On the floor of the state senate, firebrand social conservative lawmaker Scott Renfroe has compared homosexuality to murder and lambasted the governor for not calling out the national guard on medical marijuana protesters. But Renfroe is up for reelection and told a reporter from his hometown Greeley Tribune this weekend that he was merely a “mainstream Republican” whose values were in line with those of his constituents. A lot of Coloradans would disagree and they have disagreed, some directly to former Weld County deputy district attorney Ken Storck, who is running against Renfroe precisely to bring more mainstream representation to Senate District 13.
“People approached me to run, my Republican friends too, they feel [Renfroe] is extreme and that, due to my D.A. background, I had to be balanced. I agree; I think he’s not in line with the district,” Storck told the Colorado Independent.
He said people in the district don’t really know what Renfroe represents on their behalf in the senate.
“That’s the question. What does he stand for, on the issues?”
Renfroe didn’t return an email message nor calls placed to his office in Denver and two Greeley addresses. His website provides Denver legislative office contact information but only a campaign land mail address and no other contact information.
Storck said he would take as his communication model his own state representative, Democrat Jim Reisberg.
“Look at Reisberg by comparison,” he said, “he puts forward a non-partisan presentation on the issues every two weeks– on Saturdays up here [in the district]. Renfroe doesn’t do that. He speaks with extreme groups– Tenth Amendment groups, for example– but there are no community forums on the issues, nothing.”
Renfroe, admittedly a member of the minority party, was prime sponsor of 8 bills this session, only 2 of which passed into law. They exempted controlled agricultural fires from arson categories and lowered the age for drivers license permitting from 18 to 16 1/2. He worked with no Democrats as co-sponsors of his bills.
Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, no diluted Republican by any measure, nevertheless this session compiled a strong record of accomplishment, partly by working with Democrats. Penry sponsored 21 bills, 9 of which passed into law and many of those co-sponsored by Democrats. Those bills will rework the faltering public employee retirement plan, move dirty coal fired power plants to clean burning natural gas, install new parole guidelines, and remake higher education funding, among other things.
Renfroe’s Front Range counterpart in the House, Reisberg, was prime sponsor of 29 bills this session, a full 24 of which passed into law, some of them the product of bipartisan efforts. Riesberg worked with Republicans Al White and David Balmer as legislative co-sponsors. Reisberg bills this session covered a range of issues, mostly related to health care. New laws based on his bills will work to determine who can declare patients terminally ill, outline schools efforts to raise child immunization awareness, streamline medicaid hospice payments, reform police and fire departments pensions, license pharmacists and chiropractors to prescribe drugs and make hospitals safer for patients while limiting litigation. He was also House sponsor of the bill that will provide free access for seniors to parklands across the state.
Storck thinks the record demonstrates Renfroe doesn’t place problem-solving as a priority, even this session, when the state faced enormous budget problems in need of creative solutions.
“Take the tax exemptions on businesses. There was discussion about lifting the exemptions. On any of those, in all of those discussions, his response was categorical: just no. These are tough times. I think you have to examine everything.”
What constituents know of Renfroe, said Storck, they see on the news.
“Some of the things he says, I don’t think we agree with it. Last year he said homosexuals were sinners and murderers. This session on April 20th he said the medical marijuana protesters– that their [prescription] cards should be confiscated and the National Guard should have been called out to break up the protests. I mean, this was 40 years almost to the day of the [National Guard] Kent State shootings. For my generation, we remember that. That affected us. And these people [the Denver marijuana protesters] legally got their cards and they have a legal right to peacefully protest.”
During the 2009 session, Renfroe compared homosexuality to murder while speaking against a bill that aimed to extend health benefits to same-sex domestic partners of state employees.
He quoted scripture to call gay sex a “detestable act” and said it would be “an abomination according to scripture” for the legislature to “[take] sins and [make] them to be legally OK.”
““I’m not saying [homosexuality] is the only sin that’s out there. We have sin — we have murder, we have, we have all sorts of sin, we have adultery, and we don’t make laws making those legal, and we would never think to make murder legal.”
The comments brought local and national condemnation and have left an impression.
“Scott Renfroe is about as far from the ‘mainstream’ as you can get without joining a traveling circus,” said activist group ProgressNow Executive Director Bobby Clark in response to the Greeley Tribune story. “A man who has equated gay people with murderers and has consistently voted with the extremist fringe of the Republican Party can’t call himself moderate with a straight face.”
Storck and Renfroe are so far running even in fundraising, both campaigns holding a little less than $10,000 cash on hand. Storck said he announced his candidacy in November but that he’s rebooting his campaign for the summer.
Renfroe told the Greeley Tribune he has been wrapping up things at the capitol and that he hasn’t spent much time yet campaigning.
Storck said he’s a moderate Democrat although he doesn’t identify himself as a Democrat at his website. He said he’ll be starting to do door to door walks in the district in the coming days.
“l’ve spoken to some state senators. They think I have a good shot.”
[Photo: Ken Storck and Scott Renfroe]