Colorado Voters Share Sense of Unease After Court Disqualifies Trump


Underlying the celebrations and condemnations of the Colorado Supreme Court decision that struck former President Donald J. Trump from the primary ballot on Tuesday was a sense among voters in the state that it was only a prelude of the rancor to come.

Whether for or against the ruling, many voters said they felt uneasy at the prospect of months of electioneering that would ricochet between the courts and the campaign trail.

“I think it disenfranchises voters,” said Jeremy Loew, a longtime defense lawyer in Colorado Springs who described himself as a progressive who had never voted for Mr. Trump. “Our whole system is built around people running for office and letting the voters decide.”

“We can’t just kick people off the ballot because they have been accused of something,” he added.

In its 4-to-3 decision on Tuesday, Colorado’s top court ruled that Mr. Trump had engaged in insurrection leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol and was ineligible to contest the state’s Republican primary.

For some left-leaning voters in the state, that outcome was welcome.

Richard McClain, a 37-year-old repair technician living in Erie, Colo., who voted for President Biden in 2020, said he thought Mr. Trump “deserved it.”

“He did an insurrection,” Mr. McClain said. “He clearly goaded those people.”

Republicans in the state treated the decision with disdain, describing it as an undemocratic move by a court with a liberal majority.

“I’m shocked. I’m really shocked,” said Chen Koppelman, 72, a retired attorney and teacher in Denver. “To decide that we don’t have the right to vote for whom we want for the president of the United States? Excuse me.”

Randy Loyd, the owner of an audio video design company, called the decision “ridiculous.”

“Our country’s a mess in so many ways,” he said at the Cherry Creek mall in Denver, as Christmas carols played in the background. “The only hope we have is to get Trump back in. It’s a totally political move that the Colorado Supreme Court did that.”

But the decision also laid bare the deep divisions and turmoil in the state’s Republican Party.

One of the petitioners in the case, a former Republican majority leader of the Colorado House and Senate, Norma Anderson, said in a statement on Tuesday that she was “proud” to have taken part in the case that disqualified Mr. Trump.

“My fellow plaintiffs and I brought this case to continue to protect the right to free and fair elections enshrined in our Constitution and to ensure Colorado Republican primary voters are only voting for eligible candidates,” she said. “Today’s win does just that.”

Before the ruling, Dave Williams, who presides over a state Republican Party that often seems at war with itself, had warned ominously about not being able to resolve differences through the ballot box. “It will be done in a civil war,” he said last month. “No one wants civil war.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Williams said he was confident that the ruling would be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Other voters said they were exhausted by partisan sniping and saw little to like from either camp.

As he waited on a balmy evening for a table at a restaurant in Lafayette, Colo., Tyler Chambers, 27, made it clear that even before Tuesday’s ruling, he was not impressed by the current slate of candidates.

“There’s got to be a better candidate than Donald Trump or Joe Biden,” said Mr. Chambers, a wildland firefighter who lives in the nearby Denver suburb of Westminster.

The State Supreme Court’s decision was the first in the nation to find that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — which disqualifies people who engage in insurrection against the Constitution after taking an oath to support it — applied to Mr. Trump. Democrats cheered the notion that courts in other states might follow suit.

At the same time, there was a widespread sense that Colorado would not have the last word on the matter.

Erin Trendler, a public school occupational therapist who lives in the Denver suburb of Louisville, said she was “100 percent” in support of Tuesday’s ruling. “Colorado has taken a stand,” she said. “I hope that other states will follow suit.”

But she anticipated that the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court would reverse the decision.

And Tuesday’s decision seemed to do little to ease the stress and apprehension that many voters said they felt about the election, now less than a year away.

“I hope the country is strong enough to live through this crisis in our democracy,” said Arthur Greene, 74.

Kathi Patrick, a 55-year-old construction operations manager from Broomfield, north of Denver, took a moment after dining out with friends to say that the Tuesday decision changed little for her.

“There’s so much anger in the country now that we’re all dealing with, and this just perpetuates all of that anger,” she said.

“Nobody’s going to be happy.”

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Kelley Manley contributed reporting.



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