CU GOP Prez Debate Limited Seating Liability Grows

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis.

As the Boulder Daily Camera’s Sarah Kuta reports, Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder has joined the growing dogpile of complaints over the highly limited seating available to University of Colorado students at next month’s on-campus Republican presidential debate:

Congressman Jared Polis on Monday called the limited number of seats available at the Republican presidential debate being held at the University of Colorado next month “insulting” and urged debate organizers to make more room for CU students…

The debate venue, the Coors Event Center, can hold more than 10,000 people. Last week, a university spokesman said the limited seating is due to the setup of the stage, lighting and camera equipment.

In his letter to CU, CNBC, and GOP officials, Rep. Polis makes clear that he finds that excuse as laughable as we did:

This isn’t about politics – whether you’re right, left, or center, if you’re a member of the University community you should have every opportunity to meaningfully participate in one of the biggest political debates of the past four years. That’s why I’m urging you to work closely with the RNC and CNBC to allocate drastically more tickets for the University community. I know this is something the University is capable of, as demonstrated in 2012 when your campus hosted a campaign rally for President Obama that was attended by more than 13,000 students and community members.

I’m no expert, but I’ve never seen video cameras so big that it requires taking up thousands of seats in an arena to get good shots from multiple angles. [Pols emphasis]

7NEWS ran a story (video after the jump) about CU students organizing to demand more seating be opened up in the mostly-empty Coors Events Center–this coming after the CU student government passed a resolution last Thursday calling for a “drastic” increase in tickets made available to CU students:

A group of students have formed an online social media campaign called ‘Student Voices Count,’ with the intention of pushing for more student representation.

“This event was initially announced as a really good opportunity for students to be involved in something huge and as it turns out, we’re not,” said Julian Taranow, who is part of the movement.

Students tell 7NEWS they are puzzled why the Republican Party would hold a debate on a college campus and then not connect with the students.

As we fully expected and predicted weeks ago, this situation is rapidly deteriorating for both CU and the Republican Party. Where hosting a GOP presidential debate in the liberal stronghold of Boulder, Colorado might have seemed in a brainstorming meeting to be a stroke of genius, today it increasingly looks like a fool’s errand. Lurking just beneath the excuses is an obvious fact that no one can deny: the current slate of Republican presidential candidates are highly unlikely to resonate with the average CU student. The problem isn’t with the students, either, though your state of denial view about that may vary on partisan lines.

The problem is with the candidates. The problem is Jeb! Bush telling voters that black people vote to get “free stuff.” The problem is Ben Carson saying a Muslim can’t be President. The problem is Carly Fiorina making crazy stories up about harvesting live fetal brains. The problem is…well, more or less everything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth.

Attempting to benefit from CU’s reputation as a leading center of scholarship while simultaneously preventing GOP presidential candidates from getting close enough to the CU student body to offend them may never have been a workable proposition. We have to attribute some of that hubris to longtime GOP kingpin and CU President Bruce Benson personally, given Benson’s near-obsession with fostering a “politically inclusive” climate at CU. It’s not much of a stretch from Benson’s eager foisting of a “visiting conservative scholar” on the university, which if you didn’t hear ended rather badly, to imagining that this clown car of GOP presidential candidates could come to CU and not face major embarrassment. Especially when you have to essentially hide them from the student body.

At this point, the damage from the story of excluding CU students from this debate is at real risk of overshadowing the debate itself. If this continues, by the day of the debate we expect a very large and news-cycle captivating protest outside the Coors Events Center. If we were in a decision-making position at the Republican National Committee, we would honestly consider throwing open the doors and filling this arena with every student who wants to be there. If there is any chance of a reasonable Republican presidential candidate emerging from this pack, there’s an argument that a crowd of non-GOP party faithful is better equipped to recognize and respond to that than a hand-picked conservative audience.

Unless, of course, nobody wants that. In which case maybe this is a train wreck that can’t be stopped.


Ted Cruz Pushes Too Far; Senate Republicans Push Back

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), impersonating Grandpa Munster.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), impersonating Grandpa Munster.

There’s a fascinating story from Politico today about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose efforts to stymie any attempt at governing in order to promote his own Presidential ambitions have finally earned him a rebuke from his colleagues:

Ted Cruz can’t even get a protest vote in the Senate anymore.

On Monday night, Cruz’s colleagues ignored his attempt to disrupt Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to fund the government without attacking Planned Parenthood. In an unusual rebuke, even fellow Republicans denied him a “sufficient second” that would have allowed him a roll call vote.

Then, his Republican colleagues loudly bellowed “no” when Cruz sought a voice vote, a second repudiation that showed how little support Cruz has: Just one other GOP senator — Utah’s Mike Lee — joined with Cruz as he was overruled by McConnell and his deputies…

…In reality, it’s not Senate procedure that stymied Cruz on Monday night. Republicans have grown tired of Cruz pushing proposals that he knows McConnell and other Republicans will never back, like defunding Planned Parenthood in a spending bill, then criticizing McConnell for not taking up the plan even as he uses the fight to bolster his presidential campaign as Washington’s consummate outsider. [Pols emphasis] 

Cruz’s internal criticism of his leadership is what animates his presidential campaign, but his colleagues appear to be no longer listening. Cruz was allowed only to speak for an hour on Monday night under Senate rules, and no one was itching to grant him an exception.

Senate Republicans have finally stopped listening to Ted Cruz — now maybe we can stop listening to him blather about during the next Presidential debate.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (Sept. 29)

MoreSmarterLogo-300x218Today is National Coffee Day, because it can’t just be a Tuesday. 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).


► Congress continues to debate potential funding options for the Aurora VA Hospital project — options that ideally don’t include a federal shutdown. What does our own Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) have to say about all this? Well, whatever House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller tells him to say. From Mark Matthews of the Denver Post:

Coffman, who sits on the House veterans committee, said Miller decided to introduce the bill in spite of his reservations.

“He went forward certainly without me,” Coffman said in an interview Monday morning.

Later in the day, however, his office asked to clarify his statement and make note that Coffman supported Miller. [Pols emphasis] 

“No doubt, I strongly believe that the House approach is right, but my guess is that there will be a compromise that lands somewhere between the House and Senate versions,” Coffman said in a statement.

Remember this when Coffman pretends to be taking a leadership role on the VA Hospital project. Coffman is the Chair of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee for the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee, and the still-incomplete hospital sits smack dab in the middle of his district…yet the Chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee (Rep. Miller) is telling Coffman what he can say about funding plans.


► Three right-wing members of the Jefferson County School Board are facing a November recall, and it certainly appears as though they’ll go down kicking and screaming. The right-wing majority is now completely shutting out the other two School Board members.

Perhaps Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams have seen the writing on the wall chalkboard. As Marianne Goodland reports for the Colorado Independent:

Regardless of the outcome of the recall…

That was the mantra repeated on Sunday by the politicians, school board candidates and conservative education reformers attending an Americans for Prosperity education-reform strategy session.


► State Sen. Tim Neville tells John Frank of the Denver Post that he is definitely running for U.S. Senate in 2016…though Colorado Pols readers already knew this.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Funding for Aurora VA Hospital Teeters; Coffman Sits on His Hands

Still from Rep. Mike Coffman's 2014 ad using Planned Parenthood's logo.

Still from Rep. Mike Coffman’s 2014 ad using Planned Parenthood’s logo.

UPDATE: It certainly appears as though Rep. Mike Coffman was taken outside to the ol’ wood shed for a nice talk. Mark Matthews updates his story for the Denver Post:

Coffman, who sits on the House veterans committee, said Miller decided to introduce the bill in spite of his reservations.

“He went forward certainly without me,” Coffman said in an interview Monday morning.

Later in the day, however, his office asked to clarify his statement and make note that Coffman supported Miller. [Pols emphasis] 

“No doubt, I strongly believe that the House approach is right, but my guess is that there will be a compromise that lands somewhere between the House and Senate versions,” Coffman said in a statement.

Way to stick to your guns, Rep. Coffman. You’re quite the leader.


Mark Matthews of the Denver Post has the latest on how the federal budget battle may impact funding for the Aurora VA Hospital Project. Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL),the Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is adamant that any new funding authorized by Congress for the VA Hospital must also slash $200 million set aside for bonuses for VA employees — a proposal that was not included by the Senate last week:

On Friday, the Senate  agreed unanimously to the new $1.675 billion price tag, but without Miller’s stipulation that part of the funding come from VA employee bonuses.

It’s that provision that had Colorado lawmakers wringing their hands to start the week. This is the third time this year that a funding fight for the Aurora hospital has come down to the 11th hour in Congress.

“I’m concerned,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora. “I understand what the chairman wants to do. I think he’s right from a policy standpoint. But my position is that we can’t have a shutdown.” [Pols emphasis]

Should Miller’s pass the House, there is little desire in the Senate to include his stipulation about VA bonuses; in part because VA officials have said the pot of money targeted by Miller goes to VA employees such as doctors who work long hours. Given the impasse — and the short deadline — Miller’s move adds a new wrinkle of drama to a project that  already has seen plenty of it.

First off, it is completely and utterly absurd for Congressman Mike Coffman to say that his position “is that we can’t have a shutdown.” Earlier this month, Coffman joined the rest of Colorado’s Republican delegation in voting to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood — a partisan political move that is the single biggest hurdle to avoiding a shutdown. Coffman can’t say that “we can’t have a shutdown” when he has already cast votes that everybody knew would only increase the odds of the second federal government shutdown in three years; this is kind of like talking about being a vegetarian over cocktails and then ordering the porterhouse steak for dinner.

Even more damaging for Coffman, however, is his continual inability to do anything that might ensure that the Aurora VA Hospital is finally completed. Again, from the Post:

Coffman, who sits on the House veterans committee, said Miller decided to introduce the bill in spite of his objections.

“He went forward certainly without me,” Coffman said.

Coffman is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and the Aurora VA Hospital project is the single biggest issue in his own Congressional district. It would seem that just about everybody is “moving forward” without Coffman.

Tim Neville Makes It Official

Sen. Tim Neville.

Sen. Tim Neville.

The Denver Post’s John Frank announces the formal entry of state Sen. Tim Neville into the 2016 U.S. Senate race, news we originally broke at the beginning of September:

State Sen. Tim Neville, one of the legislature’s most conservative Republicans, will announce his campaign Thursday and join what may become a crowded primary field.

In an interview Monday, Neville said his political record in the General Assembly, where he opposed gun regulations, sought tougher abortion restrictions and pushed for a limited government, sets him apart.

“I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the walk,” he said. “It’s very easy for me to show the voting public where I stand and how I stand.”

Neville’s entry into this race sets up a major conflict within the Colorado Republican Party between party activists tired of equivocal “RINO” candidates and GOP elites who have been disdainful in recent years of the “Tea Party” grassroots they helped manufacture. Make no mistake: given the fractious nature of the GOP base in Colorado today, Neville is in a very strong position to own the rank-and-file that decides Republican primaries in our state. Neville’s unswayable base of support at the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners wields the bulk of its power in Republican primaries.

With Neville officially in, any other potential candidates still on the sidelines are now on notice. Not only do they need to decide what they’re doing and soon, they must now come up with a plan for winning over a GOP base naturally aligned with Tim Neville. However hard-charging Neville’s conservative politics may be, even his staunchest foes can’t deny that he works hard on the campaign trail, and knows retail politics very well. Nobody else gets a cake walk to this nomination with Neville in the race. No amount of National Republican Senatorial Committee pressure can dissuade Neville, indeed any such pressure might well have already backfired.

As of now, a war is on for the Colorado GOP’s heart and soul. And Tim Neville is in a strong position to win it.

Red-on-Red Warfare: GOP Usual Suspects Gang Up on Suthers

Mayor John Suthers of Colorado Springs.

Mayor John Suthers (R) of Colorado Springs.

As reported by the Colorado Springs Independent last week, another major Republican insider-run “grassroots” advocacy group is attacking former Republican state attorney general-cum-Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, who as our readers know had the temerity to ask the conservative voters of Colorado Springs for–gasp–a tax increase to fix that conservative bastion’s famously crappy roads:

IACE Action – CS, a 504(c)4 organization that doesn’t have to reveal its donors, is opposing Mayor John Suthers’ .62 of a percent sales tax hike on the November 3 ballot.

IACE Action is run by Laura Carno, a political operative who ran Steve Bach’s successful campaign for mayor in 2011. IACE, or I Am Created Equal, provided thousands of dollars worth of in-kind donations for the El Paso Freedom Defense Committee, the issue committee largely responsible for the successful recall of Democratic Senate President John Morse in 2013.

IACE has mounted a website that contains a video explaining why people should vote “no.”

It has not filed a campaign finance report yet for the November election. It did file two reports for the April city election. One reported no donations or spending. The other reported one donation of $3,452 from IACE Action, and spending to a Highlands Ranch company for digital media and to a St. Paul, Minn., company for robo calls.

Laura Carno.

Laura Carno.

Laura Carno and her “I Am Created Equal” 501(c)(4) advocacy group frequently runs cover for Republican causes and candidates from a “woman’s point of view,” most famously last October when she penned a widely circulated op-ed for the Denver Post that asserted women’s reproductive rights “are not in danger” from anti-abortion Republican candidates. That those candidates included a member of Carno’s advisory board–Bob “IUDs are abortifacient” Beauprez–was apparently lost on the Denver Post, but since they were in the process of making essentially the same absurd argument to endorse Cory Gardner, that little conflict of interest didn’t trouble them.

In a guest advertisement opinion column in the Gold Dome Thrifty Nickel Colorado Statesman today, Carno details her opposition to Mayor Suthers’ request for a five-year sales tax increase to pay for road construction in Colorado Springs:

No one disputes the need for road repairs. The dispute arises over how best to pay for them…

Americans For Prosperity Colorado hired Steve Anderson, a CPA with experience in municipal budgets, to review the city’s budgets and audits and propose options within the existing city budget to find an annual $50 million for road repairs — without raising taxes. Anderson came up with many ideas and Americans for Prosperity Colorado detailed these ideas for the mayor and the City Council.

But the mayor and the City Council aren’t interested in Anderson’s proposals. They want the tax increase. It might seem like an easier path for city leaders to raise taxes than to make difficult decisions in city government. But it’s their job to make difficult decisions…

As we discussed in August, the “alternatives” from Americans For Prosperity don’t stand up to scrutiny. Mayor Suthers told the Colorado Springs Gazette that AFP didn’t even talk to anyone involved in the city budget–either in the finance office or a committee of citizens tasked with reviewing the budget every year. According to Suthers, AFP’s suggestions were completely ignorant of basic realities about where the city gets and spends its money, even suggesting that the city “tax churches and nonprofits” instead of raising the sales tax.

Bottom line: you’ve got several competing Republican interests at work here, and the result may be nothing but bad news for Colorado Springs. On the one hand, Mayor John Suthers is in charge of a city with desperately bad roads–easily some of the worst urban road conditions in the entire state. For thinking conservatives, a run-down Colorado Springs with awful roads doesn’t do much to promote their worldview. Only a totally hardened ideologue would look at bad roads in a conservative Mecca and see a good thing, right?

But alas, this is a nationally-known conservative Mecca, and to raise taxes in the city of Douglas “Mr. TABOR” Bruce would be an admission that the reviled public sector sometimes does good and necessary things with our tax dollars. Besides the military, of course, that taxpayer-funded government entity Colorado Springs’ economy is utterly dependent on for survival–but we digress. If GOP-owned and operated Colorado Springs, the very birthplace of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights were to rise taxes on itself, people might start to talk. Indeed, the whole edifice of Colorado Springs’ hard-right talk radio “drown gubmint in the bathtub” culture might begin to crumble.

Or maybe not, but Laura Carno still got a check to go to war on fellow Republican Mayor John Suthers! Thus proving something else very important in today’s politics: the GOP’s paid operative “grassroots activist” industrial complex is never more than a disgruntled donor away from eating their own.

Republican chair’s praise for stem cell research puts him at odds with Coffman

(Oh really? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

houseforgopchairOn a couple of ocassions, Colorado GOP Chair Steve House has stated publicly that Rep. Gorden Klingenschmitt doesn’t speak for the Republican Party. Last week, for example, after Rep. Gorden Klingenschmitt called Allah a “false god,” House told 9News:

 “House: Representative Klingenschmitt has a Constitutional right to free speech,” House wrote in a statement. “However, as I’ve said several times in the past, Gordon does not speak on behalf of our Party, and his hurtful words do not represent our values.”

Last week on KNUS 710-AM’s “Rush to Reason,” House addressed a number of topics, and he came out in support of stem cell research, a view that’s also not shared by all in the GOP.

Stem cells are obtained from zygotes, or fertilized human eggs. Some Republicans, including Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman, want to ban stem cell research because they consider zygotes to be a human life, even if the zygotes are obtained from fertizilization clinics that would otherwise dispose of them. (Even “pluripotent stem cells,” which are sometimes used in research and are derived from adult stem cells, are grown using embryonic stem cells for comparison purposes.)

As 9News reported in 2013: “This year, Congressman Coffman was asked point blank by Colorado Right to Life, ‘Will you oppose any research or practice that would intentionally destroy the tiniest living humans, embryonic stem cell research?’ With a pen he wrote, ‘Yes.’”

On the radio Sept. 22, House included stem-cell research as part of an “optimistic view of technology” that should be part of the “GOP message.”


Jeffco School Board Majority Shuts Minority Out

UPDATE: A fresh report from the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland has us wondering if major recall opponent group Americans For Prosperity is preparing for a loss in the Jefferson County school board recall elections?

Regardless of the outcome of the recall…

The politicians, school board candidates and conservative education reformers at an Americans for Prosperity Foundation education-reform strategy session Sunday repeated this mantra.

Two conservative Jefferson County Board of Education members whose jobs are on the line in the November recall, board Chair Ken Witt and Vice-Chair Julie Williams, heard this short-term-grim/long-term-hopeful message repeated again and again…

“We’ll be here on November 4 (the day after the election), regardless of what happens in the elections,” [Recall opponent Sheila] Atwell told the audience, which included Williams and Witt. “That’s what parents need to understand – this is a year-round effort. We always have to be vigilant.” [Pols emphasis]

Great long-term bravado, but for the three board members up for recall right now, maybe not the best message.

Or maybe it’s the only realistic message.


Jeffco school board member John Newkirk.

Jeffco school board member John Newkirk.

As reported by Support Jeffco Kids, relations between the conservative Jefferson County school board majority–presently facing a recall election–and the outgoing minority members have broken down to a degree that appears to be affecting the body’s basic responsibilities. Here’s outgoing minority member Jill Fellman describing the latest incident of red-on-blue bad faith:

There is an Agenda Setting Meeting with the Superintendent and his Cabinet a week or so before every board meeting. The purposes of these meetings are to determine how much time agenda items might take and to give appropriate direction to Cabinet members to ensure agenda items meet the needs of the Board.

According to practice, Mr. Newkirk and I alternate going to these meetings. Today was my day to attend the meeting – so, I drove to the Ed. Ctr. Mr. Witt arrived at the meeting with Mr. Newkirk and informed me (in the presence of several staff members) (1) I was not needed and (2) Mr. Newkirk would be attending the Agenda Setting Meetings until the election.

I’m a big girl, and I can deal with the lack of respect that I see every day from this Board majority. At the same time, our District deserves elected officials who treat each other and the public with respect, even when they disagree on policy…

Outgoing Jeffco school board member Jill Fellman.

Outgoing Jeffco school board member Jill Fellman.

Obviously, there’s tension on the Jeffco school board today as a recall election targeting the conservative majority rapidly approaches. But that’s hardly an excuse for those majority members to exclude the minority from an official meeting setting the agenda for school board meetings. The high drama that has regularly erupted at Jeffco board meetings in recent months seems most unlikely to abate if the minority is shut out of the planning for those meetings. In fact, that seems like a sure way to further aggrieve the standing-room-only crowds who turn out month after month.

Staring down the barrel of a recall, it should be obvious that you shouldn’t make things worse for yourself with avoidable bad press. There’s nothing we can think of to be gained by shutting Fellman out of these meetings that isn’t outweighed by the negative impression this action gives the voters about to decide your fate. This is the kind of nasty anecdote field campaigns depend on to win undecided votes.

So yes, it’s a big mistake, committed out of what appears to be pure spite.

Get More Smarter on Monday (Sept. 28)

MoreSmarterLogo-300x218Chag Sameach to all of our Jewish friends (please, just don’t ask us to pronounce it). 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).


► The U.S. Senate has agreed to authorize an additional $625 million to continue construction at the Aurora VA Hospital project. As Mark Matthews reports for the Denver Post:

But Senate approval doesn’t mean the hospital is in the clear. Although the measure cleared the Senate without opposition, it still requires House support.

Even then, the authorization bill won’t be enough. Congress also needs to agree to a VA plan to shift money to the project; that request is tied to a stopgap spending bill that Congress must approve by Thursday or else plunge the federal government  into a shutdown.

What does Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) say about all of this? He’s not quoted, again, even though the project is in his district and even though Coffman is the Chair of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee for the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee.


► House Speaker John Boehner surprised most political observers when he announced on Friday that he would resign from Congress at the end of October. Boehner is not going quietly, however, and is using his lame-duck status to rip into dysfunctional members of his Republican Party. From the Associated Press:

 House Speaker John Boehner warned Sunday against “false prophets” in his own party making unrealistic promises, saying his resignation had averted a government shutdown this week but not the GOP’s broader battle over how to wield power.

Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Boehner unloaded against conservatives long outraged that even with control of both houses of Congress, Republicans have not succeeded on key agenda items, such as repealing President Barack Obama’s health care law and striking taxpayer funding from Planned Parenthood. He refused to back down from calling one of the tea party-styled leaders and presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, a “jackass.”

“Absolutely they’re unrealistic,” Boehner said. “The Bible says, ‘Beware of false prophets.’ And there are people out there spreading noise about how much can get done.”…

“Our founders didn’t want some parliamentary system where, if you won the majority, you got to do whatever you wanted. [Pols emphasis] They wanted this long, slow process” he said. “And so change comes slowly, and obviously too slowly, for some.”


► Are you tired of being an elected official? Do you welcome the sweet embrace of political death at the hands of the recall election? Jefferson County School Board President Ken Witt demonstrates how to make the case for your own recall: Step 1) Publicly ignore your own governing procedures, and 2) Talk down to fellow board members and community members whenever possible.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Monday Open Thread

“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others.”

–Groucho Marx

CU Student Government Revolts Over GOP Debate Access

CU-Boulder's Coors Events Center.

CU-Boulder’s Coors Events Center.

As the Boulder Daily Camera’s Sarah Kuta reports:

University of Colorado students are frustrated that they won’t be able to attend the Republican presidential debate being held on their campus and are banding together this week to demand that more tickets be made available.

Late Thursday night, the CU Student Government passed a special resolution chiding the university, the Republican National Committee and CNBC, the cable news channel that’s broadcasting the debate, for making just 50 tickets available to the university community.

The Oct. 28 debate is being held at the Coors Events Center, which can seat more than 10,000 people. But the audience will be capped at roughly 1,000, with a small fraction of those seats going to university students, faculty and administrators…

The CU Student Government resolution calls for a “drastic” increase in the number of tickets available to students and the community and states that if the Republican National Committee and CNBC refuse to do so, the university should no longer be involved with the event. [Pols emphasis]

We’ve been watching the controversy over the highly limited seating available for the October 28th Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus build over the last few weeks like a ticking…on second thought, let’s go ahead and avoid that analogy. But as soon as it was announced that only a small fraction of the available seats at CU-Boulder’s Coors Events Center would be filled at all, and that of those few seats only a token number would go to CU students, we predicted that decision would result in much more controversy than it was worth to the GOP’s image.

That is, unless having an open and accessible debate full of CU students really would be a disaster for the GOP’s slate of presidential candidates. That’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room: the foremost reason this budding controversy is so bad for Republicans is that everybody knows why they’re not letting CU students attend in any significant numbers.

“We have requested more, but we anticipate that few, if any, will be forthcoming,” wrote CU-Boulder spokesman Ryan Huff in an email. “We understand that this is primarily a television event and CNBC has limited the audience of the 11,000-seat Coors Events Center to about one-tenth of capacity due to the set-up of the stage, lighting, camera equipment, etc.”

He said the university will soon be releasing information about a student watch party on campus.

Sean Spicer, chief spokesman for the Republican National Committee, reiterated on Friday that the debate is a televised event not meant for a live audience… [Pols emphasis]

Obviously, if the event is “not meant for a live audience,” why hold it in a stadium? Why have 1,000 mostly hand-picked people there at all? This excuse just plain doesn’t make sense, and the idea that the stage and broadcast equipment for the debate is going to fill up 10,000 seats in the Coors Events Center is silly on its face.

The Donald and Jeb!

The Donald and Jeb!

The real problem, as we all know, is that putting the current slate of Republican presidential candidates in front of anything other than a hand-picked audience of Republican Party loyalists risks demonstrating how out of touch many of them are–simply by hearing the audience’s reactions. As we’ve said, we don’t accept the argument that students would be inappropriately rowdy. This is about fully appropriate gasps and boos that would come in response to any number of recent on-record statements by Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Jeb! Bush, and the rest of the crew.

The need to preserve a veneer of respectability for a group of presidential aspirants more of less devoted to embarrassing themselves, their party, and the entire nation in the eyes of the world–and folks, that is really what’s going on here, no hyperbole–is putting the University of Colorado in an ugly exclusionary position with their own students. The best choice would probably have been for CU President and GOP kingpin Bruce Benson to have passed altogether on bringing these clowns to the “People’s Republic of Boulder” under terms dictated by the Republican National Committee. Somebody in a strategy meeting had the super-crafty idea of holding a GOP debate in Boulder, and didn’t think through all the things that would mean.

But it’s too late now. The train wreck is underway.

Ken Witt Presents: How to Make the Case for Your Own Recall

Jeffco School Board President Ken Witt

Jeffco School Board President Ken Witt

Temperatures have been rising on the Jefferson County School Board ever since three right-wing members were elected to take over the Board majority in November 2013. As Colorado Pols readers are no doubt aware, these three Board members — Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams — are now facing a November recall election for a variety of reasons that we won’t rehash here (check Jeffco Pols for a more in-depth background into the Jeffco School Board controversies).

If you aren’t familiar with the controversies and issues that led to the November recall election, there was a moment at Thursday evening’s Jeffco School Board Meeting that perfectly encapsulates why the entire Jefferson County community has been in an uproar over the actions of Witt, Newkirk, and Williams. You can see the video yourself below, which better conveys the emotion of the exchange as Board Member Lesley Dahlkemper is nearly driven to tears out of frustration and anger in response to an incredibly disrespectful display from Board President Ken Witt.

“I am fed up with the way we are running this Board.”

— Jeffco School Board Member Lesley Dahlkemper

The back-and-forth discussion in question followed the introduction of a resolution proposing changes to the District Accountability Committee (DAC) Both Dahlkemper and Board Member Jill Fellman voiced their concern that Witt was forcing a vote on an item that the Board had not yet discussed, which is explicitly against the Board’s own policies. The resolution in question was sent around to Board members on Thursday afternoon — mere hours before the meeting was called to order — so Dahlkemper and Fellman asked Witt to schedule the vote for the following week so that the item could be discussed first.

“I don’t know how we can have a conversation and vote on something I saw for the first time 4 hours ago,” said Fellman. “I’m not willing to do that.”

Jeffco School Board Member Lesley Dahlkemper

Jeffco School Board Member Lesley Dahlkemper

Dahlkemper also noted that a discussion was pertinent because a volunteer committee of parents, teachers, and administrators had been working for months on changes to the DAC. Here’s what happened next:

LESLEY DAHLKEMPER: “At the very least, give us the time to read this, digest it, contrast it with what we have also been given by a committee that has spent more than three months analyzing state law and having conversations about this, to determine whether this is a good resolution moving forward. All I’m asking is that we follow board policy, we ask questions about this if we have any tonight, and then we put it on the agenda for the next Board Meeting to approve it. That’s all. That’s all I’m asking.”

KEN WITT: [Sarcastically] Ms. Dahlkemper, this has been read to you twice, but we can continue to go over it until you feel like you understand all of the terms. [Pols emphasis]

LD: Mr. Witt, don’t you dare speak down to me or disrespect me.

KW: I’m not…

LD: Yes, you have. And I’m sorry you don’t understand the difference between those two things…because I am done with it. [VOICE CRACKS] I can’t believe this…because I do not want to do this. But I will tell you – the mistake that you are making right now is that we have a policy on the table about how we govern. You are throwing governance right out the window because you have some agenda that you feel so critical that we have to vote on tonight…that even a simple request that is to say, “Look, our policy says we review it, and then we vote on it.” And don’t you dare insinuate that I don’t understand this policy. And stop talking down to people on this board, and also people who come forward. Enough. [Pols emphasis]

Policy disagreements are to be expected in any group of elected officials, but it’s inexcusable for Witt to a) Ignore Board policy at his own whim, and b) Display such blatant disrespect to a fellow board member. Witt’s behavior isn’t the primary reason why he, Newkirk, and Williams are facing a recall — but it’s near the top of the list.


Check out the video after the jump…