Colorado House Republicans split on whether to oust Minority Leader after DUI charges surface

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Republican House Minority Leader Mike Lynch on the opening day of the legislature, Jan. 10, 2024.

This is a developing story.

Colorado’s Republican House Minority Leader Mike Lynch, who is also running for Colorado’s 4th congressional district, narrowly survived a vote of no confidence on Monday, 

The caucus tied 9-9, with one member absent. It means he will keep his job as the chamber’s GOP leader, for now, but could face another challenge.

Last week it came to light that Lynch was charged in 2022 for speeding, driving under the influence, and being in possession of a firearm while intoxicated and is still on probation. He was also ordered to do 120 hours of community service and barred from carrying a weapon until June of this year.

Lynch’s House Republican colleagues said they were unaware of the charges until the Denver Post published a story about it last week. The traffic stop occurred just weeks before they chose him to serve as Minority Leader.

Republicans who called for Lynch to step down from his leadership role said they were hoping to avoid having to vote in a formal caucus meeting.

“I wanted Mike to resign. He didn't feel like that was prudent for him,” said Republican Rep. Ken DeGraaf of Colorado Springs. 

Lynch’s opponents said one concern was that he didn’t tell the caucus about his probation and arrest. 

“I shouldn’t be getting elected as a minority leader while I'm on probation,” said Republican Rep. Scott Bottoms of Colorado Springs. “I don't think these are quality ethical standards and I think there's a right thing to do here.”

Republican Rep. Brandi Bradley of Douglas County agreed; “I teach my four children about accountability in life. We make decisions, there are consequences and we have to abide by those consequences.”

In their caucus meeting Monday, House Republicans cast their votes anonymously, after a motion to take a public vote failed. Complicating matters, Republican Rep. Stephanie Luck, who gave birth last week, missed the first part of the caucus meeting, when votes were being taken. 

“When I did talk to her, she was not aware that this was going on,” said DeGraaf.

Luck joined online to participate remotely after the vote. Members who want to remove Lynch argued the caucus should vote again. 

“As a woman who labored and had an emergency C-section. I think it’s kind of disgusting that we’re not letting a woman who just gave birth a vote,” said Republican Rep. Brandi Bradley of Douglas County to some audible groans in the room. 

Other House Republicans argued that the vote should be final, and it’s time for the caucus to move on, or that a revote should occur on a different day when all 19 caucus members are present, either in person or virtually.

Republican Rep. Richard Holtorf of Akron, who is one of the candidates in the GOP primary race in CD4 along with Lynch, said it wouldn’t be proper to redo the vote Monday. 

“If you're not here for the committee and you're excused, you don't get to come in after a committee and say, ’Oh, wait, wait, wait, I don't want to be excused anymore.’”

For his part, Lynch has apologized for the DUI and said if he thought his legal situation was harming the caucus he would step down. “I do not believe that it has impacted my ability to be a good minority leader. I think we've done great things in this caucus.”

Lynch said he made a bad decision, learned a lot from the incident, and has stopped drinking alcohol. 

“I have always put this caucus first,” he told his colleagues. “I would not be sitting here with you all today asking for your vote… if I did not believe that that was going to continue to be my job, and continue to have this caucus first and continue to do good things in this building.”