Dr. Chaps’ alleged friendship with Rand Paul raises questions

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), state Rep.-elect Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), state Rep.-elect Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

Maybe you think Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt, who will be joining the Colorado General Assembly in January, is easy to ignore because he's so far out there, given his comments about performing lesbian exorcismsObama is a demon, etc.

But if you believe Klingenschmitt, he's got at least one friend in a high place. That would be GOP presidential hopeful Rand Paul.

In an April broadcast of his regular "Pray In Jesus' Name News," Klingenschmitt tells us (9 min 25 seconds into it) that he's friendly with the Kentucky Senator.

"Help pass Senate Bill 583, The Life Begins at Conception Act," Klingenschmitt urges his three listeners, not counting me. "This personhood bill, introduced by my friend, Senator Rand Paul, can actually defend life and overturn Roe versus Wade."

Nothing wrong with Dr. Chaps and Rand Paul being friendly. But you wonder, has Paul objected to Klingenschmitt's craziness?

And it raises the question of whether Klingenschmitt's soon-to-be legislative colleagues will speak up during the legislative session when, inevitably, Klingenschmitt grabs the media spotlight by opening his mouth.

Navy’s Discharge of “Dr. Chaps” Upheld

Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Our friends at Right Wing Watch have the latest update today in the continuing story of Colorado's nuttiest Republican Representative-elect, Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt of Colorado House District 15. As followers of a story that has made the trip from fringe sideshow to poster child for the incoming Republican Class of 2014 know, Klingenschmitt is a former Navy chaplain who was discharged after (among many other things) wearing his service uniform to a political media event in contravention of specific orders. Klingenschmitt's discharge from the Navy became part of his campaign message, claiming it was the result of his "praying in Jesus' name" at a demonstration across from the White House in 2005.

Except it wasn't.

Gordon Klingenschmitt, the right-wing televangelist who recently won a seat in the Colorado General Assembly, built a career out of making wildly inaccurate claims about anti-Christian persecution in the U.S. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Klingenschmitt’s entire career as a conservative activist is also based on a persecution story that is completely made-up.

Klingenschmitt, who goes by “Dr. Chaps,” has based his political activism on his own personal story of persecution, claiming that the military censored and fired him because he said the name of Jesus in his prayers as a chaplain. He filed a lawsuit to protect his First Amendment rights and has used his story to win persecution points from the Religious Right and raise lots of money for his group, the Pray In Jesus Name Project.

But as Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State reports, Klingenschmitt lost his lawsuit last week…because the incident never happened.

As we’ve known for several years, Klingenschmitt was not dismissed for using the name of Jesus in a prayer, but for wearing military garb at a political event, in violation of military regulations, among other reasons that had nothing to do with the fact he delivered Christian prayers.

The ruling is worth a read all by itself, including an unflattering description of a Klingenschmitt fire-and-brimstone memorial service while serving aboard the USS Anzio, horrible reviews from fellow sailors–"worst CHAP I have seen in 17 years" reads one–and the details of Klingenschmitt's defiance of orders prohibiting him from speaking to the media in his military uniform. The court concludes:

[T]he Court finds unpersuasive Dr. Klingenschmitt’s argument that his First Amendment right to practice his religious beliefs was infringed by Captain Pyle’s Order that he not wear his uniform to the media event held in Lafayette Park in March 2006. Captain Pyle’s Order was based on Navy regulations that prohibit the wearing of a uniform in connection with political activities…

In short, the record fails to support a showing of any causal connection between any protected activity and Dr. Klingenschmitt’s separation. For that reason, and because his other challenges to the lawfulness of the recertification process are without merit, the Court concludes that the Navy’s decision not to recertify Dr. Klingenschmitt, which resulted in his administrative separation from the Navy, was neither arbitrary, capricious, nor contrary to law.

Klingenschmitt's troubles, based on our experience in the past years or so, would seem to have more to do with his own extreme combative ramblings than anything else. This is a man who claims that both Barack Obama and defeated Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis are "demons," and that only people who are "going to heaven" deserve equal rights from government. Klingenschmitt claims that "Obamacare causes cancer," and before apologizing suggested that Rep. Jared Polis wanted to "join ISIS in beheading Christians."

We always assumed stuff like that was coming out of "Dr. Chaps'" mouth in his Navy days, too.

The upside? Klingenschmitt's story should pair well with another Republican from Colorado Springs, Rep. Janak Joshi, who lost his license to practice medicine before being elected to the legislature in 2010.

Take pride, El Paso County! "Dr. Chaps" looks forward to representing you next.

How Many Colorado Republicans Attended “WallBuilders?”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

This past weekend, a major political conference for religious conservative state lawmakers took place in Dallas, Texas called the WallBuilders Pro-Family Legislators Conference. Leading LGBT blog Towleroad reported last Friday that the keynote speaker was none other than "Tea Party" darling Texas Sen. Ted Cruz:

Does Sen. Ted Cruz believe AIDS is God's punishment for being gay?

Does Cruz believe that government should regulate homosexuality and that public schools are using anti-bullying laws to indoctriinate children into homosexuality?

Does Cruz believe that we need more hate and less tolerance in the world?

If not, perhaps Cruz should explain why he's headlining a legislative conference in Dallas this weekend hosted by a group whose founder has said each and every one of those things.

Also reportedly at the WallBuilders conference this weekend was Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and a large number of Republican state legislators from across the nation. We haven't heard yet how many Colorado lawmakers went to Texas this weekend, but as you can see in the promo video for this year's WallBuilders conference, it's quite popular with Colorado General Assembly Republicans:

dinner_01

Here's a photo (right) from last year's WallBuilders conference, where you can see Colorado GOP Senators Scott Renfroe, Mark Scheffel, and Kevin Grantham, as well as Rep. Libby Szabo of Arvada.

WallBuilders is led by a well-known religious right activist named David Barton. Barton has his own page in the Southern Poverty Law Center's Extremist Files:

A fervent homophobe, Barton has claimed that gay people die “decades earlier” than others and have more than 500 partners apiece in their lifetimes. On his WallBuilders radio broadcast, he’s flagrantly misled listeners by saying that the “leading pediatric association in America” has cautioned educators against providing education about homosexuality. But the American College of Pediatricians that Barton referred to has only a couple of hundred members and is, in fact, a right-wing breakaway group from the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics, which is the real “leading pediatric association in America.” The group he cited split with the American Academy of Pediatrics explicitly because it had taken an official stand that there is no harm associated with same-sex parenting.

Some of Barton’s claims are mind-boggling to any reasonably well-educated person. For example, in his version of history, the founding fathers “already had the entire debate on creation and evolution,” and chose creationism. Reality check: Charles Darwin didn’t publish his theory of evolution in The Origin of Species until 1859, more than half a century after the founding fathers were active. Barton also has asserted that the American Revolution was fought to free slaves. “That’s why we said we want to separate from Britain, so we can end slavery,” Barton said. Actually, that’s ridiculous. Many of the founding fathers were slaveholders, slavery is acknowledged (although it is not named) in the constitution that they wrote, and the British Empire outlawed slavery three decades before the United States did…

Barton still retains some influence, but only in the most extreme and uneducated segments of the Christian Right. Virtually all serious conservatives have repudiated him, and his chances of making a comeback seem remote, to be kind, although he sounds just as glib and sure as himself as ever.

The "extreme and uneducated segments of the Christian Right?" Sounds like the perfect choice for our new GOP Senate leadership to take direction from! Did new Senate Majority Leader Mark Scheffel attend Barton's conference again this year? What about Kevin Grantham, now the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee? Given that LGBT equality is an issue Republicans in Colorado generally ran from this election season, it would be very interesting to know how many of our own legislators went to Dallas this weekend to get fired up for the next round of the "culture wars."

Our assumption until we hear more: too many.

Late Adams County Results–Salazar Wins, May Maybe Done

UPDATE #2: Lynn Bartels at the Denver Post reports, Rep. Jenise May concedes Monday night:

As a result, Speaker-designee Dickey Lee Hullinghorst of Boulder now must pick two members to serve on the powerful Joint Budget Committee. Both House Democrats on the JBC are gone: May lost her election and JBC chair Cristana Duran was just elected as the House majority leader.

“I’ll continue on the JBC for a few more days until they replace me and then I’ll help my replacement transition,” May said

“It was an experience,” May said, of her legislative experience, which officially ends Jan. 7. “I did a lot of things for my community that I’m proud of.”

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UPDATE: A helpful primer on the threshold for recounts in Colorado, for those following the HD-30 race:

Pursuant to CRS 1-10.5-101(b); 1-11-102 A recount is required if the difference between the highest number of votes cast in that election contest and the next highest number of votes cast in that election contest is less than or equal to one-half of one percent of the highest votes cast in that election contest. If there is more than one person to be elected in a contest, a recount shall be held if the difference between the votes cast for the candidate who won the election with the least votes and the candidate who lost the election with the most votes is less than or equal to one-half of one percent of the votes cast for the candidate who won the election with the least votes. Recount occurs ONLY after the canvass board has certified the original vote count. 

Check out the sample numbers at the link to see more about how it would work.

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Rep. Joe Salazar, Jenise May.

Reps. Joe Salazar, Jenise May.

Almost two weeks after the elections, Adams County released updated vote counts earlier today that answer one more question about the Colorado House of Representatives' Democratic majority. Rep. Joseph Salazar, who was caught in an unexpectedly close race against Republican challenger Carol Beckler, has finally moved out of range of an automatic recount, now by .98%–221 votes for those keeping score.

The other close House race in Adams County, in HD-30 between JoAnn Windholz and Rep. Jenise May, narrowed ever-so-slightly from the last released vote count, with May still trailing by 106 votes. By our math, that puts Windhols outside the automatic recall margin. As razor-thin as a 106-vote margin may be, it could mean the end of this race unless somebody ponies up to pay for a recount.

It's not a perfectly satisfying outcome for either side, but it could be worse: in 2010, it was also mid-November before the final House race was called–and with it control of the House. Today, these are the final pieces on a chessboard whose basic makeup we already know. Congratulations to the winners, and everybody else whose blood pressure will go down as a result.

Senate Dems Stick With Leaders As Bizarre GOP Leadership Choices Raise Eyebrows

Senate President Morgan Carroll (D).

Outgoing Senate President Morgan Carroll (D).

As the Durango Herald's Peter Marcus reports, Senate Democrats yesterday stood with their leadership from the past two years, re-electing Sens. Morgan Carroll and Rollie Heath to the equivalent top positions of their 17-18 minority that they held as an 18-17 majority:

Carroll defended her side of the aisle's work, suggesting that with Democrats in control, Colorado's economy grew and jobs were created. She also pointed to civil-rights issues, including same-sex civil unions legislation passed in 2013 and efforts supporting renewable energy, including passing a tougher standard for rural parts of the state.

"We will continue to move the state forward to address the real-world needs of the people of Colorado," Carroll said in a statement. "It is an honor to serve with and for so many great senators on behalf of the people of Colorado."

The caucus also elected Sen. Rollie Heath of Boulder to serve as assistant minority leader. Heath currently serves as majority leader.

"The election is over, and now it's time to start governing," Heath said in a statement. "We have a hard-working team. I know we will be effective because we hear one another out and collaborate within the caucus and across the aisle. We all have a shared goal, and that is to ensure Colorado is thriving."

Sen. Jessie Ulibarri was elected Democratic caucus chair yesterday, Sen. Matt Jones will service as minority whip, and Sen. Pat Steadman as senior Democrat on the powerful Joint Budget Committee. With the Senate Democratic minority leadership settled, we now have a full picture of what the legislature will look like when it reconvenes in January.

The only choices of leadership in either party that are really much of a surprise this time are in the Republican Senate Majority. Unlike Democrats, the Senate Republicans predetermined their leadership in private meetings before any vote was held. The selection of moderate Sen. Ellen Roberts as Senate President pro tem has been widely praised, but since then we've heard questions about how much power she might actually wield–suggesting the appointment was more window dressing by Senate President Bill Cadman than an honest intention to moderate his caucus leadership.

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (right).

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (right).

The idea that Cadman is trying to turn over a new leaf for his caucus is further undermined by two other new members of his Senate Republican leadership: Assistant Majority Leader-elect Kevin Lundberg and majority caucus chair-elect Vicki Marble. Lundberg (seen at right shaking hands with recalled anti-imigrant Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce) has a long history as one of the most stridently conservative and outspoken members of the legislature. That outspokenness frequently gets the better of Lundberg's good judgment, leading to embarrassment for him and his caucus–like the time he read the definition of "abstinence" on the Senate floor, mangling the word "vaginal" (video after the jump).

Fried chicken.

Fried chicken.

But for all of Lundberg's crazy-uncle conservatism, his appointment as Assistant Majority Leader at least has some justification in his long legislative experience. Not so with the election of Vicki Marble to the position of majority caucus chair. Nobody we've talked to can make sense of this appointment other than some kind of sharp stick in the eye to Democrats, and even then it seems like a really bad idea. Marble has given Senate Republicans some of their most embarrassing incidents in the last couple of years, with her infamous rant about "problems in the black race," barbeque chicken, and the "Mexican diet" resulting in much thinner brown people in Mexico making national headlines

That was not the first embarrassing moment for Marble, who previously made bizarre statements like "Democrats will do anything to control the way our children learn, live, and even how they act in intimate relationships." Or her speech against equal pay for women, declaring "I feel like we've outgrown the Equal Pay Act of 1963." As we said, there's no policy expertise or legislative experience that justifies Marble's new leadership position in the Republican Senate majority. All she has going for her that we can see is greater name ID from the headlines she has made–and they're not good headlines.

After all the hoopla this week about Republicans retaking the Colorado Senate, which boiled down to a surprise win of a single seat by under 1,000 votes, the leadership decisions made by that new majority have received little attention other than noting the amiable Roberts' appointment as Senate President pro tem. But when the legislature gets down to business next year, the elevation of two of the most gaffe prone among the new one-seat Senate Republican majority may become the bigger story.

Along with Rep.-elect Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt! If you think about it, the worst-case scenario for next January is pretty darn bad for Colorado Republicans opticswise. In that event, all we can say is that they were amply, amply warned.

(more…)

Dickey Lee Hullinghorst Elected Speaker of the Colorado House

Speaker-elect Dickey Lee Hullinghorst.

Speaker-elect Dickey Lee Hullinghorst.

UPDATE #2: House Democratic Majority Office press release:

Meeting this morning to organize for the upcoming legislative session, the 28 returnees and 6 newly elected members of the House Democratic caucus for the 70th General Assembly designated Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst to be speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives. 

The caucus also elected Rep. Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) as majority leader, Rep. Dominick Moreno (D-Commerce City) as assistant majority leader, Rep. Angela Williams (D-Denver) as caucus chair, Rep. Mike Foote (D-Lafayette) as assistant caucus chair, Rep. Su Ryden (D-Aurora) as whip and Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) as deputy whip. 

“People will tell us that a split legislature will place many challenges in our path,” Rep. Hullinghorst said after the vote. “I prefer to regard these as opportunities to succeed. We have the opportunity to work across the aisle in the House, and with the Senate, to develop bipartisan legislation that moves Colorado forward.”

…Speaker-designate Hullinghorst was majority leader in the 69th General Assembly, managing the House calendar through two of the most productive Colorado legislative sessions in memory. 
  
She is beginning her fourth and final term representing House District 10, which includes eastern Boulder and parts of unincorporated Boulder County, including Gunbarrel, where she lives. When she is formally elected on opening day, Jan. 7, to succeed the term-limited Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver), Rep. Hullinghorst will become the first speaker from Boulder County since 1880. 

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UPDATE: The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels:

Colorado House Democrats on Friday elected the first all-female top leadership team in state history.

Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst of Boulder was elected by her caucus to serve as the powerful speaker, a post she will officially take over when the legislature convenes Jan. 7…

"There are those who look at a split chamber as a huge challenge," she said. "I prefer to look at this as an opportunity."

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That's the word from Democratic House majority leadership elections this morning. Rep. Crisanta Duran defeats Rep. Dan Pabon to become the next House Majority Leader, Rep. Dominick Moreno beats Rep. Beth McCann for assistant majority leader. Rep. Angela Williams wins the post of caucus chair over Rep. Lois Court.

We'll update with a statement from House Democrats and other coverage shortly.

Stephen Colbert Inevitably Discovers “Dr. Chaps”

When we say that the election of Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt to the Colorado General Assembly a week ago is a "victory" that Colorado Republicans will come to sorely regret, last night's episode of The Colbert Report is what we mean.

Raw Story:

“Yes,” Colbert replied, “it is reminiscent of the positive campaign the villagers ran to elect Frankenstein. But Klingenschmitt stands for so much more. He doesn’t hate the gays, he’s just concerned for them, as he demonstrates on his YouTube program.”

“The demonic spirits inside the homosexual agenda are trying to redefine family,” Klingenschmitt says in the clip, “trying to homosexualize your children. Jesus, if he were giving marriage counseling to two gay men who were married, Jesus would command them to get divorced.”

“Yes,” Colbert responded, “if Jesus were their marriage counselor, he would tell them to get divorced. And he would take 65 minutes to do it, so he could charge them the second hour. But it’s not just the gays — everyone needs a little Klingenschmitt exorcism.”

"If you're not voting for him, you're voting for the Democrat and quite honestly legislative majorities matter," said Klingenschmitt's predecessor in House District 15, former House Minority Leader Mark Waller, explaining how he or anyone could vote for a candidate who honestly believes that the President of the United States–among many, many others–is literally possessed by demons. Or that a sitting member of Congress wants to "join ISIS" in beheading Americans. Or that Obamacare "causes cancer," and the FCC is allowing "demonic spirits" to "visually rape your children." As our readers know, we could go on and on and on. The only thing that's changed now is that Klingenschmitt has actually won elected office–and as a state representative, Klingenschmitt metastasizes from irrelevant sideshow freak to a nationwide poster child for the far Republican right.

And before the story of "Dr. Chaps" is over, we predict Mark Waller will eat his words.

Welcome Back, J. Paul Brown!

Cletus Spuckler.

Cletus Spuckler.

As the Durango Herald reports today, one of the more colorful additions to the Colorado General Assembly from the 2010 Republican wave is coming back to the Capitol in January:

[A]s of the final tally of La Plata County cured ballots Wednesday night, [Rep. Mike] McLachlan was still trailing Republican challenger J. Paul Brown by 163 votes districtwide.

Brown had 17,246 to McLachlan’s 17,083, with 34,329 votes cast in total across the district.

Since Election Day, McLachlan has run up his vote total in La Plata County, getting 11,949 to Brown’s 10,621.

But it wasn’t enough to tip the scales.

Parker said the 0.95 percent margin of difference wasn’t close enough to trigger an automatic recount.

Rep. J. Paul Brown was ousted in 2012 by Democrat Mike McLachlan by a considerably bigger margin than he just recaptured the HD-59 seat with, which may rightfully make you wonder if HD-59 is destined to bounce back and forth between presidential and off years until the next reapportionment in 2020. It seems like the partisan divide in the district is close enough, and the swing between presidential and off year electorates wide enough, to set that in motion.

Democrats are sorry to lose McLachlan, even as they celebrate holding their majority in the House. Looking ahead, though, as we saw with Brown's last term in 2011-12, the short term loss could become a long-term bonus for Democrats. Rep. Brown frequently made headlines for his UN conspiracy theories, embarrassing homespun gaffes, and bizarre protest votes: once casting the only vote against a homeless youth prevention bill, and famously saying in explanation of his vote against children's health care coverage, "if I’m wrong, I guess, take me out behind the barn and give me a whipping."

In 2012, the voters of HD-59 did so. McLachlan was targeted by the gun lobby for his role in the passage of 2013's gun safety bills, even though McLachlan's primary contribution was to increase the magazine limit from 10 to 15 rounds in order to accommodate a variety of automatic pistols. But for all the money spent to oust McLachlan, a margin under 200 votes in a GOP wave year doesn't inspire much confidence for holding this seat in 2016.

And frankly, neither does J. Paul Brown.

“Dr. Chaps” Shocks and Awes America

The election last week by a nearly 70% margin of Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt to the Colorado General Assembly is emerging as one of the more interesting stories coming out of the 2014 elections in our state–and not in a good way. Rep.-elect Klingenschmitt's unique brand of Youtube preachification, ranging from exorcising President Barack Obama's "demonic spirit" to claiming that Rep. Jared Polis was about to "join ISIS in beheading Christians," has already been widely publicized as fair warning of what he would bring to the state legislature next January. But despite all the attention he received before the election, "Dr. Chaps" overwhelmingly defeated underdog Democratic challenger Lois Fornander, and today is Rep. Mark Waller's elected Republican successor.

This is a nice way of saying that House District 15 now has exactly the representation it deserves.

On Friday, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow introduced Dr. Chaps to her audience (see video above), while national blog Right Wing Watch chronicled Klingenschmitt's "Ten Craziest Moments" for posterity. Worth checking out, complete with video clips from Klingenschmitt's show proving it's not a joke:

1) Gays And Democrats Want To Rape Children
2) Obama Is Possessed By Demons, Requires Exorcism
3) Demonic Transgender Kids Need A Good Spanking (And An Exorcism)
4) We Will Be Forced To Engage In Sodomy
5) Gay People ‘Have Something Unhuman Inside Of Them’
6) Gay Soldiers Wear Diapers
7) Gay Animals Are Of The Devil
8) Obamacare Causes Cancer
9) Obama Will Kill Bundy Ranch Supporters
10) Madonna Is Trying To Have Sex With Me!

We've had a lot of fun at "Dr. Chaps'" expense this year, but the effect he would have on Colorado politics if elected was always hypothetical in our minds–even in an overwhelmingly Republican district like HD-15, there was always the possibility that Klingenschmitt would prove too much even for the most hardened Republican partisan to hold his or her nose and vote for.

As of last Tuesday, Rep.-elect Gordon Klingenschmitt is no longer a hypothetical. And if Chaps was bad for the Republican brand as a candidate, as a bonafide elected Republican state representative he's going to be much, much worse.

To which we can only say: they were warned.

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.

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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.” 

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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.

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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.

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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.