Jeffco’s Ken Witt Stumps For Donald Trump: Yes, Really

jeffco-recalled-boe_1446610908934_26204529_ver1-0_640_480We took note a few weeks ago of the gobsmacking announcement by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign that Ken Witt, the recalled ex-president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, has been selected as an “education co-chair.” Less than a year ago, as everyone with any knowledge of Colorado politics is well aware, Witt and his two fellow conservative activists comprising a majority were thrown off the Jeffco school board by an overwhelming majority of voters. The Jeffco school board recall was a national story over the course of months in mid-to-late 2015, and the crushing defeat for these three conservative “reformers” has been interpreted as a major setback for the larger right-wing “Separation of School and State” education agenda.

Politically, Trump taking on the baggage of this recall by elevating Witt goes beyond whether or not it makes political sense, which is of course does not. It invites very basic questions about the wisdom of the Trump campaign–at least in Colorado. Jefferson County is considered a bellwether for the state as a whole, with a large politically diverse suburban middle-class population that often proves decisive in statewide elections. In is not an exaggeration to state that the Trump campaign has chosen one of the most demonstrably unpopular political figures in recent Colorado political history, certainly in Jeffco history, to front for them with the voters.

Donald Trump (R-IDGAF).

Donald Trump (R-IDGAF).

Witt is the Trump campaign’s official surrogate in a guest op-ed in the Denver Post today:

I was encouraged to hear Donald Trump unveil his school choice policy earlier this month, because school choice made made such a difference for my family. Trump committed to provide $20 billion in existing federal spending to states in the form of block grants, so more at-risk families can find the best educational fit for each student, allowing every child to realize their full academic potential…

I am hopeful to once again have a president in office who understands that one size does not fit all, and that our students best succeed when they can each find their own best academic setting in which to thrive.

Witt’s forgettable anecdotes about school choice helping his family, an issue which hasn’t really come up on either side as a campaign issue, won’t distract Jeffco voters from the fact that Ken Witt is the author of the pro-Trump op-ed in today’s Denver Post head-to-head. The pro-Hillary Clinton side was represented by former Colorado Governor and Los Angeles Public Schools superintendent Roy Romer, whose relative credentials to speak about education policy…for pity’s sake, do we even need to say it? This “matchup” is an insult to Gov. Romer, and your intelligence too. And politically, it’s so incredibly foolish it leaves us at a loss for words.

In a perfect world, Witt re-emerging from his disastrous recall as Trump’s education spokesman would be nationally lampooned–at least earning the attention that last year’s recall of Witt and the right-wing school board majority itself did. At the very least, it’s an incredible mistake to make in Colorado’s most-watched suburban battleground, and it will cost the Trump campaign dearly with voters in Jefferson County.

And to whoever thought this was a good idea…seriously, get your head examined.

Everybody’s Trying So Hard To Save Mike Coffman

coffmanpushupThe recent story of national conservative “astroturf” organizing behemoth Americans For Prosperity’s single-minded fixation with Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District, where the organization’s president Tim Phillips was personally knocking on doors last week with literature attacking incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman’s Democratic opponent Morgan Carroll, has made political outsiders more aware of something we’ve known for months: this is one of the most important congressional races in the entire nation, and the threat Coffman faces is a bellwether for the GOP’s ability to function in a post-Donald Trump political landscape.

This year in Colorado, Americans for Prosperity is targeting Democrat Morgan Carroll, who is challenging Republican incumbent Mike Coffman in the 6th Congressional District. The organization is not making a play in the presidential race to help Donald Trump, nor Colorado’s U.S. Senate race to boost Republican Darryl Glenn, who AFP strategists don’t consider competitive.

The Carroll-Coffman contest is the only U.S. House race in the nation this year to draw attention from the organization backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch…

George Will, y'all.

George Will, y’all.

AFP may be singularly focused on Coffman’s race in Colorado due to the lack of any decent prospects higher up the ticket, but they’re not the only big guns on the right side of the aisle jumping into the fight to save him. In the Washington Post this weekend, iconic conservative columnist George Will himself devoted an entire column to talking up Coffman’s “reinvention” into…well, something most conservatives oppose:

After he was reelected with 66 percent of the vote in 2010, his district was gerrymandered to make it more Democratic — 20 percent Hispanic, with a generous salting of other minorities. He won in 2012 with just 48 percent of the vote. In 2014, national Democrats recruited a formidable opponent, a Yale University graduate who had taught, in Spanish, in Central American schools. So, Coffman learned Spanish well enough to do an entire debate in the language, and today banters in Spanish with the children at Roca Fuerte Academy…

Will goes on to describe how Coffman, who once called the DREAM Act a “nightmare” and told bilingual voters to “pull out a dictionary,” has switched positions on immigration and sponsored various stillborn efforts to pass at least part of the DREAM Act in recent years.

As we’ve discussed in this space many times, the question of Coffman’s “reinvention” since 2011 comes down to whether you find it believable, or merely shrewd politics. After all, Coffman’s Republicans majority leadership in the House has consistently ensured that none of these newer reforms Coffman has proposed go anywhere–and Coffman’s would-be change of heart of immigration has never motivated him to go after John Boehner or now Paul Ryan for killing them.

Setting that question aside though, we think the best explanation for so much attention being focused on Coffman’s race is that Republicans nationally are genuinely afraid of the consequences of losing, viewing CD-6 and Coffman’s political reinvention as a model for their whole party’s increasingly likely retreat from the wreckage Trump leaves behind after his own defeat in November. You don’t see this kind of fixation on a race they’re comfortable about. But if New Coffman® can triangulate his way through this election with the damage Trump is doing to the Republican brand, he blazes a trail for how other Republicans can do the same thing–now and in the difficult years that lie ahead.

That or Coffman goes down, and Republicans learn that not even abandoning their principles can save them.

Under-the-Radar Race Gets TV Coverage Because… It’s So Important!

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

If you’re paying attention to politics in Colorado, you know that few people have any clue about the most important political contest in the state: the state senate race in Arvada/Westminster, where Republican Laura Woods is battling Democrat Rachel Zenzinger.

But the importance of the race apparently isn’t a good enough news hook for many reporters to give it the coverage it deserves, which is a lot.

So Fox 31 Denver’s Joe St. George gets our collective thanks for assembling a TV story about, as he labeled it, the state senate race in Arvada that could be “the most important race you’re not watching.” That was his hook! How great is that?

“At first glance this race doesn’t look very important,” says St. George in his piece, showing Woods and Zenzinger knocking on doors. “…the most important race you likely haven’t talked about….if Zenzinger wins this re-match, Dems may be in complete control [of state government]….

“While this race dominates the headlines,” narrates St. George, flashing images of Clinton and Trump. “This one in Arvada may end up impacting your life more come next year.”

Political insiders know this, yet coverage of the state’s most important race remains spotty (unless you get behind the paywall of the Colorado Statesman–or read the Colorado Independent), so few people know about it, much less where the candidates stand on the issues. St. George provided a bit of this info on the KDVR Fox 31 Denver website, listing, among others, these comparisons of the two candidates.

St. George reported:

In terms of the issues:

Abortion
Woods: Pro-life
Zenzinger: Pro-choice

Gun control
Woods: Against
Zenzinger: Supports common sense measures

Minimum wage increase
Woods: Against
Zenzinger: Supports

(For background, Woods is against all abortion, even for rape and incest, and, on guns, she’s against all criminal background checks prior to gun purchases.)

As we get closer to the election, more reporters will almost certainly inform voters just how important this race is. Good to see St. George leading the way.

Ted Cruz Knuckles Under; Will Mike Coffman?

Ted Cruz, Donald Trump.

Ted Cruz, Donald Trump.

Remember when GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz called Donald Trump “an horrific choice for this country,” a “pathological liar,” and “utterly amoral?”

As CNN reports today, forget all that!

Ted Cruz endorsed Donald Trump for the presidency Friday afternoon, a stunning turn of events after a contentious primary filled with nasty personal attacks and a dramatic snub at the Republican National Convention.

“After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump,” Cruz wrote in a Facebook post.

“A year ago, I pledged to endorse the Republican nominee, and I am honoring that commitment. And if you don’t want to see a Hillary Clinton presidency, I encourage you to vote for him.”

Cruz’s highly belated endorsement of Donald Trump is raising eyebrows among his supporters and the larger “NeverTrump” movement within the Republican Party, with many calling it a sacrifice of principle for political expediency. On the other hand, Cruz’s endorsement of Trump could do much to calm the lingering discord within the Colorado Republican Party, which has been riven with infighting ever since Cruz swept Colorado’s RNC delegates in the GOP state assembly process.

But above all, Cruz boarding the Trump Train robs Trump triangulator Rep. Mike Coffman of his cover. There’s no question that Cruz’s problems with Trump, both personal and on a policy level, were far greater than anything Coffman has cited. Coffman has also promised to back the GOP nominee. Will rank-and-file Republicans in CD-6 tolerate Coffman’s Trump temporization until Election Day, or is a backfire now much more likely?

Either way, we’re pretty sure Coffman didn’t plan for this development.

The Get More Smarter Show: September 23, 2016

This week on Get More Smarter: Jason Bane and Alan Franklin give a rundown on the state of play in Colorado with elections only a few weeks away: Donald Trump, congressional races, and the battle for the Colorado legislature.

If you’ve missed an episode of the Get More Smarter Show, click here to catch up! And thanks again for watching.

Mike Pence: Stop Admitting Police Racism Exists

Mike Pence, Donald Trump.

Mike Pence, Donald Trump.

AP via 9NEWS reports from GOP vice presidential candidate Mike Pence’s campaign stop in Colorado Springs yesterday:

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence says U.S. society should “set aside talk” of institutional racism in the wake of more police killings of black men.

Pence told a group of evangelical church leaders Thursday in Colorado Springs that recent police shootings in Oklahoma and North Carolina require officials to “speak with compassion” and assure the public that “justice will be served.”

But he added that “Donald Trump and I both believe that there’s been far too much of this talk of institutional bias or racism in law enforcement.” [Pols emphasis] Pence said “we ought to set aside this talk” that he described as “the rhetoric of division.”

Corey Hutchins at the Colorado Independent further documents Pence’s comments:

“Sadly, our opponent once again refers to what she calls the institutional racism in law enforcement,” Pence said. “We’ve heard this week, again, the systemic racism in law enforcement in this country.”

His voice rising, Pence said he and Trump believe police “are not a force for racism in America,” but “a force for good,” deserving support and respect.

Police violence against minorities is one of the most controversial topics of debate we have in America today, and the recent heightened awareness of the issue following numerous high-profile police killings of African-Americans and resulting protests has forced basically everyone in the country to form an opinion. The truth is that minorities are indeed disproportionately killed while interacting with police compared to whites, and investigations into places like Ferguson, Missouri have revealed what very much appears to be systemic racism in the targeting of black communities with traffic enforcement and other small-time high-fine violations.

Whichever side you fall on with regard to the issue, we cannot imagine any scenario in which not talking about a problem is helpful to the goal of solving it. That seems like the worst possible way to, you know, govern.

But here we are.

Friday Open Thread

“That which is not good for the bee-hive cannot be good for the bees.”

–Marcus Aurelius

Post’s Editorial Page Promotes Coffman and We Lose

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Denver Post editorial/news guy Chuck Plunkett.

Denver Post editorial/news guy Chuck Plunkett.

“Good for Mike Coffman.” That’s the first line of an August Denver Post editorial, and, as it turns out, it’s an excellent summation of the The Post editorial page’s singular stance toward Coffman over many years.

I just finished reviewing five years of Post editorials mentioning Coffman, and, of the 43 editorials citing the Aurora Republican Congressman during that period, including two endorsements, he’s been criticized only four times, while being praised in 34 editorials. The newspaper has lauded him mostly on issues related to the Veterans Administation but also on immigration, Selective Service, Afghanistan, marijuana, the federal budget, and more.

Yet, during these five years, Coffman has run seriously afoul with the broad positions/principles taken by The Post: on Planned Parenthood (Coffman voted twice to defund just last year, after putting the organization’s logo in a campaign ad the previous year.) and on immigration (Coffman opposed a 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, and he reiterated his opposition to birthright citizenship, even stating so in an interview with a Post editorial writer.).

In 2013, Coffman threatened to shut down the government instead of raising the debt ceiling. Nothing from The Post. And nothing from The Post when Coffman belittled global-warming science in 2013.

The Post was silent in 2012 when Coffman said Obama was not an American “in his heart,” and Coffman strangely told 9News’ Kyle Clark five times:  “I stand by my statement that I misspoke, and I apologize.”

Coffman’s positions over many years have been at odds with stances The Post has taken. But the newspaper has been mostly silent.

To be fair, a more cursory analysis shows that The Post doesn’t criticize U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet much either, and he was also endorsed by The Post.

The difference? Bennet’s policy positions, on the issues mentioned above and others, align very closely with The Post’s, while Coffman’s do not.

You can’t blame Post editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett for much of this, since he took over the job exactly three months ago, but I called him anyway for his take on whether the newspaper deliberately refrains from criticizing Coffman, even when his positions clash with the newspaper’s editorial views.

“I think this is an election year stunt, not a genuine analysis,” he told me, arguing that there was no news hook for my blog post and I was not focusing on The Post’s treatment of other elected officials. “You’re picking Mike Coffman, when Morgan Carroll is struggling. Why is that? It looks like you’re trying to aid Morgan more than you are legitimately trying to critique an institution.”

I explained to Plunkett that as a progressive media critic, I look for instances where news outlets tilt rightward. That’s my bias, and with the election coming up, now is a valid time to analyze The Post’s editorial-page approach to Coffman, which I found inexplicable.

“As a journalist, I think trying to analyze a newspaper’s position over time is very tricky, especially if you only look at one particular angle,” Plunkett told me. “There are all kinds of things that go into thinking about an editorial or an endorsement or what have you.”

“You’re right,” Plunkett acknowledged, “when a newspaper endorses someone, that same board is going to be, understandably, more protective of that person.”

(more…)

Darryl Glenn Just (Awkwardly) Talking to the People

Republican Senate candidate Darryl Glenn is not the most accessible candidate in Colorado. Glenn easily (and surprisingly) won the June Republican Primary for the U.S. Senate nomination, but since then he’s been harder to track down than an Hispanic female supporter of Donald Trump.

Glenn likes to spend his campaign time speaking only in front of friendly audiences, which is why he has shunned most Colorado reporters and is rarely seen outside of highly-partisan right-wing events. With just a few weeks left until ballots drop in Colorado, Glenn is turning to Facebook to spread his anti-collaboration message.

Glenn is answering questions during a “live” town hall event on Facebook that was scheduled to begin at 3:00 today. Glenn has been in Washington D.C. this week, and he took some time during his travels to shoot an incredibly-awkward video promoting his Facebook outreach.

Here’s Glenn standing in front of The Capitol Hill Club (?) in Washington D.C., pretending not to be reading off of a script or teleprompter or something. Enjoy!

“I look forward to being your next Senator…[pause]…In Colorado.”

Randy “The Stache” Baumgardner’s Got Some ‘Splaining To Do

Randy Baumgardner.

Randy Baumgardner.

UPDATE: David O. Williams updates his story with another document that directly contradicts Baumgardner’s own statement that “I don’t know anything about that.”

And documents obtained in the CORA request also show the senator does know about the incidents in question: baumgardner-sand-release-april-2015(pdf).

—–

Freelance journalist David O. Williams has a new story out today that could spell trouble for Colorado’s “Capital Cowboy,” state Sen. Randy Baumgardner–who has allegedly been beating the high cost of living by misusing state property for his personal needs:

In a recent interview with the Rocky Mountain Post, [Democratic opponent Emily] Tracy accused Baumgardner of ignoring constituents, violating the public trust and playing politics over critical economic and safety issues such as highway funding. She was particularly pointed over revelations the senator may have use state property for personal gain while working for the highway department.

“It’s a violation of public trust,” Tracy said. “It’s public money. It’s taxpayer’s hard-earned money that goes to funding all of this. It just shouldn’t be misused.”

The Rocky Mountain Post obtained the results of a Colorado Open Records Act request filed with the Colorado Department of Transportation last spring revealing that Randy and Lori Baumgardner were involved in three different incidents of personal use of state property.

Randy Baumgardner worked for the state highway department for 11 years starting in 2000, and his wife Lori still works for CDOT. Lori Baumgardner received multiple Performance Documentation Forms for incidents that also involved her husband, including the improper use of a fuel card PIN number in 2009, using CDOT sand on their ranch in 2014, and earlier this year using CDOT office photocopy machines to duplicate their tax returns.

Baumgardner’s response to these questions…is not good:

“I don’t know anything about any of that,” Randy Baumgardner told the Rocky Mountain Post. “I’m not addressing any of that. Like I said, you can make out of that whatever you want to. I don’t know. I’ve not worked for them since 2011. [Lori] still works for them. I’m not going to get into the weeds on that.”

CDOT officials would not comment on the CORA findings, citing personnel reasons, but officials did verify the results of the records request, which included emails from supervisors who were very concerned about the misuse of state property by the Baumgardners. [Pols emphasis]

It’s of course extremely unlikely that Baumgardner doesn’t know about these incidents, which left a paper trail of emails that prove it was a known problem within the Colorado Department of Transportation. Any appropriation of government resources for personal use by a government employee is unacceptable, and it’s naturally worse when that government employee also happens to be a sitting state lawmaker.

We’ll have to see how this story develops–but if you’re looking for the type of scandal that might actually cost a quasi-safe legislator their seat with elections only a few weeks away, we’d say this could fit the bill.

Ivanka Trump Stiffs Coloradoan Reporter

Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, is in Colorado stumping for her father’s Presidential campaign. She seems to have inherited her father’s grumpy disposition toward the media:

How dare you attempt to do journalism in the presence of a Trump!

Get More Smarter on Thursday (September 22)

Get More SmarterHappy “Autumnal Equinox,” everybody! Try saying “Autumnal Equinox” three times fast. 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.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Last week some polls showed Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump apparently gaining momentum on Democrat Hillary Clinton. This week, it seems, that narrative is no longer accurate. A new poll from Colorado Mesa University and Rocky Mountain PBS shows Clinton with a 44-35 lead over Trump in Colorado — right about where Clinton had been polling prior to last week’s outlier results.

 

► Opponents of Obamacare in Colorado are unabashedly cheering the news that health insurance premiums are expected to rise in 2017, but that’s only a piece of the story. Insurance premiums are not rising 20% across-the-board, as Charles Ashby notes for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

 

► Republican State Senator Randy Baumgardner is running into some trouble as he campaigns for re-election. As journalist David O. Williams reports, Baumgardner is having trouble answering questions about repeated instances of using state resources for his own benefit through the Colorado Department of Transportation:

The Rocky Mountain Post obtained the results of a Colorado Open Records Act request filed with the Colorado Department of Transportation last spring revealing that Randy and Lori Baumgardner were involved in three different incidents of personal use of state property.

Randy Baumgardner worked for the state highway department for 11 years starting in 2000, and his wife Lori still works for CDOT. Lori Baumgardner received multiple Performance Documentation Forms for incidents that also involved her husband, including the improper use of a fuel card PIN number in 2009, using CDOT sand on their ranch in 2014, and earlier this year using CDOT office photocopy machines to duplicate their tax returns.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

CMU/PBS in Colorado: Clinton 44%, Trump 35%

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports, a new poll from Colorado Mesa University and Rocky Mountain PBS today resets the presidential race in Colorado to where it was before a recent “surge” for Republican Donald Trump in a spate of early September polls–a solid lead in our state for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton:

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate for president, leads her Republican rival, Donald Trump, by 9 percentage points in Colorado, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

The poll of 540 registered Colorado voters, the first ever done by Colorado Mesa University, with Rocky Mountain PBS, also showed that Trump’s unfavorability rating of 38 percent among Colorado voters is nearly as high as Clinton’s favorability rating of 40 percent…

For the presidential race, the poll shows that Clinton holds a four-point advantage over Trump with male voters and a nine percentage-point lead with females. While the number of Democrats who favor Clinton and Republicans Trump were about the same, with about three-quarters of them favoring their party’s candidate, the split among unaffiliated voters went strongly for Clinton.

Here’s the details from CMU’s website.

In the U.S. Senate race, today’s poll shows the same double-digit lead for incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet over GOP challenger Darryl Glenn that most other polls have indicated, even while Clinton’s advantage over Trump narrowed. Turning to statewide ballot measures, the poll shows the end-of-life options proposal up by a whopping 70%, and the minimum wage increase polling at a respectable 58%. The “Raise The Bar” measure to make ballot measures harder to qualify is up by only 52%, which is troubling for its supporters given the natural tendency for ballot measures to slip in support as Election Day approaches. The “ColoradoCare” Amendment 69 measure is down heavily in this poll with 56% opposed and only 30% in favor.

Whatever caused the temporary dip in Clinton’s polling numbers in the last few week, which was undeniable being replicated in many polls here and in other battleground states, here we have evidence–in need of corroboration like any poll–that the overall trajectory of that race hasn’t really changed much.

With October almost upon us, that’s welcome news for Team Blue.