Cory Gardner and the Elephant Still in the Room

Gardner redacted

Republican Rep. Cory Gardner waves around his (redacted) health insurance letter while speaking in Congress.

Most media outlets have a policy that prohibits them from doing any hard-hitting news stories about a campaign once we reach the weekend before Election Day [insert obvious joke here]. It is a practice that we don’t disagree with, because it would be unfair to drop a bombshell accusation on a candidate in a news story if they don’t have enough time before Election Day to attempt to refute the claim.

Anything that was going to be reported about the big 2014 races has either been done already or won’t resurface until after Election Day. There are probably plenty of untold campaign stories, but we’re particularly interested in one specific loop that never did get closed by the media – even though numerous reporters poked around the edges. Call it, “The Elephant (Still) In the Room.”

Republican Rep. Cory Gardner had plenty of prepared talking points about why he decided to run for the U.S. Senate when he announced his intentions last February. At the top of that list was Gardner’s very own Obamacare Horror Story — a story that Gardner played up for the national media last fall before balking at answering further questions. Here’s Gardner’s Obamacare story, in his own words, from a speech on the House Floor on September 26, 2013:

The plan that my family had was an affordable plan. We shopped for it. We worked hard to find a plan that met our needs in rural Colorado. We found a plan that is now being cancelled and the plan that replaces it now increases in cost by over 100%. In fact, the plan that is most similar to the one we had is now going up to $1,480 a month — it’s a 100% increase from the plan that we had.

And here’s Gardner one day later, appearing on CNN’s Crossfire:

[Holding up letter.] "I'm going to be paying 100 percent more. A hundred percent more under my plan. Thanks to Obama. I'm choosing the plan that is most similar to the plan that cost me $650 before."

Gardner has repeatedly said that he had a health insurance plan that covered his wife and two children at a monthly cost of just $650 (Gardner claimed to have opted-out of the insurance plan offered to Members of Congress). Gardner then said that the most comparable “replacement” plan offered to his family would cost “$1,480,” which he said would cost his family 100% more money. Gardner even went so far as to say that the “replacement” plans for his family were somehow inferior to the coverage he received when paying just $650 per month.

This story that Gardner told on the House Floor and in a House Committee Hearing (in front of then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius) was repeated in an Op-Ed in the Colorado Springs Gazette, again during his Senate campaign kick-off, throughout his campaign for Senate, and in at least one television advertisement. It was a story that formed the very basis of Gardner’s entire campaign for U.S. Senate.

But is it true?

Logic would dictate that these two statements could not both be correct:

  1. Gardner paid $650 for a health insurance plan that was comprehensive and robust.
     
  2. The most comparable replacement plan offered to Gardner under the Affordable Care Act was a low-deductible “Silver” plan with a $1,480 monthly premium. 

Perhaps Gardner had good reason for refusing to cooperate with reporters inquiring about his health insurance story. Potentially, Gardner could have had a “catastrophic” health insurance policy, or perhaps a health savings account (HSA) with a high deductible insurance plan, but that's clearly not the comparison that Gardner is trying to make with his Obamacare story. Furthermore, as anyone who has ever had to pay for family health insurance can attest, it seems completely implausible that anyone could have had robust health insurance coverage with a monthly premium of just $650.

If you believe that Gardner did have a $650 monthly policy, you cannot also believe that the most comparable replacement plan was a near-top-of-the-line $1,480 “Silver” plan.

As Gardner’s story gained national attention last fall, multiple media outlets began digging deeper on his health insurance claims. Fox 31 reporter Eli Stokols was among the first to start asking questions…and the first to get rebuffed. As Stokols reported in October 2013, Gardner would not corroborate his story:

Since then, FOX31 Denver has asked Gardner to provide a copy of the letter or to provide additional details about the policies.

Five times.

After our story aired on Good Day Colorado Friday morning, Gardner released a copy of the letter with some information redacted, that he says his family received.

See that letter here.

Gardner’s immediate and persistent refusal to provide more details about his “$650 health insurance plan” was another eyebrow-raising moment. The “$1,480 plan” that Gardner references when discussing his “policy cancellation” indicates that Gardner believed the closest comparable plan to his $650 policy was a low-deductible “Silver” comprehensive health plan from Rocky Mountain Health Plans (when he finally released his letter, it was RMHP that was shown to be his insurance carrier). If Gardner did indeed have a comprehensive $650 plan, then why not just reveal the details to reporters?

Why duck and cover if you can stand and dismiss instead?

That Gardner refused to provide details of his miraculous $650 insurance plan, despite numerous media requests, made plenty of reporters wonder if there was more to the story. Many media members seemed to be on the trail as the 2014 campaign entered its final months — particularly when Gardner began to run a television ad with the same story. 9News reporter Brandon Rittiman did his own "Truth Test" of Gardner's ad, and ended up with…well, not a lot of "truth." As Rittiman concluded:

As for the congressman's personal story, you should take it with a grain of salt because we don't have all the details.

During an interview with Gardner weeks later, Rittiman again tried to get some answers:

RITTIMAN (4:10): We also asked a few times for Garder to share details of his cancelled healthcare plan, which he's used as an issue in the campaign. No dice, but he did offer this retort…

…RITTIMAN: You don't want to discuss the details of your old plan?

In late September, Stokols sat down for an interview with Gardner and questioned him on a number of topics (this is the same interview where Gardner really went off the rails with his "There is no federal personhood bill" shtick). For the purposes of this story, skip ahead to the 1:42 mark:

STOKOLS: “A lot of folks heard that number — $650 a month for a family of four – and thought it was incredibly low. So we did try to confirm that, and your office denied our request.”

In this same interview, Stokols says that Gardner’s office refused a request to look at copies of his Congressional pay stubs, which could indicate whether Gardner had some kind of additional health insurance coverage prior to the Affordable Care Act. It's an interesting, and legitimate, line of inquiry; Gardner could have had a $650 policy for someone in his family if he also had additional insurance.

About 10 days later, the Denver Post picked up on the thread during their live Senate debate. Here's Denver Post political editor Chuck Plunkett:

PLUNKETT: While you've been quick to waive the letter around and criticize Obamacare, you've redacted the portion about the specific plan your family was using. Why won't you tell voters what was in that plan? Why the secrecy?

Gardner ducks and dodges again at this question, which leads to separate follow-up questions from Plunkett — including a pretty damning statement about the believability of Gardner's answers:

PLUNKETT (1:26): Why did you redact a portion of the specific plan that your family was using?…

…PLUNKETT (2:35): Sometimes if a candidate doesn't answer a question that also tells you something about the candidate that voters can know. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner did not, and would not, discuss details of his old health insurance plan, no matter who asked. Reporters weren’t asking Gardner for any details about his family’s health and well-being – they just wanted proof of the fantastical story Gardner spun on Capitol Hill.

So why the secrecy?

Well, it's pretty clear that this story has the potential to create a whole series of devastating problems for Gardner. If Gardner can’t prove his story true, then the entire affair takes different turn: It means Gardner told a pre-meditated lie both on the House floor and in a Congressional Committee. It means that at least one of his campaign ads on the subject was knowingly false. It means the entire premise of his campaign for U.S. Senate was a lie.

Maybe there's nothing to this story, but if that's the case, why did Gardner and his campaign work so hard to avoid answering seemingly innocuous questions? What does Rocky Mountain Health Plans (RMHP) have to say? Could Gardner have had some sort of robust insurance policy in 2013 at the low cost of $650? Without getting into details, RMHP should be able to answer questions about whether or not they even sold such a cheap product.

Whatever the reason, it seems obvious that Gardner wanted to get through his U.S. Senate campaign without ever actually answering questions about his "Obamacare Horror Story" that he claimed as the impetus for running in the first place. Regardless of what happens on Election Day, this is still a story with questions that need answers.  

POLITCO Magazine’s Big Story Today

Presented without additional comment:

votersbelievelies

"There is no such thing as a federal personhood bill.” Or so said Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner, the Republican candidate currently locked in a tight Senate race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, in an interview a few weeks ago. It was a surprising statement—not only because the federal personhood bill, otherwise known as Life Begins at Conception Act, does in fact exist but also because Gardner himself co-sponsored it. “This is all politics,” he added, blaming Udall for spreading untruths about him.

It was, indeed, all about politics. Gardner’s strong support of personhood legislation might have bolstered his popularity among conservative Republicans. But after declaring his Senate bid, Gardner found himself having to appeal to a more moderate electorate (Colorado voters have repeatedly rejected a personhood ballot measure) and changed his position on the issue. So far, his equivocation hasn’t hurt him.

If Gardner wins on Election Day, he certainly won’t be the only politician to get away with not being totally transparent, and it prompts the question: Why do voters fall for misinformation? A common refrain these days is that this is because there is a plethora of “low information” voters. If only those citizens knew more about politics, the argument goes, then the problem would be solved. But in fact, the problem is much more complex: It is often the people who are most interested and informed about politics that are most likely to adopt false beliefs.

Election Day 2014 Open Thread #1

"Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters."

–Abraham Lincoln

Fake Health Care Cancellation Letters Hit HD-17

There have been so many factually challenged campaign mailers this election season that most voters are inured to their claims–for good or ill, and maybe by design–of some organizations who have purposefully "flooded the zone" with so many shrill claims that voters tune out by sheer volume.

One we were just forwarded today, though, provokes recipients to open it due to a highly deceptive message on the envelope of the mailer, much like those misleading extended warranty offers you get about your car. Check this out:

cancellation

We apologize for the low-quality scan, it's as received. But you can see this mailing from Republican-aligned Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government is intended to mimic a health insurance cancellation notice–the kind that Republicans have grandstanded about for over a year now. The whole narrative of the "335,000 cancellations" in Colorado is deceptive, since over 90% of those "cancellations" were in fact renewal notices, and in truth, the rate of uninsured in Colorado has plummeted since the Affordable Care Act's implementation.

It's not surprising to see the cancellations canard in use, but creating a fake cancellation letter is an awfully deceptive way to get people's attention. We can imagine residents of Colorado HD-17, where this mailer was distributed, genuinely being frightened by this–especially since the real letters sent out about insurance policy changes last year were not worded in nearly as alarming a manner.

RMHP-Aug-letter-p2

We assume this friendly message was not inside the envelope you see above.

Who knows why Rep. Tony Exum is being targeted with a crazy mailer like this at all–elected in 2012, Exum wasn't even in office when either Obamacare passed federally or when Colorado set up our bipartisan health insurance marketplace. But in an election season perhaps more chock-full of false statements than any we can remember, we're probably overanalyzing.

This is just how the game is played now.

Answer My Voting Questions!!!

Need to know where to drop your ballot? Wanna check your registration? Need some "A's" for your "FAQs?"

Click below to learn more, and remember this: It's too late to mail your ballot. You must return ballots to a polling place to designated drop-off area.

JVC

ELECTION EVE UPDATE: Colorado Voter Turnout

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UPDATE: A final memo from Mark Udall's campaign manager Adam Dunstone, who worked the 2010 Michael Bennet campaign, projects confidence as Democrats continue to chip away at the GOP's early ballot-return lead:

The biggest difference between this year and Sen. Bennet’s race is that Colorado now mails ballots to every registered voter in the state. This will likely increase turnout from 1.8 million to over 2 million — good news for us.

With 1.4 million ballots already processed, that means an estimated 600,000 (at the very least) are still making their way through the mail or have not yet been placed in a ballot drop box. That’s at least 1/3 of the vote that hasn’t yet come in, and as we’ve seen over the past four years, the late vote overwhelmingly benefits Democrats. 

In Colorado’s only other all mail-in ballot election, 2013, more than 39% of the votes came in the final two days of balloting. Those two days saw the disparity between Republican and Democratic votes decrease by more than 2.5 points. We expect a similar proportion of votes to be counted on Monday and Tuesday…

According to our modeling, Latinos already make up the same share of the electorate that they did in 2010 — and their percentage of the electorate will continue to grow. When all is said and done, Latinos will make up an even larger share of the electorate than they did in 2010.

23 percent of the Democrats who have voted thus far did not vote in 2010, including 17 percent who voted in 2012 but not 2010. These are your quintessential drop-off voters who traditionally don’t vote in midterm elections. This is a key number to keep an eye on, and 23% is great news for us.

—–

Alright, Polsters, it's time to dust off those cliches. We're going down to the wire, where we wait for the fat lady to sing about counting your chicks, blah, blah, blah.

Here's the latest update on voter turnout figures. The big question, of course, revolves around final turnout numbers. If turnout is closer to 2010, then counties such as Douglas, El Paso, and Weld, respectively, are getting close to their voter ceiling. But if turnout moves closer to 2012 numbers, then the Big Three of Arapahoe, Denver, and Jefferson counties aren't even halfway home.

Turnout in Colorado election eve

 

Personhood leader’s Halloween costume shows how Gardner stabbed him in the back

(Ouch! – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Here's my favorite Halloween costume. I only wish I'd actually seen it.

We all know senatorial candidate Cory Gardner stabbed the personhood movement in the back, but who would think Keith Mason, the co-founder of Personhood USA, would illustrate the point so brilliantly by inserting a Cory-Gardner monographed knife in his own back?

I offered to buy Mason a beer if he'd send me a photo of his costume. Then I realized he'd probably want harder stuff, so I said I'd buy him shots in exchange for the pic. No response yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if he sent me the photo.

Mason hasn't held back expressing his feelings about Gardner, telling Cosmo a few months ago, for example, that “[Cory Gardner has] built his entire political career on support of personhood. I think he’s just listening to some bad advice, and he’s playing politics.”

Or, put another way, Gardner stabbed Mason and his hard-working personhood colleagues in the back, after they stood with Gardner throughout his political career.

Quinnipiac’s Final Poll: 100% “CYA”

Madame Quinnipiac knows all.

Madame Quinnipiac knows all.

Quinnipiac University has featured the wildest swings in their polling of Colorado candidates of any public pollster in 2014 by far–so far away from the trends other polling shows at the same time that they've become something of a running joke among Colorado politicos. Quinnipiac's consistently outlier results have given Republicans lots to crow about, even as smart GOP analysts admit they don't think the numbers are accurate.

One of the things we and others who follow polls have noticed is that some–not all but some–pollsters tend to release results that give them the splashiest headlines early in the election season, only to tighten those numbers to something resembling consensus reality as Election Day approaches. Based on Quinnipiac's final polling of Colorado out today, that appears to be what's happening:

A late surge by Democrats in Colorado leaves the governor's race and the U.S. Senate race too close to call, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. 

In the governor's race, former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, the Republican challenger, has 45 percent of likely voters while Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has 43 percent, with 3 percent each for Libertarian candidate Matthew Hess and Green Party candidate Harry Hempy. Six percent remain undecided…

Results in the U.S. Senate race are the same as in the governor's race: 45 percent for the Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, and 43 percent for Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, with 6 percent for independent candidate Steve Shogan and 4 percent undecided. 

An October 30 Quinnipiac University poll showed Gardner up 46 – 39 percent, with 7 percent for Shogan.

The fact is, we still don't know if these numbers can be trusted, even if they are correct in showing a rapid improvement for Sen. Mark Udall as they appear to. The poll only shows Udall leading Cory Gardner by three points with women voters, a figure we believe is substantially lowballed. Because Quinnipiac has been all over the map this election cycle, this result much closer to other polling still has little value to us–the polling equivalent of a lucky guess, or last-minute "CYA" that further underscores suspicions about their previous polling.

If it is the latter, it's a game people are becoming wise to.

Vote Fraud: The Great Nothingburger of 2014

James OKeefe, wearing a Mark Udall sticker.

James O’Keefe, wearing his Mark Udall sticker.

As the Denver Post's Joey Bunch reports:

This campaign season, Colorado's new mail-ballot voter law has drawn the national sideshow attention of cable news and opinion, AM radio and even a sting by conservative provocateur James O'Keefe — all focused on the notion that Tuesday's outcome could be tainted.

But perception hasn't been reality, according to election officials on both sides of the deep political divide who report only a routine percentage of challenged signatures, undeliverable ballots and reports of alleged shenanigans.

Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner said the lack of actual trouble is largely because voting by mail is nothing new. It's been an option for Colorado voters since 1992. And in the 2012 general election, 73 percent of Coloradans cast mail ballots.

"What's different is we have a party that's made allegations of fraud part of its platform," Reiner, a Republican who is president of the Colorado County Clerks Association, said of some members of her party. [Pols emphasis]

In addition to the increased overall turnout in this midterm, the apparent success of House Bill 13-1303 is a major blow to perennial Republican allegations of "massive voter fraud" either being planned or perpetrated by Democrats in this state. Ginning up voter fraud fears outside Colorado was the purpose of right-wing provocateur James O'Keefe's "sting" of two low-level third party organization GOTV groups in October.

O'Keefe's video of himself leading a couple of field hands into agreeing with his hamfisted plot to commit voter fraud–a plot that would fail due to verification procedures in place in every county clerk's office–made the rounds within the national right-wing mediasphere, but the story never caught on here in Colorado or with national mainstream media. The reason is simple, as Bunch continues–it's not happening.

[C]lerks note that each ballot is screened to make sure the signatures match voter registration records. And so far the numbers of signatures that have been flagged by election judges as incorrect matches are roughly the same as they were in the 2012 general election in El Paso, Denver, Mesa and Pueblo counties checked by The Denver Post on Friday…

El Paso County's clerk and recorder, Wayne Williams, the Republican nominee for secretary of state, appeared on the Fox News Channel on Tuesday night to talk about his concerns that a ballot in every household, regardless of what the voter prefers, would open the way for undue influence by others in the home.

"We haven't seen any significant issues in this county," he said Friday. [Pols emphasis]

Even outgoing Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who led the fact-challenged assault of House Bill 13-1303 and who has alleged widespread voter fraud throughout his term in office without supporting evidence, has been forced to acknowledge the lack of actual problems with the law as it's been implemented–other than complaining about the "Herculean effort" his office made to develop the statewide electronic pollbook, another key fraud prevention check that appears to be working fine.

This is worth keeping in mind, given the shift in ballot returns that began yesterday to favor Democrats. There is a well-established narrative today that Republican victory is "inevitable," even as the polls tighten and the ballot returns turn against them in the final days. If Democrats emerge victorious, as happened in 2010 and 2012 under very similar conditions, we expect the cries of "vote fraud" to become quite loud and obnoxious. Consumers of conservative media have likely heard about O'Keefe's little sting, but will never read this story or the others that disprove him.

If Democrats do prevail, some conspiracist diehards will never be convinced it wasn't fraud. But should it happen this way as it has before, try to explain this stuff to the reasonable people in your life.

Ballot Return Momentum Swinging–Right Now, Right On Cue

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FOX 31's Eli Stokols has smart analysis up today about what's really going on with ballot returns in Colorado:

Much is being made of the Republicans’ voter registration advantage in Colorado’s early voting, which inched from 104,000 Saturday to 106,000 on Sunday, seemingly a sign of yet another contested U.S. Senate battle tilting toward Republicans.

But election observers from Denver to Washington, DC would be wise to pay attention to another figure: that voter registration margin as a percentage of the overall vote.

As more votes come in, what was a 10-point GOP edge last week has slipped a little bit with each new early voting report from the Secretary of State, down to 9.2 percent Thursday, 9 percent Friday, 8.6 percent Saturday and now 7.9 percent Sunday.

As we’ve seen over several election cycles in Colorado, the early voter registration numbers can be deceiving; and the early Election Night returns often reflect few of the ballots cast over the final days of the race, offering little indication of how a race will end.

The last few elections in Colorado have given us a primer on what to expect this year, which is why Democrats have not seemed as nervous as one might expect as the GOP posted an early lead: Republicans reliably get their mail ballots returned promptly, which makes their numbers look good early. But as we approach Election Day, the pattern switches, and Democrats rapidly close the GOP's lead. By Election Night?

Well, based on 2012 and 2010, we know what's likely to happen on Election Night. Democrats outperform the public polls, and win on the strength of their late-inning ground game. And as the New York Times' Nate Cohn reports, that's exactly what's happening–right before our eyes once again.

Registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans by three points over 80,000 received ballots on Saturday. It was the first time that Democrats outpaced Republicans, and it was enough to narrow the Republican advantage to eight points, 40 to 32…

Democratic gains were underpinned by a continuation of the favorable demographic trends that had allowed them to whittle away at the G.O.P.'s percent margin over the last week. Voters under age 45 bumped up to 31 percent of returns.

Voters who didn’t participate in 2010 reached 33 percent of Saturday’s tallies, also a first.

The margin for Democrats to overcome this year is greater these the two previous general elections, but the impact of 100% mail balloting for every registered voter has yet to be fully understood in the context of those prior results. Likewise with same-day voter registration, though that seems very likely to work against Republicans in the same way mail ballots work for the GOP in early returns. The bottom line is that anyone telling you that this election "is over" by any stretch is misleading you for a very specific purpose.

Not only is this election far from over, the same dynamics that brought Democrats victory here in prior years are taking shape as we write this.

Tuesday night, and not a moment before, we'll know if it was enough.

Scenes From The Front Lines

Lots of photos from the final Saturday before the election on social media this evening, which has seen hundreds if not thousands of volunteers in the field getting out the vote. A sampling follows–perhaps you're in one of these? If you're reading a political blog on this beautiful weekend, you ought to be.

Post your photos in comments, or email alva@coloradopols.com.

kerrpettersen

romanoff

coffmansigns

The Colorado Republicans’ ‘People-Like-Me’ Problem

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

“Both Ways” Bob Beauprez (right).

In exit polling after the 2012 election, voters said they backed President Barack Obama over Mitt Romney because they thought Obama cared more about "people like me."

Republicans in Colorado apparently didn't learn anything, because they've made the same mistake again this year, failing to show that they care for regular people.

The proof goes beyond nominating a gubernatorial candidate, Bob Beauprez, who once said that 47 percent of Americans are "perfectly happy" to be dependent on government.

In August, Beauprez said Colorado is too far "inland" to house destitute child migrants, fleeing from gangs and other horrors in Central American countries, as they wait for their deportation hearings here in America. In effect, Beauprez said, let other states worry about these poor children.

How can someone with so little compassion for these kids, on our midst, possibly care about regular people? It's mean, period. Voters say they want their leaders to care. Beauprez made the comments on a conservative talk-radio show, where they were received with loud praise. No one was there, of course, to represent the children.

Respect for young immigrants doesn't rank high on senatorial candidate Cory Gardner's compassion meter either. He now says he favors offering work visas for undocumented immigrants, but he opposes offering in-state tuition for undocumented students who know only Colorado as their home, having been brought here illegally as children.

This type of heartlessness spells doom for the GOP at the ballot box, as Republicans have warned themselves about.

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Days after the last election, writing in The Denver Post, big-wig Republicans Josh Penry and Rob Witwer offered this advice to fellow Republicans in Colorado:

"We've forgotten that politics is a game of addition, not subtraction. And here's some more math: 50,000 Latino kids turn 18 every month in this country," Penry and Witwer wrote. "These kids grow up in households where parents work hard and attend church on Sunday. These are American values. But yes, some of these kids — through no fault of their own — were not born American citizens."

Yet, Gardner says the border must be secured to an unspecified degree before tiny steps, like in-state tuition for undocumented students, are implemented for immigrants.

What's more, Gardner continues to co-sponsor a federal abortion-ban bill that would prevent rape victims from having the choice of abortion.  Gardner says the bill simply states that life begins at conception and would have no impact, but fact checkers conclude otherwise.

No matter how strongly you oppose abortion, even for respectable and honorable religious reasons, a hard-line stance like this is disconnected dominant cultural norms and, in a political context, from common-sense compassion.

It understandably creates the perception for most people that a politician like Gardner doesn't support "people like me," especially if you're a woman.

With Beauprez and Gardner at the top of the Republican ticket, you're witnessing a repeat of the 2012 election, where voters came around to thinking that Obama cared more about them than Romney did.

That's obviously a huge problem for Republicans, and given their actual factual positions on these issues, I don't have much compassion for them. Who would?

Weekend Open Thread

"Do not trust the cheering, for those persons would shout as much if you or I were going to be hanged."

–Oliver Cromwell

Best Local Journalism of the Election Cycle

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Here's my list of top election-season journalism by local reporters:

Fox 31 Denver's Eli Stokols didn't take Cory Gardner's falsehood for an answer on personhood. And, and in the same five-star interview, he tried harder than any other journalist to get a straight answer from Gardner on the details of his health insurance plan.

Only the Colorado Independent's Susan Greene offered a comprehensive look (with Mike Keefe cartoon) at the extreme right-wing comments of gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez. See Bob Beauprez's Last Eight Years: Conservatism at its Extremes.

The Associated Press' Nick Riccardi explains why senatorial candidate Cory Gardner says he favors immigration reform. And he points out that that Gardner's actual support for reform proposals is limited and illusive.

Corey Hutchins, who writes for a variety of outlets, broke the shocking story on Medium about Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) urging a military revolt against Obama. (Reminder: Our country is at war.)

9News' Brandon Rittiman was the first local journalist to press senatorial candidate Cory Gardner on the hypocrisy of his withdrawing support for state personhood measures but remaining a co-sponsor of a federal personhood bill. Other journalists, besides Stokols and Rittiman, deserve credit for challenging Gardner on this: 9News' Kyle ClarkThe Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby, The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels, and The Durango Herald's Peter Marcus.

Stokols wrote the definitive piece on Rocky Mountain Gun Owners toxic impact on Colorado Republican Party's election prospects. See The New Front in Dudley Brown's War: Jefferson County.

Colorado Community Media's Vic Vela provided the first comprehensive look at the Republican turmoil in all-powerful Jefferson County. See Jeffco Limps Forward in Races.

The Denver Post's John Frank wrote an insightful piece on the potential impact on the election of the school-board protests in Jefferson County.

They err themselves, but local TV news fact checkers Shaun Boyd (CBS4), Brandon Rittiman (9News), and sometimes Eli Stokols make a huge contribution to rational electoral debate with their Reality Check, Truth Test, and Fact or Fiction pieces.

Freelance journalist Sandra Fish filled a media gap with detailed reports on election-ad spending, mostly written for Colorado Public Radio (e.g., here and here).

The Associated Press' Kristen Wyatt was quick to expose Gardner's hollow claim of being a leader of Colorado's new energy economy. See Senate candidate in Colo. touts a failed measure.

The Denver Post's Mark Matthews wrote intelligently about how the outcome of the Coffman-Romanoff race, in district whose demographics reflect America's, could portend how well the GOP does in 2016. See GOP incumbent in Colorado 6th CD in a Race with Implications for 2016.

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels told the story of how the grand fracking compromise was reached, with its implications for the upcoming election. See Let's Make a Deal: How Colorado Came to a Fracking Compromise.

Finally, and I'm a progressive media critic being completely objective here, the Colorado Independent's Mike Littwin has been brilliant over the past few months, writing with humor and insight that you can't help but appreciate, even if you love the people he lampoons or shreds.

All in all, at a time when everyone complains about the demise of local journalism, we saw some great stuff. Of course, there were epic lapses, but I'll get into those later, or perhaps at our (bipartisan) Nov. 11 panel discussion on media coverage of the 2014 election.