Pretty Thin Primary Ballot for Denver Democrats

House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, right, is backing Alec Garnett as his successor in HD-2.

Alec Garnett (left) and House Speaker Mark Ferrandino.

Denver Democrats are used to Primary Election evenings that are about as suspenseful as waiting to hear the name of the Broncos' starting quarterback, but this year is even quieter than most. The only real Primary race in Denver is in HD-2, where Alec Garnett and Owen Perkins are running to succeed the term-limited House Speaker Mark Ferrandino.

Most Denver races are decided in a Primary because of the overwhelming voter advantage for Democrats, and once someone gets elected for the first time, they tend to go unchallenged as long as they don't make any unusual mistakes. Since a Republican has virtually no chance to pull a General Election upset, any aspiring candidates in Denver must bide their time until term limits re-open the field. In cities such as Denver and Colorado Springs (the latter being overwhelmingly Republican), it has become something of a paradox that it often takes more time and effort to win a Primary even though you are courting a significantly smaller number of likely voters. For example, candidates have been actively campaigningin HD-2  for more than a year; this is quite a contrast to a more competitive House District such as Lakewood's HD-23, where Republicans have only had a candidate in place for a few weeks. This happens, of course, because more candidates are realizing that consolidating support early can leave your opponent few places to turn once the ballots finally start to drop. Call it the Perception Primary — the campaign inside the campaign.

There is a great example of this happening in HD-2, where Garnett has run an exceptional race thus far. Garnett faces Perkins in a two-person race that narrowed when Aaron Silverstein failed to make the ballot threshold requirement through the caucus process. To date, Garnett has been the most proficient fundraiser of any State House candidate in Colorado, and he has deftly maneuvered to pick up critical endorsements at key points in the race (including Rep. Ferrandino's endorsement in February). Last week, Garnett announced the support of former Gov. Bill Ritter and current State Rep. Daniel Kagan, two excellent endorsements to add to your list just before ballots begin to go in the mail. 

Weird things can, and do, happen in Primary Elections, so there's no guarantee that Garnett's efforts will be rewarded when ballots are counted. But if you were a betting man (or woman), you'd have trouble finding a candidate with stronger odds next month.

“Lose By Winning”–The Colorado GOP’s Long-Term Dilemma

The Republican base (increasingly to scale).

The Republican base (increasingly to scale).

A great analytical piece from Politico's Todd Purdum this weekend makes points that observers of Colorado politics should keep in mind, and have been borne out by Colorado's recent political history as we'll explain:

It’s the predominant paradox of contemporary American politics: If Republicans prevail in this year’s midterm congressional elections, it will be because of their party’s sharp-edged stances on topics like abortion and Benghazi, Obamacare and immigration, gay marriage and the minimum wage — issues that energize the GOP’s core base of support.

But if Republicans lose the race for the White House in 2016, it will be because of their party’s polarizing, out-of-step stances on those very same issues, which alienate much of the broader electorate the GOP needs to win a national contest in a country whose demographics and political realities are shifting under its feet…

“The Republican Party has essentially now two wings: a congressional wing and the national wing,” the veteran GOP pollster Bill McInturff said at a recent Pew Research Center forum on so-called millennial voters, those from 18 to 29 years of age. The congressional wing is thriving, especially in the South, in districts that are 75 percent, or even 80 percent, white, and where every incumbent’s worst fear is a challenge from the right.

…On questions like climate change and gay marriage, pollster McInturff said, younger voters no longer believe there is anything to argue about. He summed up their views as: “‘We wouldn’t fight about that. That’s just presumed to be true.’” [Pols emphasis]

Thomas Mann, the veteran political scientist and Congress-watcher at the Brookings Institution, said that, at the moment, the Republicans are “simply not a presidential party.”

In Colorado, the 2010 "GOP wave" election is generally reckoned to have been a "modest" defeat for the Republican Party. Democrats easily won a gubernatorial race in which the Republican frontrunner self-destructed, and won a narrow victory in a top-tier U.S. Senate race against a candidate whose backward views on social issues rendered him unpalatable to independent and women voters. The state didn't completely escape the effects of historic Republican victories across the nation in 2010, with the GOP picking up two congressional seats, winning the statewide races for Attorney General, Treasurer, and Secretary of State, and the Colorado House flipping to the GOP by a single extremely narrow win in the northwest Denver suburbs. But the overall result was well short of what Republicans had expected the summer before.

In 2012, Democrats in Colorado ran the table on Election Night, sweeping GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty from power in the state House and delivering the state to Barack Obama by a comfortable margin. Going into the 2014 midterms, we see the same pressure on Colorado Democrats to turn out their base voters and swing independents that was evident in the midterm elections of 2010. The question is, can Colorado Democrats minimize the impact of this midterm "wave" as they did in the last midterm election?

The answer is very logically yes, and as the story above explains, it's because the overarching demographics driving this whole midterm/presidential year dichotomy inexorably favor Democrats. One of the biggest reasons the Republican Party has lurched so far to the right since the election of Barack Obama is that, as this changing American electorate begins to decide elections, the biggest constituency Republicans have left to appeal to is the out-of-the-mainstream fringe right wing. Republicans were fully willing to embrace the "Tea Party" to win in 2010. There was a powerful short-term advantage in appealing to this segment of the electorate, in that they are extremely reliable and passionate voters. There is a tremendous enthusiasm gap between such voters, who vote in greater numbers in every kind of election, and the much larger body of voters who turn out once every four years. We're certainly not the only ones who have said this, but we've been saying it for years: 2010 wasn't about who voted, it was about who didn't vote.

And we could say the same thing about John Morse's recall. Or the Jefferson County school board.

The markedly different electorates who decide midterm and off-year vs. presidential elections can result in head-snapping results from one election to the next. Just as one example, the Jefferson County voters who turned out to re-elect Barack Obama in 2012 would never have voted in the radical conservative school board majority now causing street protests the following year. If this seems like an obvious point to you, that's great, but most voters simply don't understand these differences–and as a result, fringe minority electorates are assumed to be representative.

In 2010, Colorado Democrats used exactly what appeals to these ardent conservative voters against Republicans with the broader presidential-year electorate–and by effectively driving home the message of GOP extremism, incompetence, and moral turpitude, they turned out just enough of the 2008 electorate to break the "GOP wave." Colorado Democrats have the same challenge in 2014, but they also have the same opportunity: a rich body of material to use against Republican candidates at every level, from Cory Gardner to Victor Head.

And each year, as the changing electorate chips away at the GOP's narrowing coalition, it gets easier.

New Online Tool Tracks Colorado’s Many Oil Spills

spillmap

As the Colorado Independent's John Tomasic reports, food for thought as the debate over "fracking" near Colorado's populated areas goes on:

The energy and environment research Center for Western Priorities this week released a map of oil-industry spills that have occurred in Colorado over the past 13 years. It’s a colorful map but it’s not very pretty.

The map is built on information compiled by the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and it’s dotted with 4,900 Colorado spill sites, which the group says amount to tens of millions of gallons of oil, drilling fluid and other toxic waste. The main sites of the spills come in the four corners of a square that runs between Grand Junction, Durango, Trinidad and Greeley. The vast majority of the spills come in the northern front range, in an area extending southwest from Greeley between Fort Collins, Boulder, Broomfield, Longmont and Lafayette. Those are the five cities that have drawn lawsuits from the industry and the state for voting over the last two years in support of municipal bans and moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing — the extraction technique where drillers blast millions of gallons of mixed sand, water and chemicals deep into underground rock formations to crack open fissures and release oil and gas.

At its related “Colorado Toxic Release Tracker,” the Center for Western Priorities reports that, since the beginning of the year, drillers reported 156 spills in the state. They reported 44 spills in March. So far, 6 percent of spills this year were reported to have contaminated water. Eighty-four spills occurred within 1,000 feet of surface water. Forty-two spills have occurred less than 50 feet from groundwater.

Looking casually at this sobering interactive map, it becomes really obvious why two of the northern Front Range's "L-Towns"–Lafayette and Longmont, along with Boulder, Broomfield and Fort Collins–have banned or passed moratoria on fracking within their boundaries. Fracking causes more problems than just surface spills, and spills aren't always directly related to the fracking process, but this map vividly illustrates the dirty, accident-prone industrial process going on every day in Colorado–in many cases just across the street or field from neighborhoods.

If you look at this report and still can't understand why local communities are tired of state regulators' outright contempt for their concerns, which has led to the "crisis" of ballot measures to give local communities real power to regulate oil and gas drilling, we respectfully submit that you are the one with the problem. Fracking isn't just an environmentally worrisome process of drilling, it's the fact that it brings drilling to places it hasn't been before–with all of drilling's attendant nastiness like surface spills and air pollution.

And as you can see, the industry's track record where they drill now isn't very good.

Jefferson County Republicans Go Further Down the Rabbit Hole

Nate Marshall, former Republican candidate for HD-23.

Nate Marshall

Anyone familiar with Colorado politics knows that there is no more important county than Jefferson when it comes to winning statewide elections. It may be mathematically possible to win a statewide race in Colorado without carrying Jefferson County, but nobody in their right mind would actually consider that approach. That's why the spectacular implosion of the Jefferson County Republican Party is so important…and why we're baffled to see the problem continuing. Follow along as we reconstruct the tale of one of the strangest few months in recent political memory.

Back in March, Jeffco Republicans nominated Nate Marshall as their candidate to run against incumbent Democratic Rep. Max Tyler in HD-23. It didn't take more than a cursory Google search to reveal that Marshall was probably not the GOP's best option in the Lakewood district; not only did Marshall have a criminal record (which included a 9News investigation from an old crime), but he also had very clear and obvious ties to White Supremacist groups. In other words, you would have had a difficult time finding a worse candidate to represent your Party. On March 27, Jefferson County Republican Party Chair Bill Tucker demanded that Marshall resign as a candidate. An angry and defensive Marshall initially balked — after all, he was officially nominated through the caucus process as the only GOP candidate in HD-23 — but he finally relented and formally terminated his candidacy on April 9.

JeffcoGOP-Screen1

Jeffco GOP Website, May 15

And that's when things get even weirder.

Jefferson County Republican Party officials inexplicably waited several weeks to form a vacancy committee to replace Marshall on the ballot — you would think that the GOP would be in more of a hurry to close this ridiculous chapter — and it wasn't until Monday, April 28, that they (very quietly) officially met to replace Marshall on the ballot. If you are wondering who the Republicans found to replace Marshall on the ballot, you wouldn't be alone — nobody in or out of the Republican Party said anything about the candidate who prevailed at the vacancy committee. There was no press release. No call to reporters. Even today, the Jeffco Republican Party website doesn't even list a candidate in HD-23.

But there is a Republican candidate in HD-23, which is what makes this whole story even more baffling.

Jane Barnes

Jane Barnes, GOP candidate in HD-23

The Jeffco GOP actually came up with a decent candidate to replace Marshall in Jane Barnes, a former member of the Jefferson County School Board who should have some level of name recognition in the district. Barnes filed candidate paperwork with the Secretary of State's office on May 6, and on May 8, somebody started to create a website for her campaign. But as of this writing, there has been no mention of Barnes as a candidate in HD-23 by, well, by anybody.

What the hell is going on here? It took weeks for Jeffco Republicans to form a vacancy committee to replace Nate Marshall in HD-23, and when the dust had settled, they emerged with a pretty decent candidate (all things considered) in Jane Barnes. Why would anyone think it was a good idea to keep this a secret? Wouldn't you want to make it crystal clear, as quickly as possible, that you had a candidate in a competitive House district who was not a criminal or a white supremacist?

Over the last two months, the level of incompetence displayed by Jefferson County Republicans has been absolutely stunning. This should scare the crap out of Republicans everywhere in Colorado, because there are a lot of statewide candidates who must carry Jefferson County in order to win in November.

Lakewood GOP House Candidate Lifts Perlmutter Slogan

Attorney Stacia Kuhn is the Republican nominee for HD-28 (Lakewood), where the GOP has an uphill battle in trying to defeat incumbent Democratic Rep. Brittany Pettersen. Kuhn's website sports a really ugly logo that would have been trendy in, say, 1985, but she does have a catchy slogan–and it's already been proven to be effective!

kuhnslogan

Just ask Congressman Ed Perlmutter, the popular Jefferson County incumbent Democrat who has been using basically the same tagline since being elected in 2006:

perlmutterslogan

Kuhn's slogan is "Your Neighbor, Your Voice," which we suppose is just slightly different enough from Perlmutter's "Our Neighbor, Our Voice" to avoid getting sued. But it's not different enough to avoid ridicule, especially considering that HD-28 lies mostly within Perlmutter's district. Safe to say Kuhn's appropriation of Perlmutter's longstanding brand wasn't a good idea, and the chances it was an accident are pretty remote.

Short of a really good explanation, we're filing this in the "too clever by half" department.

Malkin to Fundraise for Pueblo GOP

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Michelle Malkin, Fox news pundit and angry Tweeter,  will headline a Pueblo Republican fundraising event – the Lincoln Dinner- on June 7.

 From Facebook: 

 

The Pueblo County Republican Party will be hosting our 

Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday, June 7, 2014. 

Michelle Malkin will be our keynote speaker.

The dinner will be at Pueblo Community College - 

Fortino Ballroom at 6pm. 

The cost for the dinner is $50 per person.

Before the dinner, there will be a reception (5 – 5:45 pm) with 

Michelle Malkin and our slate of republican candidates. 

Malkin has been pushing Benghazi hysteria, and criticizing Pelosi, Grayson, Reid, the Common Core, and most liberal commentators.  She is a supporter of Colorado's medical marijuana laws, and has visited Marisol Therapeutics in Pueblo West.  Malkin is based in Colorado Springs.

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No legislators were harmed in the making of this video

 

This week, the Colorado legislature wrapped up the 2014 session. Some really good things happened this year: help with childcare for working families, better education funding, disaster relief, environmental protections, and supporting high paying jobs in our state. In addition, some bad things got defeated, like crazy abortion bans and repeals of Colorado’s great renewable energy standards. And although there were some partisan fights, over 96% of the bills passed this year in Colorado had the support of both Democrats and Republicans.

We hope you enjoy it. If you do, take a minute right now to share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

2014 should be remembered as a year when Colorado lawmakers got things done and left our state better than they found it. We hope that makes you happy too.

Rep. Don Coram and his War on Rural Coloradans

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

"Members, this is a war on rural Colorado. This product on the Uravan mineral belt is their only option for jobs.  With this bill, that option is lost." Rep. Don Coram on SB 14-192

What Colorado State Representative Don Coram calls a “War on Rural Colorado” others might call the “holding environmental scofflaws accountable” or “making polluters clean up their mess before we trust them to not make another”  act. 

And surprisingly enough (if apparent conflict-of-interest is surprising among good-old-boy politicians) Rep. Don Coram fought legislation that could force himself to comply with cleaning up a toxic mess for which he himself is responsible.

As passed the Senate Bill 192 requires radioactive contamination to groundwater wells be cleaned up to levels that meet the standards of the Water Quality Control Commission for the well's historic use. But as originally proposed the bill would have placed stricter controls over all the 32 uranium mines that are still operational in Colorado, and on any new operations that apply for licenses.

As the Durango Herald noted in an editorial blasting Rep. Coram:

State Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, was on the wrong side of history Monday on several fronts. In opposing Senate Bill 192, he took on the role of a lobbyist, argued against a popular and prudent environmental protection and, at the same time, played off of the unrealistic hopes of economically challenged towns. It was not his finest hour.

SB 192 is a bill meant to address the kind of environmental disaster experienced by Cañon City when the Cotter uranium mill poisoned a neighborhood’s groundwater. It sets minimum standards for groundwater cleanup before a company can be absolved of further responsibility. It also mandates that uranium and thorium mines be licensed by the state health department if they use a process that involves injecting water into rock formations.

Remediation for ‘Collateral damage’ might as well be another name of the Department of Energy’s ‘Legacy Management’ program.  The ‘legacy’ is the mess of toxic waste that will remain deadly for thousands of years.  Colorado’s toxic legacy has already cost the American taxpayer billions—and led to the removal of an entire town, a trail of cancer casualties, and the ruin of lives from the busts that inevitably, almost inexorably, follow booms in company towns built to be solely reliant on single, highly volatile extractive industry.  

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ProgressNow Colorado’s Winners and Losers of the 2014 Legislative Session

WINNERS

 

LOSERS

1. Colorado students

This year, Colorado finally began the road back from years of devastating budget cuts to our public schools and colleges. Thanks to an improving economy and sound budgetary decision making, the state was able to restore $100 million in funding for our colleges and universities and begin to restore millions of dollars in badly-needed funds to K-12. We have a long way to go to restore all of the cuts to education since the Great Recession, but 2014 was a great start.

 

1. Rocky Mountain Gun Owners

In 2013, the extremist pro-gun group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners helped organize recall elections against Colorado Senators who supported last year’s common-sense gun safety reforms. This year, it was widely expected that RMGO would flood the Capitol with angry mobs and misinformation in an attempt to repeal these new laws. Unfortunately for RMGO, those crowds of gun rights activists failed to reappear at the Capitol as they had in 2013. The reason is simple: the sky didn’t fall, and Colorado’s new gun safety laws are working.

 

2. Colorado’s economy and working families

From support for advanced industries to helping ensure the working families most in need can get child care assistance, this was a great legislative session for Colorado’s economy. Following up on legislation from 2013, support for advanced technology job creators was increased. Legislation brought by Sen. John Kefalas and Reps. Brittany Pettersen and Tony Exum to expand child care grants will provide invaluable help to families trying to balance their careers with caring for young children. 

 

2. Anti-choice extremists

This year, far-right legislators introduced yet another piece of legislation that would ban all abortions in Colorado, even in cases of rape or incest. Colorado is a pro-choice state, and voters have repeatedly rejected abortion bans in statewide ballot measures in recent years. This year’s abortion ban bill failed, but not before numerous conservative legislators, including House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, had signed on as cosponsors. Attempting to ban abortion in Colorado has already done grave political damage to conservatives, but they still haven’t learned their lesson. Colorado women won’t go back.

 

3. Victims of floods and fires

Following devastating floods and fires in 2013, Democrats and Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly came together to pass comprehensive legislation to help our state recover from last year’s catastrophic events and improve our ability to cope with future natural disasters. Leaders like Rep. Dave Young, co-chair of the Flood Disaster Study Committee, worked overtime to ensure the lessons learned in 2013 were reflected in policy this year. Tax credits to offset damage to property owners, streamlined relief funding for affected residents, and flexibility for local government to fund road and bridge repairs are just a few of the sensible reforms that passed this year with bipartisan support.

 

 

3. House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso

Republican Colorado House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso deserves some credit for helping pass many bipartisan bills this year, but he stumbled badly by signing on to the disastrous abortion ban legislation mentioned above. DelGrosso also faced major embarrassments within his caucus, such as the chronically sleepy and tardy Rep. Justin Everett, and Rep. Jared Wright leaving a loaded gun unattended in a Capitol hearing room. Some leaders make the best of a bad situation, but DelGrosso was unable–or unwilling–to help himself and his party's brand this year.

4. Governor John Hickenlooper

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration worked both in public and behind the scenes to defend and expand on the historic progress made by the General Assembly in the last two years. Hickenlooper has shown real leadership on issues ranging from education to reproductive choice to equality for every Colorado family. And Hickenlooper ends the 2014 legislative session with an unbeatable record of solid economic growth in his first term.

 

4. Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman

At the beginning of this year’s legislative session, Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman exploded in a fit of rage on the Senate floor, claiming that bills were being mishandled, and even threatening recalls against Senate leadership. But as it turned out, Cadman was completely wrong, and the gun safety repeal bill he complained about received a fair hearing. But the incident underscored Cadman’s reputation as an erratic hothead, prone to emotional outbursts and unsuited to leadership.

 

5. Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino

Mark Ferrandino, ending his term as Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives this year, has made history in too many ways to count. As the first openly gay Speaker of the House in Colorado’s history, Ferrandino presided in 2013 over the long-sought passage of civil unions legislation. This year, Ferrandino has been invaluable in defending the gains made in 2013, and pushing forward with this year’s progressive agenda of economic growth, disaster recovery, and funding education. Republicans and Democrats alike have praised Ferrandino’s steady and fair leadership this year.

 

5. Legislators seeking higher office

For a host of reasons, conservative incumbent legislators seeking higher office failed to achieve their objectives. Sen. Greg Brophy’s bid for governor fizzled, Rep. Amy Stephens, Sen. Owen Hill, and Sen. Randy Baumgardner failed to gain any traction in their brief campaigns for the U.S. Senate, and Rep. Mark Waller’s run for Attorney General fell apart after faring poorly at the Republican state assembly. In some cases these were simply unqualified candidates, but legislative experience isn’t the plus for Republicans seeking higher office that it once was–mostly because the extreme GOP grassroots can’t stomach the compromises necessary to effectively govern.

 

6. State employees

Through the Great Recession, Colorado’s state employees worked without a raise for years. Colorado public employees make less than their counterparts in the private sector, and as the state’s largest employer, state employee income has a direct impact on our economy. In the 2014-2015 budget, state workers are seeing base-building pay increases for the second year. Every day we rely on our road workers, corrections officers, firefighters, and other state employees, and it’s great to finally see them being recognized for their hard work.

 

6. The “clown car caucus”

From banning abortion to going after the non-problem of buying marijuana with public assistance, there was a group of conservative legislators that one could always count on to sponsor the most embarrassing legislation this year. Many of these legislators, such as Rep. Lori Saine and Sen. Vicki Marble, won their seats with help from the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which seems to not care if candidates are completely unqualified as long as they vote RMGO’s way on guns. Republicans hoping to put on a fresh face after years of electoral defeats in Colorado weren’t helped by the “clown car caucus” this year.

 

7. Women

With one of the nation’s highest rates of female representation, the Colorado General Assembly remains a model for the entire nation. This year, in addition to vital support for single moms and working families through child care assistance, progressives in the legislature beat back yet another attempt by the far right to ban all abortions in Colorado. Senate President Morgan Carroll become the second woman to serve in that leadership role. Conservatives keep trying every year, but thanks to our strong women and progressive leadership, the “war on women” stops cold when it arrives at the Colorado General Assembly.

 

 

7. Wage thieves

After years of trying, Sen. Jessie Ulibarri and Rep. Jonathan Singer’s bill to strengthen protections for Colorado workers from wage theft by employers finally passed the Colorado General Assembly. Many victims of wage theft don’t have the resources to fight a long, expensive court battle to win back their wages. Ulibarri and Singer’s bill will allow the Department of Labor to determine cases of wage theft directly, and help ripped-off employees get paid faster.

8. Transparency and good government

One of the bills already signed into law by Gov. Hickenlooper this year is legislation to make it easier for citizens and watchdogs to obtain government records through the Colorado Open Records Act. Rep. Joseph Salazar and Sen. John Kefalas teamed up to pass this important bill to prevent abuses of the system by public officials with something to hide.

 

8. Secretary of State Scott Gessler

This year’s legislative session was a disaster for Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Gessler made headlines after irresponsible budgetary decisions left his office millions of dollars in the red, compounding a record of bad judgment that already included the Independent Ethics Commission’s ruling that Gessler had “breached the public trust for private gain.” Gessler’s attempts to undermine and vilify Colorado’s election modernization laws fell flat, and his failed quest to uncover “illegal voters” has seriously harmed Gessler’s reputation under the Dome.

 

9. Colorado’s air and water

Gov. Hickenlooper’s work this year to pass important new air quality protections for oil and gas drilling is a prime example of bringing industry and conservationists together to make a positive step for everyone. New, dramatically steeper fines for oil and gas drilling violations passed by the legislature this year add teeth to the laws already on the books. And protections for water quality around uranium mining and processing sites will protect the public and the environment from harm as that industry responds to market demand. The job of protecting the public health and environment may not be over yet this year, but progress has undeniably been made.

 

9. Representative Jared Wright

Rep. Jared Wright’s brief legislative career has been marred by controversy, ever since details of his resignation from the Fruita Police Department led to attempts by fellow Republicans to get him out of the race. In the legislature, Rep. Wright further angered his fellow Republicans after leaving a loaded handgun in a Capitol hearing room–leading to calls for all legislators to check their firearms at the entrance to the Capitol like all other citizens must do. Since being pressured into not running for reelection, however, Rep. Wright has turned over a new leaf–frequently siding with progressives on issues related to public health and energy production. That has only made Wright more of a loser among his fellow Republicans, but Wright’s constituents may finally have a reason to appreciate his service.

 

10. Bipartisanship

Most of what we hear in the news today is about political controversies, and this year had its share. But it’s also worth remembering that around 95% of bills passed this year in the Colorado General Assembly had bipartisan support. On issues like disaster relief, job creation, and government transparency, more often than not there was no daylight between Republicans and Democrats. The issues that divide us sometimes define us, but other times we know how to come together as Coloradans to do what’s right–and that’s important to remember when emotions run high.

 

10. Palisade peaches

The Palisade peach lost out this year in a bid to become the state’s official fruit. Elementary school student Nick Babiak made a strong effort this year lobbying in favor of a bill to designate Palisade peaches as the state fruit, but was thwarted by opposition from the Rocky Ford Growers Association. Progressives stand with Nick Babiak and with the finest peaches grown anywhere, and hope 2015 will be the year that Palisade peaches finally receive their due.

BREAKING: No Local Control Compromise This Session

UPDATE #2: Conservation Colorado's Pete Maysmith:

Conservation Colorado Executive Director Pete Maysmith released the following statement today on the failure to reach an agreement on legislation to enable local governments to have a say over heavy industrial drilling and fracking in their neighborhoods and communities.

“Coloradans concerned about the impact of drilling and fracking in their communities are indebted to Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and Representative Sue Ryden today.  Both leaders worked tirelessly over the past several weeks to reach a compromise that protects Coloradans and their communities. As Colorado’s oil and natural gas boom continues, cities and counties must have the best tools at their disposal to craft protections that ensure drilling and fracking near homes, schools and neighborhoods is protective of our public health, environment and Colorado quality of life.

Conservation Colorado had hoped all parties could find the proper balance to address the heavy industrial drilling and fracking happening in communities across Colorado.  As the session ends without resolution to these important issues, Coloradans will have to consider if there are alternative forums to protect Coloradans and hold the industry accountable for their impacts on our communities."

—–

UPDATE: FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Without a legislative compromise, it’s all but certain that a series of ballot measures that would allow local communities to ban fracking outright will continue on a path toward the November ballot.

The measures, which are being financed by Congressman Jared Polis, D-Boulder, go much further than the proposed legislation that was in the works, which would have merely allowed cities and counties control over setbacks (how far wells must be set back from homes and schools) and inspections.

Polis had been willing to drop his ballot measures if lawmakers had reached a deal, according to numerous sources involved in the negotiations; although Republicans, many of whom were open to a compromise, didn’t trust that that would have been the case.

—–

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Press release from Colorado House Democrats breaks the news–there will be no compromise legislation giving local governments greater regulatory control over oil and gas drilling this session. Barring the extraordinary, this likely ensures constitutional measures on this hotly controversial subject are headed to the statewide Colorado ballot this fall:

Rep. Su Ryden (D-Aurora) and Majority Leader Diecky Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder) announced today that negotiations intended to harmonize state and local authority over oil and gas development have made progress but failed to produce an agreement in time to introduce a bill in the 2014 session. 

Here is a joint statement by Rep. Ryden and Rep. Hullinghorst: 

“Addressing Colorado citizens’ concerns about the impacts of oil and gas development on their lives and their communities is a top priority for us as policymakers. To address those concerns, we have been involved in extensive discussions involving a variety of stakeholders, incuding other legislators, the conservation community, oil and gas operators and the Hickenlooper administration.   

“Those discussions focused on harmonizing local and state authority in regards to energy production. It is of critical importance to people across this state to balance local communities’ ability to act to protect the health, safety and welfare of Colorado families while also creating a consistent and predictable regulatory framework that allows for responsible energy development. 

“Our conversations have been productive, but we haven’t yet struck an accord with all of the stakeholders, and we’ve run out of time in this session to pass consensus legislation.   
  
“We want to thank all those who have put their time and energy into the conversation, and hope that all involved and other interested parties are ready to continue in a good-faith dialogue about how to meet the reasonable expectations of local communities impacted by energy development as well as the needs of operators. We hope we will continue moving toward these shared goals.” 

We'll update with further developments shortly–this may not be the last word.

Post story exaggerates GOP unity this election cycle

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

hickandoppo

I was all set to write a blog post this morning about Scott Gessler saying on the radio that his Republican gubernatorial opponents are all losers, including Mike Kopp who, Gessler said, presided over the Republicans' disastrous legislative-election collapse in 2010. Gessler told KNUS talk-radio host Jimmy Sengenberger a couple weeks ago:

“If you want to have the same results that we’ve had in the past, just do the same thing… I’ve won a state-wide election. You know, Tom Tancredo is a good man, he has not won one. Bob Beauprez is a good man, he has not won one. Mike Kopp is a good man. When he ran the state Senate Majority Fund, which was the 527 to support senators in 2010, we didn’t win any of the competitive races then either. I think we need to stop looking to the past and looking instead to the future.”

But then I saw Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels' article about all the "unity" among Colorado Republicans this election cycle. Bartels reported:

Although there's a four-way race this year for the GOP nomination for governor, [GOP State Chair Ryan] Call & Co. so far have done an effective job cajoling the candidates to aim their potshots at Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and not each other.

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Rep. Jared Wright Goes Full-on Rogue In Career’s Final Days

Rep. Jared Wright (R-Fruita).

Rep. Jared Wright (R-Fruita).

​"One-and-done" GOP Rep. Jared Wright (R-Fruita) is ending his second and final legislative session with quite a flourish, as the Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby reports:

Rep. Jared Wright doesn’t care what the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce thinks about a bill he’s backing on uranium mining.

The Fruita Republican is co-sponsoring a bill with a Boulder Democrat, Rep. KC Becker, aimed at protecting the state’s groundwater supply from radioactive contamination…

While the bill primarily is aimed at helping residents around a Superfund site near Canon City, some Republicans fear it is overly broad.

We've followed Rep. Wright's stormy one-term career as an elected legislator, which almost never got off the ground after revelations about his departure from the Fruita Police Department and his questionable personal financial troubles sent his Mesa County GOP benefactors running for the proverbial exits. Despite that rocky start, as a fairly reliable Republican vote in the General Assembly, we think Rep. Wright might have gotten a pass to run for re-election–before a disastrously idiotic mistake, leaving a loaded handgun in a legislative committee conference room, made him an unacceptable liability to his fellow gun-toting Republican legislators. Not long after that incident, Wright held a "shotgun press conference" announcing he would not seek re-election and endorsing his erstwhile GOP primary opponent.

Great movie.

Great movie.

But since then, we've seen flashes of a whole different Rep. Wright. Wright was the only House Republican to vote in favor of a bill to study the health effects of oil and gas development in several Front Range counties, voicing arguments in favor of the legislation that made surprisingly good sense. Likewise, with the bill he's co-sponsoring with Democrat K.C. Becker on uranium groundwater contamination, Wright is articulate and on point.

Too much so for his Republican colleagues:

“Representative Coram, I respect your expertise, I just happen to disagree with you on this issue,” Wright said. “I represent an area that abuts a quarter of your district and I don’t see this resulting in job loss.”

“With all due respect, Representative Wright, your district came out in opposition,” Coram added. “The Grand Junction chamber of commerce came out in opposition. Club 20 is in opposition. I don’t know who you’re talking to in your district, but the people who have talked to me have certainly been in opposition.”

“I represent the people of my district, the people of the state of Colorado, Representative Coram. Not one group or organization,” Wright countered. [Pols emphasis]

Rep. Wright has given us lots of material in only two years on the Colorado political radar, most of it in the form of schadenfreude. Here in what are effectively the last few days of his political career, with all the pressure off, no benefactors to please, nothing left to lose, he might actually be just a little bit inspiring.

Replacing Racist Lady in HD-35: “Sustainability Scares Me” Dude

We talked at the end of March about the Republican candidate in Colorado House District 35, an open seat being vacated by term limited Rep. Cherilyn Peniston, named Maria Weese. Weese's Facebook profile revealed a long history of unapologetically racist views, complaining about how "the heat has really been turned up by the Blacks in this country," and "the wagons circling around Obama led by the Blacks…[and] minorities getting government checks in the mail," among plenty of other disqualifyingly out-of-the-mainstream statements.

We've just learned that Weese has decided in the wake of these disclosures not to run for the legislature. Given that she was very likely about to become the next Nate Marshall, the openly racist Republican House candidate forced off the HD-23 ballot, this was a very sensible decision–whether made by her or (more likely) Republicans at a higher strategic level.

The only remaining problem for the GOP in this narrowly-averted disaster? That would be Weese's replacement!

Back in 2012, we introduced readers to then-Westminster City Council candidate Michael Melvin, a gruff-sounding Tea Party "small government" type running on a platform opposed to the redevelopment of the former Westminster Mall property. Melvin's lecture in a debate on the dangers of "sustainability" (above) was one of the funniest clips to emerge from any municipal race that year–transcribed once again for the record:

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Local Control “Grand Bargain” In The Works?

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

As the Denver Business Journal's Ed Sealover and Cathy Proctor report:

The oil and gas wars that many predicted at the Colorado Capitol still may be coming as the 2014 legislative session wanes, as industry representatives and elected officials are discussing a bill that would give local governments more control over drilling regulations.

A draft bill that was revised late Tuesday and was given to the Denver Business Journal would grant local governments regulatory authority — provided the rules don’t conflict with state statutes — over noise and over setback distance between a well site and schools, hospitals and homes. It also would give cities and counties the authority to conduct inspections and monitoring and to charge a “reasonable” fee to cover its costs.

House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Gunbarrel, said early Tuesday that she doubted such a bill would materialize this session because there is only a week left until the May 7 adjournment of the General Assembly. But several sources close to the negotiations said that discussions about the bill picked up throughout the day as a number of oil and gas companies began to see it as a favorable alternative to facing a proposed ballot measure in November that could allow local governments to push setbacks for well sites as far as 1,500 or 2,500 feet from homes and schools and permit local fracking bans…

A last-minute bill to increase the power of local communities to regulate drilling reflects a very simple reality, one that we've acknowledged in this space discussing the possibility of a much more stringent statewide ballot initiative:

Capitol sources say that some oil and gas companies, fearing the potential of losing to [Rep. Jared] Polis’ well-funded ballot effort, [Pols emphasis] are pushing to pass the proposed bill because they consider it to be much less extreme. But there a rifts over what details would be acceptable not just to that industry but to other industries that could be affected.

Negotiating a deal that would be good enough to please both local control initiative proponents and the oil and gas industry is a tall order, but some of the same people involved in the 2010 "Clean Air Clean Jobs" compromise to convert coal-fired power plants along the Front Range to natural gas are working to align these disparate interests enough to strike a deal. This late-session negotiation comes as other bills favored by conservationists, like a mere study of the health effects of oil and gas drilling which passed the House last week, die with help from Democrats in the one-vote Democratic majority Senate. 

Apropos, a couple of weeks ago, Eli Stokols reported for Politico Magazine about the larger issues surrounding this debate. Without expressing an opinion on its conclusions, as negotiations progress, it's clear Stokols wrote a prescient story:

Ted Trimpa, a Denver power lawyer and strategist once dubbed “the Democrats’ Karl Rove,” was instrumental in helping Polis and the three other millionaires build Colorado’s progressive infrastructure and consolidate power over the last decade. Now he finds himself trying to hold it all together.

He worries that the ballot initiative would splinter a progressive coalition in Colorado that’s been so successful that it’s now seen as a blueprint for Democrats and Republicans in other states—its many successes attributable to an unusual and lasting harmony, an ability to avoid sticky policy fights that distract from the shared goal: winning.

Resolving Colorado’s fracking fight quickly may yet provide other states with a blueprint of how to deal with local control issues around oil and gas, a national example of how compromise and consensus can be achieved even in our polarized times. But if Polis’s measures move toward the November ballot, the country may find out that Colorado isn’t such a model after all, that coalition politics aren’t as easy as this state has made them seem.

“We’re a state known for the two sides working together,” Trimpa tells me, “but if this initiative makes the ballot, the age of that will be gone for a very long time.”

It is what it is, folks, and few of us are privy to the action going on behind the scenes. Politically, there's an undeniable need for Democrats to present a unified front in this tight election year. On the other hand, coalitions only work when sufficient common ground exists to move forward. This has always been the great challenge of holding together the center-left Democratic coalition that has held control of this state for going on a decade, and this isn't the first time the ability to hold that coalition together has been put to a high-stakes test.

We'll update as soon as we learn more–and that won't be long with session's end just days away.

Guns For Dangerous Crazy People, Too!

For illustration purposes only.

For illustration purposes only.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby reports today:

Responding to numerous emails and a “legislative alert” from the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Association, several state lawmakers voted against a bill that changes some definitions in the state’s civil commitment statutes.

Under those laws, mental health professionals can hold potentially dangerous patients for up to 72 hours and prescribe additional treatment beyond that time…

It stems from a civil commitment task force that was created last year in response to the shooting deaths at an Aurora theater in 2012.

But gun owners worry that once someone is labeled mentally ill, they lose their right to own or possess a firearm.

During last year's pitched debate over gun safety legislation passed in the Colorado General Assembly, one of the most often-heard arguments against the legislation then being debated was that it ignored the real issue identified in recent mass shooting events: that is, mental health problems afflicting the shooters. We shouldn't be regulating guns, they said, we need to do more to both protect the community from and provide treatment for people with mental illnesses.

Now that there's legislation to do just that, what's the response from the gun lobby and their pet legislators?

“I think that a lot of stakeholders weren’t included, including law enforcement … and Second Amendment community,” [Pols emphasis] said Rep. Justin Everett, R-Littleton. “We want to consult with all communities out there, especially after we had two-and-a-half recalls this last cycle.”

As you can see, the gun lobby may have once paid lip service to mental health legislation as an an "alternative" to the gun safety bills passed last year–but when they had the chance to actually do something, in this case carrying out the recommendations of experts convened after the Aurora shootings, forget it! Right back to the "take our guns" scare tactics. It's not  a surprising development, but it should be eye-opening for those who think Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and their wholly-owned representatives in the legislature can be reasoned with.

Allow us to suggest here, as gently as we may, that some of those most upset by the possibility of civil commitment reform, to include figures in Colorado politics whose names you may even know, might themselves be in need of it. We'll leave the individual diagnoses to qualified professionals, naturally.

In the meantime, somebody check the weather in Hell, because GOP Rep. Bob Gardner is a legitimate voice of reason in the Republican House caucus on this legislation, as well as one of the only "yes" votes:

“I, like you, received a large number of emails about House Bill 1386 over the weekend, most of which simply did not understand the bill,” Gardner said. “This bill has nothing in it about guns. If we fail to get the help to those who need it and they harm themselves or they harm a family member, we’ve done them no service by not putting them on a 72-hour hold.”

Good for Rep. Gardner, and shame most of his colleagues.