Republican Recount Agitation Fizzles

Marilyn Marks.

Marilyn Marks.

The Pueblo Chieftain reports today on a swift abort to talk of a paid recount of two (not really) close races there:

The local GOP had by the end of the day on Monday to deposit $17,000 into an escrow account to pay for the recount, a figure quoted to the GOP by County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz and disputed by the party.

Becky Mizel, chairwoman of the local GOP, said her members came close to raising the money and lamented that part of Ortiz’s quote included an outside consultant to be on hand to answer any questions about the tabulating machinery when the GOP asked for that during the actual election.

“Ethically, I can’t justify spending the hard-earned money of my membership on this,” Mizel said. [Pols emphasis]

This comes after a lengthy period of nit-picking by Pueblo Republicans and eccentric former Aspen mayoral candidate Marilyn Marks, who insisted without evidence–even as they appear to have not hurt Republicans a bit–that mail ballots were wreaking havoc with Colorado elections.

Likewise, the Denver Post's John Aguilar reported this morning about a push to recount Adams County races we first broke word of last Friday:

Gary Mikes, chairman of the Adams County Republican Party, said Monday he suspects that invalid ballots were turned in by voters during the Nov. 4 election in the race for House District 31, in which Democrat Joseph Salazar ended up with a 221-vote lead over Republican challenger Carol Beckler. The same goes for the Adams County commissioner race, in which Steve O'Dorisio, a Democrat, bested GOP candidate Joseph Domenico by 597 votes, Mikes said.

In an email to Adams County elections officials earlier today, Adams County GOP chairman Gary Mikes withdrew that request with an apology "for any inconvenience." As for Pueblo, the margins in the two races in question, one House race and the county clerk race, were significantly larger than the extremely narrow races in Adams County–which themselves still fell outside the allowable range for a recount paid for with state funds.

What we've heard, as with Pueblo, is that the "concerns" in Adams County boiled down to baseless James O'Keefe speculation about vote fraud, none of which has been substantiated anywhere, and as we've discussed at length would have been impossible to pull off due to the safeguards clearly outlined in last year's election modernization law. Overall Republicans did very well in this year's elections, to include surprisingly strong performance in traditionally Democratic Adams County. If anything, we can imagine why Republicans wouldn't want to start looking under rocks up there, lest they endanger some of their own close wins.

Bottom line: the real problem may be that reality in our elections this year completely failed to live up to conspiracy theorists' hype, and they've just been a little slow to catch on to this fact. But when it comes time to put your money where there mouth is, reality has a way of snapping back into focus.

Republican Infighting Still Going Strong Despite Election Results

Ryan Call

Is a third term the right Call for Republicans? (see what we did there?)

Republicans enjoyed another mid-term "wave" Election Year in 2014 (following the 2010 Tea Party wave) that saw them grab control of the U.S. Senate as well as many more important top-ticket statewide seats around the country. Yet as 2014 comes to a close, Election Day victories have not translated into GOP harmony.

As GOP activists turn their attention back to internal political struggles, discontent among the various wings of the Party continues to brew. Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call is expected to face a challenge to his re-election bid in 2015 despite Republican success at the ballot box (more on that in a moment), a trend that is not unique to Colorado. Check out this story last week from Arizona Capitol Times:

Arizona GOP Chairman Robert Graham is facing an insurgent challenge from the right despite his party’s sweep of statewide races and successful defense of Republican majorities at the Capitol.

Lori Urban, a longtime party activist and president of the Paradise Republican Women’s Club, is taking on Graham in the party’s election for chairman in January. Urban and other activists are panning Graham for failing to expand the GOP’s legislative majorities in a year when Republicans, riding high on a wave of anti-Obama sentiment, won seat after seat in local and federal elections across the country. They also accused him of failing to listen to the party faithful, whom they said are clamoring for closed primaries.

In response, Graham has lined up endorsements from party loyalists and conservative icons, including Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and S1070 author Russell Pearce. [Pols emphasis]

This is politics at its most absurd, to be sure. Arizona's Republican Party Chairman presided over sweeping victories in 2014, yet his job is so unsafe that he has had to recruit the wackiest members of the far right to stand behind him in a show of support…and it still might not be enough to save his job.

Salaries for state party officials

Here in Colorado, we've already seen competing factions emerging from both the Tea Party and supporters of Dudley Brown's unruly Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO). The schism between Republicans and RMGO rose to new levels in Jefferson County, with the two sides in open conflict leading up to the June Primary Election, but that's far from the only problem facing Call's re-election.

Republican activists remain irritated at the hefty salary awarded to their Party Chairman, a practice that began in 2007 when Dick Wadhams was elected Chair and pushed through changes to the Party bylaws that turned a largely-volunteer position into a full-time job. The State Republican Party was a mess when Wadhams took over, which made it much easier for Wadhams to advocate for a "temporary" change that would allow him to earn more money in a sort-of dual role as Chairman and Executive Director. But the "temporary" change initiated by Wadhams wasn't altered when Call succeeded Wadhams as Chair in 2011; in fact, the Republican Party (via the Colorado Republican Committee) now pays monthly salaries for Call as Chairman and Shana Kohn as Executive Director. Democrats also now employ a full-time Chairman and Executive Director, though the salaries are considerably higher for the GOP (see chart at right).

There is no real standard model for paying a State Party Chairman, a practice that varies widely from state to state, but many Republican activists in Colorado want to go back to a non-paid Chair in favor of spending more money on staff positions and down-ballot "coordination" efforts. Even if GOP activists can't eliminate the idea of a paid Chairman altogether, Call may be challenged to explain how he justifies a $8,274 monthly salary (not including benefits) while also working as an attorney at Hale Westfall, LLP. Call will also likely come under fire for his decision to spend millions on a new "independent expenditure committee website" that was unveiled in August with front-page images of natural landscapes in Utah; the project was dubbed Call's "brain child," and he will defend it by pointing to the Republicans taking a one-seat majority in the state senate (though RMGO will lay claim to many of those victories).

As he seeks a third term, Call has the support of many Republican officials, including the cherubic new Senator-elect, Cory Gardner. But as both Republicans and Democrats have seen in the past, the vocal minority of the Party base doesn't really care about those endorsements. Call can also rightly point to success at the ballot box as reason enough to grant him re-election, though that may end up meaning as little to the Party faithful in Colorado as it apparently does in Arizona. Do elections matter to the base when it comes time to select their Party leaders? We'll find out soon enough.


Tensions High As CIA Torture Report Nears Release

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

UPDATE #3: Republicans angrily pushing back against the Intelligence Committee's report, MSNBC:

GOP members of the committee who withdrew their support for its investigation released their own 167-page “minority views” response to the Democratic report, arguing that the detention and interrogation program “saved lives and played a vital role in weakening al Qa-ida.”

The dissenting committee members – Sens. Saxby Chambliss, Richard Burr, Jim Risch, Daniel Coats, Marco Rubio and Tom Coburn – are just some of the many Republican lawmakers up in arms over the comprehensive review of controversial CIA interrogation techniques, which they warned would lead to violent reprisals that would endanger American personnel and jeopardize intelligence interests.

“I cannot think of a greater disservice to our men and women serving in the military and in our intelligence field than to hand terror groups like ISIL another recruiting tool and excuse to target them,” Republican Sen. John Cornyn said in statement issued Tuesday. “Due to the political calculations of some, the American people and our allies across the globe are less safe today than they were before.”

The CIA and it supporters also went on the offensive Tuesday, with the publication of a pro-interrogation op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by former CIA Directors George J. Tenet, Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden, as well as the creation of a website, “CIA Saved Lives,” by former agency officials.


UPDATE #2: Here's the report.


UPDATE: Sen. Mark Udall via Twitter responds to today's report:

Udall's full statement:

Mark Udall, who led efforts to hold the White House, CIA and intelligence agencies accountable to the American people, welcomed the declassification today of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's exhaustive study of the CIA's brutal, ineffective and misguided detention and interrogation program.

The Senate Intelligence Committee released the executive summary of the report today following months of negotiations with the White House and CIA — a process Udall fought to keep moving forward. Udall also had threatened to take any step necessary to get the truth out if negotiators for the committee and executive branch could not reach an accord that kept faith with the important transparency the report represents.

"The release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's study of the CIA's detention and interrogation program is an historic victory for our nation, the Constitution, and our system of checks and balances. This study ensures that the truth about the CIA’s brutal torture program finally comes out and that the agency can learn from its repeated missteps and start to restore its integrity," Udall said. "My goal from day one has been holding the CIA accountable, shedding light on this dark chapter of our history, and ensuring neither the CIA nor any future administration would make these grievous mistakes ever again. The report released today achieves those goals and affirms that we are a nation that does not hide from its past, but learns from it.

"We can protect our national security without compromising who we are as Americans. This landmark study — and the millions of pages of agency documents and testimony it is based upon — shows that torture is not effective and does not make us safer."

Udall has been the leading proponent of swiftly declassifying the Senate Intelligence Committee's exhaustive study on the CIA's detention and interrogation program. Following the Senate Intelligence Committee's vote this spring to declassify the study, Udall called on the White House to speed declassification of the study and prevent the CIA from interfering with its public release.

Udall also has aggressively pushed back on intelligence officials and anonymous leaks that have sought to discredit the Senate Intelligence Committee's study and prevent the truth about the CIA's brutal torture program from coming out.



Gessler Blames County Clerks for Election Day Problems

Scott Gessler.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler: Blaming everyone else since 2011!

You may recall from Election Day that there were several complaints of problems with the Secretary of State's computer system as county clerks tried to update ballot results. As Charles Ashby of the Grand Junction Sentinel reports, Secretary of State Scott Gessler blames the county clerks for problems with his own office:

Colorado’s county clerks and the Colorado Office of Information Technology aren’t agreeing with Secretary of State Scott Gessler about what happened on Election Day.

Gessler told state lawmakers last week that it wasn’t his office’s fault that the county clerks’ offices had problems accessing the Colorado Statewide Registration and Election system.

Instead, the Republican blamed the Office of Information Technology and the clerks’ election workers, saying there was nothing wrong with his system, known as SCORE.

“In anticipation of an afternoon flood (of usage), we brought the system down at 2 o’clock (on Election Day) and brought it up at 2:05 and 30 seconds, so it was down for about five and a half minutes,” Gessler told the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday. “We thought the system worked very well.”

But the Colorado County Clerks Association and the Office of Information Technology, or OIT, said that’s not entirely what happened.

Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner, who is the 2014 president of the association, said the system went down early in the day Nov. 4 because of an initial problem at OIT, but continued to have problems until the polls closed at 7 p.m.

It's hard to say that this is just a simple "he said/she said" argument. Gessler appears unwilling to acknowledge that the SOS computer system had any problems, instead blaming county clerks for clogging up the system. How dare those county clerks actually try to use election software on Election Day.

Gessler's argument is pretty thin in general; there are numerous accounts of computer problems happening across the state throughout the day. We'd guess the Office of Information Technology knows a little more about this than Gessler himself.

At Least She’s Not Your Gubernatorial Candidate (Anymore)

On the subject of the protests raging across America over police brutality against African Americans, Roni Bell Sylvester, who Colorado political trivia aficionados will remember was a minor candidate in last year's Republican gubernatorial primary, has a very simple suggestion:


What a great idea–why can't we just keep these uppity urban protesters busy in the fields?

Why hasn't anybody suggested this? We'd swear we've heard this before. Wait, never mind, history class!

Oh, wait a minute…

So Long, Landrieu–2014′s Last Senate Race Ends Predictably

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA).


Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu lost her Senate runoff race Saturday night, felled by the red tide that's swept the South and ties to an unpopular President that she couldn't shake.

CNN called the race for her Republican opponent Rep. Bill Cassidy a little over a half hour after the polls closed. Republicans picked up nine Senate seats this election cycle and will have control of 54 seats in the chamber next year.

Once seen as Democrats' strongest incumbent, Landrieu ended up such a long-shot in her runoff with Cassidy that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee cut its investment in the state, a move that Landrieu decried as leaving "a soldier on the field."

There's no nice way to say it, really: Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu's desperate campaign to hold on against the 2014 Republican wave was an embarrassment as well as a setback to Democrats. Culminating in a last-ditch effort to pass legislation forcing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, dividing Democrats across the nation, and by all accounts angering the White House who promised a veto, Landrieu seems to have decided that the only way to survive politically in a Republican wave year is to become one. Looking back, Landrieu's efforts to scuttle the so-called "public option" during debate over the Affordable Care Act–not to mention the infamous "Louisiana Purchase"–made her less than popular with the left and a poster child for Republicans hyping the case against Obamacare.

As of this writing, Landrieu is losing to Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy by twelve points. So it's safe to say that stuff didn't work. The decision by Michael Bennet's Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) to effectively pull out of the runoff election weeks ago only acknowledged reality.

There are important lessons in Landrieu's demise for 2016, but they are different lessons from Sen. Mark Udall's much narrower loss here in Colorado. Facing an unexpectedly stiff challenge from Cory Gardner, Udall made mistakes–but not the mistake of pandering to the right, or selling out his party's agenda. Say what you will about Udall, and what he chose to emphasize on the campaign trail, but he ran on consistent values.

And that makes Udall's less than two-point loss much more honorable than Landrieu's shellacking.

Recount Requested by Republicans in Adams County?

According to rumors emanating from Adams County, the Republican Party has requested a recount of the vote in all of Adams County.

Per Colorado's Revised Statutes, today is the last day that an "interested party" can request a recount of the General Election results (at their own expense, of course). We are trying to confirm these rumors, but if true, this could open up one hell of a can of worms related to candidates up and down the ballot.

Turnout in Adams County was incredibly low in 2014. For example, Democratic Rep. Joseph Salazar was re-elected to his post in HD-31 with 11,501 votes (compared to 11,280 votes for Republican Carol Beckler). It's no surprise that turnout in 2014 would be lower than in a Presidential year, but the drop-off here was particularly head-scratching. Check out the vote totals from the last three election cycles in HD-31:

2010: 30,462
2012: 31,101
2014: 22,781

Again, voter turnout could reasonably be expected to be low in 2014 compared to prior years…but a drop of nearly 30% is a different story. Also interesting to note: Former Adams County District Attorney Don Quick lost his bid for Attorney General to Republican Cynthia Coffman by a margin of 44.83% to 48.11%. There are other explanations for how Quick could have failed to carry his own county despite having won two terms as Adams County DA, but it is a question mark nevertheless.

We'll update this post as more information becomes available.

“Winning Marriage”–Insight From America’s Civil Rights Frontier


A press advisory Wednesday announced a book launch tour coming through Denver next week of interest to anyone who has followed the political sea change in the last couple of years on the issue of marriage equality:

Marc Solomon, the national campaign director for Freedom to Marry and veteran marriage strategist, continues his national tour in Denver to promote Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits – and Won. The book, with a foreword by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, has received critical acclaim from Bob Woodward, Dee Dee Myers, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin. As a senior political strategist for the marriage movement for more than a decade, Solomon takes readers inside the White House, the Supreme Court, governors' offices and state capitols, as well as into the war rooms of marriage campaigns throughout the country, showing how the campaign for marriage equality has been waged and how it has prevailed.  Solomon chronicles the indispensable role of Tim Gill, as well as the Denver-based Gill Foundation and the Gill Action Fund, in bringing about the victories secured over the last decade.

You can attend this free event next Monday, December 8 at 6:30PM at the Museum of Contemporary Art-Denver. RSVP here.

As the issue of marriage equality for LGBT couples has come full circle from painful defeats to sweeping victory across America, the full story of the tremendous efforts to achieve this–both public and behind the scenes–hasn't really been told. Some recent books on the subject, like Jo Becker's Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality, were widely criticized for leaving out a number of principal figures in the long battle for marriage equality. Marc Solomon's book is meant in part to remedy that error for posterity, with a definitive first-hand insider account. Writing of Denver philanthropist Tim Gill's early commitment in Winning Marriage:

Thankfully, we had one donor, Tim Gill, who was in for the long haul, knew that losses were part of any social movement, and had cultivated a community of donors who invested in LGBT equality and looked to Tim for leadership. Gill, a Denver-based tech entrepreneur, had dedicated much of his time to the cause of equality after Colorado voters passed a horribly anti-gay statewide constitutional amendment in 1992. He sold his company and took a substantial portion of its profits–$250 million–to establish the Gill Foundation to invest in organizations working for LGBT equality. After the multiple losses at the ballot in 2004, he turned his attention to political giving, establishing the Gill Action Fund to back advocacy campaigns and candidates advancing our agenda and–as he liked to put it-"punish the wicked." He'd hired Patrick Guerriero, the gay former legislator and mayor from Massachusetts who had most recently run Log Cabin Republicans, to head up Gill Action.

Patrick, who had been helping us in Massachusetts for some time and who had become a trusted friend and mentor, called me very early on after the loss to tell me he and Tim Gill had my back and they were ready to help. We came up with a plan: Patrick would reach out to the advisers to several of the largest gay donors in the country–Jon Stryker, David Bohnett, Jim Hormel and others–and get them to Boston to listen to my pitch. And I would come up with a detailed plan and budget, get a few Massachusetts political leaders to meet with the assembled group, and pull together an event with MassEquality's major donors. I arranged for Governor Patrick to Come to our office for a meeting, and he did a great job of explaining his commitment to the fight and support for MassEquality's strategy to win. At the Massachusetts donor event, Patrick Guerriero spoke of Tim Gill's and his unflinching commitment to my leadership and to the fight in Massachusetts and asked them to redouble their investments.

By all accounts, the relatively recent shift in America from general public opposition to marriage equality to overwhelming public support today is the result of committed donors and activists who, in response to defeats in the previous decade, rebuilt the communications strategy on this issue from the ground up. By finding the right message to persuade ordinary Americans that marriage equality would neither devalue their own marriages nor harm society, patiently creating space for empathy instead of casual bigotry, one of the greatest victories for civil rights since the 1960s has finally been achieved.

Locals should take pride that one of the central institutions of this movement is right here in Colorado.

Watchdog reporting needed on Gardner

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen.-elect Cory Gardner.

Sen.-elect Cory Gardner.

Yesterday, Rep. Cory Gardner voted to halt Obama's program to defer deportation of millions of immigrants who have children in our country.

Gardner voted in Aug. (during the election campaign) against halting Obama's  program to defer deportations of young immigrants.

The two votes weren't exactly identical, but they're close enough to  make you wonder how Gardner reconciles the two. Yet, I can't find a single reporter who asked him directly about the inconsistency.

Instead,  the Associated PressDurango HeraldFox 31 Denver, the Grand Junction Sentinel,  and The Denver Post all apparently relied on Gardner's self-serving statement saying, in part, that "we owe it to generations past and generations to come to find a solution to our broken immigration system."

It's possible some reporters asked to speak with Gardner himself, but they didn't report this. If so, they should have.

But it's not too late to insist on talking to Gardner, if you're a journalist who has access to him, to cover the basic journalistic function of calling out public officials on their inconsistencies between what's done on the campaign trail and what happens in office.

A baby step in the right direction was provided during a Gardner interview Dec. 3 on SeriusXM's new show, Yahoo! News on POTUS

Host Olivier Knox had the presence of mind to ask Gardner whether his "campaign talk" about making birth control pills available over the counter "can translate into legislative action."

Gardner replied:

It needs to translate into policy action. The FDA has their approval process when it comes to prescription, over-the-counter move. I will certainly continue to support and urge, whether it’s legislative action. We’ve got to figure out the best policy option, the best way forward in making sure we have the continued fight for over-the-counter contraceptives, which I continue and will continue to support and push for. And so, we’ll be talking to the FDA and talking about how best to make that happen. It’s something Gov. Jindal first proposed, ACOG, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, supported the move to over-the-counter contraceptions and it’s something we’ve got to encourage to happen here.

I give Knox credit here for asking the question, even though I'd have pressed Gardner to clarify his plan for implementation of a major campaign promise. Will he seek legislation if necessary? How long will he press the Administration? Etc.

Ditto for Gardner's plan on immigration. If he's against deferring deportations, then what's he for? And how does it comport to his campaign promises?

I'm hoping we get this type of watch-dog attitude from reporters going forward on Gardner.

Mark Udall talks tough on torture, but has even better reason to act tough

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Come on, Mark. Do what's right. With no hesitation. Without dithering.

Scott Raab: Your loss is seen as symbolic of the midterm sea change. How does it feel?

Mark Udall: It stings and I feel liberated. . . . I don’t like losing. I don’t like being turned back from the summit of a mountain—I’m a mountain climber—but I have always found that the mountains I didn’t climb (that sounds stupid. Did he mean "summit"? -z) are the ones that taught me the most. So I’m taking that attitude towards this election loss. . . . But it’s been hard to be here for the last couple of weeks. When you get fired, usually it’s “Clean your desk out and go,” and I’ve got two months of work left to do. We do have some things I’m working hard to get accomplished. I want to get the CIA Torture Report declassified.

SR: I’ve been puzzling through this. You’ve talked about how Edward Snowden should come back.

MU: Yep.

SR: But he’s gonna be charged with crimes that could put him behind bars forever. And you’re in a position to read this into the public record.

MU: Sure. Yeah.

SR: Is there any reason not to do that? Not do what Mike Gravel did with the Pentagon Papers? What is the tightrope there? You got a $40 million 6,300-page report, right?

MU: Yes.

SR: And all the pressure’s on you right now to—

MU: I have made it clear over the last couple of weeks—if the report is not declassified in a way that’s transparent and shines a bright light on what we did, then I will consider using all and any options.


Denver Police Union Makes Serious, Dubious Allegation


9NEWS reports on shocking accusations leveled yesterday by the Denver Police Protective Association, the union representing police officers in Denver:

The Denver police union says protestors marching against the Ferguson grand jury decision cheered and chanted "hit him again" after four officers were hit by a runaway car.

Several other police sources tell 9NEWS crime and justice reporter Anastasiya Bolton that there is evidence as well as DPD witnesses to the fact that some students cheered after the officers were struck.

The irony of police being injured while protecting students protesting against police misconduct should not be lost on anyone, including the students who were marching Wednesday when the officers were struck. With that said, there does seem to be an attempt here to discredit entirely lawful protest with an apparently unrelated and tragic accident by the police union. Even if there were a few bad-mannered students who heckled, it would be wrong to blame all the protesters, or impugn the larger reasons for protesting against police misconduct based on any such unrepresentative actions.

Especially since, as the Denver Post reports, the "evidence" referred to above doesn't appear to exist.

Although some obscenities were directed at police while they were escorting the East High School protesters, Denver Post journalists witnessed no cheering after a Mercedes hit four officers. Students who were interviewed expressed concern about the injuries. [Pols emphasis]

In its response to the union, the Denver Police Department said it could not independently confirm claims that students cheered.

"If in fact there were inappropriate actions taken by a few students Chief (Robert) White does not believe this reflects the opinions of the vast majority of protesters," according to the police statement.

Backlash from the Denver police union isn't happening in a vacuum, of course–protests around the nation over the failure to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson after the killing of African American teenager Michael Brown have been met with angry responses from police associations, including the now-famous exchange between members of the St. Louis Rams and that city's police officer's association after several Rams players took the field last weekend with their hands up in "don't shoot" protest. At least to some extent, you can't blame them: police unions are logically going to defend the honor of their members and profession at a time when both are subject to widespread questioning.

But scapegoating a few misguided students–assuming what's alleged even happened–isn't the way to do that.

What Democrats Need Is More “Colorado Model”

Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio.

Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports on an interesting development as Democrats nationwide look to recover from an overall bruising 2014 election cycle–Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio has been appointed to a select panel to "triage" the state of the Democratic Party nationally, and position itself better for victory in 2016:

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, appointed Palacio, the only state chairman taking part in the project.

He will join nine others: Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Donna Brazile, Democratic bundler Naomi Aberly, strategist Maria Cardona, attorney Marc Elias, Teddy Goff, an architect of President Obama’s digital campaign strategy, branding expert Maneesh Goyal and AFSCME’s Lee Saunders.

“It’s an honor to serve in this incredibly important role and I’m eager to begin this project,” Palacio told FOX31 Denver Thursday. “While Colorado Democrats had significant wins and losses, this last election was not good to many Democrats across the country.

“The American people believe in core issues championed by Democrats, so the job before our party is to make sure those issues are communicated effectively while identifying ways to build upon the infrastructure that exists to ensure voters are engaged in future elections.”

As Stokols reports, the effort is not all that different from Republican Party "post-mortem" analysis after their rough 2012 election cycle–a process that by all accounts improved the GOP's vote engagement efforts this year. After the full weight of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee under Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet was applied to the U.S. Senate race in this state, Sen. Mark Udall's strategic mistakes are a valuable lesson in what not to do with major opportunities like Cory Gardner's audacious backpedal on abortion.

But compared to the rest of the nation for Democrats after this tough election, Colorado still has many positive lessons for Democrats, having weathered another "GOP wave" with fewer losses than Republicans would have preferred. The fact is, Gardner's and Gov. John Hickenlooper's victories this year both have as much to do with their resilient positive message as their ability to overcome attacks. Likewise, the ability of Colorado Democrats to limit losses in state legislative races in this heavily Republican year is a feat that Democrats would like to need to replicate in many other states.

So for Palacio, this assignment is likely to involve some teaching as well as some learning.