GOP to Wright: Address questions
Local Republican Party leaders called on Jared Wright to address questions about his character Friday, but they stopped short of demanding that he drop out of the race for House District 54.
Those questions were first raised last month when Wright was offered a chance to resign his position as a Fruita police officer or be fired after an internal affairs investigation questioned his honesty.
The 29-year-old’s problems were further compounded on Sunday when The Daily Sentinel revealed details of his bankruptcy filing last year.
Wright had amassed more than $74,000 in debt due to excessive consumer spending, according to Wright’s petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.
Party officials said they could do nothing about whether Wright should remain in the race because he was chosen as the candidate in neighborhood caucuses, was the overwhelming pick at the district’s convention in March and won the primary election in June.
He was the only candidate on the ballot.
“The Mesa County Republican Party, the Delta County Republican Party and the HD54 Central Committee cannot overturn the results (of) these elections,” officials from the three wrote in a statement. “Jared Wright won his elections and won them with wide margins.
“That being said, most of us were unpleasantly surprised when details of Mr. Wright’s work record and personal bankruptcy became public. It is unfortunate the voters did not have this information before the elections took place.”
During the district convention in March, Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey and Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland, along with Delta County resident John Brown, sang Wright’s praises in nominating speeches endorsing him over Palisade peach farmer Rusty Price.
Hilkey said Thursday he wants to talk to Wright before deciding what to advise him to do next.
“I haven’t talked to him since all this came out, and I think it feels like the right thing to do is to visit with Jared,” Hilkey said. “The information (about Wright) certainly is concerning and the situation is concerning, but I have not talked to Jared yet.”
While party officials said there was little they could do about the matter, rank-and-file Republicans were less diplomatic in what they thought Wright should do: Drop out.
After the party’s monthly luncheon on Friday, several said Wright should get out of the race immediately and make way for another candidate to be appointed in his place.
“My troubles are of my own making,” said Linda Deaton of Fruita, repeating a mantra she said everyone should live by. “Jared needs to say those seven little words and be a man.”
Numerous Republicans said Wright is resisting advice that he step aside despite repeated calls from several asking him, and in some cases, demanding he do so.
“He should just get out,” said Republican Gary Bailey, who said he was aware of several, unsuccessful efforts to persuade Wright to resign.
Wright didn’t attend the luncheon and has not returned numerous requests for interviews over the past week.
Instead, the embattled candidate posted a message on his Twitter account, @JaredWright54, on Thursday. It was a video of Johnny Cash singing, “I won’t back down.”
Still, several Republicans who attended the luncheon said they remained hopeful Wright and the party would find a resolution to the situation.
“I don’t know if there is a right way” to handle issues such as Wright’s history, said Cliff Knapp, a party regular. “The party has taken the right tack.”
Carroll Multz, a retired Grand Junction attorney and former GOP county party chairman, said the issue will play itself out.
“I have faith that Jared Wright is going to do the right thing,” Multz said.
Former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, who has been advising Wright, said if he stays in the race and is elected in November, his only redemption would be to be the best possible representative.
But that would be impossible if he can’t meet and talk with constituents, McInnis said.
The party’s executive committee made its first public comment on Wright’s travails at the luncheon. There, party chairwoman Ruth Ehlers read the two-page statement acknowledging that he is the party’s candidate, and the executive board “will not second guess” the voters who made him the nominee for the district.
But Ehlers said Wright has a lot of work to do to win over voters.
“(Wright) needs to reconnect with voters, the Republican Party and your executive board,” she said. “Jared also needs to convey a solid case for his political and legislative vision.”
Democrats have no candidate, but Wright does have an opponent in the race, Libertarian Party member Tim Menger.
Price, who only won seven of the 45 delegates at the March convention, said the ball is in Wright’s court as to his next move.
“It’s a bad situation all the way around, but I can’t comment on whether Jared should quit, keep in or anything else. That’s purely his personal choice,” Price said. “Jared is the elected candidate that is running for the office as a Republican. Now, the party must remain neutral. They can’t require him to resign. That’s why it’s purely Jared’s personal choice.”