lagged, especially compared to the presidential election year of 2008.

“The tea party stimulated us” to participate in the caucus, Max and Sharon Smith said as they walked to their precinct 60 caucus at Nisley Elementary School.

The Smiths attended the tea party rally Sept. 12 in Washington, D.C., where they recalled the tea party activists were being called Astroturf (as in fake grassroots) and Nazis, Sharon Smith said.

“If they hadn’t labeled us like that, we wouldn’t have been this stimulated,” she said.

At Fruitvale Elementary School, Greg Embry walked into the Precinct 22 caucus, his first caucus experience.

Embry identifies more with the Ron Paul revolution than the tea party, but is sympathetic to the tea party, he said.

A lifelong Republican, though not an activist, Embry said he showed up “out of concern for this country.”

He wants to see strong action against the current political headwinds, Embry said.

“I’ll jump ship if they let me down,” he said.

In Precinct 61, 11 of 520 eligible Republicans showed up for the caucus, a disappointed Karen Kulp pointed out to her fellow Republicans.

Of those 11, five raised their hands when asked if the tea party had played a role in encouraging them to caucus, Kulp said.

If the party is to succeed in November, Kulp said, the key will be with the absent 509 GOP voters.

Precinct 61 voted 8 to 3 for GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes of Evergreen over Scott McInnis of Grand Junction, a six-term U.S. representative.

Wendy and Wayne Elliott had urged the vote for Maes, widely perceived as a tea-party-aligned candidate, not as a criticism of McInnis, they said, but as a way to inject new blood into a government tied to back-room deals and partisanship.

“Dan Maes may be able to break them of all that,” Wendy Elliott said.

Maes’ business background is a plus, Wayne Elliott said.

“He rebuilds troubled companies,” Wayne Elliott said. “That’s the experience we need.”

Nineteen-year-old Kyla Grimes was attending her first caucus in Precinct 22, joining her parents, Zoe and Kevin.

The process was interesting, but it was wanting on one respect, she said.

“Some of the information on the candidates isn’t very telling,” she said.

All of the Grimes family members were elected to the Mesa County Republican assembly in April, and precinct chairwoman Lisa Binse told Kyla Grimes she supported her as a delegate because “you young people are going to end up with all the mess.”


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