“I’m a lifelong Republican, and I vote for Republicans,” Aurora Councilman Dustin Zvonek said on a right-wing radio show last month.
Asked about the comment via Facebook, Zvonek said last week, “A couple of corrections, I’ve never said I’m a lifelong Republican because that wouldn’t be accurate.”
A review of the audio from Zvonek’s appearance on KHOW Jan. 17 reveals that Zvonek, in fact, said, “I am a lifelong Republican, who — um — and I vote for Republicans.” [at 7 minutes 26 seconds]
After he denied making the statement, Zvonek didn’t respond to a follow-up message which contained a transcript of his remark on the radio.
Likewise, he didn’t respond to a follow-up message stating, “Hi Dustin — I’m making sure you saw my last message. Do you want to talk on the phone? If you’re doubting that you really said that you’re a lifelong Republican, I can send you the location in the interview. In any case, if you don’t want to discuss it further, just let me know. Thank you.”
Zvonek didn’t provide further comment.
Zvonek’s conflicting statements about being a lifelong Republican came in the wake of his criticism of Aurora Democratic candidates for forming a Democratic slate as they gear up their campaigns for the November city council and mayoral elections in Aurora.
“They’re trying to define themselves as the Democrats because they saw the success that the Democrat Party had in Colorado and Aurora in the last midterm,” he said on air. “And so they’re hoping that they can hide their fringe radical ideas behind a party affiliation.”
He pointed to two candidates on Aurora’s November ballot who are members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a progressive organization considered to the left of the mainstream Democratic Party. But the DSA is not a political party.
The two candidates, mayoral candidate Juan Marcano and City Council Member Allison Coombs, are registered Democrats. Zvonek said the pair are not the kind of Democrat that Gov. Jared Polis is.
Coombs told the Colorado Times Recorder, “I’m not sure what he thinks I’m hiding. I’m for dignified wages, dignified housing, and a good quality of life without breaking your back or being born into wealth. And we need to do more than jail people to provide public safety. If those are the fringe ideas he’s talking about, I think people are aware that those are my beliefs.”
Zvonek’s critics say he’s the one who wants to hide his Republican affiliation — and that of fellow Republicans — in Aurora because the city is so overwhelmingly Democratic. Being a Republican is a huge liability, they say.
Zvonek himself has said he wouldn’t have won his city council seat in 2021 if voters knew he was a Republican. He’s not up for re-election this year.
GOP voters constitute just 18% percent of Aurora’s voters vs. 33% Democrats and 47% unaffiliated, according to numbers presented by Zvonek at a Republican breakfast in January.
Zvonek is glad Aurora’s election ballots don’t state that he’s a Republican. Or that his Democratic opponents are Democrats.
“Partisan politics have become almost blindly tribal,” Zvonek explained to his tribe on the Jan. 17 KHOW show, which was guest-hosted by Kristi Burton Brown, the leader of Colorado’s Republican Party.
“We’ve gotten to a point where we just — we just get our ballot, and we know who we’re going to vote for,” he said.
Force Voters To Do Research
Even though he said he’s a loyal Republican, Zvonek wants voters to conduct their own research on Aurora candidates in an election race without being influenced by the knowledge of whether candidates are Republicans or Democrats.
“I think there’s a lot of voters, particularly in Colorado, a state that has, you know, over 40%, 45%, 46%, whatever the number as these days, of unaffiliated voters, people who I think are choosing not to be red team, blue team, but want to know and vote for the candidate,” says Zvonek. “And if they want to do that, I think having these nonpartisan local elections give us that opportunity.”
Aurora’s municipal elections are officially nonpartisan.
On the radio show, Burton Brown said that omitting the Republican label on the ballot “forces voters” to “really look at the candidates.”
“Despite being the Republican chairman of the state here in Colorado, I actually agree with you that people need to be able to look at candidates on the ballot without that letter behind their name,” Burton Brown told Zvonek, “and really evaluate what would they do for our city, what would they do for, you know, the crime on our streets? What would they do on property taxes and force voters, I guess in a nice way of forcing them, just give them the opportunity to really look into these candidates and what they’re, you know, claiming they’ll deliver on and make them talk about the issues instead of hiding behind the label. I think that’s really important in Colorado.”
In a Facebook exchange, Zvonek didn’t comment on whether it’s condescending to assume that voters will only conduct research about candidates if they aren’t informed of the party affiliation of candidates.