Apr 14, 2022 - News

Colorado GOP attacks transgender rights, abortion, teaching about racism

Illustration of a child in silhouette holding a transgender pride flag over their shoulders like a cape
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Republican candidates are preparing to make social issues a rallying cry in the midterm elections, just as Colorado's governor β€” the first gay man elected to the position nationwide β€” seeks re-election.

State of play: The GOP's loudest voices β€” and its hardline supporters β€” are backing restrictions on transgender youth participating in sports, endorsing the controversial bathroom bill that in 2016 put North Carolina in hot water, and blasting teaching school-aged children about sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • In addition, Republicans want to make critical race theory, mask mandates, COVID-19 school closures and a recent bill affirming abortion rights key issues in the 2022 election.

What they're saying: The positions expressed on stage at the state party's assembly Saturday drew the loudest applause from GOP activists in the crowd.

  • "I can define a woman and I don't need to be a biologist," said Deborah Flora, a conservative radio host.
  • Greg Lopez, a candidate for governor, vowed to abolish the teaching of systemic racism and "the sexualization of our kids from schools."

Quick take: This is fraught political ground in Colorado for both parties, political history suggests. And it's unclear how the culture war will play with voters.

What to watch: Republican strategists believe the issues surrounding COVID-19 mandates and education will appeal to a broad base of voters.

  • "It's bad for Democrats when they celebrate abortion and endorse men competing in women's sports and try to inject politics into schools," said Alan Philp, who attended the assembly.

The other side: Democratic consultants say the rhetoric goes too far, pointing to polls showing a majority of the state supports abortion rights and a longstanding policy in high school sports allowing transgender athletes to compete.

  • "Colorado very much has a Libertarian legacy of leaving people alone to live their lives as they see fit," said Laura Chapin, a Democratic strategist.

The big picture: Social conservatives are energized by former President Trump and his policies to restrict transgender rights, and they don't see a need to moderate their appeal.

  • Colorado GOP lawmakers are introducing many of the same laws to restrict abortion and LGBTQ rights as Republican-led states, but the Democratic majority in the Legislature is blocking them.
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