Newsworthy and praiseworthy advice from Colorado’s Republican leader

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Steve House.

Steve House.

In a wide-ranging radio interview last week, Colorado GOP Chair Steve House had some newsworthy (and praiseworthy) advice for Colorado Republicans who seek to actually win elections:

  • Don’t just hate Obamacare but focus on solutions.
  • Don’t talk so much about the gun rights and the 2nd Amendment.
  • Talk about education more–but not so much about charter schools.

House’s advice came during a discussion with KFKA 1310 AM’s Stacy Petty about how Colorado Republicans have “got to start thinking a little bit differently on how we talk to people, especially the 490,000 or so unaffiliated or ‘leans right’ voters that we have got to make sure vote Republican, on top of our base in this coming election.”

First, “stop talking at every one of our discussions about the 2nd Amendment,” said House, adding that “we own that issue” and Democrats want Republicans fixating on it.

“You know, no matter what happens in the world, we’re not going to give up on our 2nd Amendment,” said House on air. ” We have defenders in RMGO and NRA and our sheriffs and other people.”

“So, what should we be talking about?” asked House, before answering his own question.  “And I suggested we should be talking about education, because I think it’s the number one issue for us as a state, for us as a Party.”

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Dems Get Tons of Pay Equity Press–Will Republicans Get Smart?

Photo by Colorado House Democrats.

Photo by Colorado House Democrats.

Yesterday, Democrats in the Colorado legislature held a press conference to announce legislation aimed at closing the persistent gap in earnings between men and women in the workplace–a problem that is actually worse in Colorado than many other states, even after Republicans in the Colorado Senate killed the state’s pay equity commission working on solutions for the problem. 9NEWS’ Allison Sylte:

Democrats in Colorado’s legislature introduced a package of bills Thursday aimed at ensuring women are paid equally when they’re doing the same jobs as men…

The Women’s Foundation of Colorado estimates that women in the state make less than 80-cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work.

“We know in recent years the pay gap has closed a bit,” Louise Myrland with the Women’s Foundation of Colorado said. “But at the rate the gap is closing, women won’t achieve equal pay with men until 2057.”

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch:

As press conferences go, this one was rock solid: A group of House Democrats were joined by women’s groups and small children Thursday to drive home the point that the equal pay issue isn’t going away as long as wages for women lag. The children wore red T-shirts that gave their ages in the 2057, the year advocates say pay for women, at the current rate of gains, will catch up to what men earn…

The Equal Pay in State Contracts Act would require state contractors to comply with equal-pay laws. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Jessie Danielson of Wheat Ridge and Janet Buckner of Aurora.

The Pay Transparency Protection Act bill, sponsored by Danielson and Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton, would protect workers who share wage information. Reps. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood and Faith Winter of Westminster are sponsoring the Fair Pay from the Start Act, which would block employers from asking job applicants about their salary history.

7NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger:

“It’s unacceptable that, in 2016, Colorado women of color and our families still have not only less to make ends meet today, but also less for a secure retirement tomorrow,” said 9to5 Colorado State Director Neha Mahajan, in a statement provided to Denver7…

Two of the new bills regarding equal pay don’t actually refer increasing salaries for women. One of the bills, “Extending Pay Transparency Protection To All Employees” protects workers from retribution if they share salary information with each other.

The other new bill, “Fair Pay From The Start” would prevent potential employers from asking your previous salary history. It would require prospective employers to only ask what your salary requirements would be.

You can also read coverage in the Grand Junction Sentinel, Denver’s Fox and CBS affiliates, and the Colorado Independent. Yesterday’s presser at the Colorado capitol was coordinated with the launch of similar legislation promoting pay equity in 20 states–a coordinated initiative organized by the national State Innovation Exchange.

The heavy press coverage of yesterday’s announcement definitely raises the stakes for Republicans in the legislature to give these bills a fair hearing. In the likely event that the bills die, it will fit seamlessly into the narrative on this issue Democrats have been gainfully pushing since the death of the pay equity commission last year. Pay equity joins parental leave, last year’s battle over a highly successful IUD contraception program, and perennial frontal attacks on abortion rights to create a compelling message for women voters–a story that transcends the names down the ballot, and clarifies for voters the bright line that divides the parties.

The best case scenario would be some kind of compromise by Republicans that passes at least some of this legislation. There’s no material downside, and politically it would be a smart way to harm-reduce on issues that hurt them with swing voters in just about every election.

Fat chance, we know. But for the record.

Thanks, Vicki Marble! Immortalizing The “Hateful Eight”

We took note last weekend of an unintentionally hilarious op-ed from staunch conservative GOP Sen. Vicki “Finger Lickin'” Marble in the Colorado Statesman. Marble was responding to a story in the Denver Post on the one-seat Colorado Senate GOP majority, in and particular eight dissident Senators who voted against Senate President Bill Cadman a significant portion of the time. Among other things, this results in a Senate majority that no one can count on to get anything done.

Marble’s op-ed may not be as memorable for its content, a boilerplate defense of the hard-right Senate bloc decried in the Post story–as for its title, wherein she jokingly refers to the eight Senators in question as the “Hateful Eight” after the Quentin Tarantino movie recently filmed near Telluride. We could spend a considerable amount of time explaining why this moniker is politically very, very unhelpful, but we assume readers can figure this out on their own.

But for those who can’t, here’s a visual aid from a reader with Photoshop skills:

hateful8

Safe to say this was inevitable–perhaps only a surprise that it took almost a week to appear! Thanks ever so much for this anonymous graphical donation, which we intend to use in every subsequent mention of the “Hateful Eight” that we can. Given the tendency of these eight Senators to make some of the more…memorable statements and votes from Republicans under the Gold Dome, we suspect it will get a lot of mileage.

Until 2017, when at least of a few of them will no longer be, if you will, in the picture.

BREAKING: Jack Graham Enters GOP Senate Race with $1M and a Wadhams

A visual guide to the Jon Keyser for Senate campaign this morning.

A visual guide to the Jon Keyser for Senate campaign this morning.

The race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate just changed in a big way. As Ernest Luning reports for the Colorado Statesman:

Former CSU athletic director Jack Graham is planning to petition his way onto what could be a crowded Republican primary ballot for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Michael Bennet, and he seeded his run with a $1 million deposit to his campaign account yesterday.

Not only is Graham seeding his campaign with a cool million, he’s bringing on former Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams as his campaign manager.

We’ll admit that we don’t know a lot about Jack Graham politically, but $1 million and Dick Wadhams is more than enough to shake the foundations of the massive GOP field running for U.S. Senate. Wadhams is no longer the feared political operative who guided Wayne Allard and John Thune into the U.S. Senate, but he does give Graham a legitimacy that he otherwise would have had to work hard to establish on his own.

Former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham

Former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham

On the fundraising side, seeding his campaign with a million dollars instantly gives Graham a warchest that the 10-12 other GOP candidates may not be able to match. Graham is a former Athletic Director at CSU, and the job of AD at a major university is largely related to fundraising; Graham no doubt has a hefty rolodex that he can consult as he starts dialing for dollars.

Graham’s loud entry into the Senate race changes some of what we wrote just yesterday in assessing the state of the Republican field of candidates. State Sen. Tim Neville is still in the driver’s seat to win the June Primary because, for one thing, he doesn’t really have to worry about getting his name on the ballot. Neville should have little trouble generating more than 30% of the votes at the State Republican Convention (the minimum amount needed for ballot access), and he’s a known and trusted quantity to many in the far-right base of the GOP.

And then there’s Jon Keyser. To borrow a Trump-ism, Keyser just got schlonged.

Keyser was the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s (NRSC) big recruit for the Senate race, and he pushed all of his chips into the center of the table by resigning his seat in the State Legislature as well as his job at a big Denver law firm. Keyser’s campaign got off to an inauspicious start, with questions about campaigning while on military duty and a general  indifference from the media about his chances. The plan was for Keyser to hunker down and raise money — he reportedly had soft offers of support for millions in campaign cash — but Graham, Wadhams, and $1 million may scurry that support in a hurry.

Graham’s entry into the Senate race really changes the math for Keyser. Anybody can try to petition onto the ballot (Graham, Ryan Frazier, and Robert Blaha are already going that route), but it’s a giant pain in the ass and a significant drain on resources, time, and money to go that route. Keyser’s team has already indicated that he will go the petition route, but that assumes that big donors are still onboard with the NRSC’s Keyser experiment following Graham’s bombshell. Remember, there was already a self-funder in the race in Blaha, and Frazier claims to have raised at least $200k, which gives him a good head start on the petition process. Writing a big check to Keyser suddenly looks like a long-shot bet.

Keyser could try to switch strategies and go the convention route, but Republicans don’t really know who he is, and there are — at most — three available ballot spots through the Party. Neville will certainly claim one of those spots, with Peggy Littleton and Darryl Glenn (or someone else) potentially fighting it out for 30%.

With just a few months to go until the June Primary, serious GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate need three things: Ballot Access, Television ads, and enough cash to fuel a staff of at least a half-dozen people. How many Republican candidates can still check all three boxes this morning?

It would seem the only Senate candidate smiling this morning is incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet.

Get More Smarter on Friday (Jan. 29)

Get More SmarterRemember, friends: That Super Bowl party you were invited to attend is next Sunday. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The final Republican Presidential debate before the Iowa caucuses was held last night in Des Moines, and the big winner was — of course — the guy who wasn’t there. Here’s a Winners and Losers analysis from our pals at “The Fix”, including the biggest losers:

Ted Cruz: Cruz did the thing I hate the most in debates — complain about the rules — when he tried to game a bit more talking time and got shut down by moderator Chris Wallace. The Texas Senator’s joking threat that if he kept taking incoming from the other candidates he might leave the stage (Donald Trump reference!) fell flat. He was on the wrong end of a scolding by Paul over his conservative righteousness.  And, time and time again, Cruz found himself insisting that on a panoply of issues — military spending, immigration etc. — everyone was either wrong about his position or didn’t understand it well enough. That’s too much defense for Cruz to play — especially in a debate without Trump.

Ben Carson: Whoa boy.  Carson swung from barely being asked any questions to providing answers that often bordered on incoherence. His response to a question about how to deal with Russia simply made no sense — further adding to the narrative that he is far, far out of his depth on foreign policy. At one point, he seemed stunned to even get a question, which isn’t the best look for a guy running to be the leader of a 300-million person country.  Carson looked out of his league tonight.

To be fair, Carson has been out of his league since at least July. Cruz, meanwhile, is getting universally panned for his performance last night, which might give Trump the room he needs to leave Iowa with a big win. From Politico:

More than 4-in-10 GOP insiders – given the choice of the seven GOP candidates on the stage, plus Trump – rated Cruz as the loser of Thursday night’s debate, citing his defensive posture on his past immigration stances and opposition to ethanol subsidies.

 

► Both of the top Democratic candidates for President — Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanderswill speak at the Colorado Democrats’ annual fundraising gala on Feb. 13. The big winner here is obvious: The Colorado Democratic Party.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Tim Neville Driving Colorado GOP Senate Clown Car

They too would like to be your Senator.

They too would like to be your Senator.

The Denver Post’s John Frank has a good story up this week on the large field of relatively low-level Republican candidates now competing for the chance to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in this year’s U.S. Senate race. Frank’s story is doing a good job defining the players early for a national audience unfamiliar with most of them, in part by aligning them with quasi-equivalent presidential candidates who are offering similar messages:

The presidential contest is defining the early outlook on Colorado’s race, creating an opening for a political outsider, putting the focus on national security and foreshadowing a messy campaign in the months ahead.

“You are going to end up seeing some similar factionalism and similar rhetoric coming out of the Senate candidates,” said Ryan Call, the former state GOP chairman. “And it will be difficult to reconcile those ideological factions and get them to pull together in support of the nominee for president or U.S. Senate.” [Pols emphasis]

The candidate that emerges from the Republican Senate primary will influence the party’s chances for victory in November, up and down the ballot.

In a separate blog post, Frank outlines the similarities between the messages of presidential and Colorado U.S. Senate candidates: Ryan Frazier with Ben Carson, Peggy Littleton and Carly Fiorina, as well as Marco Rubio with Jon Keyser and either Rand Paul or Ted Cruz with Tim Neville. Some of these comparisons strike us as a little…well, superficial, but there are some valid parallels between the messages of Rubio and Keyser–like there are with Cruz and Neville. Cruz and Rubio are also the two candidates working the hardest to win support in Colorado, with Jeb! Bush flatlining and Donald Trump having little presence here away from television screens.

Frank oddly doesn’t mention this, but the same Republican strategists who are working in Colorado on behalf of Rubio, including Rob Witwer and Josh Penry, are also principally responsible for elevating Jon Keyser. The trouble for Keyser’s supporters is that Keyser has not made anything like the room-clearing splash with his entry into the race that Cory Gardner did in 2014–indeed, news of Keyser getting in the race was met with more candidates jumping in, not a field looking to clear for him in any way. At this point Keyser is totally undifferentiated from the rest of the dozen candidates in the primary, except for some negatives Democrats pinned on him right out of the gate–and that’s not good news for his handlers.

On the other hand, Neville’s built-in advantage in this race is increasingly evident. Neville didn’t raise a stellar amount in his first partial quarter–around $120k–but it was certainly enough to launch a functional primary campaign. Neville’s real strength lies in the ideologically committed and fiercely loyal “Tea Party” and gun activist grassroots that look to him as a leader–and with Colorado Republicans in a continuing state of internal strife, Neville is perhaps in a position to wield more power today than any other individual Colorado Republican.

Looking ahead, we do think the “clown car” will drop most of its passengers in the coming months. We would nonetheless expect as of now to see 4-5 candidates on the June primary ballot, with the final battle coming down to Neville versus either Keyser, Littleton, or self-funding Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha. Should any significant candidates either rise to prominence out of the current pack or enter the race, Keyser is the one with the most to lose, with Neville’s base being the least transferable.

All told, and for a host of good reasons, it’s Neville’s race to lose as of this writing.

Expect Gardner to co-sponsor Life at Conception Act soon

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner spent a good chunk of his election campaign telling us that the Life at Conception Act was really nothing more than a symbolic statement, when, in fact, it is federal personhood legislation that would ban all abortion, even for rape.

Gardner infamously described the Life at Conception Act, which he co-sponsored, this way, despite widespread objections by reporters:

Gardner: “The federal act that you are referring to is simply a statement that I believe in life.”

So you’d expect him to co-sponsor the U.S. Senate version of the bill, as he did in the House.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has just given him the chance, having introduced the Life at Conception Act just this week, as announced in a news release that described the legislation this way:

Paul: “The Life at Conception Act legislatively declares what most Americans believe and what science has long known – that human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore, is entitled to legal protection from that point forward. Only when America chooses, remembers, and restores her respect for life will we rediscover our moral bearings and truly find our way.”

But Gardner isn’t a co-sponsor yet.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (Jan. 28)

Get More SmarterWith any luck, tonight’s GOP Presidential debate will be the last time we have to listen to at least half the candidates. To Iowa…and beyond!!! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado Democrats are again trying to push legislation on equal pay for women. No, this is not the mid-20th Century. As Joey Bunch reports for the Denver Post:

Friday is the seventh anniversary of President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, so Thursday Colorado Democrats will renew efforts on equal pay by unveiling two bills on the issue…

…Neither of the bills involve Colorado’s Equal Pay Commission, which was not renewed last year after Republicans argued that the commission had had a hard time scheduling meetings and produced little or no substantive work in its previous eight years.

A report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics last year indicated Colorado women make 77.9 percent of what men receive in weekly wages, below the 82.1 percent national gender gap average. The gap for minorities is even greater, proponents argue.

In response, Republicans will argue something about “businesses have every right to pay men more money than women because, freedom, or something.”

 

► We’re still kinda partial to “Frackapalooza.”

 

► Our friends at “The Fix” think they know the real reason that Donald Trump is skipping tonight’s final pre-Iowa caucus Presidential debate in Des Moines. The first reason — that Trump is sick of debating — is just a piece of the story. The primary reason Trump won’t debate tonight is because he looks stronger by staying away:

For Trump then another debate this close to the Iowa caucuses has almost no upside. His attacks on Ted Cruz are working. All of the second tier candidates are either attacking each other or Cruz. Thousands of people are coming to every one of his rallies — including the one he will hold tonight in Iowa while his rivals debate.  He is getting wall-to-wall media coverage and will continue to do so.

What Trump wants to do then is run out the clock. Take as few risks as possible between now and Monday. He and his campaign know that if he wins the Iowa caucuses, he will almost certainly cruise in the New Hampshire primary eight days later. Win those first two states and Trump starts to look (even more) like a juggernaut for the Republican nomination.

On the other hand, perhaps Trump just wants to hear more from Jim Gilmore.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Let’s Get Cracking, Fracking

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

Oil and gas drilling near a high school in Greeley, Colorado, in 2015.

It looks like it’s time to get all fracked up for 2016. From the Denver Post:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has “failed” to protect homeowners and communities from the impacts of drilling, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis said late Tuesday, leaving the door open to throwing his support behind another citizen-initiated ballot measure this fall.

“I think that setbacks and giving communities a legitimate say on what kind of industrial activity is appropriate in backyards and schoolyards are reasonable solutions that ought to be considered,” Polis said in a statement. “I’m hopeful that all stakeholders can coalesce around a thoughtful plan.”

The leader of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, who has leveled his own criticism of the  new COGCC rules approved Monday, on Wednesday called Polis’ characterization “unfair.”

“To say that communities are not protected is not a fair statement,” COGA CEO Dan Haley said. “Local governments have a strong voice in this process, and the task force recommendations were about giving them an even greater role in oil and gas development.”

If communities really were being protected, we probably wouldn’t be arguing about this, now would we?

All of the COGCC meetings in the world aren’t going to change the fundamental issue here: NOBODY wants to live near an active oil or gas drilling operation. The oil and gas industry can continue to claim that it will bring 10 gajillion jobs to Colorado if only we would let them do what they want, but that’s never going to trump the health and safety concerns of Colorado residents.

The industry promises that it will fight any potential ballot measures in 2016 that might weaken its potential profits, but we continue to have a hard time believing that most Colorado voters would actually oppose efforts to move drilling sites further from residential areas, parks, and schools. Yes, we know that the oil and gas industry will spend millions trying to defeat any potential regulations, but in a Presidential election year, all of those TV ads can easily get lost in the shuffle.

GOP Rep. Demonstrates Need For Parental Leave, Then Votes No

Rep. Kevin Priola (R).

Rep. Kevin Priola (R).

A press release from the Colorado House Democratic majority highlights a bill moving through that chamber to expand parental leave rights for Colorado workers–and contains an amusing twist:

A bill by Rep. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, to allow parents to take unpaid leave to attend their children’s essential academic activities passed the Education Committee on a party line vote this morning. HB16-1002, Rep. Buckner’s first bill of her legislative career, reenacts the 2009 “Parental Involvement in K-12 Education Act,” which sunset in 2015.

“The bill takes the simple, common-sense step to ensure that working parents can take unpaid time off work to attend their children’s academic activities,” said Rep. Buckner. “I know the kids of Aurora and Colorado deserve every opportunity to succeed. I’m excited to get this important bill for working families past the first step in the process and look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to make it law. Frankly, I’m disappointed that House Republicans joined in lockstep to oppose this simple, common-sense bill to help working families. In my first bill it was really sad to see my fellow legislators put politics before kids and parents.”

The kicker?

The hearing on the bill began on Monday, Jan. 25, but was laid over when Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, asked for a delay because, ironically, he needed to take his child to a doctor’s appointment. [Pols emphasis] Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, Chair of the House Education Committee permitted the delay, reminding the room that many parents in Colorado do not have the luxury to rearrange work for their children’s needs, which is why this bill is so badly needed.

The hearing resumed today with the expectation that it would be a quick vote on a single amendment and then the bill. But the conversation was drawn out, first over an amendment proposed by GOP Rep. Joann Windholz, R-Commerce City, to remove a section to have schools notify parents of their right to ask for leave. Educators presented testimony on Monday that parental involvement is crucial, and that parents deserve to know their rights as it relates to staying involved with school activities. The amendment failed on a party line vote.

Republicans continued to belabor the point, insisting that this bill would affect businesses, despite the fact that the bill was law for over five years with no negative consequences.

This legislation is expected to pass the Democratic-controlled House, but its fate in the GOP-controlled Senate is uncertain at best. This is an issue where Republicans should tread more carefully, given the competing interests of business and “family values” that plainly conflict in this bill. But as Rep. Kevin Priola’s unintentional validation of the need for it demonstrates–even more by his subsequent no vote on the bill–the political danger in opposing parental leave is not apparent to them.

The latter happens all the time, but they don’t always undercut themselves so ironically.

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