An Evergreen businessman who has always maintained a Lincoln-esque dream of running for office has his sights on the top elected office in the state.
Dan Maes, 48, a virtual political unknown, believes his dearth of visibility, lack of name recognition and in-the-trenches experience will work in his favor.
“I fill the space the others can’t,” he said, referring to prominent names mentioned lately as governor material, such as former U.S. congressman Scott McInnis, a former statehouse representative from 1983 to 1993 and a six-term U.S. congressman from 1993 to 2005.
“The Republican Party is looking for new faces,” said Maes, the first Republican to file for authority to raise money to run for governor.
Though he has never held political office, Maes believes his business experience gives him an edge over prospects such as McInnis and state senator and minority leader Josh Penry, who has been in politics for most of his career. A college football player from Mesa State, Penry formerly worked on McInnis’ staff in Washington, D.C. He was elected to office in 2006.
Bob Beauprez, a former candidate for governor and aspiring Republican Senate candidate in 2010, says Maes facing a tough challenge.
"Politics is a really different world. It's like Tiger Woods deciding to play baseball …,” Beauprez said. “(Maes) might be able to make the transition, but it's not like you are representing a company anymore. It's you. It will be difficult but not impossible if both McInnis and Penry or either one is in the race.
“It's one thing to ask for a contribution for a church or another organization, but it's so much more difficult to ask for a check written to 'me,' " Beauprez said.
Running for office is something Maes has been wanting to do since he was a teenager.
“All of my efforts and career plans have been designed with elected office in mind,” Maes said.
“The fact that he never has held public office is a strength and a weakness,” said Dick Wadhams, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. “A business background is appealing to many Republicans. It’s a weakness not knowing the party leadership and not being around the party process very much. But those are things you can learn.”
The process is wide open until after the primary election, assuming there is a primary contest, he said.
“It’s not a few big shots sitting around the table. It’s an open process. It rewards people who work hard and have a message,” Wadhams said.
So a lot depends on how much time Maes spends getting organized.
“I tell people they need to spend the summer putting together the infrastructure and be a full-time candidate this fall,” Wadhams said. He also tells them that running for state office takes a toll physically and financially.
“He seems very committed, and he is officially a candidate. He comes across as a serious candidate,” Wadhams said. “He’s obviously very successful, very intelligent and has a hankering for public life.”
Growing up in Wisconsin
Maes grew up in meager circumstances in tiny Rib Lake, Wis.
When he was 10 years old, his parents divorced, and shortly after his father, a Navy veteran of World War II and a dock worker, died of alcoholism.
“We lived a very simple life. From age 6 to 10, we didn’t have a bathtub or a shower. We didn’t know the difference. We lived on a lake, and we swam a lot in the summer. In the winter, we went into friends’ houses. Another home we lived in was intentionally burned down. So I know what struggling is,” Maes said.
Over the years he delivered papers, chopped trees and worked on a mink ranch and in a window factory.
There were six boys, supported by a single mom who worked for minimum wage in a cabinet factory.
“We didn’t have allowances, and we didn’t have bailouts,” Maes said.
The experience imprinted Maes with a bedrock philosophy of self-sufficiency.
“The solution isn’t a free check. The solution is hard work and not depending on someone else giving you something,” Maes said.
“I could have stuck my hand out and not worked so hard. Instead I chose the Republican path.
“The traditional model of personal freedom to pursue one’s goals with little governmental interference is still the superior model over the ever-increasing size of our new Democratic regime, which will ultimately result in overregulation and stripping away of the freedom to pursue our dreams,” Maes says.
Don Ytterberg, recently elected chairman of the Republican Party, said Maes knows his way around a podium.
“I think he’s very comfortable with an audience. Public speaking isn’t a challenge. It’s tremendously important being able to relate to folks quickly and communicate concisely.
“It’s a hard job, but if you are willing to devote a lot of time and travel the state, it could happen,” Ytterberg said. “He has a businessman’s perspective and he seems to believe he can help the state by better managing the state’s money.”
Advocate for self-reliance
After working various entrepreneurial ventures for 20 years, Maes recently sold 51 percent of his latest company, ACB Credit Solutions, a credit-reporting firm. He still owns 49 percent. His wife started her own business a few months ago.
He helped turn around a VoiceTel franchise in Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y. He was transferred to Chicago for three years and moved to Evergreen in 2000. In 2003, he joined a credit reporting agency.
“I learned a new industry very quickly. This is what I do. Then I decided to open up my own company.”
The plan was to build the business for five years, then sell it or part of it and go into politics and public service.
The original plan was to run for Rob Witwer’s House District 25 seat, which would have opened in 2010 if Witwer hadn’t unexpectedly left politics for family reasons.
“When he resigned, I was only two years into a brand-new venture, and I couldn’t jump at that point,” he said.
So why run for governor?
“The position is an executive role. It requires skills of financial management, budgeting, managing people, fiscal and personal responsibility. I this case, the time required someone to stop the tide and turn it back where Republicans feel it should be. These are executive skill sets a governor needs.”
Being an elected politician is not required, Maes said.
“Bill Ritter was district attorney. John Hickenlooper was a restaurant owner. John Love never held an elected position.
“It takes people with the courage and integrity and leadership to do it. I currently don’t see any Republican candidate that represents my family and our peers around Evergreen, Colorado.
“I’m focusing on bringing new talent to the Republican Party that the average Coloradan can connect with — somebody who brings positive messages and new ideas. … I want to help the Republican Party establish a new image.”
Maes understands the importance of social safety nets. He went to college on the Social Security benefits of his deceased father. But his primary concern is jobs, collecting severance tax revenue, reasonable regulation, spending government money wisely and creating jobs, jobs, jobs.
Dan Maes facts
Web site: danmaes.com
• ACB Credit Solutions — partner and vice president for sales since November 2008; consumer credit reporting agency serving mortgage and tenant industries.
• Amaesing Credit Solutions — co-owner, March 2005 to December 2008.
• Advantage Credit Co. of Colorado — director of sales, March 2003-March 2005.
• Premiere Global Services — regional manager, 1997 to 2000.
• VoiceTel of Western New York — managing partner, 1995 to 1997.
VoiceTel of Colorado — 1990 to 1995;
moved to Colorado, 1985
• Rockland Community Church since 2007
• Evergreen Rotary, 2001 to 2005
• First Baptist Church of Evergreen, interim church administrator, October 2005 to March 2006
• Moved to Evergreen, 1994-1995 and returned 2000
University of Wisconsin-Madison — B.A., sociology and criminal justice, 1983
Married to Karen Stewart Maes, 19 years.