Blaha Trumps Trump

UPDATE #2: Backpedal time!

We do love the media attention, but Robert has never supported a ban on Muslims. He supports going “beyond” Mr. Trump’s statements, which singles out Muslims, to instead equally vetting all factors that could present a threat to American lives…

So, Blaha said he wants to “go beyond just Muslims.” That statement would certainly appear to include Muslims. But definitely, tell every reporter in America that what they can plainly see isn’t true. That approach worked out smashingly for Jon Keyser.

Really, how hard is it to choke out the words “I misspoke?”

—–

UPDATE: The Hill’s Lisa Hagen:

A Republican Colorado Senate candidate said this week that he wants to take Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States a step further…

Blaha is part of a crowded GOP field in the June 28 primary to try and unseat Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). The seat is one of the few GOP targets this cycle as Republicans seek to hold onto their slim Senate majority.

Democrats blasted Blaha’s remarks for taking Trump’s proposal to the “next level.”

“We already knew Robert Blaha was unabashed in his extreme policy positions, but saying banning Muslims from entering the country isn’t taking it far enough is taking extreme to the next level,” Colorado Democratic Party spokesman Chris Meagher said in a statement. “Instead of focusing on real policy solutions, Blaha is adding to the outlandish, offensive, prejudiced rhetoric that is antithetical to our values as a nation.”

—–

Robert Blaha.

Robert Blaha.

Buzzfeed picked up a gem of a tirade from Robert “Bla-ha!” Blaha, a Colorado Republican U.S. Senate primary candidate fighting for relevance in a 5-man race:

Robert Blaha, a Republican primary candidate in Colorado’s Senate race, said on Tuesday that Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the country doesn’t go far enough.

“I want to go beyond just Muslims,” Blaha said at a GOP meeting in Fremont County. “And I’ll tell you why. The issue is not—the issue is partially a religious issue, but the real issue there is—the real issue is security. The real issue is we do not know who these people are. We don’t know where they’re coming from, we don’t know whether a terrorist state. We do not have the ability as a government right now to vet these people…”

“Until we can properly vet people and know who they are and know where they’re coming from and know what their belief structures are they’re coming out of, we cannot afford to take that risk,” he said.

When Blaha says we “can’t vet these people,” we have to assume he just hasn’t heard about all the ways we do “vet these people” right now. We assume Blaha is principally concerned with refugees like other Republicans who find political advantage in demagoguing this stuff, but the fact is, refugees are much more thoroughly screened than other kinds of visitors to the United States–like tourists. Tourists from abroad constitute a large percentage of the 75 million people who traveled to the United States last year from abroad, and while they’re here they contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy.

Including right here in the year-round alpine playground of Colorado. Is that what Blaha is trying to do? To hurt Colorado’s tourism economy?

Donald Trump is doing enough to damage America’s image in the world, to include desirability as a vacation destination, with his xenophobic scare tactics. For Colorado’s sake, it would be nice if our Republican U.S. Senate candidates weren’t doing their best to ensure our state has the same problem.

Michael Bennet is Exactly Who You Thought He Was

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Colorado Republicans have endured weeks upon weeks (upon weeks) of positively brutal headlines as the race for the Republican Senate nomination enters its final month, so we can understand why some in the GOP would be overjoyed to come across some negative news about Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet.

Before we get to bursting the GOP’s bubble on this particular piece of Bennet news, let us pause to allow our Republican friends to bask in the dim glow of this story from the Denver Post:

The Colorado AFL-CIO dealt a surprising rebuke to U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet over the weekend when the union federation declined to endorse the Democratic incumbent in his bid for re-election.

Bennet was the only Democratic lawmaker in Colorado’s congressional delegation who failed to gain the support of the state’s AFL-CIO chapter…

…Sam Gilchrist, executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO, said the vote on Bennet was close, but that he fell short of the required two-thirds majority needed for an endorsement because too many union members were unhappy with Bennet’s support of a measure last year that gives the White House more power to cut international trade deals.

That authority is broadly seen as a pathway for the Obama administration to approve a new agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would ease trade barriers among 12 Pacific Rim countries, from the U.S. and Canada to Japan and Chile.

While the Colorado AFL-CIO declined to endorse Bennet’s re-election campaign because of the Senator’s perceived support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Bennet hasn’t exactly been bullish on the idea, either. As the Colorado Independent reports:

Bennet has not yet taken a public position on TPP.

But Bennet voted on a measure giving Obama the authority to “fast track” negotiations for it and other global trade agreements, and Bennet has drawn fire from the AFL-CIO for his stance on trade before. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have come out against TPP.

Failing to lock up the endorsement of the Colorado AFL-CIO is certainly not a positive development for Bennet, but it’s not nearly as problematic for 2016 as Republicans would like you to believe. Bennet is a moderate Democrat who goes about his business on Capitol Hill as a moderate Democrat would be expected to act. Bennet’s moderate credentials may not make him beloved by the liberal Democrats in Colorado, but he is who he is. Maintaining his centrist approach to the Senate is a big part of the reason why he is widely favored to win re-election this fall.

Bennet may not get the official support of the Colorado AFL-CIO, but he should have plenty of backing from other labor groups who prefer Bennet over any of his Republicans challengers. Concerns about the TPP issue as a political millstone are overblown as well; you may recall that Bennet supported the Keystone XL oil pipeline in 2015, yet still received the endorsement of prominent environmental groups such as the League of Conservation Voters and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The very fact that the AFL-CIO felt comfortable enough to not support Bennet also bodes well for progressive politics in Colorado. The AFL-CIO made its point with Bennet; the message was received and understood, but not at the expense of mortally wounding the only swing-state incumbent Democratic Senator up for re-election this year.

Inside Mike Coffman’s Cognitively Dissonant “Evolution”

dreamactcoffman

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

We’ve been very excited about the work done over at Denver7’s Politifact Colorado project, working with the Pulitzer Prize-winning national Politifact to provide some desperately-needed critical thinking to the wild claims tossed back and forth by our local crop of prevaricating politicians. It’s yet more evidence of our bellwether swing-state status to see high-profile outfits like Politifact shining a light on Colorado politics.

With that said, it was inevitable that veteran reporter Alan Gathright at Politifact Colorado would write something we need to take issue with at some point. That happened last week with the publication of their latest fact check, “Is Rep. Mike Coffman ‘with Trump’? Coffman says not yet.” This fact check addresses the question of Rep. Mike Coffman’s support for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, both formally and essentially by supporting fundamentally similar positions on issues like immigration reform.

Within this broad question lies some stuff we need to unpack.

Coffman certainly is hedging on his campaign’s previous statement that he would support the GOP nominee, who is now almost certainly Trump.

But do the two candidates line up issue-wise?

The Colorado’s Voice news release pointed to Coffman’s position on immigration legislation. “Colorado already knows Coffman supports the Trump agenda on immigration. He voted … multiple times to deport DREAMers by ending the DACA program. He opposes DAPA, the policy that offers a modest but critical step forward for the parents of U.S. citizens.”

…Here, too, Coffman’s position isn’t cut and dried.

As Gathright explains, Coffman voted against the 2010 DREAM Act, famously declaring “The Dream Act will be a nightmare for the American people.” When Coffman originally ran for Congress, Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District was composed of arguably the most far-right electorate in the state of Colorado, and had repeatedly elected Tom Tancredo to represent them despite his status as a national icon of the nativist anti-immigrant neo-Confederate (you name it, literally) movement.

And then something happened in 2011. We’ve talked about it in this space over and over. And frankly, the whole question of whether Coffman can be accurately said to be “not with Trump,” or anything other than the far-right successor to Tancredo’s extremism, hinges on whether you believe what happened after 2011 was legitimate.

But Coffman’s immigration positions softened in 2011, when his district was redrawn and its population became 20 percent Hispanic. He began taking Spanish lessons to better communicate with his constituents, and in January 2013, he introduced the Military Enlistment Opportunity Act, which sought to provide immigrant children an opportunity to serve in the U.S. military and gain a path to citizenship…

“There’s a narrative out there about Republicans being not just anti-illegal immigrant, but anti-immigrant,” Coffman told the Wall Street Journal in January. “It was very important to me to break the narrative.”

There is no question that redistricting in 2011, which reshaped Coffman’s political universe from Tancredo’s old stomping ground to the enormous cultural and economic diversity of Aurora, presented Coffman with the greatest crisis of his long political career. But it’s important to remember that Coffman did not at first realize how this new electorate would respond to the kind of rhetoric that came so easily before. In 2012, the same year Coffman was caught on camera claiming President Barack Obama “is not an American,” Coffman very nearly lost his seat to an underfunded Democratic opponent.

Since that time, it’s true that Coffman has made many superficial gestures to his newly diverse constituency, including taking some lessons in Spanish so as to debate opponents in the language. But his votes and statements on immigration reform have been far from consistent. His support for allowing DREAMer students to join the military is offset by other votes against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as a whole. Immigration reform advocates are looking for votes, not accountability, so any time they get the smallest concession from a Republican, they are of course obliged to publicly rejoice.

Bottom line: notwithstanding the backpedaled statement from Coffman’s spokesperson, Politifact’s contention that it’s wrong to say Coffman is “with Trump” on the issues rests more or less entirely on the contention that “the congressman’s views have moderated.” But Coffman’s detractors say the evidence for that is inconsistent at best, and could be reasonably assessed as a deceptive campaign to feign support for reform without offending the Republican base. And even when Coffman does make a token vote in favor of sensible immigration policy, the Republican leadership in the House he helps keep in power ensures that nothing remotely close to what the immigration reform movement wants will ever happen.

Respectfully submitted as grist for the fact-checking mill.

Sen. Michael Bennet Increasingly Favored to Win Re-Election

Political pundits are bullish on Bennet.

Political pundits are bullish on Bennet.

This isn’t a huge surprise given the Raging Outhouse Fire that is the Republican field for U.S. Senate at the moment, but it’s noteworthy nevertheless.

As Roll Call reports:

…none of the GOP candidates have demonstrated the ability to put together a campaign strong enough to knock off an incumbent in a state that looks likely to go heavily for Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump.

The race certainly isn’t over and Republicans claim Bennet’s numbers are soft. But the senator’s advantage is significant and it’s hard to see how the GOP nominee will overperform Trump enough to win. We’re changing our rating from Lean Democratic to Democrat Favored. [Pols emphasis]

Unless Republicans can gain some ground in Colorado, Minority Leader Harry Reid’s open seat in Nevada will be Republicans’ lone takeover target in the Senate. And that race could be a struggle as Democrats increase their edge in voter registration.

 

Sabato: Colorado Senate Race Moves to “Likely Democratic”

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver)

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver)

Well-known political pundit Larry J. Sabato has updated his regular “Crystal Ball” forecast of U.S. Senate and Gubernatorial races throughout the country, and there’s a significant change in Colorado. From the Center for Politics:

Colorado: Coming into the 2016 cycle, it was pretty clear that the Republicans would largely be on the defensive. Only two Democratic-held seats stood out as ones the Republicans could hope to win, one of which was Colorado (with the other being Nevada, now an open seat on account of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s retirement). Sen. Michael Bennet (D) has proven to be more resilient than some might have thought…

…At the outset of this cycle, Bennet appeared a slight favorite to start, but now it looks as if he may hold a stronger edge. Bigger-name GOP politicians — including Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (R), and Rep. Scott Tipton (R) — declined to challenge Bennet in a presidential cycle. Instead, the Republican field is a logjam of double-digit proportions, though only five candidates officially filed petitions to get on the primary ballot. Other candidates will try to get on the primary ballot by getting at least 30% of the vote at this weekend’s state Republican convention. Whoever wins the GOP nomination on June 28 will have a serious financial deficit to overcome as Bennet had $6.7 million in the bank at the end of 2015. More importantly, just as the circumstances at the presidential level have weakened the ratings for a number of GOP Senate incumbents, they have improved Bennet’s odds as the only potentially vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbent. The Centennial State race shifts from Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic.

Quite frankly, this change isn’t a huge surprise. The Republican Senate field is crowded with seriously-flawed candidates no matter how you slice it. We’re still waiting to hear about any Q1 fundraising numbers from the candidates, and rumor has it that every major GOP candidate has been careful in recent weeks to keep the expectations bar set very low in terms of money raised in the last full quarter before the June 28th Primary.

Unless at least one of the GOP candidates are able to come up with a strong fundraising haul — or anything, really, that could begin to separate one candidate from the rest of the Republican field — the trend lines on Colorado’s Senate race are likely to continue moving in favor of incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver).

Woods joins Trump and Coffman in opposing citizenship for undocumented immigrants born in the U.S.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Donald Trump, Sen. Laura Woods.

Donald Trump, Sen. Laura Woods.

Woods, who has said Trump is her second favorite presidential candidate, “liked” a Facebok post, sponsored by Numbers USA, which read:

LIKE if you agree with Trump. Illegal aliens should not be awarded birthright citizenship!

A graphic shows a photo of Trump with the text, “End Birthright Citizenship.”

Trump’s immigration platform also calls for the rounding up and deportation of  America’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants to their country of origin. From there, they’d be free to apply to become U.S. citizens.

Woods’ office did not immediately return a call for comment on whether she agrees with Trump’s immigration policy in its entirety–or whether she’d want to rescind citizenship from millions of immigratns who’ve become U.S. citizens under America’s birthright-citizenship law.

Most other Colorado politicians have been silent on birthright citizenship, but as recently as 2013, Rep. Mike Coffman confirmed his opposition to the policy, in an interview with The Denver Post, saying “sure” he’d like to abolish birthright citizenship.

Both Woods and Coffman represent swing districts where anti-immigration positions could turn off immigrant voters. About 20 percent of Coffman’s district is Latino.

Woods won her Westminster seat by about 650 votes in 2014, while Coffman has been seen as vulnerable since his district was re-drawn after the 2010 census. Coffman narrowly defeated a Democrat in 2012 and won by a larger margin in 2014.

Racist or Liar? Progressives Condemn Keyser/Tancredo Unholy Alliance

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE: As the Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reports, Tom Tancredo isn’t the only endorsement Jon Keyser announced today, but it’s the one everybody is talking about:

[T]he most intriguing of the bunch is the thumbs-up from Tancredo, the on-again, off-again Republican who ran an insurgent race for president long before Donald Trump tried it.

Said Tancredo in a statement released by the Keyser campaign: “Jon brings an unparalleled level of national security experience to this race and I have no doubt he will secure our southern border and bring Colorado common sense to Washington, D.C.”

Tancredo did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment, though it’s not surprising that he mentioned immigration in his statement — as that issue was Tancredo’s often-controversial calling card during his political career.

—–

Tom Tancredo.

Tom Tancredo.

After the announcement this morning that former state Rep. Jon Keyser has accepted the endorsement of Colorado’s foremost anti-immigrant radical politician Tom Tancredo, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, condemned Keyser joining forces with a national symbol of racism to win right-wing primary voters.

“Tom Tancredo is one of America’s most notorious anti-immigrant demagogues, and it is outrageous that Jon Keyser has joined forces with him to further his political career,” said ProgressNow Colorado political director Alan Franklin. “Tom Tancredo’s racism has no place in any responsible political campaign, especially with the hate-filled rhetoric we’re seeing around the country. But not only did Keyser welcome Tancredo’s endorsement, Keyser actually sent out quotes from Tancredo in a press release celebrating his support.”

“Does Jon Keyser agree with Tancredo that we should launch a nuclear attack against the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina?” Asked Franklin. “Does Keyser agree with Tancredo that Miami is a ‘Third World country?’ Does Keyser support Tancredo’s longstanding ties to racist groups like the League of the South? Does Keyser endorse the Republican Party’s ‘palace coup’ last year that Tancredo participated in?”

“For Jon Keyser to celebrate the support of a racist demagogue like Tom Tancredo raises very serious questions about Keyser’s integrity,” said Franklin. “Either Keyser shares Tancredo’s racism, or he is a liar willing to say anything to win an election.”

Ex-Rep. Spencer Swalm Loves Him Some Donald Trump

Former Rep. Spencer Swalm (R).

Former Rep. Spencer Swalm (R).

Rep. Spencer Swalm represented an affluent suburban Arapahoe County district in the Colorado General Assembly for the full eight years our state’s term limits allow ending in 2014. Swalm was one of the principal wonkish voices of the insurance industry in the legislature, but was also capable of full-throated conservative rhetorical broadsides when called for.

Anyway, Spencer Swalm wants you to know he is all in for GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump! Here’s former Rep. Swalm’s guest opinion piece as published by the Denver Post last night:

On a whole range of issues, I, along with millions of others all across this country, see a lot to like in the Donald.

Let’s begin with political correctness. He is willing to take the heat for speaking out on issues that millions agree with but are so cowed that they are afraid to say what they are thinking. Trump speaks for us, and the more he is attacked for doing so, the more the average guy likes him. My advice to the PC crowd? Keep it up.

And then there’s immigration. It’s stunning to me that Trump was attacked by his Republican presidential opponents for daring to suggest that there be a complete pause in Muslim immigration while things were “sorted out” after the horrific Paris attacks. Did we “pause” German and Japanese immigration during World War II? I think so. And although I would certainly like to see us get out of endless and futile Middle East conflicts, the grim reality is that we are pretty much at war with the Muslim world. Why not a pause until peace breaks out again?

A wall on the Mexican border? Absolutely. Especially one that is paid for by Mexico…

Swalm goes on about how Donald Trump will kick the illegals out, raise wages for blue-collar America, save the middle class, and deal with whatever other objection you might have to closing this deal right now. He’ll even throw in the floor mats, because that is what Ronald Reagan would have done.

We scoff while we can, since there’s a good chance other Republicans will be cribbing from Swalm very soon.

BREAKING: Jack Graham Enters GOP Senate Race with $1M and a Wadhams

A visual guide to the Jon Keyser for Senate campaign this morning.

A visual guide to the Jon Keyser for Senate campaign this morning.

The race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate just changed in a big way. As Ernest Luning reports for the Colorado Statesman:

Former CSU athletic director Jack Graham is planning to petition his way onto what could be a crowded Republican primary ballot for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Michael Bennet, and he seeded his run with a $1 million deposit to his campaign account yesterday.

Not only is Graham seeding his campaign with a cool million, he’s bringing on former Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams as his campaign manager.

We’ll admit that we don’t know a lot about Jack Graham politically, but $1 million and Dick Wadhams is more than enough to shake the foundations of the massive GOP field running for U.S. Senate. Wadhams is no longer the feared political operative who guided Wayne Allard and John Thune into the U.S. Senate, but he does give Graham a legitimacy that he otherwise would have had to work hard to establish on his own.

Former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham

Former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham

On the fundraising side, seeding his campaign with a million dollars instantly gives Graham a warchest that the 10-12 other GOP candidates may not be able to match. Graham is a former Athletic Director at CSU, and the job of AD at a major university is largely related to fundraising; Graham no doubt has a hefty rolodex that he can consult as he starts dialing for dollars.

Graham’s loud entry into the Senate race changes some of what we wrote just yesterday in assessing the state of the Republican field of candidates. State Sen. Tim Neville is still in the driver’s seat to win the June Primary because, for one thing, he doesn’t really have to worry about getting his name on the ballot. Neville should have little trouble generating more than 30% of the votes at the State Republican Convention (the minimum amount needed for ballot access), and he’s a known and trusted quantity to many in the far-right base of the GOP.

And then there’s Jon Keyser. To borrow a Trump-ism, Keyser just got schlonged.

Keyser was the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s (NRSC) big recruit for the Senate race, and he pushed all of his chips into the center of the table by resigning his seat in the State Legislature as well as his job at a big Denver law firm. Keyser’s campaign got off to an inauspicious start, with questions about campaigning while on military duty and a general  indifference from the media about his chances. The plan was for Keyser to hunker down and raise money — he reportedly had soft offers of support for millions in campaign cash — but Graham, Wadhams, and $1 million may scurry that support in a hurry.

Graham’s entry into the Senate race really changes the math for Keyser. Anybody can try to petition onto the ballot (Graham, Ryan Frazier, and Robert Blaha are already going that route), but it’s a giant pain in the ass and a significant drain on resources, time, and money to go that route. Keyser’s team has already indicated that he will go the petition route, but that assumes that big donors are still onboard with the NRSC’s Keyser experiment following Graham’s bombshell. Remember, there was already a self-funder in the race in Blaha, and Frazier claims to have raised at least $200k, which gives him a good head start on the petition process. Writing a big check to Keyser suddenly looks like a long-shot bet.

Keyser could try to switch strategies and go the convention route, but Republicans don’t really know who he is, and there are — at most — three available ballot spots through the Party. Neville will certainly claim one of those spots, with Peggy Littleton and Darryl Glenn (or someone else) potentially fighting it out for 30%.

With just a few months to go until the June Primary, serious GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate need three things: Ballot Access, Television ads, and enough cash to fuel a staff of at least a half-dozen people. How many Republican candidates can still check all three boxes this morning?

It would seem the only Senate candidate smiling this morning is incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet.

Another Day, Another Republican Candidate for U.S. Senate

IMPORTANT POLICY CHANGE: If you live in Colorado and have been a registered Republican for about a year, Colorado Pols will henceforth assume you are running for U.S. Senate in 2016 until we hear otherwise.

Jerry Natividad, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate

Jerry Natividad, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate

 

Okay, we’re kidding…sort of. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post, Colorado Republicans will have yet another candidate seeking the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate:

Jerry Natividad, a leading Hispanic businessman in the Denver area, is preparing to announce a bid later this month for the GOP nomination. “I’m at the stage where I’m probably going to do this thing,” the 65-year-old told The Denver Post…

Natividad is the president of American Facility Services Group and owner of the Jeffco Regional Sports Facility in Lakewood. For decades, he worked the sidelines of the political field, serving as a board member of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Colorado Chair of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly and a member of Mitt Romney’s Hispanic leadership team in 2012, according to a biography from the Koch-funded Leadership Institute, where he was a guest speaker…

Depending on your definition of a “U.S. Senate candidate,” Natividad is at least the 9th Republican candidate to enter the 2016 field. Why would Natividad want to try to squeeze into this clown car? He doesn’t like the current occupants:

“When I take a look at (the GOP Senate primary),” he said, the candidates are “just more of the same.”

Fair enough.

Whoops! Jon Keyser’s Own Words Trip Up Campaign Announcement

State Rep. Jon Keyser (R-Morrison), sans feet-in-mouth.

State Rep. Jon Keyser (R-Morrison), sans feet-in-mouth.

Freshman state Rep. Jon Keyser formally launched his campaign for U.S. Senate on Monday. It was quite an inauspicious start for the half-term lawmaker from Morrison.

As Peter Marcus reports for the Durango HeraldKeyser’s campaign wasn’t even a few hours old before Keyser ran into trouble over his own words:

ProgressNow Colorado on Monday filed a complaint with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps for the Air Force, alleging that Keyser violated Air Force rules by engaging in politics while on active duty.

Keyser is a major in the Air Force Reserve.

ProgressNow highlighted a Dec. 10 report by The Colorado Statesman, which interviewed Keyser regarding his likely candidacy. Keyser told The Statesman, “right now I’m focused on national security and serving our country in uniform as a member of the Air Force Reserve.”

The article – citing an unnamed source – also noted that Keyser attended a luncheon on a day off from military duties, where he received $3 million in commitments to back his campaign.

The Judge Advocate General’s office had not received the complaint as of Monday afternoon. Generally, such complaints are handled through an internal investigation through the accused’s command post. The Inspector General of the Air Force could also investigate.

The National Journal was among the media outlets to pick up on the Herald story. Keyser supporters were quick to try to dismiss the complaint as partisan politics, but Keyser has only himself to blame for his inexplicable statements to the Colorado Statesman last month. Take a closer look at Keyser’s comments from the Dec. 10th Statesman story [all emphasis is ours]:

“I’m strongly considering it,” Keyser said in an interview with The Colorado Statesman this week. “Right now I’m focused on national security and serving our country in uniform as a member of the Air Force Reserve.”

Keyser, who holds the rank of major in the Air Force Reserve, has been deployed on a training mission in Florida this month as part of a mission to combat terrorist and transnational criminal networks in Central and South America, a spokesman said. He returns to Colorado next week.

“There’s not a campaign yet,” Keyser. “But as I spend a few weeks serving in the military, I think now more than ever, our nation is at a crossroads and the threats we face are enormous. This is a pivotal time in our nation’s history.”…

…Following a recent visit to Washington, D.C., where Keyser attended the Republican Jewish Coalition’s presidential forum luncheon last week as an invited guest on a day off from his duties, he received $3 million in commitments of soft money to back his campaign, said a source familiar with the matter.

If you’re scoring at home, you can mark this down as an “unforced error” by Keyser.

The Keyser Senate campaign is clearly intending to focus on his military background as a primary selling point, but Keyser really stuck both feet in his mouth with his comments to the Statesman. This wasn’t just a one-off thing, either; Keyser talks about “serving our country in uniform” in the same breath as a potential Senate bid, and he does so in two separate quotations.

The U.S. Military has specific rules about combining politics with military service. It is too early to tell if Keyser’s words will lead to a formal investigation by the Air Force or Department of Defense, but regardless of the outcome, it’s important to repeat that Keyser is being tripped up by his own words here. This was a completely avoidable and unnecessary mistake by someone who will need to defend himself against Republican critics who worry that Keyser is too inexperienced for such a big leap in elected office.

This isn’t the first time that Keyser has made a weird, unforced political error, either. In October 2013, when Keyser was first running for his state House seat, he falsely alleged that there was a problem with Colorado’s voting system because he received two ballots instead of one. Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson, a Republican, immediately noticed that Keyser’s “second ballot” was not a duplicate, but a separate ballot for a special taxation district election related to property Keyser owned outside of Jefferson County. Go back and read the story before you try to argue that this was an innocent mistake by Keyser and not an intentional lie.

Keyser is going to need to run a tight campaign if he hopes to defeat state Sen. Tim Neville in a Republican Primary in June. These are the kind of boneheaded moves that will only add to the perception that Neville is unbeatable with GOP voters.

Top 10 Stories of 2015 #5: Everybody (and Nobody) Wants to Run for U.S. Senate

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) attempts to count the number of Republican Senate candidates with two hands.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) attempts to count the number of Republican Senate candidates with two hands.

Robert Blaha; George Brauchler; Ken Buck; Bill Cadman; Cynthia Coffman; Mike Coffman; Dan Domenico; Ryan Frazier; Darryl Glenn; Jack Graham; Jon Keyser; Peggy Littleton; Greg Lopez; Tim Neville; Ellen Roberts; Greg Robinson; Don Rosier; Mark Scheffel; Justin Smith; Scott Tipton.

That’s 20 names, just off the top of our head, of Republicans who made some manner of noise about running for U.S. Senate in 2016. The names in bold are those who have either declared their intentions to run or have very recently gone public with the proposition. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but we were exhausted by the very thought of trying to look up every single Republican who was somehow connected to the U.S. Senate race.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) likes to say that Sen. Michael Bennett is the most endangered Democratic incumbent in 2016, pointing to generic heads-up matchups tested in polls throughout 2015. What these polls show, in a nutshell, is that Bennet could have a competitive re-election race if — and that’s a big “if” — he was facing a strong Republican challenger on the ballot in November (and if the election were held at the time each particular poll was actually conducted).

Here’s the rub: If Bennet is so seemingly beatable in 2016, then why are Republicans having so much trouble finding a candidate to rally behind?

First of all, any poll conducted more than year out from Election Day — in any race — is relatively useless. The average voter isn’t paying much attention to Michael Bennet just yet, and they certainly have little familiarity with the likes of Greg Lopez or Don Rozier.

The other piece of this story that Republicans fail to mention is that Bennet is considered the most endangered Democratic Senate incumbent in large part because he is the only Democratic incumbent running in a swing state in 2016. With Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada choosing to retire rather than seek another term in office, Bennet is the list of endangered Democratic incumbents. It’s a useful fact if spun correctly, but the big Republican talking point on Bennet isn’t nearly as compelling as it sounds.

Sen. Cory Gardner, left, poses for an awkward photo with state Sen. Tim Neville

Sen. Cory Gardner, left, poses for an awkward photo with state Sen. Tim Neville

When you consider all of the rumors and news about the 2016 Senate race that floated out in 2015, one name stands above the rest: Tim Neville. The far-right conservative state senator started to dip his toe in the U.S. Senate field late last summer, and on Tuesday he formally kicked off his 2016 bid with a strong focus on social issues such as abortion and gun rights. Neville will have massive support from grassroots Republican activists, the Tea Party, anti-choice groups, and big gun lobbies such as the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) — all of which makes him nearly unbeatable in the June Republican Primary.

What makes Neville such an important figure in 2016? It is not clear that he could defeat Bennet in a General Election given his out-of-the-mainstream beliefs on abortion, gay marriage, and gun safety…but it is also difficult to see how Neville could possibly lose a Republican Primary to put his name on the ballot opposite Bennet. Any Republican candidate considering a 2016 Senate bid needs to first decide if they can beat Neville among the Republican base, and whether that campaign would need to avoid the caucus process out of fear that Neville would capture so many delegates that it would stop his challengers cold.

As of this writing, the NRSC thinks it has its best candidate in freshman state Rep. Jon Keyser. Washington Republicans are trying to push Keyser as their candidate because they like how he matches up against Bennet in a General Election. It is quite likely, however, that Keyser will never even make it to the General Election ballot because of Neville’s growing presence. In short, Washington Republicans want Colorado Republicans to get behind a Senate candidate who probably can’t win the GOP nomination in the first place.

Good luck with all that.

 

Fort Morgan’s Cargill Plant Fires 150 Muslim Employees in Dispute over Religious Freedom

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

On December 23, 2015, Cargill Meat Solutions Plant in Fort Morgan fired 150 mostly Somali Muslim employees after forbidding Islamic prayers at work, saying, “If you want to pray, go home”. The employees are not eligible to be rehired for six months.

Screen capture of ABC news video

Cargill employees fired for praying at work. Attribution: Denver Channel, 12/30/15

The meat processors, some of whom had worked at the plant for 10 years, had been allowed, under long-standing policy, to take five minutes to pray during their own unpaid lunch and break times, in a “reflection room” provided by the plant. This policy, in place since 2009,  allowed its employees the freedom to pray at work, and allowed the company to produce meat products profitably and on time. Six hundred of the 2100 workers at Cargill’s Fort Morgan plant are Somali Muslims.

Then, suddenly, according to CAIR’s Hussein, Cargill cracked down and stopped allowing Muslim prayer at work. Members of other faiths, presumably, are still allowed to use the company “reflection room” to pray during break time.

(more…)

Local Vet Makes Colorado Look Good, Trump Look Very Bad

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump.

There’s no nice way to say it: Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s hotly controversial call to bar the entry of all Muslims into the United States has a surprising–the better word may be disturbing–amount of support among American conservatives according to polls taken since terrorist mass shooting attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California. While polls of the general public show Americans reject Trump’s demagoguery as unconstitutional, it has given Trump new strength in GOP presidential primary polls after opponent Ted Cruz began narrowing the gap in recent weeks.

Trump’s enduring dominance in the Republican presidential primary has legitimized a segment of American conservative political opinion that, while we’ve always known it was out there, has truly significant implications for America’s reputation as a global moral leader in human rights and equality when brought into the light of day. Trump’s campaign has ripped the proverbial scab off the ugliest manifestations of not just the “Tea Party,” but decades of divisive politics American that has its roots in the Southern Strategy of the 1960s and the racist realignment to the GOP that strategy produced.

Needless to say, what’s happening could make for a very long blog post. And it is very bad for America’s moral authority.

But instead, ABC News reports this Christmas week on a lifelong Denver resident Iraq War veteran with a campaign in response to Trump that’s going viral:

Veterans and current service members are using social media to reassure Muslim Americans that they will fight for their rights as citizens.

On Facebook and Twitter, military service members and veterans have started using the hashtag #iwillprotectyou after one mother’s post went viral about her daughter’s fear of being kicked out of the country.

Melissa Chance Yassini posted about her daughter’s reaction to hearing proposals by Donald Trump to ban Muslims from entering the country.

“She had began collecting all her favorite things in a bag in case the army came to remove us from our homes,” Yassini wrote on Facebook about her daughter Sofia. “She checked the locks on the door 3-4 times. This is terrorism. No child in America deserves to feel that way.”

Iraq War veteran Kerri Peek.

Denver-area Iraq War veteran Kerri Peek.

Melissa Chance Yassini’s post about her daughter’s fear of being deported for being Muslim caught the attention of local veteran Kerri Peek:

Kerri Peek, an Army veteran saw the story on social media and was horrified.

“I was up all night, it bothered me,” Peek told ABC News. “I’m a mom, for mother to mother … I know you want to protect your children from everything.”

Peek said she was especially upset that Sofia was worried about soldiers coming to take her away.

“What’s a way [for her] to know that soldiers are not going to come to her door,” Peek told ABC News, who eventually sent her a picture of herself in her Army uniform.

Peek’s response to Yassini was picked up by the national social sharing site Upworthy on Friday, and from there is making its way into national media today. You can follow the hashtag #iwillprotectyou on Twitter and Facebook to see the trending nationwide response, which as of this writing has many more veterans and supporters than pro-Trump “trolls.”

From our vantage point watching over Colorado politics, and with Christmas coming later this week, we can’t think of a better response to Trump than this story–maybe even a validation of the principles that make America a great place, even as Trump besmirches them. Here’s a local Iraq War veteran doing a lot more to defend American values from the Donald Trumps of the world than some others we know in much higher places.

Latinos To Cruz, Rubio: No Habla Por Nosotros

Sen. Ted Cruz, with Tom Tancredo (L) and Rep. Steve King of Iowa (R).

Sen. Ted Cruz, with Tom Tancredo (L) and Rep. Steve King of Iowa (R).

The Washington Post’s Mary Jordan reports today on the liberal pushback underway against Republican “Latino outreach” efforts ahead of the 2016 elections. As the GOP and allied major funders like the Koch brothers pour millions of dollars into bettering their performance among America’s fastest-growing demographic bloc of voters, the Latino activists the community has grown up with have a simple message:

“It’s not comfortable for us to do this, to call out members of our own community who don’t reflect our community values, but we have no choice,” said Cristóbal Alex, president of the Democratic-backed Latino Victory Project.

At a Monday gathering in Nevada of Democratic Hispanic leaders, ahead of tonight’s GOP debate in Las Vegas, photos of Cruz and Rubio were plastered alongside Trump’s picture, as all three were criticized as anti-Latino. A press release noted, “While Trump continues to grab headlines with his hateful anti-Latino, anti-immigrant language, the positions and records of the two Latino presidential candidates in the race are equally dangerous for Nevada communities.”

Dolores Huerta, an influential labor leader and civil rights activist, called Cruz and Rubio “sellouts” and “traitors” at the gathering and said the Hispanic candidates “are turning their backs on the Latino community.”

The latest nationwide polls show GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump with a commanding lead over the rest of the GOP field. With that once again noted for the record, a considerable segment of the GOP party activist class sees Marco Rubio and (to a less rational extent) Ted Cruz as the most electable candidates in the pack. A large part of that perception rests on their Cuban-American heritage–a curious embrace of the “identity politics” Republicans generally claim to shun.

Here in Colorado, Rubio’s campaign in particular is organizing as much as is practical with a state party that has rendered its own Republican caucuses meaningless. The Koch-funded Libre Initiative has an office in lower Highlands in Denver, ready to chase the Latino vote in the general election for the GOP. On paper, it all sounds like a formidable strategy.

The problem, as community icon Dolores Huerta and a who’s-who of recognized names among Latino voters are here to tell you, is that the appeal of these candidates is–and there’s no nice way to say ths–literally skin-deep. Other than an ability to converse in the native language, Marco Rubio simply has nothing tangible to offer Latino voters on the issues that matter to their daily lives. Rubio has abandoned the central policy plank on which he could have won over Latino votes, and running rightward in this primary, he can’t articulate any real plan for improving the personal economics of Latino families. As for Cruz?

You see the picture of him with Tom Tancredo and Steve King, right?

There’s no question that as a large and growing bloc of at least theoretically swingable voters, Latinos are going to be aggressively courted by anyone who wants to win elections.

For Republicans, this is a necessity that’s perilously likely to backfire.