Scuttlebutt: Did Bill Cadman Shaft Recall Hero Bernie Herpin?

Sen. Bernie Herpin (R).

Sen. Bernie Herpin (R).

Even though Colorado Republicans took over the state senate in this year's elections by a single seat, Democrats have consoled themselves with two wins both symbolically and strategically important: taking back the two seats lost in last year's recall elections in Colorado Springs and Pueblo. In Pueblo's Senate District 3, Democrats winning back the seat was practically a foregone conclusion: the district is overwhelmingly Democrats, and the recall would not have succeeded there were it not for Byzantine political squabbles in Pueblo that further weakened the incumbent.

In SD-11, covering urban Colorado Springs and relatively liberal Manitou Springs, the numbers don't favor Democrats nearly as much, and recall winner Bernie Herpin had at least some hope of keeping his seat. This is, after all, the seat that John Morse barely held in 2010 in addition to having lost last year. Reapportionment shored up the seat for Democrats to some degree, but it was still by far the more competitive of the two. What's more, these seats had enormous symbolic value after the nationwide attention paid to the 2013 recalls. In the aftermath of last week's elections, the ouster of both recall winners has been cited nationally as evidence that the Republican wave was at least partially broken in Colorado.

Part of the consoling irony for Democrats in Herpin's ouster by a wide margin a week ago is the man who ousted him: Michael Merrifield, a former state representative who also served as the state organizer for national gun control group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. All told, the gun lobby's "wave of fear" strategy of using the Colorado recalls to forestall gun safety legislation in other states may be what took the real beating last Tuesday:

Now it’s gun-control activists who are crowing.

Mark Glaze, former executive director of the group Everytown for Gun Safety, said the results showed that when a significant portion of the electorate turns out, rather than a small, agitated minority, support for something like universal background checks for gun buyers is a politically winning position. (That was part of the package Hickenlooper, who was reelected Tuesday, signed into law.)

“The message remains that the [National Rifle Association] can bully politicians or buy them for a few pieces of silver but they have no influence over the general public,” Glaze said.

Bottom line: sources tell us that internal El Paso County rivalries may have kept the Senate Republicans from doing more to help Bernie Herpin this year, even after he became a national hero for the party because of his recall victory. In a year where money was lavished on Republican legislative candidates, there was apparently nothing in the way of outside money to defend this particular member of the GOP caucus in a wave Republican year. Responsibility for that, to the extent it's true, would fall on incoming Colorado Senate President Bill Cadman as the chief strategist of the GOP's Senate campaign efforts.

There is other evidence that Cadman didn't like and/or trust Bernie Herpin much, like Herpin's assignment to the frequently toxic Senate State Affairs Committee this year while Pueblo's George Rivera got more politically defensible assignments. Now, maybe the GOP saw data that made them write this seat off early, but we can tell you that Democrats made the full investment in SD-11 as with races they considered competitive. And if you think Pueblo's intra-Democratic relations are sketchy, compare them with the backstab fest that is the El Paso County Republican Party.

If Cadman did cede the one seat the gun lobby could have held on to from last year's historic recall elections, especially for (to put it diplomatically) nonstrategic reasons, we can't see how that will be good for the already tense partnership between the Dudley Browns of the world and the Colorado GOP.

Meet “Raging” Bill Cadman, Your Next Colorado Senate President

UPDATE #3: The goodwill over Ellen Roberts' win is short-lived: Kevin Lundberg is the new Senate Assistant Majority Leader, Vicki Marble the new GOP caucus chair. That's two of the GOP caucus' craziest members in leadership roles. Mark Scheffel will be the new Majority Leader.

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UPDATE #2: A welcome surprise–moderate GOP Sen. Ellen Roberts elected Senate President pro tempore.

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UPDATE: Bill Cadman unanimously elected President of the Colorado Senate as expected. 

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Sen. Bill Cadman.

Sen. Bill Cadman.

The new one-seat Republican majority in the Colorado Senate is meeting today to elect leadership for the upcoming legislative session. We haven't heard all the details about who is running for leadership positions, but the marquee race is already a foregone conclusion–Sen. Bill Cadman of Colorado Springs is widely expected to become the next President of the Colorado Senate.

For those who haven't had the "pleasure" of getting to know Bill Cadman, Dave Perry of the Aurora Sentinel offers a very useful primer. We should note that Cadman isn't very popular in Aurora these days, and there's a good reason:

And the new boss of the Colorado Senate, GOP state Sen. Bill Cadman of Colorado Springs? He’s ushering in a new era of non-partisan leadership under the gold dome, intent on putting Colorado back on the right track, if you know what I mean.

Cadman. Hmmmmm. Cadman? Sound familiar? It might if you’re from Aurora and still aching over the Aurora theater massacre. It might sound familiar if you’re part of the Focus on the Family fiasco, or if you’re an observer of politicians who stick their feet in their own mouths about putting their fists inside the dorsal orifices of other politicians…

Cadman hated gun control, said that Democrats wouldn’t bend to the GOP will, and implied the crazy northeast Colorado secession stunt was justified. If this is sounding like Cadman’s leading the state Senate bodes ill for Aurora don’t worry, it gets worse.

During the 2013 legislative session, as the state was still struggling with the aftermath of the Aurora theater shooting, Cadman and others appeared at a Denver Post forum focusing on the shooting and the Legislature’s response. Cadman clearly bristled when Tom Sullivan started asking questions about some lawmakers’ objection to gun and ammo restrictions. Sullivan’s son was killed during the shootings. He’s been a force for the government to do something ever since. Just after the forum, Sullivan approached Cadman to give him a collage of photos of his dead son, an effort — ill-advised or not —to put a face with the tragedy.

“I know what he looks like,” Sullivan said Cadman snapped at the ploy. The interchange made national headlines.

We also took note of the ugly exchange between Cadman and Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was killed in the Aurora shootings. But that was just one recent example of Cadman's sometimes erratic, often belligerent leadership style. Another came early this year, when Cadman blew his stack over the handling of a Republican bill, publicly threatening Democrats with recalls before belatedly realizing that he was the one in the wrong.

Dave Perry reminds us of still another:

During a state House session in 2005, then state Rep. Cadman and another lawmaker got into it on the floor over a bill allowing families of soldiers killed in action to don special license plates. When the bill’s sponsor offered amendments, Cadman called them “garbage.” So the lawmaker called Cadman garbage. So Cadman said, “If you try that again, I’ll ram my fist up your ass.”

…First Cadman tried to deny the incident, even though practically the entire House pretty much heard him. Then he refused to back off his curious threat. That only made the situation worse. Cadman’s critics sent him advice and products associated with his fist-shaking tirade. Then newspapers got into the fracas.

“What is shocking is not only Cadman’s reluctance to express regret but the fact that he wasn’t absolutely mortified by what he’d stooped to say,” the conservative Op-Ed page of the Rocky Mountain News said. “It would never occur to most people to use such an expression even in private, no matter how incensed they were over an affront, let alone utter such words in public before other elected officials.”

We've never really understood Cadman's leadership role in the Republican Senate caucus, other than perhaps to grade him on the curve. Compared to such regular embarrassments in the Colorado Senate GOP as Vicki Marble, we suppose Cadman doesn't look that bad. For whatever reason, the rare true moderate Republicans in the Colorado Senate, like Ellen Roberts, never seem to get a leadership nod–possibly because of the frequency with which moderate Republican Colorado Senators get knocked out in primaries.

Will Cadman turn over a new leaf as President of a one-seat Republican Senate majority, arguably the most visible Republican elected official in the state today? We have to think the next two years–not to mention 2016–will go better for Republicans if he can.

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.

GOP Takes Colorado Senate By 876 (Or 689) Votes

UPDATE: Statement from Colorado Senate Democrats, who are holding a press conference at 3:00PM today:

The Democratic caucus plans to do whatever possible to block efforts to take the state backward with respect to economic growth, women's rights, LGBT equality, the environment and workers' rights.

While the loss of this one seat changes which party is in control of the Senate, the Senate Democrats had many victories in this election, including winning back both recall seats, winning 2 out of 4 very difficult seats in Jefferson County, and winning the rural seat on the Western Slope. 

"After several days of wait-and-see, we now know the fate of Senate control," said Senate President Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora. "Under Democratic leadership, we were able to achieve the fourth fastest growing economy in the nation and get the unemployment rate down to the lowest it has been since 2008. We are extremely proud of our accomplishments and all of the people who worked with us to make those possible. Going forward, we will do what we can to defend the rights and liberties that we worked so hard to protect. It is our job to hold the Republicans accountable, work together where we can, and continue to fight for a great state."

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The last update yesterday from Adams County at about 11:30PM indicates that the margin between Senate District 24 candidates Beth Martinez Humenik (R) and Judy Solano (D) went in the opposite direction from previous days–expanding the narrow lead for Humenik to 876 votes where previously Solano was gaining. It should be noted that this total does not include provisional ballots, outstanding overseas and military (UOCAVA) ballots, or deficient ballots that can still be cured through Wednesday, but the math seems clear at this point. This ends the suspense over counting in Adams County, which was slowed by the need to manually inspect write-in votes for an obscure county race with no candidates.

And it means that Colorado Republicans will assume control of the Colorado Senate, flipping an 18-17 majority Democratic chamber to 18-17 GOP control. It's a hard-fought win that Republican deserve credit for, and ensures Republicans will have a voice in legislative policymaking over the next two years. In 2010, the last "GOP wave" election, Colorado Republicans similarly won a single-seat majority in one chamber of the Colorado legislature–that time winning the House by under 200 votes.

The other side of the coin is that Democrats have held the governor's race, the state House, and came up less than 900 votes short of holding both chambers of the legislature in one of the worst election years for Democrats anyone can remember. This too is the result of enormous effort by Democrats that should be acknowledged. The second midterm election with a Democratic President at the low point of his popularity, Republicans and pundits widely recognized 2014 to be the last best chance of crushing the decade-old "Colorado Model" that led to Democratic dominance for so many elections. And for all the accolades Republicans deservedly get for toppling Mark Udall, and again taking one chamber of the state legislature by one seat, this election simply was not the wipeout for Democrats that it was in many other states. The "Colorado Model" remains very much in business.

Laura Waters Woods

Laura Waters Woods

As for the Colorado Senate, Democrats' narrow and unexpected (at least by some) loss in SD-24 may not even be the race that matters in the long run. While all eyes have been focused on Adams County the last few days, the SD-19 race in Jefferson County between apparent winner Republican Laura Waters Woods and Democrat Rachel Zenzinger quietly narrowed to only 689 votes. This result may prove more important to long-term control of the Senate for several reasons–the biggest being that Sen.-elect Waters Woods doesn't get a full term. Woods is right back up for election in 2016 to realign the seat with its normal interval, which is being up in presidential years.

This means that for the next two years, all eyes are now squarely on Woods–instantly the most vulnerable member of a brittle Republican majority. Woods' primary victory over establishment-favored Republican Lang Sias, backed by the hard-right Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, could very easily come back to haunt the GOP in the next election. Woods won this seat by roughly the same number of votes that Evie Hudak did in 2012. Assuming she becomes the fringe-right firebrand most expect her to be in the Senate, she will be a much richer target than Sias would ever have been.

In any event, the last few days' experience in Adams County should convince everyone to stop writing in Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny as candidates in uncontested local races. Okay? It gums up the works more than it's worth in giggles.

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.

Suppes Swamped By Controversy Right To The End

Donald Suppes.

Donald Suppes.

The Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby reports, controversial GOP SD-5 candidate Don Suppes' negative headlines persist all the way to the end of the race–Colorado Ethics Watch filed a complaint late yesterday over Suppes' use of the Orchard City town hall for campaign purposes:

Suppes, who has been mayor of the town since 2008, admitted he and some volunteers for his campaign for Senate District 5 used the town building to sort mailers, saying there was nothing wrong with doing so if no town money was being spent.

But the Denver-based ethics group said it’s a clear violation of the law to use town resources to campaign for public office.

“To use one’s position as an elected official to divert public resources to support one’s own election campaign strikes at the heart of democracy,” said Luis Toro, executive director of the group. “Don Suppes’ blatant misuse of his position as mayor to get free office space for his campaign is exactly the kind of misconduct our state law is meant to prohibit.”

The Colorado Independent:

“In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best choice to do it there. But if that’s the case, then I think the media need to start getting after every time any candidate uses the courthouse steps as a means to promote their campaign or if you have a political group that’s having a picnic in the park using park benches and park pavilions,” Suppes said the conservative statehouse candidate…

Suppes’s Democratic opponent, former Vail Town Council member Kerry Donovan, says her understanding of the law is that it bans facilities like a town hall for electioneering, even if it doesn’t technically cost taxpayers a dime.

“If you’re a public official, you don’t use any of those assets to run for another office,” said Donovan, who last year decided not to run for a second term in Vail in order to campaign for the state senate. “You can’t use the power of an office to influence voters. It’s not just about tax dollars.”

The mostly rural SD-5 race has received a disproportionate amount of press coverage this election, and the cause has been pretty much all Don Suppes–from his U.N. conspiracy theorizing to the scandal over a racist Tweet from his campaign account, and now blatant misuse of public resources as Mayor of Orchard City. It doesn't look better for Suppes to defend something the public will plainly see as improper. Strategists tell us that SD-5 is one of the closest races to watch tonight, but if Suppes does lose this winnable race, he'll have his own silliness to blame in addition to his Democratic opponent.

Ballot Return Momentum Swinging–Right Now, Right On Cue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Local Journalism of the Election Cycle

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

Um, You’re Breaking the Law, Don Suppes

THURSDAY UPDATE: The Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby:

Suppes said the town long has had a policy of allowing town trustees to use town hall for personal reasons as long as no taxpayer dollars are spent.

“Under town policy, board members can use town hall free of charge,” he said. “We all have a key to town hall, and as long as we don’t have to have somebody open or close, there is no policy against it.”

But Donovan said this is about state law, not local policies.

“The rules that I operate under are not to use any of my professional assets to run for a public office,” Donovan said. “I don’t know what the letter of the law says, but my interpretation of the color of the law is, if you’re a public official, you don’t use any of those assets to run for another office. You can’t use the power of an office to influence voters. It’s not just about tax dollars.”

—–

Donald Suppes

Republican Don Suppes

When we last left Republican Don Suppes, the Orchard City mayor running for the open seat in SD-5, he and his campaign were still trying to add to their list of reasons why his Twitter account would be linking to a white supremacist website (It was hacked! It was identity theft! It was a rogue staffer!) 

We already know that Suppes isn't very good at 1) the Internet, and 2) messaging. Now we can add 3) posing for pictures, and 4) following the law.

According to a complaint submitted to the Trustees of the Town of Orchard City (Suppes-Complaint PDF), Suppes has been using the Orchard City Town Hall as a campaign office. That's right, the Mayor of Orchard City is using the Town Hall as part of his campaign for a State Senate seat.

It doesn't appear as though Suppes' campaign finance records include reimbursements to Orchard City for using its Town Hall, which is such an obvious violation of the law that Suppes should be disqualified from the SD-5 race just for being so inexcusably stupid. But if you think that's dumb, wait 'til you see how the violation was uncovered…

…Hey, there's Don Suppes himself, grinning away in a photo taken in front of a table full of campaign literature and next to a giant poster that proclaims "Town of Orchard City!" What could go wrong? And what are the odds that Suppes' campaign has been using other town property for his campaign (quick, somebody destroy the photocopier!)

Don Suppes campaign office

1) Town of Orchard City poster. 2) Mayor and candidate Don Suppes. 3) Table full of Suppes campaign literature.

 

 

 

 

The Orwellian Desperation of Jefferson County Republicans

SATURDAY UPDATE: The Denver Post's Eric Gorski, who took the photo of Jefferson County protesters that was crudely doctored for this Republican mailer to remove their original protest message, is most unhappy to see it being misused:

The photo on the fliers appears to blur out the faces of the students. The sign messages were changed to reflect … it’s not clear.

But one thing that is clear is students took to the streets because they are unhappy with a school board controlled by three Republicans who won office in 2013… [Pols emphasis]

Neville, Sanchez and Woods won GOP primaries and had the backing of the strongly conservative Rocky Mountain Gun Owners organization. Neville’s son, Joe, is a lobbyist for the gun group. Neville’s sister-in-law, Julie Williams, sits on the Jeffco school board.

In addition to Jefferson County Public Schools' demand that these candidates stop using the district's trademarked logo, the Post's lawyers are demanding they stop using the doctored image of these students:

“Not only does the use of the photograph infringe copyright interests, it violates other intellectual property laws by unlawfully associating The Denver Post with your campaign. It also violates basic transparency principles by altering a photograph without informing the readers. Finally, it offends the Fair Use policies in place by Twitter and creates an actionable claim by the person pictured in the photograph holding the sign.” [Pols emphasis]

If we were one of the kids in this doctored photo, we'd be talking to Mom and Dad about a lawyer.

—–

nevillemailer

7NEWS reports:

Attorneys representing Jeffco Public Schools have sent a cease and desist letter to candidates for state senate who used the district's logo in a campaign mailing.

Tim Neville, a self-described "Independent Republican," is running for office in Senate District 16. The campaign flier in question criticizes incumbent State Senator Jeanne Nicholson.

Beside the district's logo, the flyer states: "Jeffco schools are in crisis because Denver politicians like Jeanne Nicholson are keeping funding from the classroom while giving more power to corrupt union bosses."

Neville's statement of "crisis" in the district references recent widespread protesting over the conservative board majority's decisions regarding teacher compensation and a plan to review the AP US History Curriculum…

As you can see above, the mailer plainly makes use of the Jefferson County Public Schools' copyrighted logo, and that's obviously not okay. But there are other aspects to this mailer that make it vastly more deceptive. For starters, a sign held by a student in the photo has been crudely doctored to replace their protest message with the words "I want my future back." The original photo, taken by the Denver Post's Eric Gorski, clearly displays the student's original message: "my education, my voice, save AP U.S. history." We assume nobody has spoken with that student about this mailer yet, but we rather doubt she would approve of her sign being altered in this manner.

We think she'll be especially outraged to learn, as 7NEWS continues, that

Neville is the brother-in-law of Jeffco School Board Member Julie Williams. [Pols emphasis]

That's right, folks–the brother-in-law of Julie Williams, the school board member at the heart of the recent internationally-publicized controversy over "reviewing" the district's AP history curriculum, is himself altering the history of the recent protests against Williams to make it look like he sympathizes. The mailer includes a photo of Tim Neville with his wife Barb, Julie Williams' sister, who also runs Williams' political action committee (PAC). The deception here is so over the top brazen that it just leaves you shaking your head in disbelief. It's not much better for two other Jefferson County Republican Senate candidates who sent out similar mailers, Laura Waters Woods in SD-19 and Tony Sanchez in SD-22, both of whom have been supported by Williams and vice versa–but in Neville's case it's so outlandishly hypocritical and insulting to have doctored this student's protest sign that we have to think it will end in disaster.

That, or history is in greater danger than anyone ever imagined.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Dems hold candidate campaign funds advantage

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

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

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

 Contested Senate races give Dems the edge

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

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

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

 House secure for Dems

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

Money trail indicates RMGO recognizes the toxicity of its own brand

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

RMGOPistol

With all the negative attention on Rocky Mountain Gun Owners of late, you'd think the outfit might want to hide its name when it attempts to influence voters. On the other hand, RMGO isn't known to care about what normal people think.

It appears, though, RMGO has actually gotten the message that its RMGO name scares people. Instead of simply using its independent expenditure committee "RMGO SUPERPAC" to oppose at least one state senate candidate, RMGO is sending money to do so to an entity called "Colorado Liberty PAC."

Exactly $55,000 of the $60,000 donated to Colorado Liberty PAC comes from RMGO, according to campaign finance records. (The other $5,000 came from the "Colorado Tea Party.")

And the designated filing agent for Colorado Liberty PAC is Joseph Neville, who runs RMGO in Colorado and serves as its notorious lobbyist here. So RMGO apparently controls Colorado Liberty PAC. Neville did not return an email seeking comment.

In turn, Colorado Liberty PAC is sending mailers attacking SD 22 candidate Andy Kerr, who's Jeffco district is populated by people whom, RMGO has apparently concluded, don't like the RMGO brand.

See a Colorado Liberty PAC mailer attacking Andy Kerr 10-2014.

And another one attacking Kerr.