— Lynn Bartels (@lynn_bartels) June 5, 2015
The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels has been watching as state Sen. Ellen Roberts has mulled a run for the U.S. Senate–and as you can see in the Tweet above, a reference to a particularly damaging opinion piece from the Colorado Independent’s Mike Littwin after Roberts falsely claimed in a conservative talk radio interview that “I’ve never called myself pro-choice,” she hasn’t been very impressed.
An in-depth story this weekend about Roberts’ possible Senate bid makes us think Bartels is not seeing anything you’d call improvement since Roberts’ rocky start in mid-May, as her struggle to define herself:
Roberts’ reputation was as a moderate when she was first elected to the legislature in 2006, but Capitol regulars saw what they thought was a shift to the right. When Republicans took control of the state Senate after last November’s election, her conservative caucus elected her Senate president pro tem. That escalated the conversation…
After the session ended in May, Roberts told her hometown paper she was looking at a Senate run. “I recognize it would be a longshot,” the 55-year-old said.
The Durango Herald noted Roberts would have to survive a partisan primary, which typically supports the more conservative candidate, and pointed out that Roberts supports gay rights and is pro-choice.
That’s when things got interesting.
Roberts’ “evolution” into a more conservative candidate, in anticipation of a GOP primary for higher office, has not gone well. This year’s legislative session witnessed a major shift in Roberts’ voting record, with three key actions standing out as trouble spots for her political future: her ill-advised support for a bill that would make it even easier for Colorado students to opt out of immunizations, her fickle support for funds to extend a highly successful IUD contraception program, and above all, her support for a so-called “fetal homicide” bill that opponents claimed would create Personhood-style legal rights for fetuses. In response to these actions, Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado and other reproductive choice groups who once considered Roberts a reachable GOP lawmaker have denounced her.
Roberts’ excuse for this shift?
Roberts said her stances did change after she got elected to the Senate, in part because she no longer represented just the liberal-based Durango, but also conservative constituents in Cortez, Montrose and elsewhere in the eight counties she represents.
It’s possible that reasoning may persuade a few voters, but it opens Roberts to the charge of being driven by political opportunity instead of principle–an allegation that will stick with many more. And when you combine such a ready admission that her stances have changed with her unforced gaffe about having “never” called herself pro-choice, when she plainly has done so and recently, there’s little left to trust.
And that’s why Roberts is the subject of stories about facing “difficulty” instead of, you know, opportunity.