Seriously, Walker, You Should Probably Stop Doing That

Republican Walker Stapleton

This email sent out by Stapleton’s campaign on Thursday wants to make sure you know that he is being accused of not showing up to work.

Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is clearly worried about recent polling results showing that he is perilously close to losing his re-election bid to Democrat Betsy Markey. Questions about Stapleton's apparent disinterest in actually showing up to his office seem to have hit a sweet spot with voters, and Markey wasted little time getting right to the heart of the issue in her first TV ad:

At best…it’s inexcusable. At worst…it’s a scandal.

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton. Official key-card records from his Denver office confirm… Stapleton only bothers showing up at his office around ten days a month.

Often, skipping the office for weeks at a time. Or only showing up after three P.M.

For those who have yet to see the ad, worry not. For some completely inexplicable reason, Stapleton and his Republican pals are doing everything they can to make sure you are aware of the accusations against him. On Thursday, Stapleton's campaign sent out an email linking to a 9News "Truth Test" about Markey's ad; while 9News says there is "no proof" to the claims made in the ad, the "Truth Test" doesn't exactly set Stapleton free:

It's important to note that we can't prove the Markey campaign's claim wrong, either.

We asked Stapleton to respond and he called the attacks "total B.S." in a phone interview with 9NEWS.

"I don't bring my key card into work every day," said Stapleton. "And when I don't, the public entrance is closer to my car than the other entrances and sometimes people open the doors for me. The main point is every single day that I'm in Denver on my schedule I'm in the office. [Pols emhpasis]. And to suggest otherwise is a complete bold-faced lie."

The campaign for Democratic challenger Betsy Markey sent us plenty of other items to back up their theme, including a scheduling calendar and attendance records at board meetings.

None of these items prove the claims in their ad.

Likewise, Stapleton's campaign couldn't provide records to disprove them either. [Pols emphasis]

Come again? "The main point is every single day that I'm in Denver on my schedule I'm in the office." What the hell does that mean? He's always in his office, if he's in Denver…and if it's on his schedule? WTF?

Look, we get that Stapleton believes his campaign is in trouble, in large part because of Markey's ad, and that he wants to do whatever he can to dispute the allegations. However, if Stapleton can't prove them wrong, he should probably shut up about this. Markey doesn't have millions of dollars to saturate the air waves in a down ballot race like State Treasurer, so it seems pretty obvious that the best course of action is to just ride this out while coming up with your own separate messaging.

Stapleton has long been mentioned as a potential Republican candidate for Governor in 2018, so perhaps he's trying to diminish this attack for reasons beyond 2014 (although, at this point, we'd wager that Stapleton has pretty well disqualified himself as a serious challenger for Governor anyway). Whatever the reasoning, the logic is flawed; the best way to deal with damning allegations is usually not to keep bringing them up on your own.

Have you ever known someone who gets a bad haircut and is so worried about appearances that they can't stop talking about it? That's pretty much Walker Stapleton in a nutshell.

Betsy Markey a Bright Spot In Latest PPP Poll; Gov, Senate Updates

UPDATE: Here's another poll to add to the mixMonmouth University ties the Senate race at Cory Gardner 47%, Mark Udall 46%. This poll also shows Gov. John Hickenlooper leading Bob Beauprez by seven points, 50-43%.

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Betsy Markey.

Betsy Markey.

The Denver Post's John Frank reports on today's Public Policy Polling numbers, which shows Republican U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner leading by the same comfortless 3-point margin we've seen throughout October, and Gov. John Hickenlooper leading Bob Beauprez by the same statistically insignificant single point:

Gardner received 46 percent and Udall took 43 percent in a Public Policy Polling survey of likely voters released Tuesday. The edge is within the 3.5 percent margin of error. The other candidates in the race get a combined 5 percent with another 7 percent undecided.

It is the latest poll in a long line that show the Republican challenger ahead of the Democratic incumbent.

The governor’s race is even closer, the poll found, with Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper holding a one-point edge, 45 percent to 44 percent, against Republican challenger Bob Beauprez. The other candidates on the ballot get 4 percent with 7 percent undecided…

It's the story you know: both races are very close, and the all-star Democratic field campaign has the proven ability, at least in theory, to close the gap in the U.S. Senate race just like 2010. Looking down the ballot, however, there is a pleasant surprise for Democrats. From PPP's memo:

Further down the ticket the closest race is for Treasurer, where incumbent Republican Walker Stapleton leads Democratic challenger Betsy Markey 42/40. [Pols emphasis] Stapleton's lead had been 10 points when we last polled the state in July. Republicans have larger leadsin the other down ballot races- Wayne Williams is up 36/31 on Joe Neguse for Secretary of State and Cynthia Coffman has a 46/32 advantage over Don Quick for Attorney General.

There are several factors we can think of that would explain Treasurer candidate Betsy Markey closing eight points to within striking distance from the last PPP poll–Markey's higher name recognition as a former member of Congress, and effective ads hitting incumbent Walker Stapleton. Cynthia Coffman's large lead over Don Quick in this poll, combined with Markey's strength, may speak to a simple wisdom of running qualified women candidates in these downballot races. In 2010, there was a significant undervote–five percent or more–in the secretary of state, treasurer, and attorney general races. Finding the electable edge here is a perennial challenge, and we'll be interested to see if results this year point to a new strategy.

As for today, Democrats appear to have good reason to get serious about winning the Treasurer's race.

Republicans Remind You: Walker Stapleton Rarely Shows Up for Work

On Tuesday we discussed the first TV ad from Democrat Betsy Markey in her race to unseat Republican Treasurer Walker Stapleton. The ad, which you can view again after the jump, doesn't waste time in getting to the point: Stapleton doesn't appear to spend much time on the job he was elected to do.

Based on data gleaned from an Open Records request of Stapleton's state-appointed key card (which he needs to enter the State Capitol), there are probably tour guides who spend more time in the building than Stapleton himself. As the script for the ad explains:

At best…it’s inexcusable.

At worst…it’s a scandal. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Official key-card records from his Denver office confirm…

Stapleton only bothers showing up at his office around ten days a month.

Often, skipping the office for weeks at a time.

Or only showing up after three P.M.

This is a pretty straightforward ad that is hard for Stapleton's campaign to fully refute, though Stapleton's spokesperson, Michael Fortney, tried lamely to defend his boss when questioned by Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels. According to Fortney, Stapleton often forgets his key card, and when he does, he just enters the capitol through the public entrance.

But what about the days in which Stapleton's "key card" doesn't show up at the office until after 3:00 pm? Does his wife drop off the key card when he goes out for an afternoon snack? Or was he really just not in the building until the late afternoon?

You can see why this is a tricky problem. Stapleton's campaign is apparently worried about the effect that Markey's ad may be having with voters, because Republicans are spending an inordinate amount of time trying to explain away the mystery of the key card. Why else would you intentionally bring up the same TV ad — exposing its message to more voters — unless you felt the extra exposure was necessary in order to try to refute the message? We wouldn't want to be drawing more attention to a strong attack ad (particularly when Markey doesn't have millions of dollars for an ad buy), but then we're not Republican Rep. Frank McNulty and the Republican group "Reveal Politics."

Take it away, Frank and friends:

So…does McNulty just hang around outside every day waiting for Stapleton to show up for work?

We're joking — we know that's not the point they are trying to make here, but was this really worth bringing up Markey's ad once again? What do you think? You can watch that ad again after the jump:

 

 

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Walker Stapleton is Like Santa Claus, Minus the Presents and the Beard

Perhaps this is how Walker Stapleton gets into his office.

Perhaps this is how Walker Stapleton gets into his office.

Democrat Betsy Markey is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Walker Stapleton in the race for State Treasurer, a task that is particularly difficult in a year where three marquee races (Governor, U.S. Senate, and CD-6) are gobbling up air time on every television in the state. When it is difficult to capture the public's attention in the midst of so many television ads, it becomes especially important to make sure that your ads hit home; Markey's first TV ad does that and more, with a pretty problematic charge against Stapleton.

In short, Stapleton comes off looking very much a part-time Treasurer when an open records request reveals something that looks bad no matter how you spin it. So how does Stapleton's campaign respond to charges that he is rarely in his office the building? As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports, not very well:

“At best, it’s inexcusable. At worst, it’s a scandal,” the spot says. “According to official key card records, Stapleton only bothers showing up at his office around 10 days a month.”

Stapleton’s campaign spokesman, Michael Fortney, said when the treasurer forgets his key card, which is often, he goes through the public entrance where attendance records are not kept. [Pols emphasis]

“This is silly. Betsy knows there is more than one way to get into the Capitol. The fact is she has zero understanding of the treasurer’s office and public finance so she has to rely on this garbage,” Fortney said.

One of the most straightforward methods for examining a state employee's work habits is to take a look at how often their key card is used to access the building and, thus, gain entrance into their office. Stapleton's spokesperson would have you believe that Stapleton often forgets his key card and enters the building through a public entrance…which would be perfectly understandable if not for the fact that all building entrances have a key card scanner and a keypad. Perhaps Stapleton also sprinkles magic dust over himself and enters his office through the chimney.

Here's the ad:

The full script for the ad, titled "Missing," is available after the jump.

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Big Line Updated

We've updated The Big Line 2014, so head on over and take a look.

From where we're sitting, things don't look a whole lot different than they did when we last updated the Big Line. The Senate race is still close, though we maintain that Sen. Mark Udall will ultimately prevail over Congressman Cory Gardner as Democrats outperform Republicans in the ground game and the antics of the right-wing Jefferson County School Board convince more voters to oppose Republicans in general.

As for the other two marquee races in Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper seems to be steadily pulling further ahead from Republican Bob Beauprez, and the battle in CD-6 between Congressman Mike Coffman and Democrat Andrew Romanoff is a true toss-up at this stage.

What say you, Polsters? Let us know in the comments below.

Big Line Updates: Democrats Appear to Have Slight Advantage

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

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

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

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

Neither would we.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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


Check out the full Big Line 2014 or comment below.

 

Betsy Markey Busts Walker Stapleton: Yes You Did Say That

A fundraising email from Democratic state treasurer candidate Betsy Markey today catches Republican Walker Stapleton in a whopper of a lie from their recent debate on Colorado Public Television. As sent to her supporters earlier today:

Tonight is your chance to catch my first debate with Walker Stapleton. It’s airing on Colorado Public Television-12 tonight at 7:30 p.m., or you can catch it on their website…I told you everything we didn’t hear from Walker Stapleton at the debate…no answers on his PERA attacks, his lack of transparency or his embarrassing absenteeism.
 
Of course it wasn’t all silence. Back in 2010, when Walker Stapleton first ran for Treasurer, he had this to say:
 
“It’s time, unfortunately, that everyone that benefits from PERA suffers.”
 
But when he was pushed on those statements at the debate, here’s how he answered:
 
“I never said that.”

Here's the video of the exchange in question:

MARKEY: I'd like to see you come up with a specific solution, instead of suing the PERA board on which you sit for records of the top 20% of the beneficiaries–which is quite frankly privacy information–and uses it as a political football. instead of coming up with a specific change you would like to make, and then you bring it to the state legislature as was done with Senate Bill #1. And it was supported by both Democrats and Republicans. And that's how you make changes, instead of, of basically saying, which you have said, 'it's time for people under PERA to suffer.' Well, I don't want  half a million people, who rely…

STAPLETON: I never said it's time for people to suffer…

MARKEY: Yeah, the Canon City editorial, it was from…

STAPLETON: I said, the only way to fix the problem is shared sacrifice. It's shared sacrifice.

MARKEY: I mean, I'm making, I'm not making, I'm not making this up…

We do have one small correction: Walker Stapleton didn't say "it's time for people under PERA to suffer" in an editorial. As the Canon City Daily Record's Rachel Alexander reported in February of 2010, he said it at a forum hosted by the Fremont County Republicans.

[Stapleton] said he would focus on shoring up the state pension system and that he would be an activist on PERA's board. 

"It's time, unfortunately, that everyone that benefits from PERA suffers," he said. [Pols emphasis]

But folks, he most certainly did say it. We referenced this story back in 2010–the same story in which Stapleton infamously told the soccer moms of Colorado "it’s time education competes for funds." Now, maybe Stapleton doesn't remember all the crazy things he said on the 2010 campaign trail, like warning of "hyperinflation" Glenn Beck-style and claiming the state needed to hoard gold to stay afloat.

The moral of the story? If you say these kinds of embarrassing things, own up to them, even if it's just to admit you were wrong–because denying the permanent record that anyone can find is much worse.

Big Line Updates: Udall, Romanoff Growing Lead

As Election Day gets closer and closer, we'll be updating The Big Line on a weekly basis.

Here's what we're currently thinking as to the main movers in the top races in Colorado:

U.S. SENATE
Mark Udall (65%)
Cory Gardner (35%)

We don't see either Udall or Gov. John Hickelooper losing in November, but for the first time, we have Udall as a slightly bigger favorite in his respective race. Gardner's campaign has been an absolute mess, and national politicos and reporters are coalescing around the idea that Udall is in the driver's seat now.

 

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

We have this race tightening a little as Gov. Hickenlooper works his way out of a summer-long campaign funk. For Beauprez, this comes down to a lack of time — too much needs to happen in the next 4-6 weeks for Beauprez to have a realistic shot at knocking off Hickenlooper.
 

ATTORNEY GENERAL, STATE TREASURER, SECRETARY OF STATE
Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has not had a good month, but he's still favored to beat Democrat Betsy Markey. Meanwhile, we have the AG and SOS races as toss-ups at this point, primarily because it's difficult to determine whether any of the candidates can do much to control their own destiny; the amount of money pouring into the races for Senate, Governor, and CD-6 will make it nigh impossible for lower-tier statewide candidates to get their message out.
 

CD-6 (Aurora-ish)
Andrew Romanoff (55%)
Mike Coffman (45%)

We wrote earlier about our belief that Countdown Coffman is underway following incumbent Rep. Coffman's boorish behavior of late. We've been hearing consistent buzz that Romanoff has nudged ahead as Coffman seeks the momentum he needs to prevent a complete collapse.
 


Check out the full Big Line 2014 or comment below.

CD3, CD4, Governor, US Senate, Pueblo Candidate Debates Scheduled

Action-22 is partnering with news and political organizations to sponsor debates between the Republican and Democratic candidates for CD3 and for CD4. More debates, including those for Attorney General and  Board of Education candidates,  are in the process of being confirmed.  Pueblo Candidates will debate in Pueblo from September 9 to September 11. The forums will be telecast live.  All forums will be rebroadcast on Comcast Channel 19 in October. Watch this post for updates. 

CD4  (Vic Meyers vs. Ken Buck) debate will be held September 13, 2014, 1 pm in McBride Hall at Otero Junior College in La Junta. More information, and a map for the location can be accessed with this link.  Steve Henson, Managing Editor of the Pueblo Chieftain, will moderate.

CD3 candidates (Abel Tapia and Scott Tipton) are scheduled to debate on October 7 at Pueblo Memorial Hall, 1 City Hall Place, Pueblo, CO 81003 Ph: 719-542-1100.

UPDATE: Abel Tapia  and Scott Tipton will also debate in Grand Junction for the  2014 CLUB 20 Fall Meeting and Candidtate Debates September 5th and 6th.

When: Friday, September 5th and Saturday, September 6th

Where: Two Rivers Convention Center, 159 Main St. Grand Junction, CO 81501 Call 970-242-3264

UPDATE II At the same Grand Junction Club 20 venue, AARP is  sponsoring evening debates between the Gubernatorial candidates, John Hickenlooper and Bob Beauprez, as well as Udall and Gardner for US Senate. 

Complete agenda with schedule for all Club 20 / AARP debates is here.

 

Pueblo Candidate Debates sponsored by Action22 and the Pueblo Chieftain, and are also publicized by League of Women Voters (Vote411)

All of the Pueblo debates will be held at the Pueblo Memorial Hall, 1 City Hall Pl,  Pueblo  Colorado  81003 Tuesday, 9/9 /14 through Thursday, 9/11/14

9/9: Pueblo County Coroner  and Sheriff Candidates will debate at 6:00 pm.

9/10: Pueblo County Commissioner candidates  Sal Pace and Thomas Ready will debate at 6:00 pm. 

9/10: Pueblo Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz will debate Victor Head at 7:00 – 7:55 pm.

9/11: House District 47 (Lucretia Robinson vs. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff) will be held from 6:00- 6:55 

9/11: House District 46 (Daneya Esgar vs. Brian Mater) will be held from 7:00- 7:55 

9/11: Senate District 3 (Leroy Garcia vs. George Rivera) will be held from 8:00- 8:55 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poll: Betsy Markey and Walker Stapleton Neck-and-Neck

Markey-Poll-Memo-Graph

Results via Normington, Petts and Associates. Survey conducted Aug. 24-27, 2014.

According to a results from a new poll released today from Democrat Betsy Markey's campaign for State Treasurer, Markey is currently tied with incumbent Republican Walker Stapleton with both polling at 31%.

Moreover, according to the polling memo (view PDF: Markey Poll Memo), Markey jumps ahead of Stapleton 44-39 when respondents were read both positive and negative messages about each candidate.

While Stapleton has taken some pretty big hits lately on his opposition to PERA (and his inability to attend Board Meetings), the biggest issue in this race is still likely to come down to fundraising. With races for U.S. Senate and Congress (CD-6) spending tens of millions of dollars, Markey will have very few opportunities to push her message via paid advertisements.

 

Facts Undercut Walker Stapleton (Again)

Walker Stapleton.

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports, Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s favorite axe to grind, the estimated rate of return for the state’s Public Employee Retirement Association fund, has once again failed to fulfill his dire predictions. Last week, Stapleton lost big at the Colorado Supreme Court, when the court refused to hear his appeal to gain access to confidential PERA data. Stapleton’s campaign to “reform” PERA, while complaining loudly about the fund’s supposed weakness, has been his most visible policy as state treasurer.

Well, as Ashby reported yesterday…it’s a bunch of BS.

A state audit of the Colorado Public Employee Retirement Association, which holds and manages pensions for just about every state and local government employee in Colorado, has “no significant deficiencies or material weaknesses.”

…Along with the audit, PERA’s actuaries also reported last week that the pension fund will become 100 percent funded in 34 years, Smith said. While the ideal solvency level is aimed at 30 years, the pension system doesn’t have far to go to get to where it needs to be fully funded, he said.

Smith credited much of the pension’s good health on reforms made by the Colorado Legislature in 2010. That new law, SB1, reduced retirement benefits for new government hires, reduced automatic cost-of-living increases for existing retirees and increased contributions to the fund by employers over seven years…

Though it now has a projected 7.5 percent return rate, which the pension lowered from 8 percent, over the past 30 years its investments have returned more than that — 9.5 percent on average, he said. [Pols emphasis]

The fact is, Treasurer Stapleton’s doom and gloom assessments of PERA’s outlook, segueing into the usual political arguments for “doing something” about the “lavish benefits” PERA pensioners receive, have totally failed the test of basic accuracy. Even after the 2010 SB-1 reforms significantly increased employee obligations, not to mention the lowering of the projected rate of return for PERA investment to 7.5% last year, Stapleton has continued to find a ready (if ignorant) audience for his message on PERA with partisan Republicans.

As we discussed last week, Stapleton has missed a large number of PERA Board meetings, going back years–all the while pursuing his now-failed lawsuit, and arguing that PERA’s “irresponsibility” was exposing Colorado taxpayers to massive risk. The full facts of Stapleton’s campaign against PERA make the whole business just laughable. Even if you’re with Stapleton on “reforming” PERA, he’s done a terrible job making the case. For us, having missed so many PERA board meetings while grandstanding on the issue for years destroys Stapleton’s credibility. For everyone else, there’s the increasingly undeniable fact that Stapleton is just plain wrong about PERA.

“Without being confrontational with the treasurer, we like to talk about the numbers, [Pols emphasis] and are focused on the numbers, and the numbers indicate to us that we don’t have a current crisis. Every indication is we’ll be able to meet our obligations and eventually we’ll return to fully funded status.”

Back in 2010, when Stapleton campaigned for treasurer warning of a coming “hyperinflationary environment” and calling for the state to buy gold Glenn Beck style to ward off disaster, we marveled a little that this silly man was actually poised to defeat a competent and trustworthy administrator like then-Treasurer Cary Kennedy. But it was a wave year, and things happen down the ticket in such elections that have nothing to do with the greater good.

There was no “hyperinflationary environment” after 2010, but Stapleton has proven no less silly.

Big Line Updates; Now, with Percentages!

We have occasionally changed the appearance of The Big Line from representing fractional odds to presenting percentages. It's a matter of preference, of course, but as Election Day nears and Colorado Pols attracts more and new readers, we figured now would be a good time to switch again to percentages.

Here's what we're currently thinking as to the main movers in the top races in Colorado. For the first time this cycle, we've also added Lines for State Senate and State House majorities, respectively.

U.S. SENATE
Mark Udall (65%)
Cory Gardner (35%)

Gardner has been throwing multiple messages at the wall of late, which is typically the sign of a campaign that doesn't feel confident in the direction it is headed. There's a saying in football that if you are rotating more than one quarterback into the game, then you don't really have a quarterback. If you're a Gardner fan, this is a very difficult question to answer: What is his path to victory here?

 

GOVERNOR
John Hickenlooper (68%)
Bob Beauprez (32%)

While there has never been a point in this race where it really felt like Gov. Hickenlooper was in trouble, Hick has made enough errors that it has provided Beauprez with an opportunity. Still, Beauprez can't win just by running a decent race; if Hick stops his stumble, there's not enough room for Beauprez to squeeze past in November.
 

ATTORNEY GENERAL, STATE TREASURER, SECRETARY OF STATE
With so much money going into races for the U.S. Senate and CD-6, there will be little oxygen left in the room for candidates in the other statewide races after Governor. It's difficult to tell at this stage whether any of the candidates will be able to do enough to make their own luck.
 

CD-6 (Aurora-ish)
Andrew Romanoff (54%)
Mike Coffman (46%)

We wrote earlier about our belief that Countdown Coffman is underway following incumbent Rep. Coffman's boorish behavior in last week's debates. We've been hearing consistent buzz that Romanoff is now rising steadily while Coffman seeks the momentum he needs to prevent a complete collapse.
 

STATE SENATE MAJORITY
DEMOCRATS (55%)
REPUBLICANS (45%)

We usually wait until this point in the cycle to attempt handicapping state legislative outcomes, but our analysis is similar to what we anticipated in the aftermath of the June Primary. Tea Party victories in two key Senate districts (SD-19 and SD-22) make winning the majority an uphill battle for Republicans.


STATE HOUSE MAJORITY
DEMOCRATS (75%)
REPUBLICANS (25%)

The ballot wasn't even completely settled until recently, but the direction of this battle has been clear for some time. Republicans have had difficulty even finding candidates for 2014; the GOP will be lucky not to lose a seat or two at this point.


Check out the full Big Line 2014 or comment below.

Stapleton cites possibility of judicial bias in PERA lawsuit decision

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton took to the airwaves of KLZ 560-AM yesterday to raise the specter of judicial bias in Monday’s Colorado Supreme Court decision not to release records on the top PERA recipients.

Speaking on KLZ’s nooner show, Freedom560, hosted by Ken Clark, Stapleton said:

“It’s worth pointing out, call me a cynic, that every single member of the judicial branch is also a member of PERA. And that means that every single judge that heard my case had a vested economic interest in doing nothing about the problem, in maintaining the status quo, in feeling that their pension would be somehow released to me and not wanting that to be the case. I mean it’s mind-boggling to think our judicial branch is aiding and abetting a lack of transparency. It really is.”

Commenting via Twitter on Stapleton’s remark, Luis Toro, Director of Colorado Ethics Watch, wrote dryly: “Shocking admission that the point of his suit is to undermine PERA. If his suit was to strengthen PERA, the ‘vested interest’ would be to support him, wouldn’t it?”

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Walker Stapleton: Treasurer in Absentia

Walker Stapleton.

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton: Working for you. Sometimes.

It is only Wednesday, but it has not been a good week for State Treasurer Walker Stapleton. And it is only going to get worse from here.

Yesterday, the Colorado Supreme Court dealt Stapleton a blow by refusing to hear his legal attempt aimed at opening up the books of PERA, the Public Employees Retirement Association. As the very-thorough blog Pensions 360 explains:

Back in 2011, Stapleton filed a lawsuit seeking the release of retirement benefit data for Colorado’s highest-earning pensioners. But the state’s pension fund, the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), said the information was confidential and refused to release it.

Since then, two lower courts have sided with the pension system on the issue. Stapleton appealed the rulings all the way to the state Supreme Court—but the Court announced today that they wouldn’t be hearing his case.

Stapleton has been trying to gain access to information about the top 20 percent of PERA's beneficiaries and their annual retirement benefit. Stapleton's lawsuit, ostensibly to "learn" more information that could give him insight into what he calls "financial DNA" about PERA investments, has been widely dimissed as a political ploy. The PERA board refused Stapleton's request for the data back in 2011, citing privacy concerns and noting that accessing the data was not a function of his role as a trustee of the retirement account. 

Today, however, comes word that Stapleton doesn't typically bother to attend PERA Board meetings anyway. According to information obtained via Colorado's Open Records laws, here's Stapleton's attendance record at PERA Board meetings:

2012: There were 10 PERA meetings. Stapleton attended 3, but left early at 2 of those.

2013: There were 7 PERA meetings. Stapleton attended 2, but left both early.

*NOTE: From the September 20, 2013 PERA Board Meeting Minutes: “Mr. Stapleton requested the removal of his absence from the June 25, 2013 Board meeting minutes, as his designee Brett Johnson was present.”

2014 (through June): There have been 5 PERA Board meetings. Minutes are not available for the June 24 meeting. Of the other 4 meetings, he has fully attended 1 and left early at another 2 meetings.

Stapleton's dismal attendance record at PERA Board meetings makes it difficult for him to argue that his lawsuit — or anything else related to PERA — has been done with the best intentions of Colorado retirees in mind. Stapleton hasn't proven to be particularly savvy when it comes to investment decisions around PERA (or investment advice in general), and his lax attendance at Board meetings further calls into question his capability and interest in managing the state's money.

But perhaps more importantly for Stapleton, this information is a serious mark on his resume as he looks to be re-elected in 2014 and hints at a possible run for Governor in 2018. You might recall that Stapleton was widely criticized for moonlighting on the job; Stapleton has continued to work for the real estate firm SonomaWest Holdings while he has served as State Treasurer, and his poor attendance record at PERA Board meetings again brings up the question of just how committed he is to the job in which in was elected to serve.

If Stapleton can't find time to attend meetings directly related to his elected position…what is he doing instead? And why are taxpayers footing the bill?

 

Markey Slams Stapleton’s PERA Obsession on West Slope Tour

Betsy Markey.

Betsy Markey.

While all eyes in Denver have been on the big Frackapalooza compromise reached this week, former Rep. Betsy Markey, now the Democratic candidate for state treasurer, has been touring the Western Slope–and previewing her message against GOP incumbent Walker Stapleton with the local press. As the Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby reported yesterday, and the Durango Herald's Chuck Slothower similarly reports today:

Markey said the only issue Stapleton focuses on is the state’s Public Employees’ Retirement Association, and then only to criticize it, even though it’s working just fine.

“This is a big, dynamic state,” Markey told the editorial board of The Daily Sentinel. “We turn big ideas into reality, and the treasurer’s office should be no different. We can’t just focus on beating down teachers and state workers and their pension program.”

Since taking the job in 2010, Stapleton has been highly critical of the board that oversees PERA, saying its expectation of high returns is unrealistic even though it’s realized 15 percent and 12 percent returns on those investment the past two years, respectively. State treasurers serve on that board as part of their jobs.

Markey, who represented the Eastern Plains in Congress for one term in 2008-09, said problems with PERA’s long-term sustainability were largely addressed by the Legislature years ago, which helped turn the state’s largest public pension system into one of the nation’s best.

Walker Stapleton.

Walker Stapleton.

Markey is referring to 2010's Senate Bill 1, which significantly increased employee contributions to the Public Employees' Retirement Association, as well as reducing the rate of annual increase for benefits. Representing a major concession by employees in the interest of preserving PERA's solvency, Senate Bill 1 was considered by all parties at the time to be a long-term fix for the nation's 21st largest public pension system.

But it's never been enough for Treasurer Stapleton, who took office the January after Senate Bill 1 was signed into law. Stapleton has continuously harped on the need for the fund to base its projections on a lower rate of return in order to "keep taxpayers off the hook" for PERA pensions. He has continued to demand this even as the fund has blown past its projected rates of return in the last couple of years as the economy has recovered. While a 15% rate of return is not something Colorado's public employee retirees can count on, PERA managers feel comfortable with the rate of return they project for the long term. Last November, PERA lowered its expected rate of return by .5%, but that hasn't stopped Stapleton from continuing to make PERA a campaign issue.

Our shorter answer to this technical debate over PERA's solvency is that we don't have much confidence in Walker Stapleton's opinion on fiscal matters, you know, at all. Try as we might, we just can't get past the fact that this is the same guy who warned of a coming "hyperinflationary environment" in 2010 based on all the supposed fiscal evils being committed by the Obama administration in Washington–actually going as far as to suggest the state should buy gold Glenn Beck-style to stave off this coming disaster.

We've never heard Stapleton's explanation for why this "hyperinflationary environment" never happened. We'd like to, and we hope to sometime between now and November. We get that 2010 was a heady time in Republican politics, and it was necessary to say all kinds of crazy things to win their support–but still. You'll have to forgive us if we can't take Stapleton's word on PERA's rate of return over their actual performance.