LITTLETON — Vowing that he won’t be running a “status-quo” campaign, state Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, formally kicked off his run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Michael Bennet on Tuesday night before a crowd of more than 100 cheering supporters at his campaign headquarters.
“One U.S. senator can do a lot to slow down and defeat bad legislation, and one U.S. senator with courage and conviction can do a lot more,” said Neville. “I’ve proven I’ve been that kind of senator in Colorado and I will be in Washington, D.C., too.”
The unabashedly conservative lawmaker has been officially running for three months in a crowded Republican primary field that could see at least two more potentially well funded candidates get in the race in the next couple weeks.
What sets Neville apart, say his supporters, are his strong conservative positions and an unflinching voting record. What’s more, the candidate unseated a Democratic incumbent in a swing state Senate district two years ago, when he was the top legislative fundraiser in the state — all while refusing to soften his message or back away from divisive topics.
He took a number of those topics head-on in his remarks, blasting Bennet and other Democrats for their stances on immigration, foreign policy and government regulation.
“I promise you as the next U.S. senator from Colorado, I will act to end all funding for abortion providers and, most importantly, to support legislation like the Life at Conception Act, which guarantees the dignity of every individual American,” he said to applause.
Neville took aim at the recently completed nuclear deal with Iran, which Bennet supported, painting a grim picture of nuclear missiles aimed at targets in the Mid East and Europe.
“It’s time, I believe, we need to go back to a plan we had when Ronald Reagan was president – peace through strength,” he said.
And he sounded the alarm over what he said are increasing threats to religious freedom, calling it “tyrannical” that bakers are required to make wedding cakes for gay couples. “I will support your right of religious liberty and the First Amendment, and I will fight to make sure that issues around marriage are returned to the states, not to elected judges,” Neville said. He added that the First Amendment is safeguarded by the Second Amendment and vowed to pursue an aggressive agenda to protect gun rights.
Contrasting what he termed the philosophical disagreements between him and his opponents on the left, Neville said the race for the Senate seat would turn on those differences.
“The question is, more government and less freedom, liberty and opportunity, or, a different view — a government that is kept in control to focus on what it should and keep it out of your life, where it doesn’t need to be, to provide you with more freedom, liberty and opportunity. That’s what this fight is about.”
He added: “I know how to run tough races, and I know how to win.”
“His record proves it — he loves God, guns and babies, what can I say?” asked his son, state Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, who introduced his father. The younger Neville was joined by a cadre of some of the most conservative legislators at the campaign launch, including state Sen. Laura Woods, R-Arvada, and state Reps. Justin Everett, R-Littleton, Kim Ransom, R-Littleton, Lori Saine, R-Dacono, and Steve Humphrey, R-Severance. Dudley Brown, the the founder and executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and president of the National Association for Gun Rights, a prominent and longtime Neville backer, was also on hand at the launch.
Woods said she wasn’t going to make an endorsement in the U.S. Senate primary but counted herself as a Neville fan.
“I do really appreciate his conservative stance,” she said. “I know he has courage, and I know when one person who has courage stands up, it gives others’ spines a little straightening. I think Congress can use some of that.”
State Rep. Jon Keyser, R-Morrison, and Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha, who lost a mostly self-funded primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn two cycles ago, are both poised to jump into the primary in the coming weeks, sources close to their campaigns confirm. Others in the race include former Aurora Councilman Ryan Frazier, El Paso County Commissioner Daryl Glenn, and Jefferson County Commissioner Donald Rosier. El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton is also exploring a bid.
On Monday, businessman Doug Robinson, who just happens to be Mitt Romney’s nephew, announced that he wouldn’t be running. “I am grateful for the encouragement I have received, but have concluded that continuing would lead to a difficult intra-party fight when Colorado needs to rally around a consensus candidate,” he said. He told The Colorado Statesman that he would be making an endorsement in the primary “soon.”
A top Republican strategist told The Statesman that Robinson would be among an impressive group getting behind Keyser, lending both his endorsement and his extensive fundraising network.
At the Neville launch, Saine said she wasn’t concerned about a better-funded candidate potentially getting into the primary.
“A lot of folks are looking for a real leader who’s going to do what he says he’s going to do, and Tim Neville is the only person in this race who has that voting record. To vote for anybody else is backing less than second-best,” she said. “There’s nobody else in the race that even comes close. As far as organization, as far as messaging, as far as fundraising — no one else comes close. He’s the candidate that’s going to pull this off.”
Neville’s campaign manager, his son Joe, declined to discuss other candidates in the running. “We’re going to focus on our game,” he said. “At the end of the day, there’ll be plenty of time to compare and contrast with the other candidates.” He added that the campaign had done well in the just-concluded fundraising quarter though he wouldn’t say how much Neville had raised. (Reports are due next week.)
“It’s a numbers game. We’re going to create a grassroots revolution and turn it into a big thing,” he said.
State Democratic Party spokesman Andrew Zucker nearly chortled with anticipation in a statement welcoming Neville to the race. Calling him a “far right, anti-choice warrior,” Zucker said, “Tim Neville may be the most out of touch member of Colorado’s Legislature, with an agenda that would take Colorado backwards, which stands in stark contrast with Michael Bennet’s record of working across party lines to change Washington and get things done for Colorado.”