Republican state rep. switches parties
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER ” Saying the Republican Party no longer represents her values, GOP state Rep. Debbie Stafford of Aurora announced Thursday she is switching parties, becoming the 40th Democrat in the House of Representatives.
Stafford, 55, is a counselor and a minister from Aurora who represents Arapahoe and Elbert counties.
“Ideally, I find myself a moderate and I think I would be best suited for a third party. However, the reality is that our political system is not designed for a third party voice to be strong,” Stafford said.
“My answer was to join a party that better reflects my values and respects my contribution. I am not leaving the Republican Party as much as I believe the Republican Party left me,” she said.
Stafford said she had major issues with Republicans when she voted with Democrats last year to change a law which had made it harder for homeowners to sue developers over construction defects.
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Democrats had a 39-26 majority before the switch. On Thursday, Democratic leaders gave Stafford a jersey with her name and the number “40.”
House Majority Leader Alice Madden, D-Boulder, welcomed her party’s newest member and said she was saddened that Stafford felt she had to leave the GOP.
“Your party left you. It makes me sad to think the Republican Party is not doing its job,” she said.
Republicans were blindsided by the announcement, and House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, refused to take questions. He issued a statement wishing Stafford the best in her final year of service in the House. Stafford is term-limited and cannot run again.
“I realize this is probably a significant personal moment for her, but politically, her decision does not have much effect. This does not change the balance of power at the Capitol, and I believe that we will see a Republican in her place next year,” May said in a statement.
State Republican Party chairman Dick Wadhams said Stafford was on the way out the door and that the change would not have a major effect on votes.
“This is not exactly a profile in courage, since she is term-limited and cannot run for re-election in that House district,” Wadhams said.
Stafford ran on issues including affordable housing, health care, education, juvenile justice reform, transportation, protecting small businesses and the economy. She won re-election to her fourth two-year term last year with 60 percent support, and she said the party switch won’t change her votes.
“I am still Rep. Debbie Stafford. I still represent House District 40. I will not be changing my values,” she said.
Rep. Frank McNulty, a Republican from Highlands Ranch, said Stafford was welcome in the Republican Party.
“The Republican Party didn’t leave anyone, the Republican Party didn’t fail anyone,” he said.