Damning Deep Dive Details Roberts’ “Difficult” Dilemma

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels has been watching as state Sen. Ellen Roberts has mulled a run for the U.S. Senate–and as you can see in the Tweet above, a reference to a particularly damaging opinion piece from the Colorado Independent’s Mike Littwin after Roberts falsely claimed in a conservative talk radio interview that “I’ve never called myself pro-choice,” she hasn’t been very impressed.

An in-depth story this weekend about Roberts’ possible Senate bid makes us think Bartels is not seeing anything you’d call improvement since Roberts’ rocky start in mid-May, as her struggle to define herself:

Roberts’ reputation was as a moderate when she was first elected to the legislature in 2006, but Capitol regulars saw what they thought was a shift to the right. When Republicans took control of the state Senate after last November’s election, her conservative caucus elected her Senate president pro tem. That escalated the conversation…

After the session ended in May, Roberts told her hometown paper she was looking at a Senate run. “I recognize it would be a longshot,” the 55-year-old said.

The Durango Herald noted Roberts would have to survive a partisan primary, which typically supports the more conservative candidate, and pointed out that Roberts supports gay rights and is pro-choice.

That’s when things got interesting.

Roberts’ “evolution” into a more conservative candidate, in anticipation of a GOP primary for higher office, has not gone well. This year’s legislative session witnessed a major shift in Roberts’ voting record, with three key actions standing out as trouble spots for her political future: her ill-advised support for a bill that would make it even easier for Colorado students to opt out of immunizations, her fickle support for funds to extend a highly successful IUD contraception program, and above all, her support for a so-called “fetal homicide” bill that opponents claimed would create Personhood-style legal rights for fetuses. In response to these actions, Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado and other reproductive choice groups who once considered Roberts a reachable GOP lawmaker have denounced her.

Roberts’ excuse for this shift?

Roberts said her stances did change after she got elected to the Senate, in part because she no longer represented just the liberal-based Durango, but also conservative constituents in Cortez, Montrose and elsewhere in the eight counties she represents.

It’s possible that reasoning may persuade a few voters, but it opens Roberts to the charge of being driven by political opportunity instead of principle–an allegation that will stick with many more. And when you combine such a ready admission that her stances have changed with her unforced gaffe about having “never” called herself pro-choice, when she plainly has done so and recently, there’s little left to trust.

And that’s why Roberts is the subject of stories about facing “difficulty” instead of, you know, opportunity.

Former Head of Colo. GOP SuperPAC Gets Two-Year Jail Sentence

We all know that campaign finance laws in the United States are about as airtight as a cardboard submarine. But for the first time that we can recall, somebody is going to jail for violating campaign finance regulations — and that somebody is directly connected to the Colorado Republican Party.

Republican operative Tyler Harber was the ED of a Colorado GOP SuperPac in 2014.

Republican operative Tyler Harber was the ED of a Colorado GOP SuperPac in 2014.

As the Associated Press reports:

A Republican political operative was sentenced to two years in prison Friday after becoming the first person convicted of illegally coordinating campaign contributions between a super PAC and a congressional campaign.

Tyler Harber, 34, of Alexandria apologized at his sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court. He said he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he did it anyway because of his desire to win elections and his belief that the law banning such coordination is routinely ignored in the political world…

…Richard Pilger, director of the Justice Department’s Election Crimes branch, said a stiff sentence was needed as a deterrent because the crime itself is so difficult to detect that fear of a lengthy prison sentence may be one of the only ways to keep political operatives in line.

If the name Tyler Harber sounds familiar to you, it should. Harber’s name began to surface earlier this year in the context of the State Republican Party’s March election for State Chairman. Harber and his political firm, Harden Global, worked closely with former State Republican Chair Ryan Call in recent years; Call lost his bid for re-election to Steve House partially because of this dubious connection, which was once part of a plan touted as Call’s “brain child.”

Colorado media outlets largely ignored this story, for some reason, until they were criticized by the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review in February:

Ryan Call, Steve House.

Ryan Call (left) and current Colorado GOP Chairman Steve House.

Here’s why this matters. In Citizens United and other cases in recent years, the US Supreme Court has relaxed many of the rules surrounding campaign finance, with the result that outside groups like super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts to help or oppose a candidate. One of the remaining restrictions is that outside groups and official candidate campaigns can’t coordinate their efforts—but politicos have found novel ways to get around that rule. And the Federal Elections Commission, which is in charge of regulating such behavior, is gridlocked along partisan lines and hasn’t been able to agree on how to respond.

So, the fact that federal prosecutors have decided to get involved, and that they actually busted someone, is a fairly big deal.

At the same time, campaign finance can be arcane stuff, and the congressional campaign in question was in Viriginia. In many states, the news likely didn’t find a spot in the local, or even national, sections of the daily newspaper. 

But in Colorado, it should have. Tyler Harber, the man at the center of this story, was the person tapped last year by the state Republican Party to head up an independent expenditure committee—akin to a super PAC, though the party doesn’t use that term—with ties to the state GOP last year. [Pols emphasis]

Back in February, Call compared Harber’s misdeeds to getting a traffic ticket…an analogy that seems particularly absurd now that Harber is looking at 2 years in jail. It will be interesting to see if charges of illegal coordination begin to make their way through the ranks of the Colorado GOP, or if Harber was able to fall on the grenade entirely.

This is a big win for Colorado Ethics Watch, among others, but also for American voters in general. Campaign finance laws absolutely need to be improved; we’re moving in the right direction, at least, by actually enforcing the existing laws.

Ellen Roberts’ Self-Immolation Continues

UPDATE: Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado slams Ellen Roberts in a new statement:

“Sen. Roberts’ positions and votes on choice issues over the last few years have been erratic at times – even opposing teen pregnancy prevention and sex education programs. We no longer consider her to be pro-choice, and understand why she’s having a hard time defining her own ‘label.’ It’s been confusing for a lot of us,” said Cathy Alderman, VP of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado.

And NARAL Pro Choice Colorado:

“Unlike Sen. Roberts, Colorado voters know where they stand on Roe v Wade, without parsing or equivocation – they’ve said over and over again at the ballot box we are a pro-choice state. And at a time when abortion rights are under constant assault at the state and federal level, Colorado women need allies we can count on.

This isn’t a hypothetical discussion. Women in other states are facing the humiliation of mandatory ultrasounds and waiting periods. The US Senate is about to vote on a 20-week abortion ban, while in Colorado we saw an unprecedented 6 bills designed to limit a woman’s right to choose this year alone. By sponsoring a fetal personhood bill and voting against funding common sense programs like LARC for Colorado, which actually reduced the abortion rate, Ellen Roberts proves she can’t be trusted to stand up for pro-choice Coloradans, no matter what she says.”

—–

The Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus follows up our story yesterday about state Sen. Ellen Roberts’ interview with conservative radio host Dan Caplis this week, in which Roberts claimed she has “never” referred to herself as “pro-choice.” As we demonstrated yesterday with a 7 second video mashup (above), that was a really stupid thing for Ellen Roberts to say.

Confronted with the obvious question by the Herald, Roberts had no choice but to backpedal:

[H]er response offers fodder to Democrats and pro-choice advocates who have increased attacks on Roberts in recent weeks after The Durango Herald reported that Roberts was seriously considering a challenge to incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet in 2016 for the U.S. Senate seat. With Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman no longer considering the Senate seat, much of the focus has turned to Roberts.

When asked by the Herald about her pro-choice talk show comment, Roberts said she did not offer an accurate answer.

“I would like to correct my statement from the ‘Dan Caplis Show’ in that I spoke in error when I was on the radio show the other day and said I never described myself as pro-choice,” Roberts said.

“I would like it out there that I made a mistake,” she said. “I should not have used that word ‘never,’ and it’s been a continual learning curve to me in terms of how the labels are attached to people.” [Pols emphasis]

A…”learning curve?” As sagely columnist Mike Littwin at the Colorado Independent writes today, that’s not really the problem:

The problem is that she has said many times she was pro-choice. And it wasn’t long before Colorado Pols had the video of her on the floor of the state Senate saying she was “pro-choice.” The fact is, she has said, adamantly and repeatedly, she is pro-choice. She might as well have said she never claimed to have two feet.

So why did she lie? That’s easy: Because she didn’t know what else to say. She had voted for the fetal-homicide/personhood bill in the state Senate this year to try to make the problem go away. We saw how that worked out. Her pro-choice allies dumped her, and all her anti-abortion foes were unswayed…

She didn’t just speak in error. She didn’t just make a mistake. She told a gigantic, easily provable whopper that she can never walk back. All politicians lie. No successful politician breaks the Pinocchio machine the first time out. [Pols emphasis]

This wasn’t the only problem Roberts created for herself during her interview with Dan Caplis. Her refusal to answer a simple question about whether Roe v. Wade was properly decided, saying that she would “try and answer in detail once I decided that I was getting into the race,” was inadequate to the point of being laughable. If she wasn’t prepared to answer such basic questions, she should never have agreed to this “friendly” interview.

As for lying about having called herself “pro-choice,” then attempting to back away from it with a tortured excuse about how telling the truth is a “learning curve?”

Amateur hour, folks. Ellen Roberts is not ready to run for the U.S. Senate.

BREAKING: Hickenlooper VETOES Interest Rate Hike Bill

FRIDAY UPDATE: More coverage in today’s Denver Post and Grand Junction Sentinel.

—–

UPDATE #3: The Colorado Statesman’s Vic Vela:

“While we certainly see the benefits of offering the loan and credit products that are considered in this legislation, it has not been clearly demonstrated that access to such loans is under threat,” Hickenlooper said in his veto letter.

The governor “was particularly struck” by testimony provided by the Attorney General’s office during a legislative committee hearing. That testimony included an analysis that indicated that changes to interest rate structures would not make these loans more available.

The bill sought to raise the maximum amount of interest charged for supervised loans from 21 to 36 percent for loans up to $3,000. Interest charges would spike from 15 to 21 percent on loans that carry balances of $3,000 to $5,000.

“These changes would result in a 200 percent increase in the loan amount allowed in the 36 percent interest rate tier and a two-thirds increase in the 21 percent interest rate tier,” Hickenlooper said. [Pols emphasis]

And the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus:

Consumer-interest groups rejoiced on Thursday after Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed legislation that they feared would have hurt low-income individuals applying for small loans…

“Prior to approving any increase in the allowable amount of interest charged, we believe it is necessary to more fully explore and substantiate the claim that a change in the law is necessary for these products to be accessible,” Hickenlooper wrote in his veto explanation. “Colorado’s consumers deserve this clarity as they will ultimately carry the expense that would result from this legislation.”

The governor also pointed out that the legislation moved quickly through the legislative process. It was introduced as one of the last bills of the legislative session – which ended May 6 – and sat on the calendar for only a week before it cleared both chambers. [Pols emphasis]

—–

UPDATE #2: From the Bell Policy Center, who led the underdog opposition to House Bill 15-1390 from progressive nonprofit groups:

Today Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed a bill that would have increased loan costs for low- and moderate-income Coloradans. The Bell led more than a dozen organizations in asking the governor to veto this bill, Allowable Finance Charge for Certain Consumer Credit Transactions (House Bill 15-1390). We greatly appreciate the governor’s action to protect Colorado consumers.

HB15-1390, which was hurried through in the last week of the 120-day legislative session, would have increased the costs of an average $6,000 loan by 38.1 percent, according to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. The bill would have cost Coloradans more than $25 million in additional interest charges, according to a Center for Responsible Lending analysis of the two largest lenders in Colorado…

The governor’s veto represents a huge victory for hardworking Coloradans. This bill would have dramatically increased the revenues of very profitable lenders at the expense of families struggling to make ends meet. To learn more about why this bill was bad for Colorado, check out our fact sheet.

As the governor’s veto said, any additional conversations about this issue will need to include all stakeholders. If those conversations happen, the Bell will be closely involved and will do our best to ensure that all voices are included.

—–

UPDATE: Gov. John Hickenlooper has released a letter explaining his veto of House Bill 15-1390. You can read it in its entirety here, and here’s an excerpt:

vetoimage

From a statement by ProgressNow Colorado, one of the groups who opposed this bill:

“House Bill 1390 was bad policy, introduced at the last possible minute to stifle debate, and written specifically to allow big lenders to hike interest rates on consumers who can least afford it,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “Increasing the total cost of a personal loan by almost 40% is not the way to help Colorado families get their finances in order. This legislation was sold to lawmakers in both parties based on misleading arguments and threats by big lending corporations that don’t stand up to scrutiny.”

“At a time when Colorado’s middle class families are just beginning to recover from the recent recession–a recession brought on in part by irresponsible predatory lending practices–the last thing they need is a 36% interest rate to borrow money,” said Runyon-Harms. “The truth is, personal lenders issued hundreds of millions of dollars worth of these loans in Colorado last year, and the subprime lending industry’s profits are skyrocketing nationwide. They don’t need to hike up interest rates on borrowers who can least afford it to ‘stay in business.’”

—–

loanshark2We’ve just received word that Gov. John Hickenlooper will veto House Bill 15-1390 today, a hotly controversial bill to allow large interest rate hikes on subprime personal loans that passed in the final days of this year’s legislative session. Hickenlooper’s veto comes after an urgent campaign by a few progressive and consumer groups led by the Bell Policy Center against the legislation, after it passed with dismaying speed out of the Democratic-controlled House with most Democrats voting in favor. In the Senate, most Democrats opposed the legislation after advocates were able to sound the alarm.

As for the many Democrats who voted for this bill, the Democratic House leadership who allowed it to be introduced at the end of the session, and Democratic lobbyists who convinced them it would be okay? They’ve all got egg on their faces, and may well draw heat for their actions at upcoming town hall meetings from their constituents.

And you know what, folks? They should. This was truly a low point for Colorado legislative Democrats, a significant breach of faith with their base voters–and there should be a price paid to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

We’ll update shortly with statements and coverage–a big victory for scrappy nonprofit groups, over both Republicans and backsliding Democrats in the General Assembly. And also a good day for Gov. Hickenlooper, who showed real independence from the corporate interests he is often criticized for being beholden to.

Sometimes the good guys actually do win. And that’s pretty cool.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (June 4)

Get More SmarterAfter a seven-day layoff, the NBA Finals finally kick off tonight. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Let’s investigate! Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner want the Government Accountability Office to open an investigation into what went wrong with the still-under-construction Aurora VA Hospital (even though the GAO has already done this). Maybe they should ask Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) to investigate something; after all, Coffman is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

► State Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) is considering a run for U.S. Senate (or Congress), but the more she talks, the more problems she creates for herself.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Seven Seconds That Could End Ellen Roberts’ Political Career

In a talk radio interview yesterday with conservative host Dan Caplis, Colorado state Senator and possible 2016 U.S. Senate candidate Ellen Roberts attempted to thread the needle between her perceived record as a “moderate” legislator, and the conservative policies she has come out in favor of recently as she contemplates what it will take to survive a Republican primary.

Unfortunately for Roberts, in the course of making herself more palatable to the hard-right Caplis’ conservative Republican audience, she contradicted herself on the issue of reproductive choice to an extent that you almost have to find…well, pitiable. Seven seconds of video is all you need to watch:

The first clip is from Roberts’ interview with Caplis yesterday, in which he claims “I’ve never called myself pro-choice.” The second is from a Colorado Senate floor debate, where the same Ellen Roberts proudly identifies herself as a “pro-choice Republican.”

There’s no context that makes this any less damaging. Roberts tells a right-wing stridently anti-abortion talk radio host that she has “never” called herself pro-choice–no qualifiers. But as anyone with any experience with Roberts from her time at the state capitol knows, that’s completely false. Even though pro-choice organizations have written Roberts off as an ally after voting against their interests repeatedly in recent years, Roberts has frequently self-identified as “pro-choice” when it suited her politically to do so.

Obviously, these two clips make it very difficult to trust Roberts on this issue–regardless of your own personal views about abortion. Played together, they cannot help but erode trust on both sides of the aisle. And the thing for cynical Democrats in Colorado still smarting from 2014 to understand: Roberts is just not as slick as Cory Gardner was last year when he successfully played both sides of this issue, infuriating Democrats with his audacious deceptions but in the end winning the election. These seven seconds of video tell voters on both sides everything they need to know about Roberts, about a lot more than just abortion. And she just doesn’t have the same ability to talk her way out of it.

Roberts can’t clear a GOP primary field, and explained properly, we believe this self-inflicted wound is enough to make her an also-ran–in a primary or the general election.

Egads! Ellen Roberts is Really Not Good at This

State Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) tried, poorly, to float her name for U.S. Senate (or Congress) last month, telling the Durango Herald that she considered herself a “long-shot candidate.” But with Rep. Mike Coffman publicly declining to run for U.S. Senate, Roberts has another opportunity to launch the ol’ trial balloon.

It’s not going well.

Roberts has been absolutely bludgeoning herself in media interviews lately. It’s only been a few days, but Roberts is suffering from so many self-inflicted wounds that we almost want to call for an intervention.

Last week the editorial board of her hometown Durango Herald ripped into Roberts for her absurdly transparent attempts to appear both “pro choice” and staunchly anti-abortion. This week the national publication The Nation obliterated Roberts’ ridiculous explanation for opposing funding for Colorado’s very successful long-acting contraception (LARC) program. This is not some sort of “liberal media conspiracy,” either; this terrible press is all directly linked to statements and botched explanations that have come straight out of Roberts’ mouth.

Consider Roberts’ latest mistake on KNUS Radio, as chronicled by Jason Salzman:

 

Yup, there’s Roberts, flat-out refusing to answer a softball question about abortion because she is not officially a candidate for U.S. Senate. So, um, Sen. Roberts, what did you think they were going to ask you about? Your garden?

Roberts Stumbles Explaining IUD Funding Opposition

Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).

Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).

The Nation’s Katha Pollitt has an excellent in-depth story up about the battle over funding for long-term reversible contraceptives in Colorado–funding that was ended this year by Republicans after a protracted legislative battle with Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly. It’s a fight that Colorado Sen. Ellen Roberts figured prominently in as a nominally “moderate” Republican, who supporters had hoped would back continued funding for this program–but voted “no” on a budget amendment that represented her only chance to do so.

Pollitt’s story details the fight over the LARC program, which has been credited with dramatically lowering the rate of teenage pregnancy in the state, and leaves Roberts looking once again like a politician who sacrificed principle for electoral advantage:

You would think Colorado had found the holy grail of compromise in the abortion wars: a plan that would unite Democrats and Republicans, pro-choicers and anti-choicers, social liberals and fiscal conservatives. A plan that was, moreover, well-run, backed by evidence, supported by the state’s health department—and, to repeat, worked astonishingly well. You would think that when the state legislature had to decide whether to pass a bill funding the program after the private money runs out in June, the choice would be, in the pungent words of its Republican cosponsor, Don Coram, “a no-brainer.”

But you would be wrong. When the program began, Colorado’s state government was in Democratic hands, and the initiative enjoyed some bipartisan support. This was one reason the foundation picked Colorado for its pilot program: Chances were good that if it showed positive results, the state would take it over. But last November, Republicans won control of the State Senate and are on a kind of victory lap. Optimists predicted that the bill would sail through the legislature; instead, after it passed the Democrat-controlled House, Senate Republicans maneuvered the bill into a budget committee, where GOP lawmakers killed it. So much for the party of fiscal responsibility. “It’s insane not to be supportive of high-quality family planning if you want to reduce spending on public health,” Dr. David Turok, a leading expert on the IUD, told me. But what’s money when a fertilized egg might be in danger?

As Republican State Senator Kevin Lundberg put it, using an IUD could mean “stopping a small child from implanting.” (Fun fact: Lundberg is the head of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee.) That IUDs work by preventing the implantation of fertilized eggs is a cherished conviction of abortion opponents, who reject the massive amount of scientific evidence that the devices work by preventing fertilization…

Into this Kevin Lundberg-toxified environment steps Sen. Ellen Roberts:

The clincher: No-cost birth control is already provided by the Affordable Care Act, so why should the state pony up? Republican Senator Ellen Roberts told me she might have supported the bill if she’d had a good answer for that… [Pols emphasis]

And there you have it, folks–Roberts finally gives a definitive answer on why she didn’t support funding for the LARC birth control program. But unfortunately for Roberts, Pollitt wasn’t buying:

Luckily, thanks to my access to the Internet and a telephone, I was able to help her out: The ACA doesn’t cover everyone; it doesn’t guarantee teens’ privacy; and although it’s supposed to provide access to every method of birth control with no co-pay, the fine print has allowed insurance companies to refuse to cover the more expensive, more effective methods. (In fact, President Obama recently rebuked insurers for these shenanigans.) Someday, the ACA may render programs like Colorado’s obsolete—but how many pregnant teenage girls will have dropped out of school by then? How many babies will be born to a girl or woman who is not in a good position to parent a child?

There’s no question that the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare, that mandate zero-copay coverage for contraceptives is a good thing that has helped millions of women–but the ultimate goal of 100% health coverage for all Americans hasn’t been achieved, and many of the at-risk populations the LARC program targeted these very uninsured women.

Also…doesn’t Ellen Roberts oppose Obamacare? She voted against the legislation to set up Colorado’s “Amycare” health insurance exchange, and is now a leading troll of Obamacare in Colorado as chair of the insurance exchange oversight committee. Isn’t it therefore a little disingenuous to cite something she opposes as justification for voting against LARC funding?

To be honest, we think that under different political circumstances, Roberts may well have been a “yes” vote on LARC funding. But even the most charitable interpretation, that Roberts’ vote was influenced by political calculations as she ponders a Republican primary for higher office, amounts to a serious indictment of her credibility–on an issue she needs to be strong on to sell herself as a “moderate” in a general election. Then again, she can’t win a Republican primary wearing a “moderate” label.

The bottom line? Ellen Roberts may simply have no good options.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (June 3)

Get More SmarterColorado is purty. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, along with Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) are asking the Veterans Affairs Department to dig into its own pockets to find the money to finish the VA Hospital Project in Aurora. One again, we remind you that Coffman is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

► The runoff for Denver’s Municipal Elections is finally over. Kevin Flynn, Jolon Clark, Wayne New, and Stacie Gilmore were each successful in their respective races.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

So, Uh, Now What? Republicans Look for Answers With Coffman Out

Congressman Mike Coffman told the Denver Post on Monday that he will not challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016 and will instead focus on re-election in CD-6. Coffman’s decision to stay out of the race is big news for the same reason a flawed Coffman was the GOP’s top choice to run for Senate in the first place – Republicans don’t have another option. There was no “plan b” last week, and there’s no “plan b” today.

So…now what?

It is a question that even the most seasoned and well-connected Colorado politico can’t answer with much certainty—but that doesn’t mean we won’t try! Where do Colorado Republicans go from here?

“Republicans don’t have a candidate yet, and nobody knows whether they will end up with a strong recruit or a weak one.”

— Political Analyst Stu Rothenberg, the Greeley Tribune.

First, Do No Harm

Coffman has served in elected office for 26 years, and you don’t have a career like that without making smart choices about when and where to run. Make no mistake: Coffman would not have turned down a Senate run if he truly thought that he could win. Opportunities like this – to be handed your Party’s nomination for a U.S. Senate seat — don’t come along often. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met with Coffman at least twice in the last few months to personally convince him to run in 2016.

Coffman was unquestionably the GOP’s first and best choice to run for Senate this cycle. There’s no disputing this. That Coffman declined to run, despite recruitment efforts from local and national Republicans, will force GOP strategists to make some difficult decisions. With Coffman out of the picture, Republicans have to get pragmatic about their level of commitment to beating Bennet next year. Republicans struck gold with Cory Gardner in 2014, but can they really do it again two years later? Only once in the last 40 years have incumbent senators from the same state and same political party lost re-election in consecutive election cycles.

This question is not just about candidate recruitment – it is about whether Republicans are committed to finding the resources for their Senate candidate no matter who wins the nomination. The most important goal for Colorado Republicans in 2016 is to create an environment in which the GOP candidate for President can win in Colorado. Republicans need Colorado’s electoral votes more than they need another GOP Senator, and that reality will dictate the allocation of resources and money. It was just five years ago when the ridiculous Dan Maes ended up as the GOP nominee for Governor against Democrat John Hickenlooper. Republicans didn’t have anyone capable of defeating Hickenlooper in 2010, but Maes was such a terrible candidate that he hurt other candidates up and down the ballot. (more…)

BREAKING: Mike Coffman Will NOT Run for Senate in 2016

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R) tells another tall tale.

Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post with the breaking news confirming what we’ve been saying for months now: Rep. Mike Coffman will NOT challenge Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016:

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman won’t challenge Democrat Michael Bennet in Colorado’s Senate race next year despite being wooed by local and national Republicans.

“It certainly was an option I was looking at,” Coffman, an Aurora Republican, told The Denver Post Monday.

We’re not surprised to hear this announcement from Coffman, nor are we surprised with his attempt to pivot and present himself as a “leader” on the Veterans Hospital fiasco in Aurora — though his aggressiveness on the latter issue raises a few eyebrows. Coffman clearly senses that the Aurora VA Hospital mess is a political problem for him, as it should be — after all, Coffman represents Aurora and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee. Check out the not-so-subtle change of topic by Coffman:

“But the fact is, I’m really able to get things done where I am right now. I’ve emerged as a national leader on veterans issues.”

Problems with a Veterans Administration hospital project in Aurora have made headlines for weeks. The Post reported in May that U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials in Washington knew about management problems with the project as early as May 2011 — seven months before construction began — yet two years passed before any changes were made…

…The left, including ProgressNow Colorado, has tried to blame the VA fiasco on Coffman.

“Coffman can be outraged. He can be frustrated. But he cannot be shocked or surprised when as Chair of the Oversight Committee, he had known this information for years — and until recently has done almost nothing to fix the problem,” said director Amy-Runyon Harms.

Coffman on Monday called the claims “ridiculous,” [Pols emphasis] adding the “culture of bureaucratic incompetency” has gone on for several years at the Veterans Administration.

Coffman is clearly concerned that the VA Hospital could end his political career, which no doubt helped make his decision to run for re-election in CD-6 rather than challenge Bennet in 2016. Perhaps Coffman reasoned that he stood a better chance of withstanding the VA Hospital storm if he was not running statewide at the same time.

Meanwhile, Republicans have to figure out what to do now that their only serious potential Senate challenger has taken a pass. If the GOP had a bench, we’d be looking in that direction ourselves.

Get More Smarter on Monday (Holy Crap it’s June 1)

Get More SmarterIf you’ve been wondering what Bruce Jenner will look like as a woman…well, the wait is over. Here’s Caitlyn Jenner (and check out this helpful tip sheet from GLAAD). It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado Veterans took part in a rally yesterday in Aurora to encourage Congress to find the money to complete the Aurora VA Hospital. Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) was on hand to join the calls to “Finish the damn thing.” Also on hand was Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigationsand he told the crowd pretty much the opposite of what they wanted to hear.

► Speaking of rallies, more than 2,500 people turned out in rainy weather in Southern Jefferson County to voice their concern with the Jeffco School Board and Superintendent Dan McMinimee

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Friday (May 29)

Get More SmarterLet’s just repeat Memorial Day weekend once more, eh? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► State Rep. John Buckner (D-Aurora) has died at the age of 67 after dealing with a respiratory illness. Buckner took a leave from the legislature in late April because of health concerns.

► Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee has some explaining to do in the wake of the resignation of Communications Director Lisa Pinto (as first reported at Jeffco Pols). Pinto was hired by McMinimee despite the fact that she was largely unqualified for the job — aside from being a right-wing crony, of course. 

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Durango Herald Hammers Ellen Roberts’ “Kabuki”

Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango has had a tough time this year as she tries to navigate the tricky landscape of apiring to higher office as a female Republican with a “moderate” public image. We’ve discussed a number of instances this year in which Roberts was either forced to move to or willingly positioned herself on the far right of policy debates at the Capitol–from the disastrous “Anti-Vaxxer Bill of Rights” legislation that stoked a nationwide controversy over low vaccination rates, to her more recent support for a so-called “fetal homicide” bill that reproductive rights advocates believed was a segue into another “Personhood” abortion ban.

Today, Roberts’ hometown paper The Durango Herald weighs in strongly on the latter issue–and while not completely sparing Planned Parenthood and other groups from criticism, the paper’s editorial board makes clear they aren’t buying Roberts’ excuses for backing “Personhood” either:

State Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, has mounted a spirited and eloquent defense of her support for Senate Bill 268 – called “Concerning offenses against an unborn child” – in the recently concluded legislative session. Lawmakers should be able to explain their positions, and Roberts is good at it…

What she does not explain, however, is that SB 268 was a completely unnecessary piece of political theater. [Pols emphasis] Its language seems carefully tuned to spark controversy, and its stated goal could probably have been achieved without dancing through the minefields of the abortion wars.

…[T]he Legislature could have crafted a tightly written bill that would have increased penalties for such violent acts without employing any of the red-flag words that surround discussion of reproduction. It could have made “terminating a woman’s pregnancy without her permission” punishable by life in prison without any mention of abortion-war catchphrases.

Instead, SB 268 turned entirely on hot-button words. It defined a “person … as a human being and includes an unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth.”

In fairness, the Herald does accuse Planned Parenthood of “rising to the bait,” citing the fact that the bill was killed in committee as evidence that it “was never a serious threat to reproductive freedom.” But the harshest criticism in this editorial is definitely reserved for Sen. Roberts:

Courting the anti-abortion right while simultaneously touting a pro-choice record is not compromise, but Kabuki. [Pols emphasis]

Ouch.

As we said before, Ellen Roberts is in a very difficult position. Many of the things that might have made her a more viable general election candidate, like her past support for some reproductive choice measures, make it much harder for her to win a Republican primary. But her only means of placating the Republican base is to take positions that negate those “moderate” credentials, robbing her of her principal advantage.

Would it have been better for Roberts to have stuck to her former position, and not lurched right to make herself more appealing to the Republican base? Faced with winning an interim battle but losing the war today, we think so. Unfortunately, she’s already made the opposite choice, and her votes can’t be uncast.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 28)

Get More SmarterIs this week still happening? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The ugliness just doesn’t stop when it comes to the right-wing Jefferson County School Board. Here’s video of School Board President Ken Witt refusing to allow a student to speak about LGBT rights at a public board meeting.

The EPA has finalized a new clean water rule intended to help crack down on polluters.

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