There’s no hope, of course, that Colorado Republicans will moderate their hard-line stance on guns, in the wake of the failure of pro-gun groups to find enough signatures to recall a Democratic lawmaker for supporting modest gun control laws after his son was murdered in the Aurora theater.
But I did find some hope in the form of former Colorado State Rep. Dan Thurlow, who’s been pushing fellow Republicans to change their stances on a variety of issues, instead of arguing about whether one consultant or another is to blame for one election disaster or another.
“When I was in business, the first thing you had to have was a good product, and yes, you had to have a good marketing strategy,” Thurlow told me. “But if you didn’t have a good product to begin with, you wouldn’t do very well in the marketplace. And that’s my premise about the current Republican Party in Colorado.”
“We seem to have become fixated on issues the voters have passed us by on,” Thurlow continued. “And that’s guns, and gay rights, and abortion.”
Thurlow stands out among Republicans for his willingness to specify changes to produce a better “product.”
Thurlow not only backed a red-flag bill, allowing guns to be taken from dangerous people, but he says the 2nd Amendment needs to be modified, and Republicans should alter their views on gun control.
“Our party seems to say, ‘NO! We absolutely will not move an inch on that issue!'” Thurlow has said. “And as a result [in Colorado elections], we are getting worse and worse outcomes.”
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Thurlow is a leader of Friends for the Future, which aims to score more Republican victories by fielding GOP candidates who better reflect their districts.
Republicans won’t win more elections by just changing campaign tactics (direct mail, consultants, digital ads), he says.
“I think the strategy and tactics were fine [last year],” he said in a radio battle with KCOL guest host Karen Kataline recently. (Listen below.)
The problem is that Republicans have to start “modifying our core beliefs,” he says. And not just on gun laws, but other third-rail issues for Colorado Republicans.
He continues to think, for example, that Colorado’s TABOR amendment should be altered to allow government to collect more money when the economy is growing.
“We have starved [our government] now for 25 years,” he said. “And we should go back to the voters – which is exactly what TABOR calls for – do we want to starve it anymore. Or have we starved it enough, and should we allow it to grow with the Colorado economy?”
Thurlow’s colleagues at Friends for the Future have said they want to take the straight jacket off the Republican Party, issue-wise, to make candidates more appealing.
“Some groups want to exclude anyone who doesn’t agree with them 100 percent,” former State Rep. Polly Lawrence told Colorado Public Radio, “and I think that’s a losing strategy. I am more of a, ‘if you agree with me 80 percent of the time, then we should be working together for a common goal.”
Lawrence has emphasized that Republicans should even be flexible abortion.
But if you look up and down the Colorado Republican Party, from its leaders like Ken Buck to activists like Kataline, you don’t see much support for Lawrence. It trickles out, in the form of former lawmaker Josh Penry and Thurlow, but Trump seems to be the magnet pulls the GOP in Colorado these days–in pretty much the opposite direction Thurlow wants to go.