We wrote earlier this month about the ongoing highly public embarrassment of Republican Rep. Tim Leonard’s should-be-private divorce proceedings, which have deservedly risen onto the media’s radar twice now: once when he went to jail for contempt of court after refusing to follow court orders on his children’s education, and again more recently when he unsuccessfully tried to cut his own child support payments on the argument that his part-time job as a legislator was too rigorous to maintain his previous outside employment.
Safe to say that as a poster child for the Republican Party’s alleged “family values,” Leonard failed the test.
Well folks, in today’s Pueblo Chieftain, reporter Peter Roper tells us the story of the GOP’s nominee for HD-47, Don Bendell–and his story could very well have Republicans wishing he had not ousted the previous occupant of the seat, Judy Reyher, despite Reyher’s serial racist tirades on social media that made her radioactive to the Republican brand in her own right:
The three children from Don Bendell’s first marriage claim their father was a “deadbeat dad” for nearly 17 years before he began paying court-ordered child support payments — after they were adults.
Bendell, the Republican candidate in House District 47, confirmed that he didn’t start paying the $500-a-month, court-ordered support until early 1997, but said his ex-wife had refused some earlier efforts to pay her and had “brainwashed” his children against him.
Britt Bendell, 43 and a housing supply salesman in North Carolina, said he became angry when he saw news articles from Colorado that his father was running for office as a family-values Republican.
“He never did anything for us, his three children from his first marriage,” the son said Monday. “It took years before my mother was able to get any child support from him.”
To call this a bad story for a Colorado Republican legislative candidate, even one in a seat that has been held by a Republicans for several election cycles, is a humongous understatement. Whatever Bendell says about his ex-wife’s alleged “brainwashing” of his children, court-ordered child support is not negotiable based on whether the parents get along. That’s the point.
In both of these cases, we have legal matters that began as rightfully private affairs, but were aggravated into being newsworthy by two factors: their own actions in the cases, and the fact that these men are running for elected office. Leonard is entitled to reasonable expectations of privacy in his divorce case, but not when he goes to jail for contempt of court or directly invokes his status as a legislator to shirk his child support obligations. Likewise, nobody really cares that Don Bendell is divorced–but it does matter that he blew off court-ordered child support for 20 years.
It’s possible that post-Donald Trump, Republicans simply have no claim on “family values” anymore.
Even if that’s true, making it this painfully obvious seems like a mistake.