Udall Presses Attack On Gardner Over Floods, Shutdown

Image via Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden)

Image via Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden)

A press release from Sen. Mark Udall's campaign on their new TV spot hitting GOP challenger Cory Gardner over last year's shutdown of the federal government–which occurred just after major flooding along the Front Range of Colorado, requiring an emergency federal response. After several weeks of skirmishes on the issue, Udall takes the proverbial gloves off:

“Congressman Gardner would like us all to forget that he chose to shut down the government while thousands of Coloradans were struggling to put their lives back together after last year’s flood,” said Udall for Colorado spokesperson Kristin Lynch. “Gardner’s reckless shutdown delayed Colorado’s flood recovery and hurt our small businesses and local economies when they were at their most vulnerable. Congressman Gardner let us down when he decided to make a political point at the expense of Colorado flood victims.”

Despite Colorado’s clear need for disaster assistance from the federal government, Gardner voted along with Sen. Ted Cruz and the Tea Party to shut down the government just to prove a political point about the health care law. This delayed our flood recovery and forced Colorado to pick up the tab for National Guard personnel who were performing essential flood recovery work.

But Gardner’s reckless move hurt more than just flood victims. As the government shutdown continued for weeks and 40,000 Coloradans were furloughed, middle class families across the state felt the effect of Gardner’s shutdown on their pocketbooks. Shuttered national parks robbed small businesses of the tourism they depend on, veterans’ disability claims were delayed, and 2 million acres of public lands were closed to sportsmen from around the country during the busy fall season.

There are two parts to the story of the shutdown of the federal government in terms of consequences for Coloradans digging out from the massive floods that hit the Front Range just about exactly one year ago. First and most obvious is the delay in federal response to the flooding, which included delays in National Guard response from neighboring states. The second consequence was the effect the shutdown of Colorado's national parks and monuments had on local communities dependent on tourism. Estes Park, the gateway town to Rocky Mountain National Park, had already seen bookings cut by 50 percent after the floods, and the closure of the park drained millions more from the local economy.

Still another issue is the blowback against Colorado as a whole from East Coast politicians in both parties, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who branded Gardner a "hypocrite" for seeking disaster relief money for Colorado after voting against the second Hurricane Sandy relief bill. It was negotiations by Sen. Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet that were able in the end to mollify New Jersey's anger and secure the relief funds needed.

The harm done to Colorado by the post-flooding shutdown of the federal government is a matter of record. With that established, the question becomes, who was responsible for the shutdown? This is a point that Republicans refuse to concede a year later, even though the public overwhelmingly blamed the GOP in contemporary polling for forcing the shutdown in an effort to defund the Affordable Care Act. In the months since the shutdown, Republicans hoped to mitigate their culpability in that unpopular action by mercilessly attacking Obamacare–a strategy that is increasingly a failure as Obamacare continues to produce positive outcomes and the health insurance marketplace's startup problems fade from memory.

It's important to remember that until the polls started clearly showing that the GOP had lost the battle for public support, Gardner and the rest of the Colorado GOP delegation were solid backers of the confrontational strategy that ended in the shutdown. The AP's Nick Riccardi cut through the spin last month:

Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano contended that congressman never supported the shutdown. However, Gardner, who is close to House Republican leadership, voted with other House Republicans to shoot down Democratic efforts to reopen government and for spending bills designed to be rejected by the U.S. Senate during the 16-day standoff. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner may not have been the most enthusiastic Republican as the shutdown loomed just before the beginning of October last year, perhaps sensing the danger–but the record is full of examples of Gardner defending the overall strategy. And as Riccardi notes, none of Gardner's supposed trepidation before the shutdown manifested in the form of votes.

With all of this in mind, it will be up to Colorado voters to decide whether the shutdown, and Gardner's role as a House Republican in causing it, are deciding factors in the 2014 U.S. Senate race. But what's not up for debate, as the polls demonstrate, is that the shutdown has gone down in history as a Republican gambit that failed. The old saying is that success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan. Had the shutdown succeeded in forcing concessions from the President over Obamacare, Gardner would almost certainly be singing a different tune. But it didn't succeed. It was a disaster–in Colorado a disaster compounded on another.

And Gardner, whether he likes it or not, was on the wrong side.

Colorado’s 1,000 Year Storm: a Call to Climate Action

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

As Colorado marks the one-year anniversary of the 1,000-year rainstorm that affected much of the Front Range, NextGen Climate CO is urging voters this November to support candidates who will act on climate issues. The record-breaking rainfall led to a 100-year flood that caused more than $2 billion in damages to homes, businesses and roadways from Fort Collins down to Colorado Springs.

“From more intense wildfires to record-breaking rainfall, Coloradans are being hit hard by the extreme weather events made worse by climate change,” said Abby Leeper, spokesperson for NextGen Climate Colorado. “The recovery and progress made since last year’s tragedy is a true testament to Coloradans’ resilience, but we must elect leaders with proactive stances on this issue. We can no longer afford to sit by and allow climate-science deniers, backed by Big Oil, to stall action.”

In Colorado, the impacts of climate change are already being felt.

Recent studies have linked extreme rainfall, like Colorado saw last September, to our changing climate. Rising temperatures are also fueling more intense drought and devastating wildfires. According to the National Climate Assessment, climate change could lead to a doubling of burned area in the southern Rockies.

What’s more, Colorado’s annual temperatures have increased an average of two degrees Fahrenheit over the past 30 years, and could jump another 2.5-6.5 degrees by 2050. This change, while seemingly subtle, is one factor that has already impacted snowpack in the Rocky Mountains, which is now melting up to four weeks earlier than in the past. Less snowpack has resulted in long periods of low river levels, dry soil and necessary water use restrictions during the summer months.

One way Coloradans can make a difference is to take the issue of climate to the polls this November. Sign up below for more information on how you can join NextGen Climate Colorado and commit to fight climate change with your vote this November.


Coffman Votes For Discrimination Against Gay Vet Families

Eh, you know, whatever.

Eh, you know, whatever.

As reported by the LGBT news site Washington Blade today:

A panel in the Republican-controlled U.S. House on Wednesday rejected a measure that would have enabled veterans with same-sex spouses to receive partner benefits wherever they live in the country…

Although the vote was a largely along party lines with Republicans voting “no” and Democrats voting “yes,” Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, was the only Republican who broke with his party to vote “yes” on the amendment.

…After the Supreme Court ruled against Defense of Marriage Act, the Obama administration began extending spousal benefits to individuals in same-sex marriages throughout the country for the most part regardless whether the state in which reside recognize their union.

But a year after the ruling, the administration deemed that because Section 103(c) of Title 38 of the U.S. Code — which governs veterans benefits — looks to the state of residence, not the state of celebration, in determining whether a couple is married, it could not afford spousal benefits to veterans in same-sex marriages if they live in a non-marriage equality state…

Also voting “no” on the amendment was Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), another co-sponsor of ENDA. He’s set to attend the upcoming annual dinner for the National Log Cabin Republicans in D.C. on September 17. [Pols emphasis]

Coffman's recent lip service to equality for gays and lesbians who serve in the military, as with so many other issues in Coffman's record, stands in contrast to past positions he's taken–like when Coffman tried to stop same-sex weddings on military bases even in states with marriage equality on the books. Presumably, when Coffman appears next week before the Log Cabin Republicans, he'll have some procedural excuse for voting against this modest measure to protect the families of gay and lesbian veterans.

But if he expects to convince anyone besides the GOP's tokenist LGBT lapdogs, it'd better be good.

9NEWS Truth Test a Joke To Cory Gardner

Cory Gardner.

Cory Gardner.

​9NEWS political reporter Brandon Rittiman has done a commendable job this election season with a series of Truth Tests of political TV spots running in Colorado. We haven't always agreed 100% with Rittiman's analysis, but the simple act of looking at the claims made this year, like Americans For Prosperity's bogus Obamacare attack ads, has been invaluable for keeping the record at least somewhat straight. So many local newsrooms have simply abdicated the responsibility to fact check what they're told by politicians or see in political ads, that without a dedicated fact-checking segment like 9NEWS' Truth Test, lies simply go into the record uncorrected. And that's, we should all be able to agree, a bad thing.

Last night, Rittiman examined GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner's new ad hyping a renewable energy bill Gardner co-sponsored in the Colorado legislature. As we discussed in detail last week, the legislation Gardner sponsored to "launch our state's green energy industry" in fact never funded a single project, and had no effect whatsoever on the development of Colorado's green energy industry. Credit for that goes to Colorado voters more than anyone for the passage of 2004's Amendment 37–which Gardner opposed.

That Gardner's ad was based on a fictional premise was well established by the AP's Kristen Wyatt before Rittiman Truth Tested it yesterday. But the answer Gardner's campaign gave when asked about the discrepancy…well, it could be one of the most embarrassing–and damning things–we've ever read.

CLAIM: Gardner "co-wrote the law to launch our state's green energy industry."

VERDICT: Overstated

This is overstated.

It's true Gardner sponsored a 2007 bill in the state legislature that created a clean energy development authority.

The idea was for that group to help jumpstart projects for clean energy. It ended up actually doing—not a lot…

The report repeatedly blamed the law that Gardner is touting for its own lack of progress, citing "practical limitations bounded by the CEDA statute."

Gardner's response:

The Gardner campaign, of course, knows this. It provided 9NEWS the following explanation (emphasis not added.)

"Cory says that he co-wrote a law "to launch our state's green energy industry," not that launched it."

Folks, we honestly do not know if we have ever seen such a frank acknowledgment of purposeful deception from an American politician. This attempt to semantically defend an obviously misleading claim is more than preposterous; it betrays a contempt for truth on the part of Gardner's campaign that, even if you don't understand all of the facts here, is nothing short of breathtaking. We're pretty sure that Sen. Mark Udall's campaign couldn't have scripted a more self-incriminating answer.

What does it mean? Well, to our knowledge this ad is still running. There is no question the ad is meant to leave the impression that Gardner's useless, repealed legislation "launched our state's green energy industry."

The conclusion is inescapable: Cory Gardner's campaign believes at a strategic level that he can outlast the fact-checkers–in effect, that he can outlast the truth. That he can make the truth of an issue irrelevant simply by "muddying up" hard questions through the election and sticking to his script. Here we see the same strategy Gardner's campaign has employed with the Personhood abortion bans, and the related issue of contraceptive coverage Gardner's campaign has worked overtime to "muddy up." The only difference this time is that it's really, really obvious, and Gardner's campaign let it slip in a moment of arrogance that they don't care how bad it looks.

We understand that there are partisan political considerations. But no one can defend this.

Wednesday Open Thread

"Failure is not our only punishment for laziness; there is also the success of others."

–Jules Renard


Politifact, OB/GYNs Skewer Gardner Contraception Plan


As the battle in the Colorado U.S. Senate race has raged over women's access to reproductive health care and contraception, Republican Cory Gardner has tried desperately to get out from under his longstanding support for the Personhood abortion ban initiatives–which, as everyone even remotely literate in Colorado politics should know by now, could have the effect of banning certain forms of so-called "abortifacient" birth control in addition to banning all abortions even in cases of rape or incest. After disavowing his past support for the Personhood measures, Gardner unveiled a new position on birth control–making oral contraceptives available over the counter. This strategy from Gardner served as a response to the charge that as a Personhood supporter he supported banning birth control, and also allowed Gardner to trot out an "alternative" to Obamacare–since one of the major benefits of the Affordable Care Act that Gardner wants to repeal is no-copay coverage for contraceptives.

While pushing his new plan for over-the-counter sales of oral contraceptives, Gardner has made a number of claims, chief of which is that his plan would be "cheaper and easier" for women than Obamacare. Unfortunately for Gardner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checkers at Politifact took a look at this claim: and yesterday pronounced it "mostly false."

Gardner, who has repeatedly voted to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law, says he believes a "cheaper and easier" alternative is to allow the pill to be sold over the counter, meaning without a prescription…

We found that even the groups that advocate making the pill available over the counter — like Jessica Arons, president and CEO of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project and Dan Grossman, vice president for research at Ibis Reproductive Health — did not believe it was a cheaper alternative for consumers than requiring insurance companies to cover contraceptives without cost sharing. [Pols emphasis]

…Other birth control methods may be more effective or more preferable for certain patients, but they are also a lot more expensive at the point of purchase, said Alina Salganicoff, vice president and director of Women’s Health Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Like intrauterine devices, which can cost $500 to $1,000 without insurance.

Bottom line, says Politifact:

Gardner’s plan is lacking in concrete details that would allow a thorough evaluation. There’s some evidence that health care costs generally go down when drugs are made available over-the-counter, but those studies did not look specifically look at the pill. There is a lot of uncertainty and experts — from advocates to economists — question whether Gardner’s proposal would be cheaper to most consumers or the health care system compared to the Affordable Care Act. And Gardner’s plan would only address one type of contraceptive, meaning the many people who choose other methods of birth control would see higher costs.

We rate the statement Mostly False.

In addition, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released a statement today on the election-year proposals by Gardner and a handful of other Republicans to make the pill available over the counter:

Over-the-counter access should not be used as a political tool by candidates or by elected officials. [Pols emphasis]

Regardless of any current or future proposals from lawmakers, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved oral contraceptives for over-the-counter use, and any future FDA approval for such use would likely cover only a subset of oral contraceptive formulations.

Of course, cost continues to be a major factor in a woman’s consistent use of contraception, and many women simply cannot afford the out-of-pocket costs associated with contraceptives, OTC or not.  That’s why ACOG strongly supports the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision that mandates insurance coverage of birth control, as well as other preventive services, without cost-sharing for the patient. [Pols emphasis]

Separately, OTC access to oral contraceptives alone will not help to increase use of the most highly effective methods, such as intrauterine devices (IUD). IUDs are more effective than oral contraceptives, and because they can last for as many as ten years, they are also cost-effective. However, their initial out-of-pocket costs – which can near $1,000 – can be prohibitive for women who don’t have comprehensive insurance coverage.

Given the amount of coverage Gardner's "plan" for over-the-counter birth control has received in local press, and how heavily Gardner has relied on over-the-counter oral contraceptives as a foil to attacks on his long record of support for no-exceptions abortion bans, we really hope both Politifact's debunking and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists's rejection of the idea as a workable alternative to Obamacare receive as much attention.

Republicans Need Down-Ballot Miracle in Jefferson County

We've talked plenty in this space of the inconceivably ridiculous problems that Jefferson County Republicans have brought upon themselves and the rest of the GOP ticket this fall. Problems began long before the June 24 Primary Election, but things have only gotten worse since Tea Party favorites Tony Sanchez (SD-22) and Laura Waters Woods (SD-19) won their respective Primary races for the GOP nomination.

Jefferson County Republicans have had trouble recruiting strong candidates in the most important electoral county in the state, and they've even had trouble just convening a vacancy committee before the deadlines outlined in state statute. There's little dispute that Jefferson County will decide the outcome of Colorado's statewide races — as goes Jeffco, so goes Colorado — and a continued poor showing by GOP legislative candidates coupled with community anger at the Jeffco School Board could have a lasting effect in November. Fundraising figures don't provide a complete picture of the problems facing Jeffco candidates, but the comparisons are telling. Take a look at the chart below:

There are a handful of legislative races in Jefferson County that we are not including here, primarily because they are not really competitive seats for one Party or the other (HD-22, safe GOP seat; HD-24, safe Dem seat).

Taking into account the theoretically competitive Senate and House races, seven Democrats have raised $871,173 through the most recent — and final — quarterly fundraising period of 2014. Republicans, meanwhile, have raised about $272,406 — or about one-third the amount brought in by Jeffco Democrats.

In both HD-23 and HD-29, Republican candidates were late entrants after the first batch of GOP candidates were scrubbed from the ballot. Replacement candidates Jane Barnes and Susan Kochevar, respectively, have done very little in terms of raising money.

On the Senate side, Republican Primary winners Laura Waters Woods (SD-19) and Tony Sanchez (SD-22) have been less-than-impressive in their own fundraising efforts

While the outcomes of these Jeffco legislative races may not end up changing the makeup of either the State House or State Senate, the margins of defeat could have major repercussions for top-ballot candidates such as Bob Beauprez and Cory Gardner. If the races for Governor and U.S. Senate come down to Jefferson County voters, a weak stable of legislative candidates could spell D-O-O-M.



Photo: Indicted Sen. Steve King Collects More Per Diem

Last week, the Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby reported that Republican state Sen. Steve King, who has been indicted on multiple felony counts related to alleged theft of public funds, has been quietly removed from his post as chairman of the powerful joint Legislative Audit Committee by GOP Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman. To briefly recap, King is accused of improperly receiving pay from several government entities, including the Mesa County Sheriff and Colorado Mesa University, claiming hours worked that conflict with one another and King's time spent in the Colorado Senate.

In short, embezzlement and falsification of official records.

For reasons we don't understand clearly, there has been no pressure on term-limited Sen. King to resign from fellow Republicans in the Colorado Senate. The most prominent call for King to step down has come from nonpartisan (but disliked by Republicans generally) Colorado Ethics Watch. The relative lack of scandal over Sen. King's continued presence at the Colorado Capitol makes very little sense to us.

Today, Sen. King was in attendance for a meeting of the Transportation Legislation Review Committee (photo above). This would presumably entitle Sen. King to the maximum per diem reimbursement for showing up as an out-of-metro legislator. It's possible that, with King's other sources of income cut off, showing up as a lame duck to committees he's still allowed to serve on may be the only way to pay his bills.

Once again, if Sen. King had a (D) after his name…wouldn't Republicans be screaming bloody murder? Shouldn't Chuck Plunkett be detailing a reporter for a multi-day series? A lawmaker accused of felony embezzlement continuing to collect the same taxpayer dollars he's accused of stealing?

We don't get it, folks.

Coffman snuggled by Spanish-language radio host, who works for the Independence Institute

Mike Coffman spends 15 minutes with his Spanish tutor every night, and last month, he put his skills to the test by subjecting himself to the fire of a Spanish-language interview on KNRV’s radio’s “El Programa de Raaki,” electing to answer questions in Spanish.

But there was no fire at all. Not even a smolder, as Garcia snuggled Coffman as he stumbled through the interview below. At the end, Garcia repeated (in clear Spanish) Coffman’s proposal to offer a path to citizenship to Dreamers through military service.

She made no mention of Coffman’s opposition to a path to citizenship for millions of adult undocumented immigrants–or his opposition to the Senate-passed immigration-reform bill, or his votes to deport Dreamers, etc.

All this makes sense when you know that Garcia is actually an employee of the Independence Institute, the conservative think tank. But Garcia didn’t mention it during the Coffman interview, nor is it stated anywhere on the radio station’s website. And it’s never come up in previous shows I’ve listened to.

Closest thing is this disclaimer heard, in Spanish, immediately prior to the KNRV show, saying:

The following is a paid program. This station assumes no responsibility for the commentaries broadcasted.

The important thing is to be informed of what is happening around us. 1150 AM presents El Programa de Raaki. Here you will find out about how important it is to be familiar with the laws that affect us, about opportunities in education, we will talk about politics, and something more. [Music: “Let Freedom Ring," and more]

Who’s paying the bill? We don’t know, and Garcia did not comment in response to calls and emails, but “El Programa de Raaki” is featured on the home-page of the Independence Institute’s website and Garcia, who goes by Garcia-Ulam during her day job, is listed on the staff page.

A Google search took me to the July/August newsletter of the State Policy Network, which funds market-oriented think tanks, where Raaki Garcia explains the purpose of her radio show and tries to convince other think tanks to give Spanish-language radio a try.

Through The Raaki Garcia Show, Colorado’s Independence Institute reaches an audience the freedom movement often finds elusive: Hispanics. It’s the state’s only Spanish-language conservative talk radio show and Colorado’s top-rated radio show for the past year. “Hispanics from Mexico, Central, and South America grew up listening to talk radio . . . . It’s part of our culture . . . . We don’t grow up watching TV,” explains Garcia, who doubles as the Institute’s Hispanic Education Coordinator. [Fact check: Sources say KBNO has higher ratings than KNRV.]

The show has succeeded partially because Garcia was already known within Colorado’s Hispanic community, for whom trust is fundamental for any relationship. Building upon that trust, Garcia began introducing the Institute’s conservative economic policies and Colorado’s Republican legislators to her listeners. In interviews, she showcases legislators as people, rather than Republicans, to connect with her listeners and combat negative stereotypes about both the GOP and politicians more generally.

Garcia encourages other think tanks to start similar shows, lest they miss a huge, and growing, audience. To do it properly, she suggests finding a host who is already known, respected, and trusted within the local Hispanic community. Ideally, the host would both speak Spanish fluently and ethnically reflect the local majority Hispanic population (e.g., Cuban or Mexican). The think tank would then identify what new and relevant information they could share with the Hispanic community, whether that’s tax credits or education policy. [BigMedia emphasis]

The use of the show to promote Republican candidates, like Coffman, appears to be out-of-line with the Independence’s Institutes non-partisan tax status.

The introduction to the article doesn’t mention Republicans in particular, but it refers to “persuadable voters.”

Generating broad support for free-market policy reforms means state think tanks must reach persuadable voters outside their typical audiences. In the spirit of this year’s Annual Meeting theme, Dare to Disrupt, several think tanks have begun engaging non-traditional partners to advance their policy goals. SPN partnered with journalist Melissa Langsam Braunstein to share the stories of—and lessons learned by—four think tanks that have formed innovative partnerships to educate the public and advance freedom.

Reaching persuadable voters clearly overlaps with Coffman’s campaign goal, as he battles Democrat Andrew Romanoff to represent a district where the population is 20 percent Hispanic.

Coffman has been campaigning in Spanish, as reported by Fox 31 Denver’s Eli Stokols last week, and he’s mostly able to get his points across, as you can hear in the Garcia interview below.

The Colorado Statesman described Coffman’s Spanish program in more detail:

Part of that effort in a district that counts more than 80 languages spoken in its public schools includes the congressman learning Spanish, a project that involves a couple hours spent with Rosetta Stone every week and nightly phone calls with a tutor. (The redrawn 6th CD counts a Hispanic population of roughly 20 percent, and Romanoff is fluent in the language.)

“He’s getting surprisingly good,” [Coffman spokesperson] Tyler Sandberg says. It makes a big difference when he shows up at community events and can communicate. “They appreciate his willingness to learn their language, especially first-generation who are more comfortable speaking in their native language.” Sandberg adds, “He can’t learn all the languages — he likes to joke that his Arabic is so poor he’d start a war by himself — but he learned a little Arabic when he was in Iraq, and the largest mosque in the state is in the district.”

But Coffman is far from fluent, in contrast to Romanoff, who is fluent. At one point during the Garcia interview, which stands as a bizarre symbol of Coffman’s struggle to adapt to his redrawn district, Coffman’s answer to Garcia’s question made no sense whatsoever, presumably meaning Coffman totally misunderstood the query. Garcia cut off the Congressman and repeated the question to him in English. Coffman then answered in Spanish.

The snuggling is so blatant maybe Garcia thinks her listeners already know about her conservative leanings and affiliations. But I still think she should state them openly.

Jon Caldara regularly identifies himself as president of the Independence Institute prior to his Devil’s Advocate KBDI-TV show, which is sponsored programming.

And so do the other tentacles of the Independence Institute’s media empire. During her daily two-hour radio show on KFKA radio in Greeley, Independence Institute staffer Amy Oliver often mentions who employs her. So does Caldara on his weekly KHOW radio show. The Institute’s stable of media commentators, like Research Director Dave Kopel, sometimes aren’t properly identified by reporters, but maybe that’s not as much in their control.

As a progressive journalist, I’d be a hypocrite if I trashed Garcia for being a conservative radio host. And I have no desire to shut her down. Obviously she’s not trying to hide her libertarian association, but she should just be more up-front about it on her radio show.

Colorado GOP Vice-Chair Mark Baisley: Sharia Is Coming

Colorado Republican Party vice-chairman Mark Baisley was elected to his post last September, as part of an insurrection against "establishment" Republicans by the Tea Party/Rocky Mountain Gun Owners grassroots wing. You may recall that Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call's attempts to distance the party from certain gaffe-prone legislators like Sen. Vicki Marble and Rep. Lori Saine set off a round of fierce infighting that had lots of Republicans declaring themselves "ABCs"–Anybody But Call. In the aftermath of that schism, Baisley was elected vice-chairman.

Since the beginning of this year, Baisley has been writing an opinion column for national conservative website Townhall.com. We try to keep track of where major Republican officials voice their opinions, but we confess we hadn't paid any attention to Baisley's column.

Until this week's opinion piece titled "Suicide by Democrat" was brought to our attention. As published yesterday:

I have become awestruck at the predictably sad pattern of citizens robotically voting against their own interests; not just educators, but across several demographics. And it seems that the Democratic Party merely has to repeat their proven messaging and truth becomes unimportant to the adherents. Their conditioned response is to vote against the “cruel Republicans” who want them to eat vegetables and exercise…

American women are similarly wooed into submitting to institutional government oppression by ironically responding to the Democratic Party’s appeal to their natural rebellion against subjection. The ads assert that Republicans are engaged in a war on women, denying them personal choices with their pro-life doctrine. But the argument may as well be delivered by Marlin Brando in a sleeveless wife-beater. Democrats ensure women’s right to choose to have an abortion – and deny them the right to choose where to send their children to school, how they will acquire health care, whether they can protect themselves with a weapon, and whether their 15 year old daughter receives prescription contraceptives or abortion surgery without their knowledge.

In the 1950s, the nation was almost paranoid about losing its culture of liberty. Most Americans held a healthy fear of socialism creeping into acceptability. We worried aloud about communism infiltrating into society and elected leadership. Even the Democratic Party stood firmly against communism well into the 1960s. But that sentiment died with President Kennedy in Dallas. Today, the Democratic Party subjugates women through “choice,” enslaves blacks through entitlements, ransoms Hispanics through their children, intimidates teachers through unions, encourages violence through gun control, saddles millennials with debt to buy their votes, and assuages Jewish concerns while betraying Israel.

Liberals no longer recoil at being described as socialists. And the revulsion of communism has not been passed on to America’s under-forty set. With its polished propaganda machine, the Democratic Party has demonstrated its propensity to smile in the face of the American people – while swindling them all out of their inheritance. Like a cocaine dealer, they promise paradise in exchange for trust; suicide by Democrat…

Having wound us up to a McCarthyite fever pitch, Baisley delivers the payoff:

We can stop warning Americans about losing the country to “soft tyranny.” The Democratic Party has hit their socialist stride and are now racing toward their ultimate conquest over liberty, Sharia. Let that sink in for a moment and Benghazi, Extortion 17, capitulating to ISIS, the Secretary of State wearing the hijab, and the President of the United States bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia begin to make sense. [Pols emphasis]

What's the difference between Mark Baisley and any number of delusional paranoid crackpots waiting in some talk radio queue right now, you may be asking yourself after reading this column?

Only one we can think of: he is vice-chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.

Dems To Beauprez: Release Those Tax Returns

Bob Beauprez (R).

Bob Beauprez (R).

A press release from liberal pugilist Mike Huttner's Making Colorado Great today kicks off the perennial "show us the money" soiree–which often isn't a big deal, but as we've seen with 2010 gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis–not to mention Bob Beauprez's close friend Mitt Romney–sometimes it is:

“We call on Bob Beauprez to immediately disclose his tax returns since his last run for office,” stated Michael Huttner, spokesman for Making Colorado Great.
In 2006, Beauprez’s campaign criticized his primary opponent—Mark Holtzman– for not disclosing his tax returns.  Specifically Beauprez’s campaign stated:  "It's vital that voters know their next governor doesn't have anything to hide. Any candidate in this race who's unwilling to disclose their taxes obviously has something to hide," said Beauprez’s spokesman. (Denver Post, April 5, 2006)

“We want to ensure that Beauprez is not hiding anything,” stated Huttner.  “We are simply asking of Beauprez what he demanded of his opponents when he ran last time,” Huttner noted.

Unless either Beauprez refuses to be fully forthcoming with his financial information–keep in mind that Gov. John Hickenlooper released decades of tax returns to the media in 2010 without complaint–or something turns up in Beauprez's financials since his last run for office that looks bad, this request is little more than a box to check off. If Beauprez is quick to disclose and there's nothing amiss, nothing will come of this and everybody moves on.

But given the discomfort financial disclosures often mean for wealthy Republican politicians (see McInnis, Romney), obviously, the question needs to be asked of Beauprez like anybody else. Does wealthy ex-banker Beauprez pay an embarrassingly low tax rate on an embarrassingly large amount of money? Does Beauprez's personal charitable giving offset his political demands to "cut government spending?"

You may consider the disclosure clock officially ticking.

Doug Lamborn Proves Again Why Safe Seats Suck

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

As the Colorado Springs Gazette's Megan Schrader reports, there will no debates this year between incumbent GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs and his Democratic opponent, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Irv Halter:

"The Congressman will not be providing Mr. Halter with a platform to spread his deceptive rhetoric and uncivil tone," campaign spokesman Jarred Rego wrote in an email to The Gazette. "People know where Congressman Lamborn stands on the issues. The only person in this race whose positions are unknown is Mr. Halter, who keeps masquerading as a moderate, all while disguising his liberal views."

Halter, a retired Air Force major general, said refusing to debate with him is part of a pattern Lamborn has shown since he was elected in 2006.

"There is huge frustration with his attendance record at meetings and his lack of accessibility," Halter said. "I get this more from Republicans than I do from Democrats. He has been a congressman for eight years, and they do not know him."

Every election season, opponents make what hay they can from the complexities, both temporal and political, of scheduling debates with one another. In the end, of course, they usually do debate at least once. But as you can see, Doug Lamborn doesn't need to hide behind scheduling excuses, he can just flatly tell the local paper that he's not going to debate his opponent because the guy is a big, bad, meanie liberal–and Doug Lamborn need not descend from his safe-seat ivory tower to even give Gen. Halter the time of day.

In a way, Lamborn's arrogant refusal to debate his Democratic opponent is a metaphor for his entire political career. The 5th Congressional District was Colorado's model safe Republican seat until the 2011 redistricting cycle made Rep. Cory Gardner's CD-4 an ultra-red bastion in its own right. Lamborn's principal competition for the seat has always been during Republican primaries, and Lamborn has faced heated primary challenges repeatedly since winning his seat in 2006. A reliable placeholder vote for the Republican majority and defense contractors, Lamborn has done almost nothing else to distinguish himself in office. His constituent services are by all accounts an afterthought compared to his predecessor Rep. Joel Hefley. And when Lamborn does make headlines, it's usually for something ridiculous he says like his Obama "tar baby" gaffe.

Given the right combination of circumstances, we can envision a Marilyn Musgrave-style pickoff of Lamborn, based solely on Lamborn's ineptitude, in any given election. His replacement might not last in office longer than Musgrave's successor did, but in terms of personal skill as a candidate and politician, Lamborn is a joke–propped up artificially by his safe Republican seat.

In a perfect world, incompetence should always be a vulnerability.

Tuesday Open Thread

"Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters."

–Albert Einstein

Shocked at the Ray Rice elevator video? Don’t be.

I am not shocked at the NFL Ray Rice elevator video, which shows the Ravens running back punching his fiancee, then dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator.

I am not shocked at the NFL's ignoring the incident and its initial penalty for Rice: a two-game suspension.

I am not shocked at the sudden dramatic reversal in the NFL's treatment of domestic violence offenses – now, a domestic violence offense will be treated more severely than, say, pee tainted with marijuana. A six-game ban for a first offense, lifetime ban for a second.

I wish I could say I was shocked at Ray's then- fiance, Janae Rice, declining to press charges against Rice, and eventually marrying her abuser. I've been there, and I understand.  The average victim tries to leave her abuser seven times before she succeeds, if she succeeds before she is killed or permanently injured.  I think it took me nine incidents before I left for the last time. And for all of the little kids trapped in violent homes, keep in mind that they can’t leave. They are children, who more than likely will perpetuate the cycle of violence as adults because everything they have seen in their lives teaches them that family punch-outs are just the way things work.

The NFL’s waffling merely reflects the way we as Americans deal with domestic violence – we don’t see, we hide, we look away, we blame the victim, we tell couples to “patch it up”, we  promulgate the legal fantasy that “both parties are equally to blame”.  And if there are billions of dollars on the line (1.43 billion is the average worth of an NFL franchise), then why should a woman or two getting beaten steer this financial juggernaut off course?

Sports is big business, and it is a violent business. That is sort of the point. Concussions, traumatic brain and other injury – broadcasters spend thousands of well-paid advertising minutes discussing these finer points of each game.

But what happened on that elevator,  is a crime. It should be treated like any other aggravated assault – indictment, day in court, jail time or other punishment.  Not just being sidelined for a game or six.

Football fans, I have a question for you: Are you willing to allow  more severe penalties for criminally violent football players, even if this means fewer big stars, less violent games, or (horrors) that your favorite team may not win, if the MVP is grounded for battery and assault? Ray Rice was fired from the Ravens team. Does this now fix the problem of violence perpetrated on and off the football field?

Because I think that’s the conflict at the bottom of this.  How addicted are you to football violence? How ambivalent are you about your favorite blood sport? You bought the T shirt – hell, you probably bought all  your kids jerseys, too. Not to mention the season tickets, the team logo towels and mugs and jackets and souvenirs.  Fans make football what it is.

The NFL’s sudden decision to severely penalize players with domestic assaults is, in my opinion, a transparent attempt to woo back their female fan base, to get them to give the fan-franchise relationship a go one more time, to promise that things will get better, that the violence won't happen again, but let's just  keep the dollars flowing.  Will it work?

Live Blog (Sort Of): Mark Udall vs. Cory Gardner, U.S. Senate Debate


Perhaps Cory Gardner could have formed a better connection with the Western Slope by borrowing Randy Baumgardner’s mustache.

It’s time to fire up the Colorado Pols Debate Diary once again. That's right, friends: It's live-blog time!

It has become something of a tradition here at Colorado Pols for us to give you, our loyal readers, a live blog, play-by-play of political debates in Colorado. This afternoon we are live-blogging a video replay of Saturday's first U.S. Senate debate between Sen. Mark Udall and Rep. Cory Gardner. You've seen some clips from Saturday's Club 20 debate in Grand Junction, and you may have followed some of the action on Twitter.

We didn't go to Grand Junction on Saturday evening, but we were able to get our hands on a full recording of the Udall/Gardner debate. Since this is the first time we are watching the debate as it unfolds, this really is live in one sense of the word; we'll be updating the diary below in real time as we watch the video. In other words, the debate isn't "live," but our "live blog" is "live." Whatever — you get the point.

We will provide a link to the full debate video as soon as a public version becomes available (we don't want to download and host the entire video ourselves because of space limitations).

*NOTE: The most current update appears at the top of the page. As always, unless it is in direct quotes, consider all statements paraphrased in the interest of time.


While neither Mark Udall nor Cory Gardner was particularly impressive during their first debate, there were clear contrasts drawn on Saturday. Gardner seemed to stick to a pre-debate strategy that revolved around saying "Obama" as many times as possible and otherwise dancing around any specific question. Udall was not as commanding as he has been in the past, but he was devastatingly effective when he calmly pointed out inconsistencies in Gardner's record or his refusal to answer direct questions. Gardner clearly wants to stay out of the weeds on specific policy questions, and that's a reasonable strategy, but he needs to recognize when his "strategy" is starting to backfire; Gardner is painting himself into a corner by repeatedly offering up answers of little substance, because it doesn't take long before it becomes more theme than strategy. This was also — theoretically, at least — friendly territory for Gardner, but he failed to take advantage of that atmosphere by not adjusting and adapting his strategy during the debate. Gardner needed a 'Win" here; there was less at stake for Udall, but he pulled out the victory anyway. We're very interested to see how each candidate changes their approach heading into the next big debate.

Closing comments for Udall: There are stark contrasts between our records and our positions. Udall briefly mentions all of the protections and positive legislation he has been a part of during his career.

Udall hits back on Gardner's dodge of social issues: "Congressman, these aren't social issues. These are economic issues." Big response from crowd.

"Do we work together, or do we shut down the government?"

Talks a lot about water, which is a key issue in Western Colorado that Gardner did not bring up enough.


Closing statement for Gardner: Says all Udall campaign talks about is social issues. Doesn't mention that Udall talks about social issues because Gardner keeps screwing up his response to those questions.

Gardner talking about innovation and a nation rising and getting government out of the way to let America work. Says we have big shoes to fill, and the most important shoes are those that belong to the next generation. That could have come off much better if he didn't take so long to get it out.

Udall looks irritated that Gardner continues to refuse to answer any of his questions, so he tries another: You went to Washington to shut down the government after touring Colorado after last year's floods…"

Gardner says something about making a political statement out of a tragic story — doesn't answer question. Again.

Udall: Why have you worked time and time again against Western Slope water interests, and why did you propose Amendment 52 in 2008?

Gardner: Tries defending Amendment 52, which was soundly rejected by Colorado voters.

Udall: "I don't know what you were thinking?"

Forget what we just said about Udall having the quote of the night thus far. He just topped himself: "I think you can all hear that Congressman Gardner doesn't have an answer for this question…"

Udall's turn to ask questions. "How can families and women trust you when it comes to staying out of their personal healthcare decisions."

Gardner completely ducks this question and starts talking about working on improving the economy for women. Very transparently weak answer, which allows Udall to ask his question again.

This time, Gardner responds by talking about his "plan" to provide over-the-counter birth control products.

Gardner: You told a constituent recently that fracking keeps us locked into the old system. What did you mean by that?

Udall pauses to consider the question. To be fair, this is a pretty specific question that would be difficult to recall immediately without some sort of context. When he takes a breath and answers, he goes right back at Gardner: "I don't know who this constituent was. I have not seen this report (that you mentioned).You have had an interesting tendency in this debate, Congressman, to pull facts and statements and votes out of the air. Rather than try to divide us, why don't we work together to find solutions…"

This might be the quote of the night. Very good comeback to Gardner's attempt at a "gotcha" question.

Gardner: You told the American people that if they liked their health care plan, they could keep it. When did you know that this wasn't going to be true?

This is a good question from Gardner…and then he interrupts Udall, repeatedly, so that the Senator has no chance to actually answer the question. Gardner seems a bit too aggressive at this stage; every time he sets a trap for Udall, Gardner immediately offers him a way back out. Very weird.

"We're not going back to the old system (of health insurance)," says Udall with conviction.

Udall and Gardner are now talking over each other, back and forth, about whether we have government-run healthcare in the U.S. This is productive.

Udall: We had a healthcare system in this country that discriminated against women and wasn't working. You and your party refused to take action on this issue.

Udall gets big round of applause for this line: "Government-run healthcare does not exist in this country."

Gardner gets to ask question of Udall: Why did you say in 2008 that you wouldn't support government healthcare plan, but then you were a deciding vote for Obamacare?

People are getting a little punch-drunk in the room. This is deteriorating quickly.

So…why not jump right into cross-examination time?

Udall says Gardner did not support Simpson-Bowles act that would have addressed infrastructure improvements.

Gardner says he works forward to finding solutions about transportation, then explains why it is important to have effective and efficient transportation projects. Says he believes that there is "a direct nexus" between "energy use and highway transportation." You don't say. We need energy for cars? That's so weird!

"I believe a strong national transportation infrastructure is absolutely critical." Also, Cory Gardner likes puppies and rainbows and chocolate chip cookies.

Question: How do we fund transportation infrastructure with so many spending and tax cuts?

Udall kind of stumbles here. Says infrastructure development is critical, as well as education funding. "We're not setting the stage for our economy to grow."

A heckler interrupts Udall with an unintelligible comment. Udall pauses to wait for the heckler to quiet down, and the overall effect is to suck the energy right out of the room for both candidates. Everybody is getting tired at this point; some Club 20 representatives have been listening to candidate debates literally all day long.

Gardner: "You have voted with President Obama 99% of the time." DRIIINNNKKKK!!!

Udall: It takes real gumption to talk about a 99% voting record from someone who was called the 10th most conservative member of Congress.

Udall talks about recreation economy and its importance to Colorado. Says Gardner proposes selling off our public lands, which is not how we pass along our heritage to our children.

"You're approach — it takes us backwards. It's wrong. Why would you want to sell off our public lands?"

Gardner again mentions that Udall has voted with President Obama 99% of the time. DRINK!!!

Question about transferring public lands from the federal government.

Gardner with a good joke about Western Colorado versus Yuma, from where Gardner hails. "I love coming to Grand Junction because it looks just like Yuma…except for the mountains, and the trees, and the water." Gets good laugh from the crowd. This is the kind of outgoing personality that Gardner has largely kept quiet during the campaign but which National Republicans thought would be such a powerful tool in a statewide race. To this point in the campaign, Udall's team has kept Gardner's camp largely on defense, making it difficult for this side of Gardner to emerge.

"We ought to be protecting our public lands."


Udall: "I'm curious what problem facing our nation I haven't proposed."

Gardner [smiling]: "Me, too."

Lots of laughs from the crowd as Udall tries to keep talking.

Gardner: "My 'Four Corners' plan starts with economic growth. It's about creating opportunities for the people of Western Colorado. Because there's more to Colorado than just the Front Range."

In other words, Gardner plans to create economic growth by pandering to the Western Slope. Good luck with that.


Gardner says that unemployment in Mesa County is 6.3%, or "unacceptably high." Says economy is suffering because of too much debt and regulation from Washington D.C., then flips his notes back to the "platitudes" section. Says we should cut regulations and taxes. Says Obamacare is cutting small business jobs. Says we have seen "a war on coal," a phrase he may be contractually obligated to say thanks to the Koch Brothers.

Jay Seaton asks question about job growth and business regulation.

Udall says that he and Rep. Tipton worked on legislation to help ski industry. Says he worked on bills regarding logging and hydropower, and pushed EPA to clean up abandon mines. Says he stood up to VA so that veterans didn't have to travel out of Grand Junction for treatment. Says there is a lot we can do to work together and cut regulations.

Gardner: We have known about the threat of ISIL for months, and we're just now coming up with a strategy? Yeah, give it to him, Gardner! If only you were in Congress, maybe you could…oh, right, you are a Member of Congress.

Udall responds to ISIL question with very long, complex response that sounded good but wasn't particularly memorable.

Next question: How to protect citizens from terrorism while preserving our right to privacy.

Gardner: "That's why I have supported legislation to restrict government overreach." Um, okay.

Gardner then blames the rise of ISIS (or ISIL, or whatever the hell they call themselves) on President Obama for calling them the "jayvee team" (which happened only last week).


Udall responds to Gardner's laundry list of complaints by talking more about Gardner's inconsistent record on renewable energy. This is getting a bit tiresome on both sides. What began as a debate has become more of an airing of grievances.

Gardner got on a roll listing off a bunch of Udall votes that he disagrees with. Gardner is a good speaker, but in times like this, he kind of gets caught up in the moment and drifts away from his original point.

Gardner tries to respond with a joke. It fails.

"The last I checked we've been green…by different means." Lots of murmuring from the crowd.

That's right. Cory Gardner, candidate for U.S. Senate, tried to avoid a question about his own record by making a marijuana joke. Somewhere a fraternity is developing a new drinking game.

Not a great answer from Udall, who starts out with something about Colorado being a leader on energy and the environment.

Brings up recent Gardner ad in which Gardner claims to be a leader in renewable energy. The Associated Press blistered Gardner for his claim to have "launched Colorado's green energy industry." The AP says Gardner's law was repealed five years later and "deemed useless for not enabling a single project." So, that ad didn't work out so well.

Panel time! Over on the panel, panelist Kathy Hall asks a question about fracking and public lands.

Gardner: Big government, Obamacare, blah, blah, blah.

There's a fine line between sticking to a message and just yelling out buzzwords and phrases.

Gardner responds, meekly. "Make no doubt about it. I will protect senior's retirement. I will protect Medicare and Social Security."

In other words:

Your arm's off.

No it isn't.

Udall is on a roll: "I just want to ask you a question. Why would you vote for the Republican Study Committee budget which cut Social Security and would turn Medicare into a voucher program?"

Udall with another clean shot response: "Congressman, it takes a real set of brass to talk about cutting $750 billion out of Medicare when you actually voted for the Republican Study Committee budget to cut $800 billion out of Medicare which would have then been re-directing into tax cuts for millionaires. Your record is quite the opposite when it comes to protecting Social Security and Medicare."

Hecklers! A few people in the audience yell out random phrases like "When do we get to opt out?" and "Wall Street!" 

Gardner goes first: "We must protect Social Security for future generations." Says we can do it by preventing Washington D.C. from borrowing Social Security revenues for other purposes. Says he will protect Social Security and Medicare. "I will stand up for Seniors and protect them."

Next question. Back to the panel to hear from Krystyn Hartman, who is a panelist. On the panel.

Question: How would you protect Social Security for future generations?

Udall hits back: "Your solution on health care was to shut the government down when we needed it the most. Your solution was to put insurance companies back in charge of health care."

Gardner accuses Udall of doing "The Washington Two-Step" for saying in 2008 that he wouldn't vote for government-sponsored healthcare and then later voting for Obamacare once he was elected to the U.S. Senate.


Gardner responds: "There was never a vote to shut down the government, so I'd be interested in seeing that vote." Quickly switches topic from Obamacare to poor VA coverage for veterans.

This is the essence of Cory Gardner and his Senate campaign at its very core. Instead of trying to defend, or even just explain, his vote in October 2013 to shut down the federal government, Gardner just acts like it never happened. Gardner is on the record supporting the shutdown — with the full understanding that the move was made in a last-minute attempt to derail Obamacare. There's too much evidence, and too many previous quotes from Gardner, for him to seriously attempt to spin the events as if they didn't happen. But that seems to be Gardner's strategy with just a few weeks to go until ballots drop in the mail — say anything that makes you look good, whether it is true or not.

Gardner has turned into The Black Knight from the classic movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

King Arthur: Your arm's off!

The Black Knight: No it isn't.

King Arthur [pointing to arm on the ground]: Then what's that?

The Black Knight [after a long pause]: I've had worse.

Udall first to respond. Republicans had many years to respond to an insurance industry that is out of control, and they didn't. Talks about how eliminating pre-existing conditions has helped many people. Says Gardner has voted more than 50 times to get rid of Affordable Care Act because he wants to put insurance companies back in charge. Says Gardner voted to shut down the government last fall to make a political point about Obamacare; Udall says that vote took us backwards and was wrong for our state. There is much applauding.

Next question from Jay Seaton: What about the Affordable Care Act needs to be fixed or changed, and what would be the consequences of those changes?

Gardner spends about 30 seconds rattling off what he believes were bad votes by Udall. Trying to jam a little too much into a short space here.

Udall's turn. "Congressman, when the White House looks out the front lawn, the last person they want to see coming is me." Talks about CIA, NSA overreach. "When you talk about a balanced budget amendment — I'm the author of a balanced budget amendment that will work." Asks Gardner to join him in supporting the Simpson-Bowles plan.

Says he supports "pay as you go" budgeting. Says we are at the lowest domestic spending limits in 40 years. Udall then talks about how we need to work together to bring down the debt for our children, etc. Udall should avoid the platitudes and rhetoric that Gardner is using, because he comes off much stronger by responding with a litany of facts and specific legislation.

First question is about "money" and the national debt, presumably from Randy Stone (we can't see the panelists doing the paneling in this video).

Gardner answers first: Says he comes from a business background in Yuma. Says first step toward making economy solvent is to repeal Obamacare. Says we need to pass a balanced budget amendment, cut spending where it makes sense. Gardner then goes after Udall, saying that Udall "plucked the fiscal hawk that he says that he is." No idea what that means.

Gardner finishes by saying we need to "break the Washington stranglehold on spending."

"Somebody who votes 99% of the time with Barack Obama probably ought to find himself back in Colorado," concludes Gardner. That last line gets a smattering of applause, and Gardner stands there grinning like he just answered correctly during his round of the Spelling Bee.

Gardner has clearly prepared himself with a plethora of alliterative and rhyming one-liners. They sound pretty good, even if they mean nothing.

It's question time! We have four panelists, which the moderator describes eloquently as "our distinguished panel of panelists." Paneling tonight are: Randy Stone (KREX-TV); Jay Seaton (Grand Junction Daily Sentinel); Krystyn Hartman (publisher of "Grand Valley" magazine); and Kathy Hall (representing Club 20)

Udall: As Coloradans know, we don't just shut down and go home if we don't get everything we want. Nice little dig at Gardner for supporting the Oct. 2013 government shutdown.

Is it just us, or is the Club 20 logo a bit too busy on the eyes? The Club 20 sign is prominently displayed between the two candidates, and every time it catches our eye, we have to remind ourselves that it doesn't say "20 F."

Udall brings up Cory Gardner's role as a lead author of Amendment 52, a failed 2008 ballot measure that sought to divert severance tax revenue from oil and gas drilling to be used for road construction instead of water projects.

Udall says he'll never stop fighting for that essential liberty — the "freedom to be left alone."

Udall talking now about specific issues he has addressed that benefit the Western Slope. Says he championed a deal to allow Western Slope veterans to get VA services in Grand Junction instead of being forced to travel to Denver.

Now it's Mark Udall's turn. He starts out by thanking Gardner for his public service. Talks about how being on the Western Slope reminds him of his time as an instructor with Outward Bound. Says he is inspired by Colorado's optimism and drive.

Gardner: "Mark Udall represents the status quo in Washington." Back in late February, when Gardner first announced his intentions to run for Senate, we wondered how exactly Republicans planned to run an "anti-incumbent" campaign with a candidate who is himself an incumbent Congressman. The answer? Gardner just pretends he's not in Congress. 

Gardner says you will hear two competing versions of how to lead Colorado. One is reliant "on bailouts, handouts, and cop-outs," says Gardner. Says Washington doesn't have the answers — says we in Colorado know better.

Personal story time! Gardner tells a tale about his grandparents driving to Portland, OR during WWII in order to find work as welders. Gardner says that his grandmother taught him how to weld. According to Gardner, the moral of this rambling story is that we have an obligation to do more for our children and grandchildren. So, if you aren't driving to Portland to be a welder, you aren't a real Coloradan. Or something. Gardner could use a better transition from story to moral.

Gardner: "I'm running for the U.S. Senate because I believe we need more Colorado in Washington, not more Washington in Colorado." For some reason that line draws a smattering of applause, even though it is completely nonsensical. Gardner has been the Congressman from CD-4 since first winning election in 2010; his CD-4 seat will likely be taken over by Republican Ken Buck, who won a competitive GOP Primary in June. By this logic, we will have "more Colorado in Washington" if Gardner loses to Udall, because the net change will be to replace a Washington-insider (Gardner) with a freshman Congressman (Buck).


Congressman Cory Gardner gets to speak first on account of winning the pre-debate coin flip. Do we really need to do a coin flip before every debate? Why not Rock/Paper/Scissors? Or… let's have the candidates take turns punching each other in the shoulder until someone gives up.

Gardner opens things up with his news anchorman baritone that makes him sound almost like a caricature of himself.

Moderator Rachel Richards is going over the rules for the audience. Hecklers are strongly discouraged from heckling, or else Richards says she will take speaking time away from the candidate who is not being heckled. Repeat heckling will result in a 15-yard penalty and a loss of downs.

The candidates have taken the stage at the Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction. It kind of looks like prom night at the Two Rivers — lots of glittery signs and balloons. Democrat Mark Udall is wearing his traditional Colorado campaign uniform: Jeans, boots, dark jacket, and bolo tie. Gardner is wearing a dark jacket and white button-up shirt, with light-brown dress pants and brown shoes. Neither candidate is wearing a necktie — focus groups long ago dismissed the idea of statewide candidates wearing neckties in public.