RMGO “Will Not Comply” (With Colorado Election Law)

RMGOPistol

Colorado Independent:

Buried in the deep black news-hole that was the Friday after Christmas Day came a decision in a Colorado campaign finance case filed against bare-knuckles right-wing political group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer found that mailer campaigns put together by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the Colorado Campaign for Life violated Colorado’s disclosure laws and ordered the groups each to pay $8450 each in fines.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners has long been a bruising — some would say bullying — force in Colorado conservative politics. The group aims to move the state Republican Party to the right by targeting candidates and lawmakers that seem “soft” on what it considers core issues like gun rights and abortion. The group also opposes campaign finance disclosure laws as a whole, seeing them as a violation of First Amendment protections on free speech.

From Colorado Ethics Watch's release, that argument didn't wash:

CCL and RMGO hired a Washington, DC-area law firm to file a federal lawsuit against Ethics Watch and the Colorado Secretary of State to block the hearing, argung that Colorado's disclosure law is unconstitutional. On December 16, federal judge Robert E. Blackburn allowed the case to proceed in state administrative court, noting that Judge Spencer has jurisdiction to resolve at least some of CCL's and RMGO's First Amendment challenges to Colorado law. In his ruling, Judge Spencer rejected all of CCL's and RMGO's arguments that the First Amendment allows them to electioneer without obeying Colorado disclosure laws about money in politics.

The unfortunate fact is that an $8,450 fine is not nearly enough to deter an organization like Rocky Mountain Gun Owners from violating Colorado campaign finance disclosure laws in the future. After the 2013 battle of gun safety legislation in the Colorado legislature, RMGO raised vast sums of money, and a fine of this size can be easily built into their operating budget without any real impact on their operations–and that's assuming the fines aren't waived by an accommodating Secretary of State, like we've had for four years and are about to inaugurate for another four.

mario

But the real irony of this may be that RMGO's violations of Colorado campaign finance law, long a bête noire of Colorado Republicans, were for attacks on fellow Republicans. RMGO sent the mailings in question in support of their favored GOP primary candidates in Senate Districts 19 and 22–Laura Waters Woods and Tony Sanchez respectively. In both cases, these hard-right Republicans beat establishment candidates who were considered much more electable in the general election. Sanchez went on to be defeated by incumbent Andy Kerr, and while Waters Woods narrowly ousted SD-19's appointed Democrat, Republicans would feel much more comfortable defending that seat in two years had Lang Sias won this year's primary. The large sum Republicans spent trying to defend Sias in particular from RMGO's onslaught is a major sore point today–and without that backing for Woods in 2016, Democratic odds improve further for swiftly retaking this critical swing seat.

Looking back at their last two years, no one can discount RMGO's formidability as a political force in Colorado. This organization that uses the tagline "I Will Not Comply" has proven they mean it, especially when it comes to intra-GOP politics. But from walking embarrassments Sen. Vicki Marble to avoidable losers like Tony Sanchez–not to mention the loss this year of both Senate seats won in last year's recall elections–what RMGO accomplishes outside the bubble of red-on-red infighting is not so easily characterized as a success.

The one thing we know is that this slap on the wrist won't even slow them down.

Farewell To Terry Maketa, El Paso County’s “Shirtless Sheriff”

nramagsheriffs

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.

As the Colorado Springs Gazette's Stephens Hobbs reports, embattled outgoing El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa has submitted his resignation:

Maketa plans to retire Dec. 31, the Sheriff's Office confirmed Thursday, and an interim sheriff will be appointed by county commissioners Tuesday, to take over Jan. 1. It is expected that Sheriff-elect Bill Elder will be chosen to head the agency before his official term begins Jan. 13.

The switch comes two months after Ray Deeny, attorney for the law firm Sherman & Howard, substantiated some claims against Maketa. In a public briefing to El Paso County commissioners Oct. 30, Deeny said Maketa violated policies and procedures of the Sheriff's Office, intimidated employees and gave special treatment to and had inappropriate relationships with three female subordinates. Maketa and Undersheriff Paula Presley also mishandled internal affairs files, among other unacceptable acts, Deeny said.

It was a searing outcome to an investigation that Maketa said in June would "clear up a lot of myths that are going around."

None of his former friends will cop to it now (see what we did there?), but Sheriff Maketa's prospects for an upwardly mobile career in Republican politics were once very bright–even drawing mentions as a possible candidate for the 5th Congressional District, or at the very least, a shoo-in for a seat in the Colorado General Assembly like Maketa's erstwhile best buddy, Sen-elect and outgoing Weld County Sheriff John Cooke–see heroic NRA Magazine cover above.

Today, not only is Maketa exiting stage left, but a perceptible reluctance by (former?) buddy DA Dan May to get on with the felony investigations that resulted in Maketa's slightly resignation could widen the scandal:

District Attorney Dan May has declined to address the status of the investigation or if he has been asked to convene a grand jury and deferred questions to the CBI. A spokeswoman for the CBI declined to comment on the investigation, saying it is ongoing…

"These crimes were reported directly to the District Attorney's Office several months ago and nothing has been done," [attorney Erik Jensen] said. "It's just really concerning when a sheriff commits felonies and nobody's willing to step in and do anything." [Pols emphasis]

Maketa, as our readers will remember well, led the opposition by the majority of Colorado's elected county sheriffs to the state's new gun safety laws in 2013. Maketa in particular made all kinds of incendiary accusations during the legislative debate over these bills, claiming that Democrats had threatened sheriff pay over their opposition (they didn't), and helping legitimize what's widely believed to be significant noncompliance with the new laws by claiming that his office could not/would not (depending on the audience) enforce them. Maketa also controversially attended NRA-sponsored press events in the middle of the devastating Black Forest Fire.

Well folks, without making any inferences about our state's almost exclusively Republican elected sheriffs–most of whom, it should be noted, have not been caught running a salacious personal fiefdom out of their official office–it's time to consider that at least some of the opponents of our state's new gun safety laws just aren't very good at following the law.

Because that appears to be the story of "Shirtless" Sheriff Terry Maketa.

Ken Buck: Stop Protesting Police Brutality Because 9/11

TUESDAY UPDATE: Raw Story:

Buck did not mention that protests against the grand jury decisions in the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases have remained largely peaceful. He also failed to mention data showing that African-American men constitute a higher percentage of victims in fatal shootings involving police.

Instead, he accused the media of giving “activists, athletes and members of Congress” a wide platform through which to question police officers’ motives…

Buck did not mention officers like Richmond, California Police Chief Chris Magnus or retired Philadelphia captain Ray Lewis, who have both joined in demonstrations in their respective cities.

—–

Rep.-elect Ken Buck.

Rep.-elect Ken Buck.

A fascinating guest opinion column published this weekend in the Colorado Springs Gazette by Rep.-elect Ken Buck, the outgoing arch-conservative Weld County district attorney now headed for Congress. The subject? All those big meanie protesters out there demonstrating against recent killings by police of unarmed African-American men and young boys. Are you aware that these protesters are totally hurting cops' feelings?

Have we forgotten 9/11? Do we remember the police officers, firefighters and EMS teams who died trying to save innocent victims of a terrorist attack? Alongside brave firefighters and selfless EMS teams, 23 courageous New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority officers gave their lives that day without hesitation. As district attorney, I see that courage every day from our law enforcement officers and know the price they pay…

It's easy for activists, athletes and members of Congress to question the motives of police officers. The media provides them with a broad platform to perpetuate their hateful tone, harsh criticisms, and mistruths. But when was the last time you heard someone call 911 to report an intruder in their home and ask for a congressman to come help them? Heck, Congress doesn't have the courage to tackle tough issues, much less a fleeing felon.

Got that, folks? Some cops died on 9/11. And none of these wussy members of Congress will save you from a burglar, with the obvious possible exception of Ken Buck. So stop complaining about cops blowing away unarmed brown people, will you? They all look alike to Buck anyway.

It gets better:

To foist generalizations and wild accusations of racial bias on them is hypocritical, disrespectful, and dangerous. Doing so won't make minority communities safer – it will simply harm the morale of our law enforcement officers and endanger them.

The United States is fortunate to have one of the most equitable justice systems in the world, even if it is not perfect. Those casting stones at police officers show an incredible lack of foresight about the problems they are causing by stoking racial divisions. We should appreciate the sacrifices police officers make to keep America safe and peaceful, not add fuel to the fire that is dividing our country.

You see, America, the problem is not that unarmed minority males get shot, chokeholded, beaten, and otherwise abused by police at vastly higher rates than whites in America–including here in Colorado, where black and Hispanic men are much more likely to be shot by police than white men. The real problem is that by taking note of these brown people getting killed by police, protesters are "harming the morale" of…the police. In Buck's world, it's not the shooting of black and Hispanic men that stokes "racial divisions"–it's complaining about it!

And with that, our nation can finally begin to heal.

Fact Check: Police officers were leaving East High protest when struck

Dan Caplis.

Dan Caplis.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Denver talk-radio host Dan Caplis implies in a Denver Post op-ed today that an East High School protest should be blamed for the serious injuries suffered by a Denver Police officer struck by a car near the demonstration.

KNUS 710-AM's Caplis writes that the officer, John Adsit, "was horribly injured while trying to protect the lawbreakers."

In fact, Adsit was hit by the car as he was returning to his beat after escorting the protesters on their march. The protest was still happening when Adsit was hit, but Adsit was going back to his 16th Street Mall assignment.

This fact was reported by Denver Post reporter Jesse Paul and Tim McGhee, who covered the accident December 3.

Paul's reporting isn't crystal clear on the matter, so I emailed him Saturday to confirm that my interpretation was correct. (Disclosure: My kids go to East.)

Paul confirmed that, yes, Adsit was returning to his beat as the protest continued.

Not that it matters anyway. Adsit was struck by someone experiencing a medical problem. It had nothing to do with the protest. It was a random tragedy.

In any case, Caplis should set a better example for East students and the rest of us by making sure he gets his facts correct. And, of course, he should apologize for the error.

Tensions High As CIA Torture Report Nears Release

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

UPDATE #3: Republicans angrily pushing back against the Intelligence Committee's report, MSNBC:

GOP members of the committee who withdrew their support for its investigation released their own 167-page “minority views” response to the Democratic report, arguing that the detention and interrogation program “saved lives and played a vital role in weakening al Qa-ida.”

The dissenting committee members – Sens. Saxby Chambliss, Richard Burr, Jim Risch, Daniel Coats, Marco Rubio and Tom Coburn – are just some of the many Republican lawmakers up in arms over the comprehensive review of controversial CIA interrogation techniques, which they warned would lead to violent reprisals that would endanger American personnel and jeopardize intelligence interests.

“I cannot think of a greater disservice to our men and women serving in the military and in our intelligence field than to hand terror groups like ISIL another recruiting tool and excuse to target them,” Republican Sen. John Cornyn said in statement issued Tuesday. “Due to the political calculations of some, the American people and our allies across the globe are less safe today than they were before.”

The CIA and it supporters also went on the offensive Tuesday, with the publication of a pro-interrogation op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by former CIA Directors George J. Tenet, Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden, as well as the creation of a website, “CIA Saved Lives,” by former agency officials.

—–

UPDATE #2: Here's the report.

—–

UPDATE: Sen. Mark Udall via Twitter responds to today's report:

Udall's full statement:

Mark Udall, who led efforts to hold the White House, CIA and intelligence agencies accountable to the American people, welcomed the declassification today of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's exhaustive study of the CIA's brutal, ineffective and misguided detention and interrogation program.

The Senate Intelligence Committee released the executive summary of the report today following months of negotiations with the White House and CIA — a process Udall fought to keep moving forward. Udall also had threatened to take any step necessary to get the truth out if negotiators for the committee and executive branch could not reach an accord that kept faith with the important transparency the report represents.

"The release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's study of the CIA's detention and interrogation program is an historic victory for our nation, the Constitution, and our system of checks and balances. This study ensures that the truth about the CIA’s brutal torture program finally comes out and that the agency can learn from its repeated missteps and start to restore its integrity," Udall said. "My goal from day one has been holding the CIA accountable, shedding light on this dark chapter of our history, and ensuring neither the CIA nor any future administration would make these grievous mistakes ever again. The report released today achieves those goals and affirms that we are a nation that does not hide from its past, but learns from it.

"We can protect our national security without compromising who we are as Americans. This landmark study — and the millions of pages of agency documents and testimony it is based upon — shows that torture is not effective and does not make us safer."

Udall has been the leading proponent of swiftly declassifying the Senate Intelligence Committee's exhaustive study on the CIA's detention and interrogation program. Following the Senate Intelligence Committee's vote this spring to declassify the study, Udall called on the White House to speed declassification of the study and prevent the CIA from interfering with its public release.

Udall also has aggressively pushed back on intelligence officials and anonymous leaks that have sought to discredit the Senate Intelligence Committee's study and prevent the truth about the CIA's brutal torture program from coming out.

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At Least She’s Not Your Gubernatorial Candidate (Anymore)

On the subject of the protests raging across America over police brutality against African Americans, Roni Bell Sylvester, who Colorado political trivia aficionados will remember was a minor candidate in last year's Republican gubernatorial primary, has a very simple suggestion:

sylvesterprotesters

What a great idea–why can't we just keep these uppity urban protesters busy in the fields?

Why hasn't anybody suggested this? We'd swear we've heard this before. Wait, never mind, history class!

Oh, wait a minute…

Denver Police Union Makes Serious, Dubious Allegation

pparelease

9NEWS reports on shocking accusations leveled yesterday by the Denver Police Protective Association, the union representing police officers in Denver:

The Denver police union says protestors marching against the Ferguson grand jury decision cheered and chanted "hit him again" after four officers were hit by a runaway car.

Several other police sources tell 9NEWS crime and justice reporter Anastasiya Bolton that there is evidence as well as DPD witnesses to the fact that some students cheered after the officers were struck.

The irony of police being injured while protecting students protesting against police misconduct should not be lost on anyone, including the students who were marching Wednesday when the officers were struck. With that said, there does seem to be an attempt here to discredit entirely lawful protest with an apparently unrelated and tragic accident by the police union. Even if there were a few bad-mannered students who heckled, it would be wrong to blame all the protesters, or impugn the larger reasons for protesting against police misconduct based on any such unrepresentative actions.

Especially since, as the Denver Post reports, the "evidence" referred to above doesn't appear to exist.

Although some obscenities were directed at police while they were escorting the East High School protesters, Denver Post journalists witnessed no cheering after a Mercedes hit four officers. Students who were interviewed expressed concern about the injuries. [Pols emphasis]

In its response to the union, the Denver Police Department said it could not independently confirm claims that students cheered.

"If in fact there were inappropriate actions taken by a few students Chief (Robert) White does not believe this reflects the opinions of the vast majority of protesters," according to the police statement.

Backlash from the Denver police union isn't happening in a vacuum, of course–protests around the nation over the failure to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson after the killing of African American teenager Michael Brown have been met with angry responses from police associations, including the now-famous exchange between members of the St. Louis Rams and that city's police officer's association after several Rams players took the field last weekend with their hands up in "don't shoot" protest. At least to some extent, you can't blame them: police unions are logically going to defend the honor of their members and profession at a time when both are subject to widespread questioning.

But scapegoating a few misguided students–assuming what's alleged even happened–isn't the way to do that.

How Do We Get This Done?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Montbello HS protesters. Image via Twitter

Montbello HS protesters, 12/4/2014. Image via Twitter

In 1992, I watched in horror as the jury of Rodney King failed to convict the police that beat him, a black man. Even with the video, the all-white jury said that no crime was committed. At 27 years old, I felt like my world fell apart. How could the people in my generation not see this as crime? How was it possible that in 1992, as I watched Los Angeles burn, I was dealing the same disappointment my father dealt with in 1965, as he watched Watts burn.

I was sure, in my 27-year-old mind, that I had seen the last of racial inequality. In the days, weeks and years that followed Rodney King, I watched the LA police force systematically dismantled. I saw white people stand with black people and say this was wrong and we must do better as Americans. My young heart felt like that while America had failed to do the right thing for Rodney King, in the aftermath, we seemed to be learning and growing closer as a people.

I was wrong. Sign here if you want to see something change.

On November 22, 2014, a video released by the Cleveland police showed Officer Timothy A. Loehmann, 26, shooting Tamir Rice immediately upon leaving his police car on November 22. Investigators said 12-year-old Tamir was reaching into his waistband for a weapon — which turned out to be a toy pellet gun. The Cleveland police officer who shot and killed the 12-year-old last month resigned from a previous small-town police job when he was deemed emotionally unstable and unfit for duty, especially in his handling of firearms.

In August 2014, Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown to death in broad daylight. Despite multiple eyewitness accounts and images of his own face contradicting Wilson's narrative of events, a grand jury declined to indict Wilson.

In July 2014, New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo choked unarmed black man Eric Garner to death, in broad daylight, while a bystander caught it on video. Despite the video, despite an NYPD prohibition of exactly the sort of chokehold Pantaleo used, and despite the New York City medical examiner ruling the death a homicide, a Staten Island grand jury declined even to indict Pantaleo.

In November 2006, a group of five New York police officers shot unarmed black man Sean Bell to death in the early morning hours of his wedding day. In April 2008, despite multiple eyewitness accounts contradicting the officers' accounts of the incident, Justice Arthur J. Cooperman acquitted the officers of all charges, including reckless endangerment.

In February of 1999, four plainclothes New York police officers shot unarmed black man Amadou Diallo to death outside of his home. A year later, an Albany jury acquitted the officers of all charges, including reckless endangerment.

And the list continues…

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East High Students Walk Out In Ferguson Protest

UPDATE #2: Four Denver Police officers were injured by a motorist suffering "medical issues" while they were escorting students from downtown Denver back to East High SchoolDenver Post:

The officers and the driver were transported to Denver Health. One officer in critical condition was taken into surgery, Police Chief Robert White said. Another officer had serious injuries. The two other officers were treated for "minor injuries," White said.

White added it is "not our best day."

Four mangled bicycles were seen on the north side of Colfax Avenue between High Street and Williams Street. A nurse on the scene was covered in blood, and a wide area was cordoned off by police.

—–

UPDATE: FOX 31:

The Denver Post reported about 1,000 students took part in the march.

As they marched, students chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “Justice for Michael,” according to several accounts on Twitter.

After reaching Civic Center Park, the crowd moved toward downtown along the 16th Street Mall.  They mostly spread out and dispersed after that.

Around 11:30 a.m., the students regathered at Colfax and Broadway, where they held a 4 1/2-minute moment of silence, marking every hour Brown was in the street. The group then began a march back to the high school.

—–

Just getting word of this, apparently a huge crowd of students from Denver's East High School have walked out of class this morning, shutting down Colfax Avenue near the Colorado state capitol in protest over the shooting of African-American teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri:

We'll update with coverage once available–looks like a pretty big event.

Ferguson Protests Spread Across America, Colorado

A quick roundup on a story that has dominated national headlines since Monday evening and resulted in two consecutive days now of protests in Denver, Colorado Springs, and elsewhere–CNN:

Like Ferguson, outrage over the grand jury's decision escalated from coast to coast, with protests in about 170 cities nationwide.

From New York to Los Angeles and dozens and dozens of cities in between, protesters flooded the streets to denounce the grand jury's decision. Some demonstrations blocked bridges, tunnels and major highways. But the protests were largely peaceful.

"They have given us no justice! We will give them no peace," protesters chanted as they massed in front of the Underground Atlanta shopping mall.

In the New York area, they briefly blocked one of the entrances to the Lincoln Tunnel.

As the Denver Post's Anthony Cotton reports, protests yesterday evening downtown almost got out of hand, with a handful of protesters arrested, but overall stayed peaceful and law-abiding:

Besides the Brown protest, there were banners decrying the July shooting death of Ryan Ronquillo. And after an hour of marching, the protesters ended up at the front doors of the Denver jail, where they repeatedly shouted, "Marvin Booker, Marvin Booker," recalling the inmate who died at the facility in 2010…

Although there were no obvious signs of discord, things did get a bit tense when three armed sheriff's deputies, perhaps disquieted by the size of the gathering, stood on alert just inside the front doors of the jail.

Organizers had planned for the march to conclude at the jail, but a large group continued the protest, moving west on West Colfax Avenue and blocking the viaduct over Interstate 25…[p]olice formed a line to prevent protesters from moving onto the interstate about 8:10 p.m.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports a robust protest there Tuesday:

Hundreds of protesters, chanting "Hands up, don't shoot" and "Whose streets? Our streets," marched through downtown Colorado Springs on Tuesday, demanding police reform after a grand jury opted not to indict a white police officer who fatally shot a black teen in Ferguson, Mo…

Clutching a megaphone while blocking Cascade Avenue, Trina Reynolds-Tyler, a Colorado College senior, read a list of demands from FergusonAction.com, which has often helped support protests in Missouri.

Among the demands: Police departments nationwide need to stop using military equipment and weaponry and a U.S. Department of Justice review on racially biased policing across the nation. She said money going to law enforcement needs to be redirected toward community-based alternatives to incarceration.

Other events around the state related to the protests over the police shooting of Ferguson, Missouri teenager Michael Brown included an apropos forum on race relations in Boulder and a protest in Pueblo organized by the Colorado Progressive Coalition. Also fueling debate locally over police violence and race relations is a new report from Rocky Mountain PBS I-News highlighting racial disparity in Denver police shootings:

At a time when the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, has brought tensions between police and minority communities to the forefront, Rocky Mountain PBS I-News has found that racial disparities persist in police shootings in Denver.

Seven of the 33 people shot by Denver police and sheriff’s deputies in the past five years were African American, according to data collected by the Office of the Independent Monitor, a city watchdog. That’s about 21 percent, compared with an overall black population in Denver of 9.7 percent during roughly the same period, according to Census data.

Thirteen of those shot between 2009 and 2013 were Latino, and 12 were white. That means about 39 percent of the shootings involved Latinos, who comprise 32 percent of the population, while 36 percent involved whites, who account for 52 percent of the population.

Whether we like it or not, this is an issue that we need to be talking about in Colorado. So, please do.

Red-on-Red Recriminations Over Recall Winners’ Defeats Go On

Sen.-elect Michael Merrifield.

Sen.-elect Michael Merrifield.

Conservative news site Breitbart.com reports on continuing anger among Republicans both in and outside the state of Colorado over the failure of the Colorado Republican Party to defend the two seats won in the historic 2013 recall elections–in which sitting Colorado legislators were swept from office for the first time in a wave of backlash over gun safety legislation:

Although Republicans won control of the Colorado state senate during the midterms, pockets of resistance cost them both seats they'd picked up during the 2013 recall efforts. Some of the resistance was in a senate district–Colorado Springs–and some of it was in the state Republican party headquarters…

Herpin says the loss was due to the fact that guns were simply "not much of an issue" in his district this time around. But this misses the larger point, which is that Republicans have to make guns an issue, especially in a race where Herpin's opponent had ties to Michael Bloomberg.

Merrifield "had been a Colorado coordinator for [Bloomberg's] Mayors Against Illegal Guns."

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

We've talked about the enormous black eye the victory of former Mayors Against Illegal Guns state coordinator Michael Merrifield over 2013 recall victor Bernie Herpin represents, being by far the more competitive of the two seats picked up last year by the GOP. Republicans don't want to talk about it now, but we'll say it again: the 2013 recalls were the biggest news event at the state legislative level in Colorado in many years. The national attention these recalls earned last year should make the flipping of both of these seats right back to Democrats–especially Merrifield with his former relationship with MAIG–big, big news. Instead, it seems like the significance of this conflicting result in an otherwise great year for the GOP has yet to fully sink in.

With that said, at least one major operative from the 2013 recalls is sowing fresh dissent against Colorado Republicans, not just over Merrifield, but the failure of Republicans to defend Pueblo's SD-3 seat:

Breitbart News spoke to recall spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns on November 12. She says: "The state Republican Party party chair lived up to his threat to not fund operations in Pueblo because of the 2013 recall elections, which state party did not support." And although the Pueblo County Republican Party chair was able to shame the state party into sending a meager amount of funding late in the cycle, Kerns said it was considered "too little, too late."

Now the truth is, of course, that there was no way Republicans were going to keep heavily Democratic SD-3 in any general election, and the pickup of this seat in last year's recall had as much to do with intra-Democratic squabbling in Pueblo as it did anti-gun control backlash. But we suspect that nuance will be completely lost on Breitbart's national audience, and the comments of recall spokesperson Jennifer "CAPartyGirl" Kerns will further fuel already burning discord on the Colorado GOP's gun-crazy right flank. Herpin's defeat, and the speculated role of follow El Paso County Republican Bill Cadman in hanging Herpin out to dry, certainly fit this emerging narrative.

Think of it as Dudley Brown's consolation prize.

What the Lame Duck Session Means to our Federal Courts

After the 2014 Midterm elections in early November, the Senate will return to work for what is commonly called a “lame duck” session. While a “lame duck” session sounds…well…lame, this winter, it must not be an excuse for inaction. Among other pieces of business, there are many judicial nominees that must get confirmed to fill vacancies on our nation’s federal courts and keep the wheels of justice moving. 

The Senate has a constitutional duty to advise and consent on the President’s nominees to serve as judges on our Nation’s federal courts. Going into the 2014 lame duck period, there are 64 current judicial vacancies and 34 nominees pending in the Senate. It is vital for the Senate to stay in session until every judicial nominee on the floor gets a yes-or-no vote. If these judges are not confirmed, our federal courts will not be able handle the issues – from marriage equality to voting rights to health care to immigration – that affect all of us.

Click here to tell our Colorado Senators to make judicial nominations a priority during the lame duck session.

Although Senators may want to get home for the holidays, Senators from both parties should stay in DC and put aside political differences to confirm needed judges. There is a historical precedent for this: In 2010 and 2012 lame duck sessions, a total of 32 judicial nominees were confirmed. Senators should apply a similar focus this session. In the 2002 lame duck session, Democrats controlled the Senate. In a spirit of bipartisanship, even though they were the opposition party, they nonetheless confirmed 20 of President Bush’s judicial nominees. Republicans today should put aside politics and get to work to get nominees waiting for a vote confirmed. 

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Welcome Back, J. Paul Brown!

Cletus Spuckler.

Cletus Spuckler.

As the Durango Herald reports today, one of the more colorful additions to the Colorado General Assembly from the 2010 Republican wave is coming back to the Capitol in January:

[A]s of the final tally of La Plata County cured ballots Wednesday night, [Rep. Mike] McLachlan was still trailing Republican challenger J. Paul Brown by 163 votes districtwide.

Brown had 17,246 to McLachlan’s 17,083, with 34,329 votes cast in total across the district.

Since Election Day, McLachlan has run up his vote total in La Plata County, getting 11,949 to Brown’s 10,621.

But it wasn’t enough to tip the scales.

Parker said the 0.95 percent margin of difference wasn’t close enough to trigger an automatic recount.

Rep. J. Paul Brown was ousted in 2012 by Democrat Mike McLachlan by a considerably bigger margin than he just recaptured the HD-59 seat with, which may rightfully make you wonder if HD-59 is destined to bounce back and forth between presidential and off years until the next reapportionment in 2020. It seems like the partisan divide in the district is close enough, and the swing between presidential and off year electorates wide enough, to set that in motion.

Democrats are sorry to lose McLachlan, even as they celebrate holding their majority in the House. Looking ahead, though, as we saw with Brown's last term in 2011-12, the short term loss could become a long-term bonus for Democrats. Rep. Brown frequently made headlines for his UN conspiracy theories, embarrassing homespun gaffes, and bizarre protest votes: once casting the only vote against a homeless youth prevention bill, and famously saying in explanation of his vote against children's health care coverage, "if I’m wrong, I guess, take me out behind the barn and give me a whipping."

In 2012, the voters of HD-59 did so. McLachlan was targeted by the gun lobby for his role in the passage of 2013's gun safety bills, even though McLachlan's primary contribution was to increase the magazine limit from 10 to 15 rounds in order to accommodate a variety of automatic pistols. But for all the money spent to oust McLachlan, a margin under 200 votes in a GOP wave year doesn't inspire much confidence for holding this seat in 2016.

And frankly, neither does J. Paul Brown.

Scuttlebutt: Did Bill Cadman Shaft Recall Hero Bernie Herpin?

Sen. Bernie Herpin (R).

Sen. Bernie Herpin (R).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOP Takes Colorado Senate By 876 (Or 689) Votes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura Waters Woods

Laura Waters Woods

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

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

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