As prominent Colorado Republicans — including U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and former Gov. Bill Owens — withdraw their support from their presidential candidate, Donald Trump, it begs the question of whether local GOP elected officials back their party's nominee.
So we asked them.
Only a fraction were willing to comment, and just a handful said they support Trump — in a county that's been labeled the most powerful Republican stranglehold in the state, if not the nation.
Specifically, on Oct. 12 we asked: "We are polling Republican office holders and candidates about their stance on the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump. Do you support him? Will you vote for him? If yes, why? If no, why not?"
After sending a second email on Oct. 13, we heard back from about a quarter of the roughly two dozen officials contacted, as well as from a spokesman for El Paso County Republican Party chairman Jeff Hays. Hays reports his office is providing volunteers and logistical support "for every Republican candidate" and that he doesn't "sit in judgment" of office seekers.
But apparently others are judging Trump, who's been under siege in recent weeks for his boasts of being able to "do anything" to women and for groping them, according to the women themselves.
Combined with those who've weighed in using other means, fewer than half the GOP lawmakers representing the Pikes Peak region overtly support Trump, demonstrating a breaking of ranks in a party known for its blind partisan loyalty.
Only one elected official, El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton, enthusiastically endorsed Trump.
"Yes, I will be voting for Trump and would encourage all others, regardless of party, to do so as well," she says via email. "Like it or not, we are a two party system and a vote for a third party candidate, a write in vote or a not voting vote, is a vote for Hillary [Clinton, the Democratic nominee]. If the tables were turned and the Republican candidate: was a proven liar, criminal, a disaster as Secretary of State, had abandoned our military in Bengazi [sic], refuses to acknowledge Islamic terrorism, is willing to nominate Supreme Court justices who would not uphold the Constitution, and continues to perpetuate the myth that socialism is best, then I would be voting for the other ticket. Our ONLY choice this year for all Americans who love freedom, who support our Constitutional rights and want to make America great again is Trump."
Three office holders — Sheriff Bill Elder, County Treasurer Mark Lowderman and County Assessor Steve Schleiker — either won't disclose their choice or are undecided.
"The Sheriff does not wish to disclose who [he] is supporting or voting for, for President. It is a personal decision," sheriff's spokeswoman Jackie Kirby says in an email.
Says Lowderman in an interview, "I'm just being very cautious, because once you do hold office, something like that could be construed as an endorsement, and I haven't endorsed either one of the candidates."
Likewise, Schleiker tells the Independent that though he's a lifetime registered Republican, "to be honest with you, I'm still studying the presidential race and ballot initiatives. I'm not endorsing either candidate."
County commissioner candidate in District 4 Longinos Gonzalez wrote a response of more than 500 words, all but one sentence bashing Clinton. But he didn't say a word about what recommends Trump for the job, saying only, "I will be voting for our Republican candidate for president."
Larry Liston, a former State House member who's seeking the House District 16 seat in November, reported via email from "the mid-Atlantic," saying, "Yes, I will support Mr. Trump. While I disagree with what he has said in the past and his style, not mine, I think his basic philosophies are OK. Protect our borders, strengthen our military and get our finances in order. He is far from perfect, but HRC is corrupt, a liar and has proven a disaster as SOS. I will support the lesser of two poor choices, but I will vote for Trump."
He added that the "main reason" for his vote stems from Trump's choice of his vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence, who Liston says "would make an excellent VP and an even better President..."
Last week, a minority of Colorado Republican lawmakers signed a statement of support for Trump, according to The Denver Post, including three local legislators: Sen. Kent Lambert, SD9; Rep. Dan Nordberg, HD14; and Rep. Paul Lundeen, HD19.
The statement said: "As an elected official and Republican leader, I fully support the Republican nominee for President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump presents a unique opportunity for America to move in a decidedly different direction. With the Supreme Court at risk, this is the time for those in leadership to stand strong and unified."
County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, who's trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, has flip-flopped. Earlier this month, he called for Trump to drop out of the race, but later said he supports him.
Perhaps the highest-profile Republican who didn't respond is Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, former district attorney and Colorado attorney general.
Others who didn't respond: El Paso County Commissioners Sallie Clark, Dennis Hisey and Mark Waller; Commissioner District 3 candidate Stan VanderWerf; Bob Gardner, former state rep seeking the SD12 seat; State Sen. Owen Hill, SD10; Rep. Terri Carver, HD20; Rep. Lois Landgraf, HD21; District Attorney Day May.
The Indy on Oct. 10 asked the region's congressman, Rep. Doug Lamborn, for his thoughts. He responded through a spokesman: "It is good that Mr. Trump has apologized for his 2005 remarks. He must now take every opportunity he has to show our nation that this sort of behavior is in the past and that he is dedicated to treating people with respect and dignity. Despite his flaws, Donald Trump remains a far superior candidate than Hillary Clinton."
After that, more stories of Trump's womanizing surfaced.