In the days before reality show politics, rumors about bachelor politicians might be the kind that killed campaigns. But in 2016 if you’re the heartthrob star of a hit matchmaker reality TV show, why not try and turn your celebrity status into a bid for public office?
Voters in Denver might find out what that looks like if Ben Higgins of ABC’s “The Bachelor” decides to run for a contested seat in the Colorado House of Representatives. The 28-year-old software consultant who lives in Denver confirmed to The Colorado Independent that he’s seriously considering a run.
Higgins has already launched a website to let potential supporters know about his decision, and he’s been consulting some well-known Colorado politics and policy minds about a potential bid for House District 4, which encompasses the Sloan’s Lake area of Denver.
Since Higgins chose bride-to-be Lauren Bushnell, a flight attendant from Oregon, giving her the final rose on the last episode of “The Bachelor,” which aired in March, he said in a statement he’s been thinking about what to do next.
One idea is to run for the state legislature.
The seat in Higgins’ district is currently held by Speaker Pro Tem Dan Pabon, a Democrat who apologized on the House floor during this latest legislative session after he was arrested for suspicion of DUI on St. Patrick’s Day. In 2012, Pabon beat his Republican challenger, David Dobson, by a margin of 81 to 19. He bested Dobson again in a rematch two years later by 78 to 22 in a year that was bad for Democrats.
So far there’s just one — pardon the pun — hitch for Higgins in taking on Pabon.
Republicans in the 4th District have already nominated Willie Pinkston to run against the incumbent. But if Higgins gets in the race, Pinkston says he’ll drop out. He has a business to run and a new baby on the way.
“I definitely plan on stepping aside,” Pinkston said in an interview with The Independent about what he’d do if Higgins decides to get in the race. “I’d be happy to.”
Pinkston, who runs a 17th Street insurance firm, says he met with “The Bachelor” star and was impressed. He called him “likely the only other Republican who can win” in the urban Denver district that leans heavily Democratic.
“He’s got name recognition … we’d love to support him since he wants to run and is capable,” Pinkston says.
As for Higgins himself, he said in a statement he is “definitely not a politician.” But he believes he has plenty to offer because of his years in the financial services industry and work he’s done with charities and organizations like Humanity and Hope United Foundation, the Baker Youth Club and a homeless shelter.
“Whatever lies ahead, love, grace, and hope are ideals that guide my life. I will take them with me into my next adventure,” he said. “Lauren and I aren’t sure yet what that will be, but in terms of representing House District 4, Willie Pinkston is an amazing person and any decision I make regarding entering the race will be based on what is best for Willie, his family and for Lauren and me.”
As The Colorado Statesman first reported May 27, Higgins had been “meeting GOP power brokers in the district.” The item also contained this:
While producers didn’t emphasize it on the show’s 20th season, fans have flocked to Higgins in part because of his strong Christian faith, demonstrated by a prominent tattoo that has been visible in his shirtless appearances on the show and on social media. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed — Proverbs 16:34,” the tattoo reads. (It should read “Proverbs 16:3,” Higgins acknowledges, but the tattoo artist mistakenly added a “4.”)
Conservative Colorado players including the libertarian Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara and ex-GOP Senate President John Andrews have already been advising Higgins on state-level politics and policy.
Caldara said he spoke with the TV star when Higgins called him up looking for advice.
“The bargain is that if I help him with policy, he helps me with dating advice,” Caldara said of Higgins, whom he characterized as a “bright guy.”
Caldara also relayed a splash of celebrity gossip he’d gleaned from his talk with the potential candidate. He says Higgins told him his contract with ABC states the network can film his wedding — and ABC will pick up the tab.
As for whether being The Bachelor could mean more votes on the ballot, Caldara said he didn’t have the slightest notion. “I think the name recognition helps and makes him more accessible,” he said. “Who knows.”