Former State Rep. Cole Wist leaves the Republican Party


When he served as assistant Colorado State House Minority Leader in 2017 and 2018, many viewed Cole Wist as one of the Republican Party’s rising stars. When he was appointed to the ethics panel, he was referred to as “an honest, principled man with integrity,” by the state senate president, a member of the opposite party.

Cole Wist represented Colorado House District 37 in the state legislature from January 2016 to December 2018.

Then Rep. Wist agreed to be a sponsor of the Red Flag bill that allows law enforcement to take away weapons from people who a court has deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. Although the bill was supported by George Brauchler, then the 18th Judicial District Attorney, who prosecuted the Aurora theatre murder case, as well as Tony Spurlock, Douglas County Sheriff, both strong supporters of the Second Amendment, Wist’s position didn’t sit well with some of our state’s most ardent gun rights advocates and they worked to unseat him in the next election. They succeeded. In doing so, they helped elect the state’s most ardent anti-gun activist, Rep. Tom Sullivan. Sullivan left a 30-year career with the U.S. Postal Service where he was a union member to run for the legislature after his 27-year-old son was killed in the 2012 Aurora theatre shooting. In 2019, after Sullivan was seated, the Red Flag law passed. Since being elected to replace Wist in 2018, Sullivan has been re-elected to the legislature and announced plans to run for the state senate in 2022.  

On January 4, more than two years after he lost his race for re-election, Wist tweeted, “It’s been one year since Jan. 6, 2021. All downhill from there. Election lies, vaccine misinformation, making it harder to vote, excusing Jan. 6 thuggery, conspiracy theories galore. I tried. I encouraged reason. I urged a pivot from Trump. I failed. I’m out. #Unaffiliated” 

That action got him an appearance on an evening cable TV news/entertainment show on January 5, where he told the host that he had voted for President Trump in 2016 because, he said, “I believed he would change and rise to the occasion and be the leader of our country and then we saw that he divided our country and appealed to the worst of us. Charlottesville was the breaking point for me.” Wist said that he supported President Biden in 2020 because, “I was raised in a family where we do the right thing and tell the truth. The Republican party used to tell the truth and unfortunately we no longer do that, so it was time for me to make a pivot.” Wist made it clear that he was now unaffiliated with any party and had no intention of becoming a Democrat.