“I don't fear losing, but winning.” I spoke those words when accepting the Democratic nomination for House District 43 (Highlands Ranch). I expected to win. (Why run to lose?) But I knew when I won, some supporters would become angry because in contrast to normal politics, I intend to represent ALL my constituents. And to keep my commitments even if not politically expedient. That is an integrity issue for me.
HD43 is the most conservative state House district held by a Democrat. And I am the most conservative Democrat in the state House. So I match the district well. Only 22% of HD43 registered voters are Democrats. Yet despite those numbers, and an incumbent opponent outspending our campaign by a larger margin than most state House legislators spent on their entire campaigns, we won, becoming the first Douglas County Democrat sent to Colorado's Capitol since 1966.
But in our hyper-partisan world, it is lonely in the middle. When the Democratic Party asked me to run, they inquired into my positions on guns and abortion. I replied that I had personal views. But as the state representative for Highlands Ranch, I would oppose any rollback of existing laws, but not support further restrictions or expansions. Most people were content with that position when I was running given my opponent's extremism. But now when I am keeping commitments made during the campaign, I am receiving large amounts of personal invective. Mostly from within the party in Douglas County, but not from my state House colleagues who seem genuinely pleased having a Dougco Democratic unicorn alongside them. So below are quick sketches of vote decisions on four gun law bills that are creating so much anger:
1. Lifting Gun Manufacturers' Immunity/Privileges. Yes. Not a firearms restriction, but removing an unjustifiable special interest privilege for a politically favored industry, something I oppose no matter which party favors the industry.
2. Red Flag Law Expansion. Yes. Adding district attorneys is easy. And I was convinced adding mental health professionals is appropriate because they can already directly seek court orders for 72-hour holds and forcibly prescribe medication.
3. Three-Day Waiting Period. No. I could not vote for this with integrity given the commitments made when running. The bill passed with two Democrats voting against it. And I wasn't going to throw away integrity/credibility on a non-decisive vote. But I supported the bill sponsors in stopping amendments to weaken the bill even if I was going to vote against the final product.
4. 18-21 Year Olds Prohibitions from Firearms. Same as #3.
I am a loyal Democrat. But loyalty to constituents, state and country will always trump party loyalty. My current legislative focus is on teacher compensation, the equitable treatment of disabled veterans, water quality and good governance. And it is that last focus that leads to most clashes with party apparatchiks. For as one legislative colleague laughingly informed me: “You must be doing something right. You are p-ssing off everybody in power.”
Robert Marshall represents House District 43 in the Colorado General Assembly.