Last week’s Primary Election was an anti-climactic affair at the top of the ticket, but the rest of the ballot told a very interesting story. As we wrote last week, significant Republican Primary losses portend another GOP wipeout in Colorado come November, and the fallout could lead to the last gasps of the Neville Clan.
Rumors are growing that House Minority Leader Patrick Neville could be in danger of losing control of the GOP caucus after another poor showing at the polls last week. State Rep. Hugh McKean is now in a strong position to challenge Neville for Minority Leader after victories on Tuesday by Colin Larsen (HD-22), Tonya Van Beber (HD-48), Mike Lynch (Hd-49), and Dan Woog (HD-63) — all of whom defeated candidates backed by the Neville Clan and their close friends at Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO). The Nevilles and RMGO also lost badly in SD-23, where their support of Rupert Parchment wasn’t enough to stop Barbara Kirkmeyer from cruising to a double-digit victory.
Our back-of-the-napkin math shows Neville with only seven remaining supporters among House Republicans, equal to the seven GOP House members who would likely side with McKean. Depending on how the General Election shakes out, that leaves about 8 Republican Representatives to determine the 2021-22 leadership battle. This could be a significant moment for Colorado Republicans, because a good number of their recent failures can be attributed directly to decisions made by the Neville Clan.
The Neville family have been fixtures in Colorado Republican politics for much of the last decade, beginning with State Sen. Tim “Pa” Neville’s narrow victory in Jefferson County in 2014. Tim Neville is the father of Pat Neville and GOP political consultant Joe Neville, whose consulting firm Rearden Strategic has overseen many Republican races in recent years (Tim Neville is also the brother-in-law of former Jefferson County School Board Member Julie Williams, whose brief run in Jeffco was a disaster all its own).
Tim Neville quickly rose to the top of the Republican food chain in Colorado as a conservative social issue warrior, becoming the de-facto leader of the Senate Republican caucus in the state legislature (Neville was basically the Senate President at one point) and a bonafide contender for statewide office. He looked to be on his way to becoming the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in 2015, and by Spring 2016 he seemed to be accumulating enough support to take the top line at the State GOP Convention.
But Tim Neville’s political demise was as swift as his ascent. Colorado Republicans held their state assembly in April 2016, and Neville completely bombed, losing to little-known Darryl Glenn by a 4-to-1 margin. Neville then turned his attention toward running for re-election to the State Senate in 2018, where he was out-worked by Democrat Tammy Story en route to a 14-point loss that contributed to Republicans losing majority control of the state senate. Neville later blamed his defeat on poor campaign strategies enacted by outside groups, which was ironic considering how his son’s strategic blunders torpedoed GOP chances around the state in that same cycle.
Tim Neville was actually preceded in the state legislature by Patrick, who was elected to the State House in 2014 and became House Minority Leader following the 2016 election. Together the Nevilles championed the causes of anti-abortion activists, gun lovers, anti-vaxxers and opponents of a functioning government. With Joe Neville overseeing the outside political operations for many Republican candidates — and with financial support from RMGO head honcho Dudley Brown — the Neville Clan kept the State Capitol stocked with loyal but questionable characters such as former State Reps. Justin Everett and Tim Leonard. You might remember Leonard as the only person in recent history to serve time in jail while a sitting member of the legislature; the Leonard debacle paved the way for Democrats to take control of what had long been a safe Republican seat in 2018.
The 2018 election cycle was a pivotal year for Colorado Republicans who were TROUNCED in races across the board — many of which were overseen by the Nevilles and/or Rearden Strategic. One particularly pathetic effort in Jefferson County exemplified the poor return on investment that 2018 candidates received from Rearden Strategic.
Despite those heavy losses, Neville retained enough caucus support to keep his post as Minority Leader, but the cracks were starting to show. A few months later, Marianne Goodland of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman reported on grumblings about the Neville’s dubious political strategy and a generous payout structure for Rearden Strategic.
Last year, the Neville Clan followed up their poor 2018 by directing misguided efforts to raise money from gullible donors in a feeble attempt to recall multiple Democratic elected officials. Warning signs should have been apparent to the GOP after a questionable decision to go after Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan left the Nevilles and RMGO with mostly egg on their sad faces.
This time last year, we wondered again how Neville still managed to remain House Minority Leader despite a consistent record of incompetence. The 2020 legislative session didn’t help Neville’s cause, and the June Primary exposed yet another rift between Neville and Colorado Republicans — many of whom were tired of a heavy-handed approach that included Neville’s Chief of Staff, Jim Pfaff, regularly threatening other Republicans.
Colorado Republicans aren’t going to take control of the State House in 2020, and it is also unlikely that they will wrestle away the State Senate from Democrats. But if this is the year that the GOP finally rejects the influence of the Neville Clan, then perhaps Republicans can start to creep back toward relevance in 2022.