Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Nov. 11)

Get More SmarterHappy Veterans’ Day; or as they call it in Canada, Remembrance Day. 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 fourth Republican Presidential debate of the 2016 election was held last night in Milwaukee. We decided against doing another Debate Diary/Live Blog of the debate because after the Oct. 28 debate in Boulder, we were feeling a bit of debate fatigue. Our friends at “The Fix” examine some of the winners and losers from last night, which by most accounts was fairly lame tame. Republican frontrunner Ben Carson ended up with the least amount of speaking time on stage; conversely, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz manhandled the microphone.

Dan Balz of the Washington Post writes that the Milwaukee debate did succeed in establishing some of the major fractions that currently exist among Republican voters and activists:

One fault line underscored the frustrations of many grass-roots activists, who long for a nominee who espouses small-government conservatism without apology and who think they have lost the past two elections because their nominees were unable to do that.

The other fault line reflected the desire among conservatives for a tough stance against illegal immigration and the unease among mainstream Republicans that such policies will prevent the party from attracting more Hispanic votes and potentially doom them to defeat in 2016.

There were no clear winners, at least not so much as in the earlier debates, in part because there were strong moments for many of the candidates, as one after another grabbed for the spotlight.

The Republican Presidential candidates are scheduled to debate once more before the end of the year, on Dec. 15 in Las Vegas.


► State Sen. Laura Waters Woods is expected to be the top incumbent target for Democrats in 2016, and the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund is up with an early cable TV ad as part of its plan to take back the SD-19 seat in Arvada.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Dems Take Aim At Laura Woods on Veterans Day

A press release from the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund on a new ad (above) playing on cable in Senate District 19, the ultra-swing Jefferson County district held by hard-right Sen. Laura Waters Woods expected to play a central role in the Democratic strategy to retake the Colorado Senate in 2016:

The Democratic Senate Campaign Fund (DSCF), an initiative of the Colorado Democratic Party, launched an ad today highlighting State Senator Laura Woods’ hypocrisy on veteran’s issues. The ad was spurred by a recent Woods Facebook post about Veterans Day writing she supports veterans – “I am reminded I owe each veteran a debt I can never repay.” Woods can never repay because she repeatedly votes against veterans.

“Laura Woods does not get to call herself a patriot just because she posts a flag on Facebook or carries a sign in a parade. She’s playing politics with our veterans and it makes me sick to my stomach,” said Korean Era Veteran Dennis Larsen. Larsen explained, “I’m a veteran in Laura Woods’ district, and I want answers. Why has Laura voted against those of us who have put their lives on the line for our country?”

Beginning with Woods’ statement that she refers to herself as a, “liberty-minded patriot,” the ad outlines some of Woods’ harmful votes against veterans. This includes her vote against tax breaks for veterans (HB 15-1181), against in-state tuition for dependents of active duty military members who have attended school in Colorado (HB 15-1215), and her “no” vote on establishing employment services for veterans (HB 15-1030) seeking job training. The ad ends, “Laura Woods. What a hypocrite.”

“Laura needs to explain her record. Why did she vote against the majority of her party and against veterans? What would drive someone to vote for not taxing soft drinks (SB 15-274), but then vote to tax active duty service men and women (HB 15-1181),” said Andrew Short, Executive Director of the DSCF.

It’s a good ad that makes a number of hard-hitting points in rapid succession, and ends with a simple message: “what a hypocrite.” Taking advantage of the seasonal lull in political ads just after the election, it’s actually a very good time to plant messages on low-name ID downballot candidates like Sen. Laura Waters Woods–whose negatives Democrats hope will become her story ahead of 2016’s hottest state senate race.

As just these few votes demonstrate, they’ve got plenty to work with.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (Nov. 10)

Get More SmarterIf you have been spending a lot of time being concerned about holiday coffee cups at Starbucks, you might want to try pouring the hot liquid over your head. 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).


► Republican Presidential candidates will square off in yet another debate tonight in Wisconsin at the Milwaukee Theater. The Theater — formerly the Milwaukee Auditorium — is the same venue where former President Teddy Roosevelt famously delivered a 90-minute campaign speech after being shot in the chest by a would-be assassin on Oct. 14. 1912.

Presumably none of the Republican candidates will be speaking tonight with a bullet lodged in their ribs (although you never know with Ben Carson). Neil Cavuto, one of tonight’s moderators from Fox Business News Channel, is warning candidates not to look like “whiners and babies” — a clear reference to the complaining that occurred before, during, and after the Oct. 28 CNBC debate in Boulder.

The big debate starts at 7:00 p.m. (MST), with a four-candidate “Junior Varsity” debate at 5:00. Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee have been demoted to the “kid’s table” tonight, replacing Lindsey Graham and George Pataki.

Can’t wait for the debate to begin? Cast your own vote in our regular poll about who will be the next Republican to drop out of the race for President.


► Colorado Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia announced today that he will step down from office sometime before next July in order to begin a new job with the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education in Boulder. Garcia’s decision makes it less likely that he will attempt his own bid for Governor when John Hickenlooper is term-limited in 2018.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


BREAKING: Lt. Governor Joe Garcia Stepping Down

UPDATE: Per Brandon Rittiman at 9News, Hickenlooper’s office expects to name a new L.G. within a matter of weeks:


Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia

Breaking news this morning from John Frank, Joey Bunch, and Jesse Paul of the Denver Post:

Colorado Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia announced Tuesday he is stepping down from his post to take a new job.

The Pueblo Democrat will become the president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, a Boulder-based organization that serves as a resource for colleges and universities in 15 states. He will transition to the new job sometime before July 1, according to the governor’s office.

In Garcia’s current role as Hickenlooper’s deputy, he serves as the executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

By all accounts there is nothing at play here other than Joe Garcia’s decision to take his career in a different direction as Governor John Hickenlooper approaches the end of his eight-year term in office. As Hickenlooper himself explains:

Garcia told Hickenlooper about the job opportunity more than a month ago and used the governor as a reference. “He said he wanted a change,” Hickenlooper added. “He cares a lot about higher ed and the job he was offered probably pays double what he makes now and allows him to look at higher education in 15 states. It’s a big deal.”

Hickenlooper has plenty of time to decide on who he will nominate to fill the remaining 18 months of Garcia’s term as Lieutenant Governor (Garcia won’t leave Hickenlooper’s administration until next summer).

It will be interesting to see who Hickenlooper eventually taps as LG, because that person could get a nice head start on a potential run for Governor in 2018. Hickenlooper has always been publicly supportive of a potential gubernatorial bid from Garcia in 2018, though as the Post reports, Garcia’s new career path would seem to indicate that he is not looking at elected office in the near future.

Oh, You Mean THAT War on Women

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

The Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports from yesterday’s standing-room-only “hearing” (parentheses explained below) held by the Republican Study Committee of Colorado at the Capitol. The announced subject of yesterday’s all-day public event was something they called “fetal tissue trafficking,” but the event quickly devolved into a free-for-all anti-abortion speechification exercise:

Colorado Republicans on Monday held a listening session at the state Capitol that quickly turned into a trial of Planned Parenthood.

The Republican lawmakers who spearheaded the six-hour packed listening session said the purpose of the event was strictly “informational” in an effort to guide future policy decisions. It followed similar hearings on the congressional level.

Republicans are considering legislation for next year in an effort to crackdown on Planned Parenthood, though such measures would face a tough climb in a Legislature split between Republicans and Democrats.

As CBS4 reports, yesterday’s “hearing,” which was a completely nonofficial event that, as Sen. Chris Holbert took pains to note yesterday, will not result in any state staff time or legislator per diem pay, is nonetheless a prelude to what we can expect to see in the 2016 legislative session:

The Republican Study Committee of Colorado met at the state Capitol to discuss video tapes and legislation in response to them. Eight Republican state lawmakers met for what they called an “informational hearing” on fetal tissue trafficking.

“There’s a problem and we’re trying to get down to the essence of what the facts are here in Colorado,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Larimer County.

The meeting comes after a secretly recorded tape showed a doctor from Planned Parenthood of the Rockies talking about fetal tissue donation. Republicans say it shows the doctor trying to sell fetal tissue for profit, which is against the law. But the attorney general and state health department declined to investigate, prompting Republicans to launch their own investigation.

State Sen. Owen Hill.

State Sen. Owen Hill.

As the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Megan Schrader writes, GOP lawmakers busily working on gratuitous Planned Parenthood troll-bills for 2016 are shocked, shocked mind you, that nobody wants to have anything to do with this:

Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, has pulled a bill title to defund Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit that provides abortions in Colorado along with other family planning and health screening services. Hill was not at the meeting, but Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said he had spoken to Hill about the bill.

Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, said he was concerned about the testimony he heard and had questions for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the research facilities at CSU that procure fetal tissue. He said he was surprised that both organizations declined an invitation to participate in the event.

From Planned Parenthood and their liberal allies, while obviously condemning the entire spectacle, an enthusiastic response that signals a willingness, even eagerness to take Republicans head-on:


Who Will Be the Next Candidate to Exit the GOP Clown Car?

votebuttonIt has been exactly one month — to the day — since we last asked you this question: Who will be the next Republican Presidential candidate to drop out of the 2016 race?

We didn’t include Jim Gilmore in our last poll, and we won’t include him here. We’re too lazy to figure out if the former Virginia Governor is still running or not.

Cast your vote after the jump, and remember our polling etiquette here at Colorado Pols: We don’t want to know what you want to happen, but what you think will happen next…


Major Scandal in New Mexico Has Colorado Angle

Jay McCleskey is in some trouble in New Mexico.

Jay McCleskey.

As the Associated Press reports, things are getting hot enough in New Mexico that Gov. Susana Martinez is being forced to respond to several serious allegations about her political operation. You know things aren’t good when the FBI says it “will neither confirm nor deny” the existence of an investigation:

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said Monday that she’s confident a close political adviser did nothing wrong and called allegations of fundraising violations “cheap shots” following reports of a federal investigation.

In a statement to The Associated Press, the Republican governor said she’s aware of complaints being raised about her political consultant Jay McCleskey. The complaints, Martinez said, are coming from political opponents who have tried to attack her previously…

…Her comments come after the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that the FBI has interviewed some state Republicans about Martinez’s fundraising activities and McCleskey. The newspaper said it was unclear what potential violations federal agents are investigating.

New Mexico politics are pretty hard to beat right now when it comes to brazen corruption. Just last month, former New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran pled guilty to embezzlement charges after resigning from office (McCleskey was also a top advisor to Duran). Now, Gov. Martinez is in the middle of several simultaneous scandals, including an investigation alleging political enemies were unfairly targeted for state tax audits.

But because this is Colorado Pols, the scandal you should be most interested involves Jay McCleskey, who by all accounts is Martinez’s top political advisor. From 2005-09, McCleskey was the Regional Political Director for the Republican National Committee — and was heavily involved in political operations in Colorado. As the Santa Fe New Mexican, reports there’s a lot of funny money going around:

For the past several months, the FBI has been interviewing some state Republicans about Gov. Susana Martinez’s fundraising activities going back to her first run for governor.

One prominent New Mexico Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed being interviewed in recent months by federal agents about funds from Martinez’s campaign, as well as money from her 2011 inauguration committee, going to the governor’s political consultant, Jay McCleskey…

…McCleskey has been Martinez’s political consultant since she launched her first gubernatorial campaign in 2009, guiding her to decisive victories, first in the 2010 Republican primary, then the 2010 and 2014 general elections. The year before Martinez’s election, he managed Richard Berry’s successful race for mayor of Albuquerque. Berry became the first GOP mayor in 20 years in the state’s largest city.

After Martinez took office, McCleskey started his own firm, McCleskey Media Strategies. He is one of the best-paid political consultants the state has ever known. [Pols emphasis]

Indeed, McCleskey and his wife Nicole McCleskey (a partner in the polling firm Public Opinion Strategies) are pulling down a ridiculous amount of money, as detailed here by Colorado journalist Sandra Fish.

There is no indication thus far that McCleskey’s time in Colorado might have included some similar shady shenanigans, but with the FBI investigating, this might not be the last time we hear McCleskey’s name round these Internet parts.

Get More Smarter on Monday (Nov. 9)

Get More SmarterEnjoy your Monday — it’s better than a poke in the eye. 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).


► Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson is not handling his “frontrunner” status very well. On the eve of Tuesday’s Republican Presidential candidate debate in Milwaukee, Carson is racking up one embarrassing headline after another. Carson, naturally, is blaming the media for reporting about his bizarre statements and claims; in response, the media and his fellow candidates are basically telling Carson to stop whining.

Famous rich person Donald Trump smells blood in the media waters and is going in for the kill — but is he too anxious to stick a (metaphorical) fork in Carson?


► Oil and gas drilling is more dangerous than previously thought; a new report shows that eight people died in Colorado in 2014 while working for oil and gas extraction companies — more than previously calculated.

Get even more smarter after the jump…


Monday Open Thread

“The essence of immorality is the tendency to make an exception of myself.”

–Jane Addams

Trump Moves In For The Kill on Carson–Too Soon?

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump.

As The Hill reports, Republican presidential co-frontrunner Donald Trump is cranking up the rhetoric against Ben Carson, the only other candidate even close to him in opinion polls after gains made in recent weeks:

GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump says primary rival Ben Carson’s violent childhood indicates that he has a “pathological disease” that has still not been treated.

“When you suffer from pathological disease, you’re not really getting better unless you start taking pills and things,” Trump said on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” on Friday.

“Do you think that’s the right temperament to be president? I don’t think so,” he added.

Ben Carson.

Ben Carson.

Naturally, Trump has exactly zero problems with the media turning their scrutiny to Carson–whose bizarre statements about such far-flung topics as the origins of the Egyptian pyramids, allusions to a violent childhood that friends and neighbors can’t themselves remember, and most recently an admission that a major point in Carson’s biography was fabricated have richly earned him the less-then-fawning attention he is presently receiving.

Trump added that the media investigation into Carson’s past is worthwhile and not just a witch hunt.

“I don’t think it’s small ball if you have somebody that admits that he suffers from pathological disease,” Trump said.

Despite the fact that Carson hasn’t fared well under this latest round of factual scrutiny from mainstream media, we do wonder if Trump suddenly turning his trademark brand of nasty on Carson might provoke a sympathy backlash that helps Carson and hurts Trump. The fact is, every Republican with a functioning cerebral cortex wants an alternative to Trump, and Carson has the pseudo-nonpolitical outsidery-ness the “Tea Party” base is demanding. The latest polls of early states show a ten-point gap between Trump, Carson, and the rest of the GOP pack, which has so far failed to thrive.

Far be it from us to offer advice to The Donald, but there may be an argument for not going, you know, “full Trump” on Carson–at least not just yet. And it wouldn’t surprise us if, despite a rough couple of weeks, Carson receives more than the usual benefit of the doubt from the Republican pundit class while he gets his bio straight.

Because for all his warts, Republicans might actually need this guy.

And Now, Peggy Littleton!

UPDATE: Maybe you’ve never heard of Peggy Littleton, but Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt has! Chaps recorded a full-episode interview with Littleton in 2013 on the evils of then-Sen. Evie Hudak and the Common Core education standards. You can watch the whole interview, but here’s the money quote of Littleton denouncing Hudak’s vote for the so-called “homosexual agenda.”


Now that’s the interview that will propel Littleton to stardom right there, folks! And if that’s not enough, ThinkProgress caught Littleton on tape in 2011 basically claiming that President Barack Obama wants to Muslim-ify the schools:

A new memo that has been making the rounds in conservative circles is a dire warning about an onslaught of Islamic “Gulen schools,” a growing international network of charter schools begun in Turkey that offer “a blend of religious faith and largely Western curriculum.”

At the Educational Policy Conference, a large gathering of social conservatives in St. Louis in January, prominent neoconservative and anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney, and former Colorado State Board of Education member Peggy Littleton sounded the alarm on the “creeping threat” of Gulen schools hidden in President Obama’s landmark education initiative, the Race to the Top program, which encourages innovation in education, including charter schools. Littleton, who currently serves as an El Paso County Commissioner, told conference-goers that “the only reason [Obama is] pushing more charter schools” through Race to the Top is “because of these Gulen schools…”

LITTLETON: Well, there’s going to be speculation, by everyone that’s out there. You yourself I’m sure have done the research, you’ve seen and heard some of the things our own president has said about the Muslims. You’ve heard that he thinks we ought to be friendly to some of their causes, that we should be tolerant in promoting some of the Muslims that are scientists and technology people. [Pols emphasis] I think we need to go back and research what our president has said and by his own words and admissions, I think you can probably make the connection.

And to think, this was before Obama invited that kid named Mohamed to bring his clock to the White House.

Folks, we didn’t know if it was possible to find a Senate candidate to the right of Tim Neville, but it looks like Peggy Littleton might fit the bill. Original post follows…


El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.

El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.

As the Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning reports, yet another no-name Republican is taking a look at running for the U.S. Senate in 2016:

El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton is weighing a run for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Michael Bennet, The Colorado Statesman has learned.

Should she enter the crowded field of GOP candidates, she will be the second El Paso County commissioner in the race. Darryl Glenn has been in the running since early this year. Two other El Paso County Republicans are also hoping to unseat Bennet — declared candidate Charlie Ehler and businessman Robert Blaha, who has said he’s strongly considering a run but has yet to announce…

Littleton didn’t return a phone call seeking comment about her potential bid.


El Paso Commissioner Peggy Littleton has had her name dropped for a number of higher offices in the past few years, but she has never gained anything you would call traction. Some of that has to do with Littleton being a bit…well, excitable when it comes to crying scandal. Back during the 2013 recall election in Colorado Springs, Littleton starred in a video (above) from conservative group Revealing Politics, making a slew of allegations about students turning in ballots that were, as it turned out, completely silly. But that didn’t stop her from confronting said students and falsely accusing them of vote fraud.

At this point, the list of candidates who have declined to challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet is much longer than those still reportedly considering. The stature of those candidates has been in decline as well, from congressmen like Mike Coffman and Scott Tipton down to…well, the county commish level.

As a minor-league placeholder — well, if there was anyone to hold a place for — we suppose Littleton is as good a choice as anybody else.

Garfield Commissioners Raise Big Bucks For Planned Parenthood

Garfield County commissioners Mike Samson, John Martin, and Tom Jankovsky.

Garfield County commissioners Mike Samson, John Martin, and Tom Jankovsky.

As the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent’s John Stroud reports, the decision this week by Garfield County’s Republican commissioners to eliminate a small grant to Planned Parenthood in support of a health center in Glenwood Springs is…well, it’s tough to imagine this response from the community is what they had hoped for:

A grass-roots fundraising campaign has raised more than $13,000 for the Glenwood Springs Planned Parenthood clinic in response to a politically motivated decision by Garfield County commissioners earlier this week to cut a grant to the organization.

Organizer Ashley Johnson of Carbondale indicated on her webpage that the goal of the campaign is now $15,000. If successful, that would be 10 times the amount of the $1,500 county human services grant that was eliminated by commissioners on Monday.

That decision, led by Commissioner Tom Jankovsky over his concerns about what he referred to as “partisan, political” messages being sent out by Planned Parenthood’s political advocacy affiliate in Colorado, prompted significant public reaction on social media after the story broke in the Post Independent.

The grant that was to go to Planned Parenthood’s Glenwood clinic for cancer screening was part of a package of 2016 county human services grants totaling more than $430,000.

Now, some of you might think, and not without justification, that this successful backlash fundraising drive plays into the hands of Planned Parenthood’s opponents–who argue that the organization “doesn’t need” a dime of public funding for cancer screenings or anything else. But the fact is, these grant funds helped Planned Parenthood perform a valuable service to the local community, which is why they have been distributed to the organization for decades. And without this denial by GarCo county commissioners, there would be no controversy to raise funds off of.

For these reasons, the political damage to Garfield County’s Republican commissioners far outweighs any actual harm done to Planned Parenthood. The cornball excuse from GOP commissioner Tom Jankovsky that Planned Parenthood is sending out “partisan” emails, which he then uses to justify doing exactly what those emails say Republicans do, simply protests his own guilt. And once you factor the community rising up and raising ten times the amount of the grant that was eliminated?

Like the entire summer of “Fetuspalooza,” we just don’t see how any of this is helping the GOP.

Unless their goal really is to help Planned Parenthood.