Colorado voters share a sense of unease after court disqualified Trump

Underlying the celebration and condemnation of the Colorado Supreme Court decision striking down former President Donald J. Trump from Tuesday’s primary was a sense among the state’s voters that it was just a prelude to the rancor to come.

For or against the ruling, many voters said they felt uneasy about the prospect of months of electioneering ricocheting between the courts and the campaign trail.

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

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

In its 4-3 decision Tuesday, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump was involved in the insurrection that led 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, this result was welcome.

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

“He had an insurrection,” McClain said. “He clearly addressed those people.”

Republicans in the state treated the decision with contempt, describing it as an anti-democratic move by a liberal-majority court.

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

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

“Our country is a mess in many ways,” he said at the Cherry Creek mall in Denver, as Christmas carols blared in the background. “The only hope we have is to get Trump back.” The fact that the Colorado Supreme Court did something like this is an entirely political move.”

But the decision also laid bare the deep divisions and unrest within the state’s Republican Party.

One of the case’s signatories, former Colorado House and Senate Republican majority leader Norma Anderson, said in a statement Tuesday that she was “proud” to have been part of the case that disqualified 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 that Colorado Republican primary voters vote only for eligible candidates,” he said. “Today’s win does just that.”

Before the ruling, Dave Williams, who chairs a state Republican Party that often seems at war with itself, had warned ominously about the impossibility of resolving differences at the ballot box. “It will be done in a civil war,” he said last month. “Nobody wants civil war.”

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

Other voters said they were exhausted by the partisan sniping and had seen little positive from either camp.

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

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

The state Supreme Court’s decision was the first in the nation to rule that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — which disqualifies people who engage in insurrection against the Constitution after taking an oath to uphold it — applies to Trump. Democrats welcomed the idea that courts in other states could follow suit.

At the same time, there was a widespread feeling that Colorado would not have the final say on the matter.

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

But he predicted that the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn the decision.

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

“I hope the country is strong enough to survive 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 Tuesday’s 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 that anger,” he said.

“No one will be happy.”

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs AND Kelly Manley contributed to the reporting.