With the conclusion of the recent redistricting process, Republicans across Colorado are hoping to gain seats in newly competitive districts. House District 18, which covers western El Paso County, will see incumbent Rep. Marc Snyder (D-Manitou Springs) facing off against either attorney Shana Black or anti-masker Summer Groubert.

“It’s a much larger district now,” said Black during an April 23 Better Conservative Politics candidate forum. “It’s leaning red. It’s been under Democrat control now for 20 years. The Democrat [Snyder] has voted to decriminalize fentanyl. He’s voted to defund the police, and we need to get him out. He’s bad for the community, he’s bad for families, he’s bad for law enforcement, and he’s bad for — well, it’s just time for him to go. He’s got a really bad voting record.”

Black sports a collection of Republican bonafides. She’s a member of the Federalist Society, an allied attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative legal advocacy group behind the fervor over trans athletes, and a volunteer with Lawyers for Trump, a network of attorneys that focuses on “election integrity.”

Black says her three priorities in office will be affordability, public safety and education. “Election integrity is very important to me,” she said. “Family values are very important to me. The right to life and our children and grandchildren are very important to me. I think we need a qualified candidate who can take the Democrat to task, who can debate the Democrat incumbent. He’s an attorney, he’s the former Mayor of Manitou Springs, he’s the incumbent, and we need someone who can fight against him and make the arguments in the debate and beat the Democratic contender.”

Black had strong words for both Snyder and Groubert, her Republican primary opponent. “I’m still trying to find my primary opponent,” she joked. “We’re thinking of setting up like a ‘Where’s Waldo.’ … [Snyder is] a leftist Marxist, and I’m not. We need conservatives, we need people with family values. We need people with constitutional values. We need people who believe in our community, believe in our country, believe in our children, believe in patriotism, and that is what distinguishes me from my Democratic opponent.”

Groubert — whose website features misinformation about masks and COVID-19, as well as support for Artur Pawlowski, the Canadian pastor who has become a martyr figure on the far-right for his arrests as a result defying COVID-19 restrictions — did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

From left: Sen. Pete Lee, Rep. Tony Exum and Rep. Marc Snyder. Photo Courtesy Liz Rosenbaum.

Snyder, who says his crowning piece of legislation is either his wildfire bill or his recently passed Tree Nursery bill, is a far-cry from the “leftist Marxist” that Black makes him out to be.

“Some of my more progressive colleagues say the system is tilted in favor of big business, but I don’t feel that way,” he says the day after holding a joint town hall with fellow El Paso County Democrats Sen. Pete Lee (D-Co Springs) and Rep. Tony Exum (D-Colorado Springs), who is running for Senate. “If we can engage the business community, make them supportive of the things we want to do, that is better than mandating and forcing them from the top down. We need to partner with these people and listen to what they’re saying.”

Snyder, the former Mayor of Manitou Springs, says his approach to politics comes from years as a Democrat in conservative El Paso County. “You work a lot with Republicans and you learn, if you want to get things done in a pretty conservative environment, you’ve got to listen to what they say,” he says. “Understand their concerns and values and try to work within. I think being 20 years in local politics down here [El Paso County] was good training for being up in the Legislature. I was never in the majority down here, so it’s been a bit of adjustment for me up there. … What I’ve found out, with all these Republicans over the years that I’ve worked with, is we agree on 80% of the stuff. The good ones, we focus on where we agree and try to get things done. That’s how the RTA got passed. That’s how we got better funding for paratransit services and other things down here, was by setting aside our political differences and focusing on what we can do to improve people’s lives and make things work better. That seems to have gone away now, and that’s really disturbing.”

According to Black, there are no good Democrats. “The Democrats are waging a war,” she said. “They’re waging a war in D.C. and they’re waging a war in Denver. They’ve got a trifecta in Denver, and they want to control every aspect of your life. They want to tell you how you can drive to work. They want to tell your employer how they can tell their employees how to get to work.”

Black was talking about House Bill 1138, which, in an effort to improve air quality on the Front Range, would by 2030:

  • Creates a clean commuting plan to implement strategies to increase the use of alternative transportation options and reduce the number of measurable vehicle miles driven by its employees in single-occupancy vehicles when commuting to and from their work site (clean commuting plan) for the purpose of reducing automobile-related air pollution, traffic congestion, and transportation costs, particularly for essential workers and workers earning under $40,000 per year;
  • Conducts an employer commuter survey to determine how its employees commute to and from their work site; and
  • Offers 2 or more alternative transportation options to some or all of its employees in furtherance of the employer’s clean commuting plan.

That bill died in committee, but Snyder signed onto House Bill 1026, which instead gives employers a $250,000 tax credit for “free or partially subsidized, generally accepted transportation demand management strategies, including but not limited to ridesharing arrangements, provision of ridesharing vans or low-speed conveyances such as human-powered or electric bicycles, shared micromobility options such as bikesharing and electric scooter sharing programs, carsharing programs, and guaranteed ride home programs.”

Like Governor Jared Polis, Snyder prefers incentives to mandates. “Some of us sat down and we said, ‘This is just another set of mandates,’” he said of HB1138. “Nobody likes mandates from above, so we started thinking about it. What if we flipped this around and made it an incentive program, incentivize businesses to have alternative transportation options for their employees. We have some of the worst air in the world on the Front Range.”

Black also took issue with Democrats over education, which galvanized conservative voters during the November 2021 school board elections. “Parental rights is very important to me,” she said. “Education is very important to me. What they’re teaching our children in school — there needs to be transparency so parents know what is being taught and have input in that education. If not taking their child to public school we need school choice so they can take their child out of the public school, because some people believe children should be taught math, history, patriotism, reading and writing, arithmetic and not how many genders there are.”

Snyder takes a practical approach to education issues. “I’ve really pushed for paying off the [budget stabilization] factor, which it looks like now we’ll be able to do that by the end of next year,” he said. “We’re paying off roughly half of that this year, and in its entirety next year. … It’s embarrassing and it’s frustrating that we’re in the bottom ten states in what we pay and compensate our teachers.”

Snyder is warming up to the idea of charter schools, however. “I have not been a big fan of the charter school movement, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I’ve come to realize if it’s a school district sponsored charter school, a local charter, those are often good ideas. They know what their student population needs. … I’d like to see us come back to a more unified approach. We have room to allow for some charter schools.”

Snyder says his major focus is on the economy and small businesses, which is very uncommon for leftist Marxists. “For me, personally, I want to keep our economy really competitive and healthy,” he said. “You can have all the social programs you want, but the best thing you can do for everybody, including lower income people, is maintain a great economy. That’s where the jobs come from. I know a lot of my colleagues in the caucus get down on business, but I have to constantly remind them that those are the employers and people we need.”