Embattled Colorado state House candidate Nathaniel Marshall was reportedly recruited to run for office by state Senate candidate Tim Neville, a prominent Colorado Republican politician with close ties to far-right kingmaker Dudley Brown.
Brown is the head of Windsor-based Rocky Mountain Gun Owners well-known for steering the state party away from the middle by selecting and supporting hardline conservative primary candidates.
News broke Wednesday that Marshall, a construction manager who was running in suburban Denver House District 23, has an arrest record and a history of posting white supremacist and anti-gay comments and material online. As reporters now chase the story, and as more alarming posts surface, one of the questions being asked is how Marshall came to run for the seat.
Rick Enstrom, a prominent candy business executive and onetime Republican House candidate, tweeted Wednesday that Marshall told him that he was recruited to run by Neville. Today Enstrom confirmed that assertion in a phone interview.
“I’m not running for anything, and Tim Neville is a friend of mine but, hey, the facts are the facts,” he told the Colorado Independent.
Marshall has yet to return messages left today seeking comment.
Neville, who called to comment after this story posted, said he doesn’t remember ever talking to Marshall.
“I don’t remember ever speaking to Nate Marshall,” he said. “I’m a candidate. I talk to a lot of people every day. I have nothing to do with his campaign. I’ve never donated to or supported it in any way.”
But Dudley Brown, writing at Facebook after the story posted, said Tim’s son Joe Neville, political director at Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, said his father did speak to Marshall at an event.
Brown denied that his organization or anyone tied to it recruited Marshall as a candidate.
“This guy was never on our target list,” he wrote.
Jefferson County Republican Party officials called on Marshall to withdraw from the race and he announced Thursday afternoon that he would drop out. He told the Denver Post he wasn’t media savvy. He was the sole candidate facing Democrat Max Tyler in the swing district and he was chosen by grassroots delegates to run for the seat at the county assembly on Saturday.
The fast-moving Marshall story highlights the dynamics shaping the increasingly contentious politics on the right in Colorado, where for years far-right activists have sought to steer the mainstream Republican party away from the middle and hold them to narrow conservative positions on core issues such as taxes, gun rights, immigration, gay rights and abortion.
Mainstream Republicans have watched with exasperation as Brown and his conservative forces this year as in years past orchestrate primary battles that target the kind of candidates mainstream Republican Party leaders believe are more likely to appeal to vital independent voter blocs turned off by clashing hardline and gridlocked politics.
“I’m tired of the nuts,” as former state Colorado Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams famously put it when he declined to run for a third term in 2011. Wadhams oversaw the “Tea Party-wave” 2010 election in the state, where opportunities to win the governor’s race and a U.S.Senate race dissolved into absurd defeat. The party’s establishment candidates that year were attacked, contested, pulled right and defeated during the primary season. Drawing close to Election Day, Dan Maes, the party’s untested grassroots-supported candidate for governor, drew ridicule after speaking on the stump about a UN conspiracy to undermine the United States through its support for urban bike riding.
The fear this midterm election year, when Democrats are again struggling, is that Dudley Brown and his supporters will tap unvetted Republican candidates like Marshall, who on the stump will appeal to the far-right wing of the party but who will turn off moderate voters in droves.
That history makes it seem plausible to Republicans that Neville encouraged Marshall to run.
Neville is running to replace Democratic Senator Sen. Jeanne Nicholson, but he is perhaps better known for running and winning a hardline vacancy race in 2012 against Republican Tim Kerr. That Republican-versus-Republican race bore all the marks of Dudley Brown and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. Neville attacked Kerr on his vote in favor of establishing the state’s “Obamacare” health exchange and for his alleged weak stance on gun rights. Brown attacked Kerr in an email to Jefferson County voters.
This year, Neville touts the endorsement of Brown’s Rocky Mountain Gun Owners at his campaign website.
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners’ Joe Neville was slapped with an ethics charge last year after butting heads with Republican Rep. Cheri Gerou. Neville allegedly threatened to send out Rocky Mountain Gun Owners material in Gerou’s district accusing her falsely of supporting Democratic gun-control bills.