Denver police probably never thought that a gesture of largesse would tip the balance of power in the Colorado House of Representatives. But that seems to be one possible consequence of the recent traffic stop of Republican lawmaker Laura Bradford.
According to news accounts, Bradford was pulled over in January a few blocks from the state capitol for making an illegal turn or lane change. It happened just a few blocks for the state capitol. The citing officer allegedly smelled alcohol on her breath, raising suspicions she was driving under the influence (DUI). But, rather than file charges, the officer gave her a ticket, called her a cab and sent her home.
That action sparked questions about whether Bradford received special treatment under an immunity provision for lawmakers that exists under state law. The case also resulted in Bradford having to step down from some of her House leadership duties. And fellow Republicans have gone so far as to order an ethics probe of one of their own.
Recently, however, the Denver police admitted that while Bradford did get special treatment, she never sought it. Indeed, they now acknowledge that she insisted several times at the time of her stop that she did not want any special treatment. She has admitted publicly that she had had some wine with dinner the night of the stop. But she says she doesn't think she was driving drunk.
As a result of the backlash from her own party, Bradford is now talking about possibly abandoning her party affiliation in favor of becoming an Independent. If that happens, it could mean a shift in the political balance of state government. Republicans hold just a 33-32 edge in the House. Democrats control the Senate and the governor's office.
Despite the police admission of wrongdoing in the case, Bradford is not off the hook. In fact, police say they are recommending that an additional charge of possession of a handgun while intoxicated be brought in the matter. That stems from the discovery of a handgun in her car during the stop.
But the circumstances in this instance are questionable, too. Bradford has said that officers found the gun after she informed them where it was and showed them her permit to have it. And she says officers gave the gun back to her before they let her go.