Colorado Springs Republican Representative Gordon Klingenschmitt’s televangelist alter ego Dr. Chaps has made headlines for blending politics and scripture, most notably suggesting that President Obama is possessed by demons and using the phrase “curse of God” in relationship to the the tragic attack on Michelle Wilkins and her fetus in Longmont.
Last night at a town hall in eastern Colorado Springs, Rep. Klingenschmitt announced that after three days of fasting and prayer he has decided to run for state Senate in the fall of 2016. The seat he will seek, SD 12, is in one of the most Republican districts in the already-conservative town. Democrats rarely attempt to win it. The seat is currently held by term-limited Senate President Bill Cadman.
The Colorado Independent caught up with Klingenschmitt at the start of a busy day on the House floor to discuss how he came to his decision and the role religion will play in his political future.
The Colorado Independent: So you announced last night that you’re going to run for Senate President Cadman’s seat when he term-limits out. I’d love to hear how you came to that decision. What was your process of reflection? What made you decide that this is the right next step?
Thank you. Making the decision to run for any office is a sacrifice and a commitment, and I wanted to make sure I was doing it for the right reasons. I had to self examine. I went on a three-day, water-only fast, day and night for 72 hours, and I prayed. As a chaplain, I try to pray before making any important decision in my life because ultimately I want to do what God wants me to do with my life.
At the end of that time, I was reading in the Bible in Joshua, chapter one, where God blessed Joshua and told him, ‘Everywhere you set your foot you will claim as your territory.’ He was talking about ancient Israel. I was inspired by that.
It reminded me of many of the volunteers who knocked on doors for me in my previous campaign and maybe in my future campaign. Everywhere they set their foot, every time they knocked on a door, whether for me or another candidate, those citizens are taking back their territory. They are making a political claim, and almost a spiritual claim, on how they’re going to be represented in the Capitol here. When I read that part of the Bible, it helped me make up my mind that I want to run to be the state senator from Senate District 12.
So you announced at a town hall with a lot of constituents around you. What was their response? Did you discuss this move with constituents before, or was that announcement the first vetting?
I’ve been praying about this for a couple of months. I always knew it would be an opportunity, but I wasn’t sure it would be right for me. Then after the recent blowup in the papers about my comments on the Longmont tragedy, I had to make a decision about whether I would run for reelection at all. Because I was concerned. Maybe I shouldn’t be in politics? Maybe I should go back to preaching?
So I sent out a poll question to 70 of my friends and volunteers, almost all in my district. I asked them. Should I: A) Not run for reelection and go back to preaching? B) Run for reelection to House District 15? Or C) Run for a new seat to Senate District 12? I got back 38 responses, so more than half responded. Two people said I shouldn’t run for any seat and go back to preaching. But 36 people said they want me to stay in the Statehouse in some form, and they want me to run for something.
A handful of people said “House;” a handful said “Senate.” But the majority of people – 20 people out of 38 – said, ‘Gordon, we’ll support you no matter what you run for.’ That wasn’t even an option on my survey. They chose option ‘D’ and I didn’t even put that on there, so I thought that was great. Those people inspired me to pray more about my decision, which I did, and I feel called of God to this. I don’t want to do this for ego or for selfish ambition. Those would be bad reasons for anybody to run. I want to do this because the people deserve good representation, and I think it’s a personal calling for me to step up and try to earn their vote.
If you’re elected, will you continue to step aside from your role as Dr. Chaps like we talked about earlier, or will you re-evaluate if you’re in the Senate?
I will never stop preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ on Sundays as a chaplain in my television ministry. I’m going to try to do both. But I’ve also got to be more wise in my choice of words. I have to be more humble in the compassion I show people. This whole process is helping me become a better man.
I’m not a perfect candidate. But, I’ve asked the people, and there was almost unanimous support last night at the town hall behind this question: “Do they want a representative who’s afraid to talk about principles like pro-life, traditional marriage and religious freedom because he might offend somebody, or would they rather have a candidate who talks about these principles boldly, and yet sometimes gets the words mixed up?” Most of the people I talked to would rather have someone who tries to stand on principles, and that’s what I pledge to do.
And someone willing to apologize, to go back and forth and have a public conversation?
Absolutely. When I get it wrong, I’ll try to admit that quickly. But when I get it right and somebody else is offended because I spoke the truth, well, that’s really something inside of them, not inside of me. I will try to defend the Republican platform. Our Second Amendment rights are not up for debate. Our constitutional rights and First Amendment rights are not negotiable.
We all swore an oath to defend the Constitution for everybody. Whether you’re Republican, Independent, or Democratic, I pledge to defend the Constitution for you, and I request that I am afforded those same rights when I’m preaching in my Sunday chapel.
Was part of your decision to look towards the Senate the possibility that you could be in the majority with a better political landscape for some of the bills you carried this year?
I’m glad Republicans hold the Senate. They have had more success in getting Republican bills passed in the Senate this year. But that was not a big factor in my decision, because I’ve already been effective here in the House.
Even though we’re in the minority, I’ve been able to work with Democrats across the aisle. I’ve been able to pass friendly amends to some of their bills. I’ve been able to stop some of their bad ideas from becoming law here in the House. I’ve worked with senators, also, to get my language into their bills.
It’s a privilege to be here whether you’re in the House or Senate, and it’s a privilege to be able to make a difference. I love my job. Every day gets better. I have some bad days, but I really enjoy the process, and I love being in the middle of the debate. I feel like I’m called to do this.
Anything else I should know?
A copy of the speech that I gave at the town hall event is posted on my website.
Rep. Klingenschmitt on the House floor the morning after announcing his Senate bid. Photo by Tessa Cheek.