Political opposites team to push Colorado human trafficking law

Ted Trimpa, left, and Jim Daly.

While dining at a Castle Rock restaurant, Jim Daly mentions that he can't abide cauliflower. His colleague, Ted Trimpa, immediately begins reciting a simple cauliflower recipe involving olive oil and a few other ingredients.

"This is why my vegetarian wife loves that I'm friends with Ted. So I can cook her these great vegetarian meals," Daly said with a chuckle.

Jim Daly and Ted Trimpa are friends - and it would be hard to find a more politically opposite duo than these two in all of Colorado. Daly is president of Focus on the Family, a conservative evangelical Christian ministry based in Colorado Springs, and Trimpa is a prominent gay activist in Denver with close ties to Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Yet the pair teamed up to help shepherd a new set of human trafficking laws through the state Legislature this spring - House Bill 1273, which makes it easier to prosecute offenders and also establishes an ongoing council to study the problem. And HB 1273 could be just the first of many such endeavors.

"It proves that even though we have deep differences on core issues, we can treat each other with great civility and hopefully bring solutions and resolution to some of the bigger issues," said Daly. "It's a matter of finding where those nexus points are and saying, 'There's general agreement on this, can we work together?'"

The key for both is to look past what they disagree on - same-sex marriage, for example - and put their energy into issues they have in common.

"Just because we disagree doesn't mean he has horns," Trimpa said.

Daly laughed and slapped the table.

"And vice versa!"

Trimpa recalled with amusement a recent meeting with several other high-powered Democrats and the shocked response he got when he said he was meeting with Daly.

"I'm like, 'You guys are never going to guess where I'm going. I'm going to have dinner with Jim Daly.' And the room just stopped," Trimpa said with a smile. "And I'm like, 'No, he's a good friend. We exchange recipes.'"

When asked if five years ago either could have envisioned this friendship blossoming, the two men shake their heads quickly.

They're equally quick to admit that the new relationship has changed both of them, in ways they consider mutually important.

"It feels like there's such polarization in the country that we've lost the ability to simply talk," Daly said of congressional Democrats and Republicans, while Trimpa nodded. "I don't care if you're gay, straight, Republican, Democrat - if you can't step up and defend innocent children, something is wrong."

Trimpa added, "There are places where we need to go. My suspicion is there are some places we could go that would surprise people."

It started with one of Daly's radio broadcasts from Focus on the Family headquarters in May 2013, when he brought up the problem of child sex trafficking, which HB 1273 aims to address. Daly called that broadcast, which featured a sex trafficking victim and an expert on the issue, "a wake-up call."

In talking to a colleague, he heard that Tim Gill, one of the wealthiest Democratic donors in the state, might be interested in tackling the same subject at the state Capitol. So Daly called Trimpa, who has worked with Gill for years. They first met in person last summer and quickly found that they could work together.

After HB 1273 was introduced in February by Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, Trimpa and Daly made phone calls to legislators weekly, checking on the bill's status and doing whatever they could to ease the bill through the system.

In the end, the bill passed the House and the Senate unanimously and had all 35 state senators and 38 of 65 representatives listed as co-sponsors.

Daly said he would regularly contact "the folks that resonate with right-center perspective," like Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, and Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument.

"And I spoke with people who identify with left of center," Trimpa said. "If there's a hang-up on the right, Jim's got the ball, and if there's a hang-up on the left, I can help with that, just making sure it doesn't kind of fall through the cracks. That's where this is valuable."

Trimpa and Daly were among dozens, including the attorney general's office and victims' advocacy organizations, involved not just in lobbying for the bill but in crafting the language.

The two kept their working relationship under wraps until the measure was approved in the Senate, in part because they didn't want the political image of Focus on the Family hand in hand with Gill to overshadow their work on the issue.

"We're not looking to be an example," Daly said.

They might become one, however. Especially if the teamwork continues.

McCann mentioned an issue she thought might be perfect for the two men - suicide prevention.

When asked about it, Trimpa and Daly paused for a second and then agreed that's probably something they could get behind to foster more collaboration between conservatives and liberals.

"I think we're going to see a different tone, a different approach, and this is the front edge of it," Daly said of his work with Trimpa.


HB 1273 

• Defines “human trafficking” in criminal statute to match federal and other state guidelines.

• Establishes Rape Shield Act protections for victims of trafficking.

• Makes sex trafficking of minors a sex offense against a child.

• Repeals defense options for offenders such as minor consented to involvement.

• Establishes mandatory restitution in some trafficking cases.

• Institutes the Colorado Human Trafficking Council to study trafficking problem and make recommendations to the Legislature.

Source: Denver Anti-Trafficking Alliance

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