Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 24)

Get More SmarterMay 24th may not be a national holiday…but it should be. 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…

► The ongoing petition fraud story surrounding Republican Senate candidate Jon Keyser just won’t go away, in large part because everyone associated with Keyser’s campaign is operating on a “Michael Brown running FEMA” level of crisis response. On Monday, Denver7 reporter Marshall Zelinger managed to find “Maureen,” one of the petition gatherers suspected of fraud related to Keyser’s campaign, and she wasn’t very eager to talk:

“Maureen” can run away from journalists such as Zelinger, but we would suspect she’ll have a more difficult time continuing to evade investigators with the Denver District Attorney’s office.

 

► Mail ballots will drop about two weeks from today in advance of the June 28th Primary, which doesn’t leave much time for the rest of the GOP Senate field to get their mugs in front of enough potential voters. Jon Keyser’s campaign is deader than a parrot in a Monty Python skit, and Ryan Frazier is just hoping that he won’t be required to withdraw from the race before voting commences.  The race for the Republican Senate nomination is likely to be a three-way battle between Darryl Glenn, Jack Graham, and Robert Blaha, and the grassroots favorite (Glenn) just landed a huge endorsement for a campaign badly in need of funding.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

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.

Senate Conservatives Fund Endorses Darryl Glenn

glennscfSignificant news in Colorado’s Republican U.S. Senate primary today, as the influential hard-right Senate Conservatives Fund throws their support behind the winner of Colorado’s GOP assembly in this race, El Paso County commissioner Darryl Glenn. From a letter sent by SCF President Ken Cuccinelli:

Every once in a while a truly exceptional candidate comes along that, if elected, will be a real game changer for the country.

Darryl Glenn, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Colorado, is one of those candidates, and it’s why we’re endorsing him today.

Darryl Glenn is an El Paso County commissioner, a former Air Force officer, and the only reliable conservative in the Colorado Senate race.

When he announced his campaign back in January, nobody thought he had a chance. But in April, he shocked the Colorado political world by winning 70 percent of the vote at the GOP state convention.

Darryl’s principled and passionate message helped him win over the delegates who were looking for a conservative outsider to shake things up.

Colorado Democrats taking note of this endorsement for a good reason, and firing a volley at Glenn for effect:

Today, Darryl Glenn received the endorsement from the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF), a group responsible for helping elect some of the Senate’s most conservative and out-of-touch Senators, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee. SCF is the same far right group that helped Ken Buck defeat NRSC-backed Jane Norton in the 2010 Republican Senate primary…

“Darryl Glenn is a climate change denier who has called Donald Trump a patriot, and wants to defund Planned Parenthood and effectively outlaw a woman’s right to choose,” said Chris Meagher, spokesman for the Colorado Democratic Party. “Now he’s won the financial backing from the same national right wing interest group that brought us Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, another sign that he is out-of-touch with Colorado and the wrong choice for U.S. Senate.”

With no clear frontrunner following the implosion of handpicked National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) candidate Jon Keyser, there is a growing opportunity for Glenn to position himself as the grassroots favorite in the race–while better-funded opponents Robert Blaha and Jack Graham slug it out with each other. Glenn’s fiery speech at the Colorado GOP state assembly that catapulted him into the primary is really one of the only bright spots for Colorado Republicans today in a sea of political uncertainty and calamity. Blaha’s bitter attack on Graham over Graham’s record at Colorado State University, without a counterbalance to motivate support for Blaha personally, could play right into Glenn’s hands…particularly if he has the money to make himself known to more Republican voters.

And yes, that’s right–SCF helped Ken Buck take out Jane Norton over the kingmakers’ wishes. So there’s that.

Sen. Chris Holbert Is Terribly Afraid For Your Bathroom

Republican Colorado Sen. Chris Holbert reminded his followers on Facebook yesterday that he’s been trying to stop those nasty transgender perverts from sneaking into your daughter’s bathroom…well, for a really long time:

holbertbathroom

You might think that somewhere in Sen. Holbert’s reasoning on the issue, he might figure out that the law has been on the books since 2008 with no problems whatsoever. That’s consistent with a lifetime of experience on transgender bathroom access for actual transgender Americans, who Sen. Holbert would be shocked to discover having been using the facilities appropriate for their gender expression since long before Holbert ever got caught playing with himself in the boys’ bathroom in elementary school–or whatever happened in childhood that made him so paranoid.

But as Holbert responds to a friendly skeptic, it’s not just about the bathrooms!

holbertresponds

That’s right, since 2008 Colorado has been properly accommodating our transgender students in locker rooms too–with no problem! Now again, to a well-adjusted reasonable person, this would be evidence of a policy that works instead of something that should be repealed. In fact, trying to police bathrooms for people who are already expressing the gender they should be to be there is liable to get rather, um, messy. Much messier than what we do today in Colorado, and what President Obama has directed public schools across America to do, which is to let transgender people live life with the same basic rights as the rest of us.

As for Sen. Holbert, he should maybe work out his repressed teenage angst somewhere else.

Marshall Finds Maureen, Hilarity Ensues

UPDATE: As Denver7’s Marshall Zelinger reports:

The woman who turned in petitions with some signatures that Denver7 has identified as being forged, would only respond “No comment” when we met up with her late Monday morning.

In the last three weeks, Denver7 has exclusively reported a number of stories surrounding forged signatures on petitions that helped Republican Senate Candidate Jon Keyser qualify for the June 28 primary ballot…

Monday, investigators looking into the forged signatures wanted to speak with Moss, but when they met her she refused to answer their questions. Shortly after, Denver7 political reporter Marshall Zelinger tried to speak with her as she left her former employer’s office.

—–

Denver7 reporter Mitchell Marshall Zelinger somehow managed to find “Maureen” today. “Maureen” is the signature collector who has emerged as a key figure in the petition fraud scandal that has destroyed the Senate candidacy of Republican Jon Keyser.

As you can see for yourself in the video posted to Zelinger’s Facebook page, “Maureen” is about as media-savvy as Keyser himself:

Listen closely near the end of the video for a fantastic attempt to “discourage” Zelinger by the driver of the van waiting for “Maureen”:

“Get away from my van! You’re not allowed by my van!”

Get More Smarter on Monday (May 23)

Get More SmarterIf you were in Canada, you’d probably have the day off — Happy Victoria Day! 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…

► The ongoing petition fraud story surrounding Republican Senate candidate Jon Keyser is now in its third week, and there is no indication that this scandal is going away anytime soon. ICYMI, here are some of the headlines about the GOP disaster of a Senate race from the last couple of days:

Denver7’s Marshall Zelinger wonders why the City of Denver can verify petition signatures while the Secretary of State’s office apparently cannot.

♦ The Colorado Independent tries to piece together the entire mess that is the Republican field of candidates for U.S. Senate.

Kevin Krug of Denver7 examines Ryan Frazier’s bid to remain on the June 28th Primary ballot.

♦ Republican Senate candidate Robert Blaha talks to 9News about his “brash style” in general and his complaints about the petition gathering process.

 

► It is definitely not a good time to be Jon Keyser, but the month of May has also been particularly rough for Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Monday Open Thread

“People do not wish to appear foolish; to avoid the appearance of foolishness, they are willing to remain actually fools.”

–Alice Walker

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.

Gail Schwartz Making Scott Tipton Sweat

Gail Schwartz.

Gail Schwartz.

The Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports on former state Sen. Gail Schwartz’s budding campaign against incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Tipton–a race that is turning heads as a potential second Dem congressional pickup in Colorado this year:

[Monday], Schwartz, who is seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez, announced she was among 14 candidates the DCCC moved from a list of “Emerging” races, to its top group of “Red to Blue” candidates. Red to Blue is a list of targeted House seats held by Republicans that Democrats hope to flip in November.

Schwartz joins state Sen. Morgan Carroll of Aurora on the list. Carroll is challenging U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in the Sixth Congressional District, in what has been the most watched House race in Colorado.

Schwartz said today that the boost “adds to our momentum in working to unseat Congressman Tipton. We will win this seat by continuing to connect with Coloradans who support my approach to public service, which is putting community interests before special interests and partisanship.”

Democrats are increasingly excited by Schwartz’s campaign, which could well result in Tipton’s toughest race since winning the seat in the 2010 “GOP wave election.” As the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports today, the race is tougher on paper than Democrats’ top pickup opportunity in Mike Coffman’s swing CD-6–but Schwartz may have the right combination of strengths to nullify the district’s built-in GOP advantage:

Her announcement in April led the Cook Political Report, an online service that analyzes elections, to change its rating of the seat from “Solid Republican” to “Lean Republican.”

The district swings between Republicans and Democrats, though it currently favors a Republican candidate. Republicans make up about 34 percent of the district, while Democrats comprise about 29 percent.

With 35 percent of the sprawling district identifying as unaffiliated, tens of thousands of votes are potentially up in the air.

“We always take every race seriously,” Tipton, from Cortez, told The Durango Herald on Tuesday. “We’re going to continue to stay focused on doing our job standing up for our district’s interests.”

Tipton’s going to need to stay focused. Marcus reports that Schwartz has hired respected consultant firm OnSight Public Affairs run by veteran operative Mike Melanson to work on her race. Schwartz also has a great relationship with local Democratic donors after serving in the Colorado Senate. Combined with her listing in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC) “Red to Blue” program, we don’t foresee money being a problem.

With that said, no one should be under any illusions that Schwartz will face an easy time unseating Scott Tipton. Tipton has handily bested the opponents he has faced since 2010, most recently walloping Abel Tapia of Pueblo in 2014 by a very comfortable margin. If it’s going to be different this time, a convergence of circumstances–Schwartz’s strength, Tipton’s newfound weakness after taking heavy fire for letting energy interest campaign donors write “his” legislation, and the broader weakness of the Republican ticket in this unique election year–will be what makes the difference.

In short, it’s a big lift–but rule Schwartz out at your peril.

Jon Keyser Defined by Petition Fraud and His Response

Republican voters know Jon Keyser as the "ballot fraud" candidate.

Republican voters know Jon Keyser as the “petition fraud” candidate.

Earlier this month we wrote that the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Jon Keyser was “basically finished” in the wake of the then-still growing scandal over fraudulent petition signatures used by Keyser to make it onto the June 28th primary ballot. As we said at the time, the stories of ballot fraud coupled with Keyser’s disastrous response to the problem were rapidly defining Keyser’s entire campaign. Keyser entered the Senate race with pretty low name ID among even Republican voters, which made it even more difficult for Keyser to avoid the shadow being cast by his petition problems.

This week we updated our assessment of Keyser’s campaign from “basically finished” to “cratered,” the obvious next — and final — stop when your fellow candidates are calling on you to drop out of the race. A story today in the Loveland Reporter-Herald shows again why Keyser is not going to recover from this scandal anytime soon:

Loveland residents were among the signers of U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser’s petition, and the statewide controversy surrounding fraudulent signatures elicited a variety of reactions.

Nancy Rumfelt, executive director of the conservative group Liberty Watch, was one of the signers of Keyser’s petition. Rumfelt signed it at the Larimer County GOP assembly.

“I just signed on to support his ability to get on the ballot,” Rumfelt said, adding that she supports anyone’s ability to get onto the ballot through any legal method available.

The options, she said, are available to anyone who wants to run for office, which is a daunting task in and of itself, and it doesn’t make sense to place a stigma on any of the methods.

Rumfelt said she wasn’t sure if she was going to vote for Keyser, but after his mishandling of “the media and his response” to the issue of fraudulent signatures, she said she’s definitely not going to support him now. [Pols emphasis]

Mail ballots go out to Republican Primary voters in a little more than two weeks, and that last quote above is a pretty strong condemnation of Keyser’s Senate hopes. Keyser is the “petition fraud” candidate now — it defines him as a candidate even among active Republicans — and he has neither the time nor the money to be able to shake that image before ballots are counted on June 28th.

There’s probably not a lot that Keyser can do to make things much worse than they already are, but if anyone can find a way to double-crater, it’s Keyser. Before this petition scandal broke a few weeks ago, Keyser’s campaign was still trying to figure out how to present him as an authentic Colorado candidate when the bulk of his support came from establishment Republicans and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which had selected Keyser as its top contender back in January.

As the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) was happy to point out today, Keyser skipped out on a Colorado debate in order to attend meetings in Washington D.C.:

Keyser was a no-show at another debate on Thursday night, instead opting to meet in Washington DC with fellow robot Marco Rubio.

On the bright side, Keyser is serving as a valuable real-life example for future Colorado Republican candidates; if you plan to seek a top elected office in the coming years, just make sure you do the opposite of whatever Keyser is doing.

 

Friday Open Thread

“We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality.”

–Ayn Rand

Sucks To Be Wayne Williams

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s John Frank:

“In retrospect we could have done a better job on the review of the individual lines and I think we all admit that,” said Judd Choate, the elections director in the secretary of state’s office. “And that’s why we are trying to develop better policies.”

At the same time, state election officials acknowledged that the scope of the controversy involving forged signatures is still unknown. The secretary of state’s office has not yet conducted a review of other petitions submitted by the same collector who submitted the questionable signatures for Keyser. [Pols emphasis]

“We haven’t looked at it,” Choate said.

“We haven’t looked at it.” That’s encouraging. Maybe the Secretary of State’s office can get around to doing their job later this summer.

—–

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

The office of Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams held a press conference today, to respond to this week’s shocking update in the ongoing scandal over forged petition signatures submitted on behalf of Senate candidate Jon Keyser: the revelation that Williams’ office was made aware of a deceased voter who had “signed” Keyser’s petition over a month ago, weeks before a local liberal group exposed the initial forgeries on May 3. As the Aurora Sentinel’s Chris Harrop reports:

Judd Choate, state election director in the Secretary of State’s office, addressed an array of questions Thursday, May 19, over the petition process after U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyer’s campaign became embroiled in a controversy over forged signatures discovered on his petitions.

One signature in particular — that of Judy DeSantis, who died in January — was found on Keyser’s petition, dated March 28. An elections worker was notified of the anomaly in April, but the issue was not brought to the attention of Secretary of State Wayne Williams until Tuesday, May 17.

“Under state law we are permitted to evaluate the content of a signature … we are not permitted under state law to compare signatures,” Choate told reporters, explaining that the reporting procedures at the time did not call for checking the date of the signature against the date of the voter’s death.

“We would have no reason to believe they have done anything wrong here,” Choate said, later adding that “the assumption was that they had died after signing the petition.”

liarliarkeyserReaders will be pleased to learn that the Secretary of State’s office is moving to correct this rather stupefying gap in their signature verification process for petitions. Again, what we’re talking about is routine verification of a voters’ identity and valid signature that already occurs with actual ballots–just not with petition signatures. We know exactly what needs to be done to catch fraud like the forgeries in Keyser’s petitions, it simply wasn’t done due to the “cost and effort” involved. And because, well, the law didn’t say the Secretary of State had to.

From there, things got a bit more defensive:

As to the larger issue of signature verification, Choate said that his office is prohibited by law from taking that step while some county elections officials — such as those in Denver — have implemented signature verification under their county charters.

“It would require a change in law, we would need a statutory change … we have very, very limited authority to pursue someone for a violation like this,” Choate said.

Secretary of State spokeswoman Lynn Bartels added that the office does not have criminal prosecutorial authority. The forgery complaints to date have been referred to the Denver and Jefferson County district attorneys, respectively.

The problem is, the Secretary of State’s office is not who referred the overwhelming majority of evidence to prosecutors–a “liberal attack group” did that. The only item “referred” to investigators by Williams’ office to our knowledge was the deceased voter they reportedly knew about for a month, and we seriously doubt we would have ever heard about that were it not for the larger scandal. Excepting that action the Secretary of State’s office has mostly outright defended Jon Keyser, making assumptions about the case that investigators have in no way determined, and reaffirming with a shrug that Keyser is “on the ballot” regardless of any evidence of fraud that has been or might be uncovered.

In short, Williams has done very little to help resolve this situation, and a great deal to make it worse. He made it worse though his own ill-advised defense of Keyser, coupled with the belated admission his office failed: not just to catch these forgeries, but to heed warnings about forgeries and even dead voters coming from their own workers looking at Keyser’s petitions. And we can’t help but wonder what else may be out there we don’t yet know.

Everyone needs to do better next time, starting with the Secretary of State.