GOP Majority’s Priority One: Killing Colorado Jobs!

Sen.-elect Cory Gardner.

Sen.-elect Cory Gardner.

As the Pueblo Chieftain's Peter Roper reports, a story with great significance to Colorado's economy:

The federal wind power tax credit, which Vestas and other windturbine producers rely on to support sales, is back in the cross hairs of conservative energy groups that want it eliminated…

The wind credit was one of the high-profile issues President Barack Obama campaigned for in 2012, the last time it was set to expire, and bipartisan supporters in windpower states extended the tax credit through 2013 after that election.

That extension allowed Vestas and other windpower companies to enter multiyear production contracts that are still fueling production at their factories, including the Vestas plant south of Pueblo.

The Hill reports that national conservative organizing group Americans for Prosperity, which has a large budget in Colorado, is leading the charge against the renewal of the wind production tax credit:

The conservative Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is publishing advertisements pushing individual Republicans to oppose tax credits for wind energy.

The ads launched Monday in the hometown newspapers of 15 GOP representatives in eight states who have not given clear positions on the wind energy production tax credit since it expired at the end of last year…

“It’s important that these members go on the record to let their constituents know that even during the little-watched lame-duck session of Congress, they’re committed to opposing needless corporate handouts at taxpayer expense,” Brent Gardner, AFP’s top federal lobbyist, said in a statement Monday.

Americans for Prosperity played a significant role in get-out-the-vote operations for Republicans this year, and funded a lavish ad campaign in support for Sen.-elect Cory Gardner. With that said, at least on the issue of renewing the wind production tax credit, Gardner is not quite giving this Koch brothers-funded organization their money's worth:

A spokesman said Gardner noted the congressman backed the 2012 extension and still supports extending it again — but ramped down over time.

At least not yet! This isn't the first time that Gardner has had to thread the needle between supporting Colorado's renewable energy industry, which he is obliged to do as any kind of responsible representative of the state, and conservative dogmatic opposition to any kind of "government subsidy" of this or that particular energy source. Groups like Americans for Prosperity say they're for eliminating all tax credits and so-called subsidies of energy production and "letting the free market decide." It's a convenient position to take as long as actually stripping the traditional energy industry of its many tax credits and subsidies remains politically impossible, which it of course is. In the meantime, AFP can make their hypocritical case against wind power tax credits without appearing so colossally hypocritical.

All of which works fine in states that do not have thousands of jobs tied to the wind power industry. Here in Colorado, these tax credits have a direct, tangible value in high-paying manufacturing jobs–the kinds of jobs that support many more jobs. Jobs we can't afford to lose.

That is why Gardner wants to "ramp down" these tax credits to keep his benefactors happy–just not right now, for the sake of pesky constituents back home who depend on them. That might make mortgages and college educations harder to plan for, but now that he's Colorado's junior U.S. Senator, Gardner can straddle this issue without conseqeunce for at least a few years.

And that appears to be what the voters want, folks.

People Testify to Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force

 "Our children should not be expected to be test subjects," said Angela Kirkpatrick, mother to a Greeley elementary school student. Greeley has allowed numerous oil and gas wells next to public schools, even while  COGCC (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) admits that there are "data gaps", and no long term health studies about the effects of breathing benzene and methane on children's health.

In Loveland, Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper's Oil and Gas Task Force heard public comments from noon until 8 pm. I took notes on the last hour and a half of the public comments. Around four hundred people packed the Meeker Building in the Ranch Events complex, to listen and to speak.

(Below, fracking rig located next to Greeley Weld School District 6 stadium in Greeley, CO)

Testimony that I heard ran about 2:1 for slowing oil and gas production until public health impacts are known, for stronger regulation and enforcement, and for  communities to control how much oil and gas production they will allow. The tradeoff in quality of life vs. the economic boom was a continuing theme. Many expressed concern about earthquakes in Weld County, probably caused by injection of fracking fluids under pressure. Audio links to public comment are here and here

Denver Post "Colorado oil, gas task force gets earful from elected officials" by Mark Jaffe

Durango Herald article, "Gas and Oil Task Force Looks at Local Control, "by Peter Marcus

Greeley Tribune article (behind paywall)

My notes on public comments:

"Privatizing the profits, socializing the costs" – Martin Lind

Maydean Worley: Northridge HS site in Greeley, with leaks near the school. At the proposed elementary school site, the drilling company was "stunned into silence" when residents requested an air quality monitor.

Nick Johnson: concerned member of Lafayette community. (which voted to ban fracking) " We understand that it's an economic boon – we also understand that it's a public health issue.We need to give more authority to our local communities."

What is being proposed is a land plan- set up land use standards before communities are built. – He's talking about how earthen berms were built to shield neighborhoods from noise and . (unknown speaker)

Rod Brueske – This commission, if they want to have legitimacy, needs to have a grand jury investigation of the COGCC, COGA, b/c of their interpretation of state regulations. These orgs have allowed reduced or no fines or fees for violations. They are acting with criminal negligence, and I highly recommend an investigation of this pattern of violations.

Jennifer ? – personal story about living next to holding tanks. I feel that I live in an industrial area now. Lights, sound, natural gas, open flames, truck traffic. Ugly, smelly, bright, noisy. Little info about long term exposure – I feel that my family are test subjects.

Shane Davis: I’m a miner. There are epic failures of the state and COGCC to abide by its mission . 40% of all spills in Weld County have already resulted in groundwater contamination. And contamination statewide.  You have to look at the failures to know what you have to do in order to keep them from happening again.  Please recuse yourselves because of a conflict of interest.

Mizraim Cordero: C3, representing business interests across the state. Mission is to keep state’s economy going. All industries, ag, construction, etc, not just oil/gas. Much discussion about local control. Regulating business on a municipal level results in unstable and inconsistent policies. “Patchwork of regulations”.

Chris Guttormsson

Property rights, mineral rights, etc. People don’t understand who actually owns the minerals. They don’t have control of surface. When you make recommendations, please consider helping public be better informed on this.

Dr. Judith Boyle I live in Highland Farms. I’m not against anyone’s right to develop their minerals. I am disturbed by the increased rampant drilling which seems to be happening without apparent forethought or a plan in place.  Regulations of oil and gas haven’t kept up with the technology. EX horizontal drilling.

Kristen Allen – homeowner in Windsor. Near proposed site with drilling within 500’ of people’s homes. Impact on their property values was negative per realtor’s appraisal when they wanted to sell.

Earl Pittman: – I’m Republican, pro-drilling. Brags about how low his gas mileage is.  I ask the task force to recommend local control. (cites long numbered rule). Great Western is the driller at issue. Colo State Dept of Health wants GW to move well site away from residents, but GW is ignoring it. It’s not a political issue, it’s a safety issue, and quality of life issue. They’ve lost our trust.

Robert Winkler: risk management consultant: I’m concerned about health and quality of life issues associated w oil and gas development.  We’ve voiced our concerns to local officials. They are unwilling to evaluate independent research data. Please recommend a comprehensive health impact assessment at the next legislative session.

Maggie Burns: sharing a story.  Grew up on Western slope. Economics does matter. There is a way to balance the interests of health and all the other concerns, but don’t forget that economics matters.

Andrew Browning: with Consumer Energy Alliance. We’re a national organization. We want to increase production of domestic energy, to promote jobs and increase energy security. Banning energy production not viable, not collaborative, bla bla.

Steven Olson: Loveland resident. Lot of rhetoric, movie Gasland was sensational, misleading. Loveland energy project, pro-development group. Technology has advanced to enable safe and responsible development.

Karen Dike: Retired RN from Loveland. Here on behalf of my grandchildren. Gov Hickenlooper, you are making those of us who live in Colorado into lab rats for the oil and gas industry. You are asking us to prove that breathing benzene, methane, et, are not harmful to our children. Your moral and ethical responsibility is to …..It is time to say enough to this industry.

Steve Juhan  My grandfather did a lot of mining and development. Long-ass bio, with no discernible point.  Oil and gas creates jobs. Thank you.

Michelle Smith -  I’m on the board of (two organizations) runs an organic farm. We are losing small farmers in CO. Our hay costs tripled.  Leasing our mineral costs 2X helped us pay for our hay. Better education on MOU is the answer. Property rights should be respected.

Michael Lozinski  Disgruntled homeowner in Firestone area. Noise level was unbearable. I support America being self-reliant, but we can’t do it being irresponsible. COGCC didn’t do anything to ENCANA. I’m a homeowner without any rights. Rules are not enforced. This favors big oil. Need to fix COGCC so they will enforce the rules.

Kaye Fissinger from Longmont. President of Our Health, Our Future. In reading the directive, B1 and B2 has made health and wildlife subservient to the interests of the oil and gas industry. This is a moral issue. A constitutional and statutory and regulatory error. Task force has an opportunity to correct these wrongs.  Can make regulations more stringent than those adopted by local government. Should be able to place moratoria as Longmont did.

Judith Blackburn –  Also from Longmont, a “ban promoter”. Current laws and precedents need to be challenged. Because its legal doesn’t mean that its right. It’s impossible to promote oil and gas and still protect the rights of workers and neighbors. Disingenuous ads from energy companies do not promote trust. Questions of inspection and enforcement aside, we are all in some sort of experiment here. No one knows the long term effects…….

David Quave  During the oil embargo, I learned how important it is to be energy independent. When I moved, I loved working my farm, living in nature, safe haven. I propose that we all work together for optimal pad placements, respect rights of surface and mineral rights owners.  I want to enjoy sitting on my porch.

John Clarke: Former Larimer County Commissioner, former Ft Collins —- No municipality has tools they need to properly regulate oil and gas. Costs to taxpayers would be high. Talks a lot, says little. Fracking is just like construction. Right…..

 Ken Stone:  I work for a local O&G production co. Story of his life. Without O&G production, this economy won’t hold up.

Angela Kirkpatrick parent of a Greeley elementary school student. COGCC agrees that there are “data gaps” which “warrant further study”. We know the effects of benzene. Children are more vulnerable. The effects of being exposed to multiple volatile compounds are still unknown. Our children should not be expected to be test subjects. It’s COGCC’s responsibility to prove to safe to the community. It is not the community’s responsibility to prove that it’s safe to the COGCC.

Tim Reams from Earth Guardians. We need to know what the fracking chemicals are. When there is demonstrated risk to health standards, shut the wells down. There is violation after violation, one company 70 different times. When the state is not doing its job, local communities have to have the private right of action. This guy got the most applause of anyone yet, prompting a stern “no applause” warning from the moderator.

I took video of the last half hour of testimony, and will add it to this diary as time permits.

The task force will continue meeting  today, Friday, November 21, until 12 pm. The task force is  expected to recommend legislation in the next legislative session.

The public made its wishes known. Overwhelmingly, people want public health and quality of life prioritized over oil and gas profits. We know that the task force members will listen, as they did just that for over twenty hours so far. But will they hear? And hearing, will they act to protect public health and the environment?

Will public concerns about health and quality of life have a greater impact on policy than energy dollars? That remains to be seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landrieu’s Craven Keystone Clamor: Thank God That’s Over

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

USA TODAY:

The U.S. Senate defeated a bill to authorize construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, delivering a blow to Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., by members of her own party…

The bill failed to overcome a 60-vote threshold for passage by a narrow 59-41 decision. All 45 Republican senators voted for it, but Landrieu could not clinch the necessary last Democratic vote.

Thirteen Democrats voted with Landrieu, including outgoing Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and John Walsh of Montana. Additional Democratic votes came from Michael Bennet of Colorado, Tom Carper of Delaware, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, and Mark Warner of Virginia.

Landrieu is locked in a Dec. 6 runoff against GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy. The pipeline vote has become a political issue in the race, where the state's oil and gas industry is supportive of the pipeline's construction and both candidates are avid supporters. The 1,200-mile proposed crude-oil pipeline would help connect existing pipelines from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols has more on the split vote by Colorado's two Senators, with outgoing Sen. Mark Udall cancelling out Sen. Michael Bennet's "yes":

“Senator Bennet voted in support of the Landrieu bill,” Bozzi said. “He would prefer that instead of focusing our political debate on a narrow issue that we develop a broad and comprehensive energy strategy to reduce carbon pollution and support renewable energy. He believes we should take aggressive action to curb climate change and support the President’s Climate Action Plan.”

Bennet’s decision to vote with 13 other Democrats and all senate Republicans only strengthens his centrist credentials, which serve him well in a purple state like Colorado, although conservationist Democrats weren’t pleased about it.

“We applaud Senator Udall for opposing the pipeline and are disappointed that Senator Bennet supported this ill conceived project,” said Conservation Colorado’s Pete Maysmith. [Pols emphasis]

As we've discussed in this space when the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline has come up in Colorado politics, there's an enormous amount of hype surrounding this issue, most of it from the energy industry but a little from the left as well. The claims from Sen.-elect Cory Gardner this year that the pipeline would create thousands of jobs in Colorado were just silly–the pipeline never enters our state, and Colorado's fully employed oil and gas industry is short of qualified workers as it is. In terms of jobs across the country, the temporary construction jobs the pipeline would create give way to just a few dozen positions needed to actually operate the pipeline once it's built. As for economic benefit for Colorado from the oil to be shipped via the Keystone XL, there isn't any: we already have a pipeline from Alberta to Commerce City, and the routing of more Canadian supplies to the Gulf Coast for export (which is what the Keystone XL is actually for, in case you didn't know) is expected to result in an increase in gas prices in Colorado and the central United States.

We prefer to stick with these practical economic arguments as they're in our experience the most broadly accepted–but from here you can certainly get into issues like the environmentally sensitive areas of Nebraska the pipeline is set to cross, or the role this vast supply of dirty Canadian tar sands could play in global climate change. The bottom line is, any way you slice it there's very little real incentive for Coloradans to support the Keystone XL pipeline. On the other hand, we don't see the Keystone XL as the end of the world, either–it's the fourth stage of a project that already connects Canadian oil supplies to American and export markets.

So why did Sen. Michael Bennet vote for the pipeline yesterday? He's come out previously as a supporter, but it needs to be kept in mind that the whole purpose of yesterday's misguided exercise was to provide political cover to endangered Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu. Facing likely defeat in a runoff next month, Landrieu has unapologetically banked her political survival on getting the Keystone XL bill through the Senate, even though President Barack Obama had already promised to veto it. The political wisdom of this was always dubious in our view, but Harry Reid scheduled the vote–and as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), it's not like Bennet would have left her hanging.

The only thing we can add looking ahead is, Stokols' "Big Oil love is good Colorado politics" presumption is not something we would count on beyond the rare figures who have able to pull it off–Gov. John Hickenlooper comes to mind with some obvious caveats, or former Interior Secretary Ken "Land, Water, and People" Salazar. As polling over this year's abortive local control ballot measures showed, there is a great deal of concern about the issue among Colorado voters, and it's not going away. We're in no position to predict what will happen on energy in Colorado over the next two years, but this won't be the last chance for Bennet to weigh in.

Next time he does, we hope to see less defensiveness and more, you know, vision.

How Many Colorado Republicans Attended “WallBuilders?”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

This past weekend, a major political conference for religious conservative state lawmakers took place in Dallas, Texas called the WallBuilders Pro-Family Legislators Conference. Leading LGBT blog Towleroad reported last Friday that the keynote speaker was none other than "Tea Party" darling Texas Sen. Ted Cruz:

Does Sen. Ted Cruz believe AIDS is God's punishment for being gay?

Does Cruz believe that government should regulate homosexuality and that public schools are using anti-bullying laws to indoctriinate children into homosexuality?

Does Cruz believe that we need more hate and less tolerance in the world?

If not, perhaps Cruz should explain why he's headlining a legislative conference in Dallas this weekend hosted by a group whose founder has said each and every one of those things.

Also reportedly at the WallBuilders conference this weekend was Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and a large number of Republican state legislators from across the nation. We haven't heard yet how many Colorado lawmakers went to Texas this weekend, but as you can see in the promo video for this year's WallBuilders conference, it's quite popular with Colorado General Assembly Republicans:

dinner_01

Here's a photo (right) from last year's WallBuilders conference, where you can see Colorado GOP Senators Scott Renfroe, Mark Scheffel, and Kevin Grantham, as well as Rep. Libby Szabo of Arvada.

WallBuilders is led by a well-known religious right activist named David Barton. Barton has his own page in the Southern Poverty Law Center's Extremist Files:

A fervent homophobe, Barton has claimed that gay people die “decades earlier” than others and have more than 500 partners apiece in their lifetimes. On his WallBuilders radio broadcast, he’s flagrantly misled listeners by saying that the “leading pediatric association in America” has cautioned educators against providing education about homosexuality. But the American College of Pediatricians that Barton referred to has only a couple of hundred members and is, in fact, a right-wing breakaway group from the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics, which is the real “leading pediatric association in America.” The group he cited split with the American Academy of Pediatrics explicitly because it had taken an official stand that there is no harm associated with same-sex parenting.

Some of Barton’s claims are mind-boggling to any reasonably well-educated person. For example, in his version of history, the founding fathers “already had the entire debate on creation and evolution,” and chose creationism. Reality check: Charles Darwin didn’t publish his theory of evolution in The Origin of Species until 1859, more than half a century after the founding fathers were active. Barton also has asserted that the American Revolution was fought to free slaves. “That’s why we said we want to separate from Britain, so we can end slavery,” Barton said. Actually, that’s ridiculous. Many of the founding fathers were slaveholders, slavery is acknowledged (although it is not named) in the constitution that they wrote, and the British Empire outlawed slavery three decades before the United States did…

Barton still retains some influence, but only in the most extreme and uneducated segments of the Christian Right. Virtually all serious conservatives have repudiated him, and his chances of making a comeback seem remote, to be kind, although he sounds just as glib and sure as himself as ever.

The "extreme and uneducated segments of the Christian Right?" Sounds like the perfect choice for our new GOP Senate leadership to take direction from! Did new Senate Majority Leader Mark Scheffel attend Barton's conference again this year? What about Kevin Grantham, now the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee? Given that LGBT equality is an issue Republicans in Colorado generally ran from this election season, it would be very interesting to know how many of our own legislators went to Dallas this weekend to get fired up for the next round of the "culture wars."

Our assumption until we hear more: too many.

Late Adams County Results–Salazar Wins, May Maybe Done

UPDATE #2: Lynn Bartels at the Denver Post reports, Rep. Jenise May concedes Monday night:

As a result, Speaker-designee Dickey Lee Hullinghorst of Boulder now must pick two members to serve on the powerful Joint Budget Committee. Both House Democrats on the JBC are gone: May lost her election and JBC chair Cristana Duran was just elected as the House majority leader.

“I’ll continue on the JBC for a few more days until they replace me and then I’ll help my replacement transition,” May said

“It was an experience,” May said, of her legislative experience, which officially ends Jan. 7. “I did a lot of things for my community that I’m proud of.”

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UPDATE: A helpful primer on the threshold for recounts in Colorado, for those following the HD-30 race:

Pursuant to CRS 1-10.5-101(b); 1-11-102 A recount is required if the difference between the highest number of votes cast in that election contest and the next highest number of votes cast in that election contest is less than or equal to one-half of one percent of the highest votes cast in that election contest. If there is more than one person to be elected in a contest, a recount shall be held if the difference between the votes cast for the candidate who won the election with the least votes and the candidate who lost the election with the most votes is less than or equal to one-half of one percent of the votes cast for the candidate who won the election with the least votes. Recount occurs ONLY after the canvass board has certified the original vote count. 

Check out the sample numbers at the link to see more about how it would work.

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Rep. Joe Salazar, Jenise May.

Reps. Joe Salazar, Jenise May.

Almost two weeks after the elections, Adams County released updated vote counts earlier today that answer one more question about the Colorado House of Representatives' Democratic majority. Rep. Joseph Salazar, who was caught in an unexpectedly close race against Republican challenger Carol Beckler, has finally moved out of range of an automatic recount, now by .98%–221 votes for those keeping score.

The other close House race in Adams County, in HD-30 between JoAnn Windholz and Rep. Jenise May, narrowed ever-so-slightly from the last released vote count, with May still trailing by 106 votes. By our math, that puts Windhols outside the automatic recall margin. As razor-thin as a 106-vote margin may be, it could mean the end of this race unless somebody ponies up to pay for a recount.

It's not a perfectly satisfying outcome for either side, but it could be worse: in 2010, it was also mid-November before the final House race was called–and with it control of the House. Today, these are the final pieces on a chessboard whose basic makeup we already know. Congratulations to the winners, and everybody else whose blood pressure will go down as a result.

Senate Dems Stick With Leaders As Bizarre GOP Leadership Choices Raise Eyebrows

Senate President Morgan Carroll (D).

Outgoing Senate President Morgan Carroll (D).

As the Durango Herald's Peter Marcus reports, Senate Democrats yesterday stood with their leadership from the past two years, re-electing Sens. Morgan Carroll and Rollie Heath to the equivalent top positions of their 17-18 minority that they held as an 18-17 majority:

Carroll defended her side of the aisle's work, suggesting that with Democrats in control, Colorado's economy grew and jobs were created. She also pointed to civil-rights issues, including same-sex civil unions legislation passed in 2013 and efforts supporting renewable energy, including passing a tougher standard for rural parts of the state.

"We will continue to move the state forward to address the real-world needs of the people of Colorado," Carroll said in a statement. "It is an honor to serve with and for so many great senators on behalf of the people of Colorado."

The caucus also elected Sen. Rollie Heath of Boulder to serve as assistant minority leader. Heath currently serves as majority leader.

"The election is over, and now it's time to start governing," Heath said in a statement. "We have a hard-working team. I know we will be effective because we hear one another out and collaborate within the caucus and across the aisle. We all have a shared goal, and that is to ensure Colorado is thriving."

Sen. Jessie Ulibarri was elected Democratic caucus chair yesterday, Sen. Matt Jones will service as minority whip, and Sen. Pat Steadman as senior Democrat on the powerful Joint Budget Committee. With the Senate Democratic minority leadership settled, we now have a full picture of what the legislature will look like when it reconvenes in January.

The only choices of leadership in either party that are really much of a surprise this time are in the Republican Senate Majority. Unlike Democrats, the Senate Republicans predetermined their leadership in private meetings before any vote was held. The selection of moderate Sen. Ellen Roberts as Senate President pro tem has been widely praised, but since then we've heard questions about how much power she might actually wield–suggesting the appointment was more window dressing by Senate President Bill Cadman than an honest intention to moderate his caucus leadership.

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (right).

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (right).

The idea that Cadman is trying to turn over a new leaf for his caucus is further undermined by two other new members of his Senate Republican leadership: Assistant Majority Leader-elect Kevin Lundberg and majority caucus chair-elect Vicki Marble. Lundberg (seen at right shaking hands with recalled anti-imigrant Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce) has a long history as one of the most stridently conservative and outspoken members of the legislature. That outspokenness frequently gets the better of Lundberg's good judgment, leading to embarrassment for him and his caucus–like the time he read the definition of "abstinence" on the Senate floor, mangling the word "vaginal" (video after the jump).

Fried chicken.

Fried chicken.

But for all of Lundberg's crazy-uncle conservatism, his appointment as Assistant Majority Leader at least has some justification in his long legislative experience. Not so with the election of Vicki Marble to the position of majority caucus chair. Nobody we've talked to can make sense of this appointment other than some kind of sharp stick in the eye to Democrats, and even then it seems like a really bad idea. Marble has given Senate Republicans some of their most embarrassing incidents in the last couple of years, with her infamous rant about "problems in the black race," barbeque chicken, and the "Mexican diet" resulting in much thinner brown people in Mexico making national headlines

That was not the first embarrassing moment for Marble, who previously made bizarre statements like "Democrats will do anything to control the way our children learn, live, and even how they act in intimate relationships." Or her speech against equal pay for women, declaring "I feel like we've outgrown the Equal Pay Act of 1963." As we said, there's no policy expertise or legislative experience that justifies Marble's new leadership position in the Republican Senate majority. All she has going for her that we can see is greater name ID from the headlines she has made–and they're not good headlines.

After all the hoopla this week about Republicans retaking the Colorado Senate, which boiled down to a surprise win of a single seat by under 1,000 votes, the leadership decisions made by that new majority have received little attention other than noting the amiable Roberts' appointment as Senate President pro tem. But when the legislature gets down to business next year, the elevation of two of the most gaffe prone among the new one-seat Senate Republican majority may become the bigger story.

Along with Rep.-elect Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt! If you think about it, the worst-case scenario for next January is pretty darn bad for Colorado Republicans opticswise. In that event, all we can say is that they were amply, amply warned.

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Election Night Lesson: Conservation Universal Value in Colorado

[Promoted by Colorado Pols]

 

From our Executive Director Pete Maysmith: 

 

Have you ever seen a politician stand up and say, “I have an inconsistent voting record, get all kinds of funding from special interest groups and don’t truly have my constituents’ best interests at heart”?

 

Of course not; part of politics is spin.

We certainly learned a great deal about spin this fall. The lesson from Colorado’s statewide midterm elections?  This state cares about the environment and will not tolerate candidates who openly endanger it.

In the governor’s race, Bob Beauprez learned the hard way that being openly anti-environment will not go well in Colorado.  Publicly endorsing public land seizure, promising to repeal renewable energy standards and supporting costly water diversion projects, Beauprez was clearly a threat to some of Colorado’s most dearly held priorities.  These issues alone may not have cost him the election, but they were certainly a factor. Especially considering the fact that his opponent, incumbent Gov. Hickenlooper, faced strong headwinds after some unpopular decisions while in office.  Despite these setbacks, Hickenlooper beat Beauprez by over 3%.  It was not a photo finish but a clear, unequivocal victory.

 

On the other hand, Cory Gardner nabbed his Senate seat in no small part because of an effort to appear pro-environment.  Appearing in a now-infamous ad in front of a wind farm, he declared himself “a new kind of Republican” and labeled himself a pioneer of Colorado’s green energy economy.  His voting record would suggest otherwise (Gardner’s time in the House earned him a 9% lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters), but his smoke and mirror tricks ultimately paid off.  

 

The optimistic environmentalist would hope that Senator-elect Gardner is in fact committed to keeping Colorado clean, and we share that hope.  But based on his voting record, consistent support of the Keystone XL pipeline, and tendency to minimize the impact of environmental concerns, we’re skeptical.  At the very least, we are certain we’ll miss our friend Mark Udall, who was a consistent champion for wilderness and the environment for Colorado in the US Senate.  

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Dickey Lee Hullinghorst Elected Speaker of the Colorado House

Speaker-elect Dickey Lee Hullinghorst.

Speaker-elect Dickey Lee Hullinghorst.

UPDATE #2: House Democratic Majority Office press release:

Meeting this morning to organize for the upcoming legislative session, the 28 returnees and 6 newly elected members of the House Democratic caucus for the 70th General Assembly designated Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst to be speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives. 

The caucus also elected Rep. Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) as majority leader, Rep. Dominick Moreno (D-Commerce City) as assistant majority leader, Rep. Angela Williams (D-Denver) as caucus chair, Rep. Mike Foote (D-Lafayette) as assistant caucus chair, Rep. Su Ryden (D-Aurora) as whip and Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) as deputy whip. 

“People will tell us that a split legislature will place many challenges in our path,” Rep. Hullinghorst said after the vote. “I prefer to regard these as opportunities to succeed. We have the opportunity to work across the aisle in the House, and with the Senate, to develop bipartisan legislation that moves Colorado forward.”

…Speaker-designate Hullinghorst was majority leader in the 69th General Assembly, managing the House calendar through two of the most productive Colorado legislative sessions in memory. 
  
She is beginning her fourth and final term representing House District 10, which includes eastern Boulder and parts of unincorporated Boulder County, including Gunbarrel, where she lives. When she is formally elected on opening day, Jan. 7, to succeed the term-limited Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver), Rep. Hullinghorst will become the first speaker from Boulder County since 1880. 

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UPDATE: The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels:

Colorado House Democrats on Friday elected the first all-female top leadership team in state history.

Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst of Boulder was elected by her caucus to serve as the powerful speaker, a post she will officially take over when the legislature convenes Jan. 7…

"There are those who look at a split chamber as a huge challenge," she said. "I prefer to look at this as an opportunity."

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That's the word from Democratic House majority leadership elections this morning. Rep. Crisanta Duran defeats Rep. Dan Pabon to become the next House Majority Leader, Rep. Dominick Moreno beats Rep. Beth McCann for assistant majority leader. Rep. Angela Williams wins the post of caucus chair over Rep. Lois Court.

We'll update with a statement from House Democrats and other coverage shortly.

Stephen Colbert Inevitably Discovers “Dr. Chaps”

When we say that the election of Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt to the Colorado General Assembly a week ago is a "victory" that Colorado Republicans will come to sorely regret, last night's episode of The Colbert Report is what we mean.

Raw Story:

“Yes,” Colbert replied, “it is reminiscent of the positive campaign the villagers ran to elect Frankenstein. But Klingenschmitt stands for so much more. He doesn’t hate the gays, he’s just concerned for them, as he demonstrates on his YouTube program.”

“The demonic spirits inside the homosexual agenda are trying to redefine family,” Klingenschmitt says in the clip, “trying to homosexualize your children. Jesus, if he were giving marriage counseling to two gay men who were married, Jesus would command them to get divorced.”

“Yes,” Colbert responded, “if Jesus were their marriage counselor, he would tell them to get divorced. And he would take 65 minutes to do it, so he could charge them the second hour. But it’s not just the gays — everyone needs a little Klingenschmitt exorcism.”

"If you're not voting for him, you're voting for the Democrat and quite honestly legislative majorities matter," said Klingenschmitt's predecessor in House District 15, former House Minority Leader Mark Waller, explaining how he or anyone could vote for a candidate who honestly believes that the President of the United States–among many, many others–is literally possessed by demons. Or that a sitting member of Congress wants to "join ISIS" in beheading Americans. Or that Obamacare "causes cancer," and the FCC is allowing "demonic spirits" to "visually rape your children." As our readers know, we could go on and on and on. The only thing that's changed now is that Klingenschmitt has actually won elected office–and as a state representative, Klingenschmitt metastasizes from irrelevant sideshow freak to a nationwide poster child for the far Republican right.

And before the story of "Dr. Chaps" is over, we predict Mark Waller will eat his words.

Welcome Back, J. Paul Brown!

Cletus Spuckler.

Cletus Spuckler.

As the Durango Herald reports today, one of the more colorful additions to the Colorado General Assembly from the 2010 Republican wave is coming back to the Capitol in January:

[A]s of the final tally of La Plata County cured ballots Wednesday night, [Rep. Mike] McLachlan was still trailing Republican challenger J. Paul Brown by 163 votes districtwide.

Brown had 17,246 to McLachlan’s 17,083, with 34,329 votes cast in total across the district.

Since Election Day, McLachlan has run up his vote total in La Plata County, getting 11,949 to Brown’s 10,621.

But it wasn’t enough to tip the scales.

Parker said the 0.95 percent margin of difference wasn’t close enough to trigger an automatic recount.

Rep. J. Paul Brown was ousted in 2012 by Democrat Mike McLachlan by a considerably bigger margin than he just recaptured the HD-59 seat with, which may rightfully make you wonder if HD-59 is destined to bounce back and forth between presidential and off years until the next reapportionment in 2020. It seems like the partisan divide in the district is close enough, and the swing between presidential and off year electorates wide enough, to set that in motion.

Democrats are sorry to lose McLachlan, even as they celebrate holding their majority in the House. Looking ahead, though, as we saw with Brown's last term in 2011-12, the short term loss could become a long-term bonus for Democrats. Rep. Brown frequently made headlines for his UN conspiracy theories, embarrassing homespun gaffes, and bizarre protest votes: once casting the only vote against a homeless youth prevention bill, and famously saying in explanation of his vote against children's health care coverage, "if I’m wrong, I guess, take me out behind the barn and give me a whipping."

In 2012, the voters of HD-59 did so. McLachlan was targeted by the gun lobby for his role in the passage of 2013's gun safety bills, even though McLachlan's primary contribution was to increase the magazine limit from 10 to 15 rounds in order to accommodate a variety of automatic pistols. But for all the money spent to oust McLachlan, a margin under 200 votes in a GOP wave year doesn't inspire much confidence for holding this seat in 2016.

And frankly, neither does J. Paul Brown.

“Dr. Chaps” Shocks and Awes America

The election last week by a nearly 70% margin of Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt to the Colorado General Assembly is emerging as one of the more interesting stories coming out of the 2014 elections in our state–and not in a good way. Rep.-elect Klingenschmitt's unique brand of Youtube preachification, ranging from exorcising President Barack Obama's "demonic spirit" to claiming that Rep. Jared Polis was about to "join ISIS in beheading Christians," has already been widely publicized as fair warning of what he would bring to the state legislature next January. But despite all the attention he received before the election, "Dr. Chaps" overwhelmingly defeated underdog Democratic challenger Lois Fornander, and today is Rep. Mark Waller's elected Republican successor.

This is a nice way of saying that House District 15 now has exactly the representation it deserves.

On Friday, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow introduced Dr. Chaps to her audience (see video above), while national blog Right Wing Watch chronicled Klingenschmitt's "Ten Craziest Moments" for posterity. Worth checking out, complete with video clips from Klingenschmitt's show proving it's not a joke:

1) Gays And Democrats Want To Rape Children
2) Obama Is Possessed By Demons, Requires Exorcism
3) Demonic Transgender Kids Need A Good Spanking (And An Exorcism)
4) We Will Be Forced To Engage In Sodomy
5) Gay People ‘Have Something Unhuman Inside Of Them’
6) Gay Soldiers Wear Diapers
7) Gay Animals Are Of The Devil
8) Obamacare Causes Cancer
9) Obama Will Kill Bundy Ranch Supporters
10) Madonna Is Trying To Have Sex With Me!

We've had a lot of fun at "Dr. Chaps'" expense this year, but the effect he would have on Colorado politics if elected was always hypothetical in our minds–even in an overwhelmingly Republican district like HD-15, there was always the possibility that Klingenschmitt would prove too much even for the most hardened Republican partisan to hold his or her nose and vote for.

As of last Tuesday, Rep.-elect Gordon Klingenschmitt is no longer a hypothetical. And if Chaps was bad for the Republican brand as a candidate, as a bonafide elected Republican state representative he's going to be much, much worse.

To which we can only say: they were warned.

Once Again, So Much For That Blowout

You can look now.

It’s okay, you can look now.

With the dust settling on the 2014 midterm elections in Colorado, an election that undeniably gave beleaguered Republicans in this state victories to be proud of, a more accurate picture of this year's electorate is emerging. As we've noted in the days since as Gov. John Hickenlooper's narrow re-election and Democrats' surrender of only one chamber of the legislature by only one seat gave them reasons to cheer, the high water mark for the GOP in a year where everything was operating in their favor basically amounted to a draw–a split at the top of the ticket, and split control of the legislature by the same single-seat margin the Republicans managed in 2010.

On Election Night, the early returns in Colorado didn't reflect Democratic strongholds that were counting late into the night. As a result, the numbers in Colorado for television audiences fed the national narrative of a Republican wipeout–and excited reporters and local Republicans were only too happy to reinforce this generalization. But in Colorado, we know now that was not the whole story. The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels notes in her story this weekend about the small-ball success of Cory Gardner's field campaign:

Because many of the early returns involved GOP ballots, the initial tally showed voters kicking out Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper [in addition to Udall], and going for Republican Bob Beauprez — but the governor prevailed.

Hickenlooper won by 3.1 percentage points, Gardner by 2.1 percentage points, according to the latest ballot tallies. That's a far different narrative than initial reports showing Gardner with a resounding lead and the governor winning in a squeaker. [Pols emphasis]

And Burt Hubbard, writing for Rocky Mountain PBS, is even more blunt:

Viewers watching Colorado returns on Election Night received a skewed impression of just how results were going at the top of the ticket.

While Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner appeared to be beating Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall in a landslide, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez looked to be edging Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in a race that remained too close at midnight to call.

But with Denver and Adams counties still counting a small number of ballots Friday morning, Hickenlooper held a wider margin over Beauprez, 49 percent to 46 percent, than Gardner did over Udall, 48.4 percent to 46 percent. Each was different than first perceived as a result of slow vote counting in the Democratic strongholds of Denver and Boulder.

Fewer than 40,000 voters in seven key Colorado counties were the difference between a clean Republican Party sweep of all statewide offices, and both Hickenlooper and Udall holding onto their seats, according to an analysis by Rocky Mountain PBS I-News. [Pols emphasis]

Everything we talk about in this space about competing campaign narratives in this election, Mark Udall's mistakes, Sen.-elect Cory Gardner's audacious no-apologies political reinvention that proved stronger than any mechanism for accountability that exists in today's politics–all of this matters a great deal, and teach lessons about how to win for both sides. But as we said last week when nobody wanted to hear it, 2014 really could have been a lot worse for Colorado Democrats, and they deserve credit for holding back what proved to be an even stronger Republican national wave than 2010 was. Democrats have many mistakes to learn from, but the idea that this election has somehow vanquished them, or changed the blue-trending political dynamics in this state enough for Democrats to lose heart about 2016, simply has no basis in reality.

Kudos to the media for revisiting the Election Night spin, which didn't stand the test of time.

Republicans Concede Colorado House, Still Awaiting Senate

colorado-state-capitol

The Denver Post's John Aguilar reports:

Republican officials conceded Friday morning that they won't be able to gain enough seats to take majority control of the Colorado House.

They have scheduled elections to choose minority leadership positions at 1 p.m. Friday.

House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, said he was gratified the party picked up at least three seats after being down 37-28 in the last legislative session…

GOP House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso's statement reads less like a concession and more like the next talk-radio conspiracy theory:

“This election we had an uphill battle. Democrats gerrymandered the house district maps, rammed through their highly-partisan election laws, and out spent us 3-1. The fact that we picked up at least three seats and came less than 500 votes from gaining control of the House is a great success.

“In this election, almost 190,000 more Coloradans chose to vote for a House Republican instead of a House Democrat. That difference is more than three times the margin of victory in Colorado’s gubernatorial race, but shockingly still not enough to secure the House majority.”

Apparently Rep. DelGrosso didn't get the memo that Colorado's "highly partisan election law" didn't hurt Republicans in the least–but again, talking points are almost always a few months behind events. And before anyone gets carried away with this latest bit of "treacherous Democrat gerrymandering" apocrypha, understand that there were a significant number of uncontested races this year that shrink the number of Republican votes actually cast against Democrats to a much smaller figure.

Since the mail ballot fraud conspiracy doesn't appear to have lived up to billing, it's good to see that gerrymandering is there as a fallback for Peter Boyles listener community!

In other news, counting continues at a snail's pace in Adams County, where the unexpectedly pivotal SD-24 race remains undecided–and with it, whether Democrats will have undivided control of the Colorado General Assembly. We'll update as further results come in today–the latest word is that Judy Solano is still closing on Republican Beth Humenik with about 6,500 ballots left to count. Depending on how close the final count there is, the allowed time for problem ballots to be "cured," and potentially a recount, may apply.

Polis Improves Percentage Over 2012, Irritating Big Oil Greatly

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis.

It seems like ancient history today, but just a few months ago, Colorado's political class was embroiled in a major controversy over proposed "local control" ballot initiatives to give communities greater say in regulating oil and gas drilling. Several residential cities along the northern Front Range have voted to suspend or even ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing within their boundaries, in the interest of protecting residents from drilling's harmful effects but conflicting with the mineral rights owned by energy companies.

Out of a number of proposals that circulated among environmentalist and civic groups this year, two proposals supported by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) gained traction: an initiative to increase drilling setbacks from other development, and another putting an 'environmental Bill of Rights' into the state's consitution. Environmental protection has long been part of Polis' agenda, but it took on a greater importance for him after a driller violated the rules adjacent to property owned by the Congressman, later resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

At the same time, Polis was subjected to over-the-top criticism from everyone in Colorado with any connection to the oil gas industry, which if you haven't been paying attention includes a lot of Democrats. All kinds of speculation about the destruction Polis' initiatives would mean for Democrats up and down the ticket was traded at water coolers and spread among chattering class media outlets. Would Jared Polis' upward mobility in Washington take a hit? Might he even perhaps even lose to affable Republican CD-2 challenger George Leing for daring to touch the "Colorado Third Rail" of taking on the energy industry? When the race was called on Tuesday night for Polis, the headline from the Daily Camera's Alex Burness was almost gleeful: "By narrowest margin of career, Polis back for Term 4 in 2nd District."

Except, now that the votes are mostly in, that's not really true: fewer people voted this year, but in percentage terms, Rep. Polis actually improved from 2012 to 2014:

jared2012

jared2014

Sure, you can quibble about the role of the third party candidates in 2012, and it's not really that big of an increase, but the fact remains that the 2014 "Frackapalooza" debate has demonstrably not hurt Jared Polis politically. In every objective sense, George Leing was a better candidate than 2012's Sen. Kevin "Crazypants" Lundberg, and Leing had the benefit of all of this industry-backed presumption that Jared had "overstepped." All that before we even mention that this was a "Republican wave year."

Bottom line: as we've said before, the votes by residents of communities in Polis' district to suspend or ban fracking–Boulder, Broomfield, Lafayette, and the others–are proof that Polis is representing his constituents. There's some disappointment on the left about the deal by Polis to drop his 2014 ballot measures in favor of a commission to recommend legislation on the subject, but the other side of that coin is what happens should that compromise effort fail. In that event, we expect Polis to be back, with ballot measures that can pass as this year's could have.

From these results, we'd say Polis should have something else going for him: little to fear.

Both Legislative Chambers Await Final Count

UPDATE #3: Denver Post's John Aguilar reporting, likely no result in SD-24 today as counting continues in Adams County:

The ballots continued to churn in Adams County Thursday morning and the state continued to wait for answers on which party will control the statehouse in January.

County spokesman Jim Siedlecki said there are still around 20,000 ballots to tally and completing the count could stretch into Friday, due to write-in ballots and duplicate checks.

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UPDATE #2: A press release from the Colorado House Democratic Majority Office:

"We are waiting for all of the votes to be counted in these districts, but we are optimistic at this point that Colorado voters have granted us a governing majority," said Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino.   "We appreciate the confidence that Coloradans have in State House Democrats." 

"It looks like Colorado, despite the political headwinds, once again stood tall against a remarkable nationwide surge by Republicans,” Speaker Mark Ferrandino continued.  "The GOP wave lost its energy when it crashed against Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.”
 
With new results from Arapahoe County coming in late last night that put incumbent Daniel Kagan ahead of his Republican challenger by more than 400 votes, 33 Democrats are now winning House seats.  Additionally, there are votes — in some instances numbering in the thousands — still outstanding in other close races.     
 
 “The voters are sending us back to the statehouse to build on the progress Colorado made in 2013 and 2014, when we helped make our state safer, healthier and more prosperous,” said Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst. "I'm extremely proud of the work all our candidates did.  Regardless of the outcome of these races, our House Democrats did amazing work, both at the capitol and in their districts during the campaign, and I am tremendously proud of and grateful to all of them for their tireless dedication to our state."

“I also want to congratulate my new and incoming Republican colleagues in the House and Senate," continued Rep. Hullinghorst.  "When the new session convenes next January, I look forward to working with an excellent class of legislators from both political parties, and of course our Governor, John Hickenlooper, to continue moving this state forward.” 

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UPDATE: FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Tuesday night’s Republican wave has stopped just short of taking out Colorado’s Democratic governor and, it now appears, the party’s House majority as well…

Adams County is also likely to settle which party will control the state senate, where Democrats are still clinging to hope that they can retain their 18-17 majority.

The Senate District 24 race will likely be the difference maker, with Democrats and Republicans already having battled to a draw in the other competitive races.

At the moment, former Rep. Judy Solano is trailing Republican Beth Martinez-Humenik by 1,073 votes in the battle to replace the term-limited Democrat Sen. Lois Tochtrop.

It’s possible several thousand ballots have yet to be tabulated in Adams County, enough to leave the outcome of that race in doubt.

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Judy Solano.

Judy Solano.

As the Colorado Independent's Lisa Greim reports this morning:

By late Wednesday, Republicans had an unofficial 18-17 lead in Senate seats and Democrats a tentative 33-32 advantage in the House. Adams County planned to wrap up its count on Thursday, leaving two House races and one Senate race still too close to call.

Democrats breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday night when Rep. Daniel Kagan eked out a win in HD-3. “Thanks to Daniel Kagan the Colorado House will stay with the Ds,” former House Speaker Terrance Carroll tweeted.

There will be recounts. There may be surprises among ballots that need to be examined by election judges or sent back to voters to verify their identity or double-check a signature…

Three incumbent Democrats still trail their Republican challengers in Adams County, including Sen. Judy Solano in SD-24, who trails Republican challenger Beth Martinez Humenik by about 1,100 votes. Rep. Jenise May was behind opponent JoAnn Windholz by about 450 votes in HD-30.

In HD-31, incumbent Rep. Joseph Salazar was closing the gap with Republican challenger Carol Beckler, whose lead narrowed Wednesday night to 126 votes.

With Daniel Kagan pulling ahead in House District 3 and Su Ryden stabilizing in Aurora's House District 36, it's increasingly likely that Democrats will hold the Colorado House. In the Senate, with the SD-5 race on the West Slope called for Democrats it's a question of the extremely close Jefferson County Senate races and the SD-24 race in Adams County. The latest word we have is that Judy Solano is closing the gap slowly as the agonizingly slow count goes on.

We'll update as more information comes in–which should be later today.