Updated: Sep 19
Restore the Balance
May 17, 2022
Colorado Mesa University
Grand Junction, Colorado
Tim Sarmo, President of the newly formed private not-for-profit organization Restore the Balance, started the meeting expressing surprise and pleasure with the attendance of over 500 people at the meeting. He thanked the volunteers who had put together the meeting, CMU for graciously providing the venue, the outstanding CMU staff who provided support for the event, and the audience for sharing their time.
He explained that while the RTB leadership would provide information, a major purpose of the meeting would be to listen to the comments and ideas from attendees to learn how they feel about today's political situation and what they would like to do to change it.
Sarmo then introduce the seven co-founders of Restore the Balance. Those in attendance were; Bernie Buescher, Thea Chase, Dennis Kirtland, Kirk Rider, and Sarmo. The remaining two co-founders, George Orbanek and Steve Mandell were unable to attend due to previous engagements.
The first presentation was a panel of the five co-founders present at the meeting. Each provided short comments regarding their involvement with RTB and expressing their concerns with the threats posed by political extremists and the danger they pose to the democracy. They outlined the history of actions taken by RTB to date including the development of seven principles to govern politics and the promotion of a movement to reject extremism and return civility to political discourse.
The second presentation by Tim Sarmo included five slides prepared by Steve Mandell which provided a summation of Mandell's research on the exodus of citizens away from both major political parties and into the ranks of unaffiliated (sometimes termed Independent) voters. Studies show that the public perception of the two major political parties has declined rapidly and continues to fall. This is true whether voters are considering the opposing party or their own. The data indicate that contrary to what hyper-partisans and extremists from the right would have people believe, Independents are the largest voting block in both the Third Congressional District and in Mesa County. Additional information provided shows that both political parties have lost over 2,000 voters in the last 12 months and now Independents represent 43% of voters in Mesa County. The data indicate that people are fed up with lies, conspiracy theories, harassment, and gridlock perpetrated by hyper-partisanship and extremist behavior. The conclusion by RTB is that the time is ripe for change.
Dennis Kirtland made a presentation regarding the importance and role of the endorsement of the seven principles and the "Pledge" made by most of those in attendance. He reminded the audience of the significance of the promise made to support and vote for the candidates - regardless of political party - that best embody the seven principles. He provided a reminder of the importance of full participation in the election process including voting in the primary election. He explained that in 2016, unaffiliated voters gained the right to vote in party primaries and that they can choose which primary ballot they want to cast. He concluded by explaining the process and deadline for registering to vote or changing one's registration to vote the preferred primary ballot.
The meeting then moved into an open segment where attendees had the floor to provide input. The suggestions, observations, questions, and ideas expressed both verbally and through comment cards are summarized in Appendix 2.
Kirk Rider then made an appeal for financial support to RTB. He explained that RTB has no paid personnel and that the majority of costs to date had been borne by the original co-founders. He itemized the need for funds in the following areas: conducting a media campaign including billboards, print, and radio; conducting a member candidate preference survey; possible sponsorship of a candidate questionnaire and forum; improvement and maintenance of the RTB website; and administrative costs associated with ensuring sustainability of the effort.
Thea Chase then asked attendees to consider volunteering to support Restore the Balance activities and explained that sign-up sheets were available in the lounge area as attendees exited the ballroom. Suggested action committees included, but were not limited to: a writers group to submit letters to the editor promoting RTB and providing counterpoints to extremist writings, especially those containing falsehoods; a speakers bureau to coordinate presentations by RTB to local organizations such as service groups or clubs; pursuit of election reform measures such as ranked choice voting and fully open primaries; membership communication and expansion; events and activities such as candidate forums or member recruitment drives; and fundraising.
The meeting was then adjourned with attendees proceeding to the donation and volunteer sign-up tables.
Summary of Observations and Ideas Provided by Attendees
RTB is a success so far
• The concerns of the co-founders is shared deeply by many as evidenced by the 2,000 signatures on the website and attendance by over 500 people at the inaugural meeting.
• A desire for change has been activated.
• There is significant interest across Colorado and the west. But by far, the largest membership element is in the Grand Valley. It is advisable to focus on Mesa County before branching out to other locations.
• The membership needs to be diversified.
• Reach out to younger voters, people of color, and other under-represented populations.
• Enhance social media presence
Support is available.
• People believe that the effort is worth supporting financially as an "investment" in ensuring the preservation of the democracy.
• Volunteers stand ready to work in a variety of areas. Be specific regarding work that needs to be done and the skills needed from volunteers
Election Reform is Needed
• Support making it easier to vote not harder
• Consider forming a third party
• Initiate Ranked Choice Voting and Open Primaries
Make Change at the Ballot Box Now
• Independent voters are a key
• Consider changing affiliation in order to vote in the primary races best suited to defeat extremists
• RTB should provide candidate information to voters.
• Sponsor or partner on a candidate forum.
• Question candidates and release answers publicly
• Don't endorse candidates but survey membership and make results of preferences public
• Keep Republicans in the fold
Take Specific Action/Be Results Oriented
• Citizens, especially younger voters want to see results, not more talk.
• Name the extremists
• Show up as a group at meetings and events. Outnumber the extremists.
• Come right out and say, "Vote in the Republican Primary."
• Call out extremists in the media
Progress can be made through conversation
• Use the web to create "safe" places for like minded people to share ideas.
• Facilitate training and broker information on how to converse with those holding extremist beliefs without duplicating other groups and efforts already underway
• RTB could facilitate the holding of one-on-one and group conversations with those holding extreme beliefs but not duplicate existing efforts already underway.