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Truth Test: Ad from CD-8 Republican nominee casts blame for fentanyl crisis

GOP State Sen. Barb Kirkmeyer, now running in Colorado's new 8th Congressional District, makes claims about Democrats and fentanyl deaths.

DENVER — Leading up to the June 28 primary and through the 2022 election season, we will Truth Test political ads to help you make an informed decision.

Ballots go out for the June 28 primary in two weeks. Republicans will decide between four candidates for Colorado's newest 8th Congressional District. It covers Broomfield and parts of Adams and Weld Counties.

The candidates are:

  • Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine
  • State Sen. Barb Kirkmeyer
  • Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann
  • Former Army Special Forces Green Beret Tyler Allcorn

RELATED: GOP candidates face off at Colorado Republican Rumble

Kirkmeyer has an ad that was only seen online for a few months. It is now airing on 9NEWS.

Tracy and Kurt both emailed in asking for a Truth Test on the main claim in the ad.

AD/CLAIM: "Deaths are on the rise because soft-on-crime Democrats decriminalized fentanyl, allowing drug dealers to walk free."

VERDICT: Most of the statement is inaccurate, but there is truth to the start of this claim.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment tracks vital statistics, like drug-related deaths. And yes, fentanyl-related deaths are on the rise.

The state is still compiling 2021 data, but as of now it counts at least 905 deaths as fentanyl-related.

  • 2021: >905
  • 2020: 540
  • 2019: 222
  • 2018: 102

The part about "Democrats decriminalized fentanyl, allowing drug dealers to walk free" is inaccurate.

First, Democrats did not "decriminalize" fentanyl.

A 2019 bill passed by the state legislature reduced the criminal punishment for possessing four grams or less of fentanyl.

It reduced the crimes from felonies to misdemeanors for possessing four grams or less of fentanyl. A misdemeanor is still a crime.

It is inaccurate to simply say "Democrats."

The 2019 bill passed both the State House and the State Senate.

In the State Senate, six Republicans voted in favor of the bill which reduced the penalties, while five of the Democrats voted against the bill.

Senate Republicans who supported the 2019 bill:

  • Don Coram (Montrose)
  • Owen Hill (Colorado Springs)
  • Chris Holbert (Parker)
  • Vicki Marble (Ft. Collins)
  • Kevin Priola (Henderson)
  • Jack Tate (Centennial)

Senate Democrats who opposed the 2019 bill:

  • Jeff Bridges (Greenwood Village)
  • Jessie Danielson (Wheat Ridge)
  • Tammy Story (Evergreen)
  • Faith Winter (Westminster)
  • Rachel Zenzinger (Arvada)

The State House had two votes on the bill, with different outcomes. The second vote was to agree to changes made by the Senate. That vote saw three Republicans vote in supports of the bill, with one Democrat against.

House Republicans who supported the 2019 bill:

  • Susan Beckman (Littleton)
  • Rod Bockenfeld (Watkins)
  • Shane Sandridge (Colorado Springs)

House Democrats who opposed the 2019 bill:

  • Bri Buentello (Pueblo)

In total, nine of the 40 Republicans in the state legislature supported the reduce penalties. Six of the 60 Democrats did not.

Not even two weeks ago, on May 11, the current state legislature passed a new bill that is expected to be signed by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. It would again make it a felony to possess one-to-four grams of fentanyl.

AD/CLAIM: "… allowing drug dealers to walk free."

VERDICT: Not true.

The 2019 bill reduced penalties for fentanyl possession, not distribution.

The 2022 bill, actually, increased the punishment for dealing drugs laced with fentanyl, especially if the user of drug dies.

AD/CLAIM: "It’s outrageous, and I’ll put an end to it."

VERDICT: Accurate for her current job, not fully accurate for the job she wants in Congress.

As a state senator, Kirkmeyer had a vote on the 2022 fentanyl bill. She voted against the increased penalties. On social media, she explained that she did not believe the bill would save lives.

As a member of Congress, Kirkmeyer would be in a position to change how serious of a drug that fentanyl is viewed. They are categorized by "schedules." It is currently a "schedule 2," with "schedule 1" being the most severe like heroin.

In Congress, she can help dictate how severe a drug is deemed.

As a state senator, she can help dictate the potential penalty for those drugs.

Bottom Line: Kirkmeyer's ad is casting blame for the fentanyl crisis. It attempts to blame Democrats for a law change that not all Democrats supported, and nearly 25% of Republican state lawmakers did support. That law did not change how the state viewed drug dealers, rather drug users. She is accurate about the rising number of deaths as a result of fentanyl, but who she blames is not supported by the facts.

RELATED: GOP candidate for Colorado governor says eliminate one-person, one-vote system

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