Throughout the month, Republican state Senate hopeful Lauri Clapp, who is running in a suburban district south of Denver that has been targeted by both major parties, has been notably absent at numerous public forums attended by both Democrats and Republicans and has not returned requests seeking to clarify her legislative positions, according to advocacy groups in the area.
When the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, a business organization that includes more than 1,600 members, held a formal panel on Oct. 1 for candidates in the area to discuss their positions on economic issues, Clapp was the only candidate missing.
The meeting, which included candidates running for two Senate districts in the southern suburbs, was attended by Clapp’s Democratic opponent, Linda Newell, along with Republican state Senate incumbent Nancy Spence and her Democratic challenger, Nathan Wilkes.
“We did not have Lauri Clapp,” confirms Bart Sayyah, director of economic development at the chamber.
After multiple calls, Sayyah says, “her executive assistant text messaged me and said that Ms. Clapp would not be able to participate because of a work obligation.”
Clapp, who was term-limited from the House of Representatives after eight years last year, also missed an Oct. 8 candidate forum on criminal justice issues hosted by the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Nine candidates — both Republican and Democrat — attended the event.
And she missed a public event focusing on legislative issues affecting children. Every Child Matters, a national nonpartisan advocacy group that works in Colorado, hosted a forum for candidates from multiple districts in the south Denver area on Oct. 2.
According to Becky Updike, a local spokeswoman for Every Child Matters, although three Republican candidates — Clapp, Rep. Spencer Swalm and David Kerber — did not attend the community forum, Clapp was the only candidate not to send back responses to a three-question survey about her views on child health care and poverty issues.
“Two of the candidates who didn’t show up provided a written statement to each of those questions,” says Updike. “Lauri Clapp did not submit any statement.”
While Clapp’s campaign has not returned requests for comment, Newell, her Democratic challenger who is running for public office for the first time, isn’t ready to speculate on why exactly her opponent has not been seen in public recently.
“I don’t know,” Newell says. “Even the sponsors of the community forums, even the Republicans are asking me where she is. I don’t know. She hasn’t responded to any method of communication that I’ve tried. It’s not just me, though.”
Although Newell says she has yet to even meet Clapp, she says she looks forward to the chance to debate her opponent in a public place before the election.
On Monday, Newell’s campaign issued a press release demanding that Clapp “come out of hiding.”
Clapp has not yet publicly responded to her opponent’s allegations.
Both candidates are running for a seat in Senate District 26, which is being vacated by Republican Steve Ward. The district includes the cities of Centennial and Englewood.
Also read The Colorado Independent’s continuing coverage of the SD 26 race.