Rep. Jared Wright, R-Fruita, sees his duty as protecting the Constitution – and confounding Democrats.
The former is a noble calling, but it falls short of making the sort of real-world impact we need in our beleaguered area. The latter is politics as usual. Conspicuously absent in his “platform” is any mention of improving life in our district.
Wright, a Republican, survived a dubious introduction to state-level politics to capture House District 54, ignoring calls from his own party to drop out of the race after the Sentinel uncovered some damaging information — Wright had amassed a $74,000 personal debt, filed for bankruptcy and was forced to leave the Fruita Police Department after an internal investigation questioned his honesty and integrity.
Wright won and served an unremarkable first year, introducing five bills, three of which passed: one prevents deadlines in case filings in appellate courts from falling on a weekend, another requires a state commission to study the effectiveness of human trafficking laws and the third created a new license plate. None has a direct benefit to our district.
Now he wants to be re-elected and is rankled about the prospect of facing a primary challenge. In a campaign fundraising letter he accused his primary opponent of “trying to leverage the fact that I am not an insider politician ...”
But in announcing his bid for re-election, Wright was flanked by fellow Republican lawmakers – all from the Front Range. The intended message: Wright is a rising GOP star. The unintended question that arose: Where is Wright’s allegiance? To the political star-making machine in Denver? Or to the people he’s supposed to represent?
Wright has framed his legislative successes in the context of being a budget hawk. If there’s any irony about Wright branding himself a fiscal conservative despite his own personal money challenges, it hasn’t fazed him. In a recent re-election announcement, he told the Sentinel he sees his primary job as doing whatever he can to block Democrats who control the Legislature from growing government and improperly spending taxpayers’ money.
All in all, Wright has been big on hot-button issues, touting his opposition to gun-control measures and requesting an investigation of Connect for Health Colorado, the state-based health insurance exchange established as part of Obamacare. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a state lawmaker taking these sorts of positions. But in Wright’s case, it seems to come at the expense of more immediate, pressing local issues: reasonable energy development, local capital improvement, economic development, job creation and school funding.
We’re in an economic rut, and Wright’s preoccupation seems to be building his conservative credentials.
What will he do to support agriculture in a corner of the state where agriculture is still big? How will he protect Western Slope water from being diverted to the Front Range? Especially when he’s dressed his bed with Front Range political endorsements.
We’d love to know the answers to those questions, but Wright has twice backed out of meeting with the Sentinel editorial board, thereby denying his constituents a chance to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. In an election year, how long can he subscribe to the theory, “the less you know about me, the better?”