Top Colorado House Republican survives no-confidence vote over arrest

Colorado House Republican Minority Leader Mike Lynch, center, surrounded by other GOP members, speaks during a press conference in the House chambers in the Colorado State Capitol on May 9, 2023 in Denver. The gathering of Republican leadership voiced their disapproval over bills they felt were pushed through by the Democrats as well as other things during the 74th General Assembly of the Colorado Legislature. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

The Colorado House’s top Republican narrowly survived a vote of no-confidence by his fellow Republican legislators Monday morning, five days after news broke that he was arrested for drunken driving in 2022.

The vote was an even 9-9 split to keep Rep. Mike Lynch as minority leader, the bare minimum he needed to maintain his position in leadership. Rep. Stephanie Luck, a member of the right-wing bloc that opposed Lynch staying on as leader, was not present because she recently had a baby.

Lynch’s future remains uncertain: Rep. Ken DeGraaf immediately sought a revote because of Luck’s absence and said she was seeking to participate. But other lawmakers, who grew increasingly frustrated with attempts to revote, called for the meeting to adjourn, and the meeting ended.

Still, House Republicans could call for a second no-confidence vote as early as Tuesday or any day thereafter. In a statement released Monday afternoon, Lynch said he had owned up to the mistake of driving while intoxicated and that he looked “forward to earning the trust of the members that didn’t vote for me and I appreciate the continued support of those who did.”

Lynch, a third-term legislator who became minority leader after the sudden death of Rep. Hugh McKean in October 2022, is also running to represent the 4th Congressional District in this year’s election. He’s part of a crowded primary field that includes U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, who’s seeking to switch from her district, and Lynch’s fellow state Rep. Richard Holtorf.

During a contentious meeting earlier in the day, Rep. Scott Bottoms, a Colorado Springs Republican, told Lynch that he would call for the confidence vote. Bottoms and other right-wing members of the caucus told Lynch that they were being inundated with criticism of the arrest, which was broadly a secret even to Republican lawmakers until The Denver Post reported its details last week.

Bottoms said Lynch’s arrest and failure to disclose the incident were not “quality ethical standards.” DeGraaf, also of Colorado Springs, said he took issue with the “overall nondisclosure” and that he felt Lynch’s history would be a distraction for the caucus this year.

The caucus reconvened about 10:30 a.m. to take a formal vote. Lynch, who declined to comment to The Post earlier in the morning, told his Republican colleagues that he didn’t “believe (the arrest has) adversely impacted my ability to be a good minority leader.”

“I think we’ve done great things in this caucus,” he added. “I think we’ve had more cohesion than I’ve seen in the past. I look forward to that continuing.”

Earlier Monday, some members had called for Lynch to step down on his own, before a vote. Lynch declined.

“We are getting slammed on social media right now,” Rep. Brandi Bradley, a Douglas County Republican, told Lynch during the first gathering. “I refuse to cover anything up. I feel bad that you guys are going through this. I feel bad that you made a bad decision.

“But enough is enough. Let’s move forward with some strong leadership.”

After his arrest, Lynch pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired, a lesser charge, and to a weapons charge. He was pulled over for speeding by a state trooper, who smelled alcohol in Lynch’s car. He later failed field sobriety tests, and at one point he attempted to pull a gun from his pocket. He remains on probation for several more months.

He was elected to lead the House Republican caucus several weeks after the arrest, with few — if any — colleagues knowing about it. Republican legislators said last week that they weren’t aware of the arrest until it was reported by The Post.

Two Republican legislators on Monday referred to the silence around the arrest as a coverup. At one point during the incident, Lynch asked the trooper to call the Colorado State Patrol’s Capitol lobbyist, before he changed his mind and told the trooper he would comply. According to a video of the incident, Lynch also asked the trooper to keep the arrest quiet from the press.

“This is just bad leadership — to say this is not affecting leadership is goofy,” Bottoms said. “… The fact that Mike knew this when he was being elected minority leader, to me, is not OK.”

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