Third-party candidate for U.S. Senate raises suspicion in Republican quarters

Colorado Republicans thinned the candidate herd a little this week when state Rep. Mark Waller withdrew from the primary contest for state attorney general.

Waller had a weak showing at the state Republican assembly and only managed to make the ballot by 1 percentage point. The big vote-getter there was current Chief Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. This is another bit of bad news in a bad year for Colorado Democrats who always enjoy a good Republican knife fight during a primary, burning up campaign dollars and fighting each other with material that will be used in Democratic commercials against the eventual winner.

Democrats have recently been a little smarter about piling behind their best candidate fairly quickly and have adopted the “any Democrat is better than any Republican” approach for their candidate selection. The most meaningful democratic primary challenge recently has been between former state senator and perpetual office seeker Andrew Romanoff and then-appointed U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010.

What made this especially interesting was that after his primary win and the November elections, Bennet was still senator. It was a sad day when in a banner year for Republicans across the country, Colorado’s Republican Senate candidate, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, managed to follow a Denver Broncos playbook in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

To be fair, Buck is a good guy who couldn’t keep from wrapping his tongue around silly, off-the-cuff remarks that were quickly and efficiently trumpeted by Democrat operatives throughout the state’s media outlets.

If you wonder how effective this was, try to think of one memorable thing Bennet has said during the last five years.

On the other hand, I bet many of you who follow politics can remember at least one comments made by Buck in 2010 during just a few months of campaigning. The most famous being his response to a question about why someone should vote for him, made while he was miffed about a campaign ad by primary opponent Jane Norton.

“Because I don’t wear high heels.”

Buck seems to have better message control now, running in the 4th Congressional District primary for the seat to be vacated by Cory Gardner.

The point being, primary contests are often great fodder for future general election talking points. Republicans this year, smelling the opportunity for big gains and retaking the U.S. Senate, are minimizing opportunities for mistakes by convincing some candidates that dropping out of tough races leaves everyone in a better position — some now and some in the future.

With newfound unity around many races on the Republican side and a high-profile contest in the Gardner versus incumbent Sen. Mark Udall race, Republican operatives are starting to feel the wind at their back.

As Democratic desperation mounts, a suspicious event has occurred with a purportedly independent candidate entering the U.S. Senate race, in the person of Dr. Steve Shogan.

Third-party independent or Libertarian candidates can often be quite harmful to Republicans in close races, in which independent and often conservative voters will vent often justified unhappiness with wishy-washy Republicans by voting for third-party candidates they assume at least shares their values.

Democrats know this, and it seems to be a growing trend that philosophically questionable independent candidates seem to emerge with ties to Democratic organizations in close races. Last year’s Virginia gubernatorial race is a great example, in which Libertarian candidate Robert Jarvis probably tipped the race in favor of the Democrat.

Jarvis seemed to have a lot more acquaintance with Democratic operators than one would have expected any Libertarian to have and is often considered to have been a Democrat-sponsored spoiler.

Many are wondering if Shogan’s candidacy is not cut from the same cloth, with the website Coloradopeakpolitics noting his involvement with a number of Democrat-cause organizations.

So far, my suspicion is that the doctor’s candidacy is much less philosophically independent than he presently indicates.

In the absence of any major primary challenge to Gardner, Democrats will need all the help they can get to bleed votes away from him, even if they don’t go to Udall.

Rick Wagner writes more about politics on his blog, The War on Wrong.


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