Wright no-show, Menger gets stage
Club 20 skirted its own rules and invited a third-party candidate to speak at its debates Saturday, and Tim Menger couldn’t be more pleased.
That’s because the Unaweep Canyon Libertarian got the rare chance to address attendees at the regional group’s annual debates, and he got to do it without actually debating.
That happened because his only opponent for House District 54, embattled Republican Jared Wright, did what he’s been doing at virtually all organized debates in the Grand Valley since news of his bankruptcy and questionable departure from the Fruita Police Department broke last month:
He didn’t show.
“If I have a little bit of time left over, I’d like to yield my time to my opponent,” Menger joked at the end of his five-minute speech. “Oh, he’s not here.”
Menger said he got a call from Club 20 officials late Friday, giving him only 14 hours before he was to appear.
He spent some of that time writing his speech. The remaining time he slept.
“Ever since my opponent got into trouble a month and a half ago, it became real to me,” the 61-year-old said immediately after his speech. “I put it in my mind that I can do this.”
The Western Slope advocacy group normally doesn’t invite such third-party candidates to its debates. But it made a last-minute exception in this case because of the unique nature of the situation, which has included numerous calls from Republican voters for Wright to drop out of the race.
Club 20 chairman Steve Reynolds said that uniqueness was partially created when Wright was invited to speak and accepted that invitation, but earlier in the week changed his mind and said he wouldn’t come.
That decision opened the door for Menger to be invited, Reynolds said.
“He was the only candidate then, and we weren’t going to let the Libertarian come because of our policy,” he said. “But this is Mesa County. This is where we’re at. People would have gone into the voting booth without ever having seen either candidate.”
Though Reynolds admitted the decision to invite Menger was unusual, it won’t change the group’s policy not to invite candidates who represent less than 1 percent of registered voters.
In his speech, Menger told Club 20 members he believes in some conservative issues supported by Republicans and some liberal ideas pushed by Democrats but won’t blindly follow either.
Menger said the first bill he would introduce should he be elected would freeze the size of government, cut many higher-paid supervisory jobs and use those savings to rehire laid off state workers who provide most of the services to Coloradans.
“Give me two years to earn your trust and then invite me back,” Menger told the crowd.