Longform

Ryan Frazier puts his job on the line with Amendment 47

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Frazier himself says he's not sure what office he will shoot for next. "So long as there's fire in my belly and the people will have me, I will look at what opportunities I have to serve a broad community and make decisions appropriately."

But Frazier's time on council has also earned him enemies. "I basically have nothing good to say about him," says Randy Rester, president of the Aurora Fire Fighters Protective Association. "We endorsed him during his first race, and we felt like we have been misled by him." Frazier incurred the firefighters' union's wrath when he supported asking the voters to give the city and department chiefs more control over the hiring and promotion of firefighters and police officers — and his support of right-to-work hasn't helped relations.

"The thing I can best say is that he's very ambitious in politics," adds Pam Bennett, one of Frazier's 2007 opponents who's running again this year — and she doesn't mean that as a compliment. The $85,000 in funds and roughly $25,000 in in-kind contributions Frazier reported for his 2007 re-election campaign — roughly twice the campaign chest of Brad Pierce, the other victorious 2007 at-large candidate — makes Bennett wonder what, exactly, is Frazier's goal, and who, specifically, is helping him.

"For some reason, he was on cable all of October. That isn't cheap, but there he was," she says. "You don't work that hard to become a city council member. Ambition for an $11,000-a-year job? There's more there."

Part of the answer comes from American Furniture Warehouse, which donated $1,000 to Frazier's campaign and contributed $5,000 worth of TV ad production and development. The furniture company's CEO, Jake Jabs, and general manager, Andrew Zuppa, are key supporters of Amendment 47.

But if Frazier was simply out to do the bidding of the GOP establishment, he's made some pretty odd choices. In 2006, he stood alongside Democratic Denver mayor John Hickenlooper in public support of Referendum I, which would have allowed domestic partnerships, and when that measure failed, Frazier said he wanted Aurora to provide benefits to same-sex partners of city employees — the sort of stuff that makes moral conservatives in his party apoplectic. He's also ambivalent when it comes to pro-life issues: "I am not a fan of abortion, but I struggle with whether it is the appropriate role of the government to place itself there."

Nor can he be counted on to come out strong for his party's presidential ticket this November. "I'll decide at the ballot box," he says of the presidential race.

"I can see already that comments like this will not make some people in my party very happy," he says, adding that in the past, he's gotten "hundreds of calls from Republicans who are just livid with me." But he isn't the only Republican who seems to be eschewing the state party's long-held cultural-conservative playbook. Other GOP thirty-somethings, like state senator Josh Penry and state representatives Frank McNulty and Cory Gardner, are shying away from the culture wars and sticking with fiscally conservative stances. Even prominent state Republicans like party elder Hank Brown have come out against Amendment 48 on this November's ballot, which would define a fertilized human egg as a person and therefore, many believe, outlaw abortion.

It could be indicative of a fundamental shift within the statewide GOP apparatus. After Republicans saw that their fixation on unborn babies and marriage licenses got them nowhere except out of office, they've opted for a reboot, a return to the small-government, personal-freedom ideals of old.

"I think that's an astute and correct observation," says Steve Schuck, a prominent Colorado Springs Republican and onetime contender for Colorado governor. "I am pleased that the Republican Party is moving in that direction, higher regard given to policy issues than social issues. Partly, it's a failure of them to be effective. There are so many examples of us not being successful that can be attributed to a preoccupation with social issues."

Frazier agrees. "I think Republicans got fat and happy and, in the process, forgot about what was important, and that's principle," he says. "That it's about standing for something greater for yourself." That's why he's standing for Amendment 47. For him, it's all about principle, even though that principle has come with a price.

"I'll be honest with you, man," he says, shaking his head. "This past year has been, for me, one of the most challenging experiences I have ever faced."


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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner