“I honestly don’t believe he can win,” said State Rep. Judy Reyher (R-Pueblo) about Pueblo house candidate Don Bendell who acknowledged last week that he failed to pay child support for nearly 17 years.

Bendell successfully challenged Reyher in this year’s GOP primary, saying that Reyher had made  “a few mistakes…that are going to be used by Democrats against us,” and therefore she should not continue representing Pueblo at the statehouse–a charge that now has Reyher calling Bendell a “hypocrite.” With his June primary election victory over Reyher, Bendell is the official Republican candidate for the Pueblo area house seat (House District 47).

“He’s an awful candidate,” Reyher told the Colorado Times Recorder Monday, adding that “this is not the only skeleton in that man’s closet” and the revelation about child support “doesn’t surprise me at all.”

“I hate it, because I’m going to be known as the Republican who lost House District 47,” Reyher said.

The Pueblo Chieftain reported July 30: 

The three children from Don Bendell’s first marriage claim their father was a “deadbeat dad” for nearly 17 years before he began paying court-ordered child support payments — after they were adults.

Bendell, the Republican candidate in House District 47, confirmed that he didn’t start paying the $500-a-month, court-ordered support until early 1997, but said his ex-wife had refused some earlier efforts to pay her and had “brainwashed” his children against him.

Britt Bendell, one of Bendell’s children, got mad when he saw that his father was running as a family-values Republican. Britt Bendell told the Chieftain:

“He never did anything for us, his three children from his first marriage. It took years before my mother was able to get any child support from him.”

Reyher said Bendell was bragging how well he and his kids get along just last week.

Asked for a response to Reyher’s view that he can’t win his house race in light of his longtime failure to pay child support, Bendell issues this statement.

Bendell: “The recent salacious story dredging up ancient history of child support is a non-issue. I paid every dime owed, plus interest. I did fall behind, I regret that, and I own it. However, everything has been paid in full. I decided to run for office and serve my community. That does not make my family, especially children and grand-children fair game for cheap shots and political hit pieces.”

“I think calling him a narcissist in that article was pretty right on,” Reyher said, referring to reporting in the Chieftain that all three of his children said he was a narcissist. “He calls himself the John Wayne of the Arkansas Valley…But he’s not a cowboy. I was raised in a family of rodeo cowboys. He’s about as far from a cowboy as you can get.”

At one time there was a court order in North Carolina to arrest Don Bendell on failure to pay child support, but it was essentially unenforceable because Bendell was in Ohio and then Colorado, according to Bendell’s ex-wife as quoted in the Chieftain.

Don Bendell told the newspaper that he didn’t pay because the courts were stacked against him in North Carolina, but he ultimately paid off his child-support obligations in 1997, after his children were grown and the Clinton administration established a federal program to enforce non-payment of child support funds.

Referring to controversial Facebook posts that apparently inspired Bendell to challenge Reyher in the GOP primary, Reyher said, “I did not like Barack Obama, and neither did many many many of my Republican friends. And it was not because he was an African-American.”

Reyher believes that if she’d won the primary against Bendell, she’d have been able to deflect criticism of her Facebook activity, which was viewed as racist even though she insisted she wasn’t racist.