Guess which reality star was a registered Libertarian as recently as April?
The short-lived candidacy of Ben “The Bachelor” Higgins made for an interesting story last week, but it was not the kind of news that we thought we’d still be talking about today. Yet while Higgins’ official candidacy is finished after he withdrew from HD-4 last week, the conspiracy theories continue to grow. The GOP is working hard to make Higgins look like a martyr whose only crime was being a Republican, but as it turns out, the facts tell a much different story.
Ben Higgins is not a Republican martyr. Higgins is barely a Republican at all.
Late Sunday, the conservative website The Blaze published an “exclusive” story essentially accusing the television network ABC of forcing Higgins out of the race in HD-4 because he is a Republican (yes, really, because he is a Republican). Joey Bunch of the Denver Post then published his own follow-up story, which includes a particularly strange quote from an official with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office (more on that in a moment). The story that Republicans are peddling now is that of a poor reality-show martyr who was denied a chance to be the frontrunner in a State House race purely because of his political affiliation.
Now, there is a much different version of this story, including an important fact that hasn’t yet been mentioned: Ben Higgins may not have been legally able to run as a Republican in HD-4 because he had been a registered LIBERTARIAN as recently as April 18, 2016.
First, let’s back up. In case you missed the news last week because you got norovirus at the RNC and haven’t been reading anything that wasn’t conveniently near a toilet, here’s the short and sweet of our story:
Ben Higgins is a former star of the ABC TV show “The Bachelor,” a show he headlined in Season 20 after losing out to another guy in a previous ABC TV show called “The Bachelorette.” Higgins ended his “Bachelor” run by proposing to Lauren Bushnell, and sometime afterward, they apparently moved to North Denver. The final episode of the 20th season of “The Bachelor” began in January and ended in mid-March, 2016.
Rumors had been circling for a few weeks that Higgins was contemplating making a run in HD-4. It was reported on Friday, July 15, that Higgins had officially signed paperwork to run as a Republican candidate in HD-4 against incumbent Democratic Rep. Dan Pabon. We thought this was odd for a number of reasons, primarily the fact that HD-4 is the single best Democratic-performing district in Colorado. Pabon won re-election in 2014 with 80% of the vote, for crying out loud; you could resurrect Ronald Reagan and he’d still lose to a Democrat in HD-4.
Less than a week later, on Friday July 22, it was announced that Higgins would be withdrawing from the race because of some legal and contractual issues associated with his upcoming reality TV show: “Ben and Lauren: Happily Ever After.” There were two announcements sent to the media, actually: One from Disney – the parent company of ABC – and the second from Higgins’ own campaign.
And that, dear readers, seemed to be that. But now Republicans are attacking ABC and something called the “Freeform” channel (formerly ABC Family, and the network that will carry Higgins’ new reality-TV show). In a statement issued by the Colorado Republican Party on Sunday, Chairman Steve House puts on the tin-foil hat for a long rant about how The Man is keeping Republicans down:
“Disney and ABC’s decision to reportedly threaten Ben Higgins’ future with the network and even his wedding if he did not drop out of the (House District) 4 race is downright despicable…Their stunning about-face the week of our national convention after months of being aware of Ben’s political pursuits is incredibly suspect…
“The reality is Ben would have entered this race as the front-runner. ABC’s thuggish tactics send a message they care far more about suppressing the voice of conservatives and protecting a left-wing politician who displayed grossly unethical behavior during a recent DUI arrest than Ben’s selfless interest in serving his community…
…It is hard to imagine ABC would have delivered a similar ultimatum to Ben if he were a Democrat, and that is shameful.”
The ultimatum that Disney/ABC/Freeform delivered to Higgins isn’t as nefarious as House makes it sound. The network had grown uncomfortable with the potential legal ramifications of promoting a reality TV star who is running for public office, and they told Higgins that they did not want him to be a candidate at the same time they were filming “Ben and Lauren.” Higgins obviously decided that making tons of money for a reality show was sufficiently more important to he and his fiancé than running for the state legislature, and we can’t say we blame him there. The decision may have also helped him avoid some inevitable legal problems with his voter registration…