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Rep. Bradford Considers Leaving GOP After Traffic Stop Flap

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Rep. Laura Bradford (credit: CBS)

Rep. Laura Bradford (credit: CBS)

DENVER (AP) – Colorado House Republicans have benefited from a one-vote advantage for a year and have made good use of it, blocking Democrats’ ideas and getting huge concessions on the state budget.

The GOP has been disciplined in keeping the party together and protecting that lead – until now.

Republican Rep. Laura Bradford, in the aftermath of a traffic stop that raised questions regarding legislative privilege, is considering leaving her party in a move that could change the balance of power in the Colorado House.

Bradford’s revelation Wednesday follows a decision supported by her party to convene an ethics committee, even though Denver police apologized for mischaracterizing her traffic stop last week.

At issue was whether Bradford invoked a “legislative privilege” clause after police said they had reason to think she was driving drunk. Bradford, from Grand Junction, maintained she didn’t abuse her position and asked to be treated like everyone else. Police confirmed that account Tuesday.

But that hasn’t spared Bradford the ire of her party.

“I’m frustrated and disappointed in the speaker of the House,” she said, referring to Republican Rep. Frank McNulty. “When last Friday on the phone, when we were discussing this and it had just come to light, he said, and I quote, ‘You’re toast.'”

Bradford talks with CBS4’s Stan Bush in the video below:

McNulty responded that, “It is quite possible that I said that if she’s not honest about what happened, and she doesn’t show remorse for what happened, that she would be toast.”

He said Bradford’s comments about possibly leaving the party are “unfortunate and unproductive.” He said the forming of an ethics committee shows “the seriousness of the allegations that have been put in play here.”

Bradford said she disagrees with having an ethics committee look at her actions – and potentially dole out punishment ranging from censure to expulsion – because the question of whether she abused her power has been settled. She said she’s deciding Friday whether to leave the GOP and switch to unaffiliated or Democrat, even though she’s been a lifelong Republican.

The makeup of the House is currently 33-32. A switch could mean that Democrats, with Bradford’s vote, can elect a member of their party to be speaker of the House and have control of the committees.

It would also give Democrats a better chance at passing their legislation, including a civil unions bill, which Republicans killed in the House last year, and a tuition legislation for illegal immigrants. They could also pass the economic development bills they’ve touted this session.

CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd reports on what will happen if Bradford switches parties in the video below:

Republicans on the other hand could lose some control of over critical budget negotiations. They’ve repeatedly said they would not pass a bill to eliminate a senior property tax break for another year, like the Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has called for to balance the budget. The GOP’s anti-regulation driven economic agenda would also be put into jeopardy.

Democratic House Leader Mark Ferrandino said he spoke with Bradford on Wednesday, but that neither side made any promises.

“She didn’t ask for anything, and I did not and would not offer anything,” Ferrandino said.

Democrats control the Senate. In the past, some legislation they’ve been able to easily pass in that chamber has died in the Republican-controlled House.

Last year, with their one-vote lead, Republicans played a bigger role in budget negotiations than they’ve had in recent years, when Democrats controlled both chambers.

In the previous budget, Republicans scored a major victory for their party’s pro-business platform by restoring a large portion of a “vendor fee” over the next three years. It’s a portion of sales taxes to retailers to compensate them for the trouble of collecting the tax. Republicans also eliminated unpopular sales taxes on agricultural products.

Web Extra: Denver Police Entire News Conference On Bradford:

Republican Rep. Mark Waller, the third-ranking GOP member of the House, said having an ethics committee look at Bradford’s actions is justified.

“I think the great thing about an ethics panel is it has the ability to exonerate just as well as it does to find some sort of culpability,” he said.

Police said they “observed a violation” and stopped Bradford. Officers reported smelling alcohol on her breath, but cited her only with making an illegal lane change and improper turn, saying their interpretation of legislative immunity precluded further action. She took a cab following the stop.

Police said Bradford told them she had a gun in her car when she was stopped and said she could face a charge for having a firearm while intoxicated.

Bradford said what’s pending against her is not a legislative matter, but a legal one for her and courts to resolve.

She said she respects the Republican Party and her constituents and that’s weighing on her decision.

“By making a change to any other thing, obviously, has significant ramifications on the length and future of my political career, and I know that,” she said, adding, “And what do we do for the next 100 days,” referring to the rest of this year’s legislative session.

- By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer

(AP’s Kristen Wyatt contributed to this report)

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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