Wednesday Open Thread

"Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputations…can never effect a reform."

–Susan B. Anthony

Mike Coffman Embarrasses Himself…Again

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

What’s Coffman’s beef with James Taylor?

Republican Rep. Mike Coffman seems to have trouble learning from his own mistakes. On Friday, Coffman Tweeted some heavy criticism at Secretary of State John Kerry:

Coffman's Tweet references a half-assed opinion piece in the New York Daily News that is critical of Kerry for not going to France to participate in last week's "unity rally" following the terrorist attacks at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Whether or not Kerry should have been in Paris is another topic, but whatever your opinion on the matter, calling Kerry a "national embarrassment" is a fairly ridiculous comment for a sitting Member of Congress to throw at the Secretary of State. You are quite the statesman, Congressman. 

You might remember the last time Coffman was so blunt in his attacks on another prominent politician; in May 2012, Coffman ended up in a mess of his own making when he told a crowd at a GOP fundraiser that President Barack Obama was "just not an American." A recording of Coffman's full quote made its way to 9News, and reporter Kyle Clark wasted no time in jumping on the story:

"I don't know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. I don't know that," Coffman told donors. "But I do know this, that in his heart, he's not an American. He's just not an American."

Coffman's insulting comments about President Obama quickly became national news, and the Republican Congressman took plenty of lumps as a result. Coffman publicly apologized and even penned an Op-Ed for the Denver Post in which he called his remarks "inappropriate and boneheaded." But Coffman's real punishment came in the form of unintended self-flagellation; in other words, he made a complete fool out of himself when Clark eventually caught up with him on camera:

REP. COFFMAN: I think that… Umm… I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: OK. And who were you apologizing to?

REP. COFFMAN: You know, I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: I apologize, we talk to you all the time, you're a very forthcoming guy. Who's telling you not to talk and to handle it like this?

REP. COFFMAN: I stand by my statement, that I wrote, that you have, and I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: Was it that you thought it would go over well in Elbert County where folks are very conservative and you'd never say something like that in the suburbs?

REP. COFFMAN: I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: Is there anything I can ask you that you'll answer differently?

REP. COFFMAN: You know, I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize. ​

KYLE CLARK: Thank you, congressman…

Coffman's comments about Kerry aren't quite as absurd as his statements about President Obama, but the same point applies to either remark. Coffman absolutely has a First Amendment right to say these kinds of things — we're not disputing that — but just because he can doesn't mean that he should.

Americans no longer expect Congress to actually do any work — can't they at least behave like decent, civil human beings?

“Last Call For Ryan Call?” Opponents Lay Out Grievances

lastcall

The campaign by grassroots Republicans to oust Colorado Republican Party chairman Ryan Call continues, with supporters of Call's opponent in the upcoming leadership (s)election Steve House circulating a list of "grievances" against Call that some of our readers will remember fondly:

What is the Record of the Chairman in the Last Four Years?

- 42% increase in active unaffiliated voters, (100,000 in 2014 alone!)
- 12% decrease in state positions held by GOP (51-45-51), NET 0 
- No or small support of county candidates to state offices
- Organized an interference in the state primary for his governor
- Opposed and worked against the Recall efforts 
- Turned on his own and fell to the left's race baiting ‪#‎Chickengate‬
- Donated to Democrats 
- Outsourced all GOP legal matters to his own firm
- Stacked the Executive Committee 
- Inflated salary and expenses 
- Would not support Tony Sanchez against Kerr 
- No real respect for conservative grassroots 
- Ignored most voting irregularities including Adams and Boulder
- Brought pro-common core, pro-amnesty Jeb Bush to CO 
- Supported the RNC rules changes against grassroots 
- Tried to eliminate straw polls 
- Most fundraising came from RNC, not Ryan Call
- No or low amount of small donors (major sign of failure),
- Doesn't promote the constitution or platform
- Didn't publicly oppose the corruption in Mississippi 
- Silent on O'Keefe video of CO Dems promoting voting fraud
- Supports failed candidates and officials who vote against our own platform
- Presided over a disastrous assembly in Boulder in 2014 with not enough food, no outside vendors allowed, no weapons allowed (only CC, after a fight and a search). 
-The list goes on and on.

Ryan Call is Good For Washington and Bad for Colorado

A lot to chew on in this laundry list of grievances against Call, but it's obvious that the "Tea Party" grassroots is no more happy with Call after four years than they were when former chairman Dick Wadhams was on his way out the door in 2011. Wadhams ended his tenure after a disastrous 2010 election cycle, in which Republican candidates imploded and squandered a major "wave year" opportunity. After that experience Wadhams did not run again, saying "I'm tired of the nuts who have no grasp of what the state party role is."

Despite the dissatisfaction among the conservative grassroots with Wadhams, it's widely believed that he could have won re-election to the job of state chairman had he chose to stay in the running in 2011. In 2015, we can't say the same of Ryan Call–who has had a very difficult time as well keeping a fractious and frequently off-message Republican caucus on track, and lacks Wadhams' forceful personality to command respect. Lingering anger over the shenanigans in the GOP gubernatorial primary last year, which saw Bob Beauprez elevated by national Republicans over grassroots pick Tom Tancredo also works against Ryan Call, especially with the possibility of the party helping Beauprez recoup his own campaign loans looming.

And by God, make sure there's enough food for everyone at the state assembly.

GOP Takes Aim At Colorado Civil Rights Law

discrimination_image_1

An MLK Day guest column by Colorado Sens. Morgan Carroll and Lucia Guzman in the Aurora Sentinel blasts state Senate Republicans for introducing a bill last week to repeal a significant piece of job discrimination law passed in 2013:

On the day before MLK’s 86th birthday, Republican state senators introduced a bill (SB 15-069) to eliminate the “Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act of 2013,” which was passed to ensure that all workers are protected from discrimination and harassment on the job. At the time, Colorado was one of only eight states that did not have laws to punish businesses with fewer than 15 employees who discriminated against their workers based on race, sex, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. The bill that passed in 2013 expanded civil right protections for all Coloradans, not just those who worked in big businesses…

The Republican bill introduced last week would erode Dr. King’s legacy and take Colorado back to an unfortunate chapter in our history where it was legal to discriminate. Discrimination unfairly costs people jobs, which is damaging to our economy. Women continue to trail behind their male counterparts in pay for the same work. In Colorado, Latinos and blacks live in poverty at rates much greater than whites, and more single women live in poverty than men. The 2013 bill put teeth in our existing anti-discrimination laws, while the 2015 bill would neuter the advances we made. Why in the world would we want to move backward toward a pre-Civil Rights Act world in 2015?

State Rep. Joe Salazar, a co-prime sponsor of the 2013 bill, noted the hypocrisy of attempts to mask malevolent action through messaging.

“On Friday (Jan. 16), when the House of Representatives honored Martin Luther King, Republicans stood and quoted him magnanimously on the virtues of civil rights, while at the same time introducing a bill to get rid of the Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act of 2013. It’s very apparent that they cannot comprehend the words, actions and deeds espoused by this great civil rights leader. We should feel sorry for them that they don’t understand, after all these years, what civil rights really mean.”

In 2013, Republicans in the Colorado legislature bitterly fought the passage of House Bill 13-1136, facetiously renaming it the "Trial Lawyers Employment Act" and the "Sue Your Boss" bill. But over time, it became clear in the debate and news reports that Republicans were primarily basing their case on the dubious assumption that "most discrimination claims aren't valid anyway"–actual words one business owner used as a surrogate by Republicans damagingly let slip. Rep. Perry Buck proudly told of a case in her own life of job discrimination, where she chose to quit rather than sue because "I choose to work where I want to work"–seemingly oblivious to those for whom that choice would have, you know, consequences.

Even after the fit Republicans pitched over passage of the bill in 2013, we're still surprised to see this repeal attempt. It's a fact that Colorado was one of a minority of states that hadn't closed this loophole allowing some businesses to discriminate against their employees. There's just no way to message their intent here in a way that looks good to the public–unless you're targeting a fairly narrow segment of the public who really thinks it should be okay for businesses to discriminate against their workers. Of all the fruitless "rollback" repeal battles Republicans are set to take on in the current legislative session, this is one that seems sure to result in more bad press than it's worth.

Lawrence, Navarro-Ratzlaff Square Off For Szabo Leadership Post

Minority leadership selection.

Minority leadership selection.

As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

Reps. Clarice Navarro of Pueblo and Polly Lawrence of Douglas County are lobbying members of their Republican caucus to be the next assistant minority leader.

The office is now held by Rep. Libby Szabo of Arvada, who will be resigning as she was selected by a vacancy committee to serve on the Jefferson County board of commissioners. Her resignation date and the caucus election date are not known yet.

We could see this going either way, with Rep. Polly Lawrence having closer ties to House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso but Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff a favorite both of party activists and the Scott Gessler-allied GOP attorney class.

Sometimes these get publicly nasty, and sometimes they only get nasty behind closed doors. Sometimes there's no drama at all when leadership positions unexpectedly become available, but as bloggers we always hope for at least some token fireworks. We'll update should any occur.

Busted: Local Conservative Blog Systematically Inflates Stats

We interrupt our normal coverage of Colorado politics to notify our readers of something of…well, at least some importance, brought to our attention about a conservative blog that has been operating in our state for several years. Colorado Peak Politics has received occasional press attention as a source of Republican-leaning opinion and blog scuttlebutt, and has more or less replaced a hodge podge of GOP-leaning blog properties that have come and gone through the election cycles. Face the State, the People's Press Collective, and others you may have heard of previously occupied a niche now pretty much the exclusive domain of Peak Politics.

Peak Politics represents itself as highly influential, frequently comparing its influence to that of this blog, and sometimes even suggesting that they have "surpassed" us as the leading blog in Colorado politics. Now, we have no interest in getting into some kind of pissing match with other blogs, so we haven't seen any reason to engage these claims. But we'll admit that we have been impressed by some of the visible statistics for social media sharing on Peak Politics. For example, they recently posted an item about the Jefferson County school board drama that looks like it had a lot of Facebook shares.

peakpolssharecount

For a blog focused on Colorado politics, from our experience this would be a pretty solid indicator of social media "virality." Extrapolating the number of people who would have viewed all of these supposed shared instances, that number certainly indicates a respectable total readership for this blog post.

The only problem is, that number is fake.

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MLK Day Open Thread

"Many white Americans of good will have never connected bigotry with economic exploitation. They have deplored prejudice but tolerated or ignored economic injustice."

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Weekend Open Thread

"Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something."

–Plato

Caption This Photo: Jared Polis, Meet “Rep. Chaps”

From the floor of the Colorado House yesterday:

jaredandchaps

Congressman Jared Polis with Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt. Klingenschmitt, as readers recall, said last summer that Polis wants to "join ISIS in beheading Christians." In a 9NEWS story on Klingenschmitt this week, Polis said he is praying for "Chaps" "to return to reality from his delusional state."

What do you suppose they chatted about yesterday? Theorize after the jump.

Jeffco Residents Demand School Board Majority’s Resignation

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Gabrielle Porter of the Canyon Courier reports:

A petition signed by 6,554 Jeffco residents calling for school board President Ken Witt and board members John Newkirk and Julie Williams to resign caused a stir at the board’s meeting on Thursday evening.

Jeffco parent and petition organizer Molly Snyder told board members she is not affiliated with the teachers union, the Jefferson County Education Association. 

When Snyder presented the box of petitions during the meeting’s public comment segment, she alleged that the board’s conservative majority had broken public trust, wasted district money, violated the state’s open-meetings law, and misrepresented district schools and students in public discussions.

After last year's explosive battle over the conservative Jefferson County school board majority's politically stilted "review" of the district's AP history curriculum, there's been a bit of a lull in the action as the students, parents, and teachers involved regrouped. We've heard that, among other things, the photo taken by the Jefferson County Education Association's spokesman of board president Ken Witt with a group of fellow right wing school board presidents we posted last week has helped fire up the opposition again–a reminder that what is happening in Jefferson County is part of a larger agenda playing out in school districts across the state.

With that said, it will take more than a petition to dislodge Witt and fellow conservative board members John Newkirk and Julie Williams:

Newkirk said he would not step down until student achievement goals were met, and challenged Snyder to ask the petition signers to help meet those goals by volunteering in local schools. 

“When every child and every parent in Jefferson County has their first choice, whether it be in a school, charter school, option school, online school or otherwise — no more waiting lists — when there’s no achievement gap between our minority students and non-minority students, and, finally, when Jeffco becomes the nation’s leader in academic achievement, then I’ll step down, because my work here will be done,” Newkirk said. 

During his speech, nearly half the restive audience — largely made up of people in blue JCEA shirts — stood and turned their backs on the board podium.

What happens next? We don't know exactly–but everything we hear suggests that the conflict between the Jeffco school board's right-wing majority and the politically moderate community they serve is rapidly coming to a head. Stay tuned.

BREAKING: Libby Szabo Selected as Jefferson County Commissioner, Creating Vacancy in HD-27

UPDATE: The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

Szabo will take the seat of Republican Faye Griffin, a serial job jumper who resigned from the board after being elected county clerk in November.

Another GOP vacancy committee, for House District 27, will meet and appoint someone to take over Szabo’s seat. And the House GOP caucus will meet to elected someone to Szabo’s leadership post; she is the assistant minority leader.

Szabo said she did not know when she would be sworn in as a commissioner.

The liberal blog ColoradoPols has called into question the vacancy committee process, including the fact that it refused to release the names of other contenders for the post. Szabo, who has pushed for transparency, said she was not involved in how that committee operated.

—–

Libby Szabo

Libby Szabo

Republican State Rep. Libby Szabo, the Assistant Minority Leader in the GOP caucus who was just re-elected in November, has been selected by a Jefferson County Republican Party vacancy committee to become the new County Commissioner in District 1. A formal announcement is expected to come as early as this afternoon.

If you were wondering, Szabo never bothered to say anything publicly about seeking a new job one month after being re-elected to the State Legislature; nor did Szabo say anything on Dec. 15th, when she was named the top Republican on the influential House Business Affairs and Labor Committee. Szabo was one of 9 applicants to submit their names for the vacancy created by the early departure of Commissioner Faye Griffin, a serial office jumper who was elected Jeffco Clerk and Recorder (again) last November.

The 75-year-old Griffin has become notorious for failing to finish her elected term in office in order to prolong her time on the taxpayer's dole. Even the editorial board of the Denver Post ("Enough is Enough, Faye Griffin") was incensed at Griffin's apparent contempt for actually finishing her job in the office she was elected to serve. As the Denver Post wrote in October:

We asked Griffin why she would leave the commission two years early, and she was candid in saying it was due to term limits. Griffin is in the middle of her second term, and if she stayed in the position, she couldn't run for the commission again — and there would be no other palatable options for her, in her mind.

"In two years, there's no county office that is open," Griffin said. So, she is seeking the office she held for eight years, starting in 1998. [Pols emphasis]

Political blog JeffcoPols pointed out Griffin's move and speculated that it could be part of a larger shuffle of Republican politicians in Jefferson County intended to avoid open-seat elections. Even if it is wrong about the specific moves, the blog makes a valid point about how Griffin's action would cede power to the GOP vacancy committee in Jefferson County.

Faye Griffin

Who needs elections when you have a Faye Griffin?

Szabo's appointment will trigger yet another Republican vacancy decision — yet again leaving the voters out of the process. By state statute, Jeffco Republicans have 10 days to pick a replacement for House District 27 once Szabo officially resigns her legislative seat, and if history is any indication, they'll keep the process a secret for as long as they can get away with it. Take a look at what Ramsey Scott wrote in the Canyon Courier on Tuesday:

Natalie Menten, who works for the Jeffco GOP, said the party wasn’t releasing the names of the nine applicants. The seven-member vacancy committee was working to narrow the list to a few finalists. [Pols emphasis]

Menten said the party had received more than 50 comments from the public on the process, mostly recommending someone for the vacancy. 

The Republican vacancy committee refused to release the names of applicants to one of the most powerful elected positions in Jefferson County. Why is that okay? You are required to put your name on the ballot if you want to run for office in every other scenario involving elected officials, but once a vacancy committee convenes, it all becomes a big secret?

This nonsense has been going on for years in Jefferson County, with elected officials leaving office early as a way around term limits and to allow a Republican Party vacancy committee to choose the successor. We have no quarrel with the process of filling a vacant seat in general, but something needs to change when it is being so blatantly abused as it is in Jefferson County. A committee of just 7 members selected Szabo to an office that normally requires winning the votes of the entire county; there are more than 256,000 people in Jeffco who voted in November but will now have no input into who will serve as one of three County Commissioners — or who will decide their representative in one of a handful of House Districts in Jeffco.

We've been following this story closely for a very long time; remember, dear readers, that you heard it here first.

Senate Dems Smack Down “Radical Republican Rollback”

Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll.

Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll.

So far this legislative session, which we admit is only a few days old, the prevalent discussion at the Capitol has been mostly about bipartisanship. The beginning of the legislative session is always a time for platitudes about "working across the aisle," perhaps a bit more so right now given the narrowly split control of the legislature for the next two years.

It never lasts, of course. A press release from Colorado Senate Democrats yesterday afternoon is a shot across the bow of the new one-seat Republican Senate majority, calling them out on their "radical repeal-a-thon agenda" in not-screwing-around terms. Game on:

While Senate Democrats have been hopeful of working together to move Colorado forward, there has been a pattern of bills introduced by Republicans legislators which aggressively move the state backward. 

Despite Pres. Bill Cadman saying, “We all want to be a part of building a better future for Colorado,” only nine days into the 70th Legislative Session, the Senate Republicans have introduced extreme bills that put ordinary Coloradans at risk.

In the Senate alone, examples of the “Radical Republican Roll-Back” include bills that would allow:

• pedophiles or other criminals to run small daycares,
• the repeal of the renewable energy standard,
• felons to get guns by repealing criminal background checks,
• developers to build without regard to homeowners’ rights,
• discrimination against workers,
• more unvaccinated children in our schools,
• sale of Colorado’s public lands and open space,
• unconstitutional vouchers to drain public funds for K-12, and
• special interests to spend more on elections with less transparency. 

“I don’t think this radical repeal-a-thon agenda reflects common-sense Colorado,” said Senate Democratic Leader Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora.  “While the Republicans speak of working together, they introduced bills that smack of extreme ideological positions and special interests.”

More after the jump. It's better this way, folks. Admit it.

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