By Lisa Young
In early December a film crew from French 5 TV traveled to Colorado in search of the inside scoop on the future of the Republican Party, rural America’s response to COVID-19 and the impacts of government action on local restaurants, agriculture and healthcare industries.
Who better to profile than State Rep. Matt Soper, from Delta, a rising star in the Republican party. The passionate politician who grew up on the Western Slope, initially turned down the offer from the French television after returning home following the state’s special session.
Undaunted by his refusal, the producer offered to send a television crew to Delta for the interviews which also included meeting with Delta County Memorial Hospital Board and staff, Dave Whittlesey of High Wire Ranch and the owner of NeedleRock Brewing (now permanently closed due to COVID-19.)
“They definitely saw a rancher who is concerned about water issue and the state of our country. They saw a rural hospital that has a pretty conservative board of directors where we’re very concerned because percentage wise we have the highest number of COVID patients in all of Western Colorado,” said Soper, adding that ⅓ of patients at the 49-bed hospital have the virus.
As of Dec. 16, DCMH reported having 11 patients with COVID symptoms. St. Mary’s in Grand Junction is just behind Delta with about 10% of its hospital filled with COVID-19 patients, according to Soper.
Over the course of the two-day interview, Soper shared his thoughts on the future of the Republican party. Filmmakers were mostly curious to ascertain if the GOP would survive without President Donald Trump at the helm.
“I assured them that the Republican Party has been in existence before Donald Trump and it will continue to be in existence whether he remains our president or not,” Soper shared.
“It’s the core values that we feel strongly about in Western Colorado, it’s the rights of the individual, personal responsibility, support for our agricultural and business community, those are really the bedrock of the Republican party in addition to a rules-based or law-based society. So, we’ve been the moral compass, or moral party traditionally,” he told interviewers.
The film crew followed the lawmaker back to Denver for a committee meeting on legal services. He spoke about the race riots after the murder of George Floyd and the civil unrest in the state. And despite the outcome of the November election, Soper told filmmakers that, “it’s very difficult to extrapolate that the Republican party is in trouble adding that he still views the Republican party as being “alive and well” and relevant.
“We may have some setbacks by being down one senate seat, but we didn’t lose any seats in the state house and we only lost one seat in the state senate. We’re more at the low point which means we’re in a great position to rebuild and refocus on the basic principles of the party. Getting back to that is really important to us,” Soper said.
The opportunity to be interviewed by the French television station came about following a funny incident during a late night session on Colorado’s Red Flag bill. During the debate, one of his colleagues called out Soper’s name using a fake French accent. The joke stuck and Soper, in a roundabout way, found his way on a French television show.
“I do hope the exposure of being on international media and highlighting parts of Delta County will help our county even if it’s a political show, they’re still going to mention Delta, Colorado and show scenes in and around Delta,” said Soper hoping that someone somewhere in France will book a vacation to scenic Western Colorado.