Aide Brings ‘Quirky’ Background to Chief of Staff Ranks
Barely a month into his new position as chief of staff to freshman Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., Greg Brophy opted, understandably, against sitting down with a reporter who was writing a story about him.
“I no longer do press interviews,” Brophy told CQ Roll Call. “I get to be quirky all by myself.”
Brophy, a 48-year-old watermelon farmer from Wray, Colo., served a dozen years in the state legislature. Now he’s the top aide to the Republican freshman class president.
But the new behind-the-scenes style for the previously media-friendly Republican, an outspoken advocate for gun owners and bicyclists alike, didn’t last long.
The request-and-response email chain between Brophy and CQ Roll Call that began on Feb. 3 regarding the interview didn’t stay private. It was posted last week on a Denver Post blog under the headline, “DC media discovers Congressman Ken Buck’s quirky chief of staff,” with no reference to how the email made its way to the Colorado newspaper.
Brophy, who worked as an area representative to Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard for a couple years in the early 2000s before his election to the state House and his 2005 ascension by appointment to a state Senate seat, is no stranger to national attention.
Up against term limits, Brophy in 2014 sought the Republican gubernatorial nomination as a top critic of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. But he failed to qualify for the primary ballot, bringing his 12-year career in the state capital to an end.
It was Brophy’s legislative savvy and ability to work across the aisle on certain issues that earned Buck rave reviews — at least in some circles — for the man he chose to lead his congressional office.
“I don’t think you’re going to find many people in public life as diverse as he is,” said Mike Beasley, a state lobbyist in Denver and the former top lobbyist to then-Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican. “I mean, he’s a bike-riding, Prius-driving farmer who has supported renewable energy and gun rights all at the same time. His various views on issues have made him one of our most colorful and effective political figures in Colorado. So for Ken Buck to select him, many of us thought that was a brilliant choice.”
Brophy has rallied on the state Capitol steps against a biking ban in one town and offered multiple pieces of legislation promoting bicycle safety. He also led the fight in 2013 against new gun control regulations, measures that led to the recall of two Democratic state senators.
During legislative debate over a bill outlawing high-capacity ammunition magazines, he announced on the state Senate floor that, if passed, he would not comply.
“Someday, when I need one or my son needs one … I will hop in my Prius, and I will drive to Sidney, Nebraska, to the Cabela’s store, and I will buy what I or he needs to be the sheepdog of the family, to protect against the wolves,” Brophy said, continuing a metaphor from earlier in his remarks.
He added later, “The personal consequence of this legislation is that I will willfully and purposefully and civilly disobey this law.”
The same year, The Huffington Post picked up on local blog coverage of a Brophy family photo on Facebook showing the state senator, his wife and three children all holding guns. And Fox News covered and debated a bill he sponsored to allow underage adults to drink at bars with their parents.
(He might be laying low when it comes to interviews, but the chief of staff is still tweeting partisan jabs from his @senatorbrophy account.)
While he’s firmly conservative, Brophy told the Fort Collins Coloradoan in 2013 that, “It’s hard to put me in a box because of my wide and varied interests.”
Those interests, mixed with his charm, have earned him friends across the aisle.
Ben Marter, now the communications director for Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, first met Brophy several years ago while working as a staffer in the Colorado state House.
“What people, certainly in the legislature, have always appreciated about Greg is that, whether you agree with him or not, he says what he thinks,” Marter said.
One day, as they got to talking on the state House floor about a Christopher Hitchens book Marter was reading, the staffer noted Brophy wouldn’t agree with a word in it and challenged the legislator to read it. Brophy agreed, but only if Marter read C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity.”
Brophy and Marter are “politically from two very different worlds,” Marter said last week, but the exercise and ensuing discussions “sort of challenged both of our beliefs.”
Nu Wexler, a former Democratic flack in the House and Senate who now works at Twitter, met Brophy on an exchange trip to the Philippines with the American Council of Young Political Leaders in 2004, shortly after Brophy was re-elected to a second term in the state House.
“At the time, I was coming off a losing Senate race and the thought of spending three weeks away from U.S. news in Asia was very appealing,” Wexler said. “I wasn’t planning to talk campaigns, but Greg and I hit it off very early in the trip. … We don’t agree on much politically, but I respect his knowledge of policy, commitment to his family, and his dedication to public service. We both learn a lot from each other, hearing the other side of issues, and defending our respective positions.”
“Plus,” Wexler added, “my liberal friends are always amused when they hear I’m friends with Greg.”
Brophy has appeared in Roll Call before, in 2009 as a potential challenger to then-Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey. His name was floated, as was Buck’s. It would be then-state Rep. Cory Gardner who would go on to easily defeat Markey in 2010 and knock off Democratic Sen. Mark Udall last year.
Gardner’s decision to run statewide in 2014 coincided, not coincidentally, with Buck’s switch from the Senate race to the contest for Gardner’s open 4th District seat. The move gave Buck a far easier avenue to Congress than his failed 2010 challenge to Sen. Michael Bennet. Buck’s election, of course, led to Brophy’s hire.
On May 7, the final day of the 2014 legislative session and a few weeks after his gubernatorial campaign had ended, Brophy offered a simile about his career to his nearly 4,000 Facebook friends.
“It is kinda like my last day in school,” Brophy said. “Didn’t get into grad school, so I’m done. Look out, world …”