Dem challenger calls Wright move ‘shameful, back-room’ deal
Rep. Jared Wright’s withdrawal from his re-election bid for House District 54 won’t change anything.
At least not for the three other guys still running for the district that includes all of Mesa County outside of Grand Junction and the western half of Delta County.
While the Fruita Republican’s decision to leave the race leaves Grand Junction attorney Yeulin Willett as the sole contender for the GOP nomination, Democrat Brad Webb and unaffiliated candidate James Fletcher say they still are very much in the race.
Webb, a relatively recent transplant to the Grand Valley, said he won’t change his campaign.
The Orchard Mesa resident, who operates Mesa Park Vineyards with his wife, Brooke, and her parents, said Wright’s withdrawal is an attempt to fool the voters and keep the district in Republican hands.
“It’s shameful these back- room deals have leaked into the statehouse, leaving a party where no one trusts or believes one another,” Webb said. “Forcing out the incumbent so they can avoid a primary is nothing more than dirty, underhanded politics. I’m certainly expecting Fletcher to fall in line and bow out within the next few days. I’m going nowhere and won’t be intimidated out of this race.”
But that’s not going to happen, Fletcher said.
“I believe God is guiding me to go forward,” said Fletcher, who at one time considered dropping out, but has since changed his mind.
“I believe through consultation with my higher power that this is the direction that I want to continue,” he said. “I believe that God would have me continue on. We’ve fought just too long to just give up.”
Late last year, Fletcher left the Republican Party to run as an unaffiliated candidate because he believed local and state party leaders were trying to stack the deck against him in the caucuses, which will be held on Tuesday.
Despite his late entry into the race, Willett planned to go through that same caucus process, saying he believed he could get more than enough support to make a primary ballot in June. That no longer is necessary.
“We’re going to run hard from this point forward because we want to carry as much momentum as we can into the statehouse if we’re successful,” Willett said. “I want to meet as many constituents as I can. Yeah, the race is different. Easier is probably a correct word, but that doesn’t mean less time (to campaign).”
While it’s numerically possible for a Democrat or unaffiliated to win the district, voter registration numbers certainly favor the Republicans.
As of January 30, according to the latest voter registration numbers available from the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, there are 19,999 registered Republicans in the district, compared to 14,396 unaffiliated voters and 7,571 Democrats.
Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada, who along with several other Republican members of the Colorado House have been strong supporters of Wright, said he was an asset to the GOP caucus, and looks forward to Willett being the same thing.
“I applaud the courage Representative Wright showed (Saturday) as he acknowledged the reality of putting his family first, and decided not to seek re-election to the House,” said Szabo, who came to Grand Junction in November along with other Front Range Republicans to help Wright launch his re-election bid. “As we all know, family is what matters most in life. Jared has been an asset to the Republican caucus, and his talent will be sorely missed.”
Rep. Ray Scott, whose House district includes the city, also wished Wright and his family well, saying things just didn’t work out for the young lawmaker.
Scott said the Republican Party is trying to heal itself from past errors despite much infighting in the last several years.
“World wars have rules, but politics have none,” said Scott, who’s running for the seat now held by Sen. Steve King, a Republican who’s vying for Mesa County sheriff.
“The party is seeing some momentum from the national level on down,” Scott said. “Obviously, there’s weakness on the other side. Obviously, there’s a huge weight all the way from Obamacare to the (gun laws) passed here in Colorado. The overreach is coming home to roost on the (Democrats’) doorstep. It’s a healthy process and we’re getting some new blood in the game.”