Last week, state Sen. Tim Neville posted on Facebook that he will be kicking off a “listening tour” to decide whether to run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet. With the prospect of the 18th Judicial District’s D.A. George Brauchler entering the race growing slimmer by the day, Neville is poised to become the furthest right candidate in an already far-right Republican field.
The conservative firebrand has won in a swing district before — the formerly blue Senate District 16 that spans four counties in the Denver-Metro area. But recent history shows that statewide elections in Colorado are only winnable for candidates who can appeal to the nearly even split of Democratic and Republican voters.
With his reputation as one of the most conservative lawmakers in the state Capitol, Neville is sure to play well with the activist wing of the state GOP. But until Colorado voters learn more about him, the electability question remains.
Here’s a snapshot of seven of the senator’s bonafide conservative credentials, which are sure to impress some and horrify others, depending on each voters’ political stripe.
1. Tim Neville is the patriarch of a Colorado political dynasty
Politics is dinnertime conversation for the Nevilles, whose day jobs make them one of the most powerful families in Colorado. Tim’s wife Barb — who once ran for state Senate herself — managed her sister’s winning campaign for Jefferson County school board last year. Sen. Neville’s sister-in-law is Julie Williams, of AP U.S. History walkout and Jeffco recall fame. Tim and Barb’s two sons are political heavyweights in their own right. Their eldest, Joe, is a lobbyist for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. His younger brother Patrick has worked in the same building as his father for almost a year now, where he represents Castle Rock in the state House. The father-son duo often teams up, pushing sibling legislation in their respective chambers.
2. Tim Neville stands his ground
Last session, Sen. Neville was a leading member of the “stand your ground caucus” — a group of uncompromising, liberty-minded lawmakers who defied party leadership on bill after bill. On average, these five state senators voted against caucus leader Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) 77 times. This beholden-to-nobody track record earned Sen. Neville third place on the “Principles of Liberty Scorecard” which former Republican state Senator Dave Schultheis calculates after every session.
3. Tim Neville would rather work with men
Sen. Neville once thanked members of the all-male, GOP-controlled Senate State Affairs Committee like this: “As the only other committee that is all male, other than Finance, I believe probably in the legislature, it was my pleasure to be here.” Liberal blog Colorado Pols reported that as soon as those words left the Senator’s mouth, fellow committee member Sen. Owen Hill drew a line across his throat — a signal for “cut the audio” — and chairman Sen. Ray Scott smacked his gavel to end the hearing. The Women’s Lobby of Colorado gave the senator a 29 percent rating this year.
4. Tim Neville wants to let parents exempt kids from vaccination and public school education
Last session, the senator sponsored the Parents’ Bill of Rights — controversial legislation that, had it passed, would have given parents more control of their children’s health care and school curricula at the expense of public standards. Critics feared the bill would further reduce childhood vaccination rates, put a dent in comprehensive sex-ed and deter children from confiding in counselors mandated to report sensitive information to parents. The Denver Post editorial board called the measure “more manifesto than legislation,” but vaccine skeptics and abstinence-only Christians hailed it as a much-needed safeguard for personal liberty in the public sphere.
5. Tim Neville loves his guns
Sen. Neville took the latest stab at passing “Constitutional Carry” last session. The bill never became law, but if it had, there would be no-such-thing as a concealed carry permit in Colorado. People over 21 would just be free to pack a gun wherever they go — schools, parks, grocery stores, wherever. Neville’s gun rights cred well predates his work in the legislature or even his role in the gun-rights motivated recall of 2013. He’s long had the favor of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners — a group that bills itself as “Colorado’s only no-compromise gun rights organization.”
6. Tim Neville parked an anti-abortion van in front of the state Capitol
A week before the legislative session ended in May, Sen. Neville sponsored legislation to require physicians to tell women extensive — and potentially inaccurate — information about the unborn fetus. The measure would’ve forced women to get a medically unnecessary vaginal ultrasound and wait 24-hours before getting an abortion. In the hours leading up to the vote that ended up failing, Sen. Neville brought a “crisis pregnancy van” to park outside the Capitol. When Democratic colleagues criticized him for being needlessly divisive, he replied: “I can’t pick what’s going to be divisive or not.”
As Sen. Neville decides whether to officially make a play in the 2016 U.S. Senate race, he’ll tour the state, meeting with voters and potential donors. His first stop is in Greeley on Saturday Sept. 12, where state Rep. Lori Saine, Colorado Campaign for Life executive director Christy Rodriguez and her husband Frank will host a lunchtime discussion at the Destiny Christian Center.
Correction, Sept. 9, 2015: The original article stated that Christy Rodriguez was the executive director of Colorado Right to Life. In fact, she is the director of the Colorado Campaign for Life.
Photo by Colorado Senate GOP, Creative Commons, via Flickr.