Note: Colorado’s State Senate District 9 has a rich legacy of conservative representation – starting with one of the most colorful characters in recent history, Charlie Duke, and continuing through the reign of congressman-elect Doug Lamborn and the district’s newest elected representative, Dave Schultheis. Today we conclude a three-part series profiling these three men. The story of Duke and his bizarre, very public meltdown can be read here; the Lamborn chronicle can be read here.Dave Schultheis: James Dobson’s Right-Hand Man
It was stifling hot inside Doug Lamborn’s August primary night party, and the guests were drooping from the heat and the trailing numbers that had dogged the candidate all night. Suddenly Lamborn swept the lead over five other Republicans, and the place erupted. No one was happier than state Rep. Dave Schultheis, pumping his fists hard into the air.
“I am so happy!” crowed Schultheis. “Doug is going to be so good in Washington! He’s so rock-solid with the conservative vote.”
And Schultheis, a leader in the state’s Minutemen anti-immigration movement, personal pal of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and a past mover and shaker in the national hard right shadowy group, The Council for National Policy, was well on his way to succeeding Lamborn to the state senate this fall.
In an area as conservative as Colorado’s Senate District 9 – which includes northern Colorado Springs, the Air Force Academy, parts of the Black Forest and the town of Monument, even an October surprise couldn’t knock Schultheis out. In most other places, Schultheis would have had faced serious hometown heat for the October e-mail he sent to a Greeley newspaper demanding to know whether a family whose three members had just been killed in a car accident were legal residents, because their surname is Hispanic.
Instead, Schultheis won his race with 69 percent of the vote.
Schultheis was elected to the state legislature in 2000, after an unsuccessful attempt two years earlier to take out popular Republican Rep. Marcy Morrison. His was truly a campaign for God and guns, and against gays and abortion. And he was wary of anyone who wasn’t solidly on his team, even members of his own party. During the race, he sent out a letter to supporters claiming he was being targeted for his Christian beliefs.
“Since I announced my candidacy … my wife and I have been the subject of extreme intolerance for our conservative views,” Schultheis wrote. “On several occasions we have been vandalized by perpetrators who have left decapitated rabbits and entrails on the front porch of our home. We see this as a form of extreme intolerance for people who hold our Judeo-Christian values.”
Schultheis didn’t explain the connection between headless rabbit vandalism and anti-Christian sentiments. But he made it clear he suspected the “extremely liberal wing of the Republican Party” was attempting to thwart him.
Under the golden dome, Schultheis was initially best known for his so-called “Dr. Laura Bill,” which would require parents and parents-to-be who want to get a divorce to undergo a full year of counseling. The proposal was nicknamed after the conservative radio psychologist Laura Schlessinger because she had agreed to provide testimony in support.
But he soon proved he was no single-subject lawmaker. Three years ago, Schultheis was the keynote speaker at a dinner to celebrate the academic successes of students at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He spent the evening insulting many of them by preaching against homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, and drug and alcohol use.
“We were under the assumption that [Schultheis] would be talking about academic performance and success, or at least congratulating us and talking about ways to improve education,” student Amy Blakestad said at the time. “But he got off topic right away and started talking about religion and morals and how we need to include it in our lives and in our schools.”
Schultheis went on, Blakestad said, to condemn homosexuals, sexual promiscuity, alcohol use and drug abuse, claiming those who engage in such activities are “sinful and immoral people.”
“He was using those terms, sinful and immoral, during his entire speech,” she said. “It seemed like it dragged on for three hours.”
In 2004, Schultheis, a founder of the arch-conservative Republican Study Committee of Colorado jumped into his latest passion – illegal immigration – with zeal. In the summer of 2005, Schultheis traveled with a small group of Colorado lawmakers to the Arizona desert, where they strapped on firearms and in the glare of the media spotlight spent a few days on border “patrol” with the Minutemen.
But he hasn’t been so forthcoming when it comes to discussing his participation in The Council for National Policy, a group of influential policy setters that meets in secret and whose leaders include James Dobson (who lives in his district), Phyllis Schafly, Oliver North, Bob Jones III and Pat Robertson.
As described by Sourcewatch, The Council for National Policy is a secretive forum that was formed in 1981 by Tim LaHaye as a networking tool for leading US conservative political leaders, financiers and religious right activist leaders. The group, which meets three times a year, promotes “Educational conferences for national leaders in the fields of business, government, religion and academia to explore national policy alternatives.
Schultheis was listed in the exclusive group’s membership roster as late as 1998; more recent lists have not been obtained and disseminated, at least by the secular media.
This year on Oct. 4, in the midst of his state senate bid, Schultheis dashed off an e-mail to the Greeley Tribune after a horrific accident killed three members of the Bustillos family, 150 miles from the northern Colorado Springs district he represents. It was the day the youngest victim, a baby, died. Specifically, Schultheis wanted to know:
“Was the driver properly licensed? Was the vehicle properly registered and insured? Was this person the child of parents in the U.S. illegally? Or was she here illegally?”
“Why is it that the investigative reports we read in the papers and see on TV do not point out the fact that these accidents and the resulting cost to taxpayers (hospitalization, etc.) are a direct result of our lax immigration policies and enforcement?”
In the resulting firestorm (up north in Greeley, but notably not in C. Springs), the Bustilloses noted they are indeed legal residents, and their car was properly registered and insured. They also asked for a formal apology from the lawmaker, which they never received.
It is hard to know whether Schultheis’ xenophobia is a factor in the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce’s refusal to endorse Schultheis in his bid for the Senate (nor did the business group endorse his opponent, Democrat Keely Marrs.) Perhaps another clue might be found in this response to the Chamber’s candidate’s questionnaire:
CHAMBER QUESTION Many businesses in our area have encountered problems recruiting a strong workforce because individuals are unwilling to come to a community they perceive as having a reputation for being intolerant and exclusive. What are you willing to do to help change that perception?
In an effort to increase our economic vitality and promote a strong workforce, would you be willing to incorporate a tone into your public stance that will help change the reputation of our community for the positive and, if so, how?
SCHULTHEIS ANSWER I do not particularly see this as a problem in Colorado Springs, except from certain members of the homosexual community that continue to make it a problem. Many feel that intolerance in this community, to the extent it exists is directed towards people of faith who hold to traditional family values. I do not necessarily acknowledge intolerance as a bad trait in and of itself. Each of us is tolerant and intolerant of many issues that come before us each day.
Businesses can hire…and should be able to hire the best and the brightest and set their own policies of employment.
As far as “tone”, I believe my views reflect the majority of those in SD 9, and only express them when asked specifically. I do not favor domestic partnerships or civil unions…and do not see that stance changing.
Cara DeGette is a longtime editor and columnist at the Colorado Springs Independent.