The Gazette enthusiastically endorsed Democratic State Sen. Pete Lee in October as he ran to represent Senate District 11. It was a mistake, and we rescind our endorsement.
In October, drawing on Lee’s seven years of service in the Colorado House, we wrote:
“Lee’s support of the business community goes far beyond talk. He fought to allow Colorado entrepreneurs to sell stock on the internet. He sponsored a bill to incentivize training of high-tech employees. He worked to increase the money businesses can raise in stock offerings. Lee sponsored a bill to help veterans transition from military service to civilian careers..."
We viewed him as a wise politician with moderate views and an independent will. We did not care which party he belonged to, because we considered him principled and dedicated to making Colorado a better place in which to live. During just three months in the Senate, Lee has proven us wrong.
Lee votes like a partisan lemming following an extreme party off the cliff. Let’s examine just a sample of his 2019 record:
• Lee voted lockstep with his party to disenfranchise Colorado voters, giving away their electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the popular vote nationally. With an agenda to end-run the U.S. Constitution, Lee helped pass a bill that effectively gives Colorado’s presidential decisions to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and other liberal strongholds.
• Lee voted to harm oil and gas in Colorado, following his party’s lead to stack the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission with environmental activists and to give cities and counties the power to effectively ban production. The measure threatens hundreds of thousands of good jobs and will almost certainly cause a long-term statewide recession.
• Lee sponsored the FAMILI Leave bill, currently working its way through the Senate, which adds new costs for employers and new taxes for employees in order to create the country's most liberal paid leave program. Voters don’t have to approve the tax, because Lee and others disingenuously call it a “fee." Our Sunday editorial documents how this poorly written bill taxes the economy to fund three months of paid time off for almost any reason.
• Lee voted for a comprehensive statewide sex education bill that removes local control from decisions about sex education curricula. According to Lee, localities should hobble oil and gas production but have no say over their children’s education.
• He voted for a carelessly worded anti gun-rights bill most county sheriffs oppose on grounds it violates the U.S. Constitution. Even the Denver and Aurora police unions formally object to the Red Flag bill. One of our editorials against the bill reminded readers how District 11 voters recalled former Senate President John Morse for supporting unpopular gun laws. Lee responded by deliberately misrepresenting our editorial in a speech on the Senate floor. Though we have publicly — in writing — opposed recalls built on mere policy conflicts, Lee falsely accused us of “threatening” him with a recall. The written record shows we did no such thing. State Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, proved Lee's misrepresentation by reading our editorial into the record.
Then there is the little matter of a bill written to protect children from predatory teachers who send “sexting” messages on cell phones.
The purpose of House Bill 1030 is pretty simple, and should be impossible for any sane person to oppose. The bill summary says:
“The bill creates the crime of unlawful electronic sexual communication. The bill prohibits a person who is in a position of trust with respect to a child from communicating with that child through electronic means and describing explicit sexual conduct in the communication.”
After it passed the full House with overwhelming bipartisan support, senators heard the bill Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee — chaired by Lee. It should have been a formality.
Lo and behold, as chair of the committee, Lee voted against the bill. With the cooperation of two other Democratic colleagues, he chose to kill it on a 3-2 party-line vote.
The decision drew gasps. Democrat-friendly Channel 9 news anchor Kyle Clark texted confusion and surprise.
Apparently under duress from flabbergasted colleagues on both sides of the aisle, Lee reconsidered the bill later that day and voted to pass it along to the full Senate.
We cannot imagine any scenario under which a state senator votes against a commonsense bill to protect children from sex predators, particularly those in positions of trust over minors. Lee told 9 News he took issue with the wording. That is a transparently bogus excuse. Committee hearings are held to improve wording — not to kill bills that would protect children from sexual predation. This leaves us to wonder what special interests Lee was serving with his opposition to the bill.
We cannot take it any more. The Gazette takes endorsements seriously, spending countless hours assessing the qualities of candidates, trying to make useful and informed recommendations. A large and growing body of evidence tells us we were wrong about Pete Lee. He governs like the pawn of a party gone wild. We cannot defend our endorsement; Lee's actions compel us to reverse it.