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Partisan battle over Supreme Court seat may portend strong mid-term election turnout

Posted at 3:35 AM, Oct 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-07 15:06:26-04

DENVER – The battle over Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court seat was very public and very partisan.

It was also very close.

“This is the closest vote on a Supreme Court Justice in 137 years,” said Metro State University Political Science Professor Norman Provizer. “This one was a two-vote margin. One-hundred, thirty-seven years ago, the vote was 24-23.”

Perfect Storm

When asked why this fight played out so publicly, MSU Political Science Professor Robert Pruehs said, “In some ways you had a perfect storm.”

He said there were two-years of pent up energy from Democrats, concerned about obstructionist tactics by Republicans after President Obama nominated Merrick Garland.

Pruehs said there were elements in the Kavanaugh case that seemed to attract the public.

“There was alleged sex, drinking, and scandal, and on top of that, all of this is occurring within the context of the ‘Me Too Movement,’" he said, “with greater awareness of sexual assault and sexual harassment, and I think all of those things combined to make this really interesting to the public.”  

Kavanaugh’s confirmation drew a rebuke from a group of progressive Coloradans who flew out to Washington, D.C. to try to convince Sen. Cory Gardner to vote “No.”

They didn’t succeed.

“I’m devastated,” said Ashley Wheeland, of the Women’s Lobby of Colorado. “Not only am I sad that they didn’t believe a woman who was so strong and brave…they moved forward on a nominee who is scary…for women’s rights especially.”

While progressives gnash their teeth, conservatives are elated.

“Sen. Cory Gardner made the right decision in voting to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” Lindsey Singer, communications director for Colorado Rising Action, wrote in an email to Denver7. “We need Supreme Court Justices that uphold the Constitution and Judge Kavanaugh will do that.”

Impact on Mid-Terms

When asked what impact the partisan fight over Kavanaugh’s court seat might have on mid-term elections, Dr. Pruehs said there is discontent on both sides.

“Republicans see this as an attack on their qualified candidate, and Democrats see it, as a way to slam through an unqualified candidate, so both of those bases are going to be motivated,” he said.

The big question is what about unaffiliated voters. Have they been turned off by the process?

“I think everyone is waiting to see how the election turns out,” Dr. Provizer said. “Believe me, election night—that’s a subject that’s going to be talked about an awful lot.”

Some people have questioned whether the Senate’s vote to confirm Kavanaugh will keep other victims of sexual assault from coming forward to talk about their experience.

Wheeland said that’s unlikely.

“People are angry and motivated,” she said, “and will be showing up.”

Editor's note: The original video attached to this story included the wrong logo for Colorado Rising Action. A logo for the grassroots group Colorado Rising, which is focused on health and safety issues around fracking, was used erroneously. Denver7 regrets the error.