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House Republican leader Patrick Neville is lending support to supporters who want to recall Democratic lawmakers. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Patrick Neville, who for four years has led Republicans in the Colorado House, said on Friday that he will not seek reelection to his leadership post.

The state representative from Castle Rock is still running for reelection to the statehouse and is expected to win his fourth and final two-year term in the chamber.

“While it has been an honor to serve as the Colorado House minority leader the last four years, by stepping aside I will be able to lead with the grassroots and champion conservative values while representing my district with a stronger voice,” Neville said in a Facebook post. “Eventually we are going to take Colorado back from radical socialists.”

Republicans have been in the House minority for all four years of Neville’s leadership tenure. It already appeared he was going to be voted out of his position because of discontent with his leadership within the ranks of the Republican House caucus.

By announcing that he won’t seek reelection to a leadership post, Republicans are likely to avoid more public infighting ahead of the 2021 lawmaking term.

In an interview with The Sun, Neville said the timing of his announcement — three weeks before Election Day — is aimed at clearing the air and focusing Republicans on keeping the seats they have and potentially winning some. He said the infighting has become a “distraction.”

“We’ve had certain people spreading around rumors about what we’re doing or even just telling folks not to come to our fundraisers,” Neville said in the interview. “I just hope all that stuff stops.”

Neville added in his Facebook post: “We must all do everything within our power to elect more Republicans in this state.”

Neville said he is also stepping down to focus on his studies. He started an executive masters of business administration program at the University of Denver in March.

“Going through the craziness of this last cycle and trying to go through school at the same time just about killed me,” he said. “I don’t know if I could do that again.” 

Neville said stepping down “frees me up for any other future moves I might make, whether that’s private sector or public service.” He has shown interest in running for Colorado’s 4th Congressional District seat, currently held by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Windsor.

“Definitely would be interested in CD4 if Ken Buck were ever to leave that,” Neville said. “I would never challenge Ken Buck. He’s done an amazing job.” 

Loveland Republican Rep. Hugh McKean is in line to replace Neville as House minority leader. Rep. Colin Larson, of Littleton, could become McKean’s No. 2.

Rep. Hugh MckEan, R-Loveland, speaks to supporters of House Bill 1021 before the measure was signed by Gov. Jared Polis at Capitol on Feb. 26, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Neville said he isn’t backing anyone in particular to replace him, but he doubts McKean and Larson will pick up enough support within the Republican caucus. Both men were publicly critical of Neville’s leadership.

“I don’t see how they get the votes,” he said. “I think it’s really tough for folks to really rally behind them. I don’t see how they could unite the caucus.”

Neville and his family have had outsized influence on Republican politics in Colorado. His father, Tim, is a former state senator and his brother, Joe, is a GOP operative. The family is closely connected to Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a hard-line firearms rights group that has drawn criticism for its willingness to attack fellow Republicans. RMGO’s influence, once ubiquitous in GOP circles, has waned in recent years.

The Nevilles themselves have drawn criticism at times for their hard-right views. Just this week, Colorado Democrats slammed them over a digital ad attacking state Rep. Brianna Titone, an Arvada Democrat and the legislature’s first transgender lawmaker.

The 30-second spot, which ran in a limited capacity on Facebook, uses Titone’s “dead name” — the name a transgender person used before they transitioned — to highlight a police interaction the lawmaker had years ago that was promptly resolved without charges. It also baselessly accuses her of sexualizing children, playing to a false myth that has been used to smear transgender people.

Titone called the ad “transphobic.” The Colorado Democratic party said it was “disgusting.”

Joe Neville, whose Rearden Strategic and conservative group Take Back Colorado is behind the ad, defended it in an interview with The Colorado Sun. “Those are just facts,” he said when asked why he used Titone’s dead name in the ad. “That’s not transphobic. That’s facts.”

The tactic may have backfired for the GOP. Titone solicited donations after the ad was aired and apparently raised a good deal of money.

“Thank you all so much for your generous contributions to help me defend myself against the baseless transphobic attacks,” she tweeted Thursday night. “We had 236 individual contributions over the last 24 hours. The outpouring of support means so much and I’m feeling the love.”

Colorado state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, left, talks to Rep. Brianna Titone on the opening day of the legislative session Jan. 4, 2019, in Denver. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Democrats hold 41 seats in the Colorado House compared to 24 held by Republicans.

Republicans are not expected to take back control of the Colorado House after the election and, in fact, could end up losing even more seats.

Democrats also control the governor’s office and the Colorado Senate — an advantage they are expected to maintain after Election Day.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....