They voted against reforming police training and transparency. They voted against a pricey flood-and-fire-prevention system. They voted against expanding public services for kids with autism. On average they voted 77 times against their caucus leader, Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs.
They’re Colorado’s stand-your-ground caucus.
Whereas the biggest Democrat naysayers in the House voted “no” 12 times compared to Dickey Lee Hullinghorst’s four “no” votes, Cadman’s outlier Laura Woods, R-Arvada, voted “no” 94 times to his seven.
Every session, former Republican state Senator Dave Schultheis calculates a “Principles of Liberty Scorecard.” This year the members of the stand-your-ground caucus topped his liberty list, ranking high for “personal responsibility” and “free markets.”
“Most Democrats are willing to sacrifice their personal beliefs in order to show a united front, while many Republicans (who believe in personal freedom) carry that principle with them as they vote…often against leadership who they may see as abandoning principle,” explained former Republican state Senator Dave Schultheis in an email to The Colorado Independent.
Schultheis pointed out that Republicans tend to fall in the liberty rankings as they acquire leadership roles. Cadman plummeted when he became Minority Leader in 2014 and dropped even farther when he became president.
What’s odd about the stand-your-ground naysayers is that they’re not isolated from the GOP mainstream in the Senate. All, except for freshman Laura Woods, R-Arvada, held prominent leadership roles in Cadman’s caucus.
From least to most “nos,” here are the top-five naysayers in Colorado’s Senate.
5) Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling
Sonnenberg chaired the agriculture committee and was vice chair on the state affairs or “kill committee,” where leadership sends controversial bills and can be sure of a “no” vote from their team. When it came to bills that made it all the way to to a final vote on the floor, Sonnenberg voted against Cadman 67 times. Among those “nos” were his votes against a flood-and-fire-prevention-system bill sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and against a bill to increase the use of snow tires on I-70.
4) Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Cowdrey
Baumgardner also voted “no” 67 more times than Cadman. Baumgardner, who made a mustache-branded bid for U.S. Senate last fall, was chair of the transportation committee. On the floor, some of his “nos” were directed at tech-friendly workforce development efforts.
3) Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, voted “no” 77 times against Cadman.
Neville chaired the finance committee and led the stand-your-ground caucus in voting against a bill to allow naturopaths to treat children under two because the bill also required naturopaths to tell parents about vaccines.
2) Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Littleton
Marble was the caucus chair as well as the chair of the local government committee and vice chair of education. She voted against Cadman 87 times, including on the standardized-testing-reform grand compromise, which she said didn’t go nearly far enough.
1) Sen. Laura Woods, R-Arvada
Woods also voted “no” 87 more times than Cadman. She joined in the aforementioned nay votes and took others against a bill to make it easier for doctors to treat rural patients over the Internet as well as a bill to increase earned time for well-behaved inmates.
So why the nay-saying?
“When I cast a ‘No’ vote many things are taken into consideration,” Marble wrote in an email to The Colorado Independent. “As a mother, I budget. As a business owner, I budget. As a legislator, I budget. The Fiscal Note on a Bill is something I pay great attention to before I cast a vote.”
Overall, Marble said she never felt pressured to vote a certain way and that the spread between GOP votes is a strength.
“We all adhere to our campaign promises and make it a point to stay connected to our districts,” she said.
Woods, a first term senator without a leadership position and the bane of Democrats in her swing district, said she too felt free to vote how she liked.
“I think the spread is typical of Republicans. We tend to be individual thinkers,” Woods said. “We’re not told how to vote except by our conscience, our principles and our district. That’s what’s great about being an ‘R’ at the Capitol.”
When asked about this block of his party that had voted against him so many times, Cadman was jovial, but candid:
“Well I think it’s going to be an interesting change in committee chairs next year,” he joked.
UPDATE May 5, 2015: Senate GOP spokesman Sean Paige wrote to The Colorado Independent to clarify that Cadman’s comments were in jest.
“Leadership here has enough respect for the diversity of opinions and voting records among caucus members that there’s absolutely no thought given to changing committee assignments based on how they vote, period,” he wrote.
Wild West bar fight sketch by