Between now and New Year’s Eve, Colorado Pols is recapping the top ten stories in Colorado politics from the 2012 election year.
Late on a Wednesday evening in January, Denver police attempted to stop a vehicle not far from the state capitol with legislative license plates they had observed driving erratically. The vehicle didn’t stop immediately, but proceeded several blocks before coming to an awkward stop near a bar frequented by state legislators, lobbyists, journalists and staff called Prohibition.
From that moment, the career of Republican Rep. Laura Bradford of Collbran began to unravel. Early reports from the Denver Police Department–later retracted under less-than-forthcoming circumstances–indicated that Bradford may have evaded arrest for driving under the influence by invoking legislative immunity granted to lawmakers during the legislative session.
Rep. Bradford was immediately stripped of her committee chair, and effectively made persona non grata in her caucus by Speaker Frank McNulty until she was “cleared” by the Denver Police Department and a subsequent ethics committee inquiry of wrongdoing (at least wrongdoing pertaining to abuse of her position). Bradford, despite her initial contrition over the incident, felt that she was being unfairly treated by McNulty throughout the process, and even briefly threatened to defect to Democrats–a lethal prospect for the GOP’s one-seat House majority.
In the end, though many questions about the conduct of both Rep. Bradford and responding Denver police officers remain unanswered, she was cleared; but not before her erratic response to the situation had rendered her politically nonviable in the eyes of Republicans both in Denver and her district. In March, Bradford announced she would not seek re-election.
The story of Laura Bradford has an amusing epilogue: Bradford’s Republican successor in HD-54, Rep.-elect Jared Wright of Fruita, has already perhaps set a new standard for disgrace on the campaign trail that nonetheless did not prevent victory. Wright, exposed as a lazy and dishonest police officer who lived embarrassingly beyond his taxpayer-funded means and was begged by fellow Republicans to pull out of the race, may be about to make former Rep. Bradford’s brush with scandal and intra-party intrigue a pleasant memory by comparison.
On the upside, it might not be as big a deal now, in a Republican minority.