Lawrence, Navarro-Ratzlaff Square Off For Szabo Leadership Post

Minority leadership selection.

Minority leadership selection.

As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

Reps. Clarice Navarro of Pueblo and Polly Lawrence of Douglas County are lobbying members of their Republican caucus to be the next assistant minority leader.

The office is now held by Rep. Libby Szabo of Arvada, who will be resigning as she was selected by a vacancy committee to serve on the Jefferson County board of commissioners. Her resignation date and the caucus election date are not known yet.

We could see this going either way, with Rep. Polly Lawrence having closer ties to House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso but Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff a favorite both of party activists and the Scott Gessler-allied GOP attorney class.

Sometimes these get publicly nasty, and sometimes they only get nasty behind closed doors. Sometimes there's no drama at all when leadership positions unexpectedly become available, but as bloggers we always hope for at least some token fireworks. We'll update should any occur.

Busted: Local Conservative Blog Systematically Inflates Stats

We interrupt our normal coverage of Colorado politics to notify our readers of something of…well, at least some importance, brought to our attention about a conservative blog that has been operating in our state for several years. Colorado Peak Politics has received occasional press attention as a source of Republican-leaning opinion and blog scuttlebutt, and has more or less replaced a hodge podge of GOP-leaning blog properties that have come and gone through the election cycles. Face the State, the People's Press Collective, and others you may have heard of previously occupied a niche now pretty much the exclusive domain of Peak Politics.

Peak Politics represents itself as highly influential, frequently comparing its influence to that of this blog, and sometimes even suggesting that they have "surpassed" us as the leading blog in Colorado politics. Now, we have no interest in getting into some kind of pissing match with other blogs, so we haven't seen any reason to engage these claims. But we'll admit that we have been impressed by some of the visible statistics for social media sharing on Peak Politics. For example, they recently posted an item about the Jefferson County school board drama that looks like it had a lot of Facebook shares.

peakpolssharecount

For a blog focused on Colorado politics, from our experience this would be a pretty solid indicator of social media "virality." Extrapolating the number of people who would have viewed all of these supposed shared instances, that number certainly indicates a respectable total readership for this blog post.

The only problem is, that number is fake.

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MLK Day Open Thread

"Many white Americans of good will have never connected bigotry with economic exploitation. They have deplored prejudice but tolerated or ignored economic injustice."

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gov. Brownback backs down and calls for tax increases – Are the Republicans in Congress Listening?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas.

Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas.

Wow, after years of reckless tax cuts covered over by the now completely discredited notion, known as the Laffer Curve, that reducing taxes will automatically generate increased economic activity and correspondingly the government bank account will overflow with new revenue, Gov. Brownback has reversed course and yesterday called for Kansas to increase taxes, including a 79 cent per pack increase in the cigarette tax, raising the tax on other tobacco products from 10% to 25%. The tax on beer, wine and liquor would jump from 8% to 12%. The intent is to close, in part, the looming $710 million deficit over the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends on June 30th, and the next fiscal year. However, even these tax increases are only expected to raise $394 million. To make-up the difference, he intends to slow down the pending income tax cuts but remains committed to his goal of eliminating the income tax. In his state-of-the-state address Thursday, he attempted to posture his tax increases as taxes on consumption (which is now apparently OK) as opposed to taxing productivity; but the bottom line remains the same.His experiment has failed, completely. The Laffer Curve doesn't work.

President Reagan tried it in 1981 with a 25% across the board reduction in federal corporate and personal income taxes and the federal deficit exploded. 

Just over a decade ago, George W. Bush was inaugurated President and inherited an $800 billion annual surplus. He decided to drastically cut taxes making the same assumption that Reagan had and the one Brownback made four years ago that huge tax cuts would drastically stimulate economic activity and generate even more tax revenues than the government collected before the tax cuts. What happened? The annual deficit exploded and the promise of increased tax revenues turned out to be a mirage.

Besides Brownback's failed experiment what else has been going on in states controlled by Republican governors and legislatures? Lets look at the Republican nirvana called Wisconsin. Gov. Walker and the Republican dominated state house and senate cut taxes again making the same assumptions as Reagan, W, and Brownback and what happened. Wisconsin is now staring a $2 billion deficit in the face. One Republican leader in the Wisconsin House said he just couldn't understand why state revenues did not increase as expected. Its hard to believe someone who has been paying attention, for even a nano second over the past thirty-four years, could say that. The Laffer Curve is a hoax and a failure.

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Weekend Open Thread

"Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something."

–Plato

Caption This Photo: Jared Polis, Meet “Rep. Chaps”

From the floor of the Colorado House yesterday:

jaredandchaps

Congressman Jared Polis with Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt. Klingenschmitt, as readers recall, said last summer that Polis wants to "join ISIS in beheading Christians." In a 9NEWS story on Klingenschmitt this week, Polis said he is praying for "Chaps" "to return to reality from his delusional state."

What do you suppose they chatted about yesterday? Theorize after the jump.

Jeffco Residents Demand School Board Majority’s Resignation

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Gabrielle Porter of the Canyon Courier reports:

A petition signed by 6,554 Jeffco residents calling for school board President Ken Witt and board members John Newkirk and Julie Williams to resign caused a stir at the board’s meeting on Thursday evening.

Jeffco parent and petition organizer Molly Snyder told board members she is not affiliated with the teachers union, the Jefferson County Education Association. 

When Snyder presented the box of petitions during the meeting’s public comment segment, she alleged that the board’s conservative majority had broken public trust, wasted district money, violated the state’s open-meetings law, and misrepresented district schools and students in public discussions.

After last year's explosive battle over the conservative Jefferson County school board majority's politically stilted "review" of the district's AP history curriculum, there's been a bit of a lull in the action as the students, parents, and teachers involved regrouped. We've heard that, among other things, the photo taken by the Jefferson County Education Association's spokesman of board president Ken Witt with a group of fellow right wing school board presidents we posted last week has helped fire up the opposition again–a reminder that what is happening in Jefferson County is part of a larger agenda playing out in school districts across the state.

With that said, it will take more than a petition to dislodge Witt and fellow conservative board members John Newkirk and Julie Williams:

Newkirk said he would not step down until student achievement goals were met, and challenged Snyder to ask the petition signers to help meet those goals by volunteering in local schools. 

“When every child and every parent in Jefferson County has their first choice, whether it be in a school, charter school, option school, online school or otherwise — no more waiting lists — when there’s no achievement gap between our minority students and non-minority students, and, finally, when Jeffco becomes the nation’s leader in academic achievement, then I’ll step down, because my work here will be done,” Newkirk said. 

During his speech, nearly half the restive audience — largely made up of people in blue JCEA shirts — stood and turned their backs on the board podium.

What happens next? We don't know exactly–but everything we hear suggests that the conflict between the Jeffco school board's right-wing majority and the politically moderate community they serve is rapidly coming to a head. Stay tuned.

BREAKING: Libby Szabo Selected as Jefferson County Commissioner, Creating Vacancy in HD-27

UPDATE: The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

Szabo will take the seat of Republican Faye Griffin, a serial job jumper who resigned from the board after being elected county clerk in November.

Another GOP vacancy committee, for House District 27, will meet and appoint someone to take over Szabo’s seat. And the House GOP caucus will meet to elected someone to Szabo’s leadership post; she is the assistant minority leader.

Szabo said she did not know when she would be sworn in as a commissioner.

The liberal blog ColoradoPols has called into question the vacancy committee process, including the fact that it refused to release the names of other contenders for the post. Szabo, who has pushed for transparency, said she was not involved in how that committee operated.

—–

Libby Szabo

Libby Szabo

Republican State Rep. Libby Szabo, the Assistant Minority Leader in the GOP caucus who was just re-elected in November, has been selected by a Jefferson County Republican Party vacancy committee to become the new County Commissioner in District 1. A formal announcement is expected to come as early as this afternoon.

If you were wondering, Szabo never bothered to say anything publicly about seeking a new job one month after being re-elected to the State Legislature; nor did Szabo say anything on Dec. 15th, when she was named the top Republican on the influential House Business Affairs and Labor Committee. Szabo was one of 9 applicants to submit their names for the vacancy created by the early departure of Commissioner Faye Griffin, a serial office jumper who was elected Jeffco Clerk and Recorder (again) last November.

The 75-year-old Griffin has become notorious for failing to finish her elected term in office in order to prolong her time on the taxpayer's dole. Even the editorial board of the Denver Post ("Enough is Enough, Faye Griffin") was incensed at Griffin's apparent contempt for actually finishing her job in the office she was elected to serve. As the Denver Post wrote in October:

We asked Griffin why she would leave the commission two years early, and she was candid in saying it was due to term limits. Griffin is in the middle of her second term, and if she stayed in the position, she couldn't run for the commission again — and there would be no other palatable options for her, in her mind.

"In two years, there's no county office that is open," Griffin said. So, she is seeking the office she held for eight years, starting in 1998. [Pols emphasis]

Political blog JeffcoPols pointed out Griffin's move and speculated that it could be part of a larger shuffle of Republican politicians in Jefferson County intended to avoid open-seat elections. Even if it is wrong about the specific moves, the blog makes a valid point about how Griffin's action would cede power to the GOP vacancy committee in Jefferson County.

Faye Griffin

Who needs elections when you have a Faye Griffin?

Szabo's appointment will trigger yet another Republican vacancy decision — yet again leaving the voters out of the process. By state statute, Jeffco Republicans have 10 days to pick a replacement for House District 27 once Szabo officially resigns her legislative seat, and if history is any indication, they'll keep the process a secret for as long as they can get away with it. Take a look at what Ramsey Scott wrote in the Canyon Courier on Tuesday:

Natalie Menten, who works for the Jeffco GOP, said the party wasn’t releasing the names of the nine applicants. The seven-member vacancy committee was working to narrow the list to a few finalists. [Pols emphasis]

Menten said the party had received more than 50 comments from the public on the process, mostly recommending someone for the vacancy. 

The Republican vacancy committee refused to release the names of applicants to one of the most powerful elected positions in Jefferson County. Why is that okay? You are required to put your name on the ballot if you want to run for office in every other scenario involving elected officials, but once a vacancy committee convenes, it all becomes a big secret?

This nonsense has been going on for years in Jefferson County, with elected officials leaving office early as a way around term limits and to allow a Republican Party vacancy committee to choose the successor. We have no quarrel with the process of filling a vacant seat in general, but something needs to change when it is being so blatantly abused as it is in Jefferson County. A committee of just 7 members selected Szabo to an office that normally requires winning the votes of the entire county; there are more than 256,000 people in Jeffco who voted in November but will now have no input into who will serve as one of three County Commissioners — or who will decide their representative in one of a handful of House Districts in Jeffco.

We've been following this story closely for a very long time; remember, dear readers, that you heard it here first.

Senate Dems Smack Down “Radical Republican Rollback”

Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll.

Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll.

So far this legislative session, which we admit is only a few days old, the prevalent discussion at the Capitol has been mostly about bipartisanship. The beginning of the legislative session is always a time for platitudes about "working across the aisle," perhaps a bit more so right now given the narrowly split control of the legislature for the next two years.

It never lasts, of course. A press release from Colorado Senate Democrats yesterday afternoon is a shot across the bow of the new one-seat Republican Senate majority, calling them out on their "radical repeal-a-thon agenda" in not-screwing-around terms. Game on:

While Senate Democrats have been hopeful of working together to move Colorado forward, there has been a pattern of bills introduced by Republicans legislators which aggressively move the state backward. 

Despite Pres. Bill Cadman saying, “We all want to be a part of building a better future for Colorado,” only nine days into the 70th Legislative Session, the Senate Republicans have introduced extreme bills that put ordinary Coloradans at risk.

In the Senate alone, examples of the “Radical Republican Roll-Back” include bills that would allow:

• pedophiles or other criminals to run small daycares,
• the repeal of the renewable energy standard,
• felons to get guns by repealing criminal background checks,
• developers to build without regard to homeowners’ rights,
• discrimination against workers,
• more unvaccinated children in our schools,
• sale of Colorado’s public lands and open space,
• unconstitutional vouchers to drain public funds for K-12, and
• special interests to spend more on elections with less transparency. 

“I don’t think this radical repeal-a-thon agenda reflects common-sense Colorado,” said Senate Democratic Leader Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora.  “While the Republicans speak of working together, they introduced bills that smack of extreme ideological positions and special interests.”

More after the jump. It's better this way, folks. Admit it.

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Friday Open Thread

"The less people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they'll sleep at night."

–Otto Von Bismarck

Something For Everyone In Hick’s 2015 State of the State

hicksos

As the Colorado Independent's Tessa Cheek reports:

Governor John Hickenlooper used his fifth State of the State speech today to paint his legislature, where Republicans control the Senate and Democrats control the House, with a Colorado-ness that reaches beyond party priorities. He touted the new first-ever statewide water plan, quoting Thomas Hornsby Ferril, whose poetry is engraved in the Capitol and that emphasizes common interest: “Here is a land where life is written in water.”

“Representatives of urban areas recognized that locally sourced dairy and food is vital to all of Colorado; while the agricultural areas realized that they could not simply allow urban areas to dry up,” Hickenlooper said of the water plan, noting it involved “the largest civic engagement process in state history.”

Lawmakers and leaders should come together, Hickenlooper suggested, to apply similarly high standards of public input and cooperation to tackle tough questions surrounding topics like oil and gas development and government funding under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR)…

The Denver Post's John Frank on Gov. John Hickenlooper's measured comments on the controversial so-called Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR):

Hickenlooper capped his speech by addressing the state's budget situation — which he labeled a "financial thicket" in his inaugural address Tuesday. It's a reference to the possibility of refunds under the state's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, despite underfunded state programs.

"There is a legitimate debate of whether government should be a bit bigger or a bit smaller," the governor said, according to prepared remarks. "But that misses the point. Regardless of size, government must work."
 
But he stopped short of asking for an overhaul of TABOR and avoided taking a direct stance on how to address the issue.

"Some people want to get rid of TABOR, some want to get rid of Amendment 23, others want to get rid of Gallagher. There is no shortage of thorns in this fiscal thicket," he said. "And while we will continue to strategically prune, our state budget can only endure so much cutting. "

The Denver Business Journal:

Referencing the oil and gas industry, Hickenlooper emphasized the number of environmental protections he has added through collaboration with the industry during his first term, then said he looks forward to seeing the recommendations that a task force examining the role of local government in regulating the industry will deliver later this session. But he did not give any parameters as to what kind of increased regulations he may be willing to back in the Legislature.

On the issue of local control of oil and gas drilling, an issue that caused intense infighting among Democrats last year, Hickenlooper didn't offer much in the way of specifics–but the language that he used to describe those proposals, and the competing interests of surface and subsurface property owners, is unlikely to make conservationists very happy. From the speech:

As part of a compromise to keep economically-devastating initiatives off the ballot, [Pols emphasis] we have worked with the Keystone Center and brought long-polarized interests to the same table…

I look forward to the recommendations of this task force, and pledge to work with you and other stakeholders in developing our energy resources, protecting property rights and our natural environment and public health.

The insistence that increasing local control over oil and gas drilling, in particular the setback and "environmental bill of rights" initiatives put forward during last year's debate, would be "economically devastating" broadcasts our Democratic governor's bias on the issue. There is a legitimate conflict between the rights of surface landowners and mineral rights holders needing resolution, but Hickenlooper still appears firmly on the side of mineral rights owners against local communities based on his comments today.

We wonder how politically tenable that position will be for Hickenlooper throughout his second term, as more research on the effects of "fracking" near residential neighborhoods comes out, and the plummeting price of energy caused by OPEC's price war on the frackers eats away at the already-overblown estimates of the economic impact of the industry in Colorado. Might the same changing economics that led Hickenlooper to endorse President Barack Obama's threatened veto of the Keystone XL pipeline soften Hick's hard line against communities worried about fracking in their boundaries?

That's one of the biggest of many questions awaiting Hickenlooper in his "legacy term."

Michael Bennet Gets First 2016 Challenger: Darryl Glenn

Republican Darryl Glenn, apparently.

Republican Darryl Glenn, apparently.

Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet apparently has his first official (potential) challenger to his 2016 re-election campaign, and you probably didn't see this coming any more than we did. As the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Denver Post both reported today, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn has announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2016.

Who is Darryl Glenn, you ask? Well, you see…um…er…we'll tell you?

Actually, we had never heard of Darryl Glenn before today, and we're not alone. From what we understand, this announcement was as much of a surprise to many Republican politicos as it was to everyone else. We know that Glenn is an attorney in private practice and a super-duper conservative Christian who was just elected to his second term as an El Paso County Commissioner after serving two terms on the Colorado Springs City Council. Here's part of his bio from El Paso County:

Darryl Glenn graduated from Doherty High School in Colorado Springs. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the United States Air Force Academy, a Master’s in Business Administration from Western New England College and a Juris Doctor from New England School of Law.

Glenn retired from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel after 21 years of active duty and reserve service. He led a $19 million Iceland Command and Control Enhancement Program implementing performance standards that saved $400,000. He served as Program Manager for a $5 billion office responsible for implementing a base realignment and closure plan. And, he supervised 35 communication system programs valued at $1 billion developing support plans that saved $20 million while providing a 40 percent increase in warfighting capability.

Say what you will about Glenn, but anybody who helped implement performance standards for the Iceland Command and Control Enhancement Program must be…well, whatever. We don't know what that means, either.

What we do know is that the 2014 election of Republican Cory Gardner to the U.S. Senate has created a perception of a new sense of opportunity for many Republicans looking to take a shot at higher office — and Glenn is just the beginning. Glenn acknowledged his early entry into the race in announcing his campaign, saying in a press release that he is jumping in the race now because he wants to use all the time he can to put together a statewide infrastructure that can help him secure the Republican nomination for the seat.

It's too early to judge whether Glenn can be a competitive candidate, but by entering the race now, he is going to force other potential Republican candidates to make their intentions known sooner rather than later. Remember that Gardner didn't enter the 2014 race until late February, and you can see how things are changing already. 2016 is not going to be like 2014, in more ways than one.

Calling For Rep. Chaps’ Resignation (After Helping Elect Him)

Former Rep. Mark Waller, Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Former Rep. Mark Waller, Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt.

9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman finally gives freshman Colorado Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt the feature profile he deserves in the Denver media market–and it's pretty brutal stuff:

Klingenschmitt got blowback from both parties before he was ever elected after he compared US Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) to ISIS.

He later explained that this was supposed to be hyperbole to make a point.

Now that he's sworn in to office, Klingenschmitt is still making his satellite TV show and upsetting groups people with what he says…

"I know our state legislature is part time, but I didn't realize Dr. Chaps would continue his comedy career while in office," Polis told 9NEWS. "I will continue to pray for him to return to reality from his delusional state. I'm not offended so much as I am concerned for him."

Klingenschmitt has continued posting his Pray In Jesus' Name Youtube shows after his swearing in as a Colorado legislator. Last week, Rep. Klingenschmitt celebrated the repeal in December of an anti-discrimination ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas that he claimed was intended to "put Christians in jail." Klingenschmitt's latest show, picked up by Right Wing Watch, features an interview with anti-Muslim activist Bill Warner, who declares that President Barack Obama is "the face of Islam in America."

So, like we said, Rep. Chaps isn't toning down the crazy to serve. We never expected him to, of course, but it's no longer a hypothetical.

Perhaps most interesting about Klingenschmitt's 9NEWS profile are statements by his predecessor, former House Minority Leader Mark Waller. Waller is now more or less calling for Klingenschmitt to resign:

Waller agreed that at some point soon the freshman legislator is going to have to choose to be Dr. Chaps or be Rep. Klingenschmitt, but he can't be both.

"I just don't think he can do that and be successful," said Waller, adding that if Klingenschmitt is not willing to part ways with Dr. Chaps, "then, perhaps maybe the best thing for the people of the state of Colorado and for the constituents of house district 15 would be for him to step aside and let somebody else take on that challenge."

The contrast between what Waller says today and what he said before the 2014 elections is fairly important to understand:

"If you're not voting for him, you're voting for the Democrat and quite honestly legislative majorities matter," Waller said. [Pols emphasis]

That's what Waller said last August. At least then, which was well after "Dr. Chaps'" special brand of crazy was broadly understood, Waller was still more interested in securing a Republican majority in the Colorado House than protecting that institution–and Waller's own constituents–from the embarrassment Rep. Klingenschmitt is currently visiting upon them. Of course, now that Klingenschmitt has beaten his Democratic opponent, the GOP faithful of HD-15 could pick a replacement for him if they succeed in pushing him out. Failing that, Klingenschmitt might be targeted in a GOP primary next year, much like Waller himself did against infamous appointed Rep. Doug Bruce in 2008.

The biggest problem? Rep. Klingenschmitt won his seat by almost 70% of the vote. No matter how disastrous he may be for the Republican brand, the results of last year's elections are a pretty strong argument that "Dr. Chaps" doesn't need to listen to Waller or anyone else