Analysis Abortion

Will Colorado Politicians Who Supported “Personhood” in 2010 Be Back at It Again?

Jason Salzman

In Colorado, some of the highest-ranking GOP politicians in the state are personhood backers, even though the measure was shot down badly both here in 2008 and again in 2010. Will the same politicians who backed the personhood amendment last year jump on board again, now that personhood backers have announced plans to place the measure on the 2012 election ballot in Colorado?

Backers of a Colorado personhood amendment, which would essentially give the same legal protections to a fertilized egg or “zygote” as you’ve got if you’re alive and reading this, stated on Nov. 22 that they’ve launched their campaign to put a personhood measure on the Colorado ballot next year.

The question for reporters to ask now is, will the same politicians who backed the personhood amendment last year jump on board again?

Here in Colorado, some of the highest-ranking GOP politicians in the state are personhood backers, even though the measure was shot down badly both in 2008 and again in 2010.

Last year, failed Colorado Senate candidate Ken Buck un-endorsed the measure, after it became clear that it would not only ban almost all abortions, but also common birth-control methods, like IUDs and some forms of the Pill.

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But other high-powered Colorado politicians who backed personhood last year didn’t take their endorsements back. These include Congressmen Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner, and Scott Tipton, as well as numerous state legislators, all Republicans. I attended the Nov. 22 personhood news conference to make sure these issues were raised by reporters, and because they were not, I filled in the journalistic gap. I asked Kristi Burton Brown, who sponsored Colorado’s (and the nation’s) first personhood amendment with her father in 2008, if she expected to get the same support from major candidates that her measure had gotten previously. I mean, you can argue that without a Republican primary, GOP candidates like Rep. Tipton and Rep. Gardner might not endorse the 2012 measure, given its apparent unpopularity with voters, especially women. And neither Coffman, Gardner, nor Tipton have sponsored legislation in Congress that would establish personhood as the law of the land, not just Colorado, so you have to wonder what’s going on with them.

“I haven’t personally talked to [Tipton and Gardner],” Brown told me. “I know Cory Gardner is very conservative, has really good stands. I talked to him on the 2008 amendment. He was very, very supportive. He was one of our main supporters. So I would guess that he would.”

When she says a main supporter what does she mean?

“Very supportive,” she said. “He would come to events for us. He talked about it.” Here’s Gardner at one personhood event. I asked Gualberto Garcia Jones, who spoke at the news conference and wrote (with Brown) this year’s amendment, which has more expansive and precise language than last year’s, if he thought presidential candidate Mitt Romney would support his amendment this time, given that he’s changed his position over the years. Garcia Jones said Romney is known as a flip flopper and that his group would persevere regardless of the positions of Democratic or Republican politicians. (No major Democrats support the effort, as far as I know, but Michele Bachman, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich back personhood, and it’s endorsed in a plank of the national GOP platform.

Asked at the news conference if he thought he’d get Tipton and Gardner on board for personhood this time, former Colorado gubernatorial candidate and “Generations Radio” host Kevin Swanson, said, “I think so,” adding that he hopes to get Democrats as well. (In his prepared remarks, Swanson repeated his view that said Dr. Seuss summed up the amendment best when he wrote, “A person’s a person no matter how small.”) “I think it’s real possible we could get some strong Republican support,” but he said he hadn’t been in touch with Tipton or Gardner.

News Politics

Colorado Republicans Pick Anti-Choice County Commissioner for U.S. Senate Race

Jason Salzman

Darryl Glenn, an anti-choice Colorado Springs County Commissioner, defeated a pro-choice GOP rival and three other anti-choice Republicans in the race to take on pro-choice Sen. Michael Bennet in November.

In Colorado’s Republican senatorial primary Tuesday, Darryl Glenn, a conservative county commissioner from Colorado Springs, scored a decisive victory over Jack Graham, a former Colorado State University official, who stood out from the GOP field of five candidates for his atypical pro-choice stance.

Glenn received about 38 percent of the primary vote versus nearly 25 percent for Graham, who finished second.

Glenn made no secret of his anti-choice stance during the primary election, describing himself in interviews as an “unapologetic Christian, constitutional conservative” and supporting “personhood” rights for fertilized human eggs (zygotes), a stance that could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception.

Consistent with this, Glenn is also opposed to the Roe v. Wade decision.

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Glenn frequently brought up his faith in interviews. For example, Glenn broke out from his Republican rivals at the GOP state convention in April, where he gave an impassioned speech during which he discussed Planned Parenthood and opposing abortion ​before delegates voted him on to the GOP primary ballot.

Asked about the speech by conservative radio host Richard Randall, Glenn said, “Well, that wasn’t me. That was the Holy Spirit coming through, just speaking the truth.”

Seriously?” replied the KVOR radio host.

Absolutely,” Glenn replied on air. “This campaign has always been about honoring and serving God and stepping up and doing the right thing.”

Political observers say Glenn’s position on abortion, coupled with his other conservative stances and his promise never to compromise, spell trouble for him in November’s general election against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

“Glenn’s stance on abortion isn’t necessarily disqualifying,” Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report, which offers non-partisan election analysis, in Washington D.C., told Rewire via email. “Colorado has sent pro-life Republicans to the Senate. But, the cumulative effect of all Glenn’s conservative positions on social, economic, and foreign policy, as well as his association with Tea Party-affiliated groups and his lack of funding make it very, very difficult to see a path to victory for him.”

In the final weeks of the primary, Glenn was supported by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Glenn’s ties to the right wing of the Republican Party drew criticism during the campaign from GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He criticized Glenn for accepting the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which gave Glenn $500,000.

Duffy doesn’t expect the race to be “very competitive,” an observation that aligns with the “Democrat favored” assessment of the race by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. Last year, Bennet was widely considered one of only two vulnerable U.S. Senate Democrats.

“Darryl Glenn’s support for ‘personhood’ puts him on the wrong side of Colorado voters’ values, including many pro-choice Republicans and unaffiliated voters,” said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, in an email to Rewire. “Support for reproductive freedom crosses party lines in Colorado, as demonstrated by the landslide losses by three ‘personhood’ ballot measures. Glenn’s chances of beating pro-choice champion Michael Bennet were already slim. This puts it closer to none.”

Glenn did not immediately return a call for comment.

In 2014, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who is anti-choice, defeated pro-choice Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who hammered Gardner on his abortion stance throughout the campaign. 

Gardner threw his support behind Glenn Wednesday, reportedly saying to Roll Call that Glenn has fundraising challenges ahead of him but that he’s “winning when nobody expected him to.” And that, Gardner was quoted as saying, “bodes well for November.”

News Politics

U.S. Senate Candidate’s Abortion Stance Sets Him Apart From Fellow GOP Opponents in Colorado

Jason Salzman

Former Colorado State University athletics director Jack Graham is backing a “woman’s right to choose” as he competes against four self-described “pro-life” Republicans in a primary to take on pro-choice Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) in November’s election.

In Colorado, where Republicans like Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) in 2014 and GOP senatorial candidate Ken Buck in 2010 are known for taking hard-line anti-abortion stances during the Republican primary and then moderating their positions for the consumption of general-election voters, a GOP senatorial candidate this year is turning heads. The candidate, former Colorado State University athletics director Jack Graham, is backing a “woman’s right to choose” as he competes against four self-described “pro-life” Republicans in a primary to take on pro-choice Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) in November’s election.

Graham repeatedly states in speeches, as he does on his website, that the “government’s role in our lives should be kept to a minimum.” In keeping with this, he adds, “I support and I believe in a woman’s right to choose; and that our government does not belong in this decision.”

“I feel deeply about the right to choose, just as I do about the sanctity of life,” Graham told the Pueblo Chieftain in April.

Graham supports Roe v. Wade and praises Planned Parenthood’s ability to respond in “real time” when sexual health crises arise, like the AIDS epidemic, which he witnessed in the 1980s.

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As for details on the meaning of his abortion stance, Graham’s website states that “the government should not participate in any way in the funding of abortion procedures or abortion counseling,” and it also states that continued funding for Planned Parenthood “should be predicated upon their complete discontinuation of abortion activities.” He’s also opposed to “late-term” and “partial-birth” abortions.

Still, Graham’s position, particularly his use of pro-choice language, like “a women’s right to choose,” to describe his stance, sets him apart from his four GOP primary opponents, even making headlines like this one in the Pueblo Chieftain: “GOP Senate hopeful is pro-choice.”

The other four GOP primary candidates are anti-choice in varying degrees. Darryl Glenn, an El Paso County Commissioner who was voted onto the primary ballot by Republicans at their state convention, supports so-called personhood, according to Colorado Right to Life, meaning he believes life begins at conception, and fertilized human eggs (zygotes) should be given legal rights.

“I am an unapologetic pro-life American,” Glenn said during a recent televised debate. “I don’t agree with the decision of Roe v. Wade.”

Businessmen Robert Blaha and Ryan Frazier and former state Rep. Jon Kyser (R-Jefferson County) all say they are “pro-life.”

The question is, will Graham’s abortion stance affect his chances of victory in Tuesday’s GOP primary?

“From a purely political strategy standpoint, I’m inclined to think it will help him,” said John Sraayer, professor of political science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, in an interview with Rewire. “He doesn’t need all the Republican voters in the primary, he just needs to get more than the other candidates.”

Straayer said Graham’s position will hurt him with more Republican primary voters than not, but in a low-turnout primary election, with votes divided among five candidates, Graham could benefit from “standing out” on reproductive rights.

“The people on the pro-life side have four choices,” Straayer told Rewire. “They can only pick one, so the pro-life vote will be fragmented.”

Straayer pointed out that Graham’s campaign benefits from being run by political consultant Dick Wadhams, a former Colorado state party chairman, who managed South Dakota Sen. John Thune’s upset victory of Democrat Tom Daschle in 2005.

Graham, who became a Republican about a year ago, did not return a call from Rewire seeking comment.

No public polling on Graham’s primary race is available, but the latest campaign finance report shows that Graham is in the lead. He has given his campaign $1.5 million and has more cash on hand than any of his opponents, with over $800,000 in the bank, as the Colorado Statesman reported. Graham’s closest GOP opponent, Blaha, has over $270,000 in cash, after loaning his campaign $1 million earlier this year.

Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet has $5.7 million in the bank, seven times as much as Graham.

In 2014, Sen. Gardner defeated pro-choice Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, in part, by claiming legislation he co-sponsored to outlaw abortion was merely symbolic, when in fact, it was not.