Insert Comma logo
Insert Comma • A Portfolio of Leigh E. Rich
‘W’ is for winning

The Republican National Convention from Colorado

By Leigh E. Rich

“We are the home of entrepreneurs,” presidential nephew George P. Bush told his political party’s delegation at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York two weeks ago.

College students, best friends and business partners Nick De Corte and Chris Zagone couldn’t agree more.

De Corte and Zagone, in true entrepreneurial fashion, expeditiously set up shop at Jackson’s All American Sports Grill as Colorado Republicans gathered together to cheer on President George W. Bush and watch him officially accept the GOP nomination. They offered the crowd T-shirts for $17 that sported a presidential picture of Bush on the front and a “W ’04” campaign design on the back. And there were several takers.

Since they are not allowed to work while attending Denver’s Bear Valley Bible Institute, these two biblical studies students from Louisiana instead jumpstarted a design business to cushion the costs associated with the accelerated, two-year bachelor’s degree program. Marketing the Bush T-shirts was the first official business venture of D and Z Creations, which also offers personalized logos, banners, business cards and signs.

Like many other Americans in small business, the two seized the opportunity to combine Zagone’s artistic abilities with De Corte’s organizational and marketing skills, pulling both together at the last minute to arrive at Jackson’s—250 T-shirts hot of the press—with less than an hour before patrons would arrive.

But there was no evidence of their haste.

In addition to being well-spoken 20-somethings, it also helps that De Corte, a newlywed, and Zagone, who served in the Marine Corps from 1998 to 2001, are boyhood friends.

They also discovered Christianity together in their late teens.

“We were pretty bad kids until we were 16,” De Corte, now 22, admitted.

It wasn’t until they spent a summer together at a church camp, more interested in hanging out with each other than with Jesus, per se, that they stepped onto their current spiritual and scholarly path.

Learning about Christ’s mission that summer, Zagone, 24, recalled, “We decided that … we were going to hold each other accountable.”

Not long after, they also underwent a political transformation, fueled by the events surrounding the 2000 presidential election and the tragedy of Sept. 11 the following year.

They were coming of age then, De Corte explained, when the 2000 Bush-Gore contest was being dragged into court, and it was the first time they were eligible to vote. Zagone even had a front-row view, stationed in Pensacola during the Florida recount.

And they are now men with a mission, above and beyond their sideline design business.

Both are studying to become preachers, hoping one day to lead a flock of their own from the pulpit. Often, according to De Corte, Christians underestimate how important it is to be involved in politics and instead rely on a higher power to make sure their values have a place in American policy.

“But it doesn’t work that way,” he said. “I want to encourage all members of churches to vote.”

It is especially important, he added, to make spiritual and political connections with teens—who he says allow Hollywood to influence their decisions—even before they can vote.

“Thank God they can’t vote,” De Corte jokingly said, though adding that “they really don’t have any valid reason for hating Bush. … I’m trying to get the facts out there to young people.”

And it is George W. Bush’s emphasis on family and Christian values—particularly his opposition to homosexual marriage —De Corte and Zagone say, that keeps them active Bush supporters in the current election.

De Corte doesn’t mince words: Calling Bush, like Reagan, “a God-fearing man,” De Corte said, “Homosexuality is all about sex” and “the Bible clearly addresses it.”

Referring to the Greek version of the New Testament, he explained that the Greek language has four words for love: agape, spiritual love; storge, familial love; philia, platonic love; and eros, “a lustful love, a sexual love—that’s what (homosexuals) feel for one another,” he said. “That’s not real love.”

He did admit, however, “It’s hard for people who are not Christians to see what we see.”

Standing up for Bush

But one of the loudest cheers emanating from the crowd at Jackson’s that night occurred when Bush spoke directly to the topic of gay marriage.

“Because the union of a man and woman deserves an honored place in our society,” Bush said, “I support the protection of marriage against activist judges. And I will continue to appoint federal judges who know the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law.”

One Colorado woman even began clapping avidly before Bush was able to finish his statement.

Whether this response is typical of all GOP members, most Republicans—including their Colorado counterparts—do see eye-to-eye with De Corte and Zagone’s beliefs that Bush is more “sincere” than Kerry and more often “says what he feels.”

Filling out the second story of Jackson’s, complete with large-screen TVs, a disco ball and a dance floor, the Republican crowd laughed heartily at New York Gov. George Pataki’s nickname for Kerry—“Flipper,” a play on Ronald Reagan’s appellation of “Gipper”—and cheered when Bush criticized Kerry’s vacillation concerning an $87 billion proposal to fund troops in combat.

“He said it was a ‘complicated’ matter,” Bush quoted Kerry. “There is nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat.”

The Colorado crowd also went wild as Bush promised to reform medical liability and its associated “frivolous lawsuits”; to ensure health care decisions are being made by doctors and their patients; to allow small businesses to pool health care costs like bigger companies; and to make his tax cuts permanent.

Kerry, Bush said, has already promised to raise taxes.

“That’s the kind of promise a politician usually keeps,” the president added to a round of laughter, careful not to make the same “no new taxes” mistake his father George H.W. Bush once let fall from his lips.

While health care issues seemed to top the Colorado group’s list of concerns, Bush’s push for health care reform in the guise of health savings accounts seemed less important to the crowd, as did his call to strengthen Medicare and to further support America’s religious charities.

But they fittingly booed when the president paraphrased Kerry, who Bush says called “the Reagan presidency eight years of ‘moral darkness,’” and gave the GOP nominee a standing ovation at the commencement and the conclusion of his acceptance speech.

Swimming up the political stream

Not difficult to spot in that enthusiastic assembly was Republican Senate candidate Pete Coors, who returned early from the New York convention to mingle with his Colorado supporters. His wife, Marilyn, was absent, staying home to nurse a sore throat she developed in the humid East Coast air.

Holding a beer full to the brim, Coors was unable to drink the libation as he talked with the bar’s plentiful patrons.

His ability to “connect with people” helps explain his popularity, Coors said, genially answering a question—“Your campaign has the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?”—stolen from an episode of The Simpsons when industrial mogul Mr. Burns ran for public office.

But there is no denying that the Coors campaign has sped increasingly down the political tracks ever since the beer baron announced his candidacy in April.

“The enthusiasm is just kind of overwhelming,” Coors relayed, even while admitting that one of his advantages is because “people recognize me” after 15 years of being on TV. “I don’t have to go up and say, ‘Hi, I’m Pete Coors. I’m running for Senate.’”

In addition to the name recognition and the fact that his face dominates his campaign signs, Coors says he also enjoys talking with people from all walks of life. In New York, for example, he visited a pub near Madison Square Garden where he met a union protester.

“We bought each other a beer and talked about our kids,” Coors said, even though both knew “we weren’t going to agree on (the issue of) Bush-Kerry.”

He also “tried to talk with most of the delegates” who attended the Republican National Convention, calling it “fabulous” and speaking highly of Colorado’s delegation.

When asked whether the strife between Colorado’s moderate and conservative Republicans was present at the Madison Square Garden event, Coors depicted a unified front.

“We’re 1,000 percent behind you,” Coors said is the response he now receives from the Bob Schaffer camp and Colorado Republicans in general, who are all “anxious to get on with this” election.

Despite a different story told by The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News the day after the Colorado Republican unity tour in August, Coors said, “Everything was positive. Bob was a gentleman. … They were obviously very tough circumstances. I really admired how he conducted himself.”

He also added, “You know, this is politics,” and mentioned how Kerry and Edwards once “went head-to-head” for the Democratic nomination, though “now they’re hugging and squeezing one another.”

Randy Swan, the Republican candidate for the CU regent seat in the 1st CD who also attended the Jackson’s affair, likewise deemed the intra-party dissent standard political operating procedure.

The GOP has “core values that appeal to so many groups,” said Swan, a museum consultant with a degree in history who espouses a centrist Republican view. But along with those varied groups, he says, come their philosophical “baggage” that can attribute to such splintering within a political party.

“The Democrats are having a unity crisis nationally,” too, he added, describing such political rotations of consensus and discord using a phrase Colorado knows all too well—as cycles of “boom and bust.”

Which brought the Republican discussion back to the one topic, all of the Republican candidates reminded voters, about which the GOP does not equivocate.


Swan himself is a fiscal conservative, as is Roland Chicas, who is swimming upstream against Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette for control of the U.S. House seat in the 1st CD. Chicas, who wants to “ensure that young Coloradans spend less money on taxes in the future,” wooed voters that Thursday at Jackson’s as well.

But it was Coors who summed up the “no new taxes” platform. When asked about a ballot initiative sponsored by Citizens for a Healthier Colorado, Coors said, “I’m opposed to the tobacco tax initiative, because I’m opposed to taxes in general.”

If passed, the tax hike will add 64 cents to Colorado’s current 20-cent tax on cigarettes.

Coors is also against Amendment 36, also on this year’s ballot, that would break up Colorado’s nine electoral votes proportionately according to the popular vote.

“I’m hard and fast against it,” he said. “I resent the fact that it’s people from outside” of Colorado funding the ballot initiative, who are only targeting “select states” that will play to the Democrats’ advantage.

“They have a right to do that,” he admitted, though emphasizing that it still needs to be defeated.

“We will have no voice in the electoral college if that passes.”

For now, Colorado remains a key state in the 2004 election, with Republican and Democratic VIPs routinely passing through the Rocky Mountain state.

Only time—and the Electoral College initiative—will tell whether Colorado is truly a battleground state.

Regardless, as Swan said, “We’re the big fish in the middle of the Rocky Mountain region.”

Rich, L. E. (2004, Special RNC Issue). ‘W’ is for ‘winning’: The Bush convention from Colorado. The Colorado Statesman, pp. 8–9.

Comments are closed.