Summit County GOP regroups after November drubbing
Ryan Summerlin February 28, 2013
Election Night 2012 was one marked by disappointment and defeat for the Summit County Republicans.
Despite running one of the party’s most active and visible local campaigns in recent memory, members of the GOP spent the evening of Nov. 6 watching race after race fall to their opponents.
Democrats won all the way down the ballot, from the White House to the Summit County Board of County Commissioners, while Colorado turned blue on the national stage and the state House of Representatives was returned to Democratic control.
Even the Republican’s lone victory – the state Senate seat, which went to Randy Baumgardner – was not won in Summit County.
But four months later, the party has had a chance to regroup, take stock and select a new leadership team following the departure of former chair Mark Hurlbert, who left the county to take a job on the Front Range in January.
With the 2012 election firmly behind them, local Republicans are ready now to look to the future.
And they’re already talking about 2014.
The mid-term election will be an important one for the party, with Sheriff John Minor likely looking to win a final term and another opportunity for the Republicans to unseat state Rep. Millie Hamner (D- Dillon).
GOP leaders say they’ll tackle the 2014 election with the same heat and hard work that defined the last campaign.
“I think a majority of voters out there believe what we believe,” Summit County Republican vice chairman Kim McGahey said. “We’re starting now to do a better job to get that message out.”
Continuing to push their message with the voracity that marked the 2012 campaign starts with fundraising now. The new leaders are working on the party’s Lincoln Day Dinner and annual picnic, both key fundraising efforts.
“That’s going to be our focus,” chairwoman Lindsay Backas said. “We want people to be able to come up and access us, talk to us and have an open exchange of ideals and values.”
Backas and McGahey took over leadership of the local party organization after a re-election meeting following Hurlbert’s departure. Backas is the mayor of Blue River and a long-time active member of the Summit County Republicans. Although he’s lived in Summit County for more than 30 years, McGahey, who owns a real estate business, is a relatively recent addition to the organization, bringing a new leadership perspective to the party and a focus on the GOP’s fiscal agenda going forward.
“I’ve been on the perimeter,” said McGahey, a former school board member who says his two sons were a big part of his decision to become more involved in the party. “I want the same freedoms, the same economic opportunities for them. I want them to have the ability to create a better life. Sometimes you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and jump in.”
The two, along with secretary Liz Wickert and treasurer Jay Brunvand, will be leading local efforts to get a Republican representative for Summit County into the state House for the first time in a decade and to help Minor hold on to his seat.
Minor has not officially announced intentions to make another bid for sheriff, but said he likely will.
“I’ve been a cop for 23 years now. I’d like to finish being sheriff, but that’s up to the people,” Minor said. “If I decide to run, all I’m going to say is this: if you think we’ve done a good job, hire me. If you don’t, fire me.”
With the election still two years away, there’s no word yet on a potential Democratic candidate for sheriff or a Republican contender for the state House District 57 seat.
The Republicans say they’re also always welcoming anyone interested in working with them. Those interested in talking to or becoming involved with the party can contact it at firstname.lastname@example.org.