CO Springs Mayor John Suthers is Open to Extending Tax Increase

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Americans for Prosperity and other conservative operatives in Colorado Springs got pissy with Republican Mayor John Suthers for thowing his support behind a sales tax to fix the city’s pot-hole-ridden streets.

But his proposal won, by a 2-to-1 margin.

Now, some of Suthers’ conservative critics will be unhappy to hear that Suthers may extend the sales tax beyond its five-year duration, if needed.

Talking on KVOR radio after the vote, Suthers didn’t rule out extending the tax, telling host Richard Randall:

Suthers: We’ll do a reassessment of our road conditions in four years, give a full report of the the public, and say, this is where we are. Do we need to do anything further? My hope is that we will significantly expand our road investments through the general fund over the next five years, and this may not be necessary to extend. If it is necessary, can we lower it dramatically? We will evaluate that in four years based on the progress we make.

Listen to Suthers KVOR 11.5.15

Poking the eyes of his opponents, Suthers told Randall that his polling showed clear support for the tax increas from the get go, and so he wasn’t surprised by the overwhelming support for it in Colorado Springs, despite the “noise” against it.

Suthers: We polled throughout…. When you just have community hearings, you don’t really get a clear view of how the public as a whole looks at an issue.  Sometimes you get how interest groups look at a particular issue. So we went to the public and said, where are your priorities between storm water and roads? How would you want to pay for it? Would it be sales tax or property tax? What kind of duration should the tax be? All that sort of thing.  And I was very gratified. The number held the pretty clearly, with all the noise that we heard over the last month about, oh, they are going to spend the money on something else.  Or they could find the money elsewhere. It really didn’t move the needle at all. The numbers stayed very consistent. So I wasn’t surprised, because we had been doing some polling throghout. and that’s how the community felt about it. Listen to Suthers KVOR 11.5.15

These People Won’t Be the Next Lieutenant Governor of Colorado

But can the next Lt. Governor do THIS?

But can the next Lt. Governor do THIS?

Last week’s surprise news that Colorado Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia will soon resign from office has led to some natural speculation about Garcia’s potential replacement. Governor John Hickenlooper will reportedly name a replacement LG sometime within the next few weeks, and that person will need to be confirmed by a highly-partisan Colorado legislature.

Aside from being the next person in line to serve as Governor in the event that the big office is vacated before the next election, we couldn’t tell you a whole lot about what the LG actually does on a daily basis. We could tell you even less prior to 2010, when Hickenlooper expanded Garcia’s role by also naming him head of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. The LG’s office has not historically been a stepping stone to…anything in Colorado politics

The Colorado Statesman is running a couple of online polls speculating about the next name to get the LG title (here’s Poll 1, and here’s Poll 2). While we haven’t heard much about who might get the nomination from Hickenlooper, there are a few names from the Statesman polls that we can probably already cross out.

If Hickenlooper chooses an LG from the ranks of the state legislature, there are three Democratic lawmakers in the Statesman polls that can probably go ahead and cross themselves off of any list: State Rep. Crisanta Duran, and State Senators Linda Newell and Angela Williams. 

Back in May 2015, Duran, Newell, and Williams all signed onto a letter to Gov. Hickenlooper stating that they had “lost confidence” in the leadership at the Department of Human Services and urging Hickenlooper to make leadership changes at DHS. We’re not going to use this space to debate the relative policy merits of the DHS letter; from a political perspective, you’re not earning points with your Party’s own Governor when you publicly sign your name to a letter questioning his decision making.

Linda Newell, Crisanta Duran, and Angela Williams

Linda Newell, Crisanta Duran, and Angela Williams

This would hold true in any state, or any organization, for that matter. When you give somebody in your professional circle a public wedgie, you probably shouldn’t hold out any hope that you might get a big promotion 6 months later.

On the flip side, it makes sense that state Sen. Mike Johnston would be on the Statesman’s list of potential LG candidates. Johnston and fellow Democrat Millie Hamner are two high-profile legislators who did NOT sign onto the DHS letter last spring. If you are Gov. Hickenlooper and you’re thinking about who to select as your Lt. Governor, you’re probably going to start your search with people whose support you don’t need to question. That’s not just politics — that’s human nature.

It’s possible — perhaps even likely, given recent historical trends — that Hickenlooper will pick a Lt. Gov. who is not a sitting legislator. Both Garcia and Barbara O’Brien, Gov. Bill Ritter’s LG, were working outside of state government when they were selected as running mates. But if Hick does decide to go with someone already under the Gold Dome, it’s going to be a Democrat — and it’s going to be somebody Hickenlooper knows will stand behind his decisions.

Get More Smarter on Monday (Nov. 16)

GetMoreSmarter-SnowYes, we know you feel itchy and burning; it’s still not plantar fasciitis. 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).



► In the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks, Republicans in Colorado and throughout the country are going bananas with fear mongering. President Obama spoke out against calls to prevent Syrian refugees from emigrating to the United States, as the New York Times reports:

Mr. Obama grew especially animated in rebuffing suggestions by some Republican presidential candidates, governors and lawmakers that the United States should block entry of Syrian refugees to prevent terrorists from slipping into the country.

“The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism; they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife,” Mr. Obama said. He added: “We do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.”

Without naming him, Mr. Obama singled out a comment by former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, one of the Republicans seeking to succeed him, for suggesting the United States focus special attention on Christian refugees. “That’s shameful,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s not American. It’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”

Back here in Colorado, Denver-area residents held a gathering of support over the weekend for victims of the terrorist attacks. Colorado universities are reporting that all of its students studying overseas in France are believed to be unharmed.


Texas Senator Ted Cruz may be surging ahead in the race for the Republican Presidential  nomination. Controversial Iowa Rep. Steve King has given Cruz his nod of approval.


► There was a Democratic Presidential debate on Saturday that nobody watched, and the campaigns are griping about the scheduling. We don’t disagree, but how did we ever get this far? Why would you ever schedule anything of importance for a Saturday night television audience?


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Terror Grips Colorado Republicans

eiffel-111415As the world comes to terms with the horrific terrorist attacks on Paris, France this past Friday evening, responses from Colorado Republicans run the gamut from level-headed to…well, not so much. We’ll start with a rare moment of praise for Sen. Cory Gardner, whose statement in the immediate wake of the attacks showed commendable restraint:

“The people of Colorado and the United States stand firmly beside our oldest ally, France. We mourn those lost and pray for their families. And we are united with all Parisians as they unite against this senseless violence.”

Rep. Mike Coffman, unfortunately, couldn’t resist taking a potshot at the Obama administration on FOX News:

From Sen. Laura Woods, set to compete in Colorado’s hottest state senate race next year, more or less full-blown panic:

And don’t even get Jonathan Lockwood of leading local conservative group Advancing Colorado started:

Really, please don’t get him started:

It should be noted that the latter outburst from Lockwood is apparently in response to President Barack Obama arriving a few minutes late for a moment of silence in honor of victims at the G-20 conference in Turkey. To characterize Mr. Lockwood’s reaction to that minor infraction as over the top is a considerable understatement.

It’s not our intention to belittle any genuine shock felt over the terrorist attacks in Paris, which given the nature of events there is to a significant degree completely understandable. We understand that an attack of this magnitude will certainly be a factor in many debates about American policy, and the role of Colorado politicians in shaping that policy. The number of current stories this event affects that we’ve been talking about in this space range from the debate over the threat posed by ISIS to the transfer of detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to facilities in Colorado.

But there is some rhetoric that, we should all be able to agree, simply does not help anybody.

Klingenschmitt says Gardner is doing the “Bob and Weave Dance”

(Finally some fireworks in the race to succeed Bill Cadman – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt likes to come out swinging at his various targets, including, now, his Republican opponent for state senate, Rep. Bob Gardner.

Showing off his media skills, Klingenschmitt posted an entertaining video today, labeling Gardner a “liberal” and featuring Gardner doing the “Bob and Weave Dance.”

Klingenschmitt: My opponent for the race for State Senate District 12, Bob Gardner, has just started performing this Bob and Weave Dance to perfection! Here’s a quick example. If you’re following this Colorado Springs election, you know we’re both Republicans. And I’m actually conservative and Bob Gardner is a liberal who pretends to be a conservative.

Klingenschmitt’s undercover video features Gardner saying he supports the principles of liberty, but Chaps points to the Principle of Liberty website, which lists Gardner as receiving an F in 2013 2014.

“Don’t believe ratings systems that are odd, distorted,” Gardner apparently says in Chaps’ undercover video.

Chaps calls that statement an examaple of the Bob and Weave Dance–and he wants an apology from Gardner for allegedly calling Chaps a liar.

Chaps concludes with, “Unlike you, Mr. Bob-and-Weave Gardner, I don’t dance.” (But we know Chaps does throw poop.)

County Commissioner again accuses Obama of promoting charter schools with ties to Turkish cleric

(What a swell primary this is going to be – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.

El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.

A Colorado Springs county commissioner, who’s considering entering the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, is again alleging that President Obama backed a national education program, in part, as a way to establish U.S. charter schools linked to a Turkish Islamic cleric.

“One of the reasons that President Obama was actually looking at and amenable and actually kind of agreeable to, if you will, Common Core was, that would be a way to influence and infiltrate and open up charter schools to able to have the Fethullah Gulen charter schools, which were bringing teachers over from Turkey,” said El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton Monday on KLZ 560-AM.

Littleton did not cite her evidence for this, but it reflects what she said at a conservative conference in March, as reported by Scott Keyes of ThinkProgress.  It’s not clear what Common Core, which is an education curriculum, has to do with establishing charter schools in the United States.

Followers of the reclusive Gulen, many with Turkish ties, have opened charter schools worldwide over the past decade, including over 100 in the U.S.  They focus on math and science, in keeping with Gulen’s notion that devout Muslims should not teach religion but science instead. “Studying physics, mathematics, and chemistry is worshipping God,” he sermonizes, according to a CBS investigation.

CBS discussed allegations that the Gulen schools are exploiting foreign-born teachers and the charter-school system for profit–and that the schools are secretly “promoting an Islamic agenda.”

CBS interviewed a teacher who claimed she was exploited, but CBS couldn’t confirm these accusations regarding Islam, reporting that “we looked into this and Islam is not taught at all.”

But Littleton implies that religious education is taking place at a Colorado charter school, which she allegedly visited, with ties to Gulen.

Littleton: “When I went in, it was apparent to me that the some of the pictures and things had been taken off in the walls. And they practiced, you know, some of the Muslim practices that are taught in the Koran, is what I observed when I was there.”

In March, Littleton told ThinkProgress that these charter schools teach students to “hate Americans.” This may or may not connect with her belief, expressed at a Alliance Defending Freedom Conference in July in Colorado Springs, that churches should prepare to “respond biblically” to disasters like “martial law.”  Anyway, when I hear back from Littleton, I’ll ask her about this, too.


Gitmo Follies: The Sheriff Who Wouldn’t Sign

La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith.

La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith.

In our discussion of the campaign promise by President Barack Obama to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and settle the status of the remaining 112 “enemy combatants” imprisoned there since the Bush administration, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out the Durango Herald’s report yesterday–about La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith, and his decision not to sign a letter penned by right-wing Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith (no close relation we know of) opposing the transfer of any Gitmo detainees to federal facilities in Colorado:

On Monday, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith made public the petition, which states the sheriffs are “concerned that utilizing current civilian prisons in our state would significantly – and unnecessarily – endanger our citizens.”

The letter goes on to say that housing the detainees from Guantanamo, started in 2002 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, would attract terrorist “sympathizers who would mount an attack … or commit other acts of terror.”

“[Sean Smith:]…We’re very far removed from it. I’m focused on what’s going on with the citizens in our county. If I felt like it would create adverse risks for us, I would get involved.”

Supermax already holds some of the nation’s most dangerous terrorists, including Ted Kaczynski, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Ramzi Yousef, who coordinated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. [Sean] Smith said the presence of those high-profile criminals has never posed a danger to La Plata County.

County sheriffs from all corners of our state signed Justin Smith’s letter. The letter cited a range of concerns from the logistics of transporting the detainees to the risk that the facilities might be subject to terrorist attack. But as this story does a better job of pointing out than many other recent reports, Colorado is already host to some of the world’s worst terrorists at the Florence “Supermax” federal prison.

The other problem with the sheriffs’ objections to transferring Gitmo detainees to Colorado is, as La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith points out like Captain Obvious, that Colorado is a really big state, and most of it is not anywhere near anything relevant to this question. La Plata County has nothing to fear–and neither does Sedgwick County or Mesa County. Or Routt County or Yuma County or…you get the idea, right?

In its way, all of these dozens of elected politician county sheriffs signing this letter, including many whose jurisdiction would be in no way adversely impacted by the transfer of Gitmo detainees to Colorado, betrays an underlying political motive that significantly undermines their credibility. After all, Sheriff Justin Smith was one of the ringleaders in the so-far unsuccessful Independence Institute-powered lawsuit by many county sheriffs against the 2013 gun safety bills–along with former El Paso County Sheriff “Shirtless” Terry Maketa, who we’re not supposed to talk about now that the county is settling the lawsuits left in his wake.

Anyway, with Larimer County’s Sheriff Smith making headlines with his splashy but meaningless letter, we wanted to acknowledge this act of profound sensibility by La Plata County’s Sheriff Smith. Our sheriffs in Colorado may be politicians, but they don’t always have to act like it.

Ryan Frazier is Running for Senate, For Some Reason

UPDATE #2: Local conservative blog Colorado Peak Politics is very excited about the diversity of the growing field of GOP Senate candidates–perhaps a bit too much so? Their post on Ryan Frazier’s entry into the race originally stated:

Republicans now have recruited two blacks, [Pols emphasis] one Hispanic, a woman (maybe), and a fresh face (maybe)…

Since edited to read:

Republicans now have recruited two black guys, [Pols emphasis] one Hispanic, a woman (maybe), and a fresh face (maybe)…

We assume because we stopped referring to African-Americans as “the blacks,” you know, several decades ago. This is the same blog that assigned the label “Hispanic” to a candidate from Calcutta, India last year, so we guess this racial stuff just isn’t their strong suit.

We’re happy they’re happy, though.


Who has one thumb up and no chance at winning a U.S. Senate race? This guy.

Who has one thumb up and no chance at winning a U.S. Senate race? This guy.

UPDATE: This is Ryan Frazier in a nutshell. His campaign announcement video says that “after nearly 8 years, Senator Michael Bennet has only made things worse for you.”

Um, Bennet was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2009. Math is not our best subject, either, but we’re pretty sure that 2015 minus 2009 equals not eight.


Politics is often a discussion about possibility and potential, largely because there are so few certainties that we can rely upon in our arguments.

And then there is Ryan Frazier.

The former Aurora city council member has reportedly decided to enter the Republican field for U.S. Senate in 2016, telling 9News that he will kick off his campaign with a video announcement on Thursday.

It would be hard to get too excited about his candidacy if you are a Republican, because we already know what happens when Frazier runs for higher office: He loses, badly. Frazier’s last two campaigns (CD-7 in 2010 and Aurora Mayor in 2011) both ended with double-digit losses, and 2010 was a very good year to be a Republican candidate.

Colorado Pols first reported back in August that Frazier was having discussions about a potential Senate run, but we were skeptical that he might really jump in the race; we didn’t think we’d ever see Frazier running for another office after his second consecutive drubbing in 2011. Here’s what we wrote back on Aug. 12 when we first heard that Frazier might be considering a run for Senate:

We don’t have many details on the “Frazier for Senate” rumor, but in some ways, it almost doesn’t even matter if the story is true or not. If anybody is seriously considering getting behind Frazier in 2016, it is a clear indication that Republicans are essentially conceding the seat to incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

Late last month, Frazier left his part-time “political analyst” position at 9News because he was apparently getting serious about the Senate race, but even then we had a hard time taking the story too seriously. Ryan Frazier is not good at running for office, and we doubt he could even win a Primary against state Sen. Tim Neville. Check that — Frazier will not beat Neville in a GOP Primary.

It is unclear who exactly is behind the idea of a Frazier campaign for Senate, but this isn’t going to end well for him.

Gitmo: How the Denver Post Endorses Against Itself

(We couldn’t have said this any better – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

UPDATE: Liberal group ProgressNow Colorado calls on all sides to step up and do what needs to be done to close Gitmo:

“Our nation’s reputation as a moral leader in world affairs has been severely damaged by the illegal imprisonment without trial of hundreds of people rounded up by the Bush administration in the months after the 9/11 terror attacks,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “Closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center was a campaign promise made by President Obama eight years ago, and it’s the right thing to do today. Colorado already has some of the world’s worst terrorists imprisoned at the Supermax facility in Florence. There is no greater danger to Coloradans from transferring Gitmo detainees to our state, and we [have] so much to gain from doing away with one of the worst examples of abuse of basic human rights in American history.”

“Republicans attacking the President for trying to close Gitmo’s detention center are hoping to cover up an ugly history of torture and imprisonment without trial that they themselves share guilt for,” said Runyon-Harms. [Pols emphasis] “But it is also very disappointing that so few Democrats in Colorado are willing to stand with our President and do our part to end the shame the Guantanamo Bay prison has brought on our nation. As a Coloradan, I am not afraid of doing the right thing to restore America’s good name in the world. It’s time for our leaders on both sides to summon up the backbone needed to close Gitmo–and restore the rule of law to American foreign policy.”


Gitmo detainees.

Gitmo detainees.

When the Denver Post editorialized last September that politicians like Sen. Cory Gardner were fear-mongering on the closure of the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, I remember telling a few liberal friends, who were forwarding the piece around, that one of two things would happen next: 1) the Denver Post would likely file it away and then avert their eyes when Gardner didn’t change course; or 2) the editorial board would figure out a way to give Gardner political cover.

Well look no further than Wednesday’s editorial on Guantanamo to see Option 2 on full display. Every politician who by the Post’s own description had been engaging in “baseless hysteria” and “nonsense” gets one more tsk-tsk before the attention gets turned to the Obama administration for merely considering other options before announcing a plan.

You instantly grasp the intended effect of today’s editorial by the glee with which the Gardner and RNC flacks began promoting the story after it went online late Tuesday. The Post stood silent for nearly two months as Gardner and congressional Republicans jammed the Gitmo issue into the must-pass defense authorization bill, against the Post’s own editorial position, before wading in again after the legislative fight was over.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

The editorial is a bit of a repeat of a move the Post made last March when they wrapped Gardner across the knuckles in an editorial short for “grandstanding” on the Iran deal by signing an open letter to the mullahs, then inexplicably followed up with a much longer piece the very next day to dismiss the whole controversy as not a big deal.

This is classic “centrism” from an editorial perspective, but timed to give Gardner the outcome he wants. The Post can “deplore” the politicians who blocked Guantanamo’s closure in Congress, but the headline is reserved for the president trying to act. And nothing the editorial board “deplores” ever threatens to affect the process determining the newspaper’s endorsements.


Seize this Opportunity to Reform 1872 Public Lands Mining Law

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Senator Micheal Bennet joined with several of his counterparts to introduce mining reform legislation that could help avert future events like the Gold King spill.

Lost in election news, perhaps, and over-coverage of the 2016 horse race, there was not enough attention paid to a significant development in the decades-long effort to reform the antiquated law still governing hardrock mining on America’s public lands.

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) joined his New Mexican counterpart Senator Tom Udall, and others, to introduce legislation that would begin to reform the General Mining Law of 1872 that still governs this activity on public lands. The release from Sen. Bennet’s website states:

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) along with Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced a bill to reform the nation’s antiquated hardrock mining laws. The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2015 will ensure mining companies pay royalties for the privilege of extracting mineral resources from public lands.

The recent tragic mishap that led to the spill of acidic mine water into the Animas River has drawn new attention to the legacy left behind from tens of thousands of abandoned hardrock mines around the West.

Gold King mine above Silverton dumped a load of acidic mine waste into Cement Creek and the Animas River, when a colossal error by the U.S. EPA breached the dike holding back the toxic water.

Unlike oil and gas or coal gotten off the public lands, which are subject to royalty fees that go to the U.S. treasury, hardrock mining–which includes uranium, gold, silver, copper, molybdenum, etc.–is not subject to such a payment back to the American people that own the public lands.

And since hardrock mining pays no royalty there are no funds specifically earmarked to address the mess historic mining left behind. The reform legislation will help make sure that taxpayers are not left to pay for cleaning up these abandoned mining sites, as the Senator’s release notes:

The bill helps ensure that taxpayers aren’t on the hook for cleaning up abandoned mines, many of which are continuously leaking toxic chemicals into rivers and streams and have the potential for catastrophic disasters like the recent Gold King Mine blowout. The Gold King Mine accident spilled 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers, and communities in New Mexico and Colorado are still struggling to recover from the impact to businesses, farms, and local governments.

In 1872 there was bipartisan support to fulfill the “manifest destiny” to complete the settlement and development of the West. In the wake of this mania, tens of thousands of mines now lie abandoned across the American West. And now there are towns and populations settled across the region.


Get More Smarter on Thursday (Nov. 12)

Get More SmarterSo much for that snow. 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 Marco Rubio has been maniacally tap-dancing around the issue of immigration reform, and his latest “position” on the issue is pretty damn far from the Senate legislation that he once drafted in 2013. This is obviously a political problem for Rubio, but as he backs away from his own policy ideas, he’s leaving other Republicans with nowhere to turn. We’re looking at you, Rep. Mike Coffman.

► We might need another clown car. Republican Ryan Frazier is running for U.S. Senate, and fellow Republican Jon Keyser is also close to joining the fracas. Neither candidate can likely defeat state Sen. Tim Neville in a GOP Primary.

Meanwhile, incumbent Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday. The meeting is significant, because Bennet’s support of President Obama’s Iran policy has caused plenty of tension with the AIPAC crowd.

Get even more smarter after the jump…


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…


Independent journalism in Colorado takes another hit

After failing to find enough foundation money to save her nonprofit news organization, Health News Colorado, Diane Carman concluded that if she’d switched directions and begun practicing advocacy journalism, instead of continuing the independent reporting her project prided itself on, she could likely have raised enough money to keep going.

Instead, Health News Colorado folded last month, after  five years of taking shots from both the left and right. But it was praised by the Columbia Journalism Review and others for its detailed reporting, often covering major health-policy developments that were completely overlooked by other Colorado news outlets.

“You step on everybody’s toes when you are an objective journalism organization,” said Carman, who was editor and founder of Health News Colorado. “Everybody got burned a little bit at some point, because we took the role of watchdog seriously. So, when you do that, it makes it really easy for people to say, ‘I’m not so sure we have the money for that this year.’ I never got the impression we were being censored. There was never an impression of that. But I do feel that if we had been willing to cross over into the advocacy world, that we would still be alive.”

The beginning of the end for Health News Colorado came about a year and a half ago, when the Colorado Health Foundation, which covered 50 percent of Health News’ operating budget, told Carman to expect to be cut loose in September of 2015, according to Carman.

Initially, it looked like things might work out, because Kaiser Health News, a national organization that funds local reporting on health issues, appeared serious about absorbing Colorado Health News, if it could show community commitment by securing two years of local funding in advance of Kaiser taking over.

Carman jumped into fundraising.

“We got support in small amounts from a whole lot of new funders, but two of our biggest funders, the Piton Foundation and the Colorado Health Foundation, said they wouldn’t continue to support us. They both were moving in new directions and nonprofit journalism was not on their priority list anymore.”

So Carman started looking for corporate donations, and believe it or not, after a summer of knocking on doors, she’d secured close to two years’ worth of funding, she said.

But then a vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, who’d at first supported the corporate approach, delivered the crushing news that his board of directors was not comfortable with corporate funding for Health News Colorado. Only nonprofit foundations and donations were good enough. (This, from a foundation named Kaiser?)

“After really pouring it on for four months this summer, I just couldn’t come up with the dough,” said Carman. “So we shut it down.”

“It was a disappointment, because after five years, we had a solid readership,” said Carman, best known for 18 years as an editor and columnist at The Denver Post. “We had one story in July that got over a half million hits. We were routinely getting 20,000 or 25,000 hits on stories. We’d finally crossed into that area that nonprofit journalism wants to be in, where you have a strong following and people know where you are. It was kind of pathetic that when we were beginning to get some real traction, we couldn’t get the money to continue.”

If you follow health care coverage in Colorado, you can’t help but wonder whether Health News Colorado’s reporting, including its stories highlighting problems with Colorado’s health exchange, might have pissed off the Colorado Health Foundation and moved it to dump the nonprofit news outfit from its portfolio.

Carman has nothing but good things to say about the Colorado’s Health Foundation’s multi-year support, and she believes they just moved in a different direction, as foundations are known to do. A few calls I made confirm this.

Laura Frank, President and General Manager of News for Rocky Mountain PBS, told me that a three-year Colorado Health Foundation grant her PBS nonprofit journalism project expired in July and was not renewed, due to the foundation’s changed priorities.

“Foundations have what I call FADD, Foundation Attention Deficit Disorder,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder of EdNews Colorado and Chalkbeat, two nonprofit news sites. “Foundations are constantly changing their strategic priorities. It’s a never-ending process.”

Gottlieb argues that nonprofit journalism entities, like Chalkbeat, should receive sustained funding and be seen as a “cultural benefit” like a museum. “But foundations don’t see it that way and move on,” says Gottlieb.

Locally, both the Piton Foundation and Daniels Fund have recently stopped funding journalism, he says.

“To sustain local journalism, we have to continually find new funders,” he says. “We need to have many funders instead of relying on just one.”

Frank, who’s on the board of the Institute for Nonprofit News, agrees. And she shares Carman’s view that advocacy journalism is easier to fund.

“In general, finding funding for fact-based, independent journalism is more difficult than for advocacy journalism,” says Frank. “But our [Institute for Nonprofit News] members don’t do advocacy journalism. They’re more likely to get funding from smaller donors, people who give $100 to $200 a year, and that takes time to grow. And it’s difficult for a small organization.”

Frank’s I-News is associated with Rocky Mountain PBS, so it’s easier for her “backfill” the loss of grants  with membership funding, she says.

But that’s not a luxury Health News Colorado had.

Carman, who’s looking for an organization to house Health News Colorado’s regularly-searched archives, has a few ideas on how her news site might have survived, had things been structured differently.

First, Colorado Health News was part of the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs, which was a key player in helping launch the project. But there were problems with this situation.

“As an employee of the University, I couldn’t just go out and raise money anywhere I could find it within the foundation world,” said Carman. “You don’t want someone who’s raising money for Health News Colorado to get the only grant from some big foundation and be getting a $50,ooo grant for a year and that precludes the university from getting a $2 million grant for the medical school. So you have to go through the process to decide who’s going to get what money in which cycle. And we were such a small operation that we really couldn’t wait two years.”

Carman describes this as a “very reasonable and logical University policy,” but it didn’t help her sustain the news organization.

She said news sites can maintain their editorial independence, as hers did, and “survive and thrive” as part of universities, but some do training programs for journalism students or play other roles that give them an ongoing base of financial support from the university—which Colorado Health News never got from CU Denver, outside of some office space, administrative support, and liability insurance. But no operating funds.

The association with the School of Public Affairs limited fundraising in other ways. “For all the obvious and good reasons, the university has strict policies about how you bring in money for projects,” said Carman. “So we were never in a position to solicit sponsorships like public radio does.”  Even the development of a job board wouldn’t fly, she said.

Carman points out that journalism entities similar to Health News Colorado more often than not “live on the edge.” So it’s hard to say in hindsight what would have worked for sure.

It’s easier to see what will be lost.

Carman says, and it makes total sense given the state of Colorado journalism, that Health News Colorado reporter Katie Kerwin McCrimmon was the only reporter to cover virtually every meeting of Connect for Colorado, the Colorado healthcare exchange.

“She studied that stuff,” Carman said of McCrimmon, who’s now doing public relations work. “It’s complex. She spent lot of time on it. You can’t pick it up by dropping in on every couple of months.”

It’s safe to say, in the coming years with Colorado Health News gone and funds flowing to advocacy journalism, you’ll find a progressive journalist like me (or worse, a conservative one) at those obscure meetings–instead of a real journalist like McCrimmon. If there’s any journalist there at all. And I can assure you, we won’t be better off.

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.