Explaining her reasons for supporting a recall of Colorado State Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Aurora), Arapahoe Republican Party Vice Chair Brenda Stokes told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger last week that Sullivan politicized his son’s murder.
“You have a politician, who ran on a campaign that sadly politicized the loss of his son… and forgot about the important issues that us parents are faced with, especially with those horrible bills that just passed the state legislature,” Stokes told Sallinger.
Reached for comment, Stokes reaffirmed her belief:
“Tom Sullivan took out-of-state money–from Bloomberg in particular– and ran on a platform which sadly in my opinion, and it will always be my opinion, he shamefully politicized the death of his son at the Aurora shooting, which tells me he cannot be independent when it comes to some of the legislation that affects other people.”
Sullivan’s son Alex was one of twelve people murdered in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. Strengthening Colorado’s gun safety laws by establishing Extreme Risk Protection Orders was a primary message of his campaign.
Colorado Republican Party Vice Chair Kristi Burton Brown filed the petition to recall Sullivan. She says she did so as a private citizen, rather than as a party official. Party chair Ken Buck affirmed her claim, despite having campaigned for his party position by saying “we need to teach [Democrats] how to spell RECALL!”
Likewise, Arapahoe GOP Vice Chair Stokes insisted her support of the recall is strictly in her capacity as the owner of DecideColorado, a for-profit company that promotes conservative messages, and as a private citizen.
“This has nothing to do with me being the Vice Chair of the Republican party. Everything I do is either as a business or as a citizen. The Arapahoe GOP perspective- we do not mix party activities with an individual citizen’s right.
Q: So the county party isn’t supporting the recall or taking a position on the recall?
Stokes: “That’s correct. It’s not uncommon for people in a leadership position to act a private citizen when someone goes against their community or personal views.”
Q: So your administrative authority with the county party, you’re not using that to say “Hey there’s a recall of Sullivan. Sign up here. Join us?”
Stokes: “Oh no, we have to keep that separate. I don’t go out to people within in the party and ask them to support anything like that. To me that would be unethical. The county party is not participating as a party in the recall at all. It’s not like we’re making announcements and using the administration of the party to go promote a recall.”Arapahoe County Vice Chair Brenda Stokes, CTR interview, May 23, 2019.
The day following this interview, the Arapahoe County Republican Party sent this email promoting the recall. The email originated from “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Although originally authored by “Team Recall Colorado” and stating that “the AC-GOP isn’t taking a position on the recall or petitions per se,” the email also states that it “reflects the opinions and representations of the Arapahoe County Republican Party.”
Recall Colorado is funded by Values First Colorado, the Colorado House Republicans’ caucus fund, run by House Minority Leader Patrick Neville and his brother Joe. The Nevilles and recall supporters, including Stokes, have been soliciting donations to the caucus fund, a 527 group, explicitly for the Sullivan recall.
Stokes shared her reasons for supporting Sullivan’s recall, enumerating bills in addition to those highlighted by Values First Colorado
“People are saying this is about guns and RMGO, but there are a number of us angry parents out there upset about the bills he supported, to the demise of his constituents. I would put sex ed at the top of the list. I would put the conversion therapy [ban] at the top of the list. I would put the anti-vaccines [failed bill to limit current child vaccine exemptions] at the top of the list. I would put the decriminalization of drugs [just-signed bill reducing simple possession from a felony to a misdemeanor] at the top of the list.”Arapahoe County Vice Chair Brenda Stokes, CTR interview, May 23, 2019.
Controversy over the recall isn’t limited to partisan camps; the two previous representatives of House District 37, (both Republicans) expressed some opposition to the recall effort.
Soon after the recall effort became public, former Rep. Cole Wist, whom Sullivan defeated in last year’s election, tweeted that he doesn’t support the recall.
State Sen. Jack Tate (R-Centennial) also expressed concern with the recall, sharing his skepticism with KNUS radio host Jimmy Sengenberger:
You can’t set up a situation where people who you elect — maybe under a trustee model, more than a delegate model — to make tough decisions are constantly facing an every-month a recall, based on having made tough decisions. If constituencies don’t like the decisions politicians make in the fray, then that’s what a normal election is for. So, I have a degree of skepticism. …And now we have these recall efforts. And it’s like, there’s something that’s just too partisan, too much of a do-over with a different voting base than I am comfortable with.