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Danielle Neuschwanger on the stage during the GOP state assembly, Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Colorado Springs. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Danielle Neuschwanger, a top contender to take on Democratic Gov. Jared Polis in November, was arrested three times from 2008 to 2011 and also had a permanent restraining order issued against her during that period, according to court documents and police records obtained by The Colorado Sun.

Serious charges against Neuschwanger, now 34, were dropped in two of the criminal cases. In the third, an arrest for alleged drunken driving, she pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired. Court records show her blood-alcohol level was 0.109%, above the 0.08% limit.

In public appearances and in interviews, Neuschwanger has blamed her run-ins with the law on an ex-boyfriend who she said was abusive. There’s no record he was charged.

A screenshot from Danielle Neuschwanger’s campaign website. (Screenshot)

The boyfriend was identified as being linked to one of the criminal cases, but as the victim. Neuschwanger was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence assault after she told an officer she slapped the man, according to a Boulder police report. The charge was later dropped. It was that same boyfriend, now a police officer, who filed the restraining order against Neuschwanger, which remains in effect.

“There’s two people in a relationship and I’m equally accountable for all of the actions,” she told The Sun in an interview this week.

Neuschwanger, a real estate agent in Elbert County who is a far-right candidate with no political experience and a reputation for making controversial remarks, has risen to be one of the top contenders to win the GOP gubernatorial nomination in Colorado. At least one poll, conducted by a Democratic firm, showed her as the top Republican candidate in the race. 

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She is trying to get on the primary ballot at the GOP state assembly on April 9 in Colorado Springs by securing the support of at least 30% of the party delegates at the event.

Whoever becomes the GOP nominee will face a major challenge in trying to unseat Polis, who is willing to spend tens of millions of his own dollars to ensure he has another four years leading the state. But while the GOP nominee may not have a clear path to victory in November, they will likely serve as the Republican party’s standard bearer in an election in which conservatives are hoping to reverse two cycles of stinging defeats that have left Democrats with more power in Colorado than they’ve had in a century.

On the campaign trail, Neuschwanger has threatened to arrest Polis for official misconduct. She also said Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, should be jailed “for the rest of her life” for committing treason (a remark she later walked back) and has advocated for firing everyone appointed by Polis in state government and starting over from scratch.

She also has cast unfounded doubt about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

“Perception is everything,” she said at a recent candidate forum in Douglas County, “and I perceive that there was too much fraud in not only the 2020 election, but here in Colorado in the 2021 election.”

Documents detail arrests, protection order

Neuschwanger often acknowledges her arrest record in campaign appearances — “I’ve been arrested three times,” she said at the Douglas County candidate forum in Douglas County, “and I’m very proud of that, actually” — but she hasn’t elaborated on what happened in the cases.

The Sun obtained court records and police reports to get the details. 

On Sept. 5, 2008, Neuschwanger — who was then 20 and known by her maiden name, Knopp — was arrested by Boulder police officers and charged with third-degree assault, criminal mischief under $500 and false imprisonment. All three charges were related to domestic violence, according to court records. The allegations were dismissed by prosecutors a few months later.

A Boulder Police Department report says Neuschwanger admitted to slapping her boyfriend during a fight. The boyfriend said she also smashed a picture frame during the argument.

In an interview with The Sun, Neuschwanger said the incident started when her boyfriend accused her of cheating on him and that it was he, not she, who broke the picture frame when he started throwing hair brushes and books “in my general direction.”

“I had grabbed my keys and had attempted to leave and he tried to stop me,” she said. “So I slapped him.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Danielle Neuschwanger in a campaign video. (Screenshot)

Neuschwanger was arrested again on May 1, 2010, this time by Erie police officers. She was charged with driving under the influence and pleaded guilty in August of that year to driving while ability impaired. She was sentenced to community service and fined.

According to a police report, Neuschwanger was driving alone when she was pulled over by an officer for having her high beams on and for weaving into oncoming traffic. She admitted to drinking earlier in the night and her blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.109%.

“There’s no excuse for drinking and driving,” Neuschwanger told The Sun. “I completely own that.”

Neuschwanger said that on the night of the arrest she and her boyfriend, the same one from the 2008 incident, had broken up and that she was drinking wine at a friend’s house when another friend called and said they were suicidal and asked for a ride. 

She also acknowledged that her ex-boyfriend sought a restraining order against her five months after her drunken driving arrest. In the man’s petition, filed Oct. 19, 2010, in Adams County, he identified himself as a police officer and said he believed he was in imminent danger of being harmed by Neuschwanger. 

The man wrote in his application for a restraining order, which was granted, that he believed Neuschwanger had created a dating profile using the identity of a woman he was dating. The profile, the man said, listed his personal cellphone number and email address, and he wrote that he had received emails and texts from users of the dating platform — Plenty of Fish —  soliciting “dates and sex.”

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Neuschwanger denies the allegations in the restraining order, saying that the first time she learned about the claims was when she was in court later for a hearing.  “When it came to my turn (to speak), the judge was like, ‘Well, do you have anything to say for yourself?’ And I said ‘I’ve never even seen any of this stuff. I have no first-hand knowledge of anything that they’re talking about.’”

On Oct. 21, 2010, two days after the restraining order request was filed and before Neuschwanger appeared before a judge in that case, Neuschwanger was arrested by Greeley police after she was pulled over and accused of a number of traffic violations, including driving under restraint. She was also accused of violating the civil protection order. 

In a police report, the Greeley officer who pulled Neuschwanger over wrote that he did so after dispatch received an anonymous tip about her and saw her car stopped beyond the designated stop line at a traffic light. A handgun and ammunition were found in her car, a violation of the protection order granted two days earlier. According to the report, Neuschwanger said she was unaware of the protection order — a claim she repeated in the recent interview with The Sun — which barred her from having a firearm.

“I’d never been served with a restraining order,” Neuschwanger told The Sun, adding that she was leaving a domestic violence benefit concert when she was pulled over in Greeley.

She pleaded guilty in the Greeley case in March 2011 to a driver’s license traffic infraction, according to court records, and the other charges in the case were dismissed.

“The most ridiculous charges”

Neuschwanger has referred to the arrests as leading to “the most ridiculous charges.”

“At the time, when I was in college, it was like the worst thing that ever happened to me. I was in an abusive relationship, a very controlling relationship, with a police officer who every time we tried to break up I ended up in the back of a cop car,” she said at the Douglas County forum.

Her arrests have provided a line of attack for other Republican candidates in the governor’s race.

“I don’t know how you’re going to get past working through the issue around the arrests in a general election,” Heidi Ganahl, another leading Republican running this year to be Colorado’s governor, said at the Douglas County forum. “Democrats are brutal. They’re gonna come after you on that.”

(Ganahl says she has not been arrested before.)

From left: Republican gubernatorial candidates Heidi Ganahl, Greg Lopez and Danielle Neuschwanger speak at a forum in Lone Tree on Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Neuschwanger says her pride in her arrests stem from how they shaped who she is today. “Proud of surviving it. Glad I made the best of it. We moved on,” she said of her encounters with law enforcement and her relationship with her ex-boyfriend.

She is actively working to get the protection order lifted, a statement confirmed to The Sun by her attorney and corroborated by documents he shared.

Neuschwanger isn’t the only Republican running to be Colorado’s next governor with an arrest record.

Former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez also has had several run-ins with law enforcement, all of which have been previously documented and that Lopez has openly talked about.

Republican candidate for Colorado’s governorship, Greg Lopez, responds to a question during a televised debate Tuesday, June 19, 2018, in Denver. Colorado’s primary election to determine which candidate will earn the Republican nomination is set for next Tuesday, June 26. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

In 1993, he and his wife were both cited in a domestic violence incident in which he was accused of pushing his wife, who was 6 months pregnant, to the floor and kicking her after she hit him on the top of his head. The Denver Post reported in 1994 that both Lopez and his wife pleaded guilty to a single charge of harassment. 

Lopez was also accused, in a separate case, of driving under the influence. 

Then, in October 2020, Lopez settled a lawsuit filed by federal prosecutors alleging that after he left the Small Business Administration, where he was the Colorado district director from 2008 to 2014, Lopez violated federal law by attempting to improperly influence actions of the agency.

Prosecutors alleged Lopez “attempted to influence the SBA’s handling of its loan guarantee” to Morreale Hotels, which was owned by Lopez’s friend. 

“Mr. Lopez asked an SBA officer for a ‘favor’ in obtaining SBA approval of a debt restructuring plan that would have benefited Morreale Hotels and its owner,” federal prosecutors said in a news release. “A few months later, Mr. Lopez also asked another SBA administrator to help Morreale Hotels. Mr. Lopez’s attempts to influence the SBA were unsuccessful, and the SBA ultimately recovered the full amount of its loan guarantee.”

Lopez paid $15,000 to settle the case and “acknowledged that the United States could prove the facts alleged in the civil action by a preponderance of the evidence,” per a news release from the Trump administration’s Justice Department. 

Lopez said he wasn’t aware at the time that he did something wrong.

“I know what it feels like to have the justice system falsely accuse you of something,” Lopez said at the Douglas County candidate forum. “And I know what it feels like when you have the government trying to squeeze from you everything that you’ve worked hard for.”

Lopez said prosecutors brought the case just days before the statute of limitations expired. “They wanted $157,000 for a phone call and an email,” he said. “I settled for $15,000.”

Colorado’s Trump-appointed U.S. attorney at the time, Jason Dunn, framed the case differently.

“Mr. Lopez’s attempts to exert improper influence over a federal agency on behalf of his friend were serious violations of the rules for former federal officials,” he said in a written statement. “The American people deserve to have confidence that the federal government runs its programs without favoritism towards former officials.”

Colorado’s primary will be held on June 28.

Colorado Sun staff writer Shannon Najmabadi contributed to this report.

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Jesse Paul

The Colorado Sun — jesse@coloradosun.com Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The...