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Coffmangate: Still Trying To Prove What Doesn’t Matter

Julie Naye, Mitt Romney in 2012.

Julie Naye, Mitt Romney in 2012.

Several months have passed since the Colorado Republican Party exploded in a spate of allegations between supporters of party chairman Steve House and a group of critics led by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman who sought House’s resignation. In a confrontation at a Denver restaurant between Coffman and House also attended by conservative firebrand Tom Tancredo, House was accused of breaking a promise to hire ex-Sen. Ted Harvey as the state party’s executive director–and was threatened with the exposure of an alleged extramarital affair if he didn’t immediately step down.

[Check out our Coffmangate archive if you need a refresher]

Following that meeting, in which House at first agreed to resign and then rescinded that decision, House accused Coffman and others present at the meeting of attempting to extort him over the affair–a very serious allegation to level against a sitting state attorney general. House was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Colorado GOP’s executive committee after hearing from Coffman, and remains chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.

But the story hasn’t ended there. Accusations have continued to circulate on both sides of this unhealed rift within the Colorado GOP, albeit mostly by House’s detractors who are determined to pin whatever they can on him–from financial improprieties to “collusion” with national GOP strategists against the party grassroots.

In addition, House’s critics appear committed to proving that he was indeed having an affair with a woman by the name of Julie Naye. The fixation with proving that House was having an extramarital affair, especially after House was backed by the executive committee in a near-unanimous vote, has always struck us as bizarre. Even if it’s all true, the existence of an affair is no excuse for blackmail. If anything, continuing to talk about this alleged affair helps underscore the likelihood that blackmail occurred here.

The Church Lady does not approve.

The Church Lady does not approve.

The latest round of this back-and-forth consists of a series of screenshot images purportedly of Julie Naye’s website. The images are being circulated by Jen Raiffie, an Adams County “Tea Party” activist who has been vocal in support of House over the affair allegations. We are unable to verify any of these images as authentic, but they do appear to make the case that Naye is some kind of paid sex worker. At least one image contains text that implies racism in Naye’s alleged business practices, specifically that she “declines the African American Male.”

So let’s assume for argument’s sake that these images are authentic. Yes, it’s politically a black eye for people like Tancredo, or even Mitt Romney of whom photos with Naye exist (see top right). But does it justify blackmailing Steve House as some are claiming today? Of course not. If anything, it’s another data point against the people who went after House. The absolute worst-case scenario here in no way justifies criminal extortion involving the state’s top law enforcement officer.

Obsession with salacious rumors may be exciting, especially for gossipy moral conservative types. But in the eyes of the law, it’s not what matters–nor will it save Coffman from a criminal investigation that we continue to hear is ongoing.

All that matters is what House’s enemies did with those rumors.

And Then The Coffmangaters Threw a Party!

harveyhocReaders by now are very familiar with the ongoing Coffmangate scandal, in which Colorado Republican Party chairman Steve House was confronted by a cabal of fellow Republicans led by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman about his “failure” to hire former Sen. Ted Harvey as the state party’s executive director–and as the story is told, then threatened House with exposure of an alleged affair if he did not resign his position.

The latest word we have is that the investigation of the Coffmangate scandal, which according to some legal experts meets the technical definition of felony criminal extortion in Colorado law, is still continuing. Last Friday night, though, according to photos we were forwarded over the weekend, a number of the principal figures in the Coffmangate scandal threw themselves a party! With House still in office and the Coffmangate co-conspirators in disarray, we’ll be damned if we can tell you what they were celebrating.

Perhaps they decided to go with self-incriminating instead.

coffmanparty1

From left: Coffmangate instigator Tom Tancredo, Steve House’s alleged mistress Julie Naye, Republican activist Kim Hertzfeldt, and “Tea Party”-aligned former GOP state party official Lana Fore. Hertzfeldt’s name has surfaced several times as part of the pro-Ted Harvey faction that sought Steve House’s ouster.

coffmanparty2

Here’s Lana Fore, ex-Pueblo County GOP chair and principal Coffmangate actor Becky Mizel, and Tancredo cheek-to-cheek. And look over Tancredo’s shoulder–why, isn’t that sitting GOP Rep. Clarice Navarro? Guess she’s not planning on much help from the state party next year!

But the photo you’re really waiting to see, the one that ties the whole menagerie together, is after the jump:

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Republicans Determined to See Coffmangate Scandal to Bitter End

From the very beginning, the Coffmangate Scandal has been a right-on-right slugfest of competing accusations with varying degrees of vitriol. Numerous Republicans have simultaneously tried to downplay the growing story while also making sure to sneak their own jabs into the commentary, and a new post today from the right-wing blog Politichicks makes it clear that none of the individuals involved have any plans of backing down from a fight that has already ended the political career of Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and threatens to do much more damage before all is said and done.

“The House scandal continues to hold momentum in Republican circles as grassroots activists decry the lack of information that came out of the executive committee meeting.”

– “Behind Closed Doors in the CO GOP: From Bedrooms to Boardrooms,” Politichicks.com 

Last week, Ben Terris of the Washington Post penned a 2,400-word front page feature story on Coffmangate detailing the strange saga that has gripped GOP activists for more than a month. Cynthia Coffman refused attempts to comment for the Washington Post story, but the embattled AG apparently decided to give an “exclusive interview” to the Politichicks blog for a story titled, “Behind Closed Doors in the CO GOP: From Bedrooms to Boardrooms” in which she complains about everything from GOP Chair Steve House to air conditioning and a scarcity of chairs at an Executive Committee meeting.

Jason Salzman wrote an earlier post on ColoradoPols.com about the Politichicks story and Cynthia Coffman’s apparent claims that she still has a long list of grievances involving House and others. But the Politichicks blog post is so chock-full of oddities that it deserves another look. Before we get into some of the details of From Bedrooms to Boardrooms, let’s rehash why this story is much more interesting than just a firestorm of Republican infighting…

[Click here to catch up on all of our Coffmangate Scandal stories]

There are numerous plotlines involved with the Coffmangate Scandal, which makes it easy to veer off in a new direction at any given time. But the crux of the story is about Cynthia Coffman and the potential fallout hitting her husband, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora). Cynthia has been accused of playing a key role in what House has called an attempt to blackmail him to resign as Republican State Party Chair. The stories told by House, Cynthia Coffman, former Pueblo GOP Chair Becky Mizel, and former Congressman Tom Tancredo all seem to agree on one thing: That a small meeting was held on June 15th with the intention of trying to get House to resign from the position he was elected to serve on March 14th.

Mike and Cynthia Coffman pose with the elephant in the room.

The Coffmans pose with the elephant in the room.

We continue to hear that a federal investigation is underway in the Coffmangate Scandal. Based on the information that has already been made public, it seems inevitable that Coffman will ultimately be forced to resign as the state’s top law enforcement official; at the very least, Cynthia’s ability to serve as AG has been compromised by her involvement in the alleged blackmail scheme. As Lynn Bartels wrote last week for the Denver Post, Congressman Mike Coffman is inevitably going to be caught up in the Coffmangate net — particularly since Cynthia has publicly talked about how often she and Mike discuss politics and strategy in private. As we wrote last week:

There has been no indication thus far that Mike Coffman was at all involved in the ill-planned coup attempt against House, but a cloud of suspicion and cover-up will continue to follow him around like he was Charlie Brown, and he has no good options for avoiding the storm.

National Republicans are already keeping their distance from the Coffman clan, which is certainly playing a factor when it comes to local GOP attempts at re-framing the scandal with Steve House as the Problem-in-Chief…which leads us back to today’s strange Politichicks story. Follow along after the jump as we dig in “From Bedrooms to Boardrooms”:

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“Colorado Scandal”: Washington Post Digs Into Coffmangate

Washington Post, July 16, 2015

Washington Post, July 16, 2015

“You can’t stop it, you can only hope to contain it.”
       – Unknown origin

If you close your eyes and squeeze them tightly…if you hold your breath and hum loudly to yourself…for a few moments, then, you can make the Coffmangate Scandal go away.

But just for a moment.

In today’s Washington Post, the Coffmangate Scandal gets the full front-page, feature-length treatment, with 2,400 words from reporter Ben Terris detailing a story that just gets worse by the week for Colorado Republicans:

If House — who swiftly denied the affair allegations — has been bruised, so too has Coffman. The wife of Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), she had been widely viewed as a likely contender for governor in 2018. Now commentators across Colorado are wondering aloud if the state attorney general committed blackmail.

“The allegations that have been levied against me, and I am the top law enforcement officer in the state, are criminal in nature,” Coffman said in an interview with Denver’s CBS affiliate. She fiercely denied wrongdoing and flat-out accused House of lying about the threats. (House declined to be interviewed for this story. Coffman and her staff members did not respond to multiple calls and e-mails.)

This was not how Republicans wanted to start the election cycle.

There is not a lot of new information in the Washington Post story, which is written as a blow-by-blow recount of everything that has happened with the scandal up until now, but it is still a must-read for politicos from Washington D.C. to Colorado. It also exposes a much larger audience to the scandal that is engulfing the careers of Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and her husband, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora), making it damn near impossible for Coffman supporters to downplay the story’s significance.

[Click here for more background on the Coffmangate Scandal.]

Coffmangate: Let The Resignations Begin

Marilyn Marks, Becky Mizel.

Marilyn Marks, Becky Mizel.

Today, two principal figures in the Coffmangate extortion scandal announced their resignations from posts in the Colorado Republican Party, following the vote last week by the party’s executive committee 22-1 to support embattled chairman Steve House. The first resignation was that of elections crackpot activist Marilyn Marks, exiting the state GOP’s Elections Oversight Committee. From her scathing, if a bit muddled and agitated resignation letter dated today:

I sincerely regret that I cannot serve effectively on this committee to help mitigate the escalating risks to Republican candidates as we move toward 2016. I cannot advance the righteous cause of the party where leadership provides inconsistent policy guidance with frequent embarrassing reversals and re-­‐reversals of direction on issues of election quality. I have wasted much valuable time that should have been devoted to 2016 election security in attempting to recover from erratic changes of policy direction from Chairman House…

My experience with Chairman House in election public policy matters is consistent. His policy is unfailing inconsistency. No matter which policy he adopts and asks me to submit to officials, the position will be reversed if officials object. [Pols emphasis]

…Most troubling is the fundamental philosophy House expressed to me several weeks ago in the context of the party’s future policies for election security. He stated that the job of the party is to represent both the voters and the official stance of the Republican election officials in suitable compromises. He stated that our positions must be acceptable to election officials, implying that the Republican party is to represent the government in dealing with the voters. Such backwards philosophies will only lead to more conflict with House and more episodes of his approving, then disapproving and then disavowing the work of the Committee. I cannot be effective in such an environment. The work of the Committee is to promote oversight of elections, not to represent the interests that the government may have in denial of the problems.

Marks’ letter of resignation was addressed to Becky Mizel, the chair of the Elections Oversight Committee and also chair of the Pueblo Republican Party. You’ll recall that Mizel, a longtime malcontent within the Colorado GOP and one of the cabal of GOP officials led by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman who allegedly threatened Steve House with reprisals if he didn’t resign, was the lone vote cast against House on the GOP executive committee last Friday. A short while after her own resignation, Marks posted to Facebook:

Becky Mizel resigned today as Chair of the Election Oversight Committee of the Republican state party. I had just done the same a bit earlier in the day. We were following the direction of Chairman House in submitting comments to the Secretary of State on Watcher rights and responsibilities with the Republican Party position. He then disavowed our association with the party…

We haven’t heard if Mizel has also resigned as chair of the Pueblo Republican Party, but in the aftermath of Friday’s vote, she couldn’t be more isolated. At this point, Mizel’s continued leadership of Pueblo Republicans is a detriment to that party’s efforts there, since it’s clear that Mizel cannot work effectively with the state party’s chairman. It’s what happens, as the saying goes, when you strike at the king but don’t kill him.

It’s widely believed that Marks’ agitation about “threats” to fair elections in 2016 were a big part of her alienation of Steve House. Marks’ unreasonable and strident posturing on election issues has made her a pariah on both sides of the aisle, but Republicans humored her for long enough to leave her deeply entrenched–and ready to formulate red-on-red conspiracy theories over basically any quibble. As for Mizel, it’s easy to find fellow Republicans willing to assign the label of “batshit crazy” to her, not to mention Democrats–which helps explain why she was so ready to team up with Tom Tancredo to frag the state GOP’s leadership.

Where do these resignations leave the other principal (employed) actor in the “Coffmangate” drama, Cynthia Coffman?

Not looking real good, that’s for sure.

Coffmangate Update: Nothing Changed, Coffman Still in Serious Trouble

UPDATE #2: Conservative opinion site RedState has a lengthy story and interview with Steve House up today that’s worth a read–in which this blog is referred to as the “Daily Kos” of Colorado.

An audio interview performed by former federal agent, and current Vice Chair from Adams County, John Sampson with Julie Naye – the alleged mistress, and her close friend, Lana Fore, was published by the state’s version of Daily Kos yesterday. In the interview Naye adamantly denies the allegations of having an affair with Steve house, and damn if she doesn’t sound convincing. In fact, even the lefty outlet that published the audio noted that if she is lying, she is incredibly good at it.

As it stands now, barring any additional evidence provided by the accusers, it appears that Steve House has been falsely accused by some of the most powerful Republicans in Colorado.

We doubt that’s a compliment, but Kos does get a lot of traffic.

Original post follows…

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Coffmangate: Ted Harvey is a Live Grenade

Ted Harvey and Cynthia Coffman in House of Cards likeness.

Ted Harvey and Cynthia Coffman in “House of Cards” likeness.

One of the central curiosities surrounding the Coffmangate scandal is that all parties involved in the alleged coup attempt against State Republican Party Chair Steve House have continually refused to go into any detail about why they were so intent on forcing House to resign after less than three months on the job. While details are scarce, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman did offer a strange statement of sorts yesterday in an interview with the Denver Post that is worth further examination:

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman talked publicly for the first time about what led her to meet with House and tell him he had lost her confidence. She said he was being untruthful and leaving the party open to potential litigation.

“He had promised people jobs and turned and maligned those people and made up false accusations to justify not offering them employment,” Coffman told The Denver Post. [Pols emphasis]

She said that happened in more than one instance.

It is unclear exactly how prevalent this issue may have been with House, but one of the people Coffman is undoubtedly referencing is former State Senator Ted Harvey. Let’s go back to last week and House’s original bombshell statement alleging attempted blackmail:

The rumors started last night [Monday, June 15], when I was scheduled to meet with Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. When I arrived to our meeting, I was surprised to see that former Congressman Tom Tancredo and Pueblo County Chair Becky Mizel were also in attendance. The purpose of the meeting was initially unknown to me and I believed it was a routine strategy discussion by the Attorney General and myself. Congressman Tancredo confronted me about not hiring former state Sen. Ted Harvey as the Party’s executive director, and demanded that I resign my post. If I refused to meet their demand to resign, they threatened that a potential lawsuit may be filed and that false rumors that I have been unfaithful to my wife would be made public. [Pols emphasis]

Back on March 14th, when House was officially elected Republican Party Chair over incumbent Ryan Call, Colorado Pols reported that Harvey was set to be named as the new Executive Director of the State GOP. Harvey was overheard (repeatedly) telling Republicans that he would assume the ED role as soon as the following Monday (March 16). Harvey did not ultimately get the top paid job in the State GOP, in part because Harvey spoke up too soon and made it appear as though House might have made a promise that he should not have made.

Now, let’s go back to Coffman’s statement to the Denver Post that attempting to oust House was, at least in part, because he may not have followed through on promises to elevate the likes of Harvey. If the attempted coup against House was at least partially motivated by employment promises to Ted Harvey — and it certainly appears that way — then it leads to even greater concerns about the judgment of Cynthia Coffman and her merry band of extortionists.

Former Republican State Sen. Ted Harvey

Former Republican State Sen. Ted Harvey

It is possible that House and the Colorado GOP could face some sort of civil lawsuit from Harvey if he can prove that he was offered a job that he never received. But if House and the Colorado GOP had hired Harvey as Executive Director, they would have been walking into an entirely different legal minefield.

As we noted in January, Harvey is the registered chair of The Stop Hillary PAC, a fundraising organization that may not exactly be on the up-and-up. Harvey’s involvement with The Stop Hillary PAC puts him in the company of notable “SCAM PAC” founders such as Washington D.C.-based lawyer Dan Becker. As Politico reported in January, Becker’s previous PACs have been known to spend less than 12% of their fundraising efforts to fund political advertisements and other actions, while essentially pocketing the rest of the money for “operating expenses.”

If House and the State GOP had hired Harvey to be the Party’s Executive Director, they would have opened the door to a much more extensive list of legal problems. Can you imagine the illegal coordination charges that the GOP would be facing if the same guy in charge of a national Stop Hillary PAC — potentially a scam in itself — was also concurrently running operations for the Colorado Republican Party?

Was Cynthia Coffman not aware of this massive conflict of interest? Or was she unknowingly advocating for something that would place the Republican Party in significant legal trouble? Perhaps this is one reason why Coffman and others have been reluctant to get into details about their concerns with House and not hiring Harvey: Those details actually hurt their argument for getting rid of House.

Maybe House promised Harvey the ED job, and maybe he didn’t; either way, Republicans should be glad it never happened.

Need a Coffmangate Refresher? Catch up with these links:

The Strange Story of the Coup Attempt Within the Colorado Republican Party

Cynthia Coffman’s Political Career is Over. Done. Kaput.

Cynthia’s House of Cards: Dial ‘B’ for Blackmail

Mystery Character #4 Revealed in Coffmangate Scandal

EXCLUSIVE: Coffman-gate Scandal is About to go Nuclear

Right-Wing Blog Unwittingly Confirms Steve House Blackmail (Now, With Audio!)

Mystery Character #4 Revealed in Coffmangate Scandal

Cynthia Coffman

Coffmangate apparel.

On Saturday, Colorado Pols was first to report details about the rapidly-growing Coffmangate scandal involving Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and a handful of other Republicans (for more background on this rapidly-evolving story, see the links at the bottom of the page). One of the revelations from our Saturday post was about the emergence of another key player in this scandal:

Player #4 Has Entered
Apparently there is a fourth person who was heavily involved in the alleged extortion attempt of House; as of now, only Cynthia Coffman, former Rep. Tom Tancredo, and Pueblo County Republican Party Chair Becky Mizel have been publicly named. It would be a logical guess to say that former state Sen. Ted Harvey will be pulled into this before long — Harvey’s desire to be appointed Executive Director of the State Party has reportedly been a key piece of the extortion attempt — and perhaps he is the so-called “fourth person” now involved.

We can now report that the fourth “mystery player” is in fact Tea Party activist Mike McAlpine, who was in charge of the 2013 recall attempt against Democratic Sen. Evie Hudak. From what we hear, McAlpine may have played a key role in potentially manufacturing evidence to be used in an effort to convince Steve House to resign as GOP Chair. For what it’s worth, McAlpine also has close ties to State Sen. Laura Waters Woods (R-Arvada), who won the SD-19 seat in November 2014.

(Note: This doesn’t mean that Ted Harvey was not involved — it seems logical that he is, given that he was the topic of the reported threats — but only that Harvey is not officially the “4th person as we had previously described on Saturday.”)

So when does the big hammer of an investigation/indictment come crashing down? It could be as soon as tomorrow, from what we’re hearing, though it might be pushed into Wednesday. We hear that law enforcement/prosecutors are taking a little extra time to make preparations for what will undoubtedly be a media circus when all is revealed.

Need to get caught up on Coffmangate?

♦ More background on how this scandal started with an attempted coup of State Republican Party Chair Steve House.

♦ Read up on why Cynthia Coffman’s political career is already over.

 As always, you heard it here on Colorado Pols first.

Demand For Preservation of “Coffmangate” Records

(Drip, drip, drip – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

pipercoffmanToday, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, filed a Colorado Open Records Act request for all correspondence between Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and specific individuals named in a growing blackmail scandal involving Coffman and Colorado Republican Party chairman Steve House. As the likelihood of an outside investigation grows, ProgressNow Colorado further calls on the Attorney General’s office and other parties to preserve all records that could be pertinent to the case.

“Coffmangate is the biggest political scandal to hit Colorado in years,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “Allegations of criminal blackmail and libel involving the Colorado Attorney General personally, as well as high-ranking Republican officials from across the state, are much too serious to sweep under the rug. It’s absolutely vital that Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, Tom Tancredo, and others involved in this incident fully cooperate with investigators and come clean with the public about their role in the attempted ‘shakedown’ of the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.”

Read ProgressNow Colorado’s Open Records Act request here. This morning, the Office of the Attorney General acknowledged receipt of this request.

“Given the seriousness of the criminal acts alleged to have occurred, we are very concerned about the possibility that incriminating records may be destroyed,” said Runyon-Harms. “We demand that any information about the events of the past week be preserved in their entirety for investigators and the public to review. The people of Colorado must know if their chief law enforcement officer was a party to criminal extortion and other crimes in attempt to remove Colorado Republican Party chairman Steve House from office.”

“The possibility of our state’s chief law enforcement officer being involved with a felony crime she should be prosecuting is, needless to say, totally unacceptable,” said Runyon-Harms. “It’s time for accountability and for the truth to come out.”

Steve House Gets a Little Silly on Veterans Day

Military adviser for Steve House campaign for Congress

Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) is a former Army Ranger who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq and was awarded a Bronze Star. Crow honored American service members on Veterans Day on Monday by thanking them for their service and attending the groundbreaking ceremony for the Colorado Fallen Heroes Memorial in Denver.

Steve House is one of three Republicans looking to challenge Crow in CO-6 next November. The former State Republican Party Chairman (and later State Party “CEO”)  can’t match Crow’s military record, but he does know people who do things with the word “veteran” in their job description. As Ernest Luning explains for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

House marked Veterans Day by announcing he’s been endorsed by five Coloradans with records of military service and four Republican state lawmakers with more tenuous connections to veterans.

The endorsements listed in a release issued Monday by House’s campaign include an oral surgeon who serves in the Army National Guard, a prosecutor who serves in the Marine Reserves, a Marine Corps veteran who chaired the El Paso County Republicans, and a retired Army officer who lost a primary for Elbert County commissioner last year by just two votes.

There’s also a state lawmaker from Colorado Springs who went to the Air Force Academy and two Republicans who sit on their chamber’s respective State, Veterans and Military Affairs committees — known as the “kill committees,” where legislation of all sorts routinely goes to die — and two GOP lawmakers from Western Colorado who look out for veterans while they’re at the Capitol, according to the House campaign. [Pols emphasis]

House does have a couple of endorsements from honest-to-goodness military veterans, but his announcement on Monday was watered down quite a bit by the inclusion of people who have nothing to do with the armed services of the United States.

Two of these endorsements (State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and state Rep. Janice Rich) are apparently related to “Veterans Day” because they are state lawmakers who sit on the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committees. This is sort of like claiming the support of South Americans because you are endorsed by someone who delivers packages for Amazon.com. But these endorsements almost make sense compared to state Sen. Ray Scott and state Rep. Matt Soper, both of whom are included on House’s “Veterans Day” list because they…appreciate veterans?

Scott honors the servicemen and women of Colorado and fights to ensure they are treated with honor and dignity by the State of Colorado’s highest legislative body…

…Soper has fought tirelessly for veterans and their families since he was first elected in 2018.

The House campaign must have forgotten to mention that Sen. Scott also likes to watch movies about Americans who are in the military when he is supposed to be paying attention on the Senate floor.

Via press release (11/11/19)

Perhaps on Valentine’s Day, House can wrangle the endorsement of former Utah Congresswoman Mia Love.

Steve House Moving from State GOP to CO-6

Steve House for…House

The “CEO” of the Colorado Republican Party, Steve House, is stepping down from his day-to-day job directing the State GOP in order to (presumably) prepare for a run for Congress in CO-6.

As Randy Corporon of KNUS radio discussed over the weekend, former Jefferson County GOP Chair and CO-7 candidate Don Ytterberg will take over for House as the new right-hand man of State Party Chairman Ken Buck, who can’t be a full-time Party Chairman on account of the fact that he’s still serving in Congress himself. House has not indicated publicly that he will run for Congress in CO-6, but that’s the reason for the change from what we hear.

Ernest Luning reported last month that House was considering running for the Republican nomination in CO-6, despite (or because of) the fact that Casper Stockham is already in the race (although Stockham has the support of former CO-6 Rep. Tom Tancredo). State GOP Party bylaws prevent House from remaining in a leadership role while also running for public office.

Democrat Jason Crow ousted longtime Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in 2018 to take control of a seat that Republicans had never once relinquished in the history of the district. Crow has already raised more than $1 million for his re-election campaign.

House was a Republican candidate for Governor in 2014 and floated the idea of another statewide bid in 2018 before deciding otherwise. House is perhaps best known in Colorado political circles for his involvement in the “Coffmangate” scandal and his prominent role in a strange #NeverTrump fiasco.

No Fooling: Colorado Republicans Descend Deeper Into the Void

Ken Buck and Steve House

On Saturday, Colorado Republicans selected Rep. Ken Buck to serve as State Party Chairman for the 2020 election cycle. Since Buck is not inclined to give up his day job as a Member of Congress, this means that former GOP Party Chair Steve House will oversee the day-to-day operations of the State Republican Party. This is not an April Fool’s joke.

We’ll get back to House in a moment, but first, a recap: Buck won a narrow victory over State Rep. Susan Beckman on Saturday after four rounds of balloting and a late change from Sherrie Gibson. After failing to generate much interest from Republican voters on the first three ballots, Gibson dropped out of the race for State Chair and endorsed Buck, which was enough to propel the Greeley Congressman to a 51.3% to 47.7% victory over Beckman.

These two paragraphs from John Frank of the Colorado Sun sum up both Buck’s election and the weird state of the Colorado GOP in 2019:

The third top candidate, Sherrie Gibson, the African American former party vice-chairwoman, emphasized the party’s need to diversify, saying the GOP “is not a party of just old men.”

Moments later, she endorsed Buck, 60, saying he’s the best for the job. [Pols emphasis]

In his acceptance speech on Saturday, Buck voiced strong support for President Trump and spewed out a number of highly-partisan statements. As Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) stood behind him, Buck enthusiastically talked up recall efforts in Colorado; cast the 2020 election as a battle between “freedom-loving Republicans versus socialist, corrupt Democrats”; suggested that Hillary Clinton, and not Donald Trump, “colluded” with Russians in 2016; and was defiant about so-called “red flag” gun safety legislation that has widespread support among Colorado voters.

There are those within the Colorado Republican Party who seem to understand that they should make changes in order to better compete with Democrats in 2020, but as Buck demonstrated on Saturday, right-wing rhetoric and Trump love still rule the day for the State GOP. As Justin Wingerter writes for the Denver Post:

Buck will find himself between a Colorado Republican base that strongly backs Trump and moderate Republicans who are uneasy with the bombastic president. But Saturday’s gathering of party officials was loudly supportive of Trump and bitterly critical of any Republicans who say otherwise.

Yet as Ryan Winger of Republican-aligned polling outfit Magellan Strategies explained in February, this blind loyalty to Trump doesn’t fit well in Colorado:

When Republicans say the problem is our guys weren’t enough like Trump, there’s a complete disconnect there between what they’re thinking and what other voters in Colorado are thinking.

This leads us back to House, who was savaged by Trump supporters in 2016 after the State GOP’s anti-Trump sentiments were laid bare.

 

 

Buck’s decision to install House as his right-hand man is a strange move indeed — though not strange enough to deter Republicans with apparently-short memories from going right back to the same well. Republicans seem to have forgotten about how desperate they were to get rid of House ahead of the 2016 election cycle. Efforts to oust House as Party Chairman began literally on the same day that House was elected in 2015 — and several months before the long, strange Coffmangate saga that ultimately turned Colorado Republicans into a national laughingstock.

Consider this 2017 story from John Frank, then of the Denver Post, about House’s decision not to seek another term as Party Chairman:

House served a tumultuous two years as the party’s leader after his historic ouster of the incumbent chairman in 2015 with the backing of the more conservative members of his party.

Months into his term, House faced an unsuccessful coup attempt led by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman that involved accusations of extramarital affairs and threats. And he came under fire in the 2016 election for his perceived bias against Donald Trump, drawing numerous death threats.

Two years later, Republicans are back in the same place — only with significantly more electoral ground to make up after huge Democratic gains in 2018.

Colorado Republicans probably needed to make significant changes in order to be more successful in 2020, but in the end, few in the GOP seemed to be interested in such a move. They’d rather someone like Buck just tell them what he thinks they want to hear.

Ken Buck for GOP Chair: Forward Into the Past

The GOP Dream Team? Rep. Ken Buck and Steve House

Ernest Luning of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman has a fascinating new story out today about Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) and his bid to become the next Chair of the Colorado Republican Party. Luning’s story includes a handful of jaw-dropping quotes from various Republican sources in response to a marvelously absurd proposition from Buck outlining how he would lead the GOP into the 2020 elections.

As Luning reports, Buck has apparently been distributing a memo outlining his proposal for how he would oversee the State Republican Party — a plan that includes hiring former State Party Chair Steve House as the GOP’s new “CEO.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Buck’s plan for overseeing the State Republican Party after a disastrous 2018 election cycle is to direct the Party right back to where it was in 2016. We suppose, if you squinted really hard, that you could argue 2016 was not as terrible of a year for Republicans as 2018, but you’d be splitting hairs on the definition of “terrible.”

Darryl Glenn, aka “The Unicorn

Democrat Hillary Clinton easily carried Colorado in the 2016 Presidential race after an embarrassing #NeverTrump movement that was likely driven by the State Party itself. The only major statewide race on the ballot in 2016 was for U.S. Senate, in which Darryl Freaking Glenn emerged from a ridiculous cavalcade of controversial candidates as the GOP nominee against incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. The only reason Glenn came within 6 points of Bennet was because Democrats essentially stopped worrying about the race altogether after the June Primary.

And we haven’t even mentioned the infamous “Coffmangate” scandal that turned the State Republican Party into a national laughingstock.

As Luning reports, Buck’s main opponent in the race for Chair teed off on his proposal:

“This is not a part-time job, this is not the time for an absentee chair, this is a leadership position, for an organization that has been failing,” said state chair candidate Susan Beckman, a two-term state representative from Littleton who has said she’ll step down from the General Assembly if she’s elected chair.

Beckman’s response was actually pretty tame compared to this:

Veteran Republican strategist Dick Wadhams, who served two terms as state chairman last decade, said he was stunned after reviewing Buck’s proposal, calling it “unworkable” and “absolutely nonsensical.”

“If Steve House wants to be state chairman, he ought to run for it, and if Ken Buck doesn’t want to be state chairman, he ought to get out of the race,” Wadhams said… [Pols emphasis]

…He also slammed Buck’s plans to run the party from Washington, D.C., saying he was “baffled” by the proposition.

Buck responded to this criticism by expressing surprise that Republicans might object to his regurgitated ideas:

“When you get your butts kicked in every corner of the state, people should shut their mouths and come together and do their very best to help the party and make sure we do our best to get Cory Gardner and Donald Trump elected,” Buck said.

“It’s a little surprising people feel emboldened to be so critical in the open when we have not been very successful.” [Pols emphasis]

This is really the Colorado Republican Party in a nutshell: One of the top contenders to be the next GOP Party Chair is proposing a return to an era in which the Colorado Republican Party was objectively not very successful, and then lashing out at anyone who questions his ideas.

Colorado Republicans will select their new leaders on Saturday, March 30.

Cynthia Coffman Campaign Death Watch Continues

Cynthia Coffman rumbling down the tracks.

Ernest Luning of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman updates the story of Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s struggling gubernatorial campaign, as the slow realization that Coffman lacks the resources to mount a successful petition drive to make the primary ballot sets in:

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is gathering petition signatures in hopes of landing a spot on the Republican primary ballot for governor, but she’s also considering going through the caucus and assembly process, a campaign spokeswoman told Colorado Politics Wednesday.

“The campaign is still weighing all options,” Coffman aide Keeley Hanlon wrote in an email.

A week earlier, Hanlon said Coffman, one of nine declared GOP candidates for governor, “remains committed to petitioning onto the ballot,” but Coffman raised the possibility she might switch course in a radio interview on Saturday in the wake of Tom Tancredo’s sudden withdrawal from the primary race…

Asked Saturday by 710KNUS host Craig Silverman whether she might switch gears, Coffman insisted she was gathering signatures but said she was considering also going through caucuses and assembly and would decide within days.

Last week, the Statesman quoted former Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams accurately in assessing the cost of a successful petition drive–a cost more than double what AG Coffman has on hand for her gubernatorial campaign. The tremendous difficulty and scandal Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate in 2016 faced with their own paid signature gathering campaigns has upped the ante all the more for 2018 for any candidate actually hoping to succeed, and Coffman’s far better-funded opponents have the resources to carry it off where she arithmetically does not.

That leaves Coffman with one other path to the ballot, via the Republican Party’s caucus and assembly process. With Tancredo’s departure from the gubernatorial race, the traditional first-choice option for candidates of going through the caucus is seemingly left wide open. The problem for Coffman is that she is arguably the least popular candidate in the entire field with Republican base voters after her role in a disastrous failed “palace coup” attempt against then-GOP chairman Steve House involving salacious allegations against House and blackmail charges against Coffman. Coffman’s insistence that “all is forgotten” now is not shared by many of the party members she will be asking for support from at the assembly.

With all of this in mind, it’s likely that any of the other Republicans in the race could easily knock her down, or even out, with a pro forma presence in the assembly process. Frankly, going assembly isn’t more of a risk than trying to petition on the ballot without any money. The point is that it’s Coffman’s record that makes the caucus route by far the less desirable option for her. And without the coin to wage a real petition drive, it’s her only option.

Or, as may become apparent to everybody soon, she has no options.

Cynthia Coffman: “I Didn’t Blackmail Anybody”

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is seeking the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018, and as we’ve discussed before in this space, she has thus far proven to be a remarkably-terrible candidate.

After more than a year of hinting at the possibility of a run for Governor, Coffman finally announced her campaign the day after the November election (a decidedly odd day to announce anything). In subsequent interviews, Coffman has a) Completely bungled her position on abortion, b) Admitted that she doesn’t have a campaign manager and doesn’t forsee hiring one anytime soon, and c) Fostered a baffling adversarial relationship with the media by insisting that reporters submit all questions about her campaign via email. When she does talk to reporters, Coffman has demonstrated a fascinating tendency to offer up absolutely horrible quotes, as this recent story from The South Metro Villager makes painfully clear:

The attorney general was the subject of inner-party gossip in 2015 when she was accused of attempting to blackmail then-state Republican Chair Steve House over an alleged extramarital affair. Although Coffman would not explain what actually happened in the fracas, she insists it was mischaracterized.

“It was dealt with and the party moved forward. Steve House and I are on good terms,” she said. “It was an emotional time for everybody. I didn’t blackmail anybody.” [Pols emphasis]

We’ve seen and heard a lot of stupid things from politicians over the years, and this quote from Coffman is absolutely at the top of the list. There are a lot of different ways that Coffman could respond to predictable questions about her involvement in the 2015 “Coffmangate” scandal — something she has been asked about for years — but she always seems to make sure to use the word “blackmail” in her answers. Reporters don’t have to worry about whether or not to introduce the b-word into a story about Coffman, because she’ll always do it for them! 

“If you look up the legal definition of blackmail this doesn’t fit it.”

– Cynthia Coffman, June 2015 

This is not the first time that Coffman has fallen into this particular hole. We noted in a story back in June 2015 that “Cynthia Coffman Can’t Stop Copping to Blackmail” whenever she was asked about the scandal involving her and former State Republican Party Chair Steve House (Coffman reportedly “encouraged” House to resign as GOP Chair just a few months after she had supported his candidacy in a long-running soap opera that drew national media attention).

One of the most memorable Coffman quotes during the scandal came during a Republican Party Executive Committee meeting on the matter when Coffman bluntly stated, If you look up the legal definition of blackmail this doesn’t fit it.” This was an incredible thing for any politician to say, let alone the chief law enforcement officer in the entire State of Colorado. That Coffman seems incapable of learning from her past mistakes is yet another ominous sign for a campaign that was already in big trouble.

“Blackmail!”

Cynthia Coffman’s Gubernatorial Campaign is a Disaster

Republican Cynthia Coffman might be better off waving a white flag when it comes to her gubernatorial campaign.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced two weeks ago that she would seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination rather than running for re-election in 2018. We weren’t alone in wondering why it took Coffman more than a year to make a decision on what race to run in 2018, and the long delay apparently wasn’t because she was taking extra time to prepare for a run for Governor.

As Joey Bunch writes in two separate stories for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, Coffman’s gubernatorial campaign is an absolute mess. In an early preview of a longer story for “Colorado Politics” magazine, Bunch wrote on Friday that it is not clear who, if anyone, is even running the Coffman campaign:

When Coffman officially announced her candidacy for governor on Nov. 8, the Denver Post reported, “To run her campaign, Coffman hired Clinton Soffer, the former regional political director for the National Republican Senate Committee, where he worked for Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, whom he helped elect in 2014.”

After I got a well-sourced tip Thursday that Soffer was no longer running the campaign, I reached out to Coffman’s campaign fundraiser Caroline Wren, who also is fielding calls to Coffman from the media this week.

“Clinton Soffer is a part of Team Cynthia, but he is not campaign manager and was never announced by our campaign as such,” said Wren.

Bunch says that Coffman’s campaign never responded to questions about how or why Soffer was misidentified in the Denver Post story, though Coffman “spokesperson” Caroline Wren did eventually tell Bunch that Coffman would only respond to written questions submitted in advance via e-mail…which is a completely absurd thing to stipulate for someone seeking the top office in Colorado.

Coffman did apparently participate in a brief telephone interview with Bunch at some point, which left many more unanswered questions. Here’s an excerpt from Bunch’s full story for “Colorado Politics” magazine (click for PDF version):

Platform, money and momentum are not on her side, according to my very round circle of Republican sources…

…In a way-too-short scheduled phone interview, Coffman assured me my Republican sources are in the minority of her party, but she would have to get back to me on explaining why when she had more time.

Bunch writes that he could not clarify Coffman’s position on the issue of abortion, which has stirred commentary from right-wing radio pundits (Coffman’s spokesperson says that she will discuss her position on abortion “when the time’s right,” whatever that means). In response to a question about how Coffman will address the “Coffmangate” scandal from 2015, Bunch writes the following:

“Frankly, I’m not going to spend time on it,” Coffman told me when I asked about it, then she deflected other questions and reminded me that my time was running out.

It isn’t just questions about prior scandals that Coffman is ducking. This paragraph near the end of Bunch’s magazine story is particularly strange:

On the issues, Coffman didn’t have a plan to fund transportation, potentially a huge issue for the next governor, but she’s working on it. She asked me, jokingly, if I wanted to join the campaign to help figure it out.

Whaaaaa???

At the height of the “Coffmangate” scandal in June 2015, we wrote in this space that Coffman’s political career was all but over; we speculated, in part, that Coffman would have trouble running another statewide campaign because she would have a difficult time finding a competent staff that wasn’t scared away by her awkward backstabbing.

Perhaps Coffman will ultimately figure out how to be a viable candidate for Governor. Perhaps she will eventually be able to hire campaign staff that have some idea of what they are doing.

Or, perhaps, Cynthia Coffman’s gubernatorial bid is a complete fool’s errand.

The State of the Race (for the State): November 2017

Tom Tancredo and Cynthia Coffman are in, and George Brauchler is out. There’s been lots of upheaval in the 2018 race for Governor in the last couple of weeks, so lets reset the field as we near the end of the year. Here’s our latest look at the State of the Race (for the State).

 

LOOKING GOOD

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulderish) remains the frontrunner in the race for governor.

Democratic candidates are outraising Republican counterparts not named Walker Stapleton by significant margins. Democrats Jared Polis, Cary Kennedy, Mike Johnston, and even Donna Lynne are running strong campaigns as we enter the campaign doldrums of the Holiday Season. Things should start to shake out a bit once we cross into 2018, because there just isn’t room for all four of these candidates to mathematically make the ballot through the caucus/assembly process; remember, any candidate who does not petition onto the ballot must get at least 30% of the vote at the state assembly for ballot access.

Polis has the name ID and the resources to go the caucus route, so at least one of the other three major Democratic candidates will need to spend a great deal of time and money on gathering petition signatures if they hope to see their name on the June Primary ballot. It’s hard to envision a scenario where Lynne does not go the petition route; the bigger question will be about what Kennedy and Johnston decide. Right now, all four major Democratic candidates are essentially rowing in the same direction. Expect that to change in January.

On the Republican side, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and former Congressman Tom Tancredo have pulled away from the rest of a crowded pack. Stapleton is sweeping up one major Republican donor after another, and he likely ends the year with the largest amount of contributions among Republican candidates. Stapleton raised more than $300k just from major donors (contributions of $1,000 or more) in the last six weeks, and wrote himself a $250k check. This doesn’t count the hundreds of thousands of dollars being funneled into a pro-Stapleton PAC, either.

Ed Gillespie, Tom Tancredo, and Donald Trump

Tancredo, meanwhile, seems to be establishing himself as the [quote-unquote] insurgent candidate for Republicans. We learned from last Tuesday’s election results that incumbency won’t save Republicans in 2018. We saw that the Republican brand is in tatters. And Tuesday’s Democratic wipeout confirmed something many had long expected: That Trumpism doesn’t exist without Donald Trump. Tancredo is not an establishment Republican like failed Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, nor is he a diehard Trumpian whose political fortunes will be tied to President Twitterer. In 2018, Tancredo may be embraced by national Republican factions – rather than openly opposed – and his strong name ID among Republican voters means that he doesn’t need to compete dollar-for-dollar with Stapleton.

 

LOOKING LOST

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman

Cynthia Coffman finally entered the GOP field for Governor after nearly a year of publicly teasing the idea. Even with Brauchler out of the race, it’s difficult to see how she might have a path to the GOP nomination in June. Longtime Republican operative/consultant Dick Wadhams told CBS4 Denver that Coffman’s entry into the race probably helps Tancredo more than anything else:

“Tancredo starts off with anywhere from 20 to 23 percent — a rock hard political base,” Wadhams said. “So the more the rest of the vote is divided up by these other Republican candidates, it helps him.

“Now, the challenge for the other candidates is for somebody to break through.”

Coffman is essentially running for Governor because she doesn’t want to be Attorney General any longer; if she’s going to run another statewide race in 2018, she figures that she might as well try for the top prize. Unfortunately for Coffman, she has neither the fundraising chops nor the conservative bonafides to be a top contender in a Republican Primary. Coffman has never been good at raising money; when she was first campaigning for Attorney General in 2013, she failed to surpass $100k in donations in her first four months in the race. It’s fair to say that Coffman would have entered the race for Governor long ago if she knew that the money would be there to sustain a campaign.

As for her conservative credentials, Coffman has lots of explaining to do to a right-wing base about why she issued a ruling in support of legislative efforts to reclassify the Hospital Provider Fee (HPF). Coffman may have been doing her legal duty with the HPF decision, but that won’t make diehard Republican voters feel any better. If you don’t think Coffman doesn’t already realize this problem, take a look at how she answered some straightforward budget questions in an interview with the Durango Herald:

Coffman deflected a question about the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and Gallagher Amendment, which limit tax collections and have been blamed for hampering the state budget and dozens of local government budgets, including special districts.

“We would need to set a longer conversation,” she said. “I don’t want to give it short shrift.”

Nothing demonstrates leadership by refusing to answer questions about the state budget.

Oh, and then there’s the whole “Coffmangate” scandal that will be rehashed repeatedly.

 

STILL LOOKING AROUND

Things aren’t going well for the first 3 GOP candidates for Governor: Victor Mitchell, Mitt Romney’s Nephew, and George Brauchler.

Colorado Springs entrepreneur/pastor/author Barry Farah was supposedly going to enter the Republican gubernatorial field back in August, but he seems to have vanished since those initial reports. Farah is either playing a complicated political shell game, or (most likely) he just decided that there was no place for him in the 2018 field.

Republicans Victor Mitchell and Mitt Romney’s Nephew are still plugging along as candidates. Both men have the financial resources to make a serious run at the nomination, but thus far neither has been able to grab much of a foothold of support to reach top-tier status. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see both candidates out of the race by the beginning of 2018…nor would it be a shock if one or both made a late push to get into contention.

The longest-running candidate on the Democratic side, meanwhile, is businessman Noel Ginsburg, who officially joined the race last December. But like the Denver Broncos, Ginsburg is going nowhere fast; unless something changes, he is largely inconsequential in this discussion.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Colorado’s next Governor is going to come out of the current field of candidates. There is really no other potential candidate lurking who could make a serious bid for the job at this late date.

Cynthia Coffman Finally Enters Race for Governor

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has been hemming and hawing about running for Governor for more than a year now. On Wednesday, Coffman finally made it official: She will seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018.

As the Denver Post explains:

Coffman long considered entering the governor’s race and traveled the country in recent months to raise her profile. One sign that she might not seek re-election as attorney general came in October when reports showed she had raised just $10,600 since July 1 for her attorney general campaign.

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has already locked down many top Republican donors, but Coffman said she’s confident “money is going to come.”

Sure to surface in the campaign is the unsuccessful attempt Coffman in 2015 helped lead to oust then-Colorado GOP Chairman Steve House in a saga that involved accusations of extramarital affairs and threats. But when asked about the episode, she brushed it aside.

“I don’t think I need to talk about it a lot because I think it’s old news,” she said. “To me, Steve and I resolved that situation several years ago and it’s not something I give a lot of thought to.”

We have no doubt that the Attorney General would prefer that the “Coffmangate” scandal could just be swept under the rug, but as a candidate for the top job in the state, the odds of that happening are about zero. Coffman’s defense for this whole sordid scandal (click here for more background) has been, essentially, that her actions probably did not meet the legal standard for blackmail. As the Denver Post reported in June 2015:

Coffman said the meeting at the Warwick took place over wine and was meant to be confidential. She said she mentioned House’s alleged mistress by her first name at that meeting, but not in a threatening manner. “Nobody accused him of an affair. Nobody threatened to expose anything,” she said.

Coffman said: “If you look up the legal definition of blackmail this doesn’t fit it.” [Pols emphasis]

Yeah, that’s not good. Coffman’s entry in the race, and the necessary reminder of the “Coffmangate” scandal, could also be problematic for Republican candidate Tom Tancredo, who played a central role in trying to oust Steve House as the Chair of the State Republican Party in 2015.

Coffman will also have trouble explaining to a conservative electorate about her decision to offer a favorable opinion on the legality of the “Hospital Provider Fee” change that dominated the 2017 legislative session. Michael Fields of the Koch-brothers funded Americans for Prosperity made that argument in a Tweet this morning:

Coffman is the eighth or ninth Republican running for Governor (depending on whether you count Barry Farah, and we’re not sure if you should). Getting such a late start on the race is certainly a head-scratching decision for Coffman — particularly when you consider that she has been working on putting a campaign together for a very long time — and it’s not clear that there will be enough support for her to sustain a real challenge to more well-known and better funded Republican candidates.

Coffman’s decision to run for Governor also creates new problems for Republicans in the now-open race for Attorney General. Congressman Ken Buck had been considering a run but seemed to have grown wary of Coffman’s inability to make a decision on the race. If Buck stays out of the race, the likely Republican candidate is state Rep. Cole Wist, but it’s not clear that he would have the GOP field to himself.

Waiting For Walker: Stapleton Will Enter Race as Frontrunner

The 2018 Colorado GOP gubernatorial primary has attracted a hefty pool of candidates, but there’s a reason why nobody in the race today has much in the way of traction: the all-but-certain imminent entry into the race of who should on paper be the frontrunner the moment he announces: Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

As the Denver Post reported early this month, Stapleton has been building up his “independent” campaign apparatus for some time now without having formally declared his candidacy for governor. The arrangement allows Stapleton to personally steer contributions to the independent group supporting him, exploiting a loophole in the law that as we discussed before more or less makes a joke of the notion that these entities should remain separate and uncoordinated. It also potentially gives future Stapleton campaign staff a place to draw a paycheck from before the campaign launches.

As for exactly when Stapleton gets into the race, there’s some debate on the best timing–waiting for any other big-name challengers to make their intentions clear can be a good strategy, but it can also leave a candidate with erstwhile supporters locked up with rivals before they even enter the race. Of course, since Walker’s entry one way or the other is a foregone conclusion at this point, that’s maybe not as big a consideration.

There’s little question that once Stapleton enters the race, the stakes for other GOP candidates rise dramatically. Stapleton’s ability to raise funds as a close cousin of the Bush family, not to mention his personal wealth if needed, make him a major threat. His experience as a statewide elected official eclipses other officeholding contenders (here’s looking at you, George Brauchler). Stapleton is also largely free of involvement in recent Colorado GOP intraparty squabbles. If we were laying odds on when Stapleton gets in, we would guess he’ll wait until well after Labor Day–and give himself the last splash.

And then, unless something unpredictable happens, he’s the candidate to beat.

Team Trump Takes Over Colorado Republican Party

Colorado GOP chairman Jeff Hays.

Politico’s Gabriel Debenedetti has a fascinating look at the Trump administration’s drive to take control of state Republican Party infrastructure–prominently including in the state of Colorado, a state that proved impossible for Donald Trump to gain traction in either the primary or general election campaigns:

With the Republican National Committee firmly in his control, the White House and Trump’s political allies are now moving to lock down the state Republican parties, installing loyalists in top positions and laying the groundwork for the 2018 midterms and his 2020 reelection campaign in key swing states…

“The one unusual thing that has happened since Election Day is the quantity and quality of outreach we’ve gotten in Colorado from the White House directly, from the political director[’s office] in the White House. Nobody ever recalls anything like this level of attention,” said Steve House, who left his post as the chairman of that state’s GOP earlier this month. “A lot of the conversation is getting ready for 2018 and 2020, and I get the distinct impression that the Trump administration realizes that while we didn’t get it done in Colorado in 2016, it’s important to lay the groundwork now.”

…In Colorado, a hub of #NeverTrump activity ahead of last summer’s GOP convention, House declined to run for another term after a tumultuous year marked by claims of bias from pro-Trump activists. He eventually became a vigorous Trump supporter but was replaced this month by Jeff Hays, who carried the support of Trump’s state campaign team. A White House political office staffer traveled to suburban Denver to watch the April 1 vote that elevated Hays to the chairmanship, House said. [Pols emphasis]

The departure of Steve House as Colorado Republican Party chairman after one term was inevitable for many reasons, not least the very public dispute between House and party loyalists led by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman related to allegations of an extramarital affair. If there was any possibility that House might have stuck around after that multi-week fiasco, the Colorado Republican Party’s “#NeverTrump” Twitter controversy combined with Trump’s unexpected presidential victory settled the question.

It’s generally expected that new party chair Jeff Hays will do better organizing and keeping the peace within the GOP’s fractious coalition than House did, with the obvious caveat that he is the chair of a state Republican Party in the era of Donald Trump.

Which could be a ride to make Steve House’s destructive tenure look tame by comparison.

You Don’t Want This Endorsement, Jeff Hays

Eek!

We couldn’t help but chuckle a bit at this story from the Colorado Springs Gazette about a new endorsement in the race for the next Chair of the State Republican Party:

Jeff Hays’s campaign for Colorado GOP chair circulated yet another letter from a Republican notable Thursday — state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman — in support of his bid. Hays’s rival for the state party’s top post, George Athanasopoulos, meanwhile dismissed Coffman’s gesture as coming from “the political class.”

Coffman’s letter, distributed to GOP state Central Committee members and other Republicans statewide, continues a full-court press being mounted by Hays’s team to dial in the party’s headliners. Coffman casts Hays as the one who can get things done.

Why is this so amusing? Because the last time Attorney General Cynthia Coffman endorsed a candidate for State Party Chair, things got weird in a hurry. Coffman backed Steve House for GOP Chair in early 2015, and just three months later, she was part of a ham-handed blackmail/extortion plot orchestrated to get House to resign as State Chair.

What came next was a long, confounding story stemming from a secret meeting at the Warwick Hotel in Denver, which ultimately led to Coffman having to state explicitly why her actions did not meet the legal definition of blackmail (when you have to explain yourself in that much detail, things have gone well off the rails). House remained on the job as GOP Chair, though several local party officials were forced to resign in shame as the State Republican Party was dragged through months of bad press that even drew national attention.

So, anyway, good luck with all that, Jeff Hays.

Cynthia Coffman Laying Groundwork for Gubernatorial Bid

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman wore this red thing to the Jan. 20th “Deplorables Ball.”

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is up for re-election in 2018, but she is apparently taking a hard look at running for Governor instead. We hear that Coffman has been meeting with consultants about a potential run for the state’s top job, where she would join a Republican field already likely to include State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler.

After she was first elected in 2014, Coffman was briefly considered something of a rising star in the Colorado Republican Party. That spotlight dimmed considerably, however, when she inexplicably emerged at the center of a weird blackmail scandal aimed at trying to unseat State GOP Chairman Steve House not long after House was elected to oversee the State Republican Party (Coffman had endorsed House for the role just a few months earlier). The Coffmangate Scandal has never really been resolved, though Coffman is on the record with the media trying to explain why her actions did not constitute blackmail.

When House announced early last week that he would not seek re-election as State GOP Chair, it cleared up a significant hurdle that would have made a gubernatorial run much more awkward for everyone involved. From what we hear, Coffman is not particularly happy with her job as Attorney General and wouldn’t need much convincing to abandon a run for re-election.

We’re still skeptical that Coffman would be able to put together a strong team around her in a potential Gubernatorial bid (would you want to work for someone with such a penchant for tossing people under the bus?), but her recent rhetoric does seem to indicate that she could be testing the waters for a big jump in 2018. Coffman looks to be trying to channel the support of Donald Trump backers as she positions herself for a potential primary battle. As Ernest Luning wrote for the Colorado Statesman on Jan. 23:

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman told the crowd that she had noticed something different starting on the night of Nov. 8, when Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to win the presidency.

“I realized I was taking deep breaths, in and out, for the first time in two years,” she said. “For me, in my two years as attorney general, I think I have been holding my breath, waiting for the next over-reach from Washington, D.C., the next horrible Supreme Court decision that does not understand or appreciate the 10th Amendment, and suddenly I could take a deep breath and not worry nearly so much about the state of our country or our beautiful Colorado.”

Cynthia Coffman was not exactly a vocal Trump supporter before the election, but she seemed to sense the rising tide on Election Night at a victory celebration for her husband, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) when she put a fist in the air and yelled, “Go Trump!” (jump ahead to :30 in the video below).

Cynthia Coffman may be trying to be the “Trump candidate” for Governor in 2018. That might not be such a great idea 18 months from now.

Top Ten Stories of 2016 #7: Steve House and the #NeverTrump Mystery

Steve House.

It’s been said that President-elect Donald Trump “sometimes forgives, but never forgets” when it comes to personal slights. Trump fought hard for Colorado, both during the Republican presidential primary and the general election, but he came up empty both times–a fact that has some local stakeholders worried Colorado might be neglected (or worse) by Trump’s Executive Branch in coming years.

But it’s safe to say Trump is more upset with the Colorado Republican Party than with the state as a whole, and there’s a good reason–and no, we’re not talking about all the local Republicans who jumped on the bandwagon against Trump in October. In the weeks leading up to the state party’s convention in Colorado Springs on April 9th, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz had engineered a sweep of the state’s delegation to the Republican National Convention. Trump, who consistently asserted that the entire nominating and election process was rigged right up to the moment he won, cried foul:

The proof for Trump and his supporters of treachery in the Centennial State had come in a Tweet the night before from the official account of the Colorado Republican Party, quickly deleted but nothing short of damning in its content:

Needless to say, as Trump consolidated his victory in the Republican primary over the next few months, this evidence of brazen collusion with one presidential candidate in Colorado’s Republican caucuses left Colorado GOP chairman Steve House in a very dicey spot! House, as our readers will remember, was the subject of a hugely embarrassing “palace coup” attempt against him led by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman that involved allegations of blackmail. The underlying fault lines within the party that precipitated from that bout of high drama have never healed, and House can’t claim anything like unity under his banner as party chairman today.

House responded to the #NeverTrump controversy by categorically denying that anyone with authorized access had sent it. Unfortunately, House then made a fool of himself supposedly trying to “uncover” the sender, in the process disclosing that their previous claims to know the IP address of the sender were false. The final punchline came on Election Day, when the Colorado GOP quietly filed to dismiss their stillborn lawsuit–only reported weeks later to the public after a reporter got around to asking.

In all likelihood, we’ll never know who announced to the world at the worst possible moment from the party’s official mouthpiece that the Colorado Republican Party had pulled a fast one on Donald Trump. Maybe it was outside sabotage? Maybe it was somebody with authorized access who had a couple too many victory shots? Maybe it was House himself, in a moment of “IDGAF” candor he quickly regretted?

We’ll never know. But our vengeful new President most likely knows everything he needs to.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (December 7)

It’s colder than a penguin’s bellybutton* outside. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

*This statement should not be considered an endorsement or a criticism of penguin bellybuttons, if indeed penguins have bellybuttons. 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► President-elect Donald Trump continues to arrange his cabinet in advance of taking office next month. Trump has selected retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly to serve as head of the Department of Homeland Security. Trump also wants Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad for U.S. Ambassador to China. As the Washington Post explains, Branstad has a homie in China:

Branstad has extensive ties to China and a personal friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping that dates back decades. If his nomination goes through, the move could help reassure China’s leadership that Trump understands the importance of healthy relations with Beijing…

…China’s Foreign Ministry did not confirm the report, but reacted warmly.

“First of all, I would like to say that Mr. Branstad is an old friend of the Chinese people and we welcome him to play a greater role in promoting Sino-U.S. relations,” spokesman Lu Kang told a regular news conference.

 

► President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter Account, which may or may not be making autonomous decisions about the free world, totally f’ed up Boeing’s stock on Tuesday with a fact-free tirade about the price of the new Air Force One upgrades.

 

► President Obama and millions of Americans are recognizing today the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. From CNN:

The President noted that he would be making a historic visit to the USS Arizona Memorial later this month with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“As a testament that even the most bitter of adversaries can become the closest of allies, I look forward to visiting the USS Arizona Memorial later this month along with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,” he said. “This historic visit will stand as a tribute to the power of reconciliation and to the truth that the United States and Japan — bound by an alliance unimaginable 75 years ago—will continue to work hand-in-hand for a more peaceful and secure world.”

Abe is the first Japanese leader to visit the site since the end of World War II.

Just about every Colorado news outlet is covering local angles on the 75th anniversary of the attack.

 

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

Will Steve House Ever Be Governor? (Answer: No)

houseforgopchairPeter Marcus writes for Colorado Politics:

Colorado Republican Party Chairman Steve House is unsure whether he will seek re-election next year as he continues to mull a run for governor in 2018.

House, who has served as chairman of the party since March 2015, said he doesn’t want to put the party through chaos if he does choose to enter the gubernatorial race.

“If I were to run for governor, the one thing I would not do is run for chair again,” House told ColoradoPolitics.com.

“Just because I don’t run for chair doesn’t mean I’m going to run for governor. But the one thing I wouldn’t do to the party is run for chair and then drop out and run for governor, because I think that would be too damaging for the party.”

The first and most obvious point here is that the GOP field to run for Colorado’s open gubernatorial seat in 2018 is full of bigger names than party chairman Steve House, such as Treasurer Walker Stapleton. It would be a major surprise for all of the candidates higher up the food chain to pull out or fail to the extent that House might be competitive.

As far as House running again for Colorado GOP chairman, it’s hard to see that working out much better. House’s high-profile clash with Attorney General Cynthia Coffman was enormously damaging to both House’s and Coffman’s reputations, and the unresolved bad blood stemming from that red-on-red battle strongly points to a change of leadership at the earliest opportunity. And all that before even considering the still-unresolved #NeverTrump fiasco, part of a chain of events that could leave Colorado in the proverbial doghouse during the incoming Donald Trump administration.

What was it House did before he got into politics again? That’s probably where he should be looking for his next opportunity.