DENVER — The imagery was unmistakable.
A political news conference at a gas station following a weekend of Denver topping the list for the worst air in the world, on a day of a landmark international report on climate change.
"If you're wondering why are we having this press conference as a gas station. Last November, in 2020, gas was $2.19 a gallon, today as you can see, it's $3.69 per gallon," said Colorado Republican Chair Kristi Burton Brown. "That is thanks to the Democrats policies that are failing Colorado."
Scott Paulson, of Silco Fuels, let the news conference happen at his gas station at the corner of Alameda Avenue and Broadway.
"It's more complicated. At the risk of bashing them, it's a complicated answer. It's not that simple," Paulson said of fluctuating gas prices. "Fuel is fungible. If there's problems and opportunity to make more money in one place, that's where the fuel goes, and the price goes up here to slow it down, so they can sell it more there."
"They have been in control of Colorado for over a decade now, and prices are on the rise," said Burton Brown about why it is Democratic leadership's fault that gas prices have risen.
But what bills have they passed that directly impact the price of gas?
"They do a lot of rule changes and policy making that the citizens aren't aware of that increase prices," said Burton Brown.
"It's almost, most definitely, not political," said Paulson.
Paulson hosted the Republican reveal of the 2022 election agenda for a simple reason.
"I told them, I just want my party back, I want normalcy," Paulson said. "I don't need QAnon talk at this press conference."
He said he was a registered Republican until 2016.
"I was really disappointed that I couldn't be 'independent,' but when you go on the website, you have to become 'unaffiliated'," he said. "It just doesn't have the cache of 'independent'."
As for the location of the news conference, the Colorado Republican Party wanted to focus on the price of gas, as one of the key agenda items its candidates can fix.
Burton Brown said it did not look bad to have the event at a gas station on the same day as the United Nations report on climate change came out.
"Absolutely not. Every single family in Colorado, who has a car, fills it up at a gas station, and they're experiencing these extremely high prices that make life unworkable in Colorado," said Burton Brown. "Denver's air quality, in particular, is the worst in the world as of yesterday. Who's in charge of Denver? Who's in charge of Colorado? It's the Democrats and it is their problem."
"I don't think you can blame today's air quality on anything about a gas station or anything political," Paulson said. "This is a forest fire."
The 'Commitment to Colorado' agenda that the Republicans announced on Monday morning was admittedly more for the next candidate election in 2022, and less about what the party can pass during the 2022 legislative session from January to May.
"This 'Commitment to Colorado' is for the majority of voters who will vote in November of 2022," said Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert (R-Parker).
The agenda has 10 bullet points.
The first ones are called "The Big Three:"
- Make Colorado Affordable
- Prioritize Public Safety
- Expand Educational Choice
The affordability item refers to reversing fees, like the two-cent per gallon gas fee that starts next July and increases a penny per year until 2028.
Public Safety includes goals to train officers, recruit and retain officers, reduce the crime rate and have the state fund mandated body cameras for law enforcement agencies.
Just outside of "The Big Three" was "Conserve Our Environment."
"It's warm, but that's what Colorado does in the summer, it gets warm," said House Minority Leader Rep. Hugh McKean (R-Loveland) at the news conference.
After the news conference, he said that is not his message on climate issues.
"Here's the blunt, honest truth. Climate change is real," McKean said. "We have increased temperatures, and that's something we have to figure out, and we have to figure out what we actually can do to effect that." said McKean.
"We want clean air, clean water, clean trails for our children, for my kids," said Burton Brown.
Another message of the event was unity.
Though, not every member of the Republican caucus in the legislature was in attendance.
Immediately following the legislative session there was a brief attempt to oust McKean as party leader in the House. The "no confidence" motion was led by Rep. Ron Hanks (R-Cañon City).
"Unity is this illusive thing. That real unity never really happens among people when you're discussing big philosophical things," said McKean. "If I were an unaffiliated voter, and I'm not, and I heard 'unity,' I would wonder who's lying to me."
He said that both parties have division among their own.
Another point of division is within the party itself. A vote is happening within the Colorado Republican Party that could change how candidates end up on the ballot. The Colorado Sun reported on an attempt to get caucus members to choose candidates for election, instead of primary elections.
"We are required to take that vote every two years at the state central committee," said Burton Brown. "It takes a very high bar for anything to change in how we conduct a primary. I am confident that Republicans across the state will get to choose their candidates like they've always done."
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