Conservative Trump challengers in Colorado see a threat to democracy

By Andrew Chung

(Reuters) – Norma Anderson remembers sitting transfixed in front of her television on Jan. 6, 2021, and crying as she watched a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters storm the U.S. Capitol, wondering why the then-president had not called out the National Guard.

“I am old enough to remember the Depression, World War Two, two other wars, recessions, good times, bad times, and lots of presidents. But never have I seen what happened on January 6th,” the 91-year-old life-long Colorado Republican said. “I knew who was guilty immediately.”

Today, Anderson, the first woman to serve as majority leader in both houses of the Colorado legislature, leads a lawsuit that could cause a political explosion: Trump’s disqualification from the Republican primary ballot in the state under a 19th century constitutional provision for engaging in insurrection.

Trump’s appeal is set to be argued on Feb. 8 at the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 U.S. election. Reuters/Ipsos opinion polls indicate that a Trump-Biden rematch from 2020 would be close.

Three other Republicans and two political independents have joined Anderson as named plaintiffs. Mario Nicolais, a conservative lawyer from the Denver suburb of Lakewood who helped gather them, said the plaintiffs “were so turned off by that insurrection and by what Donald Trump did on Jan. 6 that they said … our country is more important and our Constitution is more important. And anyone who did that cannot be allowed to run again.”

The lawsuit, filed in September, shows photos of the people who attacked the Capitol, trying to stop congressional certification of Biden’s election, and details Trump’s actions before, during and since the melee.

“President Trump was the mob’s leader, and the mob was his weapon,” the complaint states.

Trump would spell the end of democracy, Anderson said in an interview, adding: “He wants to be king. He wants to be like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, where he has complete control.”

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in December, finding Trump ineligible for the presidency under language of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment barring anyone who “engaged in insurrection” from public office.


The case raises momentous questions for the Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices appointed by Trump. Among them: Is the constitutional disqualification clause enforceable on its own or does it require congressional action? Does the provision apply to the president?

The Colorado ruling marked the first time this provision – Section 3 of the 14th Amendment – was used to declare a presidential candidate ineligible. It bars from office any “officer of the United States” who took an oath “to support the Constitution of the United States” and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Lawyers for Trump, who faces criminal charges in two separate cases involving his efforts to overturn his 2020 loss, have argued that Jan. 6 was not an insurrection and that Trump was not a participant.

The Colorado litigation was spearheaded by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group that in 2022 successfully sued to disqualify under the 14th Amendment a New Mexico county official who participated in the Capitol attack. CREW is not paying the attorneys in the case, who are working for free, Nicolais said.


It is important that the lawsuit was brought by conservatives, as these plaintiffs are, Nicolais said.

Apart from the fact that Democratic voters cannot vote in the March 5 Colorado Republican primary, Nicolais said, if the lawsuit had been brought by Democrats, “then it can just be dismissed as, ‘Oh, well this is just all political.’ And we didn’t want that.”

Nonetheless, Trump and his allies have portrayed the lawsuit as partisan.

Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung called CREW a Democratic Party “front group.”

“The Colorado sham, and others like it, are part of a well-funded, coordinated Democrat Party effort to interfere in the election,” Cheung said in a statement.

Plaintiff Krista Kafer, a conservative columnist in Denver who has spent decades in Republican politics, said she voted for Trump in 2020. Though she found Trump personally “contemptible,” she agreed with most of his policies during four years as president, and especially the federal judges he appointed.

All that changed when Trump denied his loss to Biden, making false claims of widespread voting fraud.

“Not only did he refuse to concede,” said Kafer, 53, “he then made up an entire conspiracy theory chock full of lies and insinuations that put election workers in harm’s way – and then ultimately put Congress and members of Congress, their staff and the police in harm’s way.”

Kafer said she has thought about what might happen if the legal effort fizzles, and Trump is elected in November.

“I worry about the safety of not only myself, but the other petitioners,” Kafer said. “Not (Trump) personally. I don’t think he’s going to show up at my door. But there is, I have no doubt, a desire for retribution.”

Given the huge stakes, Kafer said she prayed about whether to join the lawsuit.

“I didn’t get an answer from up high,” Kafer said, “but I felt peaceful that I was doing the right thing. And I’ve felt peaceful since.”

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Will Dunham)