BREAKING: Mike Coffman Will NOT Run for Senate in 2016

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R) tells another tall tale.

Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post with the breaking news confirming what we’ve been saying for months now: Rep. Mike Coffman will NOT challenge Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016:

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman won’t challenge Democrat Michael Bennet in Colorado’s Senate race next year despite being wooed by local and national Republicans.

“It certainly was an option I was looking at,” Coffman, an Aurora Republican, told The Denver Post Monday.

We’re not surprised to hear this announcement from Coffman, nor are we surprised with his attempt to pivot and present himself as a “leader” on the Veterans Hospital fiasco in Aurora — though his aggressiveness on the latter issue raises a few eyebrows. Coffman clearly senses that the Aurora VA Hospital mess is a political problem for him, as it should be — after all, Coffman represents Aurora and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee. Check out the not-so-subtle change of topic by Coffman:

“But the fact is, I’m really able to get things done where I am right now. I’ve emerged as a national leader on veterans issues.”

Problems with a Veterans Administration hospital project in Aurora have made headlines for weeks. The Post reported in May that U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials in Washington knew about management problems with the project as early as May 2011 — seven months before construction began — yet two years passed before any changes were made…

…The left, including ProgressNow Colorado, has tried to blame the VA fiasco on Coffman.

“Coffman can be outraged. He can be frustrated. But he cannot be shocked or surprised when as Chair of the Oversight Committee, he had known this information for years — and until recently has done almost nothing to fix the problem,” said director Amy-Runyon Harms.

Coffman on Monday called the claims “ridiculous,” [Pols emphasis] adding the “culture of bureaucratic incompetency” has gone on for several years at the Veterans Administration.

Coffman is clearly concerned that the VA Hospital could end his political career, which no doubt helped make his decision to run for re-election in CD-6 rather than challenge Bennet in 2016. Perhaps Coffman reasoned that he stood a better chance of withstanding the VA Hospital storm if he was not running statewide at the same time.

Meanwhile, Republicans have to figure out what to do now that their only serious potential Senate challenger has taken a pass. If the GOP had a bench, we’d be looking in that direction ourselves.

Get More Smarter on Monday (Holy Crap it’s June 1)

Get More SmarterIf you’ve been wondering what Bruce Jenner will look like as a woman…well, the wait is over. Here’s Caitlyn Jenner (and check out this helpful tip sheet from GLAAD). It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado Veterans took part in a rally yesterday in Aurora to encourage Congress to find the money to complete the Aurora VA Hospital. Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) was on hand to join the calls to “Finish the damn thing.” Also on hand was Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigationsand he told the crowd pretty much the opposite of what they wanted to hear.

► Speaking of rallies, more than 2,500 people turned out in rainy weather in Southern Jefferson County to voice their concern with the Jeffco School Board and Superintendent Dan McMinimee

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Vets Rally, Coffman VA Grandstand Gets Thinner

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

As the Denver Post’s Anthony Cotton reports, a rally outside the construction site for the troubled VA Medical Center project on the Anschutz health care campus in Aurora yesterday was well attended by local veterans with a single, simple message: “Finish the damn thing.”

More than 150 people turned out for the rally, held across the street from the embattled project.

Congress has debated whether to complete the hospital since its price tag leapt to $1.73 billion, nearly triple the original budget.

Construction is continuing this month in Aurora with a reduced workforce and a short-term infusion of federal cash that is expected to run out in about two weeks.

If Congress doesn’t provide more money, it’s possible the project will be shut down…

Rep. Mike Coffman, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, attended yesterday’s rally outside the Aurora VA hospital site. As our readers know, Coffman has recently become a leading critic of the VA, expressing “shock” at the large cost overruns the project has incurred–despite the fact that he knew the project was headed wildly over budget over two years ago. During the recent fight in the U.S. House over preventing the project from shutting down, Coffman half-heartedly criticized his own Republican leadership for their unwillingness to appropriate the funds needed to finish construction.

So yesterday, Coffman had a much stronger message for the vets he was using as a backdrop, right? The AP’s Dan Elliot says not so much:

Congress will insist on significant changes in the Veterans Affairs Department before approving money to finish a vastly over-budget medical center outside Denver, [Pols emphasis] Rep. Mike Coffman said Sunday.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D).

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D).

Contrast Coffman’s equivocal answer against the other member of Congress at yesterday’s protest, Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter, as quoted in Cotton’s story:

Perlmutter told the crowd that he’s also been frustrated with the lack of progress on the project, which will replace a hospital for veterans built in Denver after World War II.

“Nothing ever happened until we brought these out here ourselves,” he said, holding up a shovel.

“This country has enough money to finish this … and when it’s done it won’t be ‘a damn thing,’ but a fabulous medical research center that will serve the 1 million veterans in this region.” [Pols emphasis]

Now folks, which Congressman do you think was closer to what the veterans attending yesterday’s “finish the damn thing” rally wanted? The Congressman who says finish the hospital, or the Congressman who warns that Congress, fully controlled by his own party, is going to demand concessions before letting the VA finish the hospital? The answer is obvious: enough so that we’re surprised Coffman wasn’t booed off the stage.

Bottom line: everyone knows there is plenty of blame to go around for the huge cost overruns this project has suffered, and that the VA is a cabinet-level agency of the Obama administration. But that does not relieve Coffman of his share of responsibility, especially since he has been chair of the congressional committee responsible for overseeing the project for years. If the priority here is really to serve our nation’s veterans, of course the immediate objective is to complete the hospital–and not reduce the quality of care at the new facility as a penalty. If you want “changes” at the VA in response to the failures here, fine, but don’t further delay or jeopardize this necessary project to get them.

The longer this goes on, and the more his fellow Republicans become the primary antagonists against completing the project, Coffman’s position between these opposing factions becomes more and more untenable.

And that is how the strength Coffman enjoys grandstanding today could become a liability before it’s over.

Keep Digging, Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush.

Jeb Bush.

Likely 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush ran into trouble last month when he proudly told America that he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq–just like his brother George W. Bush did in 2003. This didn’t go over well with the majority of the voting public, which is overall pretty certain that the invasion of Iraq was, in retrospect, a very bad thing. A week later, Bush meekly retracted his prior comments, and said he would not have gone into Iraq after all.

Safe to say, this was not a great moment for the Bush Dynasty.

But as Raw Story’s Eric Dolan reports, Jeb was on Face the Nation yesterday, where he finally was able to put last month’s enormous foreign policy blunder behind him.

With a new foreign policy blunder!

During an interview that aired on Sunday, CBS News host Bob Schieffer asked Bush if he felt like overcoming George W. Bush’s legacy was his “main challenge” in running for president.

“No, I don’t,” the potential candidate insisted. “This is hard for me, to be honest with you. I have to do the Heisman on my brother that I love, you know? This is not something I’m comfortable doing. But I’m my own person. I have my own life experience, and I will be successful if I’m a candidate when I share my heart and I talk about what I’ve done as governor of the state, where I cut taxes, reduced the state government workforce by 11 percent, moved the state to a AAA bond rating.”

“As I tell that story, people will begin to say, ‘Yeah, look, he’s a Bush, that’s fine, but I’m for him because he has ideas that will help me rise up,’” he continued. “So, my brother is not going to be a problem at all. I seek out his advice. I love him dearly. I’ve learned from his successes and his mistakes.”

Schieffer pressed Bush to detail what he had learned from his brother.

“Well, the successes clearly are protecting the homeland,” the former Florida governor opined. [Pols emphasis]

Under a certain very careful reading of recent American history, we guess you might be able to make the claim that President George W. Bush “protected the homeland” during his term. Of course, it’s necessary to note somewhere in there that Dubya was President on the morning of September 11, 2001, and was President for enough time before that terrorist attack–the worst terrorist attack in American history, mind you–that Dubya’s legacy of “protecting the homeland” has a rather big exception. Which obviously Jeb is making without, you know, saying so!

Overall, excluding the 9/11 attacks, the subsequent 2001 anthrax attacks, the failure to apprehend 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, the radicalization of millions of Muslims into the next generation of anti-American jihadists by invading the wrong country, not to mention imprisoning innocent people all over the world without trial and torturing them…

You’re right. This is just plain ridiculous.

Monday Open Thread

Why is his nature forever so hard to teach
That though there is no fixed line between wrong and right,
There are roughly zones whose laws must be obeyed?

–Robert Frost

Huge Rally Protests Jeffco School Board Majority Friday

UPDATE: Courtesy the Jeffco PTA:

—–

With the exception of the 9NEWS video clip you can watch above (no online story unfortunately), another very large turnout of Jefferson County residents, teachers, and students for a protest against the conservative school board majority appears to have slipped under the local media’s radar yet again. Here are some photos from Friday evening’s rally in Littleton’s Clement Park, featuring a big crowd undeterred by heavy rain and hail that fell during the event. All photos via Facebook:

jeffcoclementrally3

jeffcoclementrally4

jeffcoclementrally2

We haven’t seen an official estimate of crowd size, but the event was by all accounts very large despite the weather, and caused traffic jams around the Southwest Plaza area as attendees crowded into Clement Park.

The escalating battle between the conservative Jefferson County school board majority and the district’s teachers, parents, and students has consistently been marked by enormous crowds turning out to protest against the board’s actions–a phenomenon we saw several times in 2014, culminating in the mass walkouts of thousands of students protesting the majority’s politically-stilted “review” of AP history curriculum. Other events like the “Boots on the Boulevard” protest along Wadsworth witnessed thousands of protesters lined up along Jefferson County’s busiest thoroughfare at rush hour: an event that no one who lives in suburban Jefferson County was able to ignore.

As for these renewed protests, which 9NEWS actually kind of disses in the process of being the only local news outlet to cover them? This is reportedly just the first, and they’ll be continuing all summer long.  Given the undeniably large turnout this one received even in terrible weather, we’d say ignore them at your peril.

Weekend Open Thread

“Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent.”

–Napoleon Bonaparte

BREAKING: Lisa Pinto Resigns From Jeffco Schools

FRIDAY UPDATE #3: Still no statement from Jeffco Schools, but here’s Lisa Pinto’s four-sentence resignation letter to Superintendent Dan McMinimee:

pintoresignation

Doesn’t illuminate much, and it would be worth knowing why she is staying on three additional weeks–presumably continuing to pull down her hefty salary. We firmly expect the full story behind Pinto’s resignation will be known soon enough, and we’ll update when we hear it.

—–

FRIDAY UPDATE #2: Porter’s story now updated:

“We’re considering what our options are moving forward,” [Jeffco Schools superintendent Dan McMinimee] said…

Pinto oversaw the contract of public relations firm Novitas Communications to replace several staff positions left vacant in a department traditionally filled with district employees. The move drew criticism in the politically charged district, particularly from supporters of the Jefferson County Education Association.

—–

Former Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call, Jefferson County Communications Officer Lisa Pinto.

Former Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call, Jefferson County Communications Officer Lisa Pinto.

FRIDAY UPDATE: Gabrielle Porter at the High Timber Times confirms today, but still no official statement as of 10:00AM Friday morning:

Jeffco Public Schools chief communications officer Lisa Pinto has submitted a letter of resignation and will be stepping down from her position effective June 19, according to a district staff member.

Pinto was hired on at a salary of $126,678 in January by schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

We’ll update as soon as we receive more information. We assume a statement is being drafted and spell-checked now.

——

That’s the word from multiple sources Thursday afternoon–embattled Jefferson County Schools Chief Communications Officer Lisa Pinto is resigning from her position, following months of disastrous press for the conservative board majority, revelations about alleged discrepancies in her resume that emerged during the candidate search for her position, and most recently an investigation into alleged bullying of a minor student during a public board meeting.

We’ll update with details once available, stand by.

Get More Smarter on Friday (May 29)

Get More SmarterLet’s just repeat Memorial Day weekend once more, eh? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► State Rep. John Buckner (D-Aurora) has died at the age of 67 after dealing with a respiratory illness. Buckner took a leave from the legislature in late April because of health concerns.

► Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee has some explaining to do in the wake of the resignation of Communications Director Lisa Pinto (as first reported at Jeffco Pols). Pinto was hired by McMinimee despite the fact that she was largely unqualified for the job — aside from being a right-wing crony, of course. 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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State Rep. John Buckner Dies

Rep. John Buckner (D-Aurora).

Rep. John Buckner (D-Aurora).

As the Aurora Sentinel reports, allow us to add our condolences to Rep. John Buckner’s family and many friends:

Mr. Buckner, who represented Colorado House District 40 in southern Aurora, announced in late April that he was taking sudden leave from the General Assembly for the remainder of the legislative session to address health concerns.

In the state House, Mr. Buckner was chairman of the House Education Committee, where he was a proponent of streamlining Colorado student assessments.

“What a lovely, smart, accomplished man,” said state Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, on Twitter after hearing word of Buckner’s death. “He will be sorely missed at (the General Assembly)…”

“He was a great statesman and was a voice of clarity and conviction on educational policy,” said state Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora. “The world has lost a tireless advocate for kids, families, justice and equal rights.”

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels:

Earlier this year, the Aurora Democrat came down with a virus that impacted his respiratory problems. But he was expected to recover, which he referred to when he wrote a letter to fellow members of the House telling them he would be absent: “While I am sure some of you are relieved to get a break from me, don’t think for a moment that you’ve run me off!”

…Among those who mourned Buckner’s passing was former state Sen. Nancy Spence, a Centennial Republican. She has always credited “Mr. Buckner” for helping her son Greg graduate from Smoky Hill. He now is a producer on “Game of Thrones.”

Friday Open Thread

“I am sorry to think that you do not get a man’s most effective criticism until you provoke him. Severe truth is expressed with some bitterness.”

–Henry David Thoreau

Koch –funded “Nonprofit” Stomps Down Hard on Health Care Initiative

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

You’ve probably never heard of Initiative 20….unless you listen to right wing talk radio, or hang out on right wing websites. Then, you might believe that Initiative 20 is a Communist plot to ration your health care, run all private insurors out of Colorado, take away your Medicaid, and generally make your life miserable.

Colorado Care? Yes!

Initiative 20, the ColoradoCareYes plan, is the beginning of the end of the Federal Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) in Colorado, and Koch-funded attack groups are trying to stop it before it begins.

Republicans, after having tried to repeal the ACA 54 times, (but still having no plan to replace it) should be rejoicing that a coalition of nonprofits in Colorado, inspired by Senator Irene Aguilar, M.D, is promoting an alternative to the ACA.  I mean really…the end of mandates? The end of Obama’s name on your health care plan? No price discrimination against rural consumers? No deductibles? It’s a Tea Party dream!

In the original ACA legislation is an “innovation” provision, article 1332, which allows states to opt out of the ACA, if they can prove that their own programs have as good or better outcomes for consumers. The ColoradoCare plan as written would be simpler, more fair, and less expensive than the ACA.

Instead of rejoicing that Democrats are accomplishing their goal of replacing the ACA, however, Republican operatives and organizations quickly stomped on the rollout of Initiative 20 with a Koch-brothers funded website, and talk radio diatribes about how the ColoradoCareYES Initiative must be stopped.

Some background information: (more…)

Durango Herald Hammers Ellen Roberts’ “Kabuki”

Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango has had a tough time this year as she tries to navigate the tricky landscape of apiring to higher office as a female Republican with a “moderate” public image. We’ve discussed a number of instances this year in which Roberts was either forced to move to or willingly positioned herself on the far right of policy debates at the Capitol–from the disastrous “Anti-Vaxxer Bill of Rights” legislation that stoked a nationwide controversy over low vaccination rates, to her more recent support for a so-called “fetal homicide” bill that reproductive rights advocates believed was a segue into another “Personhood” abortion ban.

Today, Roberts’ hometown paper The Durango Herald weighs in strongly on the latter issue–and while not completely sparing Planned Parenthood and other groups from criticism, the paper’s editorial board makes clear they aren’t buying Roberts’ excuses for backing “Personhood” either:

State Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, has mounted a spirited and eloquent defense of her support for Senate Bill 268 – called “Concerning offenses against an unborn child” – in the recently concluded legislative session. Lawmakers should be able to explain their positions, and Roberts is good at it…

What she does not explain, however, is that SB 268 was a completely unnecessary piece of political theater. [Pols emphasis] Its language seems carefully tuned to spark controversy, and its stated goal could probably have been achieved without dancing through the minefields of the abortion wars.

…[T]he Legislature could have crafted a tightly written bill that would have increased penalties for such violent acts without employing any of the red-flag words that surround discussion of reproduction. It could have made “terminating a woman’s pregnancy without her permission” punishable by life in prison without any mention of abortion-war catchphrases.

Instead, SB 268 turned entirely on hot-button words. It defined a “person … as a human being and includes an unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth.”

In fairness, the Herald does accuse Planned Parenthood of “rising to the bait,” citing the fact that the bill was killed in committee as evidence that it “was never a serious threat to reproductive freedom.” But the harshest criticism in this editorial is definitely reserved for Sen. Roberts:

Courting the anti-abortion right while simultaneously touting a pro-choice record is not compromise, but Kabuki. [Pols emphasis]

Ouch.

As we said before, Ellen Roberts is in a very difficult position. Many of the things that might have made her a more viable general election candidate, like her past support for some reproductive choice measures, make it much harder for her to win a Republican primary. But her only means of placating the Republican base is to take positions that negate those “moderate” credentials, robbing her of her principal advantage.

Would it have been better for Roberts to have stuck to her former position, and not lurched right to make herself more appealing to the Republican base? Faced with winning an interim battle but losing the war today, we think so. Unfortunately, she’s already made the opposite choice, and her votes can’t be uncast.

Coffman does little to promote immigration reform besides create the appearance of support for it

(Try to Google “What is Mike Coffman’s position on immigration reform?” — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

coffmanpushup

In response to my post yesterday urging reporters to spotlight Mike Coffman’s weak advocacy for immigration reform, Coffman’s spokesman Tyler Sandberg told me via Twitter that “Google is Your Friend,” and directed me to an instance when Coffman said he was “deeply disappointed” with House opposition to a resolution allowing young immigrants to gain citizenship via military service.

Google is my friend, and it confirms my larger point that Coffman does little to promote immigration reform besides create the appearance of seriousness without the much substance at all.

Coffman has expressed disappointment, yes, and I regret writing that he didn’t use the word, but he hasn’t seriously challenged Boehner, who’s arguably been the biggest obstacle to immigration reform in the country.

Where was Coffman’s disappointment when the Senate’s bipartisan immigration legislation, with Marco Rubio’s name on it, died in the House. Coffman didn’t even support a vote on the bipartisan and comprehensive bill, despite Coffman’s public statements in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.

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