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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Republican Insiders: Tancredo, Beauprez Frontrunners for Gov. Nomination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Beauprez, via The Colorado Statesman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Few Words Of Sympathy For Mark Waller

Rep. Mark Waller (R).

Rep. Mark Waller (R).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday Open Thread

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

–Abraham Lincoln

Is Tom Tancredo Considering Jefferson County Superintendent Job?

Tancredo for Governor

Tom Tancredo for…what?

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

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

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

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

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Purged: Priola Resigns as House Minority Whip

Rep. Kevin Priola (R).

Rep. Kevin Priola (R).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

History Lesson: How Mike Coffman Does “Accountability”

Rep. Mike Coffman.

Rep. Mike Coffman.

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

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

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

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

Which you'd think would be obvious.

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

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

Stay Classy, Victor “Everyone Loves” Head

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

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

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

GOP State Assembly Open Thread

UPDATE #2: An interesting twist in the gubernatorial primary, FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

In a bit of a surprise, former state Sen. Mike Kopp narrowly won the top line on the June GOP primary ballot in the fight for the chance to challenge Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper this fall.

Kopp took 33.6 percent of the vote, eking out a win over Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who also made the ballot with 33.1 percent support at the state GOP assembly here…

“I am tired of weak-kneed Republicans who believe every Democratic attack means disaster. They roll over instead of standing up,” Gessler said.

In other gubernatorial news, Sen. Greg Brophy nets a disappointing 18%, and Steve House and Roni Bell Sylvester say goodbye. In the Attorney General primary, both Cynthia Coffman and Rep. Mark Waller make the ballot, though Waller's bare-minimum 30% total may have suffered due to ballots reportedly being handed out while he was still speaking. Cory Gardner nets 73% of the vote, enough to keep Randy "The Stache" Baumgardner off the U.S. Senate primary ballot.

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UPDATE: The Denver Post's Kurtis Lee:

Congressman Cory Gardner took to the stage at the state assembly Saturday calling for new leadership in the U.S. Senate, telling delegates he's the best candidate to create economic growth, lower taxes and spur more energy development.

"Everyday I see faces that are result of the failure of Washington," Gardner said. "Faces of failed leadership. … People who have lost their doctor, who are out of work."

Gardner quickly took aim at incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, saying the he "just went along for the ride" with President Barack Obama on the Affordable Care Act, a measure polling far from favorably in Colorado.

"Obamacare is the biggest and worst boondoggle this country has ever seen," Gardner said.

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To be updated from today's Republican Party state assembly at the CU Coors Events Center in Boulder.

Weekend Open Thread

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

–Napoleon Bonaparte

Renfroe Beats Buck At CD-4 Assembly

Sen. Scott Renfroe (R).

Sen. Scott Renfroe (R).

​As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

State Sen. Scott Renfroe beat Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck for the top spot on the ballot in the race to succeed Congressman Cory Gardner, but both made the ballot Friday.

Renfroe, who was called a "statesman" by several supporters, took 54 percent of the delegate vote while Buck won 46 percent at the 4th Congressional District assembly, where abortion and "personhood" were mentioned…

Delegates cheered both Kirkmeyer and Renfroe when they said they were pro-life and supported personhood and would never change.

The dig was clearly intended at Buck, but it also implicates Gardner, who recently said it it was a mistake to support personhood, which gives rights to fertilized eggs. Gardner said he still opposes abortion but agrees with critics who say personhood also bans certain forms of birth control. [Pols emphasis]

Bartels reports that Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, who is petitioning on to the CD-4 primary ballot, released her delegates to vote for other candidates–which may well have helped Sen. Scott Renfroe come out ahead of Ken Buck. Despite the "backroom deal" alleged to have paved the way for Buck to step into the CD-4 race as incumbent Rep. Cory Gardner moved up to the Senate race, we see an "anybody but Buck" scenario emerging, where Buck's opponents collude where necessary Survivor-style to ensure he doesn't prevail in June. The team hit on Buck, and collaterally Gardner, over flip-flopping on the "Personhood" abortion ban seems tailored to have that effect.

A poll follows–who will win this red-on-red battle?

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Bob Beauprez: Repeal the 17th Amendment

The latest example of GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez getting downright wacky during his years out of the spotlight. In this August 2010 interview on WWL Radio in New Orleans, Louisiana, Beauprez talks with host Spud McConnell about repealing the 17th Amendment–the century-old provision mandating the direct election of Senators by popular vote:

MCCONNELL: Forty states to my knowledge, so I mean there's several states looking at this, but also many many states who are looking at this, uh sending, uh, have already sent resolutions to the Beltway to say, re-read the 10th Amendment, you're overstepping your grounds. And in a discussion I had about that, I had a constitutional law professor on say, when Louisiana does that, we should include in there that we want to go back to where states actually elected their Senators…

BEAUPREZ: Oh yeah.

MCCONNELL: And sent them up there, and then that way, the state legislature, if there was some stuff going on in Washington they didn't like, they could actually, uh, withdraw their Senators, bring them back like an ambassador is brought back for consultations, and, and keep them out of any elections or any votes that are going on up there so that I think would give the states considerably more power inside the Beltway. What do you think about that?

BEAUPREZ: I couldn't agree more. [Pols emphasis] I think states lost an enormous amount of their leverage, their accountability, when the 17th Amendment–I think I've got my numbers right…

MCCONNELL: I think it's 17th, I didn't say it because I couldn't remember…

BEAUPREZ: Was passed and, there is, I think it's, and I don't know that there's enough focus and enough attention on it yet to really get it changed back to the way it was, but I think it's a growing movement, I agree with you Spud.

Repealing the 17th Amendment was a goal of the Tea Party in 2009-2010, albeit not as popular as the move to interpret the 10th Amendment as the only one that matters (excepting the 2nd Amendment of course). Ken Buck was at one point a supporter of repealing the 17th Amendment, until he realized fairly late in his 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate that wanting to get rid of the very same election one is competing in doesn't exactly ingratiate one's self with the voters.

It's another fringy moment to add to the growing collection, like Beauprez's 2012 interview where he claims President Barack Obama is "pushing the boundaries" toward "civil war," his "birther" pandering in 2010, writing in his 2009 book that climate change is "a complete hoax foisted on most of the world,", and more recent comments about how Sharia law is "creeping in" in Colorado.

Are there more? Probably, folks. In fact, we're willing to bet on it. We would consider just about any of these to be completely disqualifying in a general election. The question is, are sane Republicans paying attention now?

It’s The One Thing Cory Gardner Does Well

gardnerryancash

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

AP's Nick Riccardi:

Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner's campaign is reporting it raised $1.4 million during the first three months of the year, almost all of it in March, following his surprise announcement he would challenge Democratic Sen Mark Udall.

Gardner raised $1.24 million in March and has $2.1 million in cash available. Udall raised more than $2 million during the first quarter of the year and has $5.9 million available. But the senator was raising funds for the full three months. Udall campaign spokesman Chris Harris said Wednesday that the campaign raised the majority of its total, $1.4 million, in March.

It makes sense that Sen. Mark Udall would have raised the bulk of his $2 million in March, after Cory Gardner's entry into the race moved Colorado up on everybody's lists of priorities. Gardner's $1.2 million in a month of fundraising keeps pace with Udall from his moment of entry, and that's why he was recruited for this race. Gardner's long train of issue baggage doesn't distinguish him from the other Republicans he pushed aside to get in this race, but his ability to raise all the money he'll need certainly does.

The other part of the Gardner fundraising dynamo story, who's giving, won't be available until his quarterly report is published in detail. But we suspect that will also be noteworthy.