Laura Bradford answered call to serve, and did so admirably

Like a lot of folks, I suspect, I have decidedly mixed feelings about Laura Bradford’s decision to leave the Legislature. The turmoil of recent days left many of Laura’s most ardent backers bemused, but Rep. Bradford still has a deep well of support in the community.

For me, Bradford’s name will always be synonymous with electoral accountability. Her dramatic election to the House of Representatives in 2008 was a powerful reminder that, in a free society where the citizens get final say, elected office doesn’t come with a brass ring.

Then a political novice, Bradford pulled off the upset of the election season against the putative incoming speaker of the House, a good man and effective legislator who made the fatal mistake of too often doing the bidding of a feckless governor who turned his back on our region.

Looking back, Bernie Buescher’s defeat was the beginning of the end for Gov. Bill Ritter. More than a referendum on Bernie, the election between Bradford and Buescher was very much a judgment on the part of one community about the direction of the state. And Laura Bradford was our release valve.

Outslicked, outspent and outgunned, Laura’s election was never a slam dunk. I’ll never forget the look on her face in the hall above Roper Music on Election Night as the results indicated a Bradford win. Laura Bradford had surprised even herself.

Over the course of a tough campaign, she was persistent and persuasive and disciplined. On a night when Republicans in this state pretty near lost everything else, she managed the most unlikely of wins against the most powerful of foes.

Bradford has had a tough year, it’s no secret. She’s made real mistakes, but haven’t we all? My guess is that, if given the chance to do it over again, she would handle her two-week-long flirtation with a party switch differently.

Her decision to walk away from a full-time job that pays a part-time wage in order to be with her husband, Linton Mathews — himself a decent and honorable man who has confronted serious health challenges — was a perfectly understandable and highly honorable decision.

In the days leading up to her decision to leave the race, rumors among conservative activists were rampant that I was a main mover behind Jared Wright’s candidacy. One email even had Wright pegged as a relative of mine. But all this was silly.

I am indeed a big fan of Wright’s, but a part of me will always be loyal to Laura Bradford. She answered the call of public service when a lot of other better-positioned people wouldn’t. Not only did her election set the stage for the end of one-party liberal Democratic rule in this state (Republicans hold a one seat majority in the House today, the only lever of lawmaking power not controlled by Democrats), but it was also an important symbolic moment — one of those occasions when the average folks who go about their business in the real world reminded the people who sit near the seat of power exactly who is in charge.

More than the missteps of the last 90 days, this will be the better part of Bradford’s legacy in public office, at least in the eyes of this beholder.

But the baton has been passed. As the community gets to know Jared Wright better over the coming months, here is what they will discover: a temperate, thoughtful, measured person who will vote as a conservative but operate with a pragmatic purpose.

The way he has handled his first public test — a precocious city manager/boss who ostensibly wants to honor young Wright’s fidelity to public service by firing him from his day job as a Fruita police officer — is proof of his diplomatic temperament. I would have told the city manager to pound sand. The Legislature is full of union-card carrying teachers who manage to get by just fine, so Wright has more than ample ground to throw down with his boss.

But Wright hasn’t done any such thing. He has shown smart restraint, which is probably the right move. My prediction: It is the first of many smart moves that we will see from the Western Slope’s soon-to-be newest state representative.

Josh t is a former minority leader of the Colorado Senate. He graduated from Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.


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