Under pressure from his colleagues, GOP Rep. Mike Lynch steps down as minority leader

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Republican House Minority Leader Mike Lynch interviewed by Colorado Matters host Chandra Thomas Whitfield at the Capitol, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024. Lynch recently announced he’s a candidate for Congress in District 4.

Updated at 10:27 a.m. on Wednesday, January 24, 2024.

Wellington Republican Mike Lynch is stepping down from his House leadership role, after news broke that he’s on probation for an undisclosed DUI arrest.

Lynch announced his resignation at the start of work Wednesday morning.

"I will be stepping down as the minority leader as of close of business today,” he announced on the House floor. “We have convened an election for my replacement tomorrow morning at 0800, military time... and will determine who will lead this party through the rest of the session.”

Lynch’s resignation comes after his caucus deadlocked 9-to-9 on a no-confidence vote earlier this week, with one member absent. His detractors criticized Lynch not just for the arrest, but for not making the caucus aware of it at the time. His colleagues only learned of it after the Denver Post published a story last week.

In his resignation speech, Lynch urged his colleagues to learn from his situation.

"I would like for this to serve as a message to my fellow members: Be careful. Don't make the mistake that I did. Which is to get behind the wheel after I had too much to drink... Thank God in my instance there was no damage done,” said Lynch.

According to a state patrol report of the incident, Lynch was driving 90 mph on I-25 and tested at twice the legal for alcohol in his blood when he was stopped near his home in Northern Colorado on the night of September 30, 2022. 

The state trooper wrote that he observed Lynch’s eyes were glassy and that his vehicle smelled strongly of alcohol. Lynch told the officer he had a small knife in one of his pockets and, as the trooper attempted to secure it, added that he also had a gun. Lynch subsequently reached for the gun after being told not to move.  

“I was certain that Mr. Lynch was either purposefully pulling the gun out of his pocket, or was so intoxicated that he did not realize what he was doing. I feared for my safety as Mr. Lynch manipulated a firearm after I had clearly told him not to touch the knife in his other pocket,” wrote Cpl Matthew King in his written report. 

King noted that Lynch was so impaired that he had lost the ability to perceive the seriousness of the situation and react appropriately.

“He told me he had a little .380 and said ‘Iit's not a big deal.’ I informed him that pulling a gun out of our pocket when in contact with the police was, in fact, a big deal and people get shot that way.”

Lynch pled guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced to probation, which is still ongoing, and community service. He also agreed not to carry a firearm until June of this year.

Lynch is also running for Congress in the fourth congressional district. He is one of a number of Republicans who’ve jumped into the primary to replace retiring congressman Ken Buck.

In his floor speech, Lynch said that he was resigning because it was “the right thing to do,” and that he no longer drinks. But he also accused GOP state party chair Dave Williams of meddling in the scandal over the last couple days. 

"I'm not stepping down because a failed state party chair decided to try to influence the actions in this House,” he said. 

Williams, a former state representative, was at the Capitol Tuesday while reporters were interviewing Rep. Scott Bottoms, one of the Republicans who pushed for Lynch to step down. Williams added his own questions, prompting Bottoms to criticize Lynch further and appearing to urge reporters to continue investigating.

In a text message to CPR News Wednesday morning, Williams wrote, “It’s unfortunate he would attack others for his criminality, and we certainly don’t apologize for calling on the disgraced Minority Leader, Mike Lynch, to resign for initiating a cover-up because he was arrested, and currently on probation, for endangering the lives of other motorists while driving drunk.”

Several House Republicans said Lynch's handling of the firearm during the stop is especially troubling to them, given the party’s pro-Second Amendment stance. 

“We cannot have somebody that is arrested for a DUI, has the weapon with the DUI attached, and then just blow it off like it's no big deal,” said Rep. Scott Bottoms, noting that had a Democrat been involved in a similar situation Republicans would be on the attack to remove that person from leadership.  

Democrats, who hold a wide majority in the House, largely stayed silent on Lynch’s situation ahead of Wednesday. But during a media availability this week, Democratic Speaker of the House Julie McCluskie said the incident was deeply concerning, and she only learned about it when the rest of the public did. 

“What's happening right now with our Republican caucus is a distraction. They need to get their house in order. We have work to do,” McCluskie said Tuesday. 

She added that Lynch should have been transparent about the situation at the time it occurred.

“I think this is a question of integrity. I share as much as I can about my experiences, my activities, my professional qualifications to run for office. I think that is our responsibility,” she said. 

Lynch was selected as Minority Leader in early November 2022, after the death of the caucus’ previous leader, Hugh McKean