Once Again, So Much For That Blowout

You can look now.

It’s okay, you can look now.

With the dust settling on the 2014 midterm elections in Colorado, an election that undeniably gave beleaguered Republicans in this state victories to be proud of, a more accurate picture of this year's electorate is emerging. As we've noted in the days since as Gov. John Hickenlooper's narrow re-election and Democrats' surrender of only one chamber of the legislature by only one seat gave them reasons to cheer, the high water mark for the GOP in a year where everything was operating in their favor basically amounted to a draw–a split at the top of the ticket, and split control of the legislature by the same single-seat margin the Republicans managed in 2010.

On Election Night, the early returns in Colorado didn't reflect Democratic strongholds that were counting late into the night. As a result, the numbers in Colorado for television audiences fed the national narrative of a Republican wipeout–and excited reporters and local Republicans were only too happy to reinforce this generalization. But in Colorado, we know now that was not the whole story. The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels notes in her story this weekend about the small-ball success of Cory Gardner's field campaign:

Because many of the early returns involved GOP ballots, the initial tally showed voters kicking out Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper [in addition to Udall], and going for Republican Bob Beauprez — but the governor prevailed.

Hickenlooper won by 3.1 percentage points, Gardner by 2.1 percentage points, according to the latest ballot tallies. That's a far different narrative than initial reports showing Gardner with a resounding lead and the governor winning in a squeaker. [Pols emphasis]

And Burt Hubbard, writing for Rocky Mountain PBS, is even more blunt:

Viewers watching Colorado returns on Election Night received a skewed impression of just how results were going at the top of the ticket.

While Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner appeared to be beating Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall in a landslide, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez looked to be edging Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in a race that remained too close at midnight to call.

But with Denver and Adams counties still counting a small number of ballots Friday morning, Hickenlooper held a wider margin over Beauprez, 49 percent to 46 percent, than Gardner did over Udall, 48.4 percent to 46 percent. Each was different than first perceived as a result of slow vote counting in the Democratic strongholds of Denver and Boulder.

Fewer than 40,000 voters in seven key Colorado counties were the difference between a clean Republican Party sweep of all statewide offices, and both Hickenlooper and Udall holding onto their seats, according to an analysis by Rocky Mountain PBS I-News. [Pols emphasis]

Everything we talk about in this space about competing campaign narratives in this election, Mark Udall's mistakes, Sen.-elect Cory Gardner's audacious no-apologies political reinvention that proved stronger than any mechanism for accountability that exists in today's politics–all of this matters a great deal, and teach lessons about how to win for both sides. But as we said last week when nobody wanted to hear it, 2014 really could have been a lot worse for Colorado Democrats, and they deserve credit for holding back what proved to be an even stronger Republican national wave than 2010 was. Democrats have many mistakes to learn from, but the idea that this election has somehow vanquished them, or changed the blue-trending political dynamics in this state enough for Democrats to lose heart about 2016, simply has no basis in reality.

Kudos to the media for revisiting the Election Night spin, which didn't stand the test of time.

Republicans Concede Colorado House, Still Awaiting Senate

colorado-state-capitol

The Denver Post's John Aguilar reports:

Republican officials conceded Friday morning that they won't be able to gain enough seats to take majority control of the Colorado House.

They have scheduled elections to choose minority leadership positions at 1 p.m. Friday.

House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, said he was gratified the party picked up at least three seats after being down 37-28 in the last legislative session…

GOP House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso's statement reads less like a concession and more like the next talk-radio conspiracy theory:

“This election we had an uphill battle. Democrats gerrymandered the house district maps, rammed through their highly-partisan election laws, and out spent us 3-1. The fact that we picked up at least three seats and came less than 500 votes from gaining control of the House is a great success.

“In this election, almost 190,000 more Coloradans chose to vote for a House Republican instead of a House Democrat. That difference is more than three times the margin of victory in Colorado’s gubernatorial race, but shockingly still not enough to secure the House majority.”

Apparently Rep. DelGrosso didn't get the memo that Colorado's "highly partisan election law" didn't hurt Republicans in the least–but again, talking points are almost always a few months behind events. And before anyone gets carried away with this latest bit of "treacherous Democrat gerrymandering" apocrypha, understand that there were a significant number of uncontested races this year that shrink the number of Republican votes actually cast against Democrats to a much smaller figure.

Since the mail ballot fraud conspiracy doesn't appear to have lived up to billing, it's good to see that gerrymandering is there as a fallback for Peter Boyles listener community!

In other news, counting continues at a snail's pace in Adams County, where the unexpectedly pivotal SD-24 race remains undecided–and with it, whether Democrats will have undivided control of the Colorado General Assembly. We'll update as further results come in today–the latest word is that Judy Solano is still closing on Republican Beth Humenik with about 6,500 ballots left to count. Depending on how close the final count there is, the allowed time for problem ballots to be "cured," and potentially a recount, may apply.

Both Legislative Chambers Await Final Count

UPDATE #3: Denver Post's John Aguilar reporting, likely no result in SD-24 today as counting continues in Adams County:

The ballots continued to churn in Adams County Thursday morning and the state continued to wait for answers on which party will control the statehouse in January.

County spokesman Jim Siedlecki said there are still around 20,000 ballots to tally and completing the count could stretch into Friday, due to write-in ballots and duplicate checks.

—–

UPDATE #2: A press release from the Colorado House Democratic Majority Office:

"We are waiting for all of the votes to be counted in these districts, but we are optimistic at this point that Colorado voters have granted us a governing majority," said Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino.   "We appreciate the confidence that Coloradans have in State House Democrats." 

"It looks like Colorado, despite the political headwinds, once again stood tall against a remarkable nationwide surge by Republicans,” Speaker Mark Ferrandino continued.  "The GOP wave lost its energy when it crashed against Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.”
 
With new results from Arapahoe County coming in late last night that put incumbent Daniel Kagan ahead of his Republican challenger by more than 400 votes, 33 Democrats are now winning House seats.  Additionally, there are votes — in some instances numbering in the thousands — still outstanding in other close races.     
 
 “The voters are sending us back to the statehouse to build on the progress Colorado made in 2013 and 2014, when we helped make our state safer, healthier and more prosperous,” said Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst. "I'm extremely proud of the work all our candidates did.  Regardless of the outcome of these races, our House Democrats did amazing work, both at the capitol and in their districts during the campaign, and I am tremendously proud of and grateful to all of them for their tireless dedication to our state."

“I also want to congratulate my new and incoming Republican colleagues in the House and Senate," continued Rep. Hullinghorst.  "When the new session convenes next January, I look forward to working with an excellent class of legislators from both political parties, and of course our Governor, John Hickenlooper, to continue moving this state forward.” 

—–

UPDATE: FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Tuesday night’s Republican wave has stopped just short of taking out Colorado’s Democratic governor and, it now appears, the party’s House majority as well…

Adams County is also likely to settle which party will control the state senate, where Democrats are still clinging to hope that they can retain their 18-17 majority.

The Senate District 24 race will likely be the difference maker, with Democrats and Republicans already having battled to a draw in the other competitive races.

At the moment, former Rep. Judy Solano is trailing Republican Beth Martinez-Humenik by 1,073 votes in the battle to replace the term-limited Democrat Sen. Lois Tochtrop.

It’s possible several thousand ballots have yet to be tabulated in Adams County, enough to leave the outcome of that race in doubt.

—–

Judy Solano.

Judy Solano.

As the Colorado Independent's Lisa Greim reports this morning:

By late Wednesday, Republicans had an unofficial 18-17 lead in Senate seats and Democrats a tentative 33-32 advantage in the House. Adams County planned to wrap up its count on Thursday, leaving two House races and one Senate race still too close to call.

Democrats breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday night when Rep. Daniel Kagan eked out a win in HD-3. “Thanks to Daniel Kagan the Colorado House will stay with the Ds,” former House Speaker Terrance Carroll tweeted.

There will be recounts. There may be surprises among ballots that need to be examined by election judges or sent back to voters to verify their identity or double-check a signature…

Three incumbent Democrats still trail their Republican challengers in Adams County, including Sen. Judy Solano in SD-24, who trails Republican challenger Beth Martinez Humenik by about 1,100 votes. Rep. Jenise May was behind opponent JoAnn Windholz by about 450 votes in HD-30.

In HD-31, incumbent Rep. Joseph Salazar was closing the gap with Republican challenger Carol Beckler, whose lead narrowed Wednesday night to 126 votes.

With Daniel Kagan pulling ahead in House District 3 and Su Ryden stabilizing in Aurora's House District 36, it's increasingly likely that Democrats will hold the Colorado House. In the Senate, with the SD-5 race on the West Slope called for Democrats it's a question of the extremely close Jefferson County Senate races and the SD-24 race in Adams County. The latest word we have is that Judy Solano is closing the gap slowly as the agonizingly slow count goes on.

We'll update as more information comes in–which should be later today.

Colorado Democrats Ride Out Republican Wave Yet Again

Colorado rides the GOP wave again

Colorado Democrats rode out another national Republican wave and maintained control under the Capitol dome.

Republicans claimed big victories across the country in the infamous Tea Party Wave year of 2010…everywhere, that is, but in Colorado. Democrats lost seats in Congress and in the state legislature that year, but Sen. Michael Bennet was the only Democratic Senate candidate in the country to withstand a strong Republican challenge (from then-Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck), and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper was swept into the Governor's Mansion with relative ease.

While not quite on par with 2010, the 2014 election turned out to be another big national wave year for Republicans…but Colorado Democrats again appear to have bucked the national trends to avoid electoral collapse. Democrats were certainly dealt a blow with Republican Cory Gardner knocking off incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, and Rep. Mike Coffman's re-election victory over Democrat Andrew Romanoff in CD-6; but as the full picture comes into focus on Wednesday, Democrats are finding that the political landscape still looks much better than it does in many other states.

Democrat John Hickenlooper has held off Republican Bob Beauprez to claim a second term as Governor, and it appears likely that Democrats will maintain control of both chambers of the state legislature. In the State Senate, Democrats reclaimed both of the seats lost in the 2013 recall election (SD-3 and SD-11). Votes are still being counted, but if Democrats do indeed maintain control of the legislature, this is a pretty impressive feat considering how the Republican wave decimated Democrats in other states. For example:

In New Mexico, Democrats were beaten soundly throughout the state, losing seats in both chambers of the state legislature (though Mark Udall's cousin, Sen. Tom Udall, won re-election as expected). In Pennsylvania, Democrats picked up the Governor's office, but in a solid-blue state Democrats lost 8 seats in the State House and 3 in the State Senate. In Arizona, Republicans elected a new Governor and picked up seats in both chambers of the state legislature. Florida Democrats lost the Governor's race and dropped seats in both chambers of the legislature. Even Minnesota had mixed results, getting hammered in the state legislature despite holding seats for Governor and U.S. Senate.

As "The Fix" explains today, the national environment for Democrats was really, really, really bad:

Democrats started off the 2014 cycle with a bad national map and it got worse and worse as people like Max Baucus (Mont.), Tim Johnson (S.D.) and Jay Rockefeller (W. Va.) retired.  Democrats were defending seven states where Mitt Romney won in 2012; they lost six with a seventh — Louisiana — headed toward a hard-to-win runoff on Dec. 6.  And, Democrats three best pickup chances were in states that gave Obama 46 percent (Georgia), 38 percent (Kansas) and 38 percent (Kentucky) of the vote in 2012.

It's hard to see what else the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee could have done to hold back the tide — even if Mark Udall won in Colorado and the party won the Iowa open seat they would have still lost the majority — given the states lined up against them. [Pols emphasis]

To be sure, the 2014 election did not turn out exactly like Democrats had hoped it might, but you could say the same thing for Republicans today. With both parties expecting Democrats to have an advantage in 2016, there's more than one silver lining as the final 2014 ballots are counted.

 

Will Democrats Hold Both General Assembly Chambers?

UPDATE: Via the Denver Business Journal, ballot counting in Adams County is agonizingly slow due to write-in votes in a countywide race. As a result, they may not be done counting until tomorrow:

County officials had about 25,000 ballots left to count when they went home at 2 a.m. Wednesday, Siedlecki said. Clerk's office workers and judges returned at 9 a.m. this morning but have the capacity only to count between 15,000 and 20,000 ballots per day, meaning that the tallying is likely to stretch into Thursday, he said.

"There also were a large number of ballots turned in Monday and Tuesday," Siedlecki said, noting that added to the delay.

Hanging in the balance are one Senate race and two House races that likely will determine which parties control each of the legislative chambers…

The delay of results could delay elections for legislative leadership positions, including House speaker and Senate president. Those elections typically take place on the Thursday morning after the election but may have to be postponed if it remains unclear which party leads one or both of the chambers.

—–

colorado-state-capitol

Last's night's despair as Democrats suffered wide-ranging losses both in Colorado and nationally is giving way to cautious hope this morning that Colorado Democrats may, in addition to holding the Governor's Mansion, narrowly retain control of the Colorado Senate and House. FOX 31:

Though the GOP takeover swept across the nation on Tuesday, two pro-gun Republican recall winners who helped start the shift of power in Colorado before election season lost their seats in the state Senate Tuesday night, leaving control of that crucial chamber still up for grabs Wednesday morning.

If Democrats were to retain their majority in the state Senate, they would control that chamber as well as the state House and governor’s office, with FOX31 Denver calling that tight race in favor of John Hickenlooper Wednesday morning.

Before Tuesday’s election, Democrats held an 18-17 edge in the state Senate, with 18 seats up for grabs. If the races concluded where they stood as of 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, Democrats would retain that one-seat majority.

Two of the seats that changed hands Tuesday night once belonged to pro-gun recall winners Bernie Herpin, R-Colorado Springs, and George Rivera, R-Pueblo, both of whom lost their races by relatively large margins in Districts 11 and 3, respectively.

In the House, a couple of Adams County Democrats came up unexpectedly short, with Joe Salazar and Jenise May narrowly trailing underdog Republican opponents. It's since been reported that thousands of ballots remain uncounted in both Adams County and Jefferson County, quite possibly enough to flip those two House races back to Democrats in addition to boosting Democratic Senate candidates in tight Jeffco races. On the West Slope, SD-5 Democratic candidate Kerry Donovan is narrowly ahead of Republican Don Suppes–another vital bulwark against a Republican takeover of the Senate.

In short? Watch this space, because between John Hickenlooper's re-election and this developing situation, there's a chance the gloating by state-level Republicans last night was a little premature.

Fake Health Care Cancellation Letters Hit HD-17

There have been so many factually challenged campaign mailers this election season that most voters are inured to their claims–for good or ill, and maybe by design–of some organizations who have purposefully "flooded the zone" with so many shrill claims that voters tune out by sheer volume.

One we were just forwarded today, though, provokes recipients to open it due to a highly deceptive message on the envelope of the mailer, much like those misleading extended warranty offers you get about your car. Check this out:

cancellation

We apologize for the low-quality scan, it's as received. But you can see this mailing from Republican-aligned Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government is intended to mimic a health insurance cancellation notice–the kind that Republicans have grandstanded about for over a year now. The whole narrative of the "335,000 cancellations" in Colorado is deceptive, since over 90% of those "cancellations" were in fact renewal notices, and in truth, the rate of uninsured in Colorado has plummeted since the Affordable Care Act's implementation.

It's not surprising to see the cancellations canard in use, but creating a fake cancellation letter is an awfully deceptive way to get people's attention. We can imagine residents of Colorado HD-17, where this mailer was distributed, genuinely being frightened by this–especially since the real letters sent out about insurance policy changes last year were not worded in nearly as alarming a manner.

RMHP-Aug-letter-p2

We assume this friendly message was not inside the envelope you see above.

Who knows why Rep. Tony Exum is being targeted with a crazy mailer like this at all–elected in 2012, Exum wasn't even in office when either Obamacare passed federally or when Colorado set up our bipartisan health insurance marketplace. But in an election season perhaps more chock-full of false statements than any we can remember, we're probably overanalyzing.

This is just how the game is played now.

Ballot Return Momentum Swinging–Right Now, Right On Cue

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FOX 31's Eli Stokols has smart analysis up today about what's really going on with ballot returns in Colorado:

Much is being made of the Republicans’ voter registration advantage in Colorado’s early voting, which inched from 104,000 Saturday to 106,000 on Sunday, seemingly a sign of yet another contested U.S. Senate battle tilting toward Republicans.

But election observers from Denver to Washington, DC would be wise to pay attention to another figure: that voter registration margin as a percentage of the overall vote.

As more votes come in, what was a 10-point GOP edge last week has slipped a little bit with each new early voting report from the Secretary of State, down to 9.2 percent Thursday, 9 percent Friday, 8.6 percent Saturday and now 7.9 percent Sunday.

As we’ve seen over several election cycles in Colorado, the early voter registration numbers can be deceiving; and the early Election Night returns often reflect few of the ballots cast over the final days of the race, offering little indication of how a race will end.

The last few elections in Colorado have given us a primer on what to expect this year, which is why Democrats have not seemed as nervous as one might expect as the GOP posted an early lead: Republicans reliably get their mail ballots returned promptly, which makes their numbers look good early. But as we approach Election Day, the pattern switches, and Democrats rapidly close the GOP's lead. By Election Night?

Well, based on 2012 and 2010, we know what's likely to happen on Election Night. Democrats outperform the public polls, and win on the strength of their late-inning ground game. And as the New York Times' Nate Cohn reports, that's exactly what's happening–right before our eyes once again.

Registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans by three points over 80,000 received ballots on Saturday. It was the first time that Democrats outpaced Republicans, and it was enough to narrow the Republican advantage to eight points, 40 to 32…

Democratic gains were underpinned by a continuation of the favorable demographic trends that had allowed them to whittle away at the G.O.P.'s percent margin over the last week. Voters under age 45 bumped up to 31 percent of returns.

Voters who didn’t participate in 2010 reached 33 percent of Saturday’s tallies, also a first.

The margin for Democrats to overcome this year is greater these the two previous general elections, but the impact of 100% mail balloting for every registered voter has yet to be fully understood in the context of those prior results. Likewise with same-day voter registration, though that seems very likely to work against Republicans in the same way mail ballots work for the GOP in early returns. The bottom line is that anyone telling you that this election "is over" by any stretch is misleading you for a very specific purpose.

Not only is this election far from over, the same dynamics that brought Democrats victory here in prior years are taking shape as we write this.

Tuesday night, and not a moment before, we'll know if it was enough.

Best Local Journalism of the Election Cycle

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Here's my list of top election-season journalism by local reporters:

Fox 31 Denver's Eli Stokols didn't take Cory Gardner's falsehood for an answer on personhood. And, and in the same five-star interview, he tried harder than any other journalist to get a straight answer from Gardner on the details of his health insurance plan.

Only the Colorado Independent's Susan Greene offered a comprehensive look (with Mike Keefe cartoon) at the extreme right-wing comments of gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez. See Bob Beauprez's Last Eight Years: Conservatism at its Extremes.

The Associated Press' Nick Riccardi explains why senatorial candidate Cory Gardner says he favors immigration reform. And he points out that that Gardner's actual support for reform proposals is limited and illusive.

Corey Hutchins, who writes for a variety of outlets, broke the shocking story on Medium about Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) urging a military revolt against Obama. (Reminder: Our country is at war.)

9News' Brandon Rittiman was the first local journalist to press senatorial candidate Cory Gardner on the hypocrisy of his withdrawing support for state personhood measures but remaining a co-sponsor of a federal personhood bill. Other journalists, besides Stokols and Rittiman, deserve credit for challenging Gardner on this: 9News' Kyle ClarkThe Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby, The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels, and The Durango Herald's Peter Marcus.

(more…)

Rep. Kagan Helps Rescue ISIS-Bound Denver Girls

A sidenote to the riveting story this week about Denver teenage girls who were stopped in Germany on their way to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)–Democratic Rep. Daniel Kagan, who represents Cherry Hills Village in the Colorado House, played a role in the recovery of these teenagers before they made it to the Middle East. It's not a political story but it is an interesting segue into a subject we wouldn't normally discuss in this space. The Denver Post's Jesse Paul reported earlier this week, or you can watch the Post's video above:

"I'm very sure if my daughter crossed into Syria, I was never going to see her in my life," he said. "She would be gone."

It wasn't until he saw tweets and Facebook posts that he connected the dots and discovered she was heading to Syria, he said…

During the search for his teen daughter, the father sought help from state Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village. Kagan, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, pushed the matter up the chain of command.

"He was worried sick," Kagan said Monday. Kagan said as he listened to the man's story, he became extremely concerned.

"This is a girl in a good family with good strong family roots," Kagan said.

If you haven't had the pleasure of getting to know Rep. Kagan, the son of Holocaust survivors who grew up in England before emigrating to the United States almost forty years ago, you ought to. He's one of the most interesting members of the legislature in either party, with stories you don't normally hear in the Colorado capitol building. He's not the type to make political hay out of helping recover these teenage girls, even with elections right around the corner. That too speaks to good character, and we think this deserves a favorable mention.

Ballots drop into the mail; $51,000 from two donors drops to Jefferson County race

Two donors, oil and gas investor Mitchell Solich and mozzarella billionaire James Leprino, dropped a total of $40,000 in late September into the Jefferson County Commissioner race supporting Commissioner Don Rosier over US Marine Lt. Colonel and Delta pilot John Flerlage.  Solich's money is on top of $11,000 he pitched in earlier and $1000 from Solich's business partner Roger Flahive.

 This cold blast to the Democrats shows two things: the impact of unlimited contributions on a race, especially late to the party, and how dicey everything is in Jeffco. Rosier's total campaign dollars at the end of the previous reporting period were $29,808.

 James Leprino pitches $10,000 to Commissioner Rosier
James Leprino's $10,000 comes after the August completion of a $350,000 improvement to his jet hangar at Jefferson County Airport, paid for in a budget supplemental by the county.  The county put $200,000 into fuel line construction and $150,000 into taxi-lane improvements. (See August 5, 2014 report).
 
Mitchell Solich tosses $41,000 to Rosier
Mitchell Solich is senior managing director and Roger Flahive is managing director of SFC Energy Partners.  The company holds many investments in oil and gas development enterprises.

 Solich's late September $30,000 comes just after county commissioners voted on changes to oil and gas set back rules for drilling from 600 feet to 500 feet. The change conforms Jeffco to state regulations, but locals wonder "why now" when the Governor's oil and gas task force will report in March.  

 Voters in south Jeffco will be most affected by drilling, as some early oil and gas exploration is going on behind the Hog Back, near the Ken Caryl Valley in the south on up to Red Rocks and Morrison.  "The Turkey Creek outcrop is oil-saturated," said Dr. Steve Sonnenberg from Colorado School of Mines in an article in the Columbine Courier.  

 Drilling in these areas hits three highly contested Senate seats in addition to the commissioner race:  SD 20 Jahn v Queen, SD 16 Nicholson v Neville, and SD 22 Kerr v Sanchez.  The County owns open space but may or may not own mineral rights, depending on location.

 Rosier was earlier under pressure from south Jeffco voters outraged by a possible flag-pole annexation of Southwest Plaza to the tiny town of BowMar.  Rosier supported the county's further exploration of the deal, but BowMar eventually bowed out.  Rosier also did not step in to protect Chatfield Reservoir from its deployment away from its recreational purpose of 45 years.

 Dems hold candidate campaign funds advantage

Despite this late influx of cash into Jeffco, Democratic state Senate candidates overall have a 3:1 advantage over Republicans running for the legislature.  Republicans, following the GOP Jeffco commissioner race model, have the big pockets of big PACS to do late ads and mail, however.

 Individual Democrats have to spend more time raising money.  But that also puts them in touch with many more voters.  This election cycle tests the logic of the divergent strategies.

 HD-22 Dem candidate Parker has her own strategy
State House candidate Mary Parker, a Democrat in a non-targeted race, is running her own course against Rep. Justin Everett.  She's focusing on Everett's records for the 2014 session:  most NO votes, most missed committee hearings until his party got on him in March, most snoozes, and 49 general assembly tardies over 32 weeks.  Her "Justin Everett Absent" video  on her opponent's late attendance to the House assembly is both funny and not funny.
 
Here's the latest Senate count:
  • 15 Senate seats are to the Republicans  (doesn't include Sens. Herpin and Rivera)
  • 13 Senate seats are to the Dems (includes Garcia)
  • 3 seats are likely Dem:  Merrifield-Herpin ($1.8:1), Jahn-Queen ($4:1), Solano-Humenik ($4:1)
  • 4 seats are up in the air: Zenzinger-Woods/Waters ($2:1); Donovan-Suppes ($1.5:1); Kerr-Sanchez ($2.5:1); Nicholson-Neville ($2:1)
To capture a majority, Republicans need to win 3 of 4 up-in-the-air seats or grab some number of the likely Dem seats.   If Dems carry the 3 likely seats, they need to capture 2 of 4 toss-up seats. 

 Contested Senate races give Dems the edge

Sen. Kerr in SD-22 has a money and campaign experience advantage over Sanchez.  He gets the edge.  The Donovan-Suppes race may turn on some of Suppes' twitter postings on ethnicity and debate statements about the United Nations. 

 The Jeffco Nicholson-Neville and Zenzinger-Woods/Waters races, along with Kerr's and Jahn's, may turn on impacts of the AP history controversy in Jeffco. Neville's wife Barb has helped sharpen her sister's school board message, but that's very bad timing for Neville.

 Right now, the Democratic betting line for state Senate simple majority is 60-40; for a majority of 20-15, it's 50-50.   

 House secure for Dems

The Democratic majority on the House side is secure at 34.  Republicans have 24 safe seats.  The following seats are toss-ups:
  • McLachlan-Brown; money advantage McLachlan, registration advantage Brown; performance advantage McLachlan
  • Primavera-Tinlin; money advantage Primavera; registration even; performance advantage Primavera
Contested House races include:
  • Kagan-Benge; money and performance advantage Kagan; registration even
  • Doyle-Keyser; registration advantage Keyser, party flip advantage Doyle, money close
  • Cronk-Tate; registration advantage Tate, slight money advantage Cronk because of primary
  • Young-Aricayos; registration, performance, and money advantage Young
  • Tyler-Barnes; registration, performance, and money advantage Tyler
  • Parker-Everett; registration and performance advantage Everett; party flip advantage Parker; money close

If “Dr. Chaps” Is “Center Right,” We Are All Screwed

FRIDAY UPDATE: We can't explain the Gazette's milquetoast profile (below) of Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt, but reporter Megan Schrader has reported quite a bit of Klingenschmitt's craziness over the last few months–and posted this latest one late yesterday:

Gordon Klingenschmitt, a Colorado Springs state House candidate who has gotten attention from making controversial statements, told three members of the Colorado Springs lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community he would only meet with them after the election and only if his "security staff" screened the attendees first to determine whether or not it would be a "safe meeting."

Who would be unsafe here, exactly? And are we the only ones who consider it a little freaky that a guy like Klingenschmitt has, you know, "security staff?"

—–

Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Gordon Klingenschmitt.

The Colorado Springs Gazette published a profile of the HD-15 race today, which as our readers know is a longshot bid by Democrat Lois Fornander against the winner of the GOP primary to succeed Rep. Mark Waller in this heavily GOP district, Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt. Even before, but especially since winning his primary, Klingenschmitt has made national press for over-the-top extreme views expressed on his Youtube video program–such as his belief that Obamacare "causes cancer," and the FCC is allowing "demonic spirits" to "visually rape your children." Most recently, Klingenschmitt's claim that Rep. Jared Polis was about to "join ISIS in beheading Christians" provoked condemnation from both sides of the aisle–but no push from Republicans for Klingenschmitt to exit the HD-15 race.

From the read of today's Gazette profile, it looks like the plan is now to sanitize Klingenschmitt, not push him out:

The competition for Colorado House of Representatives District 15 features two newcomers who say their opponent is too extreme…

"He does not represent this district," [Fornander] added. "I don't understand how people can support him."

Voter support, however, looks to be in favor of her challenger [Pols emphasis] for the seat now held by Rep. Mark Waller, a Republican who is not seeking re-election.

…Klingenschmitt, an Air Force Academy graduate, believes his views represent the district, which includes eastern Colorado Springs and Peterson Air Force Base.

He believes local control in education, lower taxes and less regulation for businesses and a protection of constitutional rights are the biggest issues in the upcoming election.

"My opponent is far more extreme on the left than I am in the center right," Klingenschmitt said. [Pols emphasis]

The profile does mention in passing Klingenschmitt's remarks about Rep. Polis, but nothing else from the long list of other objectively crazy things "Dr. Chaps" has said on his show. It's very difficult to take Klingenschmitt's claim that he is part of the "center right" seriously if you know the things he very routinely says. But short of a detailed exposure in the media of those statements before the election, it's just as hard to imagine how Lois Fornander can win in a district with more than twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats.

If that's how it plays out, the real disaster for Republicans may be when "Dr." Chaps is sworn in as Representative Chaps next January.

Big Line Updates: Democrats Appear to Have Slight Advantage

As Election Day gets closer and closer, we're updating The Big Line on a weekly basis. Remember: Percentages listed indicate our view of the win/loss outcome only (we are not attempting to guess margin of victory).

You can always access the full Big Line 2014, but below we provide a bit more detail about our thoughts on various races.
 

U.S. SENATE
Mark Udall (62%)
Cory Gardner (38%)
Senator Mark Udall has seen his momentum slow down of late, but that probably has more to do with the natural tightening of this race as October draws near. Public polling in Colorado has become about as reliable as a Ouija Board, though if the final outcome is within the general margin of error of most voter surveys, the data is largely irrelevant anyway. For Congressman Cory Gardner, the one thing that has yet to change remains his biggest problem: He just has too many bad votes on too many important issues. Gardner's campaign also seems to have no idea how to go after Udall effectively; they've been changing tactics like the rest of us change socks.

When all is said and done (or insert cliche of your choice), we always come back to the same question: If you had to gamble everything you had on predicting the winner of this race, would you really choose Gardner?

Neither would we.

 

GOVERNOR
John Hickenlooper (60%)
Bob Beauprez (40%)

This race continues to be one of the stranger contests we can remember because of its relatively low profile. Republican Bob Beauprez hasn't run a particularly strong, or interesting, campaign thus far — but perhaps it's enough to ask that his campaign doesn't crater as completely as it did in 2006. Governor John Hickenlooper, meanwhile, has been largely invisible for the last few months. No matter how you look at the race, it's hard to envision Beauprez actually ending up in the Governor's Mansion.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL
Cynthia Coffman (51%)
Don Quick (49%)
We've had Quick at the top of the Line for a very long time, so what's different? Nothing, really. In fact, it will be hard (post-election) to explain the outcome of this race no matter what happens in November. If this race were taking place in a bubble, we'd give the edge to Quick. But if Democrats win seats for Senate and Governor, history suggests that voters will split their ballot and pick Republicans for other statewide spots.

 

CD-6
Andrew Romanoff (55%)
Mike Coffman (45%)
There may still be a "Coffman" in elected office come January; for the first time in 25 years, we don't think it will be Mike. In their third debate of the campaign, Democrat Andrew Romanoff completely demolished Congressman Mike Coffman. One debate does not a campaign make (or something like that), but the momentum in this race is unmistakably on the side of Romanoff. Coffman's campaign has been insisting that their guy is ahead in internal polling numbers — just don't ask for proof.


Check out the full Big Line 2014 or comment below.

 

Google Dumps ALEC, Crickets In Colorado

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The Center for Media and Democracy claims another huge win in their years-long campaign to persuade American corporations to stop funding the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)–an organization with deep ties to Colorado Republicans that has somehow managed to evade scrutiny in local press even as nationwide controversy rages about the group's improper influence in state legislative policy.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt said Monday that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is "literally lying" that climate change is not a reality, and that its membership in ALEC "was some sort of mistake."

ALEC stated that it is "unfortunate to learn that the company had ended its membership." Over 80 companies have dropped their membership in ALEC since the Center for Media and Democracy launched ALECexposed.org in 2011…

"I'm curious to know if Google is still supporting ALEC," a caller to the show asked, given the group's promotion of climate change denial and Google's purported commitment to environmentalism.

"Um, we funded them as part of a political [campaign] of something unrelated," Schmidt replied. "I think the consensus within the company was that that was some sort of mistake and so we're trying to not do that in the future…"

"Well, the company has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts — what a shock. And the facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people — they're just, they're just literally lying." [Pols emphasis]

ALEC has faced growing scrutiny and criticism in recent years, with a nationwide campaign launched against the group in the aftermath of the killing of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin–whose killer escaped justice, drawing attention to a law pushed by ALEC in Florida called "Stand Your Ground." ALEC's role in a broad variety of Republican legislation, from "right to work" schemes to school vouchers and everything in between, has further stoked controversy as stakeholders in many states discover how many bad ideas that have become law began life as ALEC "model legislation."

Here in Colorado, ALEC enjoys what we can only call protection, or at least deference, from a local media which has been convinced for whatever reason that ALEC "isn't a story." That bias in the local press has forestalled coverage of ALEC's large footprint in the Colorado General Assembly, even as protests against ALEC raged across the nation and major corporations renounced their ties to the group. Despite all of that, Republicans in Colorado serve proudly in key ALEC positions, once in awhile dubious ALEC model bills even attract Democratic support–and nobody says anything.

This is something we really think ought to change.

Republican “Study Committee” Heads For The Border (Again)

UPDATE: Bonus round–check out this photo from 2010's "fact-finding tour" and tell us how many guns you see.

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From left: 2010 House candidate Chris Holbert, then-Rep. Kent Lambert, Sen. Scott Renfroe, then-Rep. Laura Bradford, 2010 House candidate Janak Joshi, then-Rep. Randy Baumgardner.

A press release this week from the arch-conservative Republican Study Committee of Colorado, a social club for the more right-leaning among Republican legislators in this state, announces they are taking another field trip to the Mexican border. In 2006 and 2010, both years like 2014 when immigration was in the headlines, a gaggle of Republican elected officials and candidates undertook similar border "fact-finding tours."

The Republican Study Committee of Colorado (RSCC) has planned a fact-finding trip to Texas to gain firsthand knowledge of the situation with respect to U.S. border security in southern Texas. In just a few weeks (October 5-7), Colorado legislators plan to meet with representatives from the Texas State Legislature, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Military Forces (Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard, Texas State Guard), and perhaps even some local citizen groups during a brief three-day visit.

"With all of the information and misinformation that we see on the topics of immigration and border security, and what they mean to Colorado citizens, we thought that the best approach would be to go gather some real-time information for ourselves," said RSCC Chairman and State Senator Kevin Lundberg, representing Colorado Senate District 15. 

No taxpayer funds will be used for the trip. 

Republican legislators have a history of traveling to the southern border, having made similar visits in 2006 and again in 2010. For legislators, there have been some things that have changed dramatically, and some that haven't changed much at all. The 2010 trip revealed a porous border, some unsettled locals, increasing criminal activity, and frustrated officials. Local ranchers, veterinarians, and others who used to work regularly with their neighbors on the border had seen a dramatic shift in the nature of activity over the years. 

For some legislators, the place to start is to define just what the issues are. "When people talk about immigration', I think it's important to define what we're talking about. Does that mean Naturalization and citizenship? Does it refer to the movement of labor and capital? Does it refer to national security? Does it refer to criminal activity, particularly in drug, slave or sex trafficking? Does it refer to the availability of entitlement programs? Defining and parsing out the issues is an important place to start before we can craft good policy for Colorado," stated Senator Lundberg.

During their 2010 trip to Arizona, RSCC members were "briefed" on that state's new anti-immigrant law SB-1070 by its principal backer, then-Sen. Russell Pearce. Pearce enjoyed brief popularity for his role in passing SB-1070, but within a few years his political career had completely unraveled. Pearce was ousted from his seat in 2011 is Arizona's first-ever successful recall of a sitting legislator. Then just this week, Pearce resigned as vice chairman of Arizona Republican Party after saying this on a local radio show:

"You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I'd do is get [female recipients] Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations,” Pearce said, according to the Phoenix New Times. “Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job."

We assume the RSCC will not be meeting with Mr. Pearce during their trip to the Texas border. With that said, RSCC members who took the trip to see Pearce in 2010 introduced numerous pieces of legislation the following year–both mimicking Arizona's SB-1070 anti-immigrant law, along with other ideas they had heard about on their "fact-finding tour." In the summer of 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down most of SB-1070 as unconstitutional in the landmark case of Arizona vs. United States.

And of course, in the fall of 2012, Democrats retook the Colorado House from the GOP, crushing that party's single-seat, single-term majority in the one chamber they had managed to wrest control of in 2010–and helping lock down what has been the state of affairs in the General Assembly for going on a decade. Immigration wasn't the only factor in the GOP's significant legislative defeats in Colorado last election, but we can safely say that the Colorado GOP's image was not helped by the RSCC's antics in any way. Whatever disappointment Latino voters feel with Democrats for being unable to pass immigration reform, this is the stuff that reminds America's fastest growing bloc of voters who their enemies are in the starkest possible terms.

So, you know, take lots of pictures in Texas.

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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