BREAKING: Cory Gardner Has His Own Ken Buck/”Meet the Press” Moment

UPDATE #2: Watch Cory Gardner's complete refusal to back up dubious claims about his "cancelled" insurance policy:

—–

UPDATE: Watch the full devastating exchange between Eli Stokols and Cory Gardner on contraception and abortion rights:

—–

Cory Gardner FAIL

Rep. Cory Gardner, left, talking to Fox 31 reporter Eli Stokols.

In mid-October 2010, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican challenger Ken Buck had a nationally-televised Sunday "debate" on "Meet the Press" — an appearance that proved disastrous for Buck's campaign.

Did history just repeat itself?

Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner appeared Sunday morning on Fox 31's #COPolitics interview show with Eli Stokols, and while he wasn't quite as awful as Buck on that fateful day in 2010…Gardner was bad enough that he may have just mortally wounded his campaign. We'll update this post with a link to the interview as soon as the video is available online, but here's what everyone will be talking about this week (and beyond):

Gardner was asked repeatedly by Stokols to clarify his story surrounding his family's health care coverage (a story sparked by Gardner waving his family's insurance letter at a hearing in front of then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius) and refused to provide details even after several questions from Stokols. Gardner has faced questions before about his pre-Obamacare health care coverage, but in front of Stokols he squirmed, dodged, and tried to attack Sen. Mark Udall whenever he was asked for more information. Stokols noted that Fox 31 asked earlier this summer for copies of Gardner's pay-stubs to prove the Congressman's claims that he had no other health insurance other than his mystery $650-per month family health coverage; when pressed about why his office would not provide that information, Gardner went back to attacking Udall.

It would have been difficult for Gardner to have looked less believable in his responses. We'd guess there will be more than one reporter who starts taking a new look at Gardner's insurance claims after this debacle.

Gardner also dug himself deeper (who would have thought that possible?) on his flip-flopping on the Personhood issue. At one point in the interview, Gardner says, "There is no Federal Personhood bill. There is no Federal Personhood bill." Stokols eventually responds by asking Gardner if he really thinks he can make the issue go away by just saying "there is no Federal Personhood bill," to which a flustered Gardner has no response. Gardner later takes his Personhood lie even further by stating, "I do not support legislation that would ban birth control — that's crazy."

The entire interview is really a doozy. Stokols, to his credit, tries very hard to get clear answers to straightforward questions, while Gardner tries very hard to do anything other than answer those questions; to anyone watching, it is very clear what is happening. Clips of this interview will no doubt be looped repeatedly from now until November.

Lamborn “Encouraging” Generals To Resign: No Takers

SATURDAY UPDATE: MSNBC's Steve Benen, writing for Maddow Blog:

It’s not exactly clear from local reports what it is about Obama’s foreign policy that Lamborn doesn’t like, but under the circumstances, it doesn’t much matter. If a member of Congress has concerns about a president’s approach to international affairs, he or she has a variety of options, including introducing legislation limiting the scope of the administration’s policy.
 
The options do not include – or more to the point, the options aren’t supposed to include – meeting privately with generals, during a war, to urge them to “go out in a blaze of glory.”

As Megan Schrader of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports today, somebody might have gotten the message by yesterday to Rep. Doug Lamborn that this is kind of a problem:

Someone in the audience urges Lamborn to support the generals and troops "despite the fact that there is no leadership from the Muslim Brotherhood in the White House."

Lamborn smiles after the reference to the Islamic group that was active in the Arab Spring overthrow of Egypt's government and subsequent presidency of Mohammed Morsi and responds…

Lamborn told The Gazette on Friday that he wasn't talking about an organized effort or recent events.

"Nothing like that whatsoever," he said.

Doug Lamborn, everybody–elevating the discourse in Congress since 2007.

—–

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

A story from the Colorado Independent's John Tomasic is raising eyebrows today:

Colorado U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn said that “behind the scenes” he and other Republican members of Congress were encouraging military officers to resign in protest over President Obama’s foreign policy.

“[L]et me reassure you on this,” Lamborn told a small gathering of so-called liberty voters in Colorado Springs on Tuesday. “A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation.’

“You know, let’s have a pubic resignation, and state your protest, and go out in a blaze of glory. I haven’t seen that very much. In fact, I haven’t seen that at all in years.”

Rep. Doug Lamborn's Democratic opponent, retired Air Force Gen. Irv Halter, is unsurprisingly grossed out:

“It is inappropriate for Congressman Lamborn to politicize our military for his own gain,” [Halter] said in an email. “When I joined the Air Force, I swore an oath to execute policy – not make policy. All of our service members take seriously their obligation to serve our nation honorably and follow the chain of command.

“Our elected officials should not be encouraging our military leaders to resign when they have a disagreement over policy. Congressman Lamborn’s statement shows his immaturity and lack of understanding of the American armed forces. Someone who serves on the House Armed Services Committee should know better.”

It's important to recognize how little Rep. Lamborn has cared for basic standards of decorum since President Barack Obama took office. This is the same Doug Lamborn who talked about not being stuck to the "tar baby" of Obama, and who has never missed a chance to attack the President in the most ad hominem terms he can think of every chance he gets–this despite the fact that Lamborn isn't a very smart man, has accomplished basically nothing in his years in Congress, and his "witticisms" generally come off as cheap off-base potshots. After all the churlish things Lamborn has said about the President, at times wildly hypocritical, it doesn't surprise us at all that he would boorishly tell military commanders they should end their lifelong careers because of how much people like himself dislike Obama.

And while Lamborn laments the fact that none of the nation's generals have taken his advice, perhaps it will become apparent to observers that safe-seat blowhards in Congress are the real problem.

Big Line Updates: Democrats Appear to Have Slight Advantage

As Election Day gets closer and closer, we're updating The Big Line on a weekly basis. Remember: Percentages listed indicate our view of the win/loss outcome only (we are not attempting to guess margin of victory).

You can always access the full Big Line 2014, but below we provide a bit more detail about our thoughts on various races.
 

U.S. SENATE
Mark Udall (62%)
Cory Gardner (38%)
Senator Mark Udall has seen his momentum slow down of late, but that probably has more to do with the natural tightening of this race as October draws near. Public polling in Colorado has become about as reliable as a Ouija Board, though if the final outcome is within the general margin of error of most voter surveys, the data is largely irrelevant anyway. For Congressman Cory Gardner, the one thing that has yet to change remains his biggest problem: He just has too many bad votes on too many important issues. Gardner's campaign also seems to have no idea how to go after Udall effectively; they've been changing tactics like the rest of us change socks.

When all is said and done (or insert cliche of your choice), we always come back to the same question: If you had to gamble everything you had on predicting the winner of this race, would you really choose Gardner?

Neither would we.

 

GOVERNOR
John Hickenlooper (60%)
Bob Beauprez (40%)

This race continues to be one of the stranger contests we can remember because of its relatively low profile. Republican Bob Beauprez hasn't run a particularly strong, or interesting, campaign thus far — but perhaps it's enough to ask that his campaign doesn't crater as completely as it did in 2006. Governor John Hickenlooper, meanwhile, has been largely invisible for the last few months. No matter how you look at the race, it's hard to envision Beauprez actually ending up in the Governor's Mansion.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL
Cynthia Coffman (51%)
Don Quick (49%)
We've had Quick at the top of the Line for a very long time, so what's different? Nothing, really. In fact, it will be hard (post-election) to explain the outcome of this race no matter what happens in November. If this race were taking place in a bubble, we'd give the edge to Quick. But if Democrats win seats for Senate and Governor, history suggests that voters will split their ballot and pick Republicans for other statewide spots.

 

CD-6
Andrew Romanoff (55%)
Mike Coffman (45%)
There may still be a "Coffman" in elected office come January; for the first time in 25 years, we don't think it will be Mike. In their third debate of the campaign, Democrat Andrew Romanoff completely demolished Congressman Mike Coffman. One debate does not a campaign make (or something like that), but the momentum in this race is unmistakably on the side of Romanoff. Coffman's campaign has been insisting that their guy is ahead in internal polling numbers — just don't ask for proof.


Check out the full Big Line 2014 or comment below.

 

The Hubris of Julie Williams

UPDATE: The College Board weighs in strongly in support of students protesting against the Jefferson County school board's proposed "censorship" of the AP history framework, via 9NEWS:

"The College Board's Advanced Placement Program® supports the actions taken by students in Jefferson County, Colorado to protest a school board member's request to censor aspects of the AP U.S. History course," The College Board said in a statement.

The statement cites concerns with a portion of the proposal submitted by Jeffco School Board Member Julie Williams which reads "Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."

The College Board states, "These students recognize that the social order can – and sometimes must – be disrupted in the pursuit of liberty and justice. Civil disorder and social strife are at the patriotic heart of American history – from the Boston Tea Party to the American Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement. And these events and ideas are essential within the study of a college-level, AP U.S. History course." [Pols emphasis]

We have a theory who the kids are going to listen to–and it's not Julie Williams.

—–

tshirt_transbg_sm

Yesterday, FOX 31 caught up with Jefferson County Board of Education member Julie Williams–the member of the new hard-right conservative majority school board responsible for a proposal to "review" new AP history curriculum standards, in hope of ensuring they do not "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law," and "present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage" while promoting "citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system." Her proposal has resulted in massive student protests all week in Jefferson County, as thousands of students walked out of class and took to the streets to demand that history "not be a mystery."

Williams has been difficult to reach by the press in the last few days as protests over her proposal raged, so FOX 31's interview was a big chance for her to set the record straight.

Or to make things much, much worse for herself, which is what happened.

FOX31 Denver’s Kent Erdahl spoke with Julie Williams Thursday night, the board member who is at the center of this controversy. The goal was to find out what she has in mind and what her reaction is to the protests which have been taking place for a week now…

Many say the fear comes from Williams` original criteria for her proposed committee which states … “Materials should present positive aspects of the United States,”  “Promote patriotism” and “should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

“Basically, what I am asking for is for history to be taught complete, without bias. So the good, the bad, the ugly without bias,” Williams says.

Kent Erdahl asked her, “Isn`t discouraging things like civil disobedience bias?” Williams answer, “I`m not talking about changing the history to not teach that. I`m saying we shouldn`t be encouraging our kids to disobey the law and that`s what`s happening right now. [Pols emphasis] Our kids are being encouraged to walk out of the schools.”

As we've noted a few times while covering the antics of the new Jeffco school board majority, Julie Williams is a member of the Neville "political dynasty" of arch-conservative political activists and politicians, which is very well known both in Jefferson County and at the Colorado Capitol. Williams is the sister-in-law of former GOP state Sen. Tim Neville, once again a candidate for the Senate in District 16. Tim Neville's son is Joe Neville, chief lobbyist for the infamous Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. Joe Neville's RMGO this election season is supporting a number of RMGO-endorsed legislative candidates.

And you know, it's a funny thing: RMGO doesn't have much trouble with people breaking laws.

brophyobey

Remember when Sen. Greg Brophy (R-RMGO) said these words from the well of the Colorado Senate? Brophy was hailed as a champion of freedom by RMGO and the gun lobby after he announced he would not obey House Bill 1224, the magazine limit law enacted last year.

Now folks, we don't know about you, but we'd say Brophy's declaration of "civil disobedience" to Colorado's magazine limit law sounds an awful lot like "encouraging our kids to break the law," doesn't it? Do you think the RMGO's "I Will Not Comply" T-shirts (above right) might be "encouraging" people to break the law?

Does Julie Williams own one?

In a way, this sums up the whole problem with any politically biased "review" of history, to smooth over the unsightly parts and not "encourage disregard for the law." Any time you try to review/rewrite/sanitize/whatever you want to call it history–any time you treat history as something you can bend to the politics of the moment–it comes back to bite you, from the civil rights movement to…well, even Greg Brophy.

And yes, sanitizing civil rights history in the U.S. is far worse than making a hypocrite of Greg Brophy. Almost incomparably worse. But Brophy's and RMGO's open support for lawbreaking does one thing very well: it throws the hypocrisy of Julie Williams into sharp relief.

(more…)

Friday Open Thread

"The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery."

–Harold Wilson

 

Another Day, Another Massive Protest In Jefferson County

thursdayprotests
Photo via Twitter

The Denver Post's Jesse Paul reports, the student protests in Jefferson County over the new conservative school board majority's proposal to "review" new AP history curriculum raged again Thursday:

Nearly one thousand students from Columbine and Dakota Ridge high schools walked out of classes Thursday morning, punctuating the fourth straight day of Jefferson County school protests.

Students from Columbine, Lakewood, Bear Creek and Dakota Ridge high schools all walked out Thursday. It was the largest protest in what has been a week of escalating tensions between students and the school board…

Jefferson County School Board Chairman Ken Witt spoke to reporters near the Columbine protest.

"I think it's unfortunate presently to our students being used as pawns," Witt said. He also said he thought the student protests were a union tool and that students were being misled.

While Jefferson County school board conservatives defend their actions, the Post's Eric Gorski updates today on the broad range of divisive actions this new school board has taken, of which the latest "curriculum review" is the most recent example:

In the face of mass protests from students, members of the Jefferson County school board majority Wednesday defended a proposed curriculum committee and called it misunderstood, while signaling the most criticized elements are likely to be cut.

The proposed panel has emerged as the largest point of disagreement yet in the state's second-largest school district, a perennially high academic achiever that saw a conservative, reform-minded board majority voted in 10 months ago.

Like the election last November of three Republican board candidates who ran as a slate, the curriculum controversy is also an example of partisan politics playing a greater role in public education — in this case, involving a charged debate about changes in how Advanced Placement students are learning American history.

The angry denials from conservative board members in today's stories are severely undercut by the wording of the proposal. They are further undercut by fellow board member Julie Williams' stunning response to the protests, in which decries the new AP history curriculum's "emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing"–a diatribe more appropriate from fringe AM talk radio than the board of one of the state's largest and highest achieving school districts. According to Gorski's report, Williams' conservative colleagues John Newkirk and Ken Witt intend to cut the most offensive language from Williams' proposal: presumably, the stuff about how history courses should "not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law," and "present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage."

But the language in the proposal might be a sideshow to the real problem. Although Jefferson County has had curriculum reviews before, the committees involved were generally composed of education professionals and experts. This new proposal for a review of AP history simply calls for a majority vote by the school board. Since the current conservative majority took office, almost every decision made by the board has been a 3-2 party line vote. That means this committee could very easily be stacked by conservative political activists with no educational qualifications–which, incidentally, perfectly describes the new conservative majority on the Jeffco school board! And in case you're wondering if that's what the right really wants, check out this message sent from a supporter of Williams to prospective review committee members:

williamrecruitmentnote

It's as bad as it looks, folks. Defensive bluster aside, the facts back up the concerns of the protesters. Last year, a failed education funding initiative brought out legions of conservative voters to vote against it, in the process installing a school board majority in Jefferson County that is distantly to the right of the population they are entrusted to serve. Today, however, the unexpected "bonus" of Amendment 66's crushing at the polls, a far-right school board majority in Jeffco, may blow back hard on conservatives in this electoral bellwether county–doing political damage far beyond anything they had hoped to gain.

Between here and there, we expect a lot more protests.

Gardner’s Personhood Dodge Gets Much Harder

Cory Gardner does the Personhood twist.

Cory Gardner does the Personhood twist.

We've been waiting for many weeks now for the Denver Post to revisit the story of GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner's ongoing support for the federal Life at Conception Act–legislation in Congress with functionally similar language to the state Personhood abortion ban ballot measures Gardner disavowed support for soon after entering the Senate race. As we've discussed in this space repeatedly, the Life at Conception Act contains the same references to rights at "the moment of fertilization" as Personhood–which could have the same effect in terms of outlawing certain forms of so-called "abortifacient" birth control. When the Post last reported on this matter, the Gardner campaign's denial that the two measures would have a similar effect was left unchallenged–even after fact-checkers and experts had long debunked it.

Lynn Bartels at the Post finally revisited this story today, and she worked her way through the spin (for the most part) to get to the facts of the situation:

"I was not right," he said. "I can't support personhood now. I can't support personhood going forward. To do it again would be a mistake."

But critics note Gardner remains a co-sponsor of the federal Life at Conception Act, which implements "equal protection under the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution for the right to life of each born and preborn human person."

Coloradan Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, said the federal proposal mirrors state personhood efforts, which can be interpreted to mean prosecution for those performing abortions, "which I welcome," he added… [Pols emphasis]

"The federal proposal in question simply states that life begins at conception, as most pro-life Americans believe, with no change to contraception laws as Sen. Udall falsely alleges," [Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano] said.

But as the Colorado Personhood abortion ban's chief proponent Keith Mason says above, and Factcheck.org validates with expert opinion, Personhood and the Life at Conception Act are "mirrors" of one another. Gardner said flat-out when he abandoned support for the state Personhood measures, "the fact that it restricts contraception, it was not the right position." Now to be fair, Mason says he doesn't think either measure would ban contraception. But that doesn't matter: if what Gardner claims about Personhood is true, the same must be true of the Life at Conception Act, because they say the same thing. Again, the operative language in the Life at Conception Act:

The terms "human person" and "human being" include each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, [Pols emphasis] cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.

And the full text of Amendment 48, the 2008 Personhood abortion ban measure:

Person defined. AS USED IN SECTIONS 3, 6, AND 25 OF ARTICLE II OF THE STATE CONSTITUTION, THE TERMS "PERSON" OR "PERSONS" SHALL INCLUDE ANY HUMAN BEING FROM THE MOMENT OF FERTILIZATION. [Pols emphasis]

This is why is was so important for Gardner to have removed himself as a co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act before Congress adjourned last week, which he failed to do. There was no way Gardner was going to be able to get to November without this obvious discrepancy being exposed. Either both Personhood and the Life at Conception Act would result in banning birth control, or neither would. And Gardner has already validated the argument that Personhood would "restrict contraception." In short, Gardner is screwed.

Our friend Jason Salzman also has a post up about today's story, noting an error by Bartels on legislation Gardner sponsored in 2007–legislation that would have, despite one misleading clause, likely restricted the legality of some forms of contraception. It's a valid point that further underscores Gardner's long duplicity on this issue as he tries to please the hard-right champions of this issue while remaining electable to higher office. But it shouldn't take away from the many things Bartels got right in this story, things that voters need to understand about the issue before ballots drop.

Despite his best attempts, this is the needle Gardner couldn't thread. And there will be a high price.

New Poll: Tax Fairness Breaks Senate Race Gridlock?

UPDATE #2: From today's press release:

“Coloradans from all backgrounds prefer a Senate candidate who supports closing corporate tax loopholes and ending tax breaks for the wealthy,” said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling. “The tax fairness agenda is supported by Colorado voters more than most other top issues emphasized by the Senate candidates.  That suggests that a candidate who supports tax fairness issues could get an edge in this race.”

“When you look at the strength of these numbers, it’s hard to understand why the candidates don’t focus more on tax issues,” said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness Action Fund. “Colorado families clearly want a fairer tax system and they are more likely to choose a candidate for the U.S. Senate who will fight for it.”

“The results of this poll show that, yet again, Mark Udall falls squarely on the side of the majority of Coloradans when it comes to the issue of corporations paying their fair share,” said Amy Runyon-Harms, Executive Director of ProgressNow Colorado. “Cory Gardner, on the other hand, has voted time and again to give tax breaks to big business and against the best interests of everyday people in our state.”

—–

UPDATE: The Hill's Alexandra Jaffe reports:

PPP also surveyed Coloradans on a series of hot-button issues, including whether they’d be more likely to support a candidate who wants to “protect a woman’s right to choose,” who “believes we just can’t afford ObamaCare” and who wants “to make sure the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes.”

ProgressNow Colorado Executive Director Amy Runyon-Harris said the results of the survey show Udall is on the right side of most of the issues polled, and particularly on tax fairness issues. She suggested, however, more needs to be done to inform voters of his positions.

“We’ve got 40-odd days here left [before Election Day] to educate voters about where Mark Udall stands on these issues and where Cory Gardner stands on these issues,” she said, expressing confidence that once voters learned more they’d support Udall.

—–

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

A new poll by Public Policy Polling released today for Americans for Tax Fairness and ProgressNow Colorado has numbers you won't be surprised by: a statistical tie continuing in the Colorado U.S. Senate race–Cory Gardner technically up 47-45% over incumbent Democrat Mark Udall with 8% undecided. The poll's margin of error is +/- 3.8%.

But as PPP's analysis explains, those aren't the numbers that really matter:

The poll questioned likely voters on a variety of issues that are central to this Senate race, including important tax issues, and found the following: 

• Colorado voters strongly prefer a candidate who supports a “tax fairness”  agenda. Voters across party lines overwhelmingly support a tax system in which the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. 

• Tax fairness issues ranked higher than nearly all other major issues being  debated in the Senate race. 

• Support for tax fairness issues runs so strong across party lines that it appears to  be a core value held by the public. Wide majorities of white, African-American  and Latino voters expressed support for tax fairness. A wide majority of women  and a majority of men expressed support for tax fairness issues. A majority of  self-described moderates and independents also supported these positions.

A total of 10 issues were tested. Three of the top five dealt with tax fairness: 

• 79% of likely voters said they would be more likely to support a candidate who wants to close tax loopholes and use the money to create jobs, including 72% of independents and 71% of Republicans. 

• 73% of likely voters said they would be more likely to support a candidate who wants to make sure millionaires do not pay a lower tax rate than the middle class, including 75% of independents and 55% of Republicans. 

• 68% of likely voters want to end tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas, including 70% of independents and 57% of Republicans.

Here are the full toplines and analysis.

For the past several months, the U.S. Senate race has been locked in a very narrow range according to most polls. Udall has held on to an enduring lead with women voters over Gardner, which has kept Udall strong through a summer of millions spent on attack ads against him. If the numbers in this poll are accurate, the issue of fairness in tax policy is extremely fertile ground for Udall to differentiate himself from Gardner. In the last big debate over tax rates on wealthy Americans, extending the 2003 Bush tax cuts, Udall and Gardner were polar opposites. More recently, Gardner has supported the Paul Ryan GOP budget plans, all of which included large tax breaks for wealthy Americans–again, on the wrong side of what looks like a lopsided majority.

Is this issue a breakout opportunity for Udall in a race way too close to call?

Attorney General Eric Holder Will Resign; Announcement Today

Attorney General Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder

From the Associated Press:

Eric Holder, who served as the public face of the Obama administration's legal fight against terrorism and pushed to make the criminal justice system more even-handed, is resigning after six years on the job. He is the nation's first black attorney general.

The White House said that President Barack Obama planned to announce Holder's departure later Thursday. The White House said Holder plans to remain at the Justice Department until his successor is in place.

The 63-year-old former judge and prosecutor took office in early 2009 as the U.S. government grappled with the worst financial crisis in decades and with divisive questions on the handling of captured terrorism suspects, issues that helped shape his six-year tenure as the country's top law enforcement official. He is the fourth-longest serving attorney general in U.S. history. [Pols emphasis]

There is always speculation about the cause whenever a top cabinet member resigns from the job, but Holder has been serving as Attorney General for a long time — longer than most, in fact, as we highlighted in the last line above — so it's not really a surprise that he would leave the Obama Administration well before the end of the President's second term. President George W. Bush, for example, had three different Attorney Generals during his eight years in office.

Thursday Open Thread

"Fear and greed are potent motivators. When both of these forces push in the same direction, virtually no human being can resist."

–Andrew Weil

New Gardner Ad Critical of Udall Family Ties (VIDEO)

We've talked many times in this space about Republican Congressman Cory Gardner's campaign for U.S. Senate and their obvious confusion about finding the right message for attacking Sen. Mark Udall.

Apparently Gardner is still looking for that message. In his latest ad, revealed today, Gardner goes after Udall for having the audacity to have family members involved in politics. Here's what Gardner says about the Udall family, which you can watch for yourself below (after the jump):

CORY GARDNER: [Mark Udall] is the Senate. 18 years in politics, and he's got two cousins who are Senators, too. Mark Udall's dad even ran for President.

Gardner goes on to talk about how his father and grandfather both sell tractors, which is a "you think you're better than me?" message that might appeal to a Republican base but probably won't do much to excite the rest of Colorado voters. The timing of Gardner's ad is interesting as well; on Monday, Arizona Sen. John McCain said that he would not campaign against Udall because of a long history with both Mark and his father, "Mo" Udall

Oh, and about those Udall cousins in the Senate? Sen. Tom Udall is a Democrat from New Mexico, and Sen. Mike Lee is a REPUBLICAN from Utah. Mike Lee was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 after a surprise defeat of longtime incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Bennett.

(more…)

VIDEO: Mike Coffman Rejects Climate Change

We discussed this during our Live Blog of last night's CO-6 debate between Rep. Mike Coffman and Democrat Andrew Romanoff, but you really need to see the video yourself as a visibly-uncomfortable Coffman rejects the issue of climate change outright. Coffman's answers came during the "Yes or No answer" segment of the debate:

Here's the transcript of the exchange:

MODERATOR #1 (Denver Post reporter Jon Murray): Mr. Coffman, do you believe humans are contributing significantly to Climate Change?

COFFMAN: Um…No.

MODERATOR #1: Mr. Romanoff?

ROMANOFF: Yes

MODERATOR #2 (Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett): Mr. Romanoff, do you think we can reverse Climate Change?

ROMANOFF: Yes

MODERATOR #2: Mr. Coffman?

COFFMAN: Don't know.

MODERATOR #2: Um, what? Sir?

COFFMAN: [long pause] No.

Coffman's answers to these two questions were not entirely unpredictable, but the Congressman was definitely uneasy — and a bit unsure of himself — in giving his answers. It was a strange way to answer a couple of questions that any pre-debate preparation should have covered repeatedly, so why was Coffman caught so off-guard?

The Madness of Julie Williams

UPDATE #2: Chalkbeat Colorado's Nicholas Garcia reports, the largest protest yet today in Jefferson County:

Stretching on for a fourth school day, students from some of Jefferson County’s largest high schools gathered at a busy intersection here to echo concerns about a proposed curriculum committee they believe could lead to censorship and show solidarity with their teachers.

The rally appeared to be the largest thus far. More than half of the 1,900 students at Chatfield High School, coupled with hundreds of students from Dakota Ridge walked, ran, and drove up and down a stretch of Simms Street shortly after classes were supposed to start at the two schools.

According to the Denver Post, students at Bear Creek High School also walked out this morning. And according to sources, students at Alameda High School [walked out] this afternoon after meeting with a representative from Jeffco Public Schools.

—–

UPDATE:

—–

GOP state senate candidate Tony Sanchez and Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

GOP state senate candidate Tony Sanchez and Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

Yesterday's student walkout at at least five Jefferson County high schools, in protest of the new conservative Jeffco school board majority's proposed "curriculum review committee" to undertake a politically suspect review of revised AP history materials, has exploded into national headlines. The New York Times, along with major online sources like Talking Points Memo and Raw Story, have elevated this controversy and linked it to the larger right-wing struggle against updating education standards throughout the country. Jefferson County, like most school districts, has always had some form of ongoing curriculum review, but carried out by people with educational experience–with specific goals of ensuring the material is comprehensive and conformal to standards set by national bodies like the College Board.

The conservative board majority's proposal, to select members of this new "curriculum review committee" by majority vote of the board with no qualifications required–and especially the committee's proposed mission to ensure the district's history courses promote "citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority," and "presents positive aspects of the United States and its heritage"–is not the same process at all, and poses a direct threat to the academic integrity of Jefferson County's AP history courses. A second proposed target of investigation by this new committee, the district's sex ed courses, hasn't even been explored yet by the media, though we expect that would become every bit as controversial should it be enacted by the board.

The author of the proposal, board member Julie Williams, is a member of the Neville family of arch-conservative activists in Jefferson County. Williams' brother-in-law, for Sen. Tim Neville, is running again for Colorado Senate District 16, and her in-law nephew Joe Neville is the hard-charging principal lobbyist for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners organization. These are people with a very broad political agenda, of which education policy is merely one piece–albeit an important one. On Monday, as protests ramped up, Williams responded to her critics.

Disastrously.

I was truly surprised by the reaction of so many people regarding the AP U.S. History curriculum (APUSH). I must not have explained myself clearly. I thought everyone, or at least everyone involved in education understood the huge debate and controversy surrounding the new APUSH. To be accused of censorship? “Seriously?” That is just ridiculous. I am advocating for just the opposite. So, please let me start at the beginning…

APUSH rejects the history that has been taught in the country for generations. It has an emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing [Pols emphasis] while simultaneously omitting the most basic structural and philosophical elements considered essential to the understanding of American History for generations….parents who have reviewed APUSH have been very unhappy with what their children will be taught and have lost trust in the “experts”. Please note: This is NOT a committee to review teachers, this is NOT about teachers, it is about curriculum review, which is a board’s responsibility.

Balance and respect for traditional scholarship is NOT censorship. Again we believe that exposure to the curriculum itself, not inflammatory rhetoric; will convince most parents that a review committee is a very good idea. I humbly ask our Jeffco history teachers to review their philosophical position on the APUSH. I think the majority will be surprised to find they agree. I invite them to join us while we investigate this curriculum, together…

Last, when it comes to history I believe all children graduating from an American school should know 3 things: American Exceptionalism, an understanding of US History, and know the Constitution.

The most obvious problem with this response is how Williams says she doesn't want censorship, but then launches immediately into a reactionary diatribe about the AP history curriculum's "emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing." Williams clearly doesn't like that, and we can infer pretty easily from her description of it that she would like the new AP history curriculum in Jefferson County to change.

Which is an awful lot like censoring it.

For us, the sophomoric and badly-written language of this "press release" is itself an embarrassment to the Jefferson County School District. We can't speak for everyone, of course, but placing the word "experts" in scare quotes inspires the opposite of confidence in this person's viewpoint–especially as an education administrator. It would be one thing to have a debate about a history text's "emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing" with a person who is qualified to debate these subjects, but Williams simply is not. Her sole purpose on this school board appears to be to inject the Neville's far-right agenda into their process at every step, and spew AM radio talking points that have no place in a discussion about education in one of Colorado's best and largest public school districts. Certainly not in the closely divided political bellwether of Jefferson County.

The exposure of Williams' agenda, now underway in the form of massive protests and national news coverage, could be very bad for her fellow Republicans this election season. By provoking such controversy with a political review of history, Williams has touched a nerve that crosses party lines–and could bring out angry independent voters in Jeffco who might otherwise have stayed home.

For Republicans, this could be a most unfortunate consequence–even if they can't say it was unintended.