In 2020, I voted in my first Democratic primary. I am unaffiliated and received ballots for both major parties. The Democratic ballot had more choices and more at stake.
This year, I planned to vote in the Republican primary if only to stand against Tina Peters’ campaign to kill democracy.
If a group of Republicans who filed a lawsuit last week get their way, I won’t have the chance.
The lawsuit would bar unaffiliated voters from participating in the Republican Party primary. It was filed after the Colorado GOP avoided a death spiral by voting against an opt-out proposal last September. During the same meeting a majority did authorize the state party to file a lawsuit, but it had not acted.
Tired of waiting on the party, several Republicans took matters into their own hands.
I have seen several social media posts from GOP insiders claiming that the lawsuit is just a “kooky idea,” “silly,” and that the plaintiffs are just “a handful of fringy Republicans.” They obviously understand that shutting out unaffiliated voters would be a leaden lifejacket drowning Republican candidates up and down the ballot this November.
They also overlook too many inconvenient facts.
The plaintiffs include a sitting state representative running for the U.S. Senate, a candidate for the 7th Congressional District, a two-time GOP nominee for Congress and multiple county party chairs. These are not random crazies who exited militia compounds just long enough to sign their names; they are elected standard-bearers for significant portions of the state.
Even more damning to the “fringe” argument are the attorneys involved. Randy Corporon is a leading voice on conservative radio in Colorado and, according the GOP’s own website, currently an elected Republican National Committee member from the state. He led legal efforts against vaccine mandates and helped lead the opt-out charge last fall.
Corporon could be the prime attraction but for his co-counsel. John Eastman serves as lead attorney for the plaintiffs.
The same Eastman who served as former President Donald Trump’s primary legal counselor to challenge electors before the House of Representatives last January.
The same Eastman the leading GOP gubernatorial candidate hailed as “fantastic” for his stint as a professor at the University of Colorado.
Whatever else Eastman is, he is a central figure in current Republican Party politics. Some within the party may disagree with his legal opinions and political strategies, but it is disingenuous to assert that he is merely a fringe player.
Of course, whether Eastman will be able to see the lawsuit through is another story. As he prepared to file this lawsuit the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot filed its own pleading in California alleging that both Trump and Eastman engaged in multiple criminal activities.
I have read the 221-page filing. Eastman’s deposition in particular is as damning as any I have seen outside a full confession. He asserted his Fifth Amendment rights 146 separate times including when asked about statements he made in the media, before tens of thousands of rally attendees and in Supreme Court pleadings.
Eastman even invoked the Fifth when Rep. Jamie Raskin asked if he agreed with Trump’s statement that “The mob takes the Fifth. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
Eastman has every right to refuse to testify against himself, but the questions asked in the deposition demonstrated just how deep the committee’s evidence against him runs — deep enough to submerge the U.S. Capitol.
That in turn, along with other complaints, has also led to a grievance process in California that may well strip him of his license to practice law. That could keep him from completing the case in Colorado.
There is an easy step the Colorado GOP could take to distance itself from Eastman and his plaintiffs. The state party could intervene in this lawsuit and argue against them and with the Secretary of State. They could make the case that Proposition 108, which gave unaffiliated voters the right to vote in party primaries, is a proper exercise of the Tenth Amendment.
I am not going to hold out much hope for that outcome. Unfortunately, the rational actors who might embrace it are on the fringe of the current Colorado Republican Party.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq
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