Colorado tea-party activists wanted a fresh face, an everyday Joe new to politics, and thought they had found their man in GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes.
The owner of a small credit-reporting business pulled off an upset win in the Republican primary last month, and his supporters hailed his nomination as a victory over the party elite.
Now, many of those activists are expressing buyer’s remorse.
Several tea-party leaders across the state have withdrawn their endorsements and urged Mr. Maes to quit the race following a string of stumbles, including his admission to the Denver Post that a dramatic paragraph in his website biography about his experience as an undercover police investigator “might have” been incorrect.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” said Nikki Mata, the co-founder of a large tea-party group that withdrew support. But the cumulative effect of Mr. Maes’s missteps, she said, convinced her that he would only drag down the rest of the Republican candidates on the ballot. “He needs to step down,” Ms. Mata said.
Several establishment Republicans have also distanced themselves from Mr. Maes. On Friday afternoon, Republican Senate nominee Ken Buckâwho just days earlier had pledged “absolute” support for Mr. Maesâwithdrew his endorsement, saying it was clear to him that Mr. Maes was “struggling to determine the best path for his campaign, his family and for Colorado.”
Mr. Maes spent Friday talking to supporters and critics and emerged late in the afternoon declaring he would fight on through November. “I’m proud to say I’m in it to win it,” he said.
Those tea-party activists sticking with Mr. Maes say he’s being attacked by the press and political insiders over insignificant issues. “We have clamored, dreamed of someone who would be willing to stand up to the system…and Dan has done this over and over,” Nancy Rumfelt, the leader of a tea-party group, wrote in an email to her group’s members. “I choose to stand with Dan Maes.”
Still, state Republican leaders have been trying for weeks to force Mr. Maes out, saying that he couldn’t raise the money and didn’t have the gravitas to compete against the well-funded Democratic candidate, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. Further complicating the Republican Party’s chances, former GOP Rep. Tom Tancredo is making a third-party bid for governor and is expected to siphon off conservative votes.