Republicans who have not mailed in their primary ballots have an important decision to make in the next few days. They must choose from a field of five candidates the one most likely to unseat vulnerable Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in November.
As stated in The Gazette's June 10 endorsement, Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha is the superior choice.
Aside from Fort Collins businessman Jack Graham, Blaha is the only contender who has not held public office — an asset in a year voters are in open rebellion against politics-as-usual. Both men have created jobs and made personal fortunes. Each has spent at least a million dollars to fund his campaign. That's where similarities end.
When Graham entered the race, he had been a Republican for 13 months. The rest of his life, he was a liberal Democrat from San Francisco. He is a smart and likable man, but not a genuine Republican. Consider:
- "Jack Graham supports the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage" — Jack Graham campaign statement
- "Graham said he is not in favor of deporting illegal immigrants" and " 'we need them for our workforce.' " — FreeBeacon.com
- " 'I clearly differentiate myself from the others' on social issues" — Jack Graham, as quoted by FreeBeacon.com
Graham's moderately right-of-center economic views would make him a good candidate for the Democratic Party he belonged to for 99 percent of his life.
Aside from non-Republican stands on major issues, voters must seriously question Graham's ability to lead in a public role. Though wildly successful in the private sector, Graham was fired as athletic director of Colorado State University after receiving an abysmal performance review from colleagues. He was given ratings of "less than acceptable" in more than 20 categories, including "exhibits effective listening skills," "treats people with dignity/respect," "is accessible and approachable to others," and "effectively and reasonably delegates tasks and responsibilities."
All others in the race have worked as elected politicians, with limited results.
El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn is a fine man who served his country as an Air Force officer. But after 14 years in elective office, the divorce lawyer lacks a list of accomplishments that would otherwise make him a proven leader strong enough to clear the field.
The same can be said of former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, who served his country as a Navy intelligence officer. Frazier is smart and articulate, and solid on issues, but has not used his time in office to establish a record of leadership so strong it speaks for itself.
Then there's Jon Keyser. The former one-term state representative has a bright future of unlimited potential. He is a combat war hero with a Bronze Star for meritorious service. By no fault of his own — he's only 34 — Keyser's resume is otherwise thin for the Senate. His youth and inexperience showed up in his handling of media scrutiny regarding a contractor suspected of illegally gathering signatures on his behalf.
In a race against Blaha, Bennet will come up against a scrappy and tenacious self-made businessman with a passion to fix Washington. He won't be polite, or afraid to go big. He'll turn the debate stage into a street fight, in which Bennet will have to answer for a blind allegiance to President Barack Obama that has left constituents felling betrayed and dismayed.
If Republicans want another Senate seat, they'll nominate Blaha.