This is a really fun game called Who’s the RINO (Republican in Name Only.) Lots of Republicans who claim they’re “grassroots” are playing it this primary season.
Let’s start with a Colorado Congressman running for re-election. He was one of only 57 Republicans who voted against the $40 billion the Democrats rammed through Congress for Ukraine when America’s babies are crying for formula. He co-sponsored HR 461, the Pause Act, to stop Biden from ending Title 42, which has kept migrant caravans from totally overwhelming our border. He introduced HR 3810, the Saving American History Act of 2021, to stop the teaching of critical race theory in the schools. Along with Sen. Josh Hawley, he introduced the Protect Act to toughen penalties for child sex predators. This Congressman is adamantly pro-life, earning a 100% rating from National Right to Life, and A+ from Susan B. Anthony List, as well as 100% ratings from Family Research Council, FreedomWorks, and a 99% lifetime score from Heritage Action. Oh, and in a House hearing he boldly told Homeland Sec. Mayorkas that he’s a traitor for allowing illegal aliens and fentanyl to flood into America over an insecure border.
This is Ken Buck, a former district attorney running for his fifth term representing Colorado’s Fourth Congressional District. So is Ken Buck a RINO or a patriot? A significant slice of Republicans who style themselves the kingmakers of the “grassroots” insist Congressman Buck is a RINO. No matter that he checks all the conservative boxes: fiscally responsible; close the border and build the wall; tough on crime; no CRT; save the babies. This bunch has focused myopically on a couple of things – Buck didn’t vote to oust Liz Cheney from Republican Conference Chair in 2021 even though he disagrees with her views; the two have been close friends since they were law school classmates. And Buck voted to approve the Electoral College state results along with such high-profile conservative stars as Senators Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Tom Cotton, Ron Johnson and Marsha Blackburn.
Many of the newbies in the Republican Party are using this purity test to kick to the curb the solid conservative officeholders who they have tagged “RINO” and “Establishment” simply because they aren’t perfect. In Buck’s case, his anointed “grassroots” primary opponent is a real estate broker with such stellar qualifications as running his county Republican breakfasts, serving as his county Party vice chair, and as the planning commission chair. His speeches are heavy on supporting the Constitution.
The newbie purists (and over 1/3 of the delegates to the State Republican Assembly were first-timers) thrash about in a fog of emotion and cheer deliriously whichever candidate says, “I support the Constitution!” more times than anyone else in a campaign speech. They are oblivious to the big picture, and to Ronald Reagan’s wise axiom, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.” Hey people – ALL Republicans support the Constitution, and the politicians who don’t are called Democrats!
Yet here comes the purity patrol, busily on the hunt to pick off any elected Republican whose political DNA doesn’t conform 100 percent with their own. Just as soon as a Republican is elected and the victory party confetti is swept up, the triumphant winner is on her way to transitioning to RINO.
They’re even hunting Heidi Ganahl, the sole Republican candidate with the managerial and leadership chops to step into the executive position of Governor of Colorado. Ganahl was elected University of Colorado Regent in 2016, the only Republican to win statewide office, by beating a prominent, well-funded Democrat. The only Republican. You’d think that would make her a good candidate. As CU Regent, she oversees a $5 billion budget and over 30,000 employees. Plus she created a remarkably successful business, Camp Bow-Wow, the largest pet care franchise in the world. Under Ganahl’s leadership the $150 million brand hit the Inc. 500/5000 list five years in a row with hundreds of franchises and thousands of jobs across the U.S. and Canada. Ganahl also believes in giving back and founded several charities including SheFactor to help young women pursue their best life, and Moms Fight Back to help parents grapple with the issues facing their kids. Along the way, she was named one of Fortune Magazine’s “10 Most Promising Entrepreneurs.”
Yet the “grassroots” have another name for her – “Establishment.” Their candidate is a guy whose only elected executive position was mayor of Parker, a Denver suburb, when he was 27 years old. He also headed the Colorado Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and led the Small Business Association’s Colorado office, where he got into some trouble with a conflict-of-interest charge and paid a $15,000 fine. He’s a small business owner and an Air Force veteran.
His “grassroots” supporters don’t care that the man is stunningly unqualified to lead a state of over 6 million residents with a $36.4 billion budget. He uses the word “Constitution” in his speeches more often than Heidi Ganahl does; that’s what they care about. They don’t think about qualifications. It seems those of the self-annointed “grassroots” have a puzzling bias against a conservative candidate who has been recognized as a highly successful business leader, or a highly effective and experienced conservative legislator.
But wait. The stated purpose of the Republican Party is to elect Republicans to public office. This isn’t a game. To do so, we must nominate the smartest, most honorable and dynamic Republicans whose life experience, achievements, qualifications, ideas, and views on the issues give them the best chance of winning. Maybe those who reject those qualified candidates yet call themselves grassroots are actually the Republicans in Name Only.
Joy Overbeck is a Colorado-based journalist who has written for Townhall, American Thinker, The Washington Times, The Federalist, FrontPage, and others. Visit her on Facebook or Twitter @joyoverbeck1
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