Fort Lewis College graduate Tom C. Stone is running for the chairmanship of the Colorado Republican Party - a party, he said, that would benefit from his organized leadership style and deeply-set conservative principles.
Delegates vote for the position in a closed election Monday.
The Castle Rock resident and former Eagle County commissioner stopped by Durango last week to talk about his candidacy. In a meeting with The Durango Herald's editorial board, he said he supports calls for national bipartisanship but thought that at home, the party could do more to inform the electorate of core GOP values.
Stone and his wife, Henri, married when he was 19 and she was 17. They have two children. The son of Democrats, Stone said marriage helped shape his values. He graduated from Fort Lewis College in 1977 with a self-created degree in biology and environmental management.
After his graduation from FLC, Stone worked as sales manager at Durango Mountain Resort at Purgatory. From there he went into real estate as a broker in Pagosa Springs and later, in Vail.
Stone faces a tough challenge from incumbent Colorado party chairman Dick Wadhams. Wadhams is a controversial figure in Colorado politics, not just because he failed to deliver Colorado's nine electoral votes to John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.
The Colorado Statesman, a weekly newspaper that covers political issues, reported last year that some Colorado Republicans were upset with Wadhams for serving as U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer's campaign manager in Schaffer's unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate while Wadhams was still serving as state GOP chairman.
Stone feels recent losses tell the tale: It's time for change in the Republican Party.
In an interview, Stone had praise for the president, whom he called an "excellent communicator," and the civil-rights movement, which he acknowledged was spurred on by the American left. Recent losses show not a national shift to the left, he said, but a failure to communicate basic conservative "core values" - limited government, limited taxation and policies supporting personal freedom and free speech.
Stone, who referred to his political opponents as the "Democrat Party," said he felt the recent focus on Rush Limbaugh's importance in the Republican Party was being drummed up by Democrats and media to distract the electorate and paint the GOP in the satisfying image of a party of boorish know-nothings.
Stone said the GOP was too slow in recognizing both the power of new networking technology and younger voters. Conservative principles, he said, resonate just as loud in young people as they do in their parents.
They did for him, anyway.
"I learned to govern by being a dishwasher," he said referring to his days in the restaurant industry as a teenager. He used an anecdote to describe his fiscal profile.
After the restaurant's other dishwasher quit, Stone convinced his boss that he could handle the work of the other employee and that there was no need to hire another. Stone offered one condition - that he gets a raise equal to half the former dishwasher's salary. The rest of the former dishwasher's salary stayed with the restaurant.
Years later, when he was a county commissioner in Eagle County, he was faced with a lopsided budget and many vacancies in county staff positions. He said he took a page from his dishwasher days and cut the open positions, sending half their salaries to the county and giving all county employees raises and Christmas bonuses.