It sounds simplistic, but to be relevant in Colorado again Republicans have to vote a lot more like progressives. They can’t just wrap their old selves in a new “message” and hope voters don’t notice it’s the same Republicans talking cheaply. They need to vote in line with blue Colorado.
To find out which Republicans are doing this, I reviewed the 2019 legislative scorecards from six centrist or left-leaning organizations and noted the names of the Republicans who scored higher than 50%.
The scorecards came from the American Civil Liberties Union, Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, Conservation Colorado, One Colorado, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM), and the Women’s Lobby. I chose 2019 due to this year’s pandemic.
Overall, six GOP state lawmakers got an acceptable grade of above 70% on at least one of the scorecards. Twenty-two got above 50%. So there’s something to work with here (as confirmed on a related Colorado Sun analysis last year).
Neither the new leader of Colorado’s House Republicans, state Rep. Hugh McKean (R-Loveland), nor the old one, state Rep. Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock), surpassed the 50% mark on any of the scorecards, suggesting that neither of them is the face of the Republican Party’s future in a state whose residents (mostly) want action on civil rights, civil liberties, the environment, women’s health, and more. Colorado’s Republican leader in the Senate, Chris Holbert of Parker, didn’t score well either.
Only one lonely Republican scored 100% on any of the cards, and that’s State Sen. Kevin Priola (R-Henderson). He got a perfect score on Planned Parenthood’s card.
Only two Republicans got scores between 80% and 100% on any of the cards, and they are Montrose state Rep. Don Coram (Planned Parenthood, Women’s Lobby) and Priola (ACLU, Women’s Lobby).
Republicans who scored between 60% and 80% on any card include: Coram (ACLU), Lois Landgraf (CCHI), Colin Larson (CCHI and PP), Priola (CCHI, Conservation Colorado), Matt Soper (CCHI, Women’s Lobby), Perry Will (Women’s Lobby, Planned Parenthood), and James Wilson (CCHI).
Priola’s name shines forth on these lists, and he’s the guy who won his seat again this year thanks to moneyed Republicans, who poured millions of dollars into his race and apparently approve of his approach.
Now he can (hopefully) continue voting with Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Conservation Colorado, etc.
That’s a good thing for Republicans.
But the problem is, just the thought of voting with Planned Parenthood and the ACLU sends flocks of Colorado Republicans screaming to talk radio and Facebook, where they undermine the GOP’s hopes of connecting with young, unaffiliated voters who will decide elections here in the foreseeable future.
And some of the loudest screamers are the leaders of the party, like CO Republican National Committeeperson Randy Corporon.
The no-comprise noise runs deep from Colorado’s Republican Party leader Ken Buck to the new face of the Colorado GOP, U.S. Rep.-elect Lauren Boebert.
So that’s a bad thing for Republicans.
The way forward is not only for a brave GOP leader to step up and lead the party toward moderation, but also for the Colorado Republican lawmakers to sort through the scorecards and pick very specific issues/problems they want to solve and then vote accordingly.
If their million-dollar-man Priola can score 100% for Planned Parenthood and over 80% for the ACLU and the Women’s Lobby, other Republicans can embrace a C grade from those organizations, right?
The Planned Parenthood score of Priola, a devout Catholic, should inspire Republicans. Priola is a supporter of personhood, the life-begins-at-conception ballot initiative that would make abortion de facto murder. PPRM has led the fight against Personhood every time it’s made the ballot, but as a bill in the legislature, it’s killed in committee. This allows an organization like PPRM to find common ground with someone like Priola on all sorts of other nuanced health care issues, even as fundamental ideological differences remain.
Even arch-conservatives can do this: Vicki Marble got 50% on the ACLU card. Lori Saine and Susan Beckman scored 54% and 50% respectively on the Women’s Lobby one. Jim Smallwood scored 50 on Planned Parenthood’s card.
Health care is an issue that GOP pollsters are begging Republicans to address with specific plans. Republicans should peruse the CCHI scorecard.
You’d think the social issues would be no-brainers for the Republicans these days, and some conservatives have asked for years for GOP leaders to embrace gays and choice. The scorecards of One Colorado, the state’s leading LGBTQ rights group, and Planned Parenthood offer a path forward.
This is a fantasy, you say, but in blue Colorado, Republicans won’t get away with calling themselves moderate or friendly or inclusive or problem-solving or even smart, unless they vote that way.