If there’s anything state Sen. Tim Neville, the most recent and first viable GOP contender for Democrat Michael Bennet’s U.S. Senate seat, should get credit for, it’s clarity. The far right Republican seems to never waver on his stances — even when he goes against his own party.
Now, the senator – who believes in the constitutional right to carry concealed weapons without background checks or limits to how many rounds of ammo a magazine can hold, and who stands his ground on his anti-vaccine, anti-abortion, anti-gay politics – is sure to bring his right-wing views into the U.S. Senate race forcing any moderate Republican candidate to talk about issues they’d surely rather not address in this purple state.
Steve House, the chair of the Colorado GOP says he’s looking forward to a competitive fight for the Senate.
“We welcome Senator Neville to the race,” House wrote The Colorado Independent in an email. “We are looking forward to a spirited primary race, and helping our Party’s eventual nominee — whoever that might be — defeat Sen. Bennet and his disastrous record.”
A “spirited” primary indeed, as Neville will surely cater to the the Tea Partiers and hardcore social conservative voters — but what about the rest of the party?
On the national stage, House Speaker John Boehner’s recent resignation showed the damaging split among Republicans, with extreme Neville-style conservatives ala Ted Cruz leading the inner-party charge toward division.
On Colorado’s own political stage, the question is whether a far right candidate like Neville can stand a chance against whomever else might vie for the seat, both in the primary and the general election.
So who might run? District Attorney George Brauchler, famed for prosecuting but failing to get the death penalty for Aurora theater shooter James Holmes, is one potential Republican U.S. Senate candidate expected to announce in the next weeks. Same goes for Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha, who has said he will enter the race in October.
Both Brauchler and Blaha have no significant political record. Neville has one. What’s uncertain is whether his experience will help him.
Democrats say it will hurt him and the GOP’s overall chances of beating Bennet.
“They are now headed toward one of the most crowded GOP primaries in the country, which will leave them with a nominee who is out of touch and can’t win in 2016,” said Andrew Zucker of the Colorado Democratic Party via email.
“We expect a hard fought campaign no matter who emerges to challenge Senator Bennet, but in the end Michael will win because he’s worked hard for Colorado, challenged the status quo in Washington and has spent his time working to create more opportunities for families across our state.”
Bennet also reads as moderate, just like Republican junior Sen. Cory Gardner who faced no challengers on the ballot in his primary and was able to dodge the pressures of the intractable far-right.
Despite being able to frame his own message, Gardner barely won against incumbent Mark Udall.
Any moderate candidate who steps into the race won’t have Gardner’s privilege of controlling the debate now that Neville’s in the game and will be forced to reckon with the party’s fringe.
Photo credit: Photo credit: Neville for Colorado.