Certain Republican politicians in our state LOVE to talk about the so-called “war on rural Colorado.” This is a fun game in which you accuse politicians from more populated parts of the state — who normally happen to be Democrats — of intentionally trying to screw over more remote parts of the state because they hate rural Colorado for some nebulous reason.
Colorado Republicans were overplaying this card (again) ahead of the 2020 election, accusing Democratic Senate candidate John Hickenlooper of ignoring rural Colorado with vague declarations such as this one from former State Rep. Mark Hillman of Burlington: “Many rural Coloradans believe we’re not being heard by our elected officials.” Then-Senator Cory Gardner regularly lobbed this grenade at Hickenlooper, though Gardner himself ghosted The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel when the editorial board was interviewing candidates for endorsements.
These one-note Republican whiners believe that one voice from “rural Colorado” should be equal to 100 voices from Denver because…well, just because. There’s no real logic here — it’s just simple-minded outrage politics from Republicans who don’t know what else to say about their rapidly-waning influence among a changing electorate.
The “war on rural Colorado” nonsense has become such a political crutch for certain Republican politicians, most notably Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling-ish), that they are beating the absolute hell out of what was already a shaky argument. Earlier this week, Sonnenberg and Rep. Rod Pelton (R-Cheyenne Wells) threw down the “war on rural Colorado” card during the discussion over legislation about junior colleges and about requiring more transparency when pet stores sell puppies and kittens. Both of these bills happen to be sponsored by Republicans who represent rural Colorado, but facts are for sissies. DEMOCRATS HATE RURAL COLLEGES AND RURAL PUPPIES AND RURAL KITTENS!
First up, let’s consider testimony on HB21-1102, “Consumer Protections for Dog and Cat Purchasers.” Here’s the official bill summary:
The bill creates the “Pet Store Consumer Protection Act”, which prohibits a pet store that was not licensed by the commissioner of agriculture prior to the effective date of the bill from selling or offering to sell dogs or cats on or after the effective date of the bill.
The short version is that this is a bill intended to make it harder for disgusting “puppy mills” to continue operating in Colorado. One of the bill’s prime sponsors is Rep. Matt Soper, a Republican from the great metropolis of Delta, Colorado. But Rep. Pelton, who also serves as House Minority Whip, apparently missed this important fact. Said Pelton:
I view this bill as a camel’s nose under the tent…
…Where does it end, people? Rural Colorado is tired of this building eating away at the different industries that affect us.
Despite Rep. Pelton’s pro-puppy mill stance, HB21-1102 easily passed in the House of Representatives.
Similar antics took place during a discussion about SB21-008, a bill that seeks to remove the word “Junior” from the names of certain colleges; for example, “Trinidad State Junior College” would become “Trinidad State College.” As for WHY we need to do this, our understanding is that it has something to do with making the school names sound more prestigious or something. Regardless, the bill is sponsored by Sen. Cleave Simpson (R-Alamosa) and Rep. Richard Holtorf (R-Akron), both of whom actually represent rural Colorado.
Again, these “facts” didn’t stop Sen. Sonnenberg from vomiting out his “war on rural Colorado” rhetoric:
You can’t have somebody in Denver that sits in an office up here that oversees all of the junior colleges, telling Northeastern Junior College this is the way it’s going to be without some sort of community engagement. This is the ultimate [case of] urban telling rural, ‘nah, this is what’s better for you.’
Much like Rep. Pelton in the earlier discussion, Sen. Sonnenberg hadn’t bothered to collect any facts on this issue. Senator Simpson later politely explained that he agreed to sponsor SB21-008 BECAUSE he was approached by community stakeholders interested in the idea; Simpson even talked about a letter of support from the advisory boards of four of the six schools that would be affected by the name change.
State Sen. Chris Holbert, the Senate Minority Leader, even took his turn at the podium to caution members against the kind of unfounded allegations made by Sonnenberg earlier:
As this bill moves forward, I would diminish the perspective that Denver — the Metro Area — is somehow pushing this on Northeastern [Junior College] or that community.
This should be obvious to most people, but the reason that politicians pay more attention to the populated parts of the state is because THERE ARE MORE PEOPLE THERE. Where there are more people, there are more elected officials representing those people. Policy changes also tend to have a greater impact in places where there are more people. It’s not rocket surgery.
There is not a “war on rural Colorado,” but there is a “war on reality” for some Republicans. And they’re not winning.