Let’s Just Agree–Violence Makes Your Politics Irrelevant

In the immediate aftermath of last week's tragic shooting at Arapahoe High School, there was ill-advised speculation right away based on reported anecdotes about the 18-year old shooter's alleged political leanings. Conservative bloggers and pundits became especially concerned about an edit made to a Denver Post story covering events as they unfolded. For example, major conservative blog Gateway Pundit:

pierson-deleted-socialist

After thinking things over, the Denver Post decided to delete the fact that Arapahoe School shooter Karl Pierson was a committed socialist from their news report…

Guess it didn’t fit their narrative that only right-wing Tea Party folks were the dangerous ones.

Todd Starnes of FOX News angrily demanded an explanation:

In response, the Denver Post explained their decision to remove this reported anecdote about Arapahoe High School shooter Karl Pierson thusly: "we decided not to have another student apply a label to the shooter — a label the student likely didn't even understand." And in fairness, Denver Post stories about the shooter did note a rant on Facebook attributed to Pierson that is plainly critical of Republicans.

But after watching conservative pundits–mostly outside Colorado–grope for any political angle they could find, anecdotal or otherwise, to invoke as Friday's tragedy unfolded, we are obliged to note a report this morning from Bente Birkeland of KUNC.

The Arapahoe High School shooting hit especially close to home for Republican senator Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch. His son is a junior at Arapahoe High and was on the speech and debate team with gunman Karl Pierson. Harvey is also a good friend of Pierson’s mother – who he says is one of his biggest political backers. [Pols emphasis]

By the same yardstick the conservative pundit class was ready to judge the shooter's own politics, it seems to us that as much could be made of the apparent politics of the shooter's mother–couldn't it? As you can probably see by now, this could very quickly devolve into an endless morass of speculation and reinforcement of existing prejudices. To some extent, that's probably inevitable.

But we believe it's better to not dwell on the shooter's politics, or that of his parents. We'd say the moment he made the decision to walk into his Colorado high school with a gun, politics ceased to matter. For anyone who would do such a thing, they probably never did. And even if that seems naive to you, if you think about it, our view, which we believe to speak for a majority, is one of the reasons you should feel very lucky to live in the United States of America. We would much rather live in a nation that condemns senseless violence with one voice.

Above all, we hope we'll have no need to ever bring this up again. But we probably will.

Tragedy and Farce: A Few Words About Waterboarding

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Reuters' Patricia Zengerle reports via the Huffington Post on the latest work by Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado to expose and repudiate the practice of extreme interrogation methods used by American intelligence services, including "waterboarding."

A member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday disclosed the existence of a secret Central Intelligence Agency document that committee members believe supports their conclusions in a study highly critical of "waterboarding" and other harsh counterterrorism practices.

Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, demanded the document – a CIA study of the interrogation techniques – at a confirmation hearing for Caroline Krass, President Barack Obama's nominee to be the CIA's general counsel.

Udall said he would not support Krass' nomination until the previously undisclosed document was provided, raising the possibility that he might use a "hold" to stop the nomination…

During the hearing, Krass told Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the committee, that she did not believe members of the Senate panel had the right to see documents that provide the legal basis for CIA actions, such as waterboarding.

Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins said she was "troubled" by Krass' answer.

It's worth noting that the CIA general counsel nominee, Caroline Krass, reportedly did agree that the interrogation practice known as "waterboarding" amounts to torture, which would presumably mean she considers it illegal under U.S. law. If you accept that, this is a dispute about congressional oversight more than the underlying policy. Either way, Sen. Udall has consistently pushed for greater accountability on a variety of intelligence matters, including the major revelations this year of continued and even expended domestic PATRIOT Act-justified surveillance under President Barack Obama. Here then is another case of Udall's willingness to push back on his own party's administration in defense of principle.

Sen. Steve King (R).

Sen. Steve King (R).

With all of that noted for the record, we had meant to call attention earlier to another recent invocation of "waterboarding," albeit metaphorical, by a politician from Colorado–and this seems as good a place as any. As KUNC's Bente Birkeland reported late last week:

For conservatives, last session wasn’t pleasant. 2013 saw the passage of stricter gun laws, civil unions, driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, same day voter registration and renewable energy standards for electric coops.

“Last session was the absolute worst session,” said Senator Steve King (R- Grand Junction). “It was like waterboarding, it seems like every time I caught my breath we were in the middle of more torture.” [Pols emphasis]

Folks, here we have an example of one of the rarer breeds of Republican–one who admits "waterboarding" is torture. Sen. Steve King can forget all about campaign donations from Dick Cheney! Maybe King could get a little love from John McCain if that's really how he feels, except that's the kiss of death in Republican politics.

Of course, knowing Sen. King as we do, he probably didn't mean "torture," you know, in a bad way.

When The Sheriff Won’t Enforce The Law

TUESDAY UPDATE: A reader points us to an appearance last night on The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell by recalled Colorado Senate President John Morse, in which Morse slams Weld County Sheriff John Cooke's stated goal to repeal the post-Columbine Amendment 22 background checks at gun shows:

Would it have made a difference in Morse's very close but successful recall election for the voters to have known that the Republican who replaced him, Bernie Herpin, played a big role in the opposition to Amendment 22–which was approved by 70% of Colorado voters in the 2000 elections? We'll never know, since Democrats decided to avoid engagement on the gun issue wherever possible last summer. We've been clear in our opinion that this was a pivotal mistake. Sources tell us that Morse always agreed with that assessment, and only reluctantly avoided directly confronting Herpin on the issue on insistence from outside consultants.

What we feel very confident about is this: if the public understood what the gun lobby in Colorado really wants, and has persuaded officials like Sheriff Cooke to support, they would be appalled. This gap between public perception and the extreme reality of the gun lobby's agenda is exactly what Democrats need to address going into next year's session. One of 2013's most important lessons for Colorado Democrats is that they can never again leave this issue for opponents to frame. Original post follows.

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UPDATE: By request, here's a direct link to Weld County Sheriff John Cooke's Rocky Mountain Gun Owners candidate questionnaire. The positions claimed by Sheriff Cooke in this document are unambiguous: Cooke supports repeal of the post-Columbine law requiring background checks on sales of guns at gun shows, Amendment 22. Cooke even opposes the standard Brady "insta-check" background checks required for all firearms purchases from gun dealers nationwide. In short, Cooke opposes any background checks for gun puchases. These positions put Cooke well outside the mainstream of opinions on this issue based on any polling we've ever seen.

And anyone reading today's New York Times really needs to be aware of this.

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Weld County Sheriff John Cooke.

Weld County Sheriff John Cooke.

The New York Times' Erica Goode reports:

Colorado’s package of gun laws, enacted this year after mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., has been hailed as a victory by advocates of gun control. But if [Weld County] Sheriff [John] Cooke and a majority of the other county sheriffs in Colorado offer any indication, the new laws — which mandate background checks for private gun transfers and outlaw magazines over 15 rounds — may prove nearly irrelevant across much of the state’s rural regions.

Some sheriffs, like Sheriff Cooke, are refusing to enforce the laws, saying that they are too vague and violate Second Amendment rights. Many more say that enforcement will be “a very low priority,” as several sheriffs put it. All but seven of the 62 elected sheriffs in Colorado signed on in May to a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the statutes…

Sheriffs who refuse to enforce gun laws around the country are in the minority, though no statistics exist. In Colorado, though, sheriffs like Joe Pelle of Boulder County, who support the laws and have more liberal constituencies that back them, are outnumbered.

“A lot of sheriffs are claiming the Constitution, saying that they’re not going to enforce this because they personally believe it violates the Second Amendment,” Sheriff Pelle said. “But that stance in and of itself violates the Constitution.” [Pols emphasis]

The backlash against Colorado's new gun safety laws this year has been at least figureheaded by Colorado county sheriffs more or less from the beginning. As we've tried to explain when they are invoked in the debate, elected county sheriff positions in this state have been aggressively targeted by the gun lobby. Many of the most prominent county sheriffs involved in opposition to the gun bills and the subsequent lawsuit owe their jobs to the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

RMGO's position on many gun safety policies is in fact distantly to the right of the public–as are the positions held by Weld County Sheriff John Cooke and many other Colorado sheriffs. Cooke's RMGO candidate questionnaire indicates that he opposes all background checks for gun purchases. Not just checks on "private" transactions, but getting rid of the standard background checks performed on gun sales at stores everywhere today. Sheriff Cooke even favors repeal of Amendment 22, the ballot initiative passed in the aftermath of the shooting at Columbine High School to require background checks for gun show sales. It's key that this point not get lost: this is a law that passed with the support of over 70% of voters.

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Photos: Colorado Newtown Shooting Remembrance Event

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As the Denver Post's Austin Briggs reports:

Twenty-six times the sharp ringing of a bell cut through the crisp, cold air Saturday morning at the Cheesman Park Pavilion in honor of those killed one year ago in a shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The group, forgoing the usual moment of silence used to honor victims of violence, opted to ring bells, sing and pray.

"We're not going to be silent; we'll never be silent on this issue again," said Jennifer Hope, Colorado chapter leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the group that organized the vigil.

Here's a little more of Jennifer Hope's speech yesterday:

A year ago, mothers across America got a shattering wake-up call. As we watched the tragedy unfold in Newtown, Connecticut, we imagined our own children in those classrooms, and our hearts broke. While we knew we could never truly imagine what these families were going through, we knew we had to do something. As we sat in our kitchens, at our jobs, in our cars, out with our children, each of us realized we could be silent no more.

Our hearts broke, but our eyes opened. We awoke to a national nightmare: A country where every day nearly eight children and teens are shot and killed. A country with the highest rate of gun violence of any developed country in the world. A country with a population so numb to the steady drumbeat of gun violence that many mass shootings aren’t even mentioned in the national news.

Over the past year, our devastation turned into conviction.

More photos from yesterday's event in Cheesman Park after the jump. 

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Reminder: Hickenlooper’s Shift on Guns Came Before Newtown

prayfornewtown

One year ago today, we took note early in the day of a front-page story in The Denver Post about Gov. John Hickenlooper and gun safety legislation. In the immediate aftermath of the summer 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, discussion turned to the possibility of passing gun safety legislation in response. Hickenlooper's answer at the time of the Aurora shootings, if you recall, was probably not:

“This person, if there were no assault weapons available, if there were no this or no that, this guy’s going to find something. Right? He’s going to know how to create a bomb,” [Hickenlooper] said.

On the morning of December 14th, 2012, Gov. Hickenlooper was reported to have changed his position. AP:

“I wanted to have at least a couple of months off after the shooting in Aurora to let people process and grieve and get a little space, but it is, I think, now is the time is right,” Hickenlooper said…

“When you look at what happened in Aurora, a great deal of that damage was from the large magazine on the AR-15 (rifle). I think we need to have that discussion and say, ‘Where is this appropriate?’”

A few hours after reading about Hickenlooper's shift in the morning news, every media outlet in America turned to an horrific shooting underway at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

It's not necessary in this post to recount the whole year-long story of what came after that day. Our readers know well how the Colorado legislative session began in January with high hopes among Democrats for gun safety legislation. The most important legislation sought by Democrats, instituting universal background checks for most transfers of guns, is now law. Colorado also limited magazine capacity to 15 rounds, passed a nominal fee to help cover the cost of background checks, did away with all-online concealed carry permit courses, and passed a bill to keep guns from people who commit domestic violence. Several other bills that were always intended to be "flanking" measures died along the way.

And then Colorado politics, as you know, went completely insane. We are still more or less in that state today.

But one year ago today, as these two stories became the same story, it was easy to understand why Hickenlooper's change of heart on gun safety was called for.

BREAKING: School Shooting At Arapahoe High School

UPDATE #3: A statement now from Gov. John Hickenlooper:

​This is an unspeakable horror and something no child, no family should have to endure. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Arapahoe High School community and those affected by this senseless act of violence. We thank law enforcement and first responders for their swift work. All of Colorado is with you.

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UPDATE #2: Arapahoe Sheriff's Department now reporting that the shooter is dead.

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UPDATE: The Denver Post's Ryan Parker reports via Twitter that two students have been shot injured in addition to the shooter. The condition of the victims and the shooter is not yet known.

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Evie Hudak Honored By MSNBC’s Alex Wagner: “A True Champ”

A segment from Wednesday night's NOW With Alex Wagner show on MSNBC we wanted to make sure got a mention. We hope that recently resigned Colorado Sen. Evie Hudak of Arvada has had a chance to watch this. Vital perspective on what happened this year, both to Sen. Hudak, and in Colorado politics generally:

The day before Thanksgiving, faced with yet another recall that could have handed the state’s gun laws to Republicans, Colorado State Senator Evie Hudak resigned from her seat. By resigning, Hudak ensured that the states’ gun safety measures that she championed will be allowed to stand.

Common-sense gun safety is making Colorado better

This year, Colorado passed important, common-sense gun safety laws to reduce gun violence–without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens.

Just yesterday, the Colorado Department of Public Safety released new information showing that these laws are working: in just the first few months, the new law requiring criminal background checks for most transfers of guns in Colorado has stopped dozens of criminals from illegally obtaining guns. And every bit as important, thousands of law-abiding citizens are continuing to buy and sell guns with minimal inconvenience. Despite all the dire predictions from the extreme right, common-sense gun safety in Colorado is a success.

Click here to send a message to our Colorado legislators, thanking them for standing strong in the face of vicious personal attacks to protect our communities from gun violence.

According to the Department of Public Safety, between July and the end of November of this year, 4,792 background checks were conducted on prospective private gun buyers. Of those 4,792 background checks, 72 sales of guns were were blocked due to a criminal record or restraining order in effect. The remainder of background checks, over 98%, were completed successfully and the transfer of the firearm went forward. [1]

The smear and retaliation campaign by the extreme right against progressive legislators who backed this year’s gun safety reforms has taken a terrible toll. But they were right to not give up. Now we can see the reforms they fought for are working–preventing guns from being sold to people who shouldn’t have them–while allowing law-abiding citizens to go about their business. Common-sense gun safety in Colorado is making our state better.

Take a moment right now to thank progressive Colorado legislators for doing the right thing in the face of tremendous pressure. We’ll deliver your names and comments to legislators and the press.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “what you don't do can be a destructive force.” In response to the tragedies of 2012 in Aurora and in Newtown, Colorado legislators took necessary action. They need to know that the people of Colorado stand with them, and can see through the lies now that the new laws are proving effective. Thank them for their perseverance, and then forward this message to your friends and neighbors.

Giron Recall Was Less About Guns, More About…Giron

AngelaGiron

Angela Giron

We've written many times in this space that the Sept. 10 recall elections for Sen. John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron were two very different elections with very different rationales. Whatever the reasons, Democrats just didn't really like Giron, which had more to do with the massive margin in her recall election than anything about gun control. And as Fox 31's Eli Stokols reports, results from a recent focus group indicate exactly what we have said here before:

But a recently conducted focus group, paid for by a coalition of pro-gun control groups, gives greater clarity to what happened in Pueblo, where former Sen. Angela Giron lost a solidly Democratic district by a 20-point margin.

The report, which FOX31 Denver has obtained, confirms what many political observers have surmised already: that it wasn’t the gun laws alone that cost Giron her seat, but a deep-seated dislike for and mistrust of the lawmaker herself among many Democrats in her hometown…

…People in the two focus groups — men and women, all Democrats (the party holds roughly a 15-point advantage in Senate District 3) — explained that they believed that Giron “went Denver” and lost touch with her constituents, taking orders instead from party bosses around the Capitol.

Moreover, some women surveyed said they took additional umbrage at Giron’s explanation that she voted for certain bills, despite serious opposition from parts of her district, because she’s “a strong Latina.”

Giron certainly has a vocal group of supporters, but not enough to change the perception she created about herself in her short time in the state senate. The good news for Democrats — and the sobering news for gun advocates who celebrated the Giron recall — is that Democrats will almost certainly retake SD-3 in 2014:

The focus group voters said they hardly know anything about Republican George Rivera, who was the only successor candidate on the recall ballot and will face a reelection challenge from Democratic state Rep. Leroy Garcia, who opposed the gun control bills, next year.

The recall wasn’t about Rivera, voters said. It was about Giron.

“There’s not always someone you want to vote for,” one respondent said. “But there’s always someone you want to vote against.”

More Data Shows Universal Background Checks Are Working

guns

A press release a short while ago from the Colorado House Majority Press Office:

Dozens of criminals have been prevented from buying a gun under a 2013 law that closed the loophole that allowed private sales of firearms to proceed without a background check on the buyer, official statistics show. 

Stats released by the state Department of Public Safety at the request of lawmakers show that from the time the background check law went into effect in July through the end of November, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation performed nearly 4,800 background checks on private sales in the state. 

After those 4,792 background checks, 72 sales were blocked because the would-be buyer was convicted of or charged with a serious crime, or was under a domestic restraining order. The crimes include homicide, sexual assault, assault, dangerous drugs and larceny/theft. The other 98 percent of the sales were to law-abiding citizens and went through without a hitch. 

The data also show an upward trend in the number of private-sale background checks in the first five months the law has been in effect. 

“Dozens of criminals would be walking around with a gun right now if not for the new law,” said Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora), who sponsored the background checks law with Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver) and Senate President-designate Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora). “Our intention was to make our communities safer and make it harder for criminals to get guns. We now have five months of data that prove that the law is working.”

The data supplied by the Colorado Department of Public Safety shows a steady increase each month in the number of background checks conducted for a private sale or transfer of a gun as mandated by this year's House Bill 1229. Just over 550 checks for private sales were conducted in July, increasing to a total of 1,327 last month. The denial rate, with the exception of a small uptick in September, has held steady at just under 2% of transactions being rejected due to a disqualifying criminal record.

Those two percent of denied purchases were due to a number of reasons we'd consider very tough to argue with: four with restraining orders, a dozen people who had committed assault, five who committed burglary, and at least one rejected for a homicide conviction.

When the very earliest figures were released showing the first month of background checks had stopped ten criminals from purchasing guns in private sales, Republicans like Sen. Kevin Lundberg claimed that the number of denials was "not persuasive at all" that the law was working. We were reminded then of a 2012 bill from Rep. Mark Waller, now a candidate for Attorney General, to eliminate "redundant" state background checks by the CBI entirely. CBI checks became the law after a Castle Rock man bought a gun in a purchase that state checks would have prevented due to a restraining order, and then killed his children. Waller argued that this "one act" is the reason why have those "redundant" state checks.

Well, as of today, House Bill 1229 has prevented six dozen guns from ending up in the wrong hands. Every month there will be more such denials, even as 98%+ of the lawful gun buying public has no problems. Is preventing some quantifiable number of guns from being sold, to people nearly everyone agrees shouldn't have a gun, worth a few minutes of time and a few bucks from law-abiding citizens?

Folks, excluding a few shrieking lunatics and the elected officials goading them on, this is a no-brainer.

If Only “Generic Republican” Were Real

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports on undeniably tough numbers for Colorado Democrats, in a poll released yesterday from Democratic-aligned (but considered highly accurate) pollster Public Policy Polling:

Republicans hold a five-point edge over Democrats on a generic ballot heading into state legislative races next year.

According to PPP, a typically Democrat-friendly polling outfit, voters across the state would prefer a generic Republican candidate for legislative seats over a generic Democrat by a 47-42 percent margin.

With independents, the third of Colorado’s electorate that typically decides statewide races and other toss-up elections, the Republicans’ generic ballot edge is even larger, 41-30 percent…

“In just one year, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Democrats in the statehouse lost the trust of their constituents by forcing through a radical agenda that is hurting working families, job creators and senior citizens,” Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call told FOX31 Denver.

Without any doubt, these are sobering results for Democrats, whose biggest consolation is that nearly a year–and a whole legislative session–lies between these numbers and the next general election. We've been talking about the roots of this steep plunge in Democratic popularity at the state level all spring and summer. Republicans, with much help from a conflict-loving press, have done a good job spinning this years legislative session as an "overreach" by Democrats. We've always rejected this label for the 2013 session, because when you look at the actual legislation passed and signed into law, it really wasn't all that controversial. Many bills, like civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, enjoyed overwhelming support, and had been pent up for years by the GOP-controlled Colorado House. In 2012, the House GOP leadership's actions to kill civil unions despite the bill having majority support resulted in major scandal–generally believed to have improved performance for Colorado Democrats in the 2012 elections.

So, what is going on then? Why this apparent turnaround in so little time?

We find at least part of the answer in recent polling that shows the voting public in Colorado despises the concept of "gun control," the issue that dominated the headlines for most of this year's legislative session, but supports the gun safety legislation actually passed by Democrats. In this space, we have documented repeated instances of not only full-scale lying by Republicans about these bills, but those lies being uncritically reported in multiple local news outlets including the state's newspaper of record. In this case, we don't think the public is stupid: the public has been deliberately misinformed, and their seeming disconnect between perception and reality over what was actually passed this year is a direct result. The rest of the pile-on to create this sense of "overreach" consists mostly of opportunistic lobbyist-driven axe-grinding over renewable energy and consumer protection bills–also relatively uncontroversial and broadly supported. Individually, the "backlash" against legislation passed this year looks like garden-variety sour grapes. In aggregate, and will the help of accommodating local media, Republicans and their allies are enjoying success at hyping their usual grousing into something more.

Will it succeed? Will these forecasts for the "generic ballot" in 2014 translate into electoral results? As much as Ryan Call hopes so, that's far from certain. If the work of Democrats in this year's legislative session had been done next year, with only a few months to correct the record with voters before the election, this poll might well portend disaster. As it is, the nutty predictions made by Republicans on the gun bills have already been largely debunked. Republicans can't run a "generic" candidate, they have to run the people they have–warts and all. The time between now and the election, if used properly by Democrats, is enough to dispel the myths about the 2013 session. Also factoring into present weakness for Democrats is the disastrous initial launch of the Affordable Care Act's health insurance marketplaces. Whatever happens between now and next November to change that story, as is slowly but surely happening, will directly affect Democratic candidates at all levels.

A lot of work (and a bit of luck) for Democrats before next November can turn this around. But they'll need both.

Protect Owen Hill’s Family From “Stalkers”–With Your Donation

“Stalker” as depicted in Owen Hill fundraising email.

A fundraising email sent to supporters of GOP U.S. Senate primary candidate and freshman Colorado Sen. Owen Hill is raising eyebrows today:

Stalking and harassment have begun.

As a loyal ally, you deserve to be in-the-know about the sleazy tactics my opponents are using in their desperate attempts to slow our momentum.

My neighbor caught this operative on camera as he was prowling around our home after I went to work and Emily and the kids were alone inside.

The corrupt political elitists know their reign is about to end, and they're growing desperate. But I refuse to shrug off anyone threatening the safety of my family. 

We shouldn't be surprised by these tactics, but it makes them no less frightening. Still, I mark is as a partial victory that they're taking notice of my success in bringing genuine conservative reform back to government. Please, donate $5 right now to help us build on our momentum…

Will you stand with me again today? Please, donate $5 today, right now, so we are able to rebuff the attacks and defeat Udall.

Now first of all, obviously, we don't condone anyone "stalking" U.S. Senate candidates. If there's any truth to this allegation, we hope whoever did this is caught and prosecuted for whatever law they might have broken.

With that said, this seems awfully fishy. This photo (above) doesn't show anything except a man standing on a sidewalk–what looks like public property to us. And although incumbent Sen. Mark Udall is the only "opponent" Hill mentions by name, how do we know this isn't an "operative" of one of his Republican primary opponents?

It's more likely, of course, that this was just a guy selling frozen steaks or magazines. As a relatively minor candidate in a large primary field, we just don't believe that Hill is worth "stalking"–at least not by Democrats. We'll be happy to retract that assertion if we see evidence that Hill immediately reported this alleged instance of "stalking and harassment" to the proper authorities. Because when somebody is actually stalking your wife and children while you're away at work, the first thing you think of is probably not "this would make a great fundraising email."

So Long, Sheriffs: Gun Lobby Lawsuit Loses More Steam


Colorado county sheriffs pose for an NRA photo shoot last spring.

An important development last Wednesday in the ongoing legal action by the gun lobby against gun safety legislation passed in Colorado this year, as reported by the Associated Press' Ivan Moreno. Don't let this slip down the Thanksgiving weekend memory hole:

Sheriffs in most of Colorado’s 64 counties filed the lawsuit in May, saying the new regulations violate the Second Amendment. The sheriffs are elected and represent rural, gun-friendly parts of the state.

In her ruling, Krieger said sheriffs still can choose to join the lawsuit in an individual capacity, and they’ll have 14 days to make that decision. But they cannot, as a group, sue the state in their official capacities.

“If individual sheriffs wish to protect individual rights or interests they may do so … however, the sheriffs have confused their individual rights and interests with those of the county sheriff’s office,” Krieger said.

We'll be the first to admit that rounding up a majority of Colorado county sheriffs–generally conservative elected officials who have been boosted for years by pro-gun groups like the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners–to publicly front the opposition to these new gun safety bills was a brilliant public relations move. In Colorado, the huge difference between elected conservative county sheriffs who opposed the new laws for political reasons and appointed police chiefs who generally supported them for practical reasons was lost on the public. Furthermore, some of these county sheriffs, like Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, are in fact distantly on the fringe of the gun safety debate, standing in opposition to all background checks for gun purchases. It's always been our opinion that if the voting public understood the positions held by many of these elected sheriffs, those badges wouldn't count for nearly as much.

And as the Denver Post's Ryan Parker reported on this same ruling, another major component of the fear-based messaging against this year's gun safety bills has been invalidated–again.

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Who Will Replace Hudak in State Senate?

FRIDAY UPDATE: Kurtis Lee of the Denver Post reports that Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp will not seek appointment to the SD-19 seat vacated by Sen. Evie Hudak. Rep. Kraft-Tharpe reportedly endorses former Rep. Sara Gagliardi.

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Democrat Evie Hudak's resignation from the State Senate on Wednesday effectively ended the attempted recall in SD-19, but it still leaves Democrats with a significant election battle in 2014.

Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp

Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp

Hudak was re-elected to the State Senate in 2012 by a slim margin over Republican Lang Sias, which meant Democrats wouldn't need to think about the seat again until 2016. With Hudak's resignation on Wednesday, Democrats don't have to worry that a recall election might swing control of the Senate into Republican hands for the 2014 session, but they still have to think about maintaining a majority into 2015. Democrats will fill Hudak's seat through a vacancy committee, but whoever wins the appointment will have to run for a full term next year.

Democrats have represented SD-19 for the last decade, with Sue Windels serving two terms prior to Hudak's 2008 victory, but the district has not been an easy seat to hold. With the 2014 election right around the corner, Democrats have a critical decision to make when the vacancy committee convenes.

Sara Gagliardi

Former Rep. Sara Gagliardi

There is certainly time for other candidates to emerge, but as of now, it looks like a potential three-way race among Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, former Rep. Sara Gagliardi, and Arvada City Council member (and a former campaign manager for Hudak in 2012) Rachel Zenzinger.

All three candidates will have their share of supporters, all three have strong credentials, and all three can make a good case for why they should get the appointment. But from a purely strategic perspective — we're not going to get into any potential policy arguments here — one makes more sense than the other two. Here's why:

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