The Denver Post’s Alex Burness takes a hard look today at the rapidly declining fortunes of GOP House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, emerging as the biggest loser of the June 30th primary election after a slate of allied House candidates crucial for Neville’s ongoing grip on leadership was trounced. As we foresaw early this month, disgruntled members of Neville’s dwindling minority caucus are going public with their fatigue with Neville’s leadership, and openly talking about their plans to replace Neville after the 2020 elections:
“The reality is — and I hate to say it — that the House GOP is basically irrelevant,” said Brian DelGrosso, Neville’s predecessor as minority leader. “The numbers are so far skewed that, quite frankly, the voice of the GOP doesn’t even need to be considered for them to push legislation through.”
A number of lawmakers said they believe at least 15 or 16 likely members of next session’s House GOP caucus plan to support [Rep. Hugh] McKean, who is far from a liberal but who many see as more moderate than Neville. The latest plan would also have Rep. Colin Larson of Littleton replace Rep. Kevin Van Winkle of Highlands Ranch as assistant majority leader.
Because the Neville family’s closely-held independent expenditure network is directly responsible for the execution of a large part of the campaign to reduce losses in the November elections, this open insurrection in the ranks of the caucus presents a difficult situation to say the least for GOP donors. There’s an argument that, with so many strategic objectives for donors to invest in in an historically difficult landscape, donors are better off writing off the Colorado House GOP as a defensible unit until after 2020.
Term-limited Rep. Lois Landgraf had some of the sharpest red-on-red criticism of Neville’s tenure as House Minority Leader, flat-out telling Burness “we haven’t had leadership for years, since Patrick took over.” Landgraf threatened to challenge Neville for the post after the caucus’s disastrous losses in 2018, and we cited the failure of Republicans to replace Neville at that time as a portentous error–signaling more defeat for Republicans in Colorado instead of a change of course.
There’s a temptation in reading about the open rebellion against House Minority Leader Neville to embrace an ideological justification, but none of this is happening because Neville is “too far right.” This is about electoral results that the Nevilles have failed to deliver, in 2018 and again in the 2020 Republican primaries. If they had won more races, we’d be having a different conversation. Their failures have created an opening for others to step up to the trough. Above all, it’s about the money–the money to be made, win or lose, by Neville’s political machine Rearden Strategic, or somebody else.
“I just don’t know if I buy that Hugh represents a new, moderate option to Patrick,” said Majority Leader Alec Garnett, a Denver Democrat and the favorite to replace term-limited KC Becker as speaker of the House next session. “I keep hearing that there’s going to be this move back to the center, and there’s just no evidence of that from a policy perspective that I can point to.”
Indeed, it’s a staunchly conservative bunch top to bottom. [Pols emphasis] But at a minimum, replacing Neville would likely mean a change in messaging. He is among the most inflammatory Republicans of any influence in the state; he likened the state stay-home order this spring to the Gestapo.
As long as we’re still talking about the party of Donald Trump, all of this speculation about a “change in messaging” for House Republicans under future leadership is pretty much meaningless. But even in a post-Trump political landscape after the November elections, the alternative to the Neville machine for Republicans is the same “corporate wing” of the party that has engineered historic losers of their own like Bob Beauprez and Walker Stapleton.
If you’re a GOP donor who wants to to hold the line in the Colorado House in 2020, to whom should you write a check today? We honestly don’t have a good answer for that question. You, and in the long term the Republican Party, may really be better off keeping your wallet closed this cycle.