New SoS Williams’ Agenda: Bold Solutions In Search of Problems

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Nothing you shouldn't have expected from Colorado's freshly sworn-in Secretary of State Wayne Williams, but national liberal blog Think Progress reports on Williams' priority as Secretary of State: whatever voter ID law he can get.

Wayne Williams (R) was sworn in this week as Colorado’s Secretary of State, and has already begun pushing for laws to make voters show photo identification before they can cast a ballot. “I think most Coloradans are honest and law-abiding and follow the rules, but I think it’s important to have the processes in place to protect the election system so that people have confidence in it,” Williams told Colorado Public Radio in an interview over the weekend.

He added that because Democrats still control the governor’s mansion and state house, passage of such a law is unlikely, but offered that he’d be willing to settle for rules requiring a photo ID for Coloradans taking advantage of the state’s same-day voter registration. “This is someone we’ve never seen before. We don’t have any proof they are who they claim to be,” he said.

Studies show such a law targeting same-day registration would disproportionately impact voters who are younger, lower income, non-white, and newly naturalized.

There have been no reports to suggest any problem with the execution of Colorado's modernized election laws in 2014, including the administration of same-day registration. Even Williams' predecessor Scott Gessler, one of the most vocal critics of the 2013 legislation that revamped Colorado's election system, grudgingly admits that the system overall worked pretty well. With that in mind, nothing about same-day registration overcomes the well-documented problems with requiring a photo ID to carry out the constitutional right to vote. In the absence of any actual problem, there's simply no reason to impose this burden–except to make it harder to vote.

But as Think Progress continues, Williams is all about making it harder to vote, even where that means breaking campaign pledges:

Williams’ campaign centered on his reputation as a “champion of access and transparency in government” and his promise to “ensure voter access to the polls” — though he did express support for voter ID laws during his run for office. He also often touted his record of making voting more convenient as a county clerk: “We have worked with all parties and groups to ensure that our polling locations are located in easy to reach locations and we’ve exceeded legal requirements by opening more locations and opening them for longer hours. As a result of these efforts, more citizens have voted than ever before in my county.”

After winning the race, he flipped on this point as well, telling Colorado Public Radio that too many polling locations were open for too many hours in this past election. “That’s not really a very cost-effective way and there certainly wasn’t a demand for it,” he said, adding that he hopes to give counties “flexibility at the local level” to decide when and where polling locations should be available.

During the 2013 recall elections, Williams came under fire for severely limiting voting locations and hours in Senate District 11. After mail ballots for the recalls were disallowed in court on a technicality, having convenient locations and hours for voters to cast ballots became far more important. Despite this, Williams' polling centers in El Paso County opened days after their counterparts in Pueblo–and in Manitou Springs, a stronghold for recalled Sen. John Morse, a vote center didn't open until the Monday before the election.

In that case, anyway, the "flexibility" Williams wanted was flexibility to game the system.

Bottom line: Williams gets a little space as a new Secretary of State to get his agenda together, but we can't forget that this is the same Wayne Williams who made a nationwide joke of himself last October–reaching for excuses to question mail ballots that were simply laughable. Suffice to say, whatever Williams ends up proposing had better be backed up with hard evidence or it will go nowhere. After Williams' embarrassing failure to gin up scandal on FOX News–not to mention four years his predecessor spent making wild allegations about vote fraud in Colorado that were totally unfounded–he starts with basically zero credibility.

And we have a strong suspicion that is where he will remain.

Gessler’s Anti-Mail Ballot Talking Points Grow Awfully Thin

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

Reid Wilson writes at the Washington Post today about the differing experiences of states that have switched to mail ballots. Two states, Washington state and Colorado, both have Republican Secretaries of State. In Washington, Secretary of State Kim Wyman says the switch to mail balloting has been highly successful. After the state allowed mail ballots in the 1990s, it emerged as by far the most popular–and cost effective–option.

But here in Colorado, outgoing Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler is duty bound to disparage mail ballots as he has since the legislation broadening their use passed in 2013–and no positive experience can shake him.

To Gessler, whose state only began conducting elections entirely by mail this year, the system creates the potential for what he calls a “single point of failure” — the U.S. Postal Service.

“The Postal Service is cutting back service for cost-cutting measures,” Gessler said. “You’re seeing some disenfranchisement of voters where the post office is just so slow.”

“I think more people are disenfranchised through all-mail ballots because of the post office than anything else in the country,” he said.

Richard Coolidge, a spokesman for Gessler’s office, said the secretary of state worked overtime to collect mail from the central processing facility in Denver to meet the Election Day deadline. They found 366 ballots that would have otherwise been thrown out for arriving too late.

We have no doubt that some number of voters disregarded the deadline to mail in ballots that was clearly indicated on every ballot as well as other election-related correspondence. Even factoring that inevitable issue, it's just silly to claim that the Postal Service is a "single point of failure" in Colorado elections. For one thing, a large percentage of "mail ballots" aren't mailed back to clerks at all, but dropped off at ballot collection boxes. Counties are apparently not required to track the percentage of ballots returned by postal mail as opposed to being dropped off directly but we've heard in Denver the percentage may be 70% or more deposited in drop boxes. Beyond that, there are other options available, like early voting and vote centers, that make this "single point of failure" business just plain silly.

But the best evidence that Gessler is off base with his ongoing complaints about mail ballots are the results of this year's elections. Neither mail balloting, nor other new election provisions Gessler complains about like same-day voter registration, prevented Republicans from having a pretty good election in Colorado in 2014. There is no evidence that Colorado's updated election laws resulted in anything other than better turnout in a midterm election that nationwide saw the worst turnout since the 1940s. Republicans won the U.S. Senate race, dominated the downticket statewide races except Bob Beauprez's gubernatorial defeat, and made Democrats work for legislative races all over the state. What about this experience speaks badly of Colorado's new election laws, which happen to have been passed by Democrats?

Democrats are bruised from this year's election results, but one thing we can all say for sure today is that Gessler's wild predictions of fraud and chaos as a result of House Bill 13-1303 were totally unfounded. Next year, when new Secretary of State Wayne Williams tries to claim otherwise, hopefully someone reminds him that he won his election in 2014 comfortably too.

Westboro Baptist Church to Picket Pueblo Courthouse

(Why don't they just go to hell? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

SUNDAY POLS UPDATE: Pueblo Chieftain:

The release uses a number of derogatory terms toward the gay community and specifically mentions Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz saying he, “Couldn’t move fast enough to start marrying fags,” and use that as an impetus for their planned protest.

The release also states, “Same-sex marriage dooms nations,” and that Pueblo County “foams at the mouth” to marry gay people, among other things.

The Westboro Baptist Church group routinely travels across the country picketing against gay marriage and other highly contentious things such as military funerals, and are often met with much opposition wherever they go.

Upon hearing the news, citizens of Pueblo mobilized on Facebook and began making plans for a counter-protest for that day.

—–

Westboro Baptist Church, well-known for picketing the funerals of soldiers to protest "gay-friendly" military policies, is now scheduling a picket December 29 at the Pueblo Courthouse to protest the hundreds of gay and lesbian couples married by County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz.

The founder of WBC , Fred Phelps, passed away last spring , and his family members have been leaving the church.  Nevertheless, there are apparently a core of true believers willing to travel to Pueblo to keep their church's name, and their homophobic cause, in the news. 

The language of this flyer is of someone clearly both fascinated and repelled by gay sex. "Crack in the dyke", "forcing this….sin down the throat", "angel-gagging drivel", etc. 

I predict a hostile reception for WBC, and that the number of counter-protesters at the Pueblo Courthouse will far outnumber the WBC haters. Pueblo, is, by and large, a tolerant, live-and-let-live town, which elected an openly lesbian House Representative, Daneya Esgar,  this year. Colorado legislators passed a bill allowing civil unions in 2013, and it took effect last May. 

Puebloans are also unlikely to allow an organization which pickets the funerals of soldiers to publicize itself in the Home of Heroes.Further, the WBC picket attempt is likely to alienate Republican moderate and independent voters, who have only reluctantly been dragged along on the Pueblo GOP quest to smear Clerk Ortiz, accusing him of voter fraud and discrimination, in actions and lawsuits. The WBC picket will, I predict, be a gigantic, oozing black eye for the Pueblo GOP. 

So y'all come on down to Pueblo for a wintry picnic on the Courthouse Grounds. WBC will provide the fire and brimstone- maybe. 

Where’s SoS Gessler when Voter Fraud being committed by James O’Keefe?

Secretary of State Gessler warns us about voter fraud all the time. Now, we know he's most likely in the back pocket of the Koch Brothers and ALEC and fully intends to disenfranchise Democratic voters as his primary goal in this oh-so-noble effort. But, what if we were to give him the benefit of the doubt and presume he would enforce the integrity of our elections even as they are attacked in real time by Fox News provocateur James O'Keefe?

As Mother Jones and Colorado Pols have reported, the convict has been performing his special kind of reporting lately, which has been dutifully reported by Fox News and admirably debunked by our own 9News and others. With these reports it seems quite apparent the James O'Keefe is intent on manipulating Colorado's elections in this critical election year. 

And so, if SoS Scott Gessler doesn't see a problem with these manipulations, maybe we should make sure he knows that we don't appreciate what O'Keefe is doing. And maybe we should contact our Secretary of State now to implore him to stop James O'Keefe and have AG Suthers prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law. 

And one must wonder if O'Keefe is violating his parole from that earlier conviction.

SoS contact page here. Other info below:

Elections & Voting

Suite 200
303-894-2200
303-869-4861 (FAX)
elections@sos.state.co.us

Campaign Finance 
303-894-2200 & press 3
cpfhelp@sos.state.co.us

Help America Vote Act (HAVA)
SCORE
Voter information
 

Elections Staff Directory

Joe Neguse Sets Fundraising Record for SOS Candidates

Joe Neguse

Joe Neguse, Democrat for Secretary of State

According to a press release sent out yesterday by the campaign of Democrat Joe Neguse:

Today Joe Neguse for Secretary of State announced raising $461,380 in contributions. Neguse surpassed the total amount raised by any candidate running for Secretary of State in the history of Colorado. [Pols emphasis]

Mike Coffman previously held the record with $446,660 total raised in his 2006 run for the office. Neguse has already bougth $280,000 in TV ads. Neguse's Republican opponent, on the other hand, appears to have raised the least amount  of any candidate (Republican or Democrat) running for statewide office in Colorado.

Republican Wayne Williams has raised a total of $225,522, which isn't even half of the total raised by Neguse. We're actually kind of surprised Williams has even raised that much given his numerous problems with fundraising.

Neguse has run a very strong campaign for Secretary of State, which gives him the best odds in our view of the three Democrats running for down ballot statewide races (Attorney General, Treasurer, SOS). As we've said many times in the past, it is tough for any candidates running for these seats to really make a mark in an election year where tens of millions of dollars are being spent on three races alone (Governor, U.S. Senate, CO-6), particularly given the fact that Colorado voters tend to split their votes for these second-tier seats. But the combination of Neguse's strong campaign and Williams' general ineptitude — not to mention a poisonous four years from current SOS Scott Gessler – may just put Neguse over the top in November.

 

At Least He’s Not Your Secretary of State

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R).

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R).

Our neighbors in Kansas have got a real pickle on their hands trying to sort out that state's U.S. Senate race–a situation that could endanger Republican hopes of taking control of the U.S. Senate this year. The Democratic candidate, prosecutor Chad Taylor, withdrew to avoid splitting votes with independent candidate Greg Orman–a popular candidate with a decent shot at unseating incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.

As the Kansas City Star reports, the state's secretary of state Kris Kobach has gone to extreme lengths to keep Taylor on the ballot, in a brazen effort to protect fellow Republican Sen. Roberts. Yesterday, the Kansas Supreme Court handed Kobach and Roberts a final defeat in the case:

The state Supreme Court Thursday ordered [Kobach] to strike Democrat Chad Taylor from the November ballot for U.S. Senate, ruling Taylor had complied with state law allowing a candidate to withdraw.

Just a few minutes later, Kobach — a Republican — said he’ll tell the Kansas Democratic party to pick a replacement by noon Sept. 26.

It wasn’t immediately clear how Kobach can force Democrats to pick another Senate nominee. Kobach had asked the state Supreme Court to consider such an order in Thursday’s ruling, but the judges said Democrats weren’t a part of the case…

The Democratic nominee withdrew Sept. 3. But Kobach said the withdrawal language lacked the specific language required by state law, and restored him to the ballot.

Taylor sued. Thursday, the court — in an unsigned opinion — said Taylor’s referral to the state law was sufficient to officially remove him from the ballot.

“The Secretary of State thus has no discretion to refuse to remove Chadwick J. Taylor’s name from the ballot,” the court said. There was no published dissent.

Kansas Republicans cry shame, but their complaint is pretty ridiculous on its face:

“The Kansas Supreme Court deliberately, and for political purposes, disenfranchised over 65,000 voters,” said Roberts spokesman Corry Bliss in a statement.

“Liberal activist Supreme Court justices have decided that if you voted in the Democrat primary on August 5th, your vote does not matter, your voice does not matter,” his statement said.

Thus expressing probably the most "concern" Republicans have felt for Democratic primary voters in…well, ever. The real problem here, of course, is that independent candidate Greg Orman is beating GOP Sen. Roberts in the polls. The Kansas Supreme Court dismissed the faux concern from Republicans about "disenfranchised" Democrats, and noted correctly–obviously–that if Chad Taylor doesn't want to be a Senate candidate, and the ballots haven't been printed yet, he doesn't have to be on the ballot. It was reportedly outside the scope of the court's ruling today, but it seems very unlikely that the court will force Democrats to nominate someone else as Kobach seems to want now. Because, well, how exactly can you do that? Kobach's "interpretations" of Kansas election law border on the absurd–which gives you an idea how desperate Kansas Republicans are to protect this Senate seat.

It's worth noting also that Kris Kobach, in addition to being a conservative darling, is a close ally of Colorado's outgoing GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler. The two have collaborated on projects like Gessler's embarrassing and basically fruitless quest for "thousands" of illegal voters. Gessler, like Kobach, has been shot down hard by the courts for his "novel" interpretations of Colorado election law–interpretations that just happen to benefit Gessler's fellow Republicans.

As you can see, Gessler has plenty of company.

Pueblo Chieftain Smears “Bo” Ortiz for Political Revenge

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Poor Bo. He just can't catch a break from the Pueblo Chieftain.  To inform the public,  Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz voluntarily advised the Pueblo Chieftain about  faulty driver's licenses distributed by  a Colorado Revenue Department vendor, MorphoTrust. The state IDs and licenses were supposed to have a black band across the top, identifying those ineligible to vote, but 524 of these IDs were sent out without the flag. 

The Chieftain chose  to run the ID story on page one, next to a photo of Ortiz, with the banner headline, "Faulty ID Cards Issued", on September 16, 2014. . The teaser subheading on the online edition read, "No concern for voter fraud." Who issued the faulty IDs? Who is unconcerned about voter fraud?  Judging by his photo under the headline, a reasonable reader would infer: Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz.

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Gessler, Brauchler, Still Can’t Make Facts Fit Illegal Voter Narrative

Noooooo!!! Oh, nevermind.

Noooooo!!! Oh, nevermind.

As Election Day gets closer and closer, so, too, does the end of Republican Scott Gessler's contentious term as Colorado's Secretary of State. Perhaps one day we will all look back at this period of time and laugh to ourselves in disbelief that Gessler could have actually been in charge of voting in Colorado.

Back when Gessler first took office in January 2011, he told everyone who would listen that Colorado had a massive problem with illegal voters casting illegal ballots. In fact, Gessler testified before Congress that he was aware of at least 16,270 illegal voter registrations in Colorado, including 5,000 who illegally cast a ballot. Those numbers, of course, never held up to even the slightest level of scrutiny. In July 2013, Gessler's office produced a list of 155 people — yes, just 155 — who were suspected of having registered to vote illegally. What happened to the other 16,115 that Gessler boldly proclaimed to Congress as illegal voters? Perhaps someone in the Secretary of State's office just accidentally cut-and-paste the same names 110 times.

Last November, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, a very partisan Republican DA, announced that his office had indicted a grand total of 4 (four) people alleged to have been involved in illegally registering to vote. In June, charges were dropped in one of those cases, and yesterday, a judge tossed charges in a second Brauchler case. From CBS4 Denver:

A judge dismissed an election-fraud charge against an Aurora man on Wednesday after prosecutors said they could not prove he was the one who illegally registered himself to vote.

Tadesse G. Degefa, who is not a U.S. citizen, had been charged with procuring false registration for allegedly signing up to vote in 2012.

District Attorney George Brauchler said the secretary of state’s voter registration website does not have safeguards to prevent someone from illegally registering someone else to vote.

According to CBS 4, charges are still pending against one canvasser and one noncitizen. In other words, out of Gessler's original claim of 16,270 cases of illegal voter registration, we may (and only possibly) end up with just two people who may have not even intentionally been involved with illegally registering a voter. And guess how many people look to have actually voted illegally?

At this point, none. As in, zero.

So, Scott Gessler was pretty close in his estimation of voter fraud — give or take 16,270 people.

What To Make of Gessler Harrassment Allegations?

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

Earlier this week, Westword's Melanie Asmar posted a story about the former chief financial officer in Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler's office–who claims she was harassed, intimidated, and ultimately demoted after she raised questions about Gessler's use of discretionary account funds. You'll recall that Gessler's use of taxpayer money to attend partisan political events resulted in a ruling from the state's Independent Ethics Commission that he had "breached the public trust for private gain."

As published at Westword Tuesday afternoon:

The former chief financial officer for the Colorado Secretary of State's Office is accusing Secretary Scott Gessler of harassing her, retaliating against her and eventually demoting her after she "began to push back on the financial mismanagement" she reportedly saw in the office. Heather Lizotte took issue with Gessler's use of the office's $5,000 discretionary fund and federal grant funds meant to improve state elections, according to a lengthy claim notice filed with the Colorado Attorney General's Office.

According to the notice, Lizotte began working for the secretary of state's office in 2003 and got excellent performance reviews for many years. The trouble started shortly after Gessler took office in 2010, the notice says. Gessler made headlines for wanting to moonlight at his previous law firm because, he claimed, the secretary of state's salary wasn't enough. Meanwhile, the notice says, Gessler didn't always provide receipts in connection with his use of the office's $5,000 discretionary fund; at the end of fiscal years 2011 and 2012, he also asked Lizotte to give him all of the money left in the fund.

Lizotte told Gessler's staff "that the casual practices being used were not appropriate," the notice says. In a November 2011 e-mail to two staffers, Lizotte wrote that all expenditures from the discretionary fund "should have supporting documentation (for example meal receipts etc.)" and that memos for "blanket expenditures" are not allowed. Lizotte's insistence on the rules, the notice says, caused "ongoing tension" between her and Gessler.

Heather Lizotte testified before the Independent Ethics Commission about the matter of Gessler's discretionary funds account. As Westword reports, Lizotte claims that after her testimony, Gessler and his close staff started shutting her out of meetings. Within a few months, Lizotte was on the wrong side of performance evaluations, and in June she was demoted with loss of pay. While we can't claim to know all of the particulars, there are plenty of circumstances in play here that could add up to plausible claim of retaliation.

Between Tuesday and yesterday afternoon, though, something interesting happened. In a new story, Asmar writes about SoS employees, in interviews "facilitated by Gessler's office," coming out of the woodwork to throw Gessler's former CFO under the bus:

[A] document signed by Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert gives different reasons, including that Lizotte abruptly left the office in December 2013 on sick leave without giving her staff any direction. Lizotte claims that she left because Gessler treated her "so aggressively that she became frightened and seriously ill" and that she did brief her staff on how to handle the meetings scheduled during her absence…

Ryan Moyle, who worked for Lizotte from April 2011 until he left the department in November 2013, says that it seemed to him that Lizotte was in over her head. "In my experience, we were doing a lot of her work," says Moyle, who was a budget analyst.

Moyle says he never saw Gessler mistreat Lizotte; instead, he was "supportive" and "patient" with her. However, Moyle recalls Lizotte saying things that made it clear she didn't see things the same way. "She would always make comments about how it was a boys' club and the men didn't respect her," Moyle says…

Deana Wiedemann, an account tech who worked under Lizotte for eight years, agrees. "It's been a rough road to work with her," Wiedemann says in a conversation facilitated by Gessler's office. "Nothing has been consistent with how she makes decisions."

Bottom line: we don't know Heather Lizotte. We don't know any of the people in the story above who question her performance in these downright ad hominem terms. We do know that Lizotte's employment with the Secretary of State's office predates Gessler's term, meaning she wasn't part of the team that Gessler brought in when he took office. And we know that Gessler was found by the IEC, with their judgment upheld in court, to have improperly spent his office's discretionary funds–which could quite reasonably upset his CFO. The Colorado Civil Rights Division, which is currently investigating, will eventually make a judgment. Until then, yesterday's story ends this way:

Laura Schwartz, one of Lizotte's attorneys, says that Lizotte disagrees with the statements made by the other employees but does not want to comment on them further. Adds Schwartz: "These people who are coming out against Heather are the very people who want to stay in touch with a powerful person. And Gessler is." [Pols emphasis]

Perhaps Gessler will be vindicated. But if he is not vindicated, these subsequent actions, marshaling current and former employees to smear this woman even as the investigation of her claims is underway, could turn out to be one of the very worst of "Honey Badger's" many misdeeds.

Tom Tancredo is His Own Consultant

Tom Tancredo with top consultant, Tom Tancredo

Tom Tancredo with top campaign consultant, Tom Tancredo (left or right, doesn’t matter).

The June 24th Primary Election may be pretty far in our collective rear-view mirrors, but Election Day doesn't mean that losing campaigns immediately shut down. There are bills left to pay, offices to mothball, rhetoric to file away, etc. And for losing campaigns, there is often cash left over to spend on…stuff. Occasionally, that "stuff" ends up back in the hands of the candidate.

After looking through campaign finance reports from losing campaigns filed in July and August, we found some interesting (if not particularly legal) expenditures. Republican Tom Tancredo's campaign for Governor, for example, lists a total of about 121 separate expenditures made to one "Thomas Tancredo," including out personal favorite, which was reported on June 30, 2014: Tom Tancredo's campaign paid Tom Tancredo $1,300 for "Consultant and Professional Services." 

We're assuming this wasn't considered a bonus for Tancredo's consulting advice that resulted in a Primary loss to Bob Beauprez. It is telling, however, that Beauprez had trouble dispatching a man in Tancredo who apparently wasn't overly interested in running a serious campaign for Governor.

All told, Tancredo's campaign paid Tom Tancredo about $10,501.99 in the year or so that he ran for Governor as a Republican. That's a lot of money to pay yourself for various items, though it pales in comparison to the money that 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Maes somehow squirreled away.

If you're wondering, Tancredo is actually a bit of an outlier when it comes to odd expenditures. The campaign for Republican Scott Gessler wrote at least two separate checks to Scott Gessler for $3,468.38 for services described as "Other." On the other hand, Mike Kopp, the other losing GOP candidate for Governor, does not appear to have received any odd expenditure checks from his own campaign.

You can check out some of our more interesting campaign finance findings for Tancredo after the jump…

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Debate Diary: Blogging the Secretary of State Debate

MaxHeadroom

Kids, ask your parents.

It’s time to fire up the Colorado Pols Debate Diary once again.

It has become something of a tradition here at Colorado Pols for us to give you, our loyal readers, a live blog, play-by-play of political debates in Colorado. Yesterday in Grand Junction, Secretary of State candidates Joe Neguse (D) and Wayne Williams (R) took to the stage for the first SOS debate hosted by the Colorado Clerks Association. Colorado Pols was not in attendance at the debate (you wouldn’t drive to Grand Junction on a Monday, either), but thanks to the miracle of YouTube, we’re watching the video and providing a blow-by-blow rundown of the action.

*NOTE: Unlike a regular “live blog” Debate Diary, we're posting the most recent update at the bottom of the page, so you can read like a normal person. As always, unless it is in direct quotes, consider all statements paraphrased in the interest of time.

 

0:15
We’re looking at the stage at the Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction. El Paso County Clerk Wayne Williams is to the left of the screen, while CU Regent Joe Neguse is on the right. Maybe it’s just a weird camera angle, or maybe Williams is standing on a couple of phone books, but he looks absolutely ginormous. Williams looks like Godzilla preparing to destroy the convention center.

Our moderator is Gary Harmon from the Grand Junction Sentinel, who is sitting at his own table between the two candidates.

0:20
Let’s get right to the opening statements. Each candidate is allowed 3 minutes to start, which seems kind of excessive. If either candidate is able to coherently talk about the Secretary of State’s office for 3 consecutive minutes, we should just let them have the job.

0:27
Neguse is up first. He’s wearing a dark suit, with a white button-up shirt and a white t-shirt underneath. That’s a lot of layers, but maybe he just likes to be prepared.

1:04
“My name is Joe Neguse, and I’m running for Secretary of State for a pretty simple reason. I believe the right to vote is sacred.” Neguse talks about how his parents immigrated from East Africa.

1:39
And…we have our first Scott Gessler mention. Neguse criticizes the current SOS and makes sure to mention that Gessler has endorsed Williams.

[SIDE NOTE: Is there a lightbulb shortage on the West Slope? Neguse looks like he’s speaking from a dark alley, with half of his face shrouded in shadow.]

2:16
Neguse says that Williams is the only county clerk in the state who is NOT a member of the Colorado Clerks Association. That’s really strange – it will be interesting to see what Williams says about this. Why would the El Paso County Clerk not be a member of the Colorado Clerks Association? Is there a competing organization in which Williams is the sole member?

3:24
Neguse finishes up his opening statement with a story about doing bipartisan work as a CU Regent.

3:42
Now it’s time for Williams to speak. He’s wearing a brown jacket, a shirt of indeterminate color, and Max Headroom’s tie from 1984. He also has a “Wayne Williams” campaign sticker on his lapel, just in case.

“I had an interesting conversation in 2011 with my wife. I explained to Holly that I would not be at our house for her birthday.” Seriously, that’s the first thing he said.

Williams says that the Saguache County Commissioners scheduled a recall for January 24 (the same day as Holly Williams’ birthday) and asked him to run the recall election. So he sacrificed his wife’s birthday for the greater good of Saguache County, or something.

“I have been committed for many decades to working hard to ensure that everybody has the ability to vote.” Good work on the English, Wayne. Maybe he really IS Max Headroom.

4:45
Williams is now telling a story about serving on the Canvas Board in El Paso County for the first time in 1997. This is going to be a looonnggg 45 minutes.

5:15
Williams criticizes the 2000 election process in Florida, which resulted in a team of lawyers making sure that Al Gore George W. Bush was elected President. Didn’t see that one coming.

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Can “Honey Badger” Sneak In a Win?

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

The two most likely scenarios in tomorrow's Republican gubernatorial primary elections, based on all polling of the race, is either a win by former Congressman Bob Beauprez or his colleague Tom Tancredo. But there is a third possible outcome that we do want to note for the record, as the Denver Post's Joey Bunch reported last week:

[Scott Gessler] embraces the nickname "Honey Badger" — even calling his campaign Team Honey Badger — which came from the Internet meme about "the most fearless animal in the animal kingdom."

"He has less baggage than Tancredo, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have any," University of Denver political scientist Peter Hanson said of Gessler's primary opponent, who is known for controversy.

To his credit, Gessler has a well-organized, disciplined campaign, Hanson said. [Pols emphasis]

One thing we know from elections past is that polling is notoriously problematic in a low-turnout primary election, because a disciplined get-out-the-vote field campaign can turn polling results on their head on Election Night. And that possibility remains for tomorrow night: even though Beauprez and Tancredo are hogging the spotlight for earned media in this race, Gessler's by all accounts quality campaign, staffed by smart up-and-coming intelligentsia Republicans, just might be getting the ballots in from their well-targeted voters.

This possibilty prevents us from completely writing off any of the three viable contenders in this nominally four-man, widely regarded as a two-man race. Mike Kopp has no ability to pull off a steal himself, having never raised the minimum needed to undertake a field campaign. We don't even think his Rocky Mountain Gun Owners endorsement can help him at this point, with Kopp basically in vanity mode after winning the state assembly.

If there's an upset brewing in this race, Gessler will be it.

GOP Gubernatorial Candidates on Local Control: Yeah, Right

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

The Denver Business Journal’s Ed Sealover reports, not that there was ever much doubt, but for the record:

None of Colorado’s four Republican gubernatorial candidates support Gov. John Hickenlooper’s current effort to give local governments more regulatory authority over drilling operations in exchange for U.S. Rep. Jared Polis yanking down his nine proposed regulatory ballot initiatives, with all of them saying that doing so would be, in essence, capitulating to the wealthy Democratic congressman.

Only one of the quartet — former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo — said that he would be open to some measure of local control on some oil and gas issues, while another, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, said he believes drilling restrictions already are too harsh and should be rolled back in order to boost the energy economy in Colorado…

Hickenlooper, Polis and the state’s two largest drillers have agreed on a compromise proposal, but the governor is seeking more industry and business support — enough, administration sources say, to get a number of Republicans to vote for the bill — before he calls a special session.

If one of the four Republican gubernatorial candidates were in office right now, it’s pretty clear that no such negotiations would be underway. [Pols emphasis]

Of the four responses, we have to say that Tom Tancredo’s comes the closest to a reasonable position, at least acknowledging the desire of local communities to have some control over heavy industrial operations like oil and gas drilling within their boundaries. All of them employ Rep. Jared Polis as a scapegoat, although Sealover notes correctly that the resistance blocking the local control compromise legislation is from the energy industry.

As for Scott Gessler’s contention that regulations on oil and gas in Colorado are already “too strict” and should be rolled back to “boost the energy economy,” well, that’s the Honey Badger for you! That will almost certainly be a minority viewpoint among general election voters, but for the purposes of moving out of distant third place in this primary, Gessler’s ready to pander and pander hard.

Bottom line: Gov. John Hickenlooper’s friendly relations with the energy industry are a matter of record, about which we’ve had plenty to say in this space–the good, like bringing the industry and conservationists to the table for strong new air quality rules, and the bad like Hickenlooper’s dubious taste for fracking fluid. Fortunately for Hickenlooper, one of these guys will be the alternative in November–and there will be a clear, or at least clear enough, distinction.

One Week Out: Who Will Win The GOP Gubernatorial Primary?

With one week remaining until next Tuesday's primary election, here's a poll of our registered users (click here to create an account if you don't have one already) on who will win the Colorado Republican gubernatorial primary: former Congressman Bob Beauprez, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, former state Sen. Mike Kopp, or former Congressman Tom Tancredo. For this poll, we ask that you not vote your preference–we'd like to know who you honestly believe will win the election.

Who will win the Colorado GOP gubernatorial primary?

 

After Cantor’s fall, who’s the tea-partiest of them all?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

After House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's crash, you naturally wonder which Republicans in Colorado's gubernatorial primary are out-of-the-closet tea partiers. Arguably, they're all closeted tea-party types, at a minimum, but who lets his tea-party flag fly?

Colorado's gubernatorial race has been spotlighted nationally as the next big test of tea-party strength, post Eric Cantor. So Republican voters may want to know which of the leading candidates self-identify as tea party.

Local talk-radio hosts have been out in front on this story.

Despite his tea-party record, Bob Beauprez has ducked the question in different ways. In one instance, on KOA's Mike Rosen show, he said:

Caller Doug: My question for Rep Beauprez: Is he more aligned with the traditional Republican Party or more aligned with the tea p?

Beauprez: I'm more aligned with, some people would call them, conservative values, traditional values. I think both of the groups that you highlight, in general, adhere to the same.

On the other hand, Tom Tancredo told KNUS' Steve Kelley Wednesday:

Tancredo: I love the tea party. I believe they have been a very healthy force inside this body politic, especially for Republicans. I believe it has helped move the party to the right, although it's been done begrudgingly on the part the party itself. A lot of people resent it and resist it. No, I think they've been helpful.

Listen to Tancredo discusses the tea party on KNUS Kelley and Company 06-11-14