GOP still feeling effects of past election, preparing for 2006

Wounds from the 2004 elections are still fresh in the minds of many Republicans.

At Saturday's Lincoln Day Dinner in Craig, it was clear some members of the Colorado GOP still were reeling from the last election, when Colorado Republicans lost big despite President Bush carrying the state.

In 2004, the party lost control of both houses of the Colorado Legislature, a seat in the U.S. Senate and the 3rd Congressional District.

"It's something a lot of us would like to forget," said Dirk Hallen, campaign manager for U.S. House candidate Scott Tipton.

Tipton, a Republican from Cortez, is running for the 3rd District seat in November against John Salazar, D-Man--assa.

For many in the party, Salazar's victory in 2004 exemplified Republican struggles.

The 3rd District encompasses the Western Slope, including Moffat County, a region which is known to be conservative, and where President Bush got 56 percent of the vote in 2004.

But despite the president's success on the Western Slope and a Republican advantage in voter registration, Salazar won the seat.

"There was no reason why we shouldn't have carried that seat," Hallen said.

Hallen told the audience of about 100 people at Saturday's dinner that one of the keys for athe party was taking back the 3rd District.

For others at Saturday's dinner, the governor's race seemed to be the most pressing issue the party faces.

The worst thing that could happen to the party and the state would be a Democratic governor combined with a Democratic legislature, said state Treasurer Mark Hillman, who gave the keynote address Saturday.

"Elect a Republican governor who knows what a veto pen is for and isn't afraid to use it," Hillman said.

The Republicans have two candidates for governor in 2006: Bob Beauprez, the former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party who currently represents Colorado's 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Marc Holtzman, the state's former technology secretary and former president of the University of Denver.

Tom Stone, an Eagle County commissioner, addressed the dinner crowd on behalf of Holtz--man on Saturday.

"This party has fallen apart in the state of Colorado," Stone said.

For Republicans who are tired of being a minority party in the Legislature, Holtzman is the party's best bet for success, Stone said.

While Republicans try to rebuild the party on the state level, Moffat County Republicans are confident the party will continue to dominate local politics.

"Locally, we're very strong," said Ron Danner, chairman of the Moffat County Republican Party.

Danner said he thinks strong Republican majorities in Moff--at County can help carry Rep--ublicans statewide.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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