The American political process is in grim shape. Partisanship is rampant. The discourse is ugly and broken. Politicians, activists and the press spend more time trying to “cancel” their political adversaries then they do selling good ideas. The most capable people in our communities rarely run for office because modern campaigns are dominated by a bad stew of dishonesty, name-calling and distortion.

As a former member of the Colorado Supreme Court, who has had the privilege of watching politics from arm’s length for many years, I believe strongly that nothing would change — for the better — the direction of the country faster than electing higher caliber people to serve. We need more smart, grounded and ethical people who love the country to run for high offices. Fewer career politicians wouldn’t be a bad thing, either.

That is why I gravitated to the candidacy of Joe O’Dea in the Republican race for the U.S. Senate nomination. Joe is an accomplished businessman, a force for good in his church and in the community, and a smart and tough leader who’s had to work for everything he’s earned in life.

Joe’s story is one of his most compelling assets. He was adopted at birth by a Denver police officer, raised in a quintessential working-class home in south Denver, and paid his way through parochial school by washing dishes. Joe isn’t bashful to admit he quit Colorado State University before finishing his degree in order to start his construction company, a company that has become an industry leader in the three decades since.

My husband, Tom and I have known Joe in the community for many years, and humility and decency are his greatest traits.

Joe’s running a smart conservative candidacy — addressing inflation and the debt, expanding energy production to reduce gas prices, and addressing the horrific rise in crime across our communities.

Joe’s position on abortion has drawn a lot of focus from a media that is obsessed with hot-button issues. Joe says he isn’t focused on social issues, opposes late-term abortion, but wouldn’t favor a total ban on abortion in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother or early during pregnancy. Joe hasn’t wavered in those views, has been respectful to those on both sides who disagree, and is winning praise for not playing politics.

Simple honesty in our politics is so rare. And Joe is honest and authentic in the realest way.  It’s working.

That’s what makes the multi-million dollar campaign by national Democratic organizations to defeat Joe in the GOP primary so outrageous. It has become one of the biggest political stories in the U.S.: a suite of progressive and Democratic organizations are spending millions upon millions of dollars attempting to smear Joe’s good name, while systematically promoting Joe’s opponent, Ron Hanks.

Reporting locally and in Washington, D.C. has gotten to the bottom of it all: national Democrats believe Joe is a threat to win the seat for Republicans in November, so they are spending unprecedented sums trying to take Joe out in the primary.

The strategy is cynical in the extreme. The tactical plan to make it happen is even more so. A massive direct-mail campaign is flooding the mailboxes of Republicans smearing Joe with all manner of deceit and innuendo. The mail campaign has no disclaimer — in order to obscure the fact that it is paid for by Democratic groups.

Both the Republican Party and Joe say they are pursuing civil and criminal claims.

But the masterminds of this smear campaign know the GOP primary will be long since decided before any fines or penalties are meted out. If they can defeat Joe O’Dea in the primary — a man of character who could win in a difficult state for Republicans — it will all have been worth the while, apparently.

Leaders on all sides have decried the attempted character assassination as dishonest and cynical even by modern political standards.

The episode has brought me off the sidelines too. I am a life-long Republican who was appointed to the bench by a Democrat governor. I am a moderate, and since retiring from the Court, I have refrained from politics. I don’t care for it much, to be honest.

But something must be said. People of good faith — Republicans and Independents, both of whom are eligible to vote in the June 28 primary — must come together to make sure this cynical ploy does not win out. I felt the need to lend my voice.

America badly needs leaders like Joe O’Dea in positions of leadership. And just as much, voters must start holding the political parties accountable for this type of defilement of our cherished right to vote.

These outrageous shenanigans must not carry the day. This is our state and this is not the way we do things.

Rebecca Love Kourlis, of Castle Rock, is a retired justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.

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