I’m not sure which is the more surprising fact I learned when reading the story about GOP gubernatorial candidate Danielle Neuschwanger in the Colorado Sun on Friday.
One, that Neuschwanger, a far-right political neophyte, is not simply another soon-to-be-forgotten candidate in the race, but is actually considered by some to be among the top contenders for the chance to face Jared Polis in November.
Or, two, that she was arrested three times between 2008 and 2011 and also had a permanent restraining order placed against her. I know the arrests shouldn’t be too surprising, not when you consider that there seems to be a rash of such cases involving candidates in the party of, uh, law and order. Which, in these Trumpist times, might just be an anachronism anyway.
Remember, in a year that Republicans are desperate to begin their political comeback in the state, it’s also the party of Tina Peters, who faces a laundry list of felony charges and, as a bonus, just had her concealed-carry license suspended. And the party of Ron Hanks, a January 6 participant, who, though not charged, was on hand as the Big Lie riot hit the Capitol. He announced his candidacy in a video showing him blowing away a photocopier labeled Dominion Voting Machine. And, lest we forget, it’s the party of Lauren Boebert, who is always a threat to violate some rule or law, particularly those involving campaign finance or interactions with a metal detector. The list goes on.
Two of the charges — and the restraining order — against Neuschwanger were related to a domestic violence incident involving an ex-boyfriend. Neuschwanger claims that the boyfriend was abusive, but she was the only one charged. Those cases were eventually dropped, but the restraining order, filed by the boyfriend, remains in place. The third charge was for drunken driving, and she pleaded guilty to driving while impaired.
And it isn’t just her arrests. She wants everyone arrested. She has called not only for Polis to be arrested, but has also said that Secretary of State Jena Griswold should be serving a life sentence for, yes, treason. She tried to walk that one back, but let’s just say that the treason charge is a hard one to un-say.
Another prominent name in the governor’s race is former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, who has a few well-documented run-ins with the law that were an issue the last time Lopez ran for the GOP nomination.
The Neuschwanger story comes on the heels of a convicted felon winning a place as the lone candidate on the GOP ballot for the presumably safe Republican seat in Colorado House District 21. Karl Dent, who had been recently convicted of felony trespassing, won the nomination at the district assembly with 61% of the vote. Rep. Mary Bradfield, the incumbent, received 29%, falling just short of the 30% required to make the ballot.
Dent began his campaign this year by announcing for El Paso County sheriff, but the felony conviction apparently excluded him from taking the sheriff’s job. And so he switched to the legislative race, where everyone is welcome. And after winning the House nomination, Dent doubled down with a misdemeanor conviction for violating a protection order.
And so it goes. And goes. And goes.
Look, we see charges now and again against members of both parties. But Republicans just can’t afford to have these problems now. To say that the coming election is critical for the Colorado GOP is to vastly understate the case. After a 2018 wipeout and then more losses in 2020, Republicans are at their lowest point of power in Colorado in anyone’s memory.
If history is any guide, though, this November should be the perfect opportunity for Colorado’s moribund Republican Party to begin a comeback. Let us count the ways.
First of all, at this point, there’s no place for Colorado Republicans left to go but up or, at worst, sideways.
Second, it’s a midterm election, which nearly always benefits the party not in power. As of today, Republicans are not in power in Washington and definitely not in Colorado.
Third, as you may have noticed, approval ratings for Joe Biden, the Democratic president, are somewhere in Donald Trump territory. And that’s despite the fact that Biden has had a pretty good war so far in the Russian assault on Ukraine, that COVID-19 seems to be in a lull period, and that the U.S. just got another strong jobs report.
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Biden is getting hammered, though, by inflation, running at a 40-year high, and ever-growing prices at the gas pump. Those twin issues should work for Republicans up and down any ticket.
And then, in a redistricting year conducted by a nonpartisan group, Colorado Republicans got a break with the newly installed 8th U.S. House district basically being considered a tossup race. And then another when longtime incumbent Ed Perlmutter announced his retirement in the 7th District, which, we’re told, has a seven-point Democratic lean.
A seven-point lean is right at the place where an incumbent party can be in real danger if the national race turns out to be a rout.
All the national ratings gurus have Polis as a safe seat and Michael Bennet’s Senate seat with a strong Democratic lean. This is the new reality that Republicans are up against — Colorado’s proud purple-state status having turned to at least light blue. Donald Trump lost in Colorado in 2016 and 2020 — and, yes, Tina Peters, he lost by 13 points in Colorado the last time. I don’t think even the MyPillow guy can fiddle with that math.
As a self-proclaimed liberal, I don’t want to sound hypocritical in saying that all states are better off with at least two reasonably competitive parties. But it’s true that without competitive parties, the voters are the ones who don’t get heard.
But Polis and Bennet are both favored because there doesn’t seem to be a strong Republican in either race. And the Republican bench is all but empty, whereas Democrats have two young members of Congress — Joe Neguse and Jason Crow — who both look like strong potential candidates for statewide office someday.
The Republicans’ best chance for a return to power would seem to be in the state Senate, where Democrats have only a 20-15 edge.
But they also offer up ready-made opponents for any and all Democratic candidates, no matter what office they’re seeking. You can start with Trump. Even though he’s not on the ballot, it will seem like he is. In many primary races, GOP candidates are vying to be the most pro-Trump. That’s why so many will say they believe, or halfway believe, in the Big Lie of the rigged election.
Then you move directly to Boebert, a proud member of the far-far-right House caucus who is certain to heckle any Dem president during the State of the Union address and hang out with right-wing militia types while spouting anti-Muslim bigotry. And then, there’s Tina Peters, who, incredibly, is running for Secretary of State while attempting to kick cops and pal around with people calling for certain politicians to be hanged. I don’t even know where to begin on that one.
Meanwhile, five Republicans are suing to eliminate unaffiliated voters — the state’s largest voting bloc — from participating in GOP primaries. And take a guess as to who is representing these Republicans. That’s right — well-known Trump adviser and former University of Colorado visiting scholar, John Eastman. Seriously.
I should mention that the Colorado Republican Party did not join the suit. And they must, at least secretly, be hoping the lawsuit loses. It should be obvious to anyone that the best way to remain a minority party is to go out of your way to exclude anyone who voted against you the last time. And the time before.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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