Weekend Open Thread

"Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent."

–Napoleon Bonaparte

Renfroe Beats Buck At CD-4 Assembly

Sen. Scott Renfroe (R).

Sen. Scott Renfroe (R).

​As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

State Sen. Scott Renfroe beat Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck for the top spot on the ballot in the race to succeed Congressman Cory Gardner, but both made the ballot Friday.

Renfroe, who was called a "statesman" by several supporters, took 54 percent of the delegate vote while Buck won 46 percent at the 4th Congressional District assembly, where abortion and "personhood" were mentioned…

Delegates cheered both Kirkmeyer and Renfroe when they said they were pro-life and supported personhood and would never change.

The dig was clearly intended at Buck, but it also implicates Gardner, who recently said it it was a mistake to support personhood, which gives rights to fertilized eggs. Gardner said he still opposes abortion but agrees with critics who say personhood also bans certain forms of birth control. [Pols emphasis]

Bartels reports that Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, who is petitioning on to the CD-4 primary ballot, released her delegates to vote for other candidates–which may well have helped Sen. Scott Renfroe come out ahead of Ken Buck. Despite the "backroom deal" alleged to have paved the way for Buck to step into the CD-4 race as incumbent Rep. Cory Gardner moved up to the Senate race, we see an "anybody but Buck" scenario emerging, where Buck's opponents collude where necessary Survivor-style to ensure he doesn't prevail in June. The team hit on Buck, and collaterally Gardner, over flip-flopping on the "Personhood" abortion ban seems tailored to have that effect.

A poll follows–who will win this red-on-red battle?

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Wadhams says CO Tea Party is now “part of the Republican establishment”

(That's not a compliment, is it? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Dick Wadhams.

Dick Wadhams.

An important storyline for reporters to track coming out of the Republican Party's state convention this weekend is, simply, how are Colorado Republicans getting along with each other these days?

To hear former state GOP Chair Dick Wadhams tell it, historic divisions between the Tea Party and establishment wings of the party are now over because the Tea Party is now "part of the Republican establishment:"

Wadhams: All those new activists that brought so much vitality to our party since 2010, this is now their third election cycle of being involved. They're part of the Republican establishment now! [Laughs] After they've been involved three times, they've been elected country chairs. They've been elected party precinct committee people. They've been involved in the party. The fact is, they are playing as big a role in the party as the establishment is. Where the breakdown occurs, Dan, is when we nominate candidates who can't win a general election. [BigMedia emphasis.]

…I do think there was a misperception when the Tea Party first became such a force in 2010, that there was a process that basically shut them out of nominating candidates, that there was some kind of small power group that determined who the candidates were going to be. Nothing is further from the truth.

The nominating process of the Republican Party is as open and fair as you can think, because the people who show up at precinct caucuses and the people who show up and vote at the Republican primary, are the people who nominate candidates, not a handful of people sitting in a back room. In fact, we did some things when I was state chairman to empower that grassroots movement.

That's what Wadhams told KNUS yapper Dan Caplis April 3, without addressing, among other GOP-establishment power plays, the epic backroom deal that cleaned the Republican senatorial primary field for Cory Gardner.

Wadhams also said, if there's any animosity within the Republican party–over divisions about the 2005 Referendum C tax increase, for example–Tea Party activists should just get over it:

Wadhams: If Republicans are still talking about that, they need to get over it. First of all, that's also an attack on former Governor Owens. Fine, disagree with Governor Owens and his administration on Referendum C. But give the guy credit. He's the only guy to win the governorship in 40 years. So he had something special that a whole bunch of other candidates didn't have.

This weekend's state Republican convention will illuminate whether Wadhams is right about oneness within the state GOP, and, whether he's right or wrong, this will likely be the biggest story that emerges from the convention.

Bob Beauprez: Repeal the 17th Amendment

The latest example of GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez getting downright wacky during his years out of the spotlight. In this August 2010 interview on WWL Radio in New Orleans, Louisiana, Beauprez talks with host Spud McConnell about repealing the 17th Amendment–the century-old provision mandating the direct election of Senators by popular vote:

MCCONNELL: Forty states to my knowledge, so I mean there's several states looking at this, but also many many states who are looking at this, uh sending, uh, have already sent resolutions to the Beltway to say, re-read the 10th Amendment, you're overstepping your grounds. And in a discussion I had about that, I had a constitutional law professor on say, when Louisiana does that, we should include in there that we want to go back to where states actually elected their Senators…

BEAUPREZ: Oh yeah.

MCCONNELL: And sent them up there, and then that way, the state legislature, if there was some stuff going on in Washington they didn't like, they could actually, uh, withdraw their Senators, bring them back like an ambassador is brought back for consultations, and, and keep them out of any elections or any votes that are going on up there so that I think would give the states considerably more power inside the Beltway. What do you think about that?

BEAUPREZ: I couldn't agree more. [Pols emphasis] I think states lost an enormous amount of their leverage, their accountability, when the 17th Amendment–I think I've got my numbers right…

MCCONNELL: I think it's 17th, I didn't say it because I couldn't remember…

BEAUPREZ: Was passed and, there is, I think it's, and I don't know that there's enough focus and enough attention on it yet to really get it changed back to the way it was, but I think it's a growing movement, I agree with you Spud.

Repealing the 17th Amendment was a goal of the Tea Party in 2009-2010, albeit not as popular as the move to interpret the 10th Amendment as the only one that matters (excepting the 2nd Amendment of course). Ken Buck was at one point a supporter of repealing the 17th Amendment, until he realized fairly late in his 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate that wanting to get rid of the very same election one is competing in doesn't exactly ingratiate one's self with the voters.

It's another fringy moment to add to the growing collection, like Beauprez's 2012 interview where he claims President Barack Obama is "pushing the boundaries" toward "civil war," his "birther" pandering in 2010, writing in his 2009 book that climate change is "a complete hoax foisted on most of the world,", and more recent comments about how Sharia law is "creeping in" in Colorado.

Are there more? Probably, folks. In fact, we're willing to bet on it. We would consider just about any of these to be completely disqualifying in a general election. The question is, are sane Republicans paying attention now?

It’s The One Thing Cory Gardner Does Well

gardnerryancash

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

AP's Nick Riccardi:

Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner's campaign is reporting it raised $1.4 million during the first three months of the year, almost all of it in March, following his surprise announcement he would challenge Democratic Sen Mark Udall.

Gardner raised $1.24 million in March and has $2.1 million in cash available. Udall raised more than $2 million during the first quarter of the year and has $5.9 million available. But the senator was raising funds for the full three months. Udall campaign spokesman Chris Harris said Wednesday that the campaign raised the majority of its total, $1.4 million, in March.

It makes sense that Sen. Mark Udall would have raised the bulk of his $2 million in March, after Cory Gardner's entry into the race moved Colorado up on everybody's lists of priorities. Gardner's $1.2 million in a month of fundraising keeps pace with Udall from his moment of entry, and that's why he was recruited for this race. Gardner's long train of issue baggage doesn't distinguish him from the other Republicans he pushed aside to get in this race, but his ability to raise all the money he'll need certainly does.

The other part of the Gardner fundraising dynamo story, who's giving, won't be available until his quarterly report is published in detail. But we suspect that will also be noteworthy.

GOP Caucus Crackup? Anti-Priola “Coup Attempt” Fails

UPDATE: Here's a clip of Rep. Kevin Priola from yesterday's debate over Rep. Jim Wilson's amendment to House Bill 14-1292. The tension then brewing over Priola's opposition to this mostly GOP-supported amendment is clear in his voice:

​—–

GOP Reps. Kevin Priola and Chris Holbert.

GOP Reps. Kevin Priola and Chris Holbert.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports this afternoon:

House Republicans met for 30 minutes Thursday morning after Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, called a meeting with the goal of replacing Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, as the caucus whip.

Priola had alienated many of his fellow GOP colleagues a day earlier when he declined to support an amendment to the Student Success Act sponsored by Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida, that most Republicans supported.

Priola hadn’t paid Wilson, one of the more popular members in the caucus, the courtesy of informing him ahead of time that he wouldn’t be supporting his amendment related to a transparency website to show how school districts spend public money.

The Denver Post's Anthony Cotton has a little more reaction from Republicans:

According to the Republicans, part of Priola’s job as Whip is to determine where the membership stands on the issues and help align support within the party–on Wednesday, party members say, Priola not only failed to do that, he argued on the floor in favor of Hamner’s amendment over Wilson’s.

When Hamner’s amendment was passed in a close vote, it led to Thursday’s move by Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, to have Priola removed.

“We were shocked and disappointed that happened,” Holbert said. “He should have let us know his position and we could have made adjustments.”

In the end, despite the push from Rep. Chris Holbert to remove Rep. Kevin Priola from his Minority Whip position on the spot today, minority caucus chair Rep. Kathleen Conti scuttled the move by ruling the motion out of order–as Priola hadn't resigned, the position technically wasn't "vacant." This would clearly indicate that Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso  was not on board. Originally, as Stokols reports, an angry GOP caucus was prepared to oust Priola, as indicated by an initial vote against adjourning the meeting of the caucus. After Conti ruled the whole business out of order, a second vote to adjourn passed.

So what really happened today? For the best clue available, we turn to Rep. Frank McNulty:

The attempted coup, whatever vote precipitated Thursday’s meeting, has been a long time coming, according to several House Republicans who describe a widening gap between the caucus’s moderate and conservative wings.

“This isn’t about the amendment yesterday,” said Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch. “This is about personalities.”

By all accounts, this has been a very frustrating legislative session for the conservative wing of the GOP House caucus. After the success of last year's recall elections against two sitting Senators and the resignation of a third, conservatives expected to vigorously oppose Democrats at every step, setting the stage for a clear election season distinction. Instead, as we've recounted in this space, the base GOP outrage they hoped to sustain into this year has fizzled, and the GOP caucus took heavy criticism for dead-end ideological flights of fancy like the abortion ban bill. This incident over a relatively obscure Democratic amendment supported by Priola–which apparently didn't even pass on clean party lines, with several Democrats voting against along with most of the GOP–appears to ripped the scab off of a much larger intra-caucus disagreement.

Judging from the unsatisfying end of today's blowup, we've probably not heard the last of it either.

Ryan Budget Barely Passes; Colo. GOP Delegation All Vote Yes

UPDATE: Mike Coffman's Democratic opponent Andrew Romanoff responds:

The Ryan budget does not reflect the values most Americans share. It would force middle-class families to pay more in taxes, students to pay more for college, and seniors to pay more for health care. The House I led balanced the budget every year. But we didn’t do so on the back of the middle class. Some estimates suggest the Ryan plan would cost the country as many as three million jobs. Among the other casualties: 170,000 at-risk children, who would lose access to Head Start.

The winners? Those in the highest income bracket, pharmaceutical manufacturers and corporations that offshore their employees.

If you’re serious about growing the economy, you don’t eliminate job training. You eliminate tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.

If you’re serious about balancing the budget, you allow Medicare to negotiate deeper discounts in prescription-drug prices – instead of sticking seniors with higher bills.

If you’re serious about strengthening the middle class, you vote against the Ryan budget. 

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Gardner Ryan Budget

Cory Gardner loves him some Paul Ryan

As the National Journal reports, the latest "Ryan Budget" has passed the House (barely). All of Colorado's Republican Members of Congress voted 'YES' on the budget — Reps. Cory Gardner, Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton, and Doug Lamborn.

The House on Thursday narrowly passed Rep. Paul Ryan's Republican budget carrying $5.1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years without closing tax loopholes, as Ryan and other GOP leaders averted a potentially embarrassing defeat on the bill because of party defections.

The measure passed 219 to 205, with 12 Republicans joining all Democrats in voting no. A swing of just seven Republican votes would have defeated the measure…

…Even some Republicans acknowledge passage of the Ryan budget is more an aspirational declaration of their party's priorities and vision of government spending.

But the vote Thursday showed that it is not necessarily a reflection of all House Republicans' vision. Some conservative defections were anticipated.

Having already flip-flopped on major issues such as Personhood, we're a little surprised to see both Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman sticking with Rep. Paul Ryan on a vote that will almost certainly hurt them with General Election voters.

Gardner’s hollow campaign narrative

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Political campaigns love to develop a narrative and connect it to everything they say and do. But sometimes they overdo it, and the campaign narrative suddenly looks cramped.

Thanks to reporting by multiple media outlets, GOP senatorial candidate Cory Gardner's all-consuming Obamacare narrative is already smelling overdone and forced. And it's not just because Obamacare appears to be working.

Take, for example, Gardner's foundational story about deciding to enter the Senate race.

Gardner: I thought about reconsidering running for the U.S. Senate, but it really picked up last year when we received our healthcare cancellation notice.

If that's true, and Gardner has said this numerous times, then Gardner's thoughts about entering the race "really picked up" in August, six months before he told The Denver Post in February that he was launching his Senate campaign against Udall.

So Gardner left his Republican opponents floundering for six months, even though he had publicly announced June 28, three months earlier, that he would not run against Udall in part because he wanted to get out of the way of his opponents who were "making their decisions" about running.

More doubts about Gardner's foundational Obamacare campaign-origin story surfaced when Politico reported that Gardner decided to enter the race after seeing the results of a poll conducted by Republicans in Washington DC.

That was January, about five months after Gardner got his letter outlining his options for coverage under Obamacare.

January was also the time period when Gardner stepped up his attacks on Udall, as if his campaign against Udall was suddenly in motion. Gardner sent a Jan. 9 letter from his congressional office to the Colorado Division of Insurance asking questions about it's interactions with Udall’s office. In mid-January, Gardner asked his own congressional committee to investigate. Gardner's a member of the Commerce committee. And Then the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which, according to Politico, conducted the poll convincing Gardner to run for Senate, sent a Jan. 17 letter to Udall, with more questions.

This timeline, casting serious doubts on Gardner's story that his Obamacare letter pushed him into the race, was constructed with the record produced by journalists covering Gardner, day-to-day, month-to-month. It's a small testament to why political reporting is important and how it creates a picture of a candidate for office for us to contrast with the messaging of his campaign.

The “Great Social Experiment” or “Leadership”?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

"This is going to be one of the great social experiments of this century"
~Governor John Hickenlooper

 

Yesterday's senate hearing on SB14-177 and SB14-178 drew a standing-room-only crowd; one that ultimately demanded an overflow room for the observers and witnesses.  The attendees were a broad swath of Colorado citizens: mother and child, medical refugees desperate to find a remedy for their child's condition; attorneys, social workers, business owners, political activists, lobbyists, and myself as the sole farmer in the room. It was an afternoon of passionate testimony by medical marijuana activists who see the bill as a subtle, some may say "backroom" attempt,  to recriminalize the use and or possession of cannabis under section 18-18-102 of the Colorado statute.  The vague language of the proposed bill caused confusion even amongst the law enforcement and social workers who provided testimony for both the proponents and the opposition. 

I'm forever in awe of the breadth and depth of the human and social capacity that Colorado possesses.  The testimony by Jeri Shepard, a Greeley attorney, was compelling.  Jeri went point by salient point, deconstructing the myths around legalization, she offered to the members of the Judiciary Committee they read the book, "The New Jim Crow", an exercise she had participated in as a group Lenten exercise.  If one was measuring the prudence of Coloradans ending prohibition in 2012 by Jeri's testimony, you wouldn't describe our efforts as "a great social experiment".  You would call it "leadership".

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Sad Truth About the Vanishing Middle in Congress

As our friends at "The Fix" report:

In the last three decades, the number of members in the middle in the House dropped from 344 (79 percent of the House) in 1982  to four (.9 percent of the House) in 2013.  As the slide suggests, redistricting — the decennial re-drawing of the nation's Congressional lines — plays a major role in that decline. The last two nationwide re-draws have largely been incumbent protection efforts, making Republican districts more Republican and Democratic districts more Democratic. Self-sorting — the growing tendency of people to live around like-minded people — is also a major factor in the disappearance of the ideological middle in the House…

Taken together, there are four — FOUR — members of the ideological middle out of the 535 members of the House and Senate combined. That comes out to approximately .7 percent of the entire Congress. In 1982, by way of comparison, more than 75 percent of Members of Congress were part of the ideological middle. So, in the last 30 years, the middle has lost 74 percent of its membership in Congress.

To underscore this point, check out the graphic below:

 

NationalJournal-Middle

Dang

 

Thursday Open Thread

"Sometimes a man wants to be stupid if it lets him do a thing his cleverness forbids."

–John Steinbeck

Another Big, Empty “Change of Heart” From New Coffman®

UPDATE: The Denver Post's Kurtis Lee:

Democrats assailed Coffman, a military veteran who serves on the House Armed Services committee, for his previous votes in opposition of repealing the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that barred gays from serving openly in the military. Indeed, Coffman is against same-sex marriage.

“In his time in Washington, Mike Coffman has clearly learned the art of manipulation. While he’s eager to take credit, he fails to back up his talk with action. Despite his claim to support employment non-discrimination legislation, Congressman Coffman is hardly a champion for gay and lesbian rights. Not only does he oppose marriage equality but he voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio.

Palacio added that it’s “yet another of Coffman’s attempts to wipe away his record of extremism and hide from Colorado’s voters.”

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endangeredcoffman

A press release a short while ago from leading LGBT advocacy group One Colorado announces that vulnerable GOP Rep. Mike Coffman is joining Democrats in support of a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), to protect gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination:

Today, Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO) announced his support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), legislation that would provide basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In response to this announcement, Dave Montez, Executive Director of One Colorado – the leading statewide advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Coloradans and their families – released the following statement:

“Protecting against discrimination in the workplace isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue – it’s common sense. Congressman Coffman’s announcement today in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act brings his views in alignment with a strong majority of Americans who believe that workers should be judged on their job performance alone, and nothing else. As a non-partisan organization, we welcome Congressman Coffman’s announcement and commend support for equality across the ideological spectrum. It’s time for Congress to move forward and pass ENDA now, to extend the same basic workplace protections we’ve already passed here in Colorado to all LGBT Americans.”

Rep. Coffman's record on rights for LGBT citizens, like immigration, abortion, and other issues he has recently fled to the center on, is very clear–and dismal from the point of view of any LGBT rights supporter. In 2011, Coffman joined with Rep. Michele Bachmann and other social-issue Republicans to call for a ban on military facilities being used for gay marriages. Coffman voted against ending the military's reviled "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, and supported the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act. Coffman even served as Texas Gov. Rick Perry's state campaign chair while Perry ran widely criticized ads disparaging the fact that "gays can serve openly in the military."

So what gives? For one thing, says Politico, the pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign is courting House Republicans in an attempt to line up support for that body possibly taking up ENDA. But the chances of that remain very, very remote according to everyone we've talked to, most likely ending up as a message opportunity about support growing for the legislation–which we expect will continue to grow, even in the probable event that John Boehner's House never takes up ENDA at all this election year.

That Coffman is one of the first Republicans coming out in support of ENDA is no surprise, and it highlights another step in his political evolution. The Colorado Republican has reversed positions on immigration and abortion in recent months as he tries to fend off an challenge from Democrat Andrew Romanoff in Colorado’s competitive sixth district.

“I see this legislation as the workplace equivalent of the Golden Rule — do unto others, as you would have them do unto you,” Coffman said in a statement to POLITICO. “In the workplace, in 2014, we should judge employees the way we would want to be judged — based on our qualifications, our contributions and by our character, period.”

For Coffman, much like immigration, ENDA becomes another opportunity for reinvention without consequence–since ENDA is very unlikely to come up for a vote in the House, Coffman can say whatever he wants. Short of demanding House leadership bring the bill up for a vote, Coffman will never have to put his record where his mouth is, all the while reaping the positive press from his untested "change of heart."

Does this mean Democrats should be angry with gay rights activists for giving Coffman an opening to meaninglessly pander? Certainly not–any more than Dems should be with immigration rights supporters about Coffman's pandering to them. If your goal is issue progress, you welcome support wherever you can get it.

But it needs to be tempered by reality–and Coffman's anti-gay record raises more questions than this answers.

Another Big Haul For Romanoff: $600,000 in Q1

Andrew Romanoff.

Andrew Romanoff.

A press release from Democratic CD-6 candidate Andrew Romanoff moments ago:

Andrew Romanoff, candidate for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, raised $603,520 in the first quarter of 2014, bringing his total contributions to more than $2.6 million. Romanoff ended the quarter with nearly $2.1 million in cash on hand.

Romanoff recorded his strongest fundraising period to date. FEC reports indicate he has now outpaced every other House challenger in Colorado history.

“Coloradans want to grow the economy and strengthen the middle class,” Romanoff said. “That means creating clean-energy jobs, making college more affordable, ensuring equal pay for equal work – exactly the kind of priorities I’ll pursue in Congress.”

Romanoff does not accept contributions from special-interest groups. His support reflects a broad cross-section of Coloradans:

The campaign has received contributions from 10,043 supporters to date, including 4,020 donors in the first quarter of 2014.
More than 91 percent of the campaign’s first-quarter donors live in Colorado.
More than 84 percent of the campaign’s first-quarter contributions were $100 or less.
The campaign has raised $2,607,982 to date and ended the first quarter with $2,098,619 on hand.

We haven't heard from GOP incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman, widely known as a fundraising powerhouse, but Romanoff beat Coffman in the final two quarters last year–a momentum-changing development all by itself that this latest strong performance will only reinforce. It's worth restating how Romanoff's strong fundraising comes despite self-imposed handicaps we ourselves have criticized, and is even more impressive as a result.

We'll update when we hear from Coffman, who won't do himself any favors by coming in second again.

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