Not From Metro Denver? It May Not Be Possible to Win a Statewide Race

Some Colorado politicos were surprised when state Sen. Greg Brophy failed to generate enough support to make the Republican ballot for Governor last weekend, but it makes plenty of sense when you consider recent electoral history in our state. Brophy hails from Yuma County in Eastern Colorado, an area that is home to only about 10,000 residents. Brophy may have had the support of Republican delegates from Yu18 years in Coloradoma County, but that number would be just a fraction of the votes he needed at the GOP State Convention.

Congressman Cory Gardner, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, is also from the Yuma area. Gardner succeeded Brophy in the State House when the latter was appointed to the State Senate in 2005. Gardner had no trouble winning the GOP nomination for Senate last weekend, primarily because he did not face the same crowded field of gubernatorial candidates that stood in front of Brophy. But Gardner still needs to figure out how to solve what we’ll call his “Yuma Problem” if he hopes to win a General Election matchup with Senator Mark Udall…and history is not on Gardner’s side.

The last time Colorado voters elected a statewide candidate who did not hail from the Front Range of Colorado? That was in 1996, when Loveland-based Rep. Wayne Allard was first elected to the U.S. Senate (Loveland was much smaller in 1996 than it is today — the population has doubled since the 1990 census).

Cory Gardner, Bob Schaffer.

Can Cory Gardner (left) break a trend that former CD-4 Rep. Bob Schaffer could not?

It has been 18 years since Colorado voters last elected a non-incumbent candidate who did not have roots along the Front Range, and particularly, the Denver Metro area.

Check out the numbers from the 2012 election, when a total of 2,584,719 ballots were cast in the race for President. Nearly 80% of those votes came from the Front Range of Colorado, between Ft. Collins and Pueblo. More than 1 million votes were cast in just four Denver Metro counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, and Jefferson.

There was a time in Colorado when grizzled political veterans of any political party agreed on one thing: That a Denver-based politician could never win a statewide office. That old yarn was repeated as recently as 2006, finally dying out for good when former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter was elected Governor.

Population shifts in Colorado over the past 20 years have dramatically altered the landscape of statewide politics, to the point where the old saying about Denver politicians has been flipped on its head. In fact, it may no longer even be possible to win a statewide race if the candidate is not from the Denver Metro area – or at the very least, from somewhere along the Front Range.

With so many media outlets concentrated on the Denver Metro area, local politicians have a significant advantage when it comes to earned media and building name recognition. It’s difficult for a rural Congressman such as Gardner to generate name ID when the Greeley Tribune is the largest media outlet in his district.

You’ll hear a lot of different statistics and historical patterns around the 2014 election, including predictions based on how candidates typically fare in the 6th year of a Presidency. But this Colorado pattern is more than a trend – it represents a fundamental shift in the electorate that would be difficult for any candidate to overcome. Check out our graphic of all statewide candidates since 1996 after the jump…

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Another GOP Obamacare Udall Hit Rates “Mostly False”

mostlyfalse

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports, Politifact's Truth-o-Meter snags another one:

"Mark Udall has voted with the president 99 percent of the time. He lied to us about our health care. He increased our taxes. He voted against the Second Amendment. He cast the deciding vote for Obamacare," [GOP Senate candidate Cory] Gardner told Jefferson County Republicans during their assembly in March.

PolitiFact, a Pulitzer-prize winning enterprise of the Tampa Bay Times, checked out the claim. PolitiFact researches statements and rates the accuracy on what it calls its "Truth-O-Meter." The ratings are True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire.

"Because Udall had consistently sided with the Democratic leadership in votes related to the act, he was not among the handful of undecided senators who (Majority Leader Harry) Reid had to wrangle as the vote was approaching," PolitiFact wrote.

"We rate this claim Mostly False."

As Bartels reports, Cory Gardner's campaign didn't react well to the news.

"It looks like Politifact's pants are on fire this time," he said…

Rather than get sidetracked by the Gardner campaign's eyerolling dis on a Pulitzer Prize-winning fact checker, let's look at Politifact's patiently redundant analysis of Gardner's claim that Sen. Mark Udall "cast the deciding vote for Obamacare." We're pretty sure we've covered this same semantic silliness at least once or twice since 2010:

[Udall] consistently sided with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in votes relating to the health care law, and he offered several amendments to the bill either as a sponsor or a co-sponsor.

By contrast, then-Sen. Ben Nelson was widely considered a holdout whose late-in-the-game announcement of support was key to the vote’s success…

59 senators…also voted to end debate — and the exact same thing could be said about them. [Pols emphasis] Because Udall had consistently sided with the Democratic leadership in votes related to the act, he was not among the handful of undecided senators who Reid had to wrangle as the vote was approaching. We rate this claim Mostly False.

So yes, folks, this is mindless rhetorical gameplaying. Every Democratic Senator "cast the deciding vote for Obamacare." To be perfectly honest, we would rather see Politifact take a stand on on the much more misleading statement from Gardner they cite from a recent FOX News interview, that "335,000 Coloradans lost their health insurance." As we have explained over and over in this space, that statement is grossly deceptive, since over 90% of those "cancellation notices" were in fact renewal notices, thousands found better deals via the Obamacare marketplace, and–most importantly–we now know that the number of insured Americans has gone up, not down, since the rollout of Obamacare.

Bottom line: arguing over who cast "the deciding vote for Obamacare," like building one's entire case for election on attacking Obamacare, is a waste of everyone's time, and that includes Cory Gardner. While the fact checkers hammer away at the falsehoods, voters can see with their own eyes now that Obamacare is not the disaster they've been told it would be. Obamacare won't be the message Cory Gardner campaigns on this fall–because if it is, the race will be long over.

Post reporter is first to interview Coffman directly (and briefly) about personhood flip

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Mike Coffman.

Mike Coffman.

The Denver Post's Kurtis Lee has done what no other reporter in Colorado could manage to do for three long weeks since Rep. Mike Coffman's spokesperson sort of told Lee that Coffman had un-endorsed the personhood amendment–sort of because it hasn't been clear if Coffman opposes personhood per se, or just the amendment.

And, after reading Coffman's comments to Lee, it's still not clear, though it appear Coffman still supports the personhood concept, at least to some degree, but not the amendment.

Lee tracked down Coffman at last weekend's Republican assembly and asked him to confirm his new-found opposition to the personhood amendment and to explain why his stance had changed:

Coffman: "There are parts of it that are unintended. … I think it's too overbroad and that the voters have spoken."

Lee noted that Coffman received high praise from personhood organizers in the past. (It's true, plus personhood supporters don't point to any elements of their amendment that are unintended, and Coffman didn't point out any unintended consequence less than two years ago, when he was last lauded by personhood organizers.)

Lee also asked Coffman whether he opposes abortion, even in the case of rape and incest. Coffman has never personally backtracked from his steadfast opposition to abortion under these circumstances.

In fact, Coffman went out of his way in the past to underline his opposition to rape-and-incest exceptions.

But he told Lee that he now supports abortion for rape or incest victims, putting an exclamation point on an about-face that started last year when, as Lee points out, his office put out a statement saying Coffman supported such exceptions in a House bill. Still, this is the first time Coffman has talked about his flip himself.

Lee described his Coffman interview as "brief," and there are still big questions hanging out there for the next reporter that manages to snag Coffman. These include: What is Coffman's current abortion stance, beyond being "pro-life?" Does he support Roe v. Wade? Does he support the personhood concept? If he still believes life begins at the zygote (fertilized eggs) stage. Does he oppose forms of birth control, like IUDs, that threaten zygotes?

The headline of Lee's article reads, "Mike Coffman adjusts abortion stance in cases of rape and incest." Trouble is, we still don't know what his abortion stance is, except he opposes a women's right to choose pretty much all the time.

Old Coffman vs. New Coffman®–Medicare Part D Edition

One of the biggest themes in the CD-6 race has been the wholesale transformation of incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Coffman, from the arch-conservative Republican representing firebrand conservative Tom Tancredo's former district, into a "moderate" representing one of the most economically and culturally diverse congressional districts in the United States. It's a transformation that has mostly taken place since 2012, when a relatively obscure and underfunded Democratic opponent came within only two points of unseating Coffman–demonstrating how redistricting has made Coffman one of the nation's most vulnerable incumbent members of Congress.

Coffman's record before redistricting reshaped the electorate he answers to, from a time when his only threat was being deemed insufficiently conservative, is the biggest problem he faces remaining in office today. This video clip from a 2008 congressional debate, when Coffman was working overtime to prove his conservative credentials in the Republican primary to replace Tancredo, demonstrates the problem better than perhaps anything we've seen:

MIKE COFFMAN: In terms of federal spending it is out of control and that's why Republicans are out of power right now because they didn't hold true to their beliefs as being fiscal conservatives. The biggest part of the budget, unfortunately is now on auto-pilot. It's entitlement spending–it's not discretionary spending. [Interrupted]

What is important about this district, in being a very Republican seat, is it enables someone to be able to take strong positions that someone in a swing seat may not be able to take. [Pols emphasis] And entitlement reform, in order to bring fiscal sanity to this country, has got to be a part of it. 

And here you have a President [Bush] who was talking about Social Security reform, abandoned Social Security reform, turned around and did an entitlement on Medicare for which he cooked the books to make the numbers work, and future generations are going to be paying for that. Someone has to have the courage to step up and say "no." I've demonstrated that courage here in the state of Colorado.

"Old Coffman" was awfully candid, wasn't he?

It's critical to understand this: the "entitlement on Medicare" for which Coffman claims President George W. Bush "cooked the books" to enact is the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit–the same Medicare Part D Coffman received an award for "protecting" from the National Grange just last year! Has anybody asked Coffman what changed between the time that Medicare Part D was a big bad "entitlement," and when it became a plank in Coffman's platform to "protect Medicare?" We're guessing not. Because there is no good answer, folks.

But it's a great example of how Coffman's "strong positions"…have come back to bite him.

Republican Insiders: Tancredo, Beauprez Frontrunners for Gov. Nomination

UPDATE #2: FOX 31's Eli Stokols updates with further response from Tancredo, who insists he is neither looking at the Jeffco superintendent's job nor an exit from the gubernatorial race:

Tancredo responded to this story Tuesday afternoon, telling FOX31 Denver that he’s not the least bit interested in the Jefferson County superintendent’s job, or looking for an exit.

“The state government would be a hell of a lot easier to run than the Jefferson County School system,” Tancredo said. “And there’s no way in hell we’d be busting our butts and spending all this money getting signatures if we weren’t committed.

“I’ve said all along that if there’s someone who emerges who’s polling better and more competitive with Hickenlooper than me, I’ll hand them the baton,” he added. “But I don’t see it right now. I think I’ve got as good a shot of winning as anyone.”

—–

UPDATE: Speaking with conservative blog Colorado Peak Politics, Tom Tancredo denies rumors of being in the running for superintendent of Jefferson County Schools:

“Absolutely false. Joked that running the state of CO would be easier than running Jeffco schools. My guess this is someone (party insiders) wants to slow my momentum.”

—–

Beauprez, via The Colorado Statesman.

Like him or not, Republicans see Beauprez as a frontrunner for the nomination.

Fox 31's Eli Stokols takes a good, long look at the four-person field seeking the Republican nomination for Governor. As Stokols reports, according to a host of Republican insiders, Tom Tancedo and Bob Beauprez are the frontrunners for the GOP nomination following Saturday's Republican State Convention. Top-line winner Mike Kopp is still a long-shot and Scott Gessler may be beginning to fade:

A number of top Colorado Republicans, who all spoke candidly to FOX31 Denver in exchange for remaining anonymous, agree that each of the four candidates has a path to winning the party’s nomination, but that two in particular have an inherent advantage.

Even after his surprise top-line victory Saturday, former Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp has his work cut out for him if he wants to finish on top when the primary votes are counted. For now, he is still viewed as having longer odds to secure the nomination than former Congressman Tom Tancredo, who has a deep base of support, and former Congressman Bob Beauprez, who has the deep financial resources to be the last man standing…

…“Tancredo remains the frontrunner in a four-candidate diffused field,” one Republican said. “He starts with a 25-30 percent base vote in a Republican primary, so unless one of the other three can emerge as the Tancredo alternative, he wins by default.” [Pols emphasis]

Rumors abound that party bosses are looking for a way to get Tancredo out of the race, and even that Tancredo may be listening. One rumor circulating Monday is that the Jefferson County School Board, won by a conservative majority last November, may hire Tancredo, a former teacher, as superintendent.

The rumor that Tom Tancredo might be interested in becoming Jefferson County Superintendent was first reported here at Colorado Pols.

Tancredo’s Tea-Party Position on Education Aligns with Jeffco School Board

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Tom Tancredo.

Tom Tancredo.

ColoradoPols has called on gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo to address rumors that "GOP power-brokers" are pushing for him to be Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools.

Pols didn't get into whether Tancredo, who's currently leading the gubernatorial GOP primary field, would be a logical selection for the Tea-Party-controlled Jeffco School Board. No need to fall off your chair because yes, unfortunately, Tancredo's views on education are thoroughly right-wing.

He's not only a consistent supporter of diverting public-school funding to private schools through vouchers, but he also sees the public school system as a way for public officials to control the small minds of America's children.

Tancredo: "Why we can’t at least give kids in those [poverty] circumstances, a key to that door – called a voucher. Tell me, why it is so important to keep them locked into a government school system. Well, we know why they want to. They want to determine how those kids view the world, as we just got done explaining."

Where's the evidence that public-school education is about anything but freedom from indoctrination? Teachers wouldn't tolerate it. They don't want to indoctrinate their students. They want to teach them to understand how the world works and ask questions about it. American public education is about mind control?

Tancredo expressed these views on the Peter Boyles show April 1, with Chuck Bonniwell subbing for Boyles.

Jeffco teachers, supported by community members, are at an impasse with the Jeffco board, whose current leaders would certainly applaud Tancredo's views, as expressed here:

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A Few Words Of Sympathy For Mark Waller

Rep. Mark Waller (R).

Rep. Mark Waller (R).

The Denver Post's Kurtis Lee circles back with Rep. Mark Waller, whose campaign for the GOP Attorney General nomination took a big hit at Saturday's state assembly:

Chief Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Coffman nearly walked away with the GOP nomination for AG over the weekend, amassing 69 percent of the support from state delegates.

The total far outpaced her rival, state Rep. Mark Waller of Colorado Springs, who almost failed to make the June 24 primary ballot as he captured just 30.7 percent of the vote…

Waller, a former House GOP minority leader, who for months has been vocal inside Capitol that he would easily make the ballot, focused some of his attention on Coffman as he addressed delegates.

Waller's fundraising in this race so far has been absolutely terrible, and despite his affable nature and name ID as the former House Minority Leader, primary opponent Cynthia Coffman has pretty consistently had the advantage in this race. The fact that Waller nonetheless did make the primary ballot without having to petition on is attributable to support from legislative allies, but also the lingering dislike for the surname Coffman you can still find in Republican insider circles. Few today remember the nasty CD-6 primary of 2008, in which most of the GOP establishment in Colorado endorsed Mike Coffman's opponent, but the state assembly is where those kinds of grudges tend to resurface.

And remember, folks, the only vote that matters is June 24th. State assembly winners don't automatically win the primary in Colorado by any stretch of the imagination. But clearly, Waller had better get busy.

There was an interesting moment of drama at the state assembly Saturday, when ballots were reportedly distributed to delegates before Rep. Waller had finished addressing the delegates. That hasn't resulted in any action since then that we're aware of, but if Waller is looking for some consolation today…maybe that accounted for a few votes, you bet! Hang in there, Rep. Waller.

Tuesday Open Thread

"Republicans are for both the man and the dollar, but in case of conflict the man before the dollar."

–Abraham Lincoln

Is Tom Tancredo Considering Jefferson County Superintendent Job?

Tancredo for Governor

Tom Tancredo for…what?

UPDATE: We hear that a friend and advisor of Tancredo is discreetly asking questions about the possibility of Tancredo being approved as Jeffco Schools Superintendent. This would be a clever move for one of Tancredo's gubernatorial opponents — to leak that he is looking at dropping out of the race — but that doesn't seem to be the case thus far. Perhaps only Tancredo can answer this question now.

—–

Republican Tom Tancredo has been the frontrunner for the GOP nomination for Governor from the day he announced his campaign, consistently producing stronger fundraising numbers than his Republican counterparts and demonstrating his lead dog status by skipping Republican debates.

Tancredo's momentum continued last week when he was endorsed by conservative columnist Michelle Malkin a few days before his name was certified for the ballot after submitting the requisite number of petition signatures. In a four-person field for the Republican nomination (along with Bob Beauprez, Scott Gessler, and Mike Kopp), Tancredo would appear to be in the driver's seat as we steam towards the June Primary.

And yet…rumors persisted over the weekend that Tancredo is being pushed by some GOP power-brokers to consider accepting a job as the new Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools (should it be offered to him). Tancredo is by no means an obvious choice to lead the largest school district in Colorado, but it is entirely possible that the unpredictable and unabashedly-partisan Jeffco School Board could decide that the former high school teacher would be a good partner in their efforts to push the school district in the same far-right direction as their counterparts in Douglas County (remember that Tancredo was mentioned as a potential candidate for Douglas County Superintendent a few years back).

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Purged: Priola Resigns as House Minority Whip

Rep. Kevin Priola (R).

Rep. Kevin Priola (R).

The other shoe drops from last week's intra-Colorado House GOP infighting, Denver Post's Anthony Cotton:

Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, said Monday he is resigning as Republican minority whip in the wake of an internal party squabble last week…

During a debate last Thursday on dueling amendments to the Student Success Act, which will provide funding to K-12 schools, Priola backed Democratic co-sponsor Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, over fellow Republican Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida. The move drew the immediate ire of a number of Republicans, who alleged Priola wasn’t acting in keeping with his role as whip.

Within hours, the Republican caucus held a meeting, with Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, leading an effort to remove Priola. The attempt eventually failed, but it was clear Priola was on shaky ground within the party.

As we discussed last week, there is a great deal of frustration building among conservative Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly. After stoking outrage to a fever pitch during last year's successful recall campaigns against Democrats in the Senate, conservatives have suffered a wave of setbacks in 2014–failing to pack committee hearings for stillborn repeal measures, ridicule after showing up to hearing unprepared to debate their own bills or call witnesses, and widespread criticism of unpopular legislation introduced by Republican legislators like this year's total abortion ban bill. It seems that frustration boiled over last week, when Rep. Kevin Priola supported a Democratic amendment to the Student Success Act over an amendment offered by fellow Republican Rep. Jim Wilson.

The swift retribution campaign against Priola headed by Rep. Chris Holbert ended embarrassingly when caucus leadership declared the move out of order, but we're not at all surprised to see Priola resign from House leadership today. At this point, the caucus would have been weakened further if Priola had not resigned from leadership, even though Priola is not erratic enough to pull a Kathleen Curry and disaffiliate from the GOP altogether. It's expected that the candidate named to replace Priola in last week's dustup, Rep. Polly Lawrence, will be the next minority whip.

With hard right Republican legislative candidates continuing to do well in the primary process, conservatives in the legislature may yet feel empowered to throw their weight around. Don't look for anything to change there until the June primary–or maybe until after November.

 

History Lesson: How Mike Coffman Does “Accountability”

Rep. Mike Coffman.

Rep. Mike Coffman.

Last week, it was announced that former Kansas Gov. and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will resign, to be replaced by Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Sebelius leaves with an admittedly mixed record after presiding over the troubled rollout of President Barack Obama's namesake Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace website–even though a late surge in enrollment ultimately allowed the administration to claim success, meeting the initial goal of seven million insurance signups by the end of March.

Sebelius' legacy as head of HHS during the rollout of "Obamacare" is linked to the success of health care reform, and it's a good bet that she'll be remembered more fondly as the early failures of the program fade from memory. For today, though, let's take a look at the response to Sebelius' resignation as announced Friday by embattled GOP Rep. Mike Coffman:

I learned this very early on during my time in the military — no organization can operate effectively in the absence of accountability.  The sad truth is, until today, there has been zero accountability for the broken websites, the broken roll-outs and the many broken promises that have swamped Obamacare. In the military, the business world, or any other walk of life, Secretary Sebelius would've been shown the exit long, long ago…

Okay, full stop. We're not sure how many readers remember the story of Coffman's former Elections Director from his time as Secretary of State, a gentlemen by the name of Dan Kopelman, but if you know Kopelman's story, Coffman's remarks about Sebelius can be easily cast as hypocritical. Dan Kopelman was caught in 2007 running a partisan elections data business on the side while working for Coffman at the Secretary of State's office. The obvious conflict of interest made for months of terrible press for Coffman, and forced Coffman to implement a "new policy" prohibiting SoS elections employees from holding "an official position in a partisan organization or political party" or working "for or against a candidate for a partisan office."

Which you'd think would be obvious.

Despite Kopelman's clear violation of C.R.S. section 24-50-117, which states that "no employee shall engage in any employment or activity which creates a conflict of interest with his duties as a state employee," Coffman didn't show Kopelman "the exit" at all–simply transferring him within the Secretary of State's office "to a job where he does not have access to voter data."

What's the difference, you ask? With Sebelius, the headlines are much bigger! And, as with so much of Coffman's long history in politics, the Kopelman episode was so many years ago–2007, ancient history–that he's counting on nobody remembering it ever happened. But we do, and as long as the Rocky Mountain News' archives stay online, Coffman will earn blowback over Kopelman every time he gets preachy.

Stay Classy, Victor “Everyone Loves” Head

Sometimes, one's campaign swag leaves little to the imagination. Definitely the case with 2013 recall organizer-turned GOP Pueblo County Clerk candidate Victor Head:

everonelovesheadWe're trying to figure out what's worse: that Mr. Head thinks "Everyone Loves Head" is an appropriate slogan for a serious campaign for office, or that only females are wearing this shirt in the photo on Head's Facebook page?

Yes, the answers to these questions are obvious, and eww.

Media should not report Satan is real

​(Um – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Dan Caplis.

Dan Caplis.

Everyone's a media critic, including Archbishop Sam Aquila who told KNUS radio host Dan Caplis last week the media is distorting Pope Fancis, in part by failing to report that Satan is real.

Aquila on Pope Francis press coverage: [Pope Francis] has a deep love for those that are in need, for those who are poor, and reaches out to them, and so, the media never reports on his very real support for Catholic teaching and the understanding of Catholic teaching. They never report on – he’s one of the few popes that, at least in my lifetime, who has referred to the devil in his homilies and his catechesis. And rarely do you hear the secular media reporting on that – that there is evil in the world, that there is – that Satan is real, the devil is real and he can really draw you away from the gospel message. And, of course, in a secular world that denies God, they’re going to deny the evil one, too. And so it gives free rein to the evil one and that is really problematic because it is not good for humanity. Also, he is really one who embraces those who are sick or suffering. And I watched a video yesterday on Blessed John Paul II[…]. And so Francis, too, has that goodness about him, and people really do see that he loves them and cares for them. But he’s also very challenging. When he – you know, the fact that he warned members of the mafia in Italy that they could go to hell if they continue to pursue their abuse of power and their murdering of people, and all of that.

I understand Archbishop Aquila is an Archbishop. And I understand Dan Caplis is a social conservative, and I understand I'm a biased atheist.

And we're all entitled to our beliefs, truly. But the media should report that Satan is real?

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