Wrighting a wrong
In the end, Jared Wright did the right thing.
Not that he had a lot of choice. The right thing in this case was the option of last resort before watching his political career end in ignominy.
Wright faced the embarrassing prospect of seeing political newcomer Yeulin Willett get the nod for House District 54 at the caucus level and then having to petition to get on the GOP primary ballot to mount a challenge for his own seat. Almost unheard of for an incumbent.
So, on Saturday afternoon, Wright announced he’s quit the race, ending a political career that wobbled out of the gate and showed no signs of improving.
Citing a commitment to his family, Wright withdrew and threw his support behind Willett, conveniently avoiding any mention of his bleak political fortunes. He had never intended to make a career of politics, he said. Willett’s entry into the race offered assurances that a qualified candidate would fill the void as Wright turned his focus back to being a family man.
Rubbish? From our vantage point, it doesn’t matter whether Wright’s polished exit acknowledged his slim chances for remaining in office. The important thing is that he saw the writing on the wall and that he’s done — or soon will be. He will finish out the remainder of his term.
And then Wright can move on to the next phase of his life knowing that he aided his party’s recovery from his own ineffectual — and sometimes comical — leadership.
Wright 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 in 2012 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.
Since then, he’s faced criticism for not carrying measures that have a direct impact on his district, which includes Mesa County outside of Grand Junction and the western half of Delta County.
And he recently made national headlines by leaving a loaded gun in his briefcase in a House committee hearing room. It’s illegal to carry weapons into the Capitol — even with a concealed-carry permit. Wright claimed he’s allowed to do so because he’s still a certified peace officer in the state, even though he doesn’t work for a law enforcement agency.
Such hubris might be tolerated from a proven leader. But the net effect of Wright’s legislative record and personal antics was this: He created a nearly insurmountable challenge to effectively represent the 74,000 people of his district and showed little potential in rising to a position of leadership in the House.
Those concerns now give way to a sense of relief. Party leaders in western Colorado have a chance to reassert themselves after they watched helplessly as Wright exploited the nomination process. Let’s hope that Wright’s shortcomings provide a lesson to the remaining candidates for House District 54. We need effective representation in a Legislature that skews heavily toward Front Range interests.