Get More Smarter on Friday (Feb. 5)

GetMoreSmarter-SnowBy this time next week, Peyton Manning may be retired from football; here’s hoping he has another Super Bowl ring as a going away present. 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).


► Yes, this is a politics blog, but let’s be honest with our Colorado readers: It’s Super Bowl weekend, and everybody’s talking about the Denver Broncos. As of today, the Broncos are a 5.5 point underdog against the Carolina Panthers. If you ask us — go ahead, ask us — we say Denver wins by seven points.

Meanwhile, Congress is taking part in the annual tradition of making silly regional-based bets to show that they, too, like to watch football. As The Denver Post reports, the friendly wagers include lots of red meat and locally-brewed beer. There’s also this:

Colorado’s two U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner — who can’t seem to do anything without the other — joined forces and put some “pride on the line” against their North Carolina counterparts, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.

Under the terms of the deal, the freshman senator from the losing state must deliver a speech on the Senate floor that “must give specific shout outs to the Super Bowl champion’s head coach, quarterback, fan base and detail the greatness of the Super Bowl champion’s home state.”

For added fun, the freshman lawmaker from the winning state will get to preside over the Senate chamber during the homage.

Oh, as for Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora)? He’s trying to use this Super Bowl thing to raise money for his re-election campaign, because, of course.


► State Senate President Bill Cadman said his prayers to the Koch Brothers on Thursday. During a rally at the State Capitol with Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a political organization founded by the coal-mining billionaires, Cadman was quite frank about the connection between AFP and the State Senate:

“I can tell you this,” Senate President Bill Cadman told an Americans for Prosperity rally at the Capitol, “I don’t think I would be the president of the Senate if it wasn’t for the efforts you and yours did over the previous elections. And we look forward to continuing our partnership with you.”

It’s worth mentioning here that Cadman’s other job is working as a political consultant for Republican campaigns in Colorado and elsewhere. But surely Cadman doesn’t get any extra money from AFP for this work.


► Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders went back-and-forth in a debate in New Hampshire last night. If you missed it, here’s a few takeaways courtesy of Politico.


Get even more smarter after the jump…

Friday Open Thread

“As partisans of our own way of life, we cannot help thinking in a partisan manner.”

–Gordon W. Allport

Yet Another Republican Primary Fight in Colorado

Rep. Lori Saine (R).

Rep. Lori Saine (R).

As the Greeley Tribune reports today:

Mead Republican Colleen Whitlow announced her intent Wednesday to run for the GOP nomination for House District 63.

Whitlow is a town trustee in Mead, and she announced her candidacy in an email to The Tribune. She said she serves on a number of volunteer boards and committees through that position. She has lived in the district since 1999 and is a Colorado native.

Whitlow will face incumbent Lori Saine, R-Dacono, who was first elected to the Colorado House in 2013. Saine filed her paperwork last summer to run again in 2016.

Rep. Saine is a known ally of Dudley Brown and his Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) group. Despite that alliance (or because of it), Saine often faces GOP opposition in a House District (which includes Greeley and Evans) that is a relatively safe seat for Republicans.

Democrats hold a slim majority in the State House, though HD-63 is unlikely to shift hands in 2016. This relatively late Primary challenge by Whitlow is nevertheless a drain on volunteers, fundraising, and resources for the GOP, which would much prefer to focus on trying to pick up a few seats in the State House while maintaining control of their one-seat majority in the State Senate.

Enough Is Enough: Durango Demands Superfund

EPA treats wastewater at Gold King Mine.

EPA treats wastewater at Gold King Mine.

As the Durango Herald’s Jonathan Romeo reports, patience in the city of Durango with continued dickering by officials in upstream San Juan County and Silverton over requesting Environmental Protection Agency National Priorities List designation for the cleanup of disused mines near Silverton has reached its limit:

Nearly six months after the Gold King mine blowout, and with Silverton still in limbo over Superfund, a sense that downstream communities should take a larger role in negotiations regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s hazardous cleanup program is growing.

At the San Juan Citizens Alliance’s quarterly meeting Wednesday, several Durango and La Plata County residents urged local officials to take the reigns in pursuing a Superfund designation in time to make the EPA’s March listing.

“San Juan County’s concerns are speculative,” said La Plata County resident Frank Lockwood. “Our concerns are not speculative. Ours are real. We’ve defined them economically, and I think our government officials should move forward.”

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

Last month, the wheels appeared greased for all of the local governments affected by the August minewater spill above Silverton into a tributary of the Animas River to put aside dreams of resumed mining and finally allow the Environmental Protection Agency to bring the full resources to bear to clean up the massive problem. It was an EPA work crew that accidentally triggered the release of millions of gallons of contaminated mine waste water, but their mishap was little more than ripping the scab off a much bigger and older problem–a problem that has threatened the health, safety, and prosperity of tens of thousands of people downstream along the Animas River for many years. Resistance from mining and commercial interests in San Juan County (population 692) is the principal reason that Superfund status wasn’t granted to this area, and the reason why only this ill-prepared investigative crew was working the problem.

[Hermosa resident Clint] Kearns questioned whether Silverton and San Juan County’s list of demands were a “poison pill” to put off Superfund status, a program the community has strongly opposed for more than 20 years, citing concerns over a perceived stigma the designation would bring to a town dependent on a delicate tourism economy…

In Silverton’s defense, John Whitney, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, said the community to the north’s concerns are not unreasonable, and despite the delay, he believes an agreement can be reached by next week.

The concern is that the delay by Silverton and San Juan County in joining downstream cities in requesting Superfund designation may already have blown the chance to be considered in the first of the EPA’s two annual rounds of evaluations. Sen. Michael Bennet’s involvement in bringing the parties together to get a deal is nonetheless commendable–and stands in stark contrast to the area’s Congressman Scott Tipton, whose disingenuous vilification of the EPA after the spill makes him part of the problem not the solution.

And that solution is: the citizens who rely on the Animas River need the Superfund. They need the EPA.

Hancock Backs Carrigan in Race for Denver District Attorney

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock poses with Michael Carrigan.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock poses with Denver DA candidate Michael Carrigan.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Wednesday endorsed Michael Carrigan for Denver District Attorney. Carrigan is one of three Democrats running for the seat being vacated by the term-limited Mitch Morrissey.

From a press release:

Mayor Michael Hancock today announced that he is endorsing the only candidate in the Denver District Attorneys’ race who has experience as a prosecutor, defense attorney and private sector attorney – Michael Carrigan.

“Michael Carrigan is hands down Denver’s best choice for our next District Attorney,” said Mayor Hancock. “He is a skilled lawyer, active community member and strong leader with the legal experience needed to ensure justice for Denver’s residents. I am confident Michael will bring a balanced perspective to the DA’s office to help make Denver a safer, better place.”

The press release does not mention an interesting factual tidbit about Hancock’s endorsement: This is the first time that a sitting Mayor of Denver has endorsed a candidate for Denver District Attorney in at least 20 years. Some of this has to do with weird timing for both the Mayoral and DA races; Denver’s Mayor is chosen in a municipal election, but District Attorney is technically a “state race,” which puts it on the ballot in a General Election year.

As is normally the case here, Democrats will all but decide who becomes Denver’s next DA in the June Primary. There is an Independent candidate seeking the office, but running against a Democrat in Denver is kind of like being a Raiders fan on Sundays.

Get More Smarter On Thursday (Feb. 4)

Get More SmarterNote to selves: Do NOT ask Rick Santorum to speak on your behalf. 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).


► The Parental Leave Act took another step forward in the Colorado legislature on Wednesday. As Charles Ashby reports for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

The Colorado House gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would bring back the state’s parental leave act, which expired in September.

Democrats, who support HB1002 and enacted the law in 2009 at a time when they held full control of the Legislature, said it’s an important law to keep because parents need to be involved in their children’s education.

Republicans, who killed a similar bill last year to continue the law, said it’s not needed, saying it also places an unfair burden on businesses.

Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said the state’s economy has done well since 2009, unemployment is low, Colorado has consistently been ranked high as a favorable place to do business, and leads the nation in job growth and business development.

“All these statistics and all these rankings have happened when the bill that we’re discussing was on the books,” he said. “So how can we argue that it’s bad for business?”

Elsewhere, here’s what opposition to parental leave legislation looks like in the House, in one photo.


► Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will go face-to-face in four more debates, as announced on Wednesday. From the Associated Press:

The additional debates will held in Flint, Michigan on March 6, and two other cities in April and May, with details to be determined later. Clinton has sought a debate in Flint to bring attention to the city’s water contamination crisis and Sanders said he wanted it to be scheduled before the Michigan primary on March 8.

Clinton and Sanders are meeting Thursday in a debate at the University of New Hampshire just days before Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation primary…

…Two other Democratic debates are already on the calendar: Feb. 11 in Milwaukee and March 9 in Miami.

The four new debates are expected to be held live at 2:00 in the morning (that was a joke).


Get even more smarter after the jump…

Caption This Photo: Let’s Hear It For The Boys!

Todd Engdahl at Chalkbeat Colorado reports on passage in the Colorado House today of House Bill 16-1002, reinstating Colorado’s parental leave statute for school activities after they lapsed in 2015 due to legislative inaction:

The Colorado House gave final 35-30 approval Thursday to a contentious bill intended to give parents the legal right to time off from work for parent-teacher conferences and a limited number of other school meetings…the 50-minute debate over the bill on Wednesday was as much political theater as it was a policy discussion, with a strong undercurrent of Democratic-Republican differences about economic opportunity and business regulation, not about education…

“By passing this bill we will create a foundation for all parents to be able to be involved in their children’s education,” argued Rep. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, the House prime sponsor of House Bill 16-1002. “It’s common knowledge that parent involvement creates academic success.”

Republicans who came to the microphone said they’re for parental involvement but countered that the bill isn’t necessary. “Companies can do this already,” said Rep. Tim Dore, R-Elizabeth.

Passing a law on the issue would “interrupt the positive interactions between employees and employer” necessary for a harmonious workplace, argued Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument.

After the passage of this legislation in the Democratic-controlled House, it awaits a dubious fate in the Republican-controlled state Senate–where a similar bill reauthorizing the parental leave law before it sunset died last year. But no words can capture the scene as “family values” Republican legislators lining up to take away parental leave rights families have had for years quite like this photo posted to Twitter by Rep. Faith Winter of Westminster:


In front lined up to testify from left to right are Reps. Jim Wilson, Justin Everett (identifiable by his shiny coiffed hair), Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, and Reps. Paul Lundeen, Tim Dore, and Don Coram.

Now immortalized as the “No Family Values For You Bros?” We bet you’ve got a better caption.

DeGette To House GOP: End Planned Parenthood Witch Hunts

Rep. Diana DeGette (D).

Rep. Diana DeGette (D).

As the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports:

Five members of Congress, including Denver Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette, are calling on their Republican colleagues to end the investigations into Planned Parenthood.

The request comes in the wake of a grand jury indictment in Texas against David Daleiden and Sandra S. Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress, the producers of heavily-edited and widely-discredited videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials engaging in the illegal sale of fetal tissue.

Daleiden and Merritt were indicted last week by a grand jury in Houston, which had been asked by the Texas Lieutenant Governor to investigate the Center for Medical Progress videos. The grand jury found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, but did indict Daleiden and Merritt for presenting fake driver’s licenses, a felony in Texas, and attempting to purchase human organs, a misdemeanor…

More from Rep. Diana DeGette’s statement:

Today, Pro-Choice Caucus co-chairs, Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) led over 120 of their Democratic colleagues and called for an end to ongoing, politically-motivated House and Senate investigations into Planned Parenthood, in light of the many independent state investigations across the country that have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.

The Pro-Choice Caucus co-chairs joined their colleagues in both chambers on a letter to Republicans calling for an end to partisan investigations of Planned Parenthood in the House and Senate, following the Texas grand jury’s decision last week to exonerate Planned Parenthood and indict the creators of the highly fabricated, deceptive undercover videos designed to discredit Planned Parenthood and undermine women’s access to health care on federal charges.

In their letter to Republicans, they wrote: “Our country faces serious challenges when it comes to issues like supporting working families, creating good jobs, and boosting wages. The families and communities we represent rightly want us focused on efforts like these—not political attempts to undermine women’s access to health care and investigate their personal health care decisions. We urge you to listen to them.”

Will House Republicans listen? In all likelihood not. But following the indictment of the prime conspirators in the undercover video campaign against Planned Parenthood by a Houston grand jury, this latest assault on the organization has come full circle. In the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing by the organization after numerous investigations by Congress and local officials, there’s nothing left to this story but pandering to anti-abortion activists who need no urging.

Combine that with the domestic terror attack here in Colorado on a Planned Parenthood clinic, carried out by a man determined to stop the fictitious sale of “baby parts,” and DeGette has more than just cause to ask for these witch hunts to stop.

She has an obligation.

PolitiFact Colorado Debuts With Devastating Coffman Refudiation

mostlytrueWe’ve been anticipating the first story from the new collaboration between Denver’s ABC affiliate 7NEWS and the Pulitzer Prize winning fact-checking resource PolitiFact operated by the Tampa Bay Times. Last night, Politifact Colorado debuted with its first fact check of 2016, and it’s a doozy: powerfully validating a key attack on Rep. Mike Coffman from women’s advocacy group EMILY’s List:

Emily’s List is stoking the abortion debate in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District race with a fundraising email saying Republican incumbent Mike Coffman “co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape.”

Emily’s List — a political organization that supports the election of Democratic women who support abortion rights — has endorsed Coffman’s opponent, state Sen. Morgan Carroll, an Aurora Democrat. Its mailer focused on reproductive rights, abortion and Roe v. Wade…

We wanted to check the accuracy of Emily’s List’s characterization of Coffman’s role in the legislation.

Coffman did co-sponsor the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act, which attempted to redefine a ban on federal funding for abortions to exempt “forcible rape” — and not rape in broader terms…

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

7NEWS’ Alan Gathright, a veteran political reporter going back to the storied days of the Rocky Mountain News, correctly notes that Republicans did amend the bill under intense fire from, well, everyone with a conscience–but being amended by voice vote, there’s no record of Coffman’s agreement or lack thereof with the change.

And the bottom line: he was a co-sponsor of the original “forcible rape” language.

Emily’s List said that Coffman “co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape.”

The record shows Coffman did co-sponsor the bill to redefine a ban on federal funding for abortions to exempt “forcible rape.” [Pols emphasis]

It’s important to recognize just how hard Coffman has pushed back on criticism of his record on abortion. In April of 2014, Coffman’s campaign successfully prevailed on Denver Post political news editor Chuck Plunkett to remove a story about Coffman’s abortion record that had already been published, claiming that the story “shouldn’t have run.” The story acknowledged Coffman’s shifting stand on abortion, but uncomfortably provided fresh coverage of what had been Coffman’s longstanding position–that is, no abortions, and no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. Much like now-Sen. Cory Gardner’s audacious deceptions on the issue in 2014, the response to any examination in the media of Coffman’s abortion record is feigned exasperation in public and aggressive bullying in private.

Well folks, it’s possible that in the new PolitiFact Colorado, we have an outlet that won’t be bullied. We’ll need to see more fact-checks like this one to be sure, but that would be a welcome–and sorely needed–development in Colorado politics.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Feb. 3)

MoreSmarterLogo-SnowmanAccording to a source with the Ted Cruz campaign, all of the other GOP Presidential candidates are dropping out and supporting him. That’s not true? Oh. 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).


► Donald Trump conceded an Iowa caucus victory to Ted Cruz on Monday, but now His Hairness is alleging fraud and calling for a new election in Iowa. Before you dismiss this story, consider Trump’s “proof” — that the Cruz campaign told caucusgoers that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race (he isn’t…yet). From Politico:

The tweet referred to a report from CNN’s Chris Moody during the caucuses that Ben Carson would take a detour from New Hampshire following Iowa, heading to Florida instead — which some took to mean that Carson was suspending his campaign.

The Cruz campaign then alerted its leaders to the tweet from the CNN reporter but, as Cruz explained in an apology on Tuesday, neglected to send the follow-up tweet in which Moody clarified that the Carson campaign had told him that the retired neurosurgeon was not dropping out of the race but rather just picking up fresh clothes. On Monday night, Carson accused the Cruz campaign of “dirty tricks” but accepted its apology.

Nobody wants to go back to Iowa, obviously, but this is a smart maneuver by Trump to throw some cold water on Cruz before next week’s New Hampshire Primary. Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post explains why it’s so important to pay attention to “dirty tricks” from the Cruz campaign.



► There has been much moaning and complaining over the years about a relative dearth of political news coverage in Colorado, so it’s good to see that Denver’s ABC7 is already digging in with its own political fact-checker, Alan Gathright. From The Denver Channel:

Emily’s List is stoking the abortion debate in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District race with a fundraising email saying Republican incumbent Mike Coffman “co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape.”…

…Emily’s List said that Coffman “co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape.”

The record shows Coffman did co-sponsor the bill to redefine a ban on federal funding for abortions to exempt “forcible rape.”

Yet he later voted to remove the “forcible” modifier from the bill.

Given the totality of his actions on the legislation, we’re rating this claim Mostly True.

Whatever your feelings on this particular issue, it’s a great development for Colorado politics when local news organizations start asking just a few more questions.


Get even more smarter after the jump…

Wednesday Open Thread

“Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.”

–Peyton Manning

Math Is Hard, Tom Lucero Edition

The post-Iowa speculation on the right side of the aisle in Colorado is taking its usual turn for the comedic–here’s the always colorful Adams County Republican John Sampson, sounding off darkly about coin tosses that decided a few precincts in the admittedly close Democratic contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders:


That’s not exactly right, of course–coin tosses that decided a few individual precincts did not themselves amount to a decisive margin across the state of Iowa, and Hillary Clinton’s overall narrow victory was not decided “by a coin toss.” Still, good BS talk-radio fodder for the day after the caucuses.

But then 2016 Republican HD-51 candidate and longtime GOP wannabe politico Tom Lucero waded into the discussion! Ladies and gentlemen, it’s much, much worse than John Sampson thought:


Now, we weren’t math majors in college, but something about this statement seemed, well, a little questionable to us. So we broke out our handy-dandy calculator.

49.86% + 49.57% + .57% =

We don’t want to give anything away here, but some of you have already worked this out in your heads. Or grabbed a calculator like we did (we are at least admitting to it). But so there are no spoilers, click “More” below to get the answer to the 4th grade arithmetic problem, 49.86% + 49.57% + .57% =.


What Iowa Says About Colorado’s U.S. Senate Race

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R), state Sen. Tim Neville (R).

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R), state Sen. Tim Neville (R).

To best understand the relationship between the outcome of the Iowa caucuses yesterday and Colorado politics, we’ll refer back to the Denver Post’s John Frank, and his story late last month on the state of the Republican U.S. Senate primary:

The presidential contest is defining the early outlook on Colorado’s race, creating an opening for a political outsider, putting the focus on national security and foreshadowing a messy campaign in the months ahead.

“You are going to end up seeing some similar factionalism and similar rhetoric coming out of the Senate candidates,” said Ryan Call, the former state GOP chairman. “And it will be difficult to reconcile those ideological factions and get them to pull together in support of the nominee for president or U.S. Senate.”

Sen. Ted Cruz’s victory in the Iowa caucuses yesterday once again demonstrated the strength of the insurgent conservative grassroots in a “post-Tea Party” Republican Party–a result that needs to be repeated in the next few primaries in order overcome the stigma of Iowa picking social conservatives, but proving Cruz to be the likely recipient of Donald Trump voters should they begin to peel off en masse after his disappointing second place finish.

In Frank’s informal matchup of Colorado U.S. Senate candidates, state Sen. Tim Neville and Cruz were the logical ideological pairing. The momentum Cruz has after winning Iowa straightforwardly validates and emboldens Neville’s position in the U.S. Senate race. We’ll have to see how the potentially disruptive entry of former CSU athletic director Jack Graham into the race rebalances the enormous field of candidates. What we can say is that the Colorado Republican Party is in no position to stop Neville in favor of a Washington-favored candidate, and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners-backed “Neville political machine” has demonstrated its power in intraparty battles from Laura Woods to Tim Leonard.

There’s a prevalent suspicion among journalists covering the U.S. Senate primary that Democrats want to run against Neville in the general election, and are building him up by focusing on him as the principal threat. But this ignores the more important reality, which is Neville has already demonstrated he is capable of winning the primary. Just as important, his ability to win is not a plug that can be pulled by the party brass.

If the history of the Iowa caucuses tells us anything, it’s not to draw any hard conclusions from their outcome. The relationships between presidential and Colorado politics aptly characterized by John Frank are all subject to change with events. They key point for today is that there is a common theme of an “unruly” conservative grassroots, which we assume they would take as a compliment, in both Ted Cruz’s victory and the Republican primary politics in Colorado.

And it is not to be underestimated by anyone.