The week’s political news in Colorado has been dominated by the approval of petitions to recall freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial, a campaign kicked off by the vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party Kristi Burton Brown with support from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s family political consulting operation. As most of our readers know, Tom Sullivan’s son Alex was murdered in the July 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting, which led to Tom’s run for office on an unapologetic platform of enacting gun safety legislation.
The announcement of the recall against Sullivan has been met with severe and in some notable cases bipartisan backlash, with Democrats morally outraged by the threat to Sullivan for keeping his most sacred campaign promise and some moderate Republicans fearfully warning that the attempt will backfire with the voting public in HD-37–cementing Democratic control of a winnable swing seat for Republicans, and sideswiping the credibility of attempts to recall lawmakers in other parts of the state.
In a Denver Post column today, conservative writer Krista Kafer sums up the desired frame for Republicans who see the danger of going ahead with the recall of Rep. Sullivan, laying 100% of the blame for the situation at the feet of RMGO–to the exclusion of “Republicans” Kafer calls on to stand up to RMGO as though they are a distinct entity:
It is not enough to condemn behind closed doors RMGO’s depraved behavior, as many do. The GOP needs to openly rebuke these tactics and to act to ensure they fail. I am calling on my fellow Republicans and fellow gun owners to refuse to sign the recall petition against Rep. Tom Sullivan and to vote against the measure should it come to that.
There will be opportunity in the 2020 election to hold this legislature accountable for its actions. The legislature passed several pieces of legislation that are antithetical to economic prosperity, personal freedom, and constitutional rights. Ideas have consequences and the cost of these harmful laws will be evident over time. Republicans can make a strong case that new leadership is warranted. If, however, Republicans do not oppose the morally corrupt tactics of RMGO, we will not deserve to make a comeback.
Since news of the Sullivan recall broke early this week, there’s been a consistent effort by Republicans who don’t support it to insulate the Colorado Republican Party as a whole from the recall effort. The problem with this, of course, is that the recall was filed by the vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party. With the party making no attempt to distance themselves from the actions of Colorado GOP’s vice chair, no one else should either.
But even that’s not the full picture: over many years and accelerating after the 2013 recall elections, RMGO has worked successfully to install their favored candidates by winning Republican primaries. That reshaping of the Republican caucus is a major reason why close RMGO ally Patrick Neville was able hold on to his minority leadership position even after 2018’s devastating losses and allegations of mismanagement.
Whether it’s a genuine moral objection as is plainly the case from Rep. Sullivan’s Republican predecessor Rep. Cole Wist, who admits now that he was “in denial” of the extent of RMGO’s control of the Colorado Republican Party, or simple lucidity of the destructive political consequences of recalling the father of an Aurora shooting victim over gun safety legislation, the bottom line is the same: the problem is bigger than Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. In fact, vilifying RMGO while the party they effectively control carries out RMGO’s agenda makes everyone who engages in that diversion culpable.
And until the “civil” Republican talking heads accept that, Kafer is right: they don’t deserve a comeback.