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.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 19)

Get More SmarterIt’s still not raining! 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 Colorado Secretary of State’s office is working on new rules and regulations in the wake of numerous examples of petition fraud uncovered by reporters such as Denver7’s Marshall Zelinger.

 We’ll have more on this story as it develops.

 

► Buying an electric car is now cheaper in Colorado.

 

► The Washington Post takes a look at the “short list” of potential Supreme Court nominees released by Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump (a list that includes Colorado Supreme Court member Allison Eid).

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

Who Hasn’t Jon Keyser Blamed For His Forged Petitions?

Jon Keyser.

Jon Keyser.

An hilarious press release from the Colorado Democratic Party spokesman Chris Meagher today seems comprehensive, but you never know:

Denver, Colorado – Remember when Jon Keyser himself said that “we double and triple checked our petition signatures”? Well, it seems like he’s unwilling to take personal responsibility for what happens in his own campaign, even after revelations that the Secretary of State’s office was informed about potential forgeries a month ago.

Since it has been easy to lose track of everyone and everything Jon Keyser has blamed for his campaign’s submission of forged signatures to qualify for the ballot (it seems only his dog Duke escapes blame), we decided to compile a helpful list. One person in particular though is conspicuously missing from the list—himself:

List of everyone Keyser has blamed for his signature snafu:

Employee of a subcontractor of a company of a company his campaign hired

Mitchell (Marshall?) Zelinger

Democrats

“the media”

Sinfulness

ProgressNow Colorado

He’s on the ballot

He’s taking the bark off Michael Bennet

George Soros

Anyone but himself“Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser said Tuesday he won’t quit his campaign if it’s found his primary bid was marred by fraudulent petitions to get him onto the ballot.”

Hey, they missed George Soros! Oh wait, no they didn’t. It’s worth nothing, with the possible exception of blaming Michael Bennet and liberal attack groups, that this string of excuses from Jon Keyser’s campaign over allegations of petition fraud has mostly come in just the past few days that Keyser has been willing to discuss the subject at all. And even as Keyser has begrudgingly acknowledged the seriousness of the situation, he continues to throw shade at the “liberal media” as if he hadn’t acknowledged anything.

Putting it all together like this really helps show how Keyser has flailed away with excuses instead of taking what everybody wanted to see: on ounce of responsibility, for forgeries that appear to have directly helped qualify Keyser–and just barely at that–for the 2016 U.S. Senate primary ballot. Had he done so immediately and forthrightly, we might be having a very different conversation today. But after two weeks of some of the worst press we have ever seen in Colorado politics, it’s too late for that now.

As much as the crime itself, Keyser’s refusal to take ownership of this scandal is what killed him.

Cory Gardner’s Kiss of Death to John McCain

Fresh off his game-changing endorsements of Marco Rubio and then Ted Cruz, Colorado’s junior U.S. Senator Cory Gardner is putting his trademark plastic charm to work helping Arizona Sen. John McCain–who is facing the toughest challenge of his long career from Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick:

We hope this ends better than “Marcomentum”–or failing that, at least there’s lots of time between now and November to forget about this, like Gardner’s ill-fated endorsement of Personhood. At some point, it’s just simple odds that Gardner is going to endorse someone who wins.

Or, maybe he gains a reputation for endorsements one should do without.

Robert Blaha Campaign Manager Quits

Robert Blaha needs a campaign manager.

Robert Blaha needs a campaign manager.

The 2016 Republican race for U.S. Senate may go down as one of the all-time biggest disasters in Colorado political history.

Surely you are aware by now of the crater that was once Jon Keyser’s campaign for U.S. Senate, but Keyser isn’t the only GOP candidate with problems. Ryan Frazier is still waiting to find out if any potential votes he receives will actually be counted. Jack Graham is clearly nervous about his personnel file from his time as Athletic Director at Colorado State University — a topic that came up in Tuesday’s Denver Post debate — and now Robert Blaha has problems of his own.

As John Frank reports for the Denver Post:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Robert Blaha’s team is experiencing a staff shakeup after his campaign manager quit.

Katey Price, a veteran political operative, resigned her post at the top of the campaign amid disagreements about political strategy. It’s unclear whether Blaha’s consultant, Jordan Gehrke, is still working for the campaign.

The turnover puts Blaha in a tough position at a crucial point in the campaign, as the candidate looks to regain footing from  a prolonged fight to make the ballot just weeks before mail ballots are sent to voters in the June 28 primary.

And it’s just the latest bit of drama in a race  full of it.

A spokesperson for Blaha’s campaign tried to downplay the departure of Price as part of the natural “ebb and flow” of high-profile political campaigns, but losing your campaign manager just weeks before ballots are sent to voters is far from common.

Nevertheless, Blaha maintains at least one advantage over the rest of the field (sans Jack Graham); as a candidate with the ability to self-fund, Blaha will be up on television with a new advertisement on Thursday. While outside soft money groups may play a role in the Senate Primary, campaign finance reports indicate that only Blaha and Graham — who is also personally wealthy — have any real money with which to pay for TV ads.

Blaha losing his campaign manager just weeks before voting begins is absolutely a strange development…or it would be if the GOP Senate race was at all a normal undertaking in 2016.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (May 18)

Get More SmarterExcept for the rain cloud following Jon Keyser around, we may finally be in for some warmer, drier weather. 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 hits just keep on coming for Republican Senate candidate Jon Keyser, whose campaign officially cratered on Tuesday.

Keyser’s EPIC meltdown in response to questions about alleged forged petition signatures had already gone viral earlier this week…and that was before the Colorado Secretary of State’s office announced on Tuesday that there was at least one DEAD VOTER whose name appeared on Keyser’s petitions.

Then things got even worse last night during a GOP Senate debate moderated by reporters from the Denver Post, where Keyser was called out by fellow candidate (and Air Force Academy graduate) Darryl Glenn, who asked Keyser to drop out of the race if an investigation shows that he did not receive enough valid petition signatures to legally get his name on the June 28 Primary ballot (check out Mike Littwin’s column at the Colorado Independent for more on the debate). There’s no way around it now: Keyser’s Senate campaign has officially cratered.

 

► The Denver Post hosted a debate for the five Republican U.S. Senate candidates on Tuesday. ICYMI, we watched the entire exchange and graded each candidate on their performance.

 

► Soon-to-be Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump released a list of names he would consider for Supreme Court vacancies, and as the Denver Post reports, there’s a Colorado connection:

A Colorado Supreme Court justice was one of 11 potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court released Wednesday by Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump should he be elected.

Allison Eid was appointed to Colorado’s highest court  in 2006 by then-Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, who called her a premier legal scholar.

Prior to her appointment, Eid was the state’s Solicitor General to then-Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, also a Republican.

According to the Colorado Judicial Branch, at the time she joined Colorado’s Supreme Court, Eid was a tenured associate professor of law at the University of Colorado School of Law where she taught constitutional law, legislation and torts.

We’re sure that Eid’s husband, former U.S. Attorney Troy Eid, is more than happy for his wife at being included on such a prestigious list. But part of the news has to sting for Eid, who in the past 15 years has floated his name for more potential Colorado races than Jon Keyser has forged petition signatures.

 

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

Minimum Wage Increase Campaign Kicks Off

Photo courtesy Michael Carrigan.

Photo courtesy Michael Carrigan.

A press release from Colorado Families for a Fair Wage kicks off a statewide ballot initiative campaign to raise Colorado’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020:

“The problem facing families and our economy is the same thing – low wages,” said Lizeth Chacon, Colorado Families for a Fair Wage co-chair. “Raising the minimum wage is fair and smart – fair because people working full time should earn enough to support their families without being forced to rely on public assistance, and smart because people with money in their pockets to spend boosts the local economy and creates jobs.”

The average age of a minimum wage earner is 35 – and more than 84% of minimum wage earners are over the age of 20. A full-time minimum wage worker takes home less than $300/week – well below federal poverty level for a family of three – not enough to afford food, rent and other basic needs. In Colorado, a minimum wage worker needs to work 80 hours/week to afford a basic 2 bedroom apartment. “I’m working hard but still living in poverty – I am one paycheck away from being homeless and I literally have to balance every dime to make sure I eat every day, said Marilyn Sorenson, a home healthcare worker who has cared for high-needs disabled and elderly clients for more than 20 years. “The truth is that the cost of everything has gone up over the years but my paycheck hasn’t kept up. People like me who work hard should be able to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table but more and more of us can’t afford even the basics.”

Extensive research shows raising the minimum wage helps the economy by increasing consumer spending – and does not result in job loss in sectors most likely to hire minimum wage workers. Because low and middle-income workers are more likely to spend pay increases than higher paid workers, each $1/hour wage increase creates a ripple effect in spending, generating $1.20 in the local economy and leading to further job growth.

“I believe we have a moral imperative to pay our employees a fair wage they can actually live on. This philosophy has been good for my business by helping me keep great staff. We have the lowest turnover in the region” said Kevin J. Daly, owner of Vine Street Pub & Brewery and four other Colorado Brewpubs. “How does someone make ends meet on the current Colorado minimum wage? It’s just not right.”

As we noted previously, the $12 an hour by 2020 campaign may not be the only such minimum wage increase initiative on the 2016 ballot, with Republican Scott Gessler helping the Colorado Restaurant Association push a much smaller minimum wage increase. There seems to consensus that some increase will likely pass with voters who have been hearing the “Fight for 15” campaign’s message for several years now. Business interests would prefer to forestall this more progressive measure in favor of something more modest to appease voters–naturally, with the smallest possible concession.

So make sure to tell your friends which one is the better deal.

Keyser Senate Campaign Craters Amid Calls to Drop Out of Race

Jon Keyser.

Sweaty Jon Keyser.

Jon Keyser’s campaign for U.S. Senate is now as dead as one of the “voters” who allegedly “signed” his petitions for ballot access. That sort of thing will happen when fellow candidates publicly call on you to drop out of the race and it becomes a headline a day later. As the Associated Press recaps in the first paragraph of a story today:

An exchange between Darryl Glenn and John Keyser over forged voter signatures submitted by Keyser’s campaign highlighted a Republican U.S. Senate debate over who should take on incumbent Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet in November…

…“I will not drop out of the race,” Keyser said in response to a question from Glenn, an El Paso County commissioner who is the only candidate voted to the primary by delegates at the state GOP convention.

Look, if you have to publicly state “I will not drop out of the race,” it’s a pretty good signal that you aren’t likely to win an election anytime soon.

Tuesday marked yet another bizarre milestone in the latest whirlwind series of events regarding the Republican U.S. Senate race. As impossible as it might seem, things continue to get worse for Jon Keyser. Late Tuesday, the Secretary of State’s office announced that it had somehow missed warnings of petition fraud related to Keyser’s campaign — including news that at least one deceased person had somehow signed a Keyser petition to get his name onto the June 28th Primary ballot. This news prompted a one-sentence statement from ProgressNow Colorado — the group that first uncovered improprieties in Keyser’s petitions — calling on Keyser to “Just drop out already.”

A few hours later, the five Republican Senate candidates took part in a debate hosted by the Denver Post, which did not (surprise!) go well for Keyser. As Post political reporter John Frank explains:

Reiterating what he said  in an interview with The Post on Monday, Keyser distanced himself from the signature controversy, attributing it to the conduct of an employee of a subcontractor connected to his campaign.

“I didn’t know what was going on with the signatures and the circulator and all that stuff,” he said later, dodging a question about whether he would accept personal responsibility for the mistakes.

[Darryl] Glenn, a fellow Air Force Academy graduate, pressed him on the point, saying both operated under an honor code. Glenn asked Keyser whether he would drop out if an independent audit found he didn’t qualify.

Keyser rejected the suggestion, prompting Glenn to quip: “I’m sure the academy will appreciate that answer.” [Pols emphasis]

The front page of today’s Denver Post includes a headline about Republican Jack Graham taking center stage at the debate, which appears next to a story about dead people signing Keyser’s petitions. The Washington D.C. publication Roll Call is also out with a big story about how Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet appears to have “lucked out” with such a weak field of Republican challengers, and Keyser takes his lumps here, too:

Pressed by the moderators about whether he bore any responsibility, Keyser instead blamed the media for having a liberal bias.

You can read more on Keyser’s struggles from Mike Littwin of the Colorado Independent, but by now you’re probably getting a pretty good picture of what happened (you can also catch on our debate grades for all five Republican candidates). It took Keyser two weeks to actually respond to repeated media inquiries about petition fraud related to his campaign, and his exclusive interview with the Denver Post didn’t turn out any better than his previous run-ins with Marshall Zelinger of Denver7 — responses that turned Keyser from candidate to Internet meme.

If you were once a Keyser supporter and you’re looking for closure, here’s the clip from last night’s debate in which Darryl Glenn calls on Keyser to drop out of the race if an investigation finds that he did not legally qualify for the ballot. This is what it looks like when a candidate craters: