Bradford may quit her seat, GOP
DENVER—Rep. Laura Bradford’s flap over the legislative privilege brouhaha this past week has left her considering leaving the Republican Party and resigning her seat in the Colorado House, the Collbran Republican said Wednesday.
Bradford said she is upset with House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, over his decision to go ahead with an ethics investigation of her despite a Denver Police Department apology Tuesday exonerating her.
She said McNulty’s decision seems to be based on an effort to get her out of the House.
“I’m frustrated and disappointed in the speaker of the House when last Friday on the phone, when we were discussing this, he said, ‘You’re toast,’” Bradford said. “This isn’t about the last seven days. This has been going on for the past 15 months.”
McNulty suspended Bradford as chairwoman of the House Local Government Committee that day and later created a five-member ethics panel to investigate her, a move that occurred at the same time the Denver Police Department was apologizing.
Bradford’s woes began Jan. 25 when she was issued two traffic citations after being pulled over by Denver police on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.
But instead of getting a DUI, the police issued the two tickets, put her in a cab and let her go, saying and later recanting that she invoked the privilege, a little-known constitutional clause that bars lawmakers from being detained when the Legislature is in session.
Bradford said that without the question of whether she improperly invoked that privilege, there is nothing for the ethics panel to discuss.
“This is a police matter, not a matter for the House,” she said. “The General Assembly is taking a step in a direction it has never taken before, and that is to intervene in a matter of a sitting legislator with a legal issue outside the building.”
Regardless of the department’s exoneration of Bradford, McNulty said there are other issues to discuss, such as Bradford’s driving after drinking, and her claim that she came from a legislative function at a downtown Denver bar.
McNulty acknowledged the Denver police apology, but he said the ethics panel still must investigate why a House member was given special treatment.
“Here we have a legislator who’s been accused of receiving special treatment from law enforcement officials,” McNulty said. “In my opinion, this is a natural extension of the investigations that have happened and an important piece of the House investigation and a recognition of the seriousness of the matter.”
The speaker said Bradford’s talk about leaving the party is “unfortunate and unproductive,” adding he doesn’t know why Bradford feels like she has been treated poorly by House GOP leaders over the past year.
Bradford questioned why she is being singled out when other lawmakers have been issued DUIs in the past, including former House Speaker Russell George, R-Rifle, and didn’t face an ethics panel.
Bradford said she is 95 percent certain she will leave the party. The last 5 percent she has to think about is whether she will become an independent or Democrat, and whether she will resign before the end of her term. She is up for re-election for her third term this fall.
“My thinking is that four hours of windshield time away from this chaos, away from this building, away from this city will help me clarify what I’m going to do,” she said, referring to the long drive she takes weekly to return home on Fridays. Bradford also said running for re-election this year is “starting to be in the rear-view mirror.”
Because the Republican Party controls the 65-member House by one vote, Bradford’s decision could have profound repercussions on which party controls it.
If she goes unaffiliated, it would create a 32-32-1 tie, meaning Bradford could be the swing vote between McNulty remaining as speaker, Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, taking over that slot, or some other lawmaker getting the job.
Ferrandino said Bradford did discuss the matter with her Wednesday, but only to tell him what she was considering. He said she did not ask for anything in exchange for voting for him as speaker.
“She needs to think through her thoughts,” Ferrandino said. “But it’s a divided House no matter what happens with her … and we need to work together to get things done. She didn’t ask for anything, and I did not and would not offer anything.”
McNulty said he has not spoken with Bradford in recent days.
Bradford said another issue she is wrestling with is whether she wants to be remembered as the Republican who gave control of the House back to Democrats.
“Therein lies that 5 percent, or part of it,” she said. “I’m not doing what I’m doing for the purpose of sending a message, and I’m not doing what I’m doing for revenge or vindication. This is more personal, and how I think this body could be better.”