Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland: "I've seen no evidence" the election was stolen from Trump.

Kudos to the Lakeland Republican running for state Senate for publicly acknowledging the obvious truth. Now, will her "friends" primary or protect her?

I’ve known state Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, casually for a long time — long before she was a politician.

My wife worked for her years and years ago at Big Brothers/Big Sisters — circa 1999-2000. Outside of politics, she’s never struck me as a particularly political person. Extreme right-wing ideology doesn't radiate off her like a Kelli Stargel or a Grady Judd. If she lived in a “blue” county or state, I doubt she’d have much problem legislating that way. She’s a creature of the Lakeland community establishment/Leadership Club.

So when I asked Colleen in front of my Kiwanis Club — yes or no — if the election was stolen from Trump, I was pleased by her answer, but not terribly surprised. She said she’s “seen no evidence” the presidential election was stolen. That is, of course, because there is none. Right wing court after right wing court has made that clear. And Colleen, to her credit, isn’t great at faking insurrectionist spirit like some of her fellow lawmakers.

Colleen equivocated a little about not having direct knowledge of other states and about understanding why some people would question — but only a little. She was pretty conclusive other than that.

Her election answer was the capstone of a quite apolitical little speech about the last legislative session. She barely mentioned the governor and his daily provocations. She offered no “critical race theory” or COVID FREEDOM red meat. She sounded like a reasonable person working in reasonable times. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Colleen is out of step with the indulgent Republican party

This reasonably brave, if obvious, statement puts Colleen out of step with the 65 percent of Republicans who claim to believe the election was stolen.

I say “claim” because I do not believe what that 65 percent say for one second. They don’t believe the election was stolen; they’ve just come to believe that they’re entitled to dominate people they don’t like culturally or otherwise and to behave however indulgently they choose. No election should be able to bind them. That’s why they love Trump. He told them they’re right. He gave them permission and affirmation.

It is difficult for me to fully articulate how little I respect that as an expression of character or citizenship or patriotism. And I won’t humor or indulge it for a second. Not one second. I’d rather these indulgent attention-seekers just come insurrection me if they have it in them.

In any event, Colleen’s public willingness to state an empirically correct and obvious view of the evidence puts her at great political risk in a modern Republican primary. She clearly does not represent her voters on what seems most important to them. We’ll see if she recants.

This statement puts her at particular risk, theoretically, to the Jimmy Nelsons and the Q-followers and the coup-curious County Citizens Defending Freedom (CCDF) wing of the Polk Republican party. I wrote about them here.

If CCDF doesn’t primary her — or doesn’t force her to recant — you’ll know CCDF is all a scam, Q-types and insurrectionists. It’s easy to disrupt non-partisan school board meetings with a few out of town anti-social screamers. It’s a lot harder to go take power from the real establishment when it doesn’t give you what you think you’re entitled to.

If CCDF doesn’t try to do that for you, Q-types and insurrectionists, you’ll know Jimmy Nelson is selling you out for his own angle. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not rooting for you, Q-types. Your indulgent, anti-social, abusive behavior is a blight on the reasonable function of this community and country. But I will tell you when establishment power sells you out. And you’ll know I’m telling you the truth.

What will Colleen’s “friends” do ?

During my campaign, a thing called “Friends of Colleen Burton” contributed at least $2,500 to “Citizens for Better Education,” which put out a number of lying Q-type ads about what a public enemy I am.

See the full list of funders below — it’s the local Leadership Club, not Q.

But they were more than happy to go Q by chopping words out of an essay I wrote about community unity to pretend I said the opposite.

I have no idea who the “Friends of Colleen Burton” are. I suspect it’s just some lobbyist’s credit card. But it’s pretty funny to compare Colleen’s empirically reasonable view of the 2020 election with those Q-ads “Friends of Colleen Burton” helped pay for when it served her purpose.

And if the CCDF folks decide to come after Colleen for refusing to lie and say the election was stolen, it will be fascinating to watch what the “Friends of Colleen Burton” and Grady Judds and Kelli Stargels and Bell Barnetts and Harrells do.

They’ve become accustomed to using the Q-folks and insurrectionists when it serves their purpose — and then pretending like they don’t exist afterward. (Believe me, Q-types, they’d rather deal with me than you — if nobody knows about it. LOL.)

I personally hope Jimmy Nelson lives up to the hype he’s creating for himself and holds Colleen electorally accountable on behalf of all the insurrection citizens he claims to speak for.

And then I hope the “Friends of Colleen Burton” smash CCDF with all their capital. I hope they back the reasonable, locally-focused version of Colleen Burton over the coup curious Jimmy Nelson Q-types of the world — even if they send her back to an insurrectionist Legislature where she turns off her reasonableness under orders from Legislative leaders. Baby steps.

What a wonderful time to be alive.