Ken Buck Replaces Brophy with Former AFP Lobbyist

Hide your watermelons, kids: Brophy is back in Colorado.

Hide your watermelons, kids: Greg Brophy is back in Colorado.

Yesterday we came across a short entry from Legistorm.com that caught our attention because of the name that was not included in the story. Take a look:

A longtime staff member for retired Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Col.) has returned — again — to the Hill from a prolonged hiatus.

MacArthur “Mac” Zimmerman is the new chief of staff for Rep. Ken Buck (R-Col.) following a seven-year absence from Congress…

…Zimmerman waited until 2014 to return to politics, this time as a lobbyist for Americans for Prosperity.

The story includes an interesting summation of Zimmerman’s strange political ride since his former boss, Rep. Tom Tancredo, retired from CD-6 in 2007. Not mentioned in the Legistorm article, however, is why Rep. Ken Buck was looking for a new Chief of Staff in the first place.

Former State Sen. Greg Brophy had an unsuccessful run for Governor in 2014, but he ended the year on a high note when the newly-elected Buck chose him to run his congressional office in Washington D.C. Brophy had served as Buck’s Chief of Staff ever since…until a few weeks ago when Buck let him know that he would be resigning. There was no press release from Buck’s office, and we apparently missed this late Friday Denver Post blog entry from Mark Matthews in which Brophy declines to talk about his next professional role (if one exists).

We don’t know why Buck made a change at the top of his staff, though it is certainly noteworthy that his new COS, Mac Zimmerman, had been working for the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity. Buck has risen quickly in the Koch world, as we noted late last year when he was a featured speaker at a big Koch fundraising event in New York.

As for Brophy, we don’t know what he’s doing now…other than auditioning to be a “silencer lobbyist.” Trophy re-tweeted this message on Wednesday:

George Brauchler’s Ugly Consolation Prize

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

As the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports, the failure of Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler to win the death penalty phase of the trial of the Aurora theater mass murderer last year–a loss that contributed to Brauchler’s momentous decision to not run for the U.S. Senate this year–has provoked a controversial response from his Republican allies in the Colorado General Assembly.

And by controversial, we mean, well, bloodthirsty:

Currently it takes a unanimous vote of all 12 jurors, but Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud wants to get that number down a little lower. Like, maybe nine. Or 10. Or maybe 11 jurors. But not all 12. That just makes executing someone in Colorado too hard, he says. He doesn’t like the idea that one lone holdout could spoil a death sentence.

“If the policy is that the death penalty is appropriate for the worst of crimes, then a jury should not be composed of people who disagree with that basic point,” Lundberg told The Colorado Independent about his bill. Critics of the measure say it might not pass constitutional muster, and the bar shouldn’t be lowered for easing executions.

The senator will make the case for his legislation at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to the Senate calendar.

The Denver Post’s Jordan Steffen has more from the bill’s primary sponsor, GOP Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Loveland:

Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said he is sponsoring the bill because he “wants to save lives” and have a penalty “that will cause the bad guy to think twice before they pull the trigger.”

…But critics peg the legislation — which could still be amended — as an effort to make it easier to obtain a death sentence.

“We require the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all criminal charges to a unanimous jury,” said Colorado public defender Doug Wilson. “So (under the proposed bill) someone charged with shoplifting would get a unanimous jury, and yet when we decide we want to execute one of our citizens, we would leave it to a jury of less than 12.” [Pols emphasis]

At a time when capital punishment in the United States is under more scrutiny than at any point since it was relegalized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976, and with so much controversy over the methods of execution in America and the possibility of wrongful executions, the idea of making it easier to execute people in any way seems radically counterintuitive. It’s even worse to think through the implications of executing someone over the objections of a sitting juror, which is apparently only possible in three states today. No matter how robbed Brauchler may feel over the three jurors who objected to imposing the death penalty in the Aurora shooting case, that is not something we think a majority of voters in Colorado would find morally conscionable.

In fact, this could get voters thinking about the death penalty in ways proponents won’t like at all.

Planned Parenthood Colorado Springs To Reopen, Finally

Alleged domestic terrorist Robert Dear. Photo via CSPD

Alleged domestic terrorist Robert Dear. Photo via CSPD

A press release today from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains announces that the organization’s clinic in Colorado Springs, which was the target of a domestic terror attack last November by a self-proclaimed “warrior for the babies,” will reopen later this month:

The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood health center will once again offer the full range of sexual and reproductive health services beginning on February 15th. The health center will provide services in a portion of the building while construction and repair work continues, and with limited space and schedule.

“On February 15th we will open the doors to serve our community just as we have done for generations. We are in awe of our healing and resilient colleagues in Colorado Springs. They are eager to get back to the mission they so deeply care about and the people they so compassionately care for. We welcome our team and our community back into the space with open arms and full hearts.”

The safety of patients and staff is our top priority. Planned Parenthood has in place strong and increased security measures to ensure that this health center — and all of Planned Parenthood buildings — are safe, supportive, welcoming environments for all people to get the high-­‐quality health care and education they need.

“We stand, stronger than ever, for the belief that every person in this community, this country, and around the world deserves access to reproductive health care without fear of harassment or violence. We promised in those first days after the tragedy to repair and reopen in Colorado Springs as soon as possible and we are making good on that promise.”

As the Colorado Springs Independent reported late last month, the city has been without the abortion services provided by this clinic since the attack in November, forcing patients looking for these services to drive long distances. Other medical services provided by Planned Parenthood, which in fact account for the overwhelming majority of services delivered, were picked up by other health providers in the area but not without delays and inconvenience for existing patients.

Nobody on either side wants to admit it, but the plain goal of accused murderer Robert Dear was to shut down the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs–and he succeeded with his actions in doing just that for two and a half months. When you consider this in the context of GOP Rep. JoAnn Windholz’s explicit blaming of Planned Parenthood for the attack on its own clinic, the campaign against Planned Parenthood over the past year based on heavily edited undercover videos, and laws passed in other states and proposed annually in Colorado that would regulate most abortion clinics out of existence, a disturbing reality comes into focus.

By fiat or by violence, shutting down Planned Parenthood is the common goal.

And it can happen here. It did happen here.

GOP Senate candidate fears U.S. government could quickly turn on citizens

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Charles Ehler, who’s one of the dozen or so Republicans vying for the chance to run against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, shared this image on his Facebook page, with no explanation:

I called Ehler,  who is an Air Force Veteran, to find out how close he thinks our government is to rounding us up in boxcars–or if this was a joke. I mean, banning assault rifles leads to this?

Ehler: “It’s funny, and it’s not funny,” he told me, “because we could appear to be a beneveolent society, and as soon as the guns are gone, overnight, we could have a society like that. The force of government can turn on citizens almost at the blink of an eye. It’s called human nature. I have the force and you don’t.

Are we there? I don’t know that we’re there, but boy it could turn quickly. I really don’t think Americans need to find that out. We don’t need to create the conditions for it.”

(more…)

Gun Bills Head For Usual Fate, With One Improbable Maybe

Guns.

Guns.

As the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports, Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly led by Sen. Tim Neville are pushing most of the usual slate of pro-gun bills in 2016, starting with another attempt to repeal the 15-round magazine limit passed in 2013:

Lawmakers in Colorado, including one state Senator who’s running for higher office, have introduced at least three measures to expand gun rights so far at the start of this year’s legislative session.

One of the bills, unsurprisingly, is aimed at rolling back a 2013 package of legislation that limited to 15 the amount of bullets a gun magazine could hold in Colorado. One of the sponsors in the Senate is Tim Neville of Jefferson County who is running in the crowded GOP primary field for U.S. Senate this year. The bill is pretty simple: It repeals the 2013 law, and “declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety.”

Another bill, also sponsored in part by Neville, would extend to the workplace the state’s ‘Make My Day’ law, which allows Coloradans to use deadly force against intruders in their own homes under certain circumstances. This new law would allow the same ability to “owners, managers, and employees of businesses.”

A third measure would scrap the permitting requirements for carrying a concealed weapon in Colorado.

The last of these bills mentioned, Senate Bill 16-017 eliminating additional permit requirements to carry concealed weapons, is up for a hearing tomorrow in the Senate State Affairs Committee. Interestingly, we have not seen a bill yet to repeal the requirement for background checks to be conducted for most gun purchases, something gun rights supporters has clamored loudly for but has always been the most popular of the 2013 reform measures. Today, polling in Colorado and nationally shows consistent and enduring support for expanding background checks, making Colorado a leader on the issue–so maybe this is a fight we won’t be having in Colorado in 2016.

The one proposal on which we might yet see some fireworks in the legislature this year would be a much-threatened but as-yet unintroduced bill to relax the magazine limit law from the current 15 maximum rounds to 30 rounds–a change that would allow the 30-round high-capacity mags considered “standard” on AR-15 assault rifles to be sold in Colorado once again. This idea was championed last year by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute as an incremental measure, but was summarily rejected by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and their powerful bloc of legislators–who say any magazine limit “compromise” short of full repeal would be unacceptable.

The latest word as we understand it is that Democrats have no interest in either helping Caldara look good or defusing internal conflict between Republicans–which sharply reduces the possibility of the Democratic defections Caldara would need. That combined with the RMGO’s lockdown of its member legislators against raising the mag limit seems to indicate that no such end run is in the offing.

If that changes you’ll know, because nothing turns up the volume at the Capitol like a good squabble over guns.

The Agenda: Government Small Enough To Fit In Your Uterus

komen-planned-parenthood4-1The AP’s Kristen Wyatt has a great story up today on this year’s widely-anticipated battles in the Colorado legislature over–wait for it–abortion politics. After Cory Gardner successfully gummed this issue to death in 2014, it’s an issue that many Democrats are fatigued at the prospect of having to argue yet again.

Unfortunately, Republicans are fresh off a year of strident agitation on the issue, powered by the release of heavily edited undercover videos that falsely allege the organization “sold” fetal tissue samples used in medical research. The gap between perception and reality on this issue between the pro- and anti-choice factions has probably never been wider than it is today, and the rhetoric from anti-abortion activists in recent months is a major factor in incidents of violence like the domestic terror attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs last November.

Conflict-weary Democrats, there will be no relief in 2016:

In the U.S. Senate race, Tim Neville, a Republican state senator from Littleton, kicked off his campaign against Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet by talking about abortion politics.

“When an organization like Planned Parenthood ignores the law, kills the unborn, sells their body parts for profit and we have both parties that can’t even come together to end this tragedy, we have an issue with leadership,” Neville told supporters, referencing videos taken by anti-abortion activists they said showed Planned Parenthood personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs…

The state’s senior senator won his last contest in large part because of reproductive rights. Bennet faced a conservative Tea Party favorite in 2010, one who appeared to be winning in polls until Democrats pounded him for supporting ballot measures to ban abortion by defining fertilized embryos as people, a concept described as “personhood.”

Bennet’s victory ensured that Democrats for the next five years would try tying Republicans to the “personhood” movement. The focus on reproductive rights grew so intense that during the 2014 Senate campaign, reporters and Republicans derisively dubbed former Sen. Mark Udall “Mark Uterus.” Udall was defeated for a second term by Republican Cory Gardner, who once supported a “personhood” measure but convincingly told the public he’d changed his mind.

The Udall defeat was seen by many as the last time Colorado Democrats would focus so heavily on reproductive rights. But events have dictated otherwise. [Pols emphasis]

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

As we have written about at length in this space, the 2014 defeat of incumbent Sen. Mark Udall by Republican Cory Gardner left local Democrats extremely wary of using the choice issue as an electoral wedge. The rationale for this tends to boil down to criticism of Udall’s dour and negative message, which focused heavily on Gardner’s dishonesty on abortion without articulating his own positive case for re-election.

But that ignores something very important: Gardner’s successful and very forceful case that Republicans were “no threat to abortion rights.” Gardner’s after-the-fact disavowal of the “Personhood” abortion bans he had previously supported was used as cover for his continuing support for functionally equivalent abortion bans at the federal level. Longtime abortion opponent Rep. Mike Coffman used Planned Parenthood’s logo in an ad. Aware of the danger, the entire Republican media establishment from national pundits to local surrogates backed Gardner’s new image against all common sense–and became unlikely promoters of their party’s supposed “inability” to curtail abortion rights.

In only a year, this fiction has been completely undone by events. As it turned out, national anti-choice activists had no intention of slowing their campaign to ban abortion, and used the undercover videos attacking Planned Parenthood to ramp the anger on the religious right back up to a fever pitch. Sen. Cory Gardner’s inevitable votes against abortion within weeks of taking office could’t be spun. In 2016 just like last year, Republicans in the Colorado legislature have a long list of anti-abortion bills planned, starting with a bill to make abortion a felony “beginning at conception.”

For years, the Colorado GOP’s obsession with restricting abortion rights was a major political problem, with the cost measurable in punishing electoral defeats in 2008, 2010, and 2012. Gardner’s deceptive victory in 2014 might have changed the game in the long term, leaving Democrats unwilling to confront Republicans for fear of being pigeonholed in reverse by denial and feigned exasperation.

But today, 2014 looks like the exception–and Gardner has lulled the GOP into a very dangerous false security.

Top 10 Stories of 2015 #3: The Rise of Tim Neville

Could this be the makeup of Colorado's U.S. Senate delegation in 2016?

Sen. Cory Gardner (left) poses with state Sen. Tim Neville. Could this be the makeup of Colorado’s U.S. Senate delegation in 2016?

With the right algorithm, you can calculate almost anything correctly. Using the correct combination of data and logic, a statistical junkie can crunch numbers to make fairly-accurate predictions and analysis about everything from NFL games to business profits and losses.

Politics is different. You can gather all the data you want about politics, but it’s much more difficult to account for the power of perception. Power perceived is power achieved, which is a nice way to sum up one of the biggest political stories of 2015: The Rise of Tim Neville.

Neville served one year in the State Senate in 2012 (he was appointed by a vacancy committee) before reapportionment left him a legislator without a district. In 2014, Neville ran for Senate in SD-16, defeating Democratic incumbent Jeanne Nicholson in one of the most competitive races of the cycle – and helping Republicans capture a one-seat majority in the State Senate.

When the 2015 legislative session convened, Neville wielded the gavel as the Chair of both the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Technology Committee, but he was not selected by his caucus to an official leadership position. Neville lacked the seniority to earn one of the top six positions in the Senate caucus (President, President Pro Tempore, Majority Leader, Assistant Majority Leader, Majority Caucus Chair, and Majority Whip), but that didn’t prevent him from taking control.

By the time the 2015 session came to an end, Neville still didn’t have a cool leadership title – but he had something better. Neville had become the true leader of the Republican caucus, in both chambers, and he had the juice to force Senate President Bill Cadman to grant a late-bill exception for a politically dubious piece of legislation requiring ultrasounds for women considering an abortion. As we wrote in this space in late April, Tim Neville is the Real Senate President:

Neville has emerged as the most prominent Republican of the 2015 legislative session, leading the charge on the controversial anti-vaxxer “Parent’s Bill of Rights,” among other lost causes. The Neville Nutters have been positioning themselves as something of a political “dynasty” in recent years, including Tim’s sons, Rep. Patrick Neville, and Joe Neville, a top lobbyist for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (whose Executive Director, Dudley Brown, thinks he owns the Senate); as well as sister-in-law Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board. It’s probably not a coincidence that all of the sponsors of SB-285 are also known backers of RMGO.

Senate President Bill Cadman does the bidding of state Sen. Tim Neville.

Senate President Bill Cadman does the bidding of state Sen. Tim Neville.

Thanks in part to his uncompromising right-wing beliefs, no Republican lawmaker made more headlines in 2015 than Neville. Senate President Bill Cadman is term-limited in 2016, and if Republicans are able to keep control of the State Senate, we wouldn’t bet against Neville becoming Senate President in title as well as action.

That is, of course, unless Neville finds himself in a different Senate body next January.

When Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) announced in June that he would not run for U.S. Senate in 2016, we suggested in this space that Neville could be an interesting candidate for the Republican Senate nomination and the right to take on incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver):

We have no idea whatsoever if Neville has even contemplated a U.S. Senate campaign, but it’s not difficult to see how you could make an argument for him here. Neville received more publicity than any other Republican in the Colorado legislature this year, and he doesn’t have to worry about re-election until 2018. Neville has a good base of conservative support from the religious right and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), so he’s already well positioned to win a Republican Primary — and once you become the GOP nominee in a competitive state like Colorado, there’s always a chance that national groups take notice and decide to jump onboard. Look at this from Neville’s perspective…what’s the downside?

Lo and behold, by the end of the summer, Neville was moving confidently in the direction of the U.S. Senate at the same time “establishment” Republicans continued their frantic search for a candidate who matched up well against Bennet. While Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler was hemming and hawing about a potential Senate bid, Neville quietly announced a statewide “listening tour” to lay the groundwork for a U.S. Senate campaign of his own.

When Neville formally kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign in early January, he made it clear that he would be running as a right-wing Republican in right-wing Republican clothing, promising to focus his campaign on divisive issues such as abortion and gun rights. Neville can do this because he has spent years cultivating relationships with hard-right groups and individuals who share his zeal and ideals. He is a less bombastic version of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has risen to the top tier of Republican Presidential candidates because he so openly defies any attempt at bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate.

Neville has strong support from the religious right and hardline conservatives (including Tea Party enthusiasts), and he has the financial backing of prominent anti-abortion and gun rights organizations. That may not be enough to win a General Election against Bennet, but it’s more than enough to capture the Republican nomination in the June Primary. The field of GOP candidates for Senate is rapidly increasing (we’re up to eight, at last count), but none of those candidates can lay out a strategy for getting past Neville first.

It would be difficult to name another Colorado politician who had a better year in 2015 than Tim Neville. If all goes according to plan, it will be difficult to name somoene who had a better year in 2016, either.

Top 10 Stories of 2015 #4: Terror Attack at Planned Parenthood Clinic Rips Scab Off Abortion Politics

Alleged domestic terrorist Robert Dear. Photo via CSPD

Alleged domestic terrorist Robert Dear. Photo via CSPD

We wrote earlier in our 2015 top stories recap about Sen. Cory Gardner’s audacious flip-flop on abortion in the 2014 U.S. Senate election, and how the defense of Gardner by a large segment of Colorado’s political press and pundit corps was discredited in 2015 as Gardner repeatedly cast votes that made liars of his defenders. In Colorado politics as in Washington D.C., “mainstream” Republican abortion politics follow a predictable pattern of denial in election season, followed by an intense push to restrict abortion rights in off years.

2015 may be the last year this cycle is allowed to continue in Colorado.

After Gardner’s U.S. Senate victory in 2014, in which both his and by extension the GOP’s anti-abortion agenda was successfully downplayed, abortion figured centrally in Colorado politics in 2015. During the legislative session, Republican lawmakers once again introduced a bevy of anti-choice bills, from outright bans on abortion to the kinds of “regulations” that have had the effect of closing most abortion clinics in states like Texas. The summer-long release of heavily edited undercover videos from an anti-abortion group linked to Operation Rescue re-inflamed right-wing passions, and sent Republicans at every level of government in America into a fresh hyperbolic tizzy over the evils of the so-called “abortion industry.”

Anyone who actually believed the indignant downplaying of abortion in 2014 by Colorado Republicans could see in 2015’s contrived freakout stone-cold proof of the lie they were fed. But it was about to be cast in even sharper relief.

On November 27th of 2015, a man described as an ardently right-wing loner with a history of criminal trouble appeared at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and began shooting. Clinic workers quickly moved staff and patients behind locked doors. Responding police officers were shot, and an afternoon-long standoff ensued. Just before the 5PM newscasts began, Robert Dear surrendered to police just as they prepared to storm the clinic.

Robert Dear killed three people at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on November 27th, one police officer and two civilians. Five more police officers and four other civilians were shot but survived. During the standoff and immediately after Dear’s surrender, Republican lawmakers local and across the nation tried to disavow any connection between their politics and Dear’s killing spree—even claiming that Dear was a “transgendered leftist activist” based on a typographical error in his voter registration. Local Rep. Kit Roupe falsely claimed that Dear’s actions were “a failed bank robbery gone wild.”

roupebankrobberyWithin a few days, these denials of any connection between Dear and the extreme rhetoric against Planned Parenthood in recent months had completely fallen apart. Under questioning, Dear readily confessed to having targeted the clinic, claiming his motivation was “no more baby parts.” Dear announced at his arraignment hearing that he is a “warrior for the babies,” and proudly proclaimed his (lack of) guilt. Subsequent interviews with neighbors and associates made it clear that Dear was a radicalized right-wing domestic terrorist who knew exactly what he was doing and why.

Dear’s terror attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs threw the anti-abortion right wing that had previously been riding high on the strength of the undercover video campaign against the organization into chaos. While nobody should consider Republican anti-abortion rhetoric criminally responsible for Dear’s actions, the link between that rhetoric and Dear’s violence is undeniable. The claims in the undercover videos attacking Planned Parenthood have been thoroughly discredited with no acknowledgement from Republicans who spent most of 2015 demagoguing them. The extreme rhetoric used by Republicans to describe those misleading videos can easily be construed as incitement to violence.

But so far in 2016, the anti-Planned Parenthood crusade shows no signs of slowing—a potentially marked contrast to 2014, when Republicans sought to bury the issue through the election. Not even this terror attack on Planned Parenthood appears to have slowed the appetite among Colorado Republicans to attack abortion rights this year, even as their counterparts in Washington, D.C. nervously retrench. We expect to see the full range of anti-choice legislation, gratuitous “fact finding” hearings, and other public grandstands by Colorado Republicans to keep the abortion fight center stage through the 2016 elections.

If they keep to that course, the abortion issue could yet produce a greater electoral disaster for Colorado Republicans than anything that has come before. And in that event, the “triumph” of 2014’s campaign of deception on abortion will look like something else entirely.

Aurora Shooting Family Member Rips Coffman on Guns

coffmanaurora

Below is a statement we received late yesterday evening from Dave Hoover, a police officer and uncle of 2012 Aurora theater massacre victim A.J. Boik. In this statement, Hoover condemns Rep. Mike Coffman’s attacks on President Barack Obama following the announcement of modest measures to tighten up background checks on gun purchases.

Rep. Coffman, as should be pointed out every time he opens his mouth about guns, represents Aurora:

Clearly, Rep. Coffman did not read the President’s executive actions, otherwise he would have known that major components of his plan include enforcing existing laws and providing more mental health funding — precisely what Rep. Coffman and others in his party have been advocating.

I’m offended that with all of the horrific events that have happened in Colorado — Columbine, Colorado Springs, Aurora, to name a few — that the representative of the district where the Aurora theater is located could be so heartless. Maybe he’s forgotten, but our family will never forget what happened in that theater on July 20, 2012. [Pols emphasis]

I’d like to know what his plan is for preventing others from experience the pain and heartache that our family and so many others have been through due to senseless gun violence.

When President Obama announced these measures earlier this week, the response from the National Rifle Association and their Republican political allies greatly exaggerated the relatively narrow effect of the actions–necessarily narrow, since the President’s ability to take action is very limited without congressional backing. Here in Colorado, the measures will have very little impact at all as the result of gun safety legislation already on the books since 2013.

For all of the control exercised by the gun lobby over Republican politicians across the nation today, we can’t forget that Mike Coffman represents Aurora–the site of one of the most horrific mass shootings in Colorado history, an event seared into the memories of his constituents. There is a scenario in which Coffman’s discordant representation of Aurora on guns becomes a grave liability for him, defying the conventional wisdom that still holds sway just about everywhere else. We believe that Coffman’s Democratic opponent Morgan Carroll, who was quick to localize and personalize the President’s actions as an Aurora resident, is aware of this critical weakness–where Coffman very evidently is not.

Something about this feels very basic and essential to us, you know, morally. They say that guns are a “third rail” issue for Democrats, but if there is any place on Earth that could be turned on its head…might it be Aurora, Colorado?

We’ll be watching to see.

Obama Answers Local Pro-Gun Crime Victim With Respect

President Barack Obama, left, speaks during a CNN televised town hall meeting hosted by Anderson Cooper, right, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Barack Obama, left, speaks during a CNN televised town hall meeting hosted by Anderson Cooper, right, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016.

Last night, President Barack Obama held a televised town hall meeting at Virginia’s George Mason University to discuss his recent action to tighten up background checks on gun sales and better track disqualifying mental illness among prospective gun buyers. In the audience at yesterday’s town hall was a Colorado woman who was sexually assaulted at UNC in 2006. Kimberly Corban’s testimony in 2013 before the Colorado legislature against gun safety legislation resulted in controversy after remarks from Democratic Sen. Evie Hudak in response to another woman’s testimony on the same bill were perceived by some as insensitive.

Corban’s questioning of President Obama at yesterday’s town hall seems to have been highly anticipated by gun rights supporters, who immediately attacked the President after the exchange in a similar manner to the attacks on Sen. Hudak in 2013.

The problem is, nothing that could even be considered even remotely insensitive to Ms. Corban occurred yesterday. As the Washington Post reports:

Corban’s story did not exactly have a happy ending — or, at least, the ending is ever-evolving. Though her assailant is now serving 24 years to life in prison, she struggled with depression, PTSD and stress-related seizures. And, speaking about her experience, she came to realize how important it was for women to have access to guns to protect themselves.

Then, Thursday night on national television, she got to confront the man she thought wanted to take her guns away: President Obama.

“As a survivor of rape, and now a mother to two small children — you know, it seems like being able to purchase a firearm of my choosing, and being able to carry that wherever my — me and my family are — it seems like my basic responsibility as a parent at this point,” she told Obama during “Guns in America,” CNN’s town hall, after the president announced executive orders on gun control Tuesday.

“I have been unspeakably victimized once already, and I refuse to let that happen again to myself or my kids. So why can’t your administration see that these restrictions that you’re putting to make it harder for me to own a gun, or harder for me to take that where I need to be is actually just making my kids and I less safe?”

Turning to the CNN transcript of the event, here is Obama’s response to her question:

OBAMA: Well, Kimberly, first of all, obviously — you know, your story is horrific. The strength you’ve shown in telling your story and, you know, being here tonight is remarkable, and so — really proud of you for that.

I just want to repeat that there’s nothing that we’ve proposed that would make it harder for you to purchase a firearm. [Pols emphasis] And — now, you may be referring to issues like concealed carry, but those tend to be state-by-state decisions, and we’re not making any proposals with respect to what states are doing. They can make their own decisions there.

So there really is no — nothing we’re proposing that prevents you or makes it harder for you to purchase a firearm if you need one.

Obama then notes that there are arguments on both sides of the debate over whether owning a gun makes a person safer from crime. Statistically there are incidents where individuals successfully defend themselves with a gun, but many others where people are actually victimized with their own guns turned against them.

But the bottom line? Obama is not trying to take her guns away:

(more…)

Stay Classy, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

FRIDAY UPDATE #2: Liberal group ProgressNow Colorado slams Sonnenberg in a statement:

“The right wing’s all-consuming hatred for President Obama is well known, but Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg has taken disrespect for the President too far this time,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “During President Obama’s term in office, our nation has been rocked by horrific mass shootings including the Aurora theater massacre. President Obama has personally met the survivors and victim’s families of Aurora, Newtown, Roseburg, San Bernardino, and other senseless acts of gun violence. I too have met with some of them. The stories of their pain and suffering will bring any decent person to tears.”

“President Obama’s tears for the victims of gun violence in America, including right here in Colorado, are very real, and I’m proud to support a president unafraid of compassion,” said Runyon-Harms. “Thanks to Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, the right wing’s boundless contempt for the President is now an insult to the victims he wept for.”

“Sen. Sonnenberg is a disgrace to the Colorado Senate, and to the victims and survivors of mass shootings that have occurred in our state,” said Runyon-Harms. “We want President Obama and all victims of gun violence to know that Jerry Sonnenberg does not speak for Colorado.”

—–

FRIDAY UPDATE: Daily Kos, responding to our comments below:

It would be encouraging if “any and all decent” constituents of this pathetic excuse for a senator looked him in the eye the next time he shows up on their turf and asked him if he really meant to make a fucking joke out of lubricating an assault rifle with tears induced by pondering the slaughter of 6- and 7-year-olds.

As for those who believe the president manufactured tears to manipulate his audience, perhaps a few of them could be rehabilitated if they read what Joshua Dubois wrote in The President’s Devotional two years ago about Obama’s visit to Sandy Hook just two days after the slayings there left that community raw.

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A Tweet earlier this evening from Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican representing a broad area of the Eastern Plains of Colorado, mocks President Barack Obama’s press conference this week in which he announced executive actions to modestly tighten background checks on gun sales:

obamatears

That President Obama had an emotional moment over the victims of gun violence in America during his presser has made a great deal of news. But a sitting Republican lawmaker responding so crassly to the President’s sympathy for gun violence victims, which we are inclined to believe is genuinely expressed, quite possibly sounds a new bottom in an already acrimonious debate.

We apologize on behalf of any and all decent people he represents.

Tim Neville Kicks Off 2016 U.S. Senate Campaign

Sen. Cory Gardner, left, poses for an awkward photo with state Sen. Tim Neville

Sen. Cory Gardner, left, poses for an awkward photo with state Sen. Tim Neville

As the Denver Post’s John Frank reports, conservative Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tim Neville officially kicked off his run yesterday, charging ahead while other prospective candidates are still piecing their campaigns together:

“We all know we have a lot of problems in Washington. When an organization like Planned Parenthood ignores the law, kills the unborn, sells their body parts for profit and we have both parties that can’t even come together to end this tragedy, we have an issue with leadership,” he said referencing some of the debunked claims based on videos about the health care provider. Neville said he would support a bill to declare that life begins at conception and outlaw abortions.

In a roughly 20-minute speech, Neville went on to blast Democrats — particularly President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet — on a litany of issues, including immigration, Iran, energy regulation, Obamacare, Common Core, unions, spending, religious freedom, gay marriage and the Second Amendment.

“It is extremely important that we never waver in our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,” the Littleton lawmaker said in the first stop of a statewide tour to kickoff the campaign.

At this point, Neville is the candidate to beat in the Republican Senate primary. Joining Neville at his campaign launch yesterday were a number of upstart conservative Colorado legislators, including Reps. Lori Saine and Justin Everett and Sen. Laura Woods. Everett’s support for Neville in the primary was broadcast last month after Everett started taking pre-emptive shots at fellow Rep. Jon Keyser, who may be about to announce a 17th Street establishment-backed run of his own.

A similar dynamic may be setting up in the 2016 U.S. Senate primary as occurred in 2010. That year Ken Buck was the solid favorite of the conservative Republican party base, and defeated Washington GOP establishment supported former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton on his way to a very narrow loss to Sen. Michael Bennet. As we’ve discussed in the past, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has a terrible record when it comes to picking candidates in Colorado primary races, and the GOP rank-and-file in our state is almost as contemptuous of D.C. Republicans as they are of Democrats.

Given the tremendous bad blood between the various factions within the Colorado GOP today, there’s no unifying force to rally support to any establishment candidate–even less than existed in 2010, when Dick Wadhams could at least cuss people out. The situation is absolutely ripe for a candidate like Neville to lock down the Republican primary electorate, and fend off anyone the NRSC or other establishment GOP kingmakers decide they like better.

Because more than anyone else in the race, Tim Neville represents what his party stands for today.

Morgan Carroll Makes Guns an Aurora Issue

Sen. Morgan Carroll.

Sen. Morgan Carroll.

We don’t post all of the blast emails we get from political candidates, but we wanted to take a moment to highlight a very smart action alert sent out yesterday by Democratic CD-6 candidate Morgan Carroll, in response to President Barack Obama’s executive actions to tighten background checks for gun sales:

I remember the horrific day the Aurora movie theater mass shooting happened. My house was five minutes away from the theater itself. For me, that was it — enough was enough. [Pols emphasis]

With the help of Captain Mark Kelly — husband of Gabby Giffords — I fought hard to propose and eventually pass universal background checks on gun purchases in Colorado…

The moment to step up and speak louder and bolder about gun safety in our country comes today on the heels of President Obama’s executive action.

We’ve endured tragedy after tragedy, and we can’t just wave the white flag on gun violence.

In 2013, Sen. Carroll was a sponsor of House Bill 1229, the law requiring background checks for most transfers of guns in our state. That law on the books means Colorado already does more to require background checks than anything Obama ordered yesterday–or for that matter has the power to do without congressional action. The hard-fought passage of this law is a big reason why Colorado lawmakers were in attendance at the White House yesterday, including the two Colorado state senators who were ousted in gun lobby-organized recalls of 2013.

The political will to take on gun safety in Colorado in 2013 was in large part the result of an horrific mass shooting in July of 2012 at the Century Theater in Aurora. As Aurora’s state senator, and now a congressional candidate to represent the scene of one of the greatest tragedies in our state’s history, Carroll is in a unique position to show leadership.

There’s no question that the intense blowback from the gun lobby against the 2013 gun safety laws has frightened Democratic lawmakers here and elsewhere, much like right-wing activist Jon Caldara predicted it would. But in Aurora, we do not see the same risks for Democrats in taking up this issue that might exist elsewhere. This is an diverse urban district with a history of gun violence tragedies great and small.

By taking this issue out of the headlines and taking it to the local level–her own level as Aurora’s longtime state representative and senator–Carroll may turn the conventional wisdom on the “third rail” of guns on its head.

That would be a bad thing for Mike Coffman, whose party-line pro-gun rhetoric is not going over well as it is.

Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt Joins The Militia

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Right Wing Watch, we’ll admit that even we were a little surprised by this one:

It seems that at least one more GOP lawmaker has come out in favor of the seizure of a federal building by Ammon Bundy’s makeshift militia in protest of the resentencing of Steven and Dwight Hammond for arson on federal property.

And of course it’s Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Klingenschmitt, the Colorado state representative/televangelist/demon-hunter/exorcist/conspiracy theorist, shared a post on his Facebook page suggesting that the judge presiding over the Hammons’ case is guilty of treason and should therefore be hanged.

Here’s the Facebook post from GOP Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt in question, and the description above sounds pretty disturbingly accurate:

chapsmilitia1 chapsmilitia2

And here’s the key passage from the above post:

ALL JUDGES who do not allow Constitutional law to be cited to the Jury needs to be PROSECUTED for Title 18 U.S. Code section 2381 Capital Felony Treason

Title 18 U.S. Code section 2381
When in the presence of two witnesses to the same overt act or in an open court of law if you fail to timely move to protect and defend the constitution of the United States and honor your oath of office you are subject to the charge of capital felony treason, and upon conviction you will be taken by the posse to the nearest busy intersection and at high noon hung by the neck until dead…The body to remain in state till dusk as an example to anyone who takes his oath of office lightly. [Pols emphasis]

Now obviously, this text is not a verbatim quote of the federal law governing treason. Although treason is technically a capital offense, the law makes no mention of “two witnesses,” a “posse” meting out judgment, or hanging public officials by the neck “at high noon” and leaving the body hanging “in state till dusk as an example.” That sounds like a bunch of crackpot militia gobbledegook to us–like the license plates and “money” some of those groups print up for themselves and occasionally try to pass off on the rest of society.

Unfortunately, though, this was posted by a sitting Republican lawmaker in the Colorado General Assembly.

And that means we are obliged to take it a little more, you know, seriously.

Colorado Lawmakers Stand With President Obama As New Gun Safety Measures Announced

gironmorsefieldsCNN reports from the White House today:

President Barack Obama grew emotional Tuesday as he made a passionate call for a national “sense of urgency” to limit gun violence.

He was introduced by Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was killed in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Obama circled back to that shooting in the final moments of his speech.

“Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,” Obama said, pausing to wipe away tears.

He added: “And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day,” referring to his hometown where he began his political career.

The White House is introducing a new requirement that would expand background checks for buyers. The measure mandates that individuals “in the business of selling firearms” register as licensed gun dealers, effectively narrowing the so-called “gun show loophole,” which exempts most small sellers from keeping formal sales records.

Among those in attendance today was Rep. Rhonda Fields of Aurora, whose son’s violent death a decade ago helped propel her into public office and make her a leading advocate for gun safety legislation. As the Denver Post reports:

In 2013, Democrats passed a law that required Coloradans to undergo a background check when they sold and transferred a firearm, whether the gun was a purchase from a store or a swap between close friends. Colorado closed the gun-show loophole by requiring checks for purchases at gun shows after Columbine.

“The nation has to catch up with Colorado,” Fields said. [Pols emphasis]

And it wasn’t just Rep. Fields representing Colorado at the White House today. Two Democratic state senators who lost seats in the 2013 recall elections initiated by the gun lobby in retaliation for the passing of that year’s gun safety bills, former Sens. John Morse and Angela Giron, were also on hand for Obama’s announcement.

Because Colorado already has in place most of what Obama announced today, there’s nothing new for local gun rights supporters to complain about–which won’t stop them, of course. But it should also be noted that the specific policy Obama is strengthening, so far as he can without legislative support, is overwhelmingly supported by voters even as they express disdain for the concept of “gun control.” Background checks to screen out persons who are already prohibited from owning guns is a no-brainer in the eyes of an overwhelming percentage of respondents to every poll that asks the question.

Going on three years later, there is still debate among Colorado Democrats as to whether the 2013 gun safety bills were worth the political damage. Both seats lost in the recalls were retaken by Democrats in 2014, and another state senate seat that was narrowly lost to the GOP as an indirect result of the 2013 gun debate is ripe to be picked back up this year. The personal sacrifices of Sens. Morse, Giron, and Evie Hudak notwithstanding, the predictions of political catastrophe for Democrats after taking on the gun issue have not come true in Colorado.

And today, the President of the United States powerfully backed them up. Is it the end of the debate? Of course not. Starting next week, Colorado Republicans are going to take their perennial shot at repealing everything that was passed in 2013, invoking the names Morse, Giron, and Hudak the whole way. But the longsuffering public servants in the photo you see above should be proud. The laws they gave everything to pass are still on the books. Colorado’s success in passing common-sense gun safety laws stands as a hard-won model that may yet be emulated in other states.

It was not for nothing.