DENVER, CO – State Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, who has strongly objected to a House Ethics Committee investigating her run in with Denver law enforcement last week, is now threatening a change in party affiliation to either Democrat or unaffiliated or resign at the end of the 2012 session.
Bradford’s threat to disengage from the GOP would lead to a challenge of House leadership between House Speaker Frank McNulty and Democrat House Majority Leader Mark Ferandino.
The Republicans’ one member hold on the majority would change to 32 Republicans, 32 Democrats and 1 unaffiliated.
But the second term lawmaker will also be looking over her shoulder in House District 54. Republican and Democrat names are being floated to either challenge or replace the legislator. It’s too late forBradfordto become unaffiliated and petition onto the ballot, but she could be a write-in candidate. With a mere $1,287 in her campaign coffer, Bradford isn’t armed for a re-election battle.
“Laura Bradford is flipping the bird to the people who put her in office,” said Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland.
Rowland said that Bradford has seemed indecisive about running for re-election for months, had considered a bid for the board of Mesa County Commissioners, and now appears to be “sticking it” to House Speaker Frank McNulty and the Republican leadership.
Bradford did not return calls to her home, office and cell phones for comment.
Though Bradford’s Republican peers and advisors sympathize with her, some say she has cut off communications – and they wonder who is advising the legislator.
The Mesa County Republicans said they are also concerned about the changing stories of the events of Jan. 25, when Bradford was cited for an improper turn and careless driving by the Denver Police Department after leaving the Prohibition, a bar and restaurant near the state Capitol.
Bradfordtold police officers that she’d attended a legislative function that evening. She was seen at the Iron Chef Competition, sponsored by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, to benefit Girl Scouts of America. It was later revealed that she also went to a lobbyist-sponsored happy hour at Prohibition.
Bradford said initially that she had imbibed three glass of wine with a meal, but yesterday she divulged to Denver TV7 reporters that it was a bit more, and told TV9 reporters that she couldn’t specify any amount based on the advice of legal counsel.
“I can’t speak to the specifics because of the pending case,” saidBradford. “On the advice of legal counsel, I have to stay away from specifics because traffic charges are pending.”
Bradford has been cited for two misdemeanor traffic charges, but a third charge of having a concealed weapon while “under the influence” is under review by the Denver District Attorney’s office.
“I’ve been a personal friend of Laura’s for 22 years. I’ve known her to be credible,” said Gary Roahrig, a Mesa County GOP division leader and former county party chair. “I hope this comes out well.”
Mesa County GOP Chairwoman Ruth Ehlers said, “The calls coming into headquarters are more than usual – and they’re about this.”
She referred all further questions to House Communications DirectorOwen Loftus.
Party volunteers, who requested anonymity, said the calls to headquarters are split between those chastising Bradford for jeopardizing the Republican House majority and leadership versus others complaining that she is being railroaded.
Mesa County Republicans are preparing for the possibility of tapping candidates to replaceBradfordin House. So are the Democrats.
Mesa County Commissioner Rowland, who is term limited after this year, is one of the top names on several Republican activist’s lists. Rowland said she would not rule it out, but her preference is spending time with her family, especially grandchildren.
Courted candidates include Grand Junction City Councilwoman Teresa Coons, a Democrat, and Fruita Mayor Ken Henry, former Grand Junction City Councilman Paul Nelson, Ed Simons, John Justin and Woody Walcher, all Republicans and currently seeking local office.