The Saddest Vacancy Committee in Colorado

Cameron Forth

Cameron Forth

Cameron Forth is the new Republican candidate for State House in HD-18 (Colorado Springs). You might not know Cameron Forth, which is okay, because he probably doesn’t know you, either. And he’ll tell you that.

As of Thursday night, Forth is the new Republican challenger to Democratic Rep. Pete Lee, who was first elected in 2010 and has been comfortably re-elected ever since (this is not your typical conservative Colorado Springs district; about half of HD-18 voters are registered Unaffiliated). Republicans had already nominated Sonya Rose as their candidate, but Rose decided that she didn’t want to run after all, so the GOP needed to quickly convene a vacancy committee.

The Colorado Independent covered the events at last night’s vacancy committee, and the result is one of the more unintentionally-hilarious stories of the 2016 election cycle. You really need to read the entire story, but in the meantime, here’s a fun excerpt to get you started:

Speaking from a lectern, Rose nominates local land surveyor Cameron Forth for the post. His previous political experience included running for Congress in Iowa as an independent a decade ago.

“I don’t even know anyone in this room,” Forth says to the assembled local Republicans when he accepted the nomination. [Pols emphasis]

But, to Forth’s apparent surprise, he’s quickly challenged.

Forth ended up (kinda) winning the vacancy committee, which wasn’t totally official because Republicans didn’t have enough people show up to qualify for a quorum (State Party Chair Steve House had to formally appoint Forth as the candidate later). Forth emerged as the choice of the vacancy committee after two rounds of voting, despite the fact that nobody knew who he was.

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

Morgan Carroll, Trade Groups Come Out Against Amendment 69

coloradocareFollowing up on the week’s blue-on-blue dustup over Amendment 69, the “ColoradoCare” initiative to set up single-payer health coverage in Colorado–after liberal groups and a large contingent of Democratic lawmakers came out against the measure this week at a press conference hosted by liberal activist group ProgressNow Colorado, the AFL-CIO affiliated Colorado Building and Construction Trades Council representing 30,000 skilled trade workers in the state is urging its members to vote no:

“The Colorado Building and Construction Trades Council stands in opposition of Amendment 69. While our organization has a long history of fighting for national healthcare reform and for better benefits for our members, Amendment 69 would actually increase, and in many cases double, the healthcare costs of our construction industry employees represented by this council. It would also impact our fellow union members who travel to Colorado to help us build our infrastructure in Colorado.”

“The drafters of amendment 69 made broad assumptions that failed to recognize the complexities of the Taft-Hartley healthcare trust funds utilized by our employers and unions to provide healthcare to our members. Healthcare reform requires a national focus and uniform application to work for our members and this industry. For these reasons, we will be in opposition to Amendment 69.”

Background
Our organization has three main concerns with Amendment 69:

• Our members would be forced to pay the Colorado Care payroll tax surcharge for at least 3 years while the fund to implement the program was established – all the while continuing to contribute to their existing healthcare plan. This would double our members costs for at least the first three years of the program.

• Amendment 69 would double the costs for our members with working spouses. Currently our healthcare benefits provide full family coverage for children and spouses allowing the spouse to often waive healthcare benefits when they choose to work. Amendment 69 would force the working spouses of our members to pay payroll tax surcharges for Colorado Care regardless of whether they were covered under the plan of their spouses.

• Finally, Amendment 69 would require union construction workers from other states who come to Colorado work to pay twice, for their existing healthcare plan at their home local union in another state AND the Colorado Care payroll tax surcharge for the wages they earn in Colorado. It is unclear whether or not the out-of-state workers would ever receive any benefits under Colorado Care. Colorado unions would still be required to reimburse out-of-state sister unions for the traveling employees healthcare benefits.

Every bit as significant comes word today that Democratic congressional candidate Morgan Carroll in CD-6 will oppose Amendment 69:

Carroll is just the latest high-profile Democrat to oppose Amendment 69, joining a long list of respected leaders from former Gov. Bill Ritter and Lt. Gov. Gail Schoettler to Gov. John Hickenlooper and much of the Democratic House caucus.

At this point, it should be evident that opposition to Amendment 69 is much stronger among liberal Democrats than anything that could be arranged by “corporate lobbyists” or other usual suspect blame receptacles. The policy objections raised by Democratic critics of the proposal, including the new problems voices by the trades council above, haven’t been acknowledged so much by Amendment 69’s proposed as dismissed out of hand. But along with objections raised by NARAL Pro Choice Colorado over access to abortion, these are legitimate concerns–not “misdirections” to be flip about.

And if it’s true that these weren’t adequately considered when Amendment 69 was drafted, well, that’s a big problem. The permanence of a constitutional amendment leaves no room for oversights of the kind these liberal interest groups allege. Unions and pro-choice advocates cannot be expected to go along with vague promises to address in the unspecified future problems they can see with their own eyes today.

When all of your allies are giving you the same bad news, it’s time to listen.

Get More Smarter on Friday (August 19)

Get More SmarterThe Rio Olympics come to a close this weekend. 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). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

The Get More Smarter Show is back today, featuring an extended interview with Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County). Watch the interview and find out if Rep. Perlmutter will be going to Mars (no, really).

 

► Paul Manafort has resigned as campaign chairman for Donald Trump’s Presidential bid, just two days after Trump made significant leadership changes at the top of his organization that appeared to leave Manafort on the bench. As Chris Cillizza writes for “The Fix,” Manafort’s departure confirms the obvious:

Campaigns never, ever like to admit they are making a change as a result of problems within their operation. It shows weakness, they theorize, and weakness is bad when you are trying to get someone elected president of the United States.

Which brings me to this week and the insistence by everyone affiliated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign that the addition of Breitbart News boss Stephen Bannon and the elevation of pollster KellyAnne Conway to the two top jobs within the organization was DEFINITELY not a shake-up.

Conway said Wednesday that calling it a shake-up was a misnomer. Rather, she said, this was an effort to “expand the senior team that allows us to meet the needs,” adding: “I think Paul Manafort as chairman and Rick Gates as deputy have done a phenomenal job building our campaign over last five or six months to put it in a competitive place going into the fall. So I look forward to continuing to work with both of them.”

Or not.

On the plus side, perhaps we have seen the last of Trump legal counsel Michael Cohen making a fool of himself answering questions on TV.

 

► Meanwhile, Trump expressed something similar to actual remorse in comments Thursday in Charlotte. Politico ponders the question of whether or not this signals an actual shift for Trump, or just an out-of-character blip on the radar:

The Republican nominee on Thursday night delivered one of his most surprising speeches yet, expressing “regret” if his past inflammatory rhetoric had caused personal pain. It was a stunning statement coming from a candidate who has said “to apologize for me is very difficult” and that his last sorry was “too many years ago to remember.”…

…But this isn’t the first time Trump has been reeled in only to return to his explosive ways. Following the firing of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and the elevation of Manafort in June, Trump delivered a scripted and targeted speech on the stakes of the election and the importance of defeating Clinton…

…The pivot didn’t stick, however, as Trump made a series of inflammatory statements after the convention that sent his poll numbers into free fall.

If you’re holding your breath…you should probably stop.

 

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The Get More Smarter Show: August 19, 2016

This week on Get More Smarter: your hosts take a brief break from the usual commentary to bring you an extended interview with Congressman Ed Perlmutter! Sit back and relax as Rep. Perlmutter talks space exploration, life in Congress, politics in Jefferson County, a variety of issues he’s working on like marijuana and student debt–and this year’s historic presidential election.

If you’ve missed any episodes of the Get More Smarter Show, catch up here. And thanks again for watching.

Friday Open Thread

“Whenever a thing is done for the first time, it releases a little demon.”

–Emily Dickinson

Trump Finally Gets Around to Doing TV Ads…But Not in Colorado

Did we mention that Sen. Cory Gardner says he's voting for Donald Trump?

Did we mention that Sen. Cory Gardner says he’s voting for Donald Trump?

As the Associated Press reports, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump is finally spending money on television ads:

A new brain trust in place, Donald Trump on Thursday moved to invest nearly $5 million in battleground state advertising as the Republican presidential contender took modest steps to address daunting challenges in the states that will make or break his White House ambitions.

The New York businessman’s campaign reserved television ad space over the coming 10 days in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to Kantar Media’s political ad tracker. While Democrat Hillary Clinton has spent more than $75 million on advertising in 10 states since locking up her party’s nomination, Trump’s new investment marks his first of the general election season.

You might have noticed that Colorado is not on the list of states getting TV ad attention from the Trump campaign. This may just be an initial TV ad buy announcement — after all, $5 million is a relative pittance in terms of ad spending in a Presidential race — but the absence of Colorado from this list will only further the belief that our fair state is out of reach for Trump. That’s what the polls say, anyway.

In Which Trump’s Legal Counsel Channels the “Black Knight”

If you are unfamiliar with the scene featuring the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, just watch this clip. This scene, in which the Black Knight character repeatedly refuses to acknowledge the fact that King Arthur is (literally) chopping him to pieces during a sword fight, was the first thing that came to mind when we saw this CNN interview with Michael Cohen, chief counsel to Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Wednesday’s interview quickly went viral, with the hashtag #SaysWho, for reasons you can see for yourself:

Donald Trump and his campaign are uncomfortable with the truth. Mr. Trump has made that clear throughout his campaign, and on Wednesday his chief counsel, Michael Cohen, punctuated the point in a tense interview with CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

“You guys are down,” Keilar said.

“Says who?” Cohen asked.

“Polls … most of them,” Keilar continued. Maybe even “all of them?”

There was an unusually long silence — long enough, perhaps, for anyone listening to hear Trump’s poll numbers dropping further, in real time, on live television.

“Says who?” Cohen asked again.

“Polls,” said Keilar. “I just told you.”

You can see the interview yourself below:

Senate Republicans Entice Donors with Horse (and John Elway)

We were forwarded this invitation to a fundraiser benefitting the state Senate Republicans, and we felt compelled to share it with our readers.

The headliner of the event is former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, who has long been a staunch Republican supporter. Elway’s name appears at the top of the invitation, just before the name Climax Molybdenum, which sounds like some sort of new-age porn star but is in fact a Colorado mining company.

But our favorite part of the invitation is the big mention at the bottom left: A special appearance by Thunder, the Broncos mascot. For a minimum contribution of $500, you can get up close and personal with a horse.

UpdatedElwayInvite

Get More Smarter on Thursday (August 18)

Get More SmarterBack to school, back to school; to show my dad, that I’m not a fool. 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). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► According to polling results released Thursday by Quinnipiac University, Colorado’s U.S. Senate race is really starting to get away from Republicans. Incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) leads Republican Darryl Glenn 52-38 in a head-to-head matchup. These numbers are similar to those reported by NBC/Marist last week, in which Bennet was leading Glenn 53-38.

Quinnipiac has a strange history of polling in Colorado, however, and they added to their weird reputation in a press release announcing the poll numbers. Here’s a quote from Tim Malloy of Quinnipiac University: “There is still time for Darryl Glenn to summon enough support to win a Senate seat the GOP sorely needs.”

Um, no. There may not even be time for Glenn to get this race to within single digits.

On Wednesday, Quinnipiac released polling numbers in Colorado for the Presidential race, showing Hillary Clinton with a 10-point lead over Donald Trump.

 

► Speaking of Trump, his new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, says that her plan moving forward is to “let Trump be Trump.” In other words, Donald Trump has apparently given up on the idea of being elected President.

 

► The U.S. Justice Department announced on Thursday that it will no longer employ the use of private prisons, citing evidence that they are less safe and less effective than government-run prisons. From the Washington Post:

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the decision on Thursday in a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or “substantially reduce” the contracts’ scope. The goal, Yates wrote, is “reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.”

“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote.

The Justice Department’s inspector general last week released a critical reportconcluding that privately operated facilities incurred more safety and security incidents than those run by the federal Bureau of Prisons. The private facilities, for example, had higher rates of assaults — both by inmates on other inmates and by inmates on staff — and had eight times as many contraband cellphones confiscated each year on average, according to the report. Yates said there are 13 privately run facilities under the Bureau of Prisons purview.

There are several private prisons in Colorado that house criminals convicted of state or local crimes; it is unclear how this announcement might affect these facilities.

 

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With Hillary Pulling Away, What Happens Down The Ballot?

Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton.

As the Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning reports, there’s really no longer any doubt:

Hillary Clinton holds a 10-point lead over Donald Trump among likely Colorado voters, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released Wednesday…

It’s the sixth consecutive poll that shows Clinton comfortably ahead in Colorado, which has been considered a swing state in recent elections.

In the poll, which was conducted Aug. 9-16, Democrat Clinton beats Republican Trump with the support of 49 percent of likely Colorado voters to his 39 percent. In a four-way race, Clinton leads Trump 41-33 percent, with 16 percent for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and 7 percent for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Colorado voters appear to have highly unfavorable opinions about both Clinton and Trump, although that’s a contest Trump is winning by about 10 points.

Quinnipiac University’s polling in Colorado is notorious for overestimating Republican strength, especially early polling from them more useful as GOP-leaning propaganda than any kind of accurate barometer. In this case, however, Q-Pac is tracking only a few points right to what the other recent polls all show in Colorado–a large and growing lead for Hillary Clinton.

In the absence of anything on the horizon to change the trajectory of the presidential race, the next logical question is how the growing likelihood of a Clinton landslide victory will affect races down the ballot. Republicans have more or less conceded the U.S. Senate race to incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet at this point, so the line of defense for them begins with the two congressional races considered pickup opportunities for Democrats: Scott Tipton in CD-3 and Mike Coffman in CD-6. From there, Colorado Republicans face a major challenge holding their one-seat majority in the state senate–with everything coming down to an all-in Trump-supporting conservative running in a swing suburban district.

For all of their perennial bravado Republicans have generally had their backs against the wall electorally in this state since 2004, when a resurgent Democratic coalition took what has proven to be enduring control of the state legislature. Since 2004 Democrats have won consistently at the top of the ticket, and fought to the last vote even in the biggest “GOP wave years” of the Obama presidency.

In 2016, the scenarios for Republicans in Colorado range from honorable defeat to wholesale destruction. The difference relies on the degree to which local Republicans can convince voters to split the ticket–a nightmarish political position to be in.

For Democrats, it’s the greatest opportunity to run up the score since the “Colorado Model” became a thing.

Thursday Open Thread

“A prejudice, unlike a simple misconception, is actively resistant to all evidence that would unseat it.”

–Gordon W. Allport

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (August 17)

Get More SmarterHappy Flag Day…in Bolivia. 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). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump has made some major changes at the top of his campaign as the candidate pledges to increase his level of Trumpiness in the final months of the election cycle. As Chris Cillizza writes for “The Fix”:

“I am who I am,” Trump said. “I’ve gotten here in a landslide and we’ll see what happens.”

What that quote — and the subsequent staff moves — should tell you is that Trump believes he made a mistake in bowing to establishment pressure and bringing in a veteran hand like Manafort to oversee things. Trump sees his current problems in the race as deriving not from being too much of himself but from not being enough of himself.

What moving out Manafort and elevating Conway and Bannon should tell you is that Trump has decided that he is going to run the last three months — or so — of the campaign on his own terms. Win or lose, he is going to go out being himself.

If you come across a Republican weeping quietly in the fetal position today, try to give them an encouraging pat on the back or something.

And if you see Sen. Cory Gardner, it’s probably best that you just not use the “T” word. Gardner quietly announced his support for Trump on Friday, but the lede was so buried that the original story didn’t get widespread attention until Tuesday.

 

► New polling results from Quinnipiac University show that Hillary Clinton maintains a  double-digit lead over Donald Trump in Colorado. Quinnipiac has Clinton up 49-39 in Colorado; 47-44 in Iowa; and 50-38 in Virginia. Quinnipiac’s numbers in Colorado are in the same ballpark as the Real Clear Politics polling average of Clinton +11.

 

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Just Go Away, Eric Nelson–Pretty Please?

Eric Nelson impersonating a U.S. Air Force major in an undated photo.

Eric Nelson impersonating a U.S. Air Force major in an undated photo.

The Aurora Sentinel’s Quincy Snowdon reports on the ongoing embarrassment over ex-Democratic House candidate Eric Nelson, who remains on the Aurora Public Schools board despite revelations of lies about basically everything related to Nelson’s past:

Former APS Superintendent John Barry, who moved on from the district three years ago, reiterated Tuesday what the majority of the school board and several community members have already made clear this summer: Nelson should cease his work on the school board because of his fictitious resume and falsified military record.

“Mr. Nelson, veterans in Aurora ask for your resignation,” Barry, who is a retired Major General in the U.S. Air Force, said before the meeting. In an initial report published by The Colorado Statesman earlier this summer, Nelson was accused of falsifying several points on his resume, including academic degrees, military decorations and affiliations with multiple professional organizations. An investigation solicited by APS for a fee of about $18,000 substantiated those initial claims.

During the public comment section of the regular board meeting, Barry read a letter penned by U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, that called for former U.S. Attorney John Walsh to investigate whether Nelson violated federal law. Specifically, Coffman — and now Barry — asked the prosecutor’s office to determine if Nelson was in violation of the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, a federal law intended to punish anyone who misrepresents receipt of military decorations.

It’s anybody’s guess how long this charade is going to continue. The APS board has no authority to remove Nelson from the board, though they have censured him and relieved him of basically all of his responsibilities besides attending meetings and voting on proposals.

Whether Nelson finally puts an end to the distraction or serves out his term in disgrace, he’s a lesson to everyone in politics on why you vet all candidates. Yes, even for the school board.

Because, well, you just never know.

Trump Shakes Up Campaign Staff (Again)

Bana

Bannon and Conway: “You’re hired!”

Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump is falling rapidly in the polls and flailing wildly everywhere else, so it should come as little surprise that His Hairness is once again making major changes at the top of his campaign. As CNN reports:

Donald Trump’s campaign is undergoing a major staff shake-up with less than three months to Election Day, adding two officials to top posts overseeing his struggling campaign and signaling a shift toward campaigning as a scorched earth outsider in order to win.

Trump has named Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News and a former investment banker, to the post of chief executive and promoted Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser and pollster to his campaign, to the position of campaign manager, Conway confirmed to CNN early Wednesday morning.

The addition of Bannon — known for his brass-knuckled demeanor and his website’s sharp tone — came hours after reports surfaced that Roger Ailes, the recently ousted head of Fox News, will begin to advise Trump as he prepares for the presidential debates. The influence of both men lays the groundwork for unleashing Trump this fall from the more traditional presidential candidate framework, which Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort’s leadership was brought on to create. [Pols emphasis]

Trump is apparently growing increasingly frustrated with his plummeting poll numbers, and multiple news outlets are reporting that he has been feuding with Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort — who was just brought on a few months ago — over the direction of the campaign in general. Trump seems to believe that his best path to winning the Presidential race is to get back to his Republican Primary self; he seems convinced that voters want more Trump, not less Trump. Again, from CNN:

Both Trump and Manafort discussed the friction in their relationship with friends in recent days, and a close associate described Trump as frustrated at the state of the race, leveling complaints that he has been the victim of bad advice from his political team. [Pols emphasis]

“Mr. Trump doesn’t trust him anymore. That’s it. Pure and simple,” a source familiar with the tensions told CNN, adding that Trump’s gaffes and controversial statements in recent weeks have been fueled in part by his “exasperation” with the campaign’s management.

If Trump wants someone different from Manafort, he should find it in Steve Bannon. A former investment banker with no experience managing a political campaign, Bannon is the Executive Chairman of Breitbart News, the conservative online news outlet that has fawned over Trump for most of the last year. Bannon and Kellyanne Conway will assume prominent new roles in the Trump campaign, while the newly-neutered Manafort (along with deputy Rick Gates) are relegated to offices in Washington D.C.

Trump’s staff changes have not been met with much enthusiasm among Republican allies. Or perhaps they have fallen under the spell of Trump spokeswoman Katrina “Baghdad Bob” Pierson, who insisted that the moves were not indicative of a “shakeup.”

Oh, and one more thing…good timing on that Trump endorsement, Sen. Cory Gardner!