Kelley & Company, Ellen Roberts, June 30, 2015

Station:   KNUS, 710 AM

Show:      Kelley & Company

Guests:    Roberts


Date:       June 30, 2015

Topics:     Fetal homicide, Dan Caplis Show, Democrats, Strategists, Operatives, Flip-floppy, Wishy-washy, Fetal Personhood, Parental Notification, Public Debate and Discourse, Planned Parenthood, Durango, Charles Ashby, Durango Herald, Blogs

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HOST KRISTA KAFER:  Whether it’s the President spiking the ball by lighting up the White House in rainbow colors, whether it’s the name callers, whether it’s the bad politico actors, the shamers, saying, “Hey, you know, I’m just so disappointed in you and I – you know, you Christians, you just shouldn’t get on your high horse!”  I would argue all of these things are poisonous to public discourse.  Whether it’s, you know, hard hitting debate, legitimate fun satire, when we start getting mean, playing the victim card, calling everybody racists – whatever it is, we are destroying public discourse.  I wanted to talk a bit with Senator Ellen Roberts.  She is a senator from Durango, one of my favorite parts of the state. And, you know, a faithful Republican.  We have some disagreements on a couple of issues, but a good Republican, a good – just a good legislator.  And yet she has come under fire from the left in a way that I would say is absurd.  […]  I would say that leftists are saying that Ellen Roberts “is not woman enough [to be credible]”.  Or, you know, she calls herself pro-choice.  She’s just not pro-choice enough.  And I think that’s where legitimate brea—you know, legitimate debate and discourse breaks down.  Senator Roberts, thanks for coming on the show today.

COLORADO STATE SENATOR FROM DURANGO, ELLEN ROBERTS:  Thank you, Krista.  Thanks for having me.

KAFER:  I think that the criticism leveled at you, whether it be by Planned Parenthood, by other leftist organizations is patently unfair.  Tell us what’s going on.

ROBERTS:  Well, I had honestly answered a question to my local hometown reporter after the session ended.  He said, “You know, your name keeps getting floated out there as a possible candidate for the Republicans in the U.S. Senate race.”  And he said, “So, are you going to think about it?”  I said, honestly, thinking of the average person’s definition of ‘thinking’ — not a Hillary Clinton ‘no-I’m-not-thinking-about-it-while-you’re-developing-your-whole-campaign-years-ahead—

KAFER:  [laughs]

ROBERTS:  –actually meant I was going to go home to Durango, unpack my boxes, reintegrate with my family and my community, and think about whether that was a choice that I would make.  And from there it went gangbusters, because he put it in the newspaper and the Democratic machine went – and I would say, ‘the Democratic nasty machine’.  I have a lot of friends who are Democrats who I think I could have had a cup of coffee with and said, “Hey, I’m thinking about doing this. What do you think the pros and cons are?”  And anyway, it just went – it was hateful, and a distortion of my record.  I have been at the Capitol for nine years.  I would say almost all of my constituents would say that they agree with me most of the time but not all of the time.  My own husband says that on a regular basis—

KAFER:  [chuckles]

ROBERTS:  –in terms of the work I do at the Capitol, and I’m okay with that.  I don’t think we should have to be in lockstep with each other.  And apparently, just by thinking about whether I might get into the U.S. Senate race was enough to send people to the moon and back.  So, yeah, it was a – it hasn’t been a pleasant experience.  I would say I have since stopped thinking.  So, because I publicly said I’m not thinking about it anymore, all of a sudden it has magically disappeared from the Democrats.  But they were sending three trackers to my community meetings that filmed everything I did.  They were plastering the newspapers with letters to the editor – again, distorting my record and then unfortunately, my own hometown paper seemed to join in.  So, I really appreciate you raising this issue because America, I think, was built on diversity of background, diversity of thought.  And we are losing that.

KAFER:  I think they must have really feared you getting in, and that’s why they went at you with two guns blazing. And before you got in, they were like, “Oh, we really like Ellen Roberts!  We think she’s a fantastic senator, and, you know, she crosses party lines sometimes, she works with us.”  They were all full of compliments, until you said, “You know what, I just might think about running for Senate.”  And then suddenly those handshakes became really knives in the back.

ROBERTS:  Well, that’s true.  And I would ascribe it to the people who are the strategists.  Because again, I know I have to believe that – in my heart – that some of my Democrat Senate colleagues, even in the House, would have been very internally very uncomfortable with the attacks that were coming at me, because we do deal with each other on policy.  And I try and find the common ground.  I don’t care whether somebody’s a Democrat, Republican, unaffiliated.  If you’re going to come to the table and try and figure out some of the problems that the state faces – and we do have a number of problems – I don’t care what your label is.  Just bring your thoughts to the table and we’ll see if we can find a solution together.  I think that history is what people responded to, and there are colleagues—both Republican and Democrat — in the legislature today that do that. But the strategists, the operatives, all those folks wanted to define me before the rest of the state got to find out who I am and what my background is.  And, you know, unfortunately, if you don’t have a large amount of cash in your campaign account – if you have one – to counter that, even at the front end, it was, to me, as I looked at it I thought, “This is a really huge hurdle.” And my thought is we need to form a new group of free thinkers, and particularly female, and call it something like ‘I’ve Got Your Back, Girlfriend’ because we have a real lack of support for women who are independent thinkers.  And they may be right-of-center, which is where I’m more comfortable, but they might be left-of-center.  But I can tell you the far left certainly has that covered for their women, but I wouldn’t consider them [to be] much of free thinkers.

KAFER:  Well, and you’re in a difficult position.  I find that being in the middle is always the hardest, because you end up being hit by both sides.  There are purists in the Party that would not be supportive.  I think that you do a great job representing you district. I think you are a great fit for that district.  I think that district is blessed to have you.  And it frustrates me when you’re getting fire from the right for not being conservative enough. Meanwhile, the left would like nothing more than to take you out.  You’re really always fighting a two-front war, it would seem.

ROBERTS:  Well, and I’m used to it. I have had, when I first ran for the State House, I had a primary on the social issues.  And I won.  And then I beat the Democrat in the general election.  Then I didn’t have any opponent when I ran for re-election in the House.  [In] 2010, I decided to run for the Senate seat.  A Republican hadn’t had that seat for about a dozen years, even though registration advantage was definitely in the Republican side.  But when I ran, I had a primary, again, on social issues. [I] beat my primary opponent and went on to beat the incumbent, who was a Democrat.  So, I’ve been through the meat grinder from both sides. I do hope that Republicans will see that we should follow Ronald Reagans idea of, “Let’s find that 80% that we agree on, rather than focusing on the 20%.”  But what I’ve seen at the Capitol – and I’ve seen it actually get worse, I think, over the last nine years –is the discipline exercised on the Democrat side of the aisle, where I have friends who are more free thinkers.  But when they exercise their own thought process—thinking of their own district and what their own internal – what their belief system is – if they step out of line, it is brutal.  And, um, again, Republicans have done that as well. But I – for all the perception that’s out there in the world that Democrats like a great big umbrella and everybody can fit under it, that’s not what I’ve seen.  And I won’t name names, but I’ve seen – even in this last session, where people got slapped into line very quickly.  And it’s going to take brave people to step out from that and say, “No, I got sent here to use my own brain and to represent my district.”  And I – people will appreciate that.  It’s hard, but they will appreciate it.

KAFER:  [Krista talks about her admiration for one of her favorite Republican, team player but free thinking, independent legislators, Nancy Spence, who she didn’t always agree with]  I thought that she was able to carry both of those very well.  I think that you do the same.  A vote that I think is interesting is –you’re pro-choice. You’ve been open about that.  But you supported the fetal homicide law – or were going to, I don’t know that it came up for a vote.  But you said, um, you would support this because it had nothing—absolutely nothing—to do with abortion.  It was all about the intention murder of a child en utero.  And yet after you supported that, they uh, you know — Planned Parenthood and others came out after you.

ROBERTS:  Right. And I appreciate you bringing up that topic. Because [there is] something I would like to clarify. I used to think I was pro-choice.  But when I was a normal person, not a politician, I thought that meant if you didn’t want abortion entirely banned –made illegal—that meant you fell in that category of ‘pro-choice’.  I made the mistake a couple weeks ago, I was on a conservative radio talk show, and I said I never used the words ‘pro-choice’.  I’m not even sure I got to explain that, and that’s part of my problem, is I usually want to put things in context. I’m not a great sound-byte person.  But, the bottom line was, I found out day one of my first year in the legislature that if you’re—frankly, if you’re not in the Democratic Party, then, um, they don’t want you.  The whole pro-choice thing is much narrower than what I had perceived. I voted for parental notification in the event of a teenager having an abortion.  That’s when I got taken to task by the Democrats saying, “You can’t be pro-choice if you support parental notification.”  I was like, “Fine.  Then don’t call me pro-choice.”  And I tried throughout my career at the Capitol to avoid using that phrase because clearly, the people who thought the people who were purely pro-choice didn’t include me.  When I – we had discussion of a religious freedoms resolution on the Senate floor – I take religious liberty extremely serious.  And so I made a very –what I meant to be a very strong case that pushed back on that ‘war on women’ language that the Democrats kept using, as if there are no Republican women, that we would be warring on ourselves.  So, in the heat of the moment of that debate, I was trying to make a point to my Democratic colleagues that somebody, who at one point thought she was pro-choice, is a Republican, and is a woman, was not buying into the war on women shtick.  Well, when I said on the radio show, as a politician, I don’t—I’ve never called myself pro-choice, I forgot that in 2011 in the heat of battle, I did said that because I was trying to drive home a point to the Democrats. Well, within twenty-four hours, the blogs had pieced together that time in 2011 and the radio show clip to say that I was wishy-washy, or flip-floppy, or whatever.  As far as I’m concerned, put me in category number three.  The pro-life folks who are extreme pro-life – no exceptions—would never accept someone like me.  And I found that out through the primaries. Um, if the pro-choice people say that you’ve got to take it 100%, Planned Parenthood gets to define pro-choice, okay, I’m not in that category either.  Fetal homicide is something that happens without the consent of the woman.  The bill that was at the legislature this year was in part derived from the horrible Longmont case where a woman who was carrying her baby to term, was buying clothes for this baby, was exuberant about having a child in another month and a half, she had her baby cut from her womb and the baby died.  We have heard this kind of case, unfortunately – different variations – over the last several years, and Colorado has refused to pass a law – and by ‘Colorado’, I mean frankly,  the Democrats at the legislature – have killed the bill every time, no matter–.  We heard about prostitutes who get beat so that the baby they’re carrying – they’re pregnant – and they lose the baby.  The pimp doesn’t want them to be pregnant. Prosecutors said, “We don’t have a mechanism. We don’t have a charge to go after someone who does that kind of brutality for the loss of the life of the fetus, or the baby — whichever label you want to use.  It was, to me, pretty common sensical.  But Planned Parenthood came out and repeatedly said, “You cannot support fetal personhood issues and be pro-choice.”  Well, this was fetal homicide, so that was very slick to keep using the word ‘personhood’. But, you can support fetal homicide and be someone who doesn’t want abortion entirely illegal.  And I had a Denver prosecutor send me a couple of law review articles, just in the last week or so, to demonstrate how those are very different. But according to Planned Parenthood, it’s impossible.  And I would say otherwise.  I mean, again, I think women and men need to use their own minds and not be led around by groups who define for us what we think.

KAFER:  There is nothing worse than having someone else define you.  [Krista cites polling where 20% support ending abortion, 20% support freely available abortion, and 60% –the majority of Americans– support some limits on abortion.  She says that Roberts is actually in the mainstream majority with her support of parental notification, and perhaps limitations on late term abortions, “common sense things we can all get behind”.]  And yet you’ve got Planned Parenthood coming after you because you are not the purist they want you to be.  Do you mind holding over the break?  I’ve got one more question for you.


KAFER:  […]

[commercial break]

KAFER:  […] [The rise in number of unaffiliated voters is a sign of disillusionment of voters with both major parties. The millennials are also disaffected. They’re not seeing a place where they are allowed to think for themselves.  Roberts talks about the Colorado Youth Advisory Council, which she founded in legislation in 2008, which has 40 kids from diverse backgrounds, ages 14-18, who come in four times a year and identify issues that are important to young people.  They are serious.

[People want to talk about issues, not character assassination.]