Colorado GOP Party CEO Steve House Talks Recalls, Regrouping Post-Legislative Session

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Photo: COLEG 2019 | Colorado Capitol Stairs And Rotunda - AP
As viewed through a fisheye lens, visitors head up the stairs in the rotunda in the State Capitol Thursday, May 2, 2019, in Denver. State lawmakers are toiling to finish the calendar for this year's session, which is set to close Friday.

Steve House is a few months on the job as the CEO of the Colorado Republican Party and runs the day-to-day operations for the state party. He was previously the chairman.

In November, Democrats gained control of the state legislature, flipping the Senate and maintaining control of the governor’s office. In the House, Republicans now only have one member representing Jefferson County, traditionally a swing district.

House sat down with Colorado Matters to discuss the various recall efforts, Gov. Jared Polis, and how the GOP should rebuild in the wake of tough 2018 election losses.

Interview Highlights

On regrouping the Republican Party after Colorado's Democratic blue wave:

"I think first you got to analyze what happened in 2018 and figure out how to react to it. And I don't think it was pure and simply the divisiveness in Washington D.C. I mean, I think that's a factor right now and you think it's almost combative.

I think the issue is addressing the issues that matter to voters. I think voters right now are taking the economy for granted in a way. Everybody seems to be happier with what's going on. The unemployment rate is low, wages are rising, especially for the bottom 10 percent, but we have to address health care and we have to address education. We have to address immigration and some of the other key issues.

I think we didn't do that very well in ’18, and I think that's what cost us the election at least in part. And we’ve got to do better in 2020."

On Democratic Gov. Jared Polis' term so far:

"I've seen him interact with a lot of people. I think he's being exactly who he said he was going to be. And I think everybody should respect someone who says they're going to do something and does it. Whether you like what they do or not is a totally different story.

I think he's not being nearly as innovative on some of the major issues we need, like health care. I do think he should look at some of the waiver states and see what they've done because frankly, there's two choices. You either get the taxpayers to subsidize Medicaid across the board and make them all in a risk pool where everybody pays high premiums or do you do what the other states have done giving the taxpayers a break, not taking their taxes down because our taxes are still going into those federal subsidies, but at least their premiums are going down so that there's more money in their pocket.

I think some of those things on health care, especially since he's shown to be somebody who has a great interest in health care, I think he may have, claimed to be an expert in some categories. I'd like to see him do a lot more with that than he's done, but in general, I can't fault him for going in the direction he said he was going to go in, because he got elected and that's what his integrity should take him to do."

On the party's role in the recall motion filed by the vice chair of the state GOP against Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan:

"I think the general rule on recalls are, it's in our Constitution, it's allowed. If citizens want to raise the issue because they're upset with what's going on, and they can get enough others citizens to support it, that's fine. I mean, I don't think every situation warrants a recall, that's for sure.

However, from the party's perspective, you know, there are angry people, many, many angry people about Senate Bill 181 there's people that were angry about the vaccine bill, people that are angry about the sex education bill. They need an outlet for that anger. And as a party, we are a membership organization. When our members come to us and say, I want to exercise my right to do this, and we say, that's why you have that right.

And then if it looks like there is a tangible opportunity to make a gain that will not only serve us politically, but will serve us in terms of future legislation and, and you know, getting our agenda passed because we think we have the better agenda, then we're going to support it."

On the benefits of a recall even if it fails:

"If you think about how a town hall works, right? I've gone to town halls for some of our congressional representatives and you get people in the audience and they're yelling and screaming about a particular issue.

You would love to be able to capture first of all, their perspective. If they have a new idea that would be wonderful too and you'd like to identify that person and see what their sphere of influences so that you can go communicate with them and try to share ideas and and win their support. Recalls are a way of doing that.

Door to door, social media contact, telephone call to telephone call. So it is a really good way to gather information about how people are feeling and more than anything else, if you're a representative elected at the state or federal level, your job is to listen to your constituents. If they want to speak and they want to speak through the recall process, we're going to listen."