With the end of the legislative session, Republicans in Colorado are giving an accounting of their performance to constituents at town hall events across the state. In the House, Republicans only hold 19 seats, compared to the 46 held by Democrats. In town halls in Douglas and El Paso Counties, Republican representatives expressed frustration at their inability to override Democratic priorities like abortion and gun control.
Rep. Anthony Hartsook (R-Parker), took issue with the Democrats’ use of Rule 14 to limit debate during the session during a May 22 town hall in Franktown. “So Rule 14, which had never been used until this session, is a censorship,” he said. “It limits its work by majority rule, says your debate time is limited. Normally, you’ve heard about filibustering, but we can debate and argue things on point until we get a concession. Well, they find out very quickly that they didn’t think we would argue, and we did on the very first gun bill. We went all night long. They changed their tactics and then they started implementing Rule 14. So that would limit the debate on bills. Something as contentious as 213 [the land use bill] was limited to four hours. Some were limited to two hours. Some were limited to one hour. You got one hour to go down there and argue something that was going to affect 6 million plus people in this entire state, and we have one hour to have a discussion on it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is censorship.”
Rule 14 has been used before, most recently in the Senate in 2019.
Rep. Lisa Frizell (R-Castle Rock) questioned the motives of her Democratic colleagues. “I think that there are folks in the House who are there to further their own personal ideology,” she said. “They are not there to represent their communities.”
During yesterday’s town hall in Colorado Springs, Rep. Scott Bottoms (R-CO Springs) was much more direct in his criticism of his colleagues, targeting Rep. Elisabeth Epps (D-Denver) and her comments during debate on the failed safe injection site bill.
“I started talking about the fact that we’re really all broken people and we need to be redeemed,” said Bottoms. “The drug addicts can be fixed. They can — through the power of Jesus and His blood. Then, you know, two representatives get up after that, and one of them in particular, and she just annoys me with her voice, but [Epps] gets up after me and says, ‘This is not a church,’ and I’m like, ‘Ugh, stop talking.’”
Bottoms also took issue with the mention of racism in SB23-288, which noted, “A growing body of evidence indicates that stress from racism can result in conditions such as hypertension and preeclampsia that contribute to poor maternal health outcomes among Black pregnant persons.”
Bottoms relayed a conversation he had with one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Regina English (D-CO Springs). “Just take the section out,” he said. “You’ll get 100% vote on this bill if you’ll take this section out, but if you put this section in there, none of the Republicans are going to be able to vote for this bill because we don’t like your race-baiting.”
Like Bottoms, Hartsook found efforts at bipartisan legislating difficult, at one point joking about fighting Gov. Jared Polis (D). “What is interesting — I had a sidebar conversation with with a colleague on the Democrat side,” he said. “He said, ‘Yeah, I got called the principal’s office’ and I was like, ‘What does that mean?’ He goes, ‘Well, I got called to see the governor because they didn’t like what we were doing to help veterans.’ And at this point, my face gets red. I did 26 years in the Army and they make fun of me because I’m like, ‘Well then let’s go fight. I’ll just kick his ass. How’s that?’”
Hartsook also took issue with the pushback Republicans receive from liberal colleagues. “You expect legislators to be professional and have proper debate, but when you get jackasses that get in your face and start screaming at you about being a coward and being against this and being against that and calling you a racist and a homophobe and start doing this bit, I’m like, ‘Dude, I’m going break that frickin’ finger off if you don’t get it out of my face,’” he said. “We have people that will come after us and hammer us relentlessly. Society is now starting to push back on that.”
Rep. Brandi Bradley (R-Littleton), who sponsored a bill to ban transgender students from competing in sports, is also frustrated with the pushback. “The point is, we’ve been called transphobic, homophobic,” she said. “I passed two bills with Rep. [Brianna] Titone [D-Arvada]. The only trans representative. That’s how transphobic I am. That’s homophobic. And that’s how racist I Am. I’m sick of the narrative being distributed up there. We passed two very important bills for Douglas County and the surrounding counties, and I’m fed up, because I know that that’s not me. That’s not my worldview. Just because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean I’m anti anyone in this world. Until the media recognizes what they’re putting out and the threats that we’re getting from the LGBTQ community. You can be pro-women and not anti-LGBTQ. And I’ve had enough of the narrative. I’m sick of the narrative.”
Bottoms was more blunt in his comments about Titone. “I will never, ever, ever in my whole life call him ‘she,’” he said. “He gets up the next day and he says, ‘I felt triggered, I don’t feel safe around here. I feel threatened.’ All that stuff. And so some of our guys CORAed all of his emails and records that he was getting sent these death threatening emails and all this stuff found none. Not one correspondence that was threatening to him at all, overwhelming about how he’s being a strong transgender.”
Bottoms went on to make false claims about Titone’s “Protections For Accessing Reproductive Health Care” bill, which protects patient information for minors seeking gender affirming care that may be banned in their home state. “Another bill that somebody brought up was now children can have sex change surgeries and hormonal therapy at 12,” he said. “Again, we passed through the house that they could do that without parental consent. At 12 years old, the Senate put an amendment back in and said they at least have that parental consent. But that still doesn’t change the fact that they can have double mastectomies at 12. This is horribly barbaric. Yeah, these people — and I said this a few times when I was running for office, and I’ve said it a few times in the well and this is also a trigger statement, I didn’t think it would be — this is pedophilia. These people need to go to jail for life. That seemed to trigger some of them, which makes you wonder — and I’m serious about this, this is not a joke right now — it makes you wonder, the people that get the maddest at that. Why? Why are they so mad at that? I’ll tell you why — because they’re grooming and they’re pedophiles. And I’ll say it on the record.”
While conservatives have recently begun to smear the LGBTQ community with labels like “groomer,” the Assemblies of God, the denomination that Bottom’s Church at Briargate belongs to, has had a decades long problem with child sexual abuse by members of the clergy. Most recently, allegations against Assemblies of God’s churches in New Zealand and Australia have been featured in documentaries on HBO and FX about the Hillsong megachurch.
Despite their minority party status, Republicans are hoping to win back seats in the next election. “We’re going to try and regain ground that we’ve lost,” said Colorado GOP Dave Williams during a May 17 appearance on the George Brauchler show. “We’re going to target about ten seats and we’ll release what those seats are very soon to the public, but everyone can probably guess with a good amount of accuracy the ones we’re targeting. And then aside from the legislature, we’re going to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to protect [U.S. Rep.] Lauren Boebert [R-CO] as well as ensure that CD8 does get flipped with the increased participation in the 2024 cycle.”