Colorado House Minority Leader Mike Lynch on Monday narrowly survived a vote to remove him as the leader of the chamber’s 19-member Republican caucus after it was made public last week that he was arrested in 2022 on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and possessing a gun while intoxicated.
The vote of no confidence was split 9-9, with one lawmaker absent and Lynch voting to keep his post. In ties, the vote fails.
During the tense caucus meeting in a Capitol committee room, Lynch rejected calls from some members of his caucus to resign his post. The Wellington lawmaker defended his tenure, saying the caucus has had more cohesion under his leadership than it had in the past.
“If I believed that this event, which occurred outside of this building, outside of this session, had an impact and was detrimental to my ability to serve this job, I would gladly step aside,” Lynch said. “I don’t believe it does.”
Lynch may have survived the vote Monday, but his leadership position is still in peril. The Republican representative who missed the vote, Stephanie Luck of Penrose, was absent because she recently had a baby. She tried to join the caucus meeting remotely after the initial 9-9 vote was taken, but the gathering was adjourned despite objections from Lynch’s opponents.
Luck is an ally of the Lynch opponents. She didn’t immediately respond to a Colorado Sun message seeking comment on Monday.
The no-confidence vote is sure to exacerbate existing divisions in the House Republican caucus. There are only 19 Republicans in the chamber, where Democrats hold a 46-representative supermajority, but those 19 have been deeply divided on tactics and policy.
The House GOP caucus is generally split between more conservative members and more moderate ones.
Rep. Scott Bottoms, a Colorado Springs Republican and one of the most conservative members of the caucus, made the motion to take the no-confidence vote. Bottoms characterized it as “a vote to keep the integrity of the Republican caucus.”
“I don’t think these are quality, ethical standards,” Bottoms said. “I think there’s a right thing to do here. I wanted Mike to resign but he didn’t feel like that was prudent to him.”
State Rep. Scott Bottoms, R-Colorado Springs, addresses the Colorado House Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, after his surprise nomination to be speaker. Hugh Carey
Rep. Brandi Bradley, a Littleton Republican, said the no confidence vote was needed because Lynch didn’t disclose the arrest before he was elected minority leader about two months later following the sudden death of then-House Minority Leader Hugh McKean. She said the arrest had “tarnished the reputation” of the caucus.
“Not coming clean with your caucus before the vote of leadership, when we all abide by values and principles — being secretive — does no justice for any of us,” she said.
Lawmakers cast their ballots in secret in the caucus meeting, dropping them one by one into a cowboy hat. Opponents of Lynch wanted the vote to be public and taken by roll call.
“Being secretive does no justice for any of us,” Bradley said. “This has tarnished our reputation as well.”
No member of the caucus spoke in support of Lynch — besides the minority leader himself — before the vote was taken.
After the vote tied, opponents of Lynch tried to call for a new vote once Luck was able to join the meeting remotely. Lynch’s supporters objected and adjourned the meeting, saying Luck was absent and the vote was proper.
Lynch’s arrest didn’t become public until Wednesday, when it was first reported by The Denver Post. The news came a few weeks after he announced a bid to represent Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, which spans the state’s Eastern Plains into Loveland and Douglas County.
Lynch was driving an electric Ford Mustang Mach-E when he was pulled over by a state trooper on Interstate 25 between Fort Collins and Wellington on Sept. 30, 2022, for speeding. He was traveling 90 mph in a 75 mph zone, according to a summons.
A screenshot from a Colorado State Patrol recording of House Minority Leader Mike Lynch’s DUI arrest in September 2022.
A trooper smelled alcohol on Lynch’s breath, and the Wellington lawmaker’s blood-alcohol level, when tested by a Breathalyzer, was about 0.16 — double the state’s driving limit of 0.08.
Lynch was charged with driving under the influence, speeding 10-19 mph over the speed limit and being in possession of a gun while drunk. He pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired, a lesser offense, and the gun charge. Prosecutors dropped the other charges.
The representative was sentenced in December 2022 to 18 months probation and 150 hours of community service. Lynch told The Sun he still has some community service hours to complete and that his probation term — during which he is prohibited from possessing a gun — will end in June.
Lynch, in an interview last week with The Sun, said he didn’t disclose his arrest to members of the House Republican caucus before he was elected minority leader. However, he said that some in the caucus knew about it before it was made public.
“This happened out of session, in between elections,” Lynch said in the interview. “I’m not running away from this. I’ve taken full responsibility for it.”
Lynch told The Sun the arrest was an embarrassing mistake that he’s learned from.
“I didn’t realize that I was over the limit,” Lynch said, adding that he had just left a nonpolitical fundraiser when he was pulled over. “It was a bad call, man. Bad call on my part.”
Video footage captured by cameras in Colorado State Patrol vehicles during the arrest show that when the trooper who pulled Lynch over asked him if he would be willing to take a roadside sobriety test, he immediately asked the officer to call Mike Honn. Honn is the Colorado State Patrol’s legislative liaison — effectively a lobbyist — at the Capitol.
“Who is Mike Honn?” the trooper asked Lynch.
“Uh, nevermind,” Lynch said. “Yes, sir. I will do whatever you want me to do.”
“Who is Mike?” the trooper asked.
“Mike is a captain with the State Patrol,” Lynch said.
“Why do you want me to call Mike?” the trooper asked.
“Nope, I don’t want you to call anybody. I’m sorry. I did not say that,” Lynch said.
“Well, you did,” the trooper said, laughing. “I take it you’re friends with Mike?”
“Yes,” Lynch said. “I’m a state representative.”
The footage also showed that Lynch asked a state trooper during his arrest not to disclose the case to the media.
“If there’s anything we can do to kind of keep the press out of this, that would be great,” Lynch said.
The State Patrol released the footage Friday to The Sun in response to an open records request. The agency initially said the video wouldn’t be available for many months.
Lynch is one of nearly a dozen Republican candidates running to represent the 4th District, including U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, state Rep. Richard Holtorf and former state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.
The 2024 legislative session ends on May 8. Colorado’s congressional primaries are on June 25.
Type of Story: News
Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.