DENVER– Rep. Laura Bradford (R-Collbran), announced today that she will not run for House District 54 because she wants to spend more time with her husband, Linton Mathews who suffered a heart attack in March. It’s another stunning decision by Bradford in what has been a two-month roller-coaster for the embattled lawmaker.
Because of reapportionment, Bradford, who represents HD 55, would have run for re-election in House District 54.
But last Saturday, Bradford spoke at the Mesa County Republican Party Assembly and received a lukewarm reception from the delegates.
It was like a political weather forecast of the House District 54 GOP assembly that convenes March 31, in Clifton that would pit Bradford against Republican challengers Jared Wright of Fruita and John “Rusty” Price of Palisade.
Rumors began circulating in Grand Junction and Denver that Bradford would drop out of the race and make an announcement during a moment of personal privilege on the House floor Thursday morning. That didn’t happen – instead the Colorado House Republicans office issued a media release that stated:
“While I love serving my constituents in the state Capitol, my first priority is my family and ensuring that my husband is in good health,” said Bradford, R-Collbran.
Since entering the House of Representatives in 2009, Bradford, a respected business owner, launched efforts to create jobs and get Colorado’s economy back on track. Some of the measures Bradford fought for included looking into the development of the Western Slope’s vast supply of oil shale and putting a moratorium on the closure of the Cameo Power Plant.
Bradford serves as chair of the House Local Government Committee and successfully ushered through the legislature bills to ease the tax burden on small business owners for heavy machinery.
“I’m proud of my efforts to help small business owners and families on the Western during this recession,” said Bradford.
Bradford ran several measures over the past four years to protect women, children and unborn children, including Jessica’s Law, which would have required mandatory sentencing for first-time sexual abuses of children. While Democrats killed the bill, Bradford received national attention, including on Fox News’s The O’Reilly Factor, for her work to protect children.
Bradford also ran measures to ensure protection and justice for women and children.
“Serving the people of House District 55 has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Few people have been able to serve in the Colorado General Assembly, and I count myself honored and blessed to have had this opportunity,” Bradford added. “I look forward to serving my friends and neighbors on the Western Slope in various capacities in the near future.”
Republican insiders on the Western Slope had predicted Bradford’s toughest challenger would be Wright, who is a police office. Wright’s first foray in politics and public policy was as an intern at the state legislature in 2004. Wright later served as a legislative aide to former Congressman Scott McInnis in Grand Junction.
Price, who operates a vineyard in Palisade, is a former Erie mayor and self-described “Constitutional Republican” who, if elected, has vowed to serve no more than two terms because “patriots have a civic duty and obligation to participate and guide government onto the right path, they then return home from whence they came and mentor upcoming people.”
The race, now pared down to two, Price said, “is good for everyone. It changes the dynamics and gives (HD 54) delegates a clear choice. Voters need choices – it’s good for Democracy. It’s good for Laura too because she does need more time for her family.”
“I understand her decision; her husband is in poor health. It’s a good decision for Laura,” said Laureen Gutierrez, a Grand Junction Republican and 2nd vice president of Colorado Federation of Republican Women. “I think we have two very good candidates for House District 54.”
Candidates began emerging after Bradford was cited by Denver Police for making an improper turn and careless driving on Jan. 25. Bradford, who had been drinking with lobbyists and legislators at the Prohibition bar and restaurant, performed poorly on a roadside sobriety test.
Officers decided not to administer a breathalyzer test or pursue DUI charges because an obscure state law grants immunity from arrest to legislators. Bradford repeatedly insisted that she had not invoked immunity and instead had demanded to be treated like any other citizen.
Bradford’s credibility was questioned by Republicans on the Western Slope after she threatened to change her party affiliation because House Speaker Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) called for a House Ethics Committee investigation of the incident, and she criticized McNulty and House Majority Leader Amy Stephens (R-Colorado Springs) to members of the media.
“Laura Bradford is flipping the bird to the people who put her in office,” said Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland in response to the legislator’s threat.
Had Bradford changed her party affiliation, the Republicans would have lost their one-seat majority in the House.
Republican insiders on the Western Slope said that they had concerns about Bradford, not just because of the traffic incident, but her inability to quit talking to the reporters and publicly attacking Republican House leaders.
The Ethics Committee voted to drop the case because the traffic citations were misdemeanors and though she was also cited for possession of a handgun while under the influence of alcohol, the Denver District Attorney dropped the charge. There was no evidence to prove that Bradford was impaired.
Perhaps Bradford had already undermined her credibility by vacillating last autumn between a race for the legislature or Mesa County Commissioner District 3, a seat being vacated by Rowland who is term limited in January 2013.
But, there were already three candidates running for Rowland’s seat, and the party activists were galvanized behind Rose Pugliese. An attorney and Republican activist, Pugliese shut out her competitors last week and won the nomination.
In 2008, Bradford defeated Democrat Bernie Buescher by 605 votes, and she won reelection in 2010.