What started as a simple suspected drunk driving stop has turned the Colorado State Legislature on its head this week.
Just in case you’ve been distracted by coverage of the snowstorm and don’t know about this issue, allow me to summarize what’s been going on.
Republican State Rep. Laura Bradford was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving by Denver Police last week. Initially, Denver Police claimed that Bradford asked for legislative privilege, a little-known law that allows state legislators to live above the law. Bradford offered an apology to her House colleagues for the incident.
However, the next day, the Denver Police announced that Bradford never asked for any special treatment and that it was the DPD that decided to not press the issue.
House Leadership launched an ethics investigation into the event and that move by Speaker Frank McNulty has set off a series of events that has kicked all other legislative issues off of the front pages this week.
Bradford announced that because she does not feel supported by her fellow GOP members, even before this event, she is considering becoming an unaffiliated voter, which would nullify the one vote majority the GOP currently holds in the House.
In a nutshell, while Bradford reportedly wanted to be treated like anyone else when she was pulled over, she’s perfectly fine with special treatment from her colleagues, and is not above holding the GOP’s majority hostage to get it.
There is no easy move here for Speaker McNulty. If he caves in and calls off the ethics investigation, he not only shows that his majority is more important than his ethical standards, but he also shows his fellow Republicans that he can be bullied.
If McNulty moves forward with the investigation, he may very well push Bradford to become an unaffiliated voter and very possibly lose his job as Speaker. But even if she doesn’t switch parties, the investigation may sully Bradford’s reputation enough that she loses her re-election in a competitive district and he still loses his majority and his Speakership.
McNulty is between a rock and a hard place, and Bradford knows it.
However, even though Bradford seemingly holds the cards right now, her grip on them may be very tenuous.
If Bradford moves forward on her threat, she would be wise to be careful with her future moves. By not fully switching to the Democrats, she won’t necessarily have friends on that side of the aisle. And by wiping out the GOP majority, she certainly won’t have friends in the GOP caucus. She may very well find herself on a political island with few friends.
She also would be wise to not forget what brought up this issue in the first place, not the DPD and not McNulty, but her decision to (possibly) drive drunk. At some point, the story will go back to focus on that issue, and she will likely not likely look very good when that focus returns.
While this scenario may seem like a textbook story problem for Machiavellian politics, it’s much closer to a Catch-22. How both McNulty and Bradford maneuver out of this one may carry ramifications for some time, for everyone involved.
About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.