Minimum Wage: Beware Honey Badgers Bearing Gifts

Scott Gessler, a.k.a. the "Honey Badger."

Scott Gessler, a.k.a. the “Honey Badger.”

With the recent “Fight for 15” protests in Denver and other cities around the country ongoing, and a number of cities and state governments opting to raise their local minimum wage, the group Colorado Families for a Fair Wage is working to put a ballot measure on our state’s 2016 ballot to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020.

But in what can best be described as a cynical bit of jujitsu, this week the Colorado Restaurant Association presented four ballot measures to the title board that appear to be intended to derail the $12 by 2020 minimum wage ballot initiative supported by workers and community groups. The key point is that although the Restaurant Association versions would increase the minimum wage, they would only increase it to $10.10 by 2019–a small relative increase to what existing Colorado law would provide for under Amendment 42, and needless to say not nearly as good a deal for minimum-wage workers.

But here’s the kicker: the Colorado Restaurant Association’s attorney on these ballot measures is none other than Scott Gessler, the Republican ex-Secretary of State and failed 2014 gubernatorial candidate our readers came to know as the “Honey Badger!”

Gessler’s Bizarro-world role as the CRA’s “working people’s champion” hasn’t been reported in any press we’ve seen, but ideologically speaking, it should tell people everything they need to know about about this smaller proposed wage increase. To us, this is proof that the campaigns across the nation and in Colorado calling for a livable wage are having an impact. If the restaurateurs are willing to concede any increase in the minimum wage, it can only be because they know an increase is likely to pass–and they want to pass as small an increase as possible, with control over the details.

Of course, it’s possible Gessler is genuinely interested in bettering the lot of Colorado’s lowest-paid workers! After all, while in office he made every reasonable effort to maximize his own income. In fact, some of his “efforts” weren’t so reasonable.

We joke, but you can bet Gessler is getting more than $10.10 an hour.

Rescheduled Pols meetup Sat 4/23 2 pm at Jezebel’s in Denver

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

So we’re trying this again. Who’s in? If a later time works better, speak up. The weather is supposed to be good. 2 pm is still in time for brunch. They also have a happy hour.

Jezebel’s is at 32nd and Tejon in Highland. Great food, great atmosphere.  I’ll be there. I think (notaskinny)cook will. Anyone else?

Jack Graham Makes Primary Ballot…Barely

Collect twice the amount needed and submit them as early as possible; that's how Jack Graham made the Senate ballot.

Collect twice the amount needed and submit them as early as possible; that’s how Jack Graham made the Senate ballot.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office announced today that Republican Senate candidate Jack Graham is the first of four GOP Senate candidates to make it onto the June 28th ballot. But if Graham’s low validity rate is any indication of things to come, there may be some serious sweating’ happening at the campaign headquarters of Robert Blaha, Jon Keyser, and Ryan Frazier. 

The validity rate is the percent of signatures submitted that are from actual registered Republicans in the relevant districts; Graham submitted 22,786 signatures to the SOS office on March 28, and a whopping 9,895 were deemed invalid signatures (if you’re doing the math at home, that’s a “validity rate” of about 56.6%). A total of 10,500 valid signatures are needed to qualify for the U.S. Senate ballot (1,500 from each congressional district), and there’s no way that Graham could have made the cut had his campaign not submitted twice as many signatures as needed.

We wrote a few weeks back about how the petition process could get messy for Republican Senate candidates, and Graham’s low “validity rate” does not bode well for the other three candidates — all of whom used paid signature gatherers to some extent.

From a post on April 7:

Because he was the first one through the door, Graham will be the first GOP candidate to have his petition signatures verified by the Secretary of State’s office. Once a signature is confirmed as valid, that name cannot be counted again for another candidate. Keyser’s campaign will thus need 1,500 valid signatures (per district) that have not already been submitted by Graham. Blaha will need 1,500 signatures that have not already been submitted by Graham AND Keyser. You can see how this becomes a problem for Frazier; as the last candidate to submit petitions, there are at least 4,500 registered Republican voters in each congressional district that cannot be counted toward his petition total. Frazier doesn’t just need 1,500 valid signatures from each district — he needs 1,500 different names.

For a rough analogy, consider the NFL Draft that will be held at the end of this month; if your team has the fourth selection in the draft, there are three collegiate players who will be off the board before your team gets a chance to pick a player. You cannot select a player who has already been chosen by another team, obviously, and the petition process works in a similar fashion.


Graham turned in a total of 22,786 signatures to the SOS on March 28, followed by Keyser, Blaha, and Frazier. Keyser’s campaign never disclosed how many total signatures his campaign submitted, which likely means it was not an impressive total. Both Blaha and Frazier claimed to have submitted more than 17,000 signatures. All three candidates are sweating bullets right now, hoping that they have a much better “validity rate” than Graham’s campaign.

Also today, the Secretary of State’s office announced that Adams County District Attorney Dave Young turned in enough valid signatures to make the June 28th Primary (Young was upset by Democrat Caryn Datz and did not make the ballot through the caucus process). Two Republicans also made the ballot today: Tom Lucero (HD-51) and Colleen Whitlow (HD-63).

Ready For Your Mandatory Transvaginal Ultrasound, Ladies?

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

A release from NARAL Pro Choice Colorado announces a press conference tomorrow on House Bill 16-1218, which they describe as a “mandatory transvaginal ultrasound” abortion restriction bill, ahead of debate in a Colorado House committee:

For the second straight year, anti-choice legislators have introduced legislation that would mandate transvaginal ultrasounds, a 24 hour waiting period, and non-medical propaganda being read to women seeking abortion care. HB 1218 is yet another “model bill” from the national anti-choice group Americans United for Life, as detailed in NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado’s report, “Against Our Will: How National Anti-Choice Groups Are Targeting the Pro-Choice Majority in Colorado.”

The bill will be heard Thursday afternoon in the House Health Committee. All the Democrats on the Committee are women.

According to Karen Middleton, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, “When Donald Trump talked about punishing women for having abortions, these are exactly the types of bills he was talking about. HB 1218’s only purpose is to shame and humiliate women in order to discourage them from seeking abortion care.”

Before the hearing, legislators and physicians will be holding a press conference to highlight how these kinds of bills both harm women’s health and contradict the will of Colorado voters. And for those unfamiliar with what the bill actually does – as sponsors have been in the past – advocates will have an actual ultrasound wand on hand to illustrate the point.

transvaginalHouse Bill 1218 is sponsored by a number of vulnerable Republican lawmakers, including Reps. Kevin Priola, Clarice Navarro, and JoAnn Windholz, as well as Sen. Laura Woods of Arvada–arguably the top Democratic target of the 2016 elections in either chamber. Their well-known personal anti-choice convictions notwithstanding, it is nonetheless a real surprise to see these politically vulnerable legislators up for election this year sponsoring such distasteful legislation as a bill to require medically unnecessary ultrasounds of women seeking an abortion.

But at least for one Colorado House committee’s worth of distaste, we’re going there.

Post reporter stands out for asking predatory lender about Colorado profits

(Credit where due – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

loanshark2A predatory-lending bill, allowing lenders to make more money on high-interest loans, passed a state senate committee yesterday, with supporters of the bill telling reporters that increased profits are necessary to keep personal-loan lenders in Colorado.

That’s the major argument for the bill. Specifically, backers told the Durango Herald that the one company offering such loans will leave Colorado if it’s not allowed to make millions more here.

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch was the only reporter to ask Springleaf Holdings, Colorado’s only lender of personal loans (after a merger last year with its competitor), how the company was doing. I mean, that’s the key question.

Is it struggling to make ends meet, like many of the folks it lends money to are? People who pay the company 36 percent interest on a $1,000 loan as it is?

Bunch reported:

Phil Hitz, who represented Springleaf Holdings, acknowledged that the company is very profitable nationally and confirmed the 30 percent Colorado growth over the past four years.

Bunch apparently didn’t ask Hitz if Springleaf would leave Colorado if the bill didn’t pass, but all indications are that it would not.


Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 20)

Get More SmarterGood news: Colorado Pols is now 93% gluten-free! 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).


► Yes, we know today is 4/20. No, we’re not going to make any obvious weed jokes…well, maybe a few.

► The New York Primary is in the books, and it was a good night for Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, both of whom cruised to easy victories on Tuesday.  Next up is the “Acela Primary,” as the Washington Post reports:

Emboldened by dominant victories in New York, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump plunged swiftly Wednesday into the next batch of primaries in five states along the Northeast Corridor, where they hope to bury or break their challengers for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island will vote next Tuesday in what many are dubbing the “Acela primary,” putting Clinton and Trump on terrain well-tailored to their campaigns.

For Clinton, it’s a chance to effectively end Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s long-shot hopes in the Democratic race. For Trump, the contests are an opportunity to further pad his delegate lead over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and send him tumbling into the final six weeks of the campaign. That crucial period will determine whether the mogul will clinch the GOP nomination outright or if the race will head to a contested convention.


► A bipartisan group of Colorado legislators are preparing a bill that would end the confusing precinct caucus system for selecting Presidential candidates in favor of a good old fashioned Primary election.

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Everybody’s Dissing Jon Keyser

Jon Keyser's "two ballots."

Jon Keyser’s “two ballots.”

It’s been an awful seven days for Republican U.S. Senate clown car passenger Jon Keyser, whose widely-rumored anointment by GOP Washington, D.C. insiders has so far completely failed to manifest in the form of support–on the ground among likely Republican primary voters or in his fundraising numbers for Q1. The latter in particular must be considered a huge blow to Keyser’s chances, since everyone was watching for a massive number to broadcast his status as the field-clearing pick.

After the GOP state assembly and Darryl Glenn’s surprise victory there, we’ve seen supporters of unexpectedly eliminated contender Sen. Tim Neville basically writing off the 2016 U.S. Senate race. At the same time, Glenn has taken aim Karl Rove-style as Keyser’s greatest supposed strength, calling Keyser out for running for office on his military decorations (and little else).

With all of this in mind, Politico’s Elena Schneider reported yesterday (behind the paywall), adding fuel to the GOP’s internal conflict:

One more wild card could come if Dudley Brown, a wired-in activist who leads the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, decides to get involved with another candidate after Neville’s demise.

“Darryl Glenn answered our survey and got 100 percent, but we also look at whether the candidate can win. Are they putting in the effort? Do they have a real campaign? We’ll see.” Brown said. “Blaha has thumbed his nose at us a couple of times. I can’t imagine Jack Graham getting anywhere near answering our survey. It’s only Glenn who could earn our support.”

Brown also didn’t rule out actively working against a few candidates – particularly Keyser.

“Keyser had one vote on guns in his Colorado House career and he voted with the Democrats,” Brown said. “We don’t allow that stuff to go without some repercussions.” [Pols emphasis]

Dudley Brown would be less fearsome to Keyser if Keyser was ahead by some metric in this race. But at this point, Keyser is deep in the pack compared to better funded and more widely grassroots-supported contenders. Whether it’s Glenn or one of the wealthy self-funding candidates who stands to benefit most from Keyser’s failure to thrive remains to be seen.

But you can’t tell us this is looking good for Jon Keyser.

ICYMI: What the Hell Are You Doing, Douglas County?

As FOX31 Denver reports:

The Douglas County School District has purchased 10 long rifles for its armed security officers.

The Bushmaster long rifles will not be housed on school grounds. They will be locked up at the district security office and bus depot along Highway 85.

“The weapons currently every day will be inside of a locked safe in a secured room inside the security department. They’ll be deployed into a locking mechanism that is inside our patrol vehicles very similar to the locking mechanisms that are inside law enforcement patrol vehicles and they will only be deployed if there is a situation where they need to be deployed,” Director of Safety and Security Rich Payne said.

The long rifles and equipment cost the district $12,300.

What? Why? This is fucking insane.

Are Republicans already giving up on Bennet race?

(No “Con Man Cory” to the rescue this time… – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Michael Bennet.

Sen. Michael Bennet.

After State Sen. Tim Neville was surprisingly knocked out of the Republican battle for the right to take on Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, State Sen. Justin Everett (R-Littleton) took to Facebook to lament:

Everett: “Sadly, our only chance to defeat Michael Bennet is no longer in the race. Thank you, Tim, we know you will always be on the front lines in the fight for freedom and liberty. God bless you and your family.”

Reporters might write off Everett’s comment as despondency after a shocking loss by Neville, whom Everett was obviously backing. But judging from the first quarter fundraising numbers, showing that none of the GOP primary candidates are, in Politico reporter Eli Stokols’ words, “really crushing it,” you have the privilege of wondering if Republicans are starting to join with Everett in thinking the race has already been won by Bennet, who’s sitting there with $7.6 million in the bank.

As The Denver Post put it:

No one in the crowded Republican field looking to unseat [Bennet] has reported more than $1 million cash-on-hand, and whoever emerges from the five-way fight likely will drained of resources just trying to win the June 28 primary.

The GOP fundraising leader, Jack Graham,the former CSU athletic director, dropped $1 million on his own campaign, and has, as ColoradoPols pointed out, more money in the bank “than the rest of the Republican field put together.”

Anything can happen, and big campaign spending may flow from 527 groups still unknown. But with the Colorado Republicans’ A-Team out of the race before they got in it, and the remaining B-Team not catching fire money-wise or otherwise, it’s a legitimate question for reporters to ponder: When will the toll of layers of candidates, piled upon divisiveness and Democratic unity, against the backdrop of an improving economy and even an increasingly popular president, make Republicans say, hmm, maybe we should throw our time and money elsewhere.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 19)

gmssharkThe sharks are circling at the Colorado Capitol! 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).


► Embattled GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is gearing up to formally challenge Colorado’s delegates to the Republican National Convention in July after Ted Cruz’s backroom sweep of the Byzantine state GOP caucus process. The Denver Post’s John Frank:

Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign’s convention strategist, said Sunday his team is putting together a legal case to challenge the state’s 34 delegates — which are all supporting Ted Cruz.

“We’ll be filing protests,” he told ABC’s “This Week.” “Missouri, we’re going to be filing protests. Colorado, we’re going to be filing protests.”

He continued: “You saw in Colorado last week where the voters were left out of the process — a groundswell of support against the system.”

We assume he’s referring to last Friday’s pro-Trump rally at the Colorado Capitol, the actual attendance at which failed to amaze. Perhaps nobody’s told The Donald yet?

► On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders’ strong showing at that party’s state convention last weekend leaves his campaign with bragging rights, overcoming the superdelegates to post a clear win in Colorado–but the math adding up to the nomination remains elusive.

► Today is “Loan Shark Day” at the Colorado Capitol–the first hearing for a late bill to jack up interest rates on personal loans. Consumer advocates led by the Bell Policy Center plan lively opposition at a “shark attack” rally ahead of the 2PM hearing and during testimony in the Legislative Services Building across from the Capitol.

Get even more smarter after the jump…


Q1 Fundraising Winners and Losers

We have a long tradition at Colorado Pols of examining “Winners and Losers” from key fundraising periods, and the Q1 reports that were due on April 15th represent probably the most important three-month period since Colorado moved its Primary election to June prior to the 2014 election cycle.

The first (and last) full quarterly fundraising cycle before the June 28th Primary ended at midnight on March 31, but federal campaigns weren’t required to submit their complete Q1 reports until April 15th. Campaigns for the U.S. House are required to file fundraising reports electronically, but Senate campaigns can drag out the public disclosure period for days (and sometimes weeks) by filing their fundraising numbers (literally) on paper and mailing the reports to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).

We’ve been anxious to compare fundraising numbers for Q1, particularly from the 5 remaining Republican Senate candidates; for most of the GOP Senate field, the Q1 numbers are about the only objective information we have to go on right now in terms of evaluating a campaign’s strengths and weaknesses. We’ll update this post in a few days (or weeks) as new information becomes available, but with most campaigns announcing their fundraising hauls late Friday or over the weekend, we can still sketch out a pretty good list of “Winners and Losers” already.

For this “Winners and Losers” list, we are only comparing fundraising numbers for the U.S. Senate race and CD-6. In most Congressional districts in Colorado, the full slate of candidates wasn’t even known until Democrats concluded their caucus process with Saturday’s State Convention in Louisville.


*Cash-on-hand totals for Graham, Blaha, Keyser, and Frazier may not account for any outstanding balance owed to petition signature-gathering firms…or for most staffing expenses, for that matter. Campaigns typically hold off on making significant expenditures until the day after the end of the fundraising period so that they can “report” a larger cash-on-hand amount.

**We don’t yet know how much money Glenn has in the bank, but we do know that he doesn’t have any six-figure balances owed to petition-gathering firms. Because Glenn made the Primary ballot through the caucus/convention process, his expenditures will naturally be significantly less than his opponents.

Click after the jump for our “Winners and Losers” of Q1…