Opening Shots Fired in GOP Battle to Lead Colorado Republican Party

On Facebook last week, George Athanasopoulos, a candidate in the race to be the next GOP state chair, accused his opponent, Jeff Hays, of being a "former Amycare supporter."

Athanasopoulos, a former GOP congressional candidate, is referring to a bill (S.B. 11-200), sponsored by former State Rep. Amy Stephens (R-Colorado Springs), that set up Colorado's health insurance marketplace, Connect for Colorado, which offers Obamacare-approved insurance plans to consumers.

But did Hays, chair of the El Paso County Republican Party, really support S.B. 200?

In an interview last week, Athanasopoulos couldn't cite evidence of Hays supporting S.B. 200. But he did talk a lot about Hays' close ties to Amy Stephens, even after S.B. 200 had become law.

Athanasopoulos pointed to a 2012 Colorado Observer article identifying Hays as Stephens' "fundraising committee chair." And a 2012 Gazette blog post names Hays as a "Stephens consultant."

During her 2012 primary, Stephens' opponent Marsha Looper accused Stephens of welcoming Obamacare to Colorado.

Looper had the support of grassroots Republican activists who fumed throughout the year (and to this day) on talk radio and elsewhere about Stephens' betrayal of conservative principles by backing "Amycare."

Stephens pointed out to reporters at the time that her bill was endorsed by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and other conservative entities--and that she wanted to keep Obamacare out of Colorado.

At one point during her bitter primary battle against Looper, the Stephens campaign established a "STEPHENS TRUTHTEAM" to argue that if Colorado didn't set up its own healthcare exchange, the federal government would do so. And Stephens' campaign pointed out that Obamacare doesn't cover abortions.

Hays endorsed Stephens in a letter to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Hays: I've seen good leaders and bad during my Air Force and business careers, but the best had three primary characteristics: integrity, competency, and energy. Republican House Majority Leader Amy Stephens has all three in abundance....

Amy Stephens applies her abundant energy in leading her colleagues, listening to constituents, mentoring new representatives, and raising support for her fellow Republicans. She fights for her values and for the people of Colorado. Her honors and awards are numerous, but she values the affirmation of her constituents and the respect of her colleagues far above any plaque or title.

Integrity, competency, and energy -- three hallmarks of successful leaders and three reasons to support Republican Amy Stephens for HD19.

Hays, who's an Air Force veteran, did not return an email seeking to confirm that he wrote this letter and to comment about his past position on S.B. 200.

Athanasopoulos' Facebook post called Hays a "corporatist" and an "advocate for Colorado's ill-fated Medicaid expansion."

Athanasopoulos: "Former Amycare supporter, advocate for Colorado's ill-fated Medicaid expansion, and Amy Stephens' fundraising committee chair, Jeff Hays, has announced his candidacy to become Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party...

...Jeff is a corporatist. He helped bring Obamacare to Colorado and is now surrounding himself with supporters who advocate for bigger government, as long as it's their brand of bigger government.

Hays and Athanasopoulos are the only candidates who've announced they're running for Colorado GOP state chair, who is elected by statewide Republican leaders at a convention.

The current chair, Steve House, has decided not to seek another term.

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