More Cheap Ballot Tricks, Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff Edition

Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff (R).

Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff (R).

Back in October, we took note of claims by a Jefferson County GOP Colorado House candidate, attorney Jon Keyser, that he had "received two mail in ballots" for the 2013 elections. Keyser took to social media right away with photos of his "two ballots," pronouncing them evidence of a "failed system" for voting in Colorado. Keyser's "two ballots" came at a time when Republicans were doing and saying anything they could to undermine confidence in the election process, principally to cast doubt on 2013's election modernization bill House Bill 1303.

As it turned out, Keyser was engaged in a cheap deception to reinforce GOP claims that the election system is "broken." The second ballot Keyser received was for a tax district special election related to property Keyser owns on the West Slope. At no time did Keyser receive two ballots with duplicate ballot questions that would allow him to vote twice, which was his clear implication. After the source of Keyser's "second ballot" was tracked down to Delta County, Keyser claimed to have shredded the ballots. By that time, the game was already up.

Well folks, as the Colorado Independent's John Tomasic reported late last night, Jon Keyser may not have been the only Colorado Republican politician playing games with their ballots:

Lawmaker Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff represents one of the state’s most competitive districts, House District 47. She held a fundraiser cocktail party tonight at the Warwick Hotel here that surely attracted many of the state’s top Republican politicos. The list likely includes Secretary of State Scott Gessler. The two are friendly. Navarro-Ratzlaff endorsed him for governor this summer, and Gessler sent out a tweet earlier in the day recruiting fundraiser attendees. It’s a safe bet the two worked together to fire up the Warwick cocktail crowd by talking about the need to guard against voter fraud. It wouldn’t be the first time they worked together to stoke heat around an issue that galvanizes Republican voters in the state.

Gessler and Navarro-Ratzlaff were the exclusive sources for a 2012 version of what has become a fairly regular series of headline-grabbing but loosely reported election-integrity stories pushed by the right-wing blogosphere to bolster arguments that laws that encourage voting by making it easier to cast ballots — like those that allow for same-day registration and universal mail-in ballots — should be repealed and replaced with stricter voter ID laws.

Channel 5 KOAA in Pueblo reported that some voters in the county had received duplicate ballots. It later came out that double ballots went out to roughly 200 of the county’s 60,000 registered voters…

Navarro-Ratzlaff said she was one of the voters who received two ballots.

“It makes you question how valid each election is, and elections are very important to the state of Colorado and Pueblo in general,” she told viewers. “So it’s very concerning.”

…KOAA didn’t report that Navarro-Ratzlaff was running for the statehouse in a competitive swing district that year. And Navarro-Ratzlaff didn’t tell viewers that the reason she received two ballots was because she had registered under two different names in a two-week period after moving to Pueblo the year before. [Pols emphasis]

According to Bent and Pueblo county documents reviewed by the Independent, Navarro-Ratzlaff registered on September 30, 2011, as Clarice Yvette Navarro, her maiden name, and on October 14, 2011, as Clarice Yvette Ratzlaff, her married name.

Now according to the Independent, Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff claims she has "no idea" why she apparently registered twice under her maiden and married names. The Bent County clerk interviewed for the story says that these sort of mistakes happen, generally as a result of the voter's mistake, saying "people are often distracted when filling out the forms." The problem is, Navarro-Raztlaff told the Independent she's been married for ten years, that her married name is what's on her license, and she can't explain the use of her maiden name in any voter registration.

So what gives? With Mr. Keyser's example to guide us, we have a theory.

This incident took place during a heated court battle between Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert Ortiz and Secretary of State Scott Gessler over the delivery of mail ballots for the 2011 elections. Along with the as-yet unknown number of duplicate ballots mistakenly sent to voters, later determined to be about 200 and which were all identified and caught, it's easy to understand how Gessler could have used a little, you know, extra boost for his case in the media against "Bo" Ortiz. Then candidate, now Rep. Navarro-Ratzlaff was happy to oblige.

By the look of things today, it seems she was a bit too happy.

Gessler Blows State Budget, Blames Election Law and Democrats

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

“Had we not had 1303, our budget would be in exceptionally good shape. We’d be just fine,” Gessler testified to his fellow Legislators last December.. “1303 has been a budget-buster. It has completely blown our budget out of the water.”

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

This is a lie. It is not taken out of context, nor is it possibly true in some alternate-spin right wing media universe. Secretary of State Gessler has blown his budget, and he is lying about the cause .There are several reasons for the projected fiscal year 2014-2015 5.1  million dollar budget deficit, some of which are Gesssler’s choices, some of which are beyond his control, but implementation of House Bill 13-303, otherwise known as the  “Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act” is not one of the factors leading to the projected 5.1 million budget-buster.

The Colorado State Department runs on cash. Businesses, nonprofits, and all manner of political committees pay registration and late fees to the Secretary of State’s office. (JBC 5) Out of these fees, approximately 21% is allocated for election expenses.  (JBC 4 ) When HB13-1303 was enacted, the Legislature set aside $ $1,029,181 from the State Cash fund,  divided into $772,905 for information technology expenses, and $256,276 for the elections division.   (from the HB1303 JBC staff fiscal analysis page 2)   The total amount allocated from the cash fund for 1303 is expected to be $1,317,181 for FY14-15 ( FY14 -15 JBC  page 35 ) So 1.03 million out of election's division 4.4 million yearly share of the State budget is significant, but a small price to pay for free and fair Colorado elections. Most of it goes to information technology, which makes all election operations more efficient and transparent. The Election Clerks agree.

Secretary of State Gessler doesn’t like HB1303. He never has, and he never will. Something about the convenience of all-mail ballots, the greater turnout rate, the ability to register and vote on the same day – These things help voters vote, and the more voters turn out, the less likely they are to elect Republicans, and, according to Gessler, a good election is one in which Republicans win.    

At least a million dollars of the budget-busting overrun over the last two years has been legal expenses related to  Mr. Gessler’s attempts to disenfranchise voters , or to his ethical missteps.

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2013′s Top Ten #7: “Honey Badger” Marches Toward Disaster

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

Colorado Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler's time in office has been, by any objective yardstick, an unqualified disaster. In only three years, Gessler has stepped into more controversy, scandalous partisan double-dealing, and outright malfeasance than any statewide Colorado officeholder in recent memory. As Colorado's chief elections officer, Gessler has come to practically embody partisan bad faith, and gaming of the system to favor his own.

But instead of getting ready to slink back to his GOP electioneering law firm at the conclusion of a term in office that made an absolute mockery of good government, Scott Gessler is now running for governor–as we first reported he would over a year ago. The story behind Gessler's unlikely "failure upward" is worth summarizing again for the record.

From the very start, Gessler made it clear that he would push the limits of the rules. Immediately after taking office in 2011, Gessler declared his intention to continue "moonlighting" for his old law firm specializing in election law, the Hackstaff Group (formerly Hackstaff Gessler). Gessler abandoned that plan after receiving an undisclosed opinion on the propriety of such an arrangement from fellow Republican Attorney General John Suthers. Gessler's office then launched headlong into a massive campaign to ferret out what he originally insisted was "thousands" of noncitizens illegally voting in Colorado elections. Three years later, that claim has fallen completely flat, with only four indictments by a friendly DA, and no evidence whatsoever of the wide-scale fraud Gessler insisted was already taking place. Meanwhile, his office lost hundreds of real, legal voter registrations after a mobile voter registration site mysteriously failed in the midst of a union-sponsored voter registration campaign.

Gessler has long claimed that Colorado campaign finance law is "too strict." In practice, that has led to a dramatic weakening of enforcement of campaign finance disclosure laws, and eye-popping moments of unacceptable partisan favoritism. After the Larimer County GOP chairman was busted for embezzling party funds and failing to file proper disclosures of party finances, Gessler slashed the fines owed by the county party from $50,000 to $16,000, then held a fundraiser for Larimer County Republicans to help raise the balance. Gessler's original plan to appear in a dunk tank to raise money for the Larimer County GOP was cancelled after basically every editorial board in the state freaked out about the impropriety.

In 2012, Gessler spent discretionary funds from his office account to attend numerous partisan events, including a partisan vote suppression "watchdog" event in Washington DC hosted by True the Vote, and the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Gessler attempted to cover for the trip to the RNC by claiming an event immediately prior to the convention, the Republican National Lawyers Association's conference, was a permissibly "nonpartisan" use of the funds. The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission rejected Gessler's arguments, and ruled that Gessler had "violated the public trust for private gain." Gessler was assessed the maximum fine allowable for this infraction, which he is now appealing in court.

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Arapahoe DA Indicts Two Voters, Two Canvassers

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports, we finally have charges filed against someone–four people, in fact–as a result of Secretary of State Scott Gessler's three-year quest to uncover what he originally insisted was "thousands" of illegal voters in Colorado:

The Arapahoe County district attorney's office has charged four people with misdemeanors after a voter-fraud investigation that tracked more than 40 people and election records dating back to 2008.

Two of the people charged are immigrants — one from Africa who has donated to Democratic causes, the other from Poland — who have been deemed ineligible to vote in Colorado. The other two are Coloradans who worked for a liberal non-profit organization that registered people to vote.

All four are charged with "procuring false registration," according to a news release Friday from Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler's office. The office investigated 41 "non-citizens."

"This is evidence that this is not an epidemic, but there are isolated incidents that need to be treated seriously," Brauchler said.

9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman with reaction from Secretary of State Gessler:

Gessler defends his record saying that snuffing out any amount of voter fraud, however rare, is a goal that justifies his policies.

"I appreciate District Attorney Brauchler's good work," Gessler told 9NEWS. "This news further confirms that there is a vulnerability in the system and is more evidence from across the state showing that confusion and error allow non-citizens to register, and in some cases vote."

Bartels reports that Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler's office spent some 300 man-hours investigating the 41 names referred to his office by Gessler, in the end producing indictments against two improperly registered voters and two paid canvassers from 2008. Brauchler is quickly gaining a reputation as a partisan politician with higher aspirations, and in support of Gessler's dogmatic campaign to uncover noncitizen voters, we're sure he spared no expense. In the end, though, Brauchler's statement that there is "not an epidemic" of voter fraud is reasonable and accurate, and there's nothing inappropriate in his misdemeanor indictments.

Obviously, Democrats are going to nonetheless question such a massive effort to "uncover" an infinitesimal amount of actual trouble. Gessler's insistence that this result in Arapahoe County "confirms" a "vulnerability in the system" is simply laughable. In every meaningful way, the paltry results of Gessler's years-long campaign to root out what he originally insisted was ten thousand or more "illegal voters" speak for themselves, and prove there is no systemic problem with noncitizens voting. The problems uncovered here are anecdotal, not systemic, and in fact are much smaller in number than so many other ways a legal voter's ballot might be compromised, invalidated, folded, bent, spun, or mutilated. As one example, compare this effort to the troubled rollout of Gessler's mobile voter registration website, which "disappeared" the registrations of many hundreds of legal voters. Everybody wants as accurate an election as possible, but what camels were swallowed to strain these proverbial gnats?

It's been said that those who set out with a preconceived expectation usually find what they expect to. In Gessler's case, even when the facts totally fail to support his expectations, he recites the same talking points.

Angela Giron May Run…for Secretary of State?

Angela Giron

A politician scorned?

Former Democratic Sen. Angela Giron was the surprise story of the September 10 recall election. Much of the attention was on Senate President John Morse, whose district (SD-11) is significantly more competitive in terms of voter registration numbers than Giron's former district (SD-3). Morse was recalled by a scant 343 votes, while more than 4,000 voters ousted Giron, (the total margin of defeat was 54-46 for Giron).

Much has been written here and elsewhere about Democratic infighting playing a significant role in Giron's loss, with a sizable portion of the blame apparently falling on Giron herself. Stories emerged before and after the recall that Giron was a demanding and difficult Senator to work with in her short time at the Capitol (she was elected in 2010). Some Democrats have privately opined that the silver lining from the recall is that SD-3 will likely elect a new Democratic Senator in 2014.

We may not have heard the last from Giron, however. The word on the street is that Giron is considering mounting a campaign for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State, where CU Regent Joe Neguse has been running as the only Democrat since last summer. Neguse has widespread support among Democratic officials and had a good first fundraising quarter, so it is certainly a surprise to hear that another Democrat might be looking at the race — particularly Angela Giron.

We hear that Giron has gone far enough in the process that she even has a poll in the field testing the waters for SOS, which is not out of the question given that her campaign account may have had some surplus of funds. A poll this early in the race is likely to show relatively weak numbers for Neguse, only because he hasn't yet had time to really raise his name ID, which could give Giron some false hope if she does intend to enter the race. We have a hard time seeing how Giron could win a Democratic primary when she couldn't prevent a recall in a solidly-Democratic Senate district, but that doesn't mean she won't try anyway. 

 

Credibility In Ashes: Zero Prosecutions Of The “Gessler 155″

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

The Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby published a story this weekend that, in a perfect world, would mean the end of higher political aspirations by Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

Since taking over the Secretary of State’s Office in 2011, Scott Gessler has loudly and repeatedly claimed that non-citizens were illegally voting in Colorado elections.

The Republican, who has long called for a new law requiring people to show proof of citizenship before voting, made national news when he went before Congress that year making a blockbuster statement that 16,270 non-citizens were registered to vote in Colorado and 5,000 of them actually had cast ballots in the 2010 state elections, when Democrat Michael Bennet narrowly defeated Republican Ken Buck for the U.S. Senate…

After years of critics demanding that Gessler forward names of suspected non-citizens whom he said were on the voter rolls, his office referred a list of 155 suspected non-citizen voters in July to 15 district attorneys across the state, recommending prosecution and issuing a strongly worded statement saying the list was proof the state’s election system is “vulnerable.”

A check by The Daily Sentinel with those district attorneys over the past two weeks, however, revealed that none of the referrals led to criminal prosecutions, though some still are under investigation. The analysis also showed that although some of the non-citizen voters did cast ballots in at least one election going as far back as 2004, the preponderance of the other voters actually were citizens who legally had the right to vote.

Gessler's quest to uncover evidence of "noncitizen voters" has consumed a tremendous amount of his and his staff's time since taking office in 2011. In April of 2011, Gessler testified before a congressional committee, claiming his "studies" had "found" that some 5,000 noncitizens had voted in Colorado in the 2010 elections. That number was quickly debunked by showing that over 30,000 Colorado residents had become citizens during the time period Gessler examined, easily accounting for his alarming figure. In 2012, Gessler sent letters to 4,000 voters he "suspected" of voting illegally. Westword reported that round of letters resulted in the cancellation of 88 registrations, few if any of which had ever actually voted. Most such errors were attributed to simple misunderstandings and errors made by clerks.

In Ashby's story this weekend, we read about a few more such anecdotal cases–a Pueblo County voter from Belgium who voted in 2006 as one example, who cancelled her registration after realizing she couldn't vote. Not only did the local district attorney find no intent to commit fraud, the statute of limitations was years expired. Of the 155 cases Gessler recommended for prosecution, a few cases remain under investigation, but there have been no prosecutions. We'll know in the next few weeks if any result.

Regardless of how those few remaining "cases" end up, you can't excuse the present state of this "investigation"–complete failure, a totally unjustified return on Gessler's investment of manpower and time–after the breathless and shocking claims Gessler originally made. Gessler originally asserted, without any "maybe," that 5,000 noncitizens voted in 2010. When you compare the things that Gessler said right after taking office with the reality three years later of zero prosecutions, it is obvious that Gessler simply has no credibility.

How this man retains any viability for another run at political office is truly baffling to us.

More People Voting: A Good Thing, Unless You’re Scott Gessler

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

A press release from Colorado Common Cause today celebrates the first statewide election carried out under House Bill 13-1303, the new Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act passed by the General Assembly this year:

Colorado’s voters are the big winners in the inauguration of a new modernized election law on Election Day. More than 267,000 more people voted in this year's Colorado's off-year election than in 2011. Voters noticed few differences from prior elections, but had more options and more services on Tuesday.

For the first time, every registered voter received a mail ballot, but with the option to mail it back, drop it off or vote in person. In the past, some elections were conducted by mail, others were not, creating confusion among voters as to whether their ballot would arrive in the mail. Last November, more than 70% of Colorado chose to vote by mail.

“The new election law is designed to make voting more accessible and simpler for voters. And it worked. Problems reported on our nonpartisan voter hotline on Election Day were much easier to solve this year. If someone had moved, needed to update their registration information or replace a ruined ballot, we could direct them to any voter service center in their county right up to Election Day. In the past, it was much more complicated and many people just gave up,” said Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause.

The Denver Post's Joey Bunch has some analysis of this year's strong turnout, which can be fairly attributed to polarizing ballot measures in addition to the state's accommodating new voting laws:

What drove the increase? A lot of things. Some of it could be attributed to almost 212,000 more registered voters since 2011 — from 3,350,219 two years ago to 3,562,184 on Tuesday. Colorado legislators this year also made mail-balloting the law, rather than just an option. The state has allowed voters to chose to get a ballot mailed to them for quite awhile, and in the general election last year 74 percent chose to do so. This year, that number grew to 100 percent of those, plus many more who had been deemed “inactive” for not voting in recent elections. Getting a ballot without leaving home likely pulled many of them still living in the state back into the fold.

But don't tell any of that to Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, House Bill 1303's most ardent opponent.

Minutes before the polls closed Tuesday night, Gessler laid out to me all the things his office had done to get the new law working in time, with much more to do before next year’s much larger general election. He sent staff to about 30 of the state’s 64 counties to help them with procedures, technology and security, so Gessler said he wasn’t surprised the law worked without many Election Day hitches. “From a policy standpoint, it’s been disastrous,” Gessler said. “From a technology standpoint, it’s also a disaster.” [Pols emphasis]

Now folks, what do you suppose the "disaster" was? Was it a "disaster" that so many more people voted? That Gessler's office had to actually do some work to implement the new law? We assume the "disaster" wasn't Amendment 66's lopsided defeat, because that wouldn't make sense either coming from a Republican. Ordinarily, you would assume that pronouncing something a "disaster" means you have, you know, evidence to back that up. But when the facts don't validate his scare tactics, Gessler sticks to the script.

Three years ago, it was shocking. Today, we know it's just how Gessler operates.​

Brophy Now Freely Scumbagging Gessler, Tancredo

UPDATE: Not to be outdone, the conservative Washington Examiner obligingly offers a forum for Secretary of State Scott Gessler to slam opponent Tom Tancredo:

"I like Tom," Gessler told the Washington Examiner, "but I mean, he spent 10 years in Congress and consistently underperformed on the Republican ticket during good Republican years in Colorado. A lot of what the Republican party is in Colorado today is because of Tom —for better or worse." [Pols emphasis]

Ouch.

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threestooges2014_2_md

As the Pueblo Chieftain's Peter Roper reports:

State Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, is trying to cut a path through the Republicans running for governor by stressing his years in the Legislature, working on issues from energy development to education reform.

As for Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo — two of the GOP contenders — Brophy said they’re best known for focusing on “fringe” issues, such as illegal voting and illegal immigration. [Pols emphasis]

“And they can’t get elected statewide, while I can,” Brophy told The Pueblo Chieftain editorial board Friday.

Sen. Greg Brophy has underperformed in fundraising compared to his GOP primary opponents, and if we had to place money today, he would not be our pick to win the nomination. It's interesting therefore to see Brophy tearing into the presumptive frontrunner in this race, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, or GOP base-emotive favorite Tom Tancredo. Brophy certainly has had his share of embarrassing incidents and ugly right-wing policy prescriptions, and the issues he just dismissed as "fringe" have a devoted following among the GOP primary electorate.

Whatever Brophy's plans, it looks like the GOP primary is going to get nasty on the quick.

Gessler “Suspends Campaign” To Help In School Board Race

UPDATE #2: Colorado Community Media's Jane Reuter:

Gessler asked for support from other conservatives to knock on doors, and said he also would have some paid opportunities.

As Secretary of State, Gessler is charged with overseeing and administering Colorado’s election code, voter registration and campaign finance laws.

Gessler’s political director did not respond directly when asked if the Secretary of State’s involvement in the board election was appropriate, given the office’s stated mission to “ensure the integrity of elections.”

Gessler “is not afraid to lead when the future of education in Colorado is at stake,” Rory McShane responded through an email, adding that election integrity is Gessler’s top priority. “If not Scott Gessler, then who? Where are the other candidates with the courage to fight for the future of education in Colorado?”

—–

UPDATE: The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

“We are currently following and will continue to follow all campaign finance laws,” [Gessler political director Rory] McShane said.

Campaign finance laws prevent a candidate committee from accepting contributions or making donations to another candidate committee…

McShane said groups supporting the conservative school board candidates are paying the walkers, not Gessler’s gubernatorial campaign but that’s not how critics read the missives.

In fact, there's nothing in the messages posted by Scott Gessler's campaign clarifying that at all, but there's your answer on the legality question.

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Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

An "important update" from Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler's gubernatorial campaign today:

I’m a firm believer that we conservatives need to be team players. That means sometimes we do something that’s inconvenient or difficult because it advances the cause of liberty that we all believe in. As you know, Conservative Education is one of my top priorities, and I’m proud that it’s a front-and-center issue in my campaign.

Nowhere in this country is the battle for conservative reform more pronounced than in Douglas County, just south of Denver. If we’re able to defeat the union-funded liberals there, we have hope for defending education across Colorado.

Against the advice of the Denver political elites, I’ve ordered my campaign for Governor to shift focus for the next week until the Douglas County elections, to ensure that conservatives are victorious this year. [Pols emphasis]

We’re actively recruiting door-knockers to get out the vote. We also have paid opportunities – but we need you if we’re going to be successful as a team.

First of all…"Denver elites?" He's the Colorado Secretary of State.

Moving past that, according to the announcement on Gessler's Facebook page, he's hiring "walkers" for the Douglas County school board races at the competitive rate of $11 an hour. One the one hand, there's not a lot to lose by spending time in conservative Douglas County as a Republican gubernatorial primary contender. On the other, why would he hire staffers to help campaign for Douglas County school board candidates? The upside of ingratiating himself to those involved in those admittedly hot races just doesn't seem like it's worth funding a field campaign. It's not the first time that Gessler has behaved in what seems to be an erratic and tangential way on the campaign trail, but perhaps it will pay off beyond our visible horizon.

One possible explanation might be the support Gessler has received from former U.S. Senate candidate and state board of education chair Bob Schaffer. The "voucherization" scheme at the heart of the controversy in these school board races is one of Schaffer's pet issues, and apparently Gessler's as well–to the extent that he capitalized "Conservative Education" for emphasis.

And of course, this must all be legal, because it's our own Secretary of State doing it (pregnant pause). Right?

Gessler’s Big “Award”–The Rest of the Story

Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

As the Denver Post's Ryan Parker sort-of reports:

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers presented Gessler the State Technology Innovator Award on Tuesday, according to a news release from the secretary of state's office.

Gessler introduced the country's first web-optimized site allowing citizens to update or verify voter registration using a smartphone or tablet following the 2012 primary election…

"Your leadership in Colorado is a shining example," NASCIO President Brenda Decker said in the release. "NASCIO and its members recognize that such leadership is critical to advancing citizen service, information sharing and good government, and we applaud you for your commitment to these efforts."

Now first of all, far be it from us to question the decision making process of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers in selecting Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler to receive this award, which is surely a nice thing to have drop in one's lap at the outset of a gubernatorial campaign. And we have to give Post reporter Ryan Parker the benefit of the doubt, since he's young and impressionable.

So he gets a pass, we suppose, for not having read this story from the very same Denver Post's Tim Hoover about that killer "web-optimized site" (what does that mean, by the way?) Gessler rolled out in 2012, for registering to vote by smartphone or tablet.

As it turned out, Gessler's "killer app" killed voter registrations.

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Scott Gessler’s Got Quite The Mouth On Him

Yes he's a honey badger, but he's YOUR honey badger.

Yes he’s a honey badger, but he’s YOUR honey badger.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan's veteran political reporter Patrick Malone has a great story up about GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Gessler's first full day on the campaign trail. One of the reasons that Gessler has so richly earned his nickname "Honey Badger" is the ruthless indifference with which he has pursued a partisan political agenda since taking office as Colorado's Secretary of State in 2011. "Honey Badger doesn't care" sums up the audacious manner in which Gessler has repeatedly tried to refashion election rules to his ideological liking, endorsed talk-radio conspiracy theories about elections while being totally unable to substantiate them, and unrepentantly stumbled into an ethics scandal.

And folks, "Honey Badger" is exactly what you can expect from Gessler on the campaign trail:

[Gessler] said the state is slouching toward lawlessness and economic ruin akin to Chicago and Detroit. He called Colorado’s voting laws with mandatory vote centers and universal mail ballots the worst in the country.

Gessler, a Republican, scapegoated incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper for those circumstances and more to a crowd of eight, ranging in age from about 60 and older, assembled at The Elks lodge in Fort Collins…

“I’ve found that I’m not able to accomplish the things I want as secretary of state,” [Pols emphasis] requiring photo identification for voting among them, Gessler said. “Right now it’s a dream. We can’t get it through the Democratic Legislature and the governor would never approve of it.”

Gessler touted his experience as an executive office holder and his willingness to stand up to criticisms — and there have been many — of his handling of the secretary of state job. He said that separates him from the rest of the Republican field.

“You’ve seen what I’ve done as secretary of state,” Gessler said. “I’ve taken a sleepy administrative backwater, and I’ve changed it in a way that it’s never been changed before in the history of the state of Colorado.” [Pols emphasis]

It's important to recognize the particular dog whistle Gessler is blowing here. This is a message aimed at the more politically Machiavellian conservative Republican types who are, among other things, reliable primary voters. When Gessler says proudly that he has "changed" the "sleepy administrative backwater" of the secretary of state's office, he's taking credit for three years of more or less continuous attempts, most turned back in court, at manipulating the elections process in Colorado for partisan gain. He's taking credit for years of partisan allegations of "illegal voters" that have consistently evaporated once examined by anyone outside his office. He's taking credit for slashing the fines against Republican organizations out of legal compliance, then hosting a fundraiser to help them repay the remainder. Pretty much everything that has outraged Democrats since Gessler took office–these are his selling points with a significant segment of the GOP primary electorate.

The ones who agree with Heritage Foundation co-founder Paul Weyrich, who was quite candid about the fact that "our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."

Make sure to read Malone's whole story, where Gessler goes on to accuse Gov. John Hickenlooper of just about everything short of personally beating up kids for their lunch money. "Slouching toward economic ruin akin to Chicago and Detroit," whatever that means. There will be lots of time on the trail to talk about Hickenlooper's negatives, real and imagined. What's fascinating about Gessler's campaign to us right now is his audacious attempt to turn his own potent negatives into positives, at least for the purposes of winning the nomination.

Big Line Updated

We've updated The Big Line to reflect Republican Scott Gessler officially entering the race. Little has changed in the odds, however, because we have been under the assumption that Gessler would run for Governor since last November. Gessler's biggest impact on 2014 is in the race for Secretary of State; Democrat Joe Neguse would have much preferred to run against Gessler as opposed to the likely GOP candidate, Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson.

Gessler, Vote Fraud Crusader, Loves Caldara’s Vote Fraud

I know it SEEMS like vote fraud, and I would know...

I know it SEEMS like vote fraud, and I would know…

Denver fixture columnist Mike Littwin, now writing for the Colorado Independent, caught up with Secretary of State Scott Gessler at yesterday's event announcing Gessler's gubernatorial campaign. Doing what apparently none of the fancy-pants mainstream media outlets could not, Littwin asked Gessler the same question we would have: what do you think of Boulder resident Jon Caldara's vote fraud scandal in Colorado Springs?

Gessler, who is Colorado’s top elections official and who was, in a previous life, an election lawyer, said he was not offended by Caldara’s stunt. He was all in.

“I think Caldara did a really good job of bringing attention to this,” he said. “I think he really did.

“I think he handled it in the right way in the sense of not casting a vote. I mean, he cast a ballot, but it was blank, so nobody could accuse him of doing something wrong. And it sounds like he’s staying in El Paso.” [Pols emphasis]

Apparently, Gessler hadn't heard the news that Caldara had crassly invoked the recent flooding as an excuse to "keep Boulder as a permanent home." The legal analysis we've heard strongly suggests that Caldara did not "handle it in the right way" at all, and the "blank ballot" won't protect him–as reported yesterday, the Attorney General is now investigating. Presumably, Gessler didn't know that either.

After watching Gessler turn over hundreds of names to local law enforcement to investigate on dubious suspicion of "noncitizen voting," and seeing those investigations time and time again turn up nothing, it's of course reasonable to question Gessler's judgment. At the very least, why would this front-to-back documented case of vote fraud not be worthy of the same scrutiny Gessler expected DAs to give all the perfectly legal voters he turned over to them? Despite all the willful ignorance he's shown over the years, we do believe Gessler is smarter than this, and knows perfectly well that breaking the law as a "stunt" is still breaking the law.

Especially coming from the state's chief elections official, Gessler's lack of concern about Caldara's actions is preposterous–and God help the Gessler for Governor campaign if Caldara does get indicted, after Gessler praised this felonious little "stunt."

It’s Official: Honey Badger for Governor!

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports on last night's not-so-surprise announcement that Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler is running for Governor in 2014, instead of re-election to his post as the "Honey Badger" of Colorado elections:

“Going around the state, talking to people and just thinking about it myself, I really got a sense of just how bad the last legislative session was,” Gessler told FOX31 Denver Tuesday afternoon…

Gessler, nicknamed “Honey Badger” by his detractors for pursuing brash reforms aimed at reducing voter fraud, has been a lightning rod for criticism by Democrats — he’s arguably the most high profile Secretary of State Colorado has seen in some time.

But he believes, of the other candidates in the field, he’s got the best chance of unifying the Republican Party.

Because Gessler has come to a Stuart Smalley-like realization! He's good enough, and smart enough, and doggone it…

“Folks from across the entire spectrum of the Republican Party like me,” Gessler said. [Pols emphasis] “They respect what I’ve done. I haven’t alienated any wing of this party; and people know who I am. I’ve got a record of achievement no one else can match.”

Scott Gessler enters the GOP gubernatorial primary as the only candidate to have won a statewide election, defeating Democratic appointed incumbent Bernie Buescher in 2010. But Gessler also has some of the worst, and most recent baggage in the race after losing his ethics case over misuse of his office's discretionary fund–not to mention his almost continuous spate of controversies, personal and professional, since taking office.

Visiting Gessler's new campaign website, we're greeted by a headshot of the candidate that–we just need to say this so it's off our chest–scares children. We've posted it after the jump, with comparisons. It's all about the lighting.

And for the record, Gessler for Governor? You heard that here first — last November.

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