BREAKING: GOP Special Session Shenanigans Confirmed

UPDATE: You may have noticed that the deadline dates listed in the draft bill in question (below) erroneously state 2017 as the coming legislative year. Since this legislation was filed last week, it’s obviously intended for the 2018 legislative session.

Thus illustrating again that errors, you know, happen. And then we fix them.

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As we reported earlier today, Gov. John Hickenlooper has called a special session of the Colorado General Assembly to convene early next month for the purpose of remedying a drafting error in Senate Bill 17-267: the large-scale bipartisan fiscal bill that averted large cuts to the budget this year, and in particular protected rural hospitals from possible closure. Although this language fix would save Denver RTD and the metro Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SFCD) from millions of dollars in unexpected cuts due to marijuana tax revenue they would not receive, Republicans appear to be rallying against making the fix–preferring instead to blast Hickenlooper for the “waste” of calling a special session to deal with the problem.

But we just found out something very important. Republicans already know about the problem.

This is an excerpt from a draft bill filed by GOP Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg on September 5th. This draft legislation appears to accomplish the aim of the special session–ensuring that special taxing districts like RTD and SFCD can continue to levy their marijuana sales taxes even after the legislature exempted marijuana from the state’s regular sales tax:

Because state law specifies that the regional transportation district (RTD), the scientific and cultural facilities district (SCFD), and a health services district (HSD) may levy sales tax only on transactions upon which the state levies sales tax “pursuant to the provisions of article 26 of title 29. C.R.S.”, the exemption of retail marijuana sales from the general state sales tax had the unintended consequence of exempting such sales from RTD, SCFD, and HSD sales taxes even though the state continues to levy the retail marijuana sales tax pursuant to article 28.8. of title 39, C.R.S. In addition, other statutes that authorize certain special districts and authorities to levy sales taxes only upon transactions upon which the state levies sales tax but do not specifically reference article 26 are sufficiently ambiguous that they could also be interpreted to no longer authorize those special districts to levy sales tax on retail marijuana sales.

The bill clarifies that retail marijuana sales are subject to RTD, SCFD, and HSD sales taxes as well as other potentially affected special district and authority sales taxes.

Folks, this is the objective of the special session–to correct this exact error, and ensure these monies continue to flow to these special tax districts. To fail to pass this fix bill as quickly as possible will mean lost revenue for these entities. That’s why Gov. Hickenlooper called the special session.

Obviously, the fact that Republicans not only knew about this problem, but had already filed a draft bill for the 2018 legislation to address the problem, severely undercuts their feigned outrage over being called back to address it sooner–and it means they should have no problem supporting the bill whenever they get it. We have no idea how they intend to respond to the charge of blatant hypocrisy and political posturing here, but it’s one of the more egregious cases we’ve seen in recent memory.

In fact, this is exactly the kind of nonsense that makes the voting public hate politics.

AFP: All Over The Map On Hospital Provider Fee Follies

As the Denver Post’s Brian Eason reports, Gov. John Hickenlooper is calling state lawmakers back next month for a narrowly-focused special session of the legislature–the purpose being to fix an error in a key piece of legislation passed this year that is resulting in unexpected budget cuts to specific programs:

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday called lawmakers back to the Capitol to fix a bill-drafting error that has been costing Denver-based institutions hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in marijuana revenue.

The special session set to start Oct. 2 will be the first in five years for Hickenlooper and the General Assembly, an extraordinary step for a governor who typically has deferred to lawmakers on legislative matters during his two terms.

“After hearing about the potential impact on citizens around the state, it is clear that this problem is best solved as soon as possible,” Hickenlooper said in a statement announcing his executive order, capping a day of speculation about his plans.

The error in question affects the bipartisan hospital provider fee and budget fix legislation Senate Bill 17-267, this year’s hard-won compromise bill hammered out between Democrats and Republicans led by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg that averted much larger and more painful budget cuts. Specifically, the mistake eliminated marijuana tax funding for Denver RTD and the metro area’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), along with a few other organizations, while intending to increase marijuana tax revenue–meaning an error completely counter to the bill’s intentions.

But as you might have expected, Republicans and conservative activists are howling over the special session and threatening to not cooperate–including Sen. Sonnenberg and Rep. Jon Becker, the two primary GOP sponsors of SB-267:

Intransigence that is outraging Democrats who worked with them:


As for the state’s biggest conservative advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity-Colorado? Don’t bother. They’re all over the map. During the legislative session, AFP claimed to be “working with” Sen. Sonnenberg on SB-267, ostensibly to ensure it wasn’t too offensive to them. The organization was listed in lobbying disclosure forms as “monitoring” SB-267, not opposing, while then-AFP state director Michael Fields taunted Democrats about supposed GOP willingness to move forward:

And the group’s 2017 Colorado legislative scorecard–the first version, anyway–was a little confusing, but appeared to consider a “yes” SB-267 vote a good thing:

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Hickenlooper Upstages Cynthia Coffman on DACA Lawsuit

UPDATE: Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman picks a side–and it’s not the DREAMers:

“In Colorado, my office has the independent authority to take legal action on behalf of the state when I believe doing so is in the state’s best interest,” Coffman said in the statement. “In this case, I do not. Nor do I support the legal arguments in the Democrats’ lawsuit.”

In the choice between DREAMers and positioning herself for a GOP primary, Coffman chose the primary.

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Gov. John Hickenlooper and AG Cynthia Coffman.

As the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports, Gov. John Hickenlooper is taking action to challenge President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, standing up for some 17,000 undocumented immigrants in Colorado who came to this country as children–and could face deportation if the high-stakes game of chicken over their fate in Washington doesn’t go well:

Colorado announced Wednesday that it plans to join more than a dozen other states in a lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects young immigrants living in the U.S. illegally from deportation.

“President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program is outrageous and risks the futures of more than 17,000 Coloradans,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement. “Colorado benefits when (DACA recipients) have the opportunity to thrive in our communities and the only country they’ve ever known. These young people should not have to suffer because of our broken immigration system.”

Hickenlooper added that while the legal action is “no substitute for the sort of comprehensive immigration reform that can only come from Congress, it sends a necessary message that the rule of law and basic notions of fairness still matter in this country.”

Hickenlooper is taking this extraordinary action without support from Colorado’s Republican attorney general Cynthia Coffman, a prospective GOP gubernatorial candidate in 2018:

An outside attorney will act as a special attorney general and represent Colorado in the legal action, she said. The move requires Coffman’s consent because she is the only one who can file legal challenges on behalf of the state.

Coffman, a Republican, last week suggested she wouldn’t join the other state attorneys general in suing to block Trump from dismantling DACA, saying the immigration debate “belongs in Congress.”

So-called “DREAMer” students and young people, who are the most sympathy-inspiring class of undocumented immigrants being childhood arrivals in this country who in many cases know no other culture, are supported by a large majority of the public–either for a path to American citizenship, or at the very least legal permission to remain in the country. There are really not many people in America outright opposed to protecting DACA recipients in some form–but unfortunately for Cynthia Coffman, who is trying to figure out a path to the GOP nomination for governor of Colorado next year, a lot of those opponents are GOP primary voters.

And that, dear reader, is why Coffman is reluctant to go to bat for the DREAMers.

Get More Smarter on Friday (September 8)

In these times of escalating partisan rancor, it’s nice to know that we can all come together in a shared dislike of Tom Brady. It’s time to Get More Smarter. 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…

► Congress this morning gave final approval to a $15 billion disaster relief package in the wake of Hurricane Harvey…just as Hurricane Irma prepares to throttle Florida. President Trump is apparently quite excited that his show of “bipartisanship” this week has attracted so much positive media coverage. As NBC News reports:

Trump expressed that he was thrilled with the positive news coverage the debt limit deal had received, a senior Democratic aide told NBC News.

“The people of the United States want to see a coming together, at least to an extent. We’re different parties, we have different thoughts, different feelings, different ideas. But I think you’re coming to see a much stronger coming together,” Trump told reporters at the White House Thursday.

Earlier in the day he said he looks forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats.

You’re a good wittle President, aren’t you? Yes, you are! 

 

► Anyway, back to the hurricane news…As the New York Times reports, nearly the entire state of Florida is in danger from one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded:

One of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded crescendoed over the Caribbean on Thursday, crumpling islands better known as beach paradises into half-habitable emergency zones and sideswiping Puerto Rico before churning north. It is expected to hit the Florida Keys and South Florida by Saturday night…

…Gov. Rick Scott of Florida urged extreme caution in the face of a powerful storm that could quickly change course. “Every Florida family must prepare to evacuate regardless of the coast you live on,” he said.

Hurricane Irma is the size of France — like, the entire country. Miami could take a near-direct hit by Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, a third potentially major hurricane, Jose, is right on the heels of Irma. And a major 8.1 magnitude earthquake was recorded off the southern coast of Mexico.

 

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) has already dropped his plans to push a discharge petition for a House vote on DACA. As The Hill reports:

Coffman said he made an agreement with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to hold off on gathering support for his discharge petition for the bill, which would extend protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for three years.

Coffman filed the discharge petition on Tuesday, which would need 218 signatures to trigger a House floor vote. Discharge petitions are typically used by the House minority party to bring attention to legislation ignored by the majority-party leadership — but are rarely successful.

For a member of the House majority like Coffman to file a discharge petition was an exceedingly rare move.

If you were cynical about Coffman’s newfound commitment to DACA, well, go ahead and say, “I told you so.”

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman — Mike Coffman’s former spouse — doesn’t want any part of the controversy surrounding President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program for children of undocumented immigrants. Elsewhere, a group of 11 Democratic Governors are urging Congress to take swift action to assist DREAMERS.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Health Insurance: What’s Jacking Those Rates Again?

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports on approved health insurance premium increases announced today for the individual market in Colorado–plans that are more expensive for 2018 than they were this year, though not quite as bad as originally feared:

Health insurance premiums for individual medical plans in Colorado will go up by an average of 26.7 percent in 2018, and small group plan premiums will rise by an average of 6.6 percent—both slightly lower than was originally estimated earlier this summer.

The Colorado Division of Insurance released the finalized premium hikes for next year’s health insurance plans on Wednesday, nearly two months after it released the requests made by the various companies operating in Colorado…

Individual plans make up between 7 and 8 percent (around 450,000 people) of the state’s population with health insurance coverage, and more than half of Coloradans are insured by their employer.

The 26.7 percent average hike is an increase from the average 20 percent increase in individual plan premiums in 2017. In 2016, individual policy premiums went up by 9.8 percent.

The premiums don’t account for the federal tax credits offered on the state health exchange that help offset costs for people based on their income, age and location in Colorado.

As we’ve discussed many times in the past, the most sensationalized top-line increases in insurance premiums don’t reflect what most Coloradans and businesses located in the state actually pay. Increases for employer provided group insurance have been much smaller on average than for individual and small-group plans, and accounts for far more insured people. And on the individual market, premium increases are continuously offset by tax credit subsidies for premium support.

Every year since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, news of premium hikes for insurance plans has turned into a political hot potato–with Republican opponents of the law blaming reform for premium increases and freely fudging the details to make the problem seem worse than it actually was. That’s not to say premium hikes are okay–it just needs to be remembered that premiums were spiking before the ACA was passed. But this year, as a release today from the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative explains, premium hikes can no longer be laid at the foot of a now-former President:

The Congressional Republicans’ failed efforts to repeal the ACA combined with the Administration’s wavering on issues like whether to pay out cost-sharing reduction payments has created uncertainty in the insurance market. [Pols emphasis] This uncertainty, combined with claims experience, high prescription drug prices, and less competition in some areas of the state, drove up the insurance companies’ rate filings. Today, the DOI granted most of the insurers’ requested rate increases, meaning consumers who cannot access financial assistance will pay higher prices for their health care.

“The irresponsibility of this Administration and Republicans in attacking the stability of our health coverage systems is simply astounding,” said Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “While one party looked for ways to roll back access and affordability rather than making constructive efforts to fix the private insurance market, rates have gone up and consumers will bear the cost.”

…Fox continued, “Republicans in D.C. have already cost consumers in these substantial increases to next year’s premiums, and the Trump Administration continues to sabotage the individual market by slashing funding for marketing and outreach. This change alone will lead to lower enrollments, a sicker insurance pool, and higher premiums next year. Our elected officials need to look at common-sense, bipartisan ideas like those presented by Colorado’s Governor to stabilize the individual market.”

Whether or not this translates into support for the plan from Govs. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and John Kasich of Ohio to stabilize the insurance marketplace is tough to say right now, but politically it really should. Every day that Republicans preside in the majority while these problems persist and worsen leaves them responsible in the eyes of voters for the harm being done. Arguably that’s been true for all the years Republicans refused to do anything to address issues that cropped up under President Obama–but now it’s undeniable. There’s nowhere left to pass the buck.

Donna Lynne Seeks Third Term for Hickenlooper

Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne’s shadow looks a lot like John Hickenlooper.

After months of threatening to actually run for Governor, Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne has apparently decided that she is really, seriously, truly going to be a candidate in 2018. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post, Lynne will formally launch her campaign for John Hickenlooper’s third term in office on Thursday:

Asked about the campaign, Hickenlooper seeks to appear impartial, but his enthusiasm for Lynne is most evident. At a recent Politico event in Denver, he gave positive marks to all the top candidates, but he gushed about Lynne, a former Kaiser Permanente executive who serves as his chief operating officer and point person on health care issues.

“I do think she is a remarkably talented person, and if she were to run and to win, she would be a great governor,” he said.

And Hickenlooper is cognizant about what his words mean. “The last thing she needs is for everyone to say, ‘The governor is trying to get her elected’ or ‘pushing her out there to do this.’ ”

But Lynne embraces the connection. She’s essentially framing her bid as “Hickenlooper, Part II.”

“I think the transition from Gov. Hickenlooper, who has a great legacy, to someone who has been at his side, who has dealt every single day with a variety of issues, is a distinguishing characteristic,” Lynne said in a recent interview. “We need a steady hand on the wheel.” [Pols emphasis]

Hickenlooper seems pretty well-ensconced behind Lynne’s candidacy, which is a noticeable shift from his position two years ago. When Lynne was selected as LG in March 2016, she insisted that she would not be a candidate for Governor in 2018. This was in line with Hickenlooper’s public position as he assessed potential successors to Lieutenant Gov. Joe Garcia, who left in late 2015 to take a job with an education nonprofit; Hickenlooper had been clear that he didn’t want to nominate someone with ambitions to seek the top job later.

While it is obvious that Hickenlooper will not be shy about backing Lynne in 2018, it’s far from clear that this will be a significant advantage for the Lite Gov. in a Democratic Primary. As Frank notes in his story for the Post:

What Lynne needs most is help raising money, particularly from small donors and a boost in name recognition among Democrats. But this is where Hickenlooper’s clout may have limits.

Unlike other elected officials, he, while in office, has not maintained an extensive email list of supporters that he can pass to Lynne, nor did he cultivate party activists, given he twice ran unopposed for the party nomination. Now, the bipartisan coalition of business leaders that he created in his successful campaigns is fracturing.

Hickenlooper’s campaign fundraiser, Rick Sapkin, and two close associates and GOP donors, Greg Maffei and Larry Mizel, are major contributors to a Republican super PAC that is expected to support state Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

When Hickenlooper ran for Governor in 2010, his positioning as a centrist businessman — along with a train wreck of a Republican ticket — allowed him to maintain the support of folks like Maffei and Mizel and helped him coast to an easy victory (Hick kept that coalition largely intact in his 2014 re-election bid). While he never shied away from the “D” that followed his name on the ballot, it wasn’t until the 2016 election cycle that Hickenlooper started to act more like the top elected Democrat in the state. Hick was a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign and actively campaigned on behalf of many Democratic candidates running for seats in the state legislature.

The reason Hickenlooper’s backing of Lynne may not be much of a factor in 2018 is the same reason why we’ve never really believed any of the rumors that Hick might run for President some day: He doesn’t have a robust Democratic base of support. Prior to 2016, Hickenlooper showed little interest in party politics, and as Frank points out above, his political operation never made much of an effort to establish a connection with active Democrats.

Lynne’s apparent plan to position herself as a continuation of the Hickenlooper era won’t likely resonate with Democrats who don’t know much about her and don’t have a real connection to the Governor. If Lynne is going to scrape out a following that can carry her through the Primary next June, she’s going to have to forge her own path.

Get More Smarter on Friday (September 1)

For those of you who haven’t already left town for a “four-day weekend,” allow us to catch you up on your political news. It’s time to Get More Smarter. 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…

► President Trump is calling his own bluff — again — on a potential government shutdown. The White House is backing off of Trump’s most-recent threats to “shut down” the federal government if Congress doesn’t appropriate enough money to build a giant wall between the U.S.-Mexico border. As the Washington Post reports:

“Build that wall,” Trump said at the Aug. 22 rally in Phoenix. “Now the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it. But believe me, if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.”

But shortly after Trump made those comments, White House officials quietly notified Congress that the $1.6 billion would not need to be in a “continuing resolution” that was meant to fund government operations from October until sometime in early December, a senior GOP congressional aide said…

…Trump could still follow through on a threat to shut down the government in December, but this marks the second time he has pulled back from the wall demand in order to allow lawmakers to pass a budget bill. The first time came in May, when lawmakers voted to authorize government funding through September and refrained from including money that would allow for the construction of a new wall.

The OVER/UNDER for the number of times that Trump will threaten to shut down the federal government (in 2017) is now at 3.5.

 

► Governor John Hickenlooper and his new BFF, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are promoting a healthcare policy plan of their own for Congress to get behind. The key tenets of the “Kasichlooper” plan are to stabilize insurance markets in part through retaining the “individual mandate” for insurance coverage. Governors from Nevada, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Virginia, Louisiana and Montana have also signed onto the plan.

Why is it so important to retain the “individual mandate?” Read this story from the Seattle Times about what happened in the state of Washington when state legislators dumped the mandate (SPOLER ALERT: It didn’t go well).

 

President Trump is expected to rescind DACA — an Obama-era policy halting the deportation of children of undocumented immigrants — a decision that could mark a significant turning point for the electoral hopes of Republicans in years to come. Denver7 provides some Colorado-centered specifics:

They were brought to the U.S. as children of undocumented immigrants and a program called DACA allowed them to stay, to go to school and enter the workforce. But Thursday night, the hundreds of thousands of so-called ‘Dreamers,’ including those living in Colorado, fear their dreams could vanish as President Donald Trump nears a decision on whether to end DACA.

Denver7 talked to a local Dreamer, Monica Acosta about what’s at stake…

…This would essentially deport 17,000 Dreamers in Colorado and 800,000 across the country. Acosta is trying to cope and says she plans to stay put in the only place she has ever called home.

Officials with Denver Public Schools are warning that ending DACA would have “catastrophic” effects on the community as a whole. Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced on Friday that he does not believe President Trump should axe DAVA.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Fringe Right Howls, But GOP Needs “KasichlooperCare”

UPDATE: Remember, friends, that we don’t have to guess at what might happen if the “individual mandate” is not preserved. In the mid-1990s, the state of Washington implemented many healthcare policy changes now favored by many Republicans, and the result was a complete collapse of the insurance market in the state. This now-classic Seattle Times story from January tells the tale in detail:

By 1999, it was impossible to buy an individual policy in Washington. Every insurer had pulled out. Premera Blue Cross said it lost more than $120 million in Washington before it stopped selling individual policies.

With no requirement to buy insurance — and the guarantee that people could buy insurance if they got sick — healthy people could hold off, only signing up if they needed medical care. 

A sicker population of people buying insurance pushed premiums up. Which, in turn, led more healthy people to hold off. Which pushed premiums up…[Pols emphasis]

…“The whole principle of insurance is you buy it before you need it,” a health adviser to then-Gov. Gary Locke said in 1999, just before the last two insurers left the state. “You can’t buy fire insurance when your house is burning down.

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Gov. John Kasichlooper (D/R-CO/OH respectively)

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports on the announcement yesterday by Govs. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and John Kasich of Ohio of a new plan to stabilize health care markets and protect essential components of the 2010 Affordable Care Act–a plan gaining wide approval from policy experts and politicians from the left to the center-right of the political spectrum:

For starters, Hickenlooper and the governors advise that Congress retain the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act, which requires people to have insurance through their employer or the ACA lest they face a penalty, “until it can devise a credible replacement.”

The governors admit the mandate it “unpopular,” but say it’s “perhaps the most important incentive” for market stabilization because it encourages healthy people to buy insurance and not gamble on whether or not they will need coverage each year…

“Until Congress comes up with a better solution—or states request waivers to implement a workable alternative—the individual mandate is necessary to keep markets stable in the short term,” the governors wrote.

The other immediate step the panel asks for is to have Congress and the White House commit to funding the cost-sharing reduction payments through at least 2019—pointing out that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, National Governors Association, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce have all said doing so is “an urgent necessity.”

As of this writing, most mainstream Colorado Republicans are expressing cautious optimism about the plan, though they say they haven’t read the details to comment on specifics. Rep. Mike Coffman and Sen. Cory Gardner both said as much, praising the bipartisanship and “looking forward to learning more.”

Coffman agrees with the governors’ on one point, “I think we owe it to the American people to stabilize the market. It’s the worst part of health care in terms of rising rates.”

Coffman’s admission that the political instability affecting health insurance markets is a problem is significant, and we’ll be watching to see it echoed by others. But for the state’s right-wing ideological pole star, Americans for Prosperity, the “KasichlooperCare” plan is a nonstarter:

That’s Jesse Mallory, former state Senate GOP staffer-turned Americans for Prosperity-Colorado’s executive director. That’s the kind of obstinance we’ve all become used to in local GOP politics, and reflects the head-meets-wall approach by Republicans in Washington D.C. this year as they tried and failed repeatedly to pass legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Before the GOP’s political will to repeal Obamacare collapsed in a heap, this kind of obstinance made political sense.

Today, if Republicans want to demonstrate an ability to functionally govern ahead of the 2018 elections–something it would really behoove them to do if they want to reduce expected heavy midterm losses–they need to ignore guys like Jesse Mallory. This plan is not a statement of principles, it’s a small-scale responsible step to stabilize the status quo after a political failure that Republicans need to acknowledge. And move on from.

“Kasichlooper” is pointing the way, if they have the wisdom to see it.

Gov. Kasich Shuts Down “Kasichlooper 2020”

UPDATE: As Ernest Luning of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman reported on Friday, Hick himself seems to have dismissed the idea.

Gov. John Kasichlooper (D/R-CO/OH respectively)

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Politico reporting–where Colorado’s Gov. John Hickenlooper was perhaps more content to let the press and public speculate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich puts an end to talk of a possible independent partisan-bending presidential ticket comprised of the two men:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Sunday that he and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will not form a bipartisan ticket for a 2020 presidential bid, shooting down rumors that the pair had been considering such a move.

“Chuck, look, Kasich/Hickenlooper. You couldn’t–first of all, you couldn’t pronounce it. And secondly, you couldn’t fit it on a bumper sticker,” [Pols emphasis] the Ohio governor, a Republican who ran for the GOP nomination in 2016 and has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump’s, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Pressed by host Chuck Todd that his bumper sticker answer fell short of a denial, Kasich offered a more emphatic answer: “The answer is no, OK?”

As we said last week, this was never going to amount to more than fantasy sports, since the logistics of an independent presidential bid are daunting and the two governors are actually quite far apart on critical issues like reproductive choice. To the extent they can present a unified front on protecting health care reform in both of their states–not to mention the rest of the nation–that’s good enough politically and morally to make the effort worthwhile.

Hickenlooper vs. Kasich in 2020, on the other hand? That might be a sign of healthier politics in America in general.

Barry Farah Joining Republican Melee for Governor

We are fast approaching the point where it will make more sense to announce the names of Republicans who are not running for Governor in 2018.

As the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman reports, Colorado Springs entrepreneur/pastor/author Barry Farah is getting ready to join an increasingly-crowded field of candidates seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Barry’s wife, Tamra Farah — the Deputy State Director for Americans for Prosperity in Colorado — took to Twitter today to make it clear that this is no pretend “exploratory” run:

Farah is not a name you should recognize unless you are regularly involved with Republican fundraising efforts in Colorado. Farah is a donor to the Koch Brothers political network and an admitted supporter of President Trump who authored a strange half-hearted explanation for his Trump vote in an Op-Ed for the Colorado Springs Gazette that was published just prior to Election Day in 2016. According to a bio on his personal website, Farah is the “CEO of Precocity LLC, a leading-edge technology company specializing in delivering end-to-end customer experience strategy.” Whatever that means.

Barry Farah

In short, Farah is (another) wealthy businessman with established connections to the GOP donor network. If you’re having trouble figuring out what political niche Farah plans to fill in the Republican field for governor (other than the role of Kent Thiry’s lookalike) you’re not alone. Republicans already have a handful of “Barry Farahs” running for the top job in the state, including Victor MitchellMitt Romney’s Nephew, and soon-to-be-declared-candidate Walker Stapleton.

The fascinating thing about Farah’s candidacy for governor is what it says about the Republican field in general: There is no candidate who can scare off potential challengers and claim the role of frontrunner.

In the last few decades, both Democrats and Republicans have tended to coalesce early around one or two candidates for the top offices in Colorado. This changed in the 2016 GOP Senate primary, when Republicans fielded what seemed like dozens of different candidates, and perhaps that odd field was a harbinger of a changing political landscape for Colorado Republicans.

By the end of this year the number of GOP candidates for governor should surpass double-digits. Some Republicans will claim that this is a healthy sign of competition, but with this large of a field, things can quickly become more of a melee than a tournament.

Get More Smarter on Friday (August 25)

Keep your fingers crossed and your thoughts and prayers on south Texas this weekend.  It’s time to Get More Smarter. 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…

► Hurricane Harvey is on track to make a devastating landfall in south Texas sometime this evening — the most powerful hurricane to hit the United States since Wilma in 2005. Meteorologists are already predicting rainfall totals that will be measured in feet rather than inches. As the Washington Post reports, Hurricane Harvey will be another big test for President Trump:

Storms like this can define presidencies. George W. Bush’s presidency never recovered after Hurricane Katrina 12 summers ago. George H.W. Bush’s 1992 reelection hopes were hurt by his botched response to Hurricane Andrew because it cemented the narrative that he was detached from domestic problems and unconcerned about acting swiftly to help regular people back home…

Major damage will also draw public attention to severe budget cuts Trump has proposed.

Trump has pushed for a 6% cut for the National Weather Service and a 16% slash to the budget of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The latest estimates on the power of Hurricane Harvey are sounding pretty dire. From CNN:

The outer bands of Hurricane Harvey have begun swiping the Texas coast as 35 inches of rain and “catastrophic” storm-surge flooding is predicted following landfall late Friday or early Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said.

The combination of heavy rain, “life-threatening” storm surges, flooding and strong winds could leave wide swaths of South Texas “uninhabitable for weeks or months,” the National Weather Service in Houston said. Such daunting language hasn’t been seen by CNN’s experts since Hurricane Katrina, which left more than 1,800 people dead in 2005.

 

► Could Governor John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) run for Vice President in 2020 on a “unity ticket” with Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) as the lead dog?

[sigh]

No. But it is fun to say “Kasichlooper.”

 

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Kasich/Hickenlooper Trump Trolling Continues

Gov. John Kasichlooper (D/R-CO/OH respectively).

CNN files a report stirring lots of Friday-morning discussion:

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have entertained the idea of forming a unity presidential ticket to run for the White House in 2020, a source involved the discussions said Friday.

Under this scenario, Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Kasich, a Republican, would run as independents, with Kasich at the top of the ticket, said the source, who cautioned it has only been casually talked about.

“The idea of a joint ticket has been discussed, but not at an organizational or planning level,” said the source, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity.

“What they are trying to show the country is that honorable people can disagree, but you can still problem solve together. It happens in businesses and it happens in families. Why can’t it happen in Washington?”

Now first of all, folks, the chances of something like this actually happening are somewhere in the neighborhood of 0%. The logistical hurdles of getting on the ballot in all 50 states as an independent candidate are daunting to say the least, and this arrangement would be more likely to draw votes away from the Democratic candidate running against Donald Trump (or his successor) than it would be to itself succeed. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio may be a “moderate” by today’s GOP standards, but his record on issues like reproductive choice remains anathema to most mainstream Democrats.

To be honest, we don’t think this talk is about reality–it’s about keeping Gov. Kasich front and center as a Republican Trump opponent, while allowing Colorado’s Gov. John Hickenlooper to burnish his bipartisan credentials–for any of several choices of higher office in the future. To that end this is fruitful activity for both men.

As long as we all keep it in perspective.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (August 22)

If you didn’t blind yourself by staring at the eclipse on Monday, enjoy these words. It’s time to Get More Smarter. 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…

The dust is settling in Jefferson County following Monday’s news — first reported by Colorado Pols — that Rep. Ed Perlmutter has decided to seek re-election in 2018 after initially saying he would not be a candidate for any office next year. Democratic candidates Andy KerrBrittany Pettersen, and Dominick Moreno have all publicly announced that they are ending their campaigns in CD-7 and endorsing Perlmutter for re-election.

 

► President Trump will be in Phoenix, Arizona tonight for a campaign-style rally that has Republicans nervous for a whole host of reasons. As A.J. Vicens (formerly of the Columbine Courier) writes for Mother Jones, there’s a lot of buzz that Trump might use the occasion of his speech in Phoenix to pardon Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio:

Arpaio was recently convicted of contempt of court for disregarding a judge’s order to stop his discriminatory anti-immigration patrols, and he now faces up to six months in jail, with sentencing scheduled for October.

The president told Fox News on August 14 that he was “seriously considering” pardoning Arpaio…

…The White House didn’t respond to a question about whether Trump was planning to issue the pardon, and Arpaio said he hasn’t heard about an impending pardon but would be “honored by the potential pardon” and would accept it, according to the New York Times. Arpaio told Politico that he’d be available for the Tuesday night rally if called upon.

Republicans are also concerned that Trump may be planning to use his Phoenix trip to continue his aggressive attacks on Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who is up for re-election in 2018. As Politico reports:

President Donald Trump faces a decision on Tuesday evening with profound implications for his already strained relationship with the GOP: whether to attack a vulnerable Republican senator on his home turf.

White House officials won’t say exactly what’s on Trump’s agenda when he holds a campaign-style rally here. But it’s widely expected he will go after GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, a loud critic of the president who recently published an anti-Trump manifesto, “Conscience of a Conservative.”…

…In the days leading up to Trump’s Arizona trip, Senate GOP leaders have implicitly warned Trump that attacking Flake, who faces a treacherous path to reelection, would only serve to further rupture his relationship with a congressional GOP wing that he’s grown increasingly isolated from in recent weeks. It came after Trump, in a tweet after the Phoenix event was announced, called Flake “toxic.” The president had earlier threatened to spend as much as $10 million to take out the incumbent Republican.

Flake has received full public support from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Cory Gardner. It’s hard to say if this is good news for Flake, since McConnell is sporting some amazingly-low approval ratings (with Gardner not far away).

 

► Governor John Hickenlooper announced plans for a state response to dealing with oil and gas companies following a home explosion in Firestone in late April. Cathy Proctor of the Denver Business Journal has the details on Hick’s 7-point plan.

 

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You Should Probably Stop Saying That

Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne. Most likely.

Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne is totally absolutely probably maybe running for Governor in 2018. Possibly.

Earlier this month we learned that Lynne was “exploring” a bid for Governor, with the self-professed caveat that she wasn’t sure there was enough support for her among Democrats to pursue a campaign in 2018. As the Denver Post quoted Lynne on Aug. 1:

“I want to make sure that I have everything in order. A lot of people urge candidates to run. But you really want to make sure that you can solidify that — that they will be endorsers, that they will be financial supporters and that’s a process.”

As we said at the time: “If you’re not sure that you would have the support to mount a strong statewide campaign, then you don’t have the support to mount a strong statewide campaign.” But as the Summit Daily News reports, Lynne’s proto-campaign is sticking with its message that she still isn’t sure if she should really run, even though she’s already filed to run:

Lynne is scheduled to appear at a Summit County Democrats mixer in Breckenridge on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 20, with gubernatorial candidates Mike Johnston, Cary Kennedy and Rep. Jared Polis. The private party event will include brief introductions followed by a short Q&A.

Reached Thursday afternoon, Curtis Hubbard of OnSight Public Affairs — an advisor to Lynne — said she has received a groundswell of encouragement to run, but is still lining up formal support before making an announcement. [Pols emphasis]

“Donna is using this exploratory phase to identify supporters and to hear from key Democrats across the state,” Hubbard said in a statement. “Sunday’s appearance is part of that ongoing effort. She expects to make a formal announcement in the weeks ahead.”

Thursday’s story in the Summit Daily News was a follow-up on the fact that Lynne had officially filed paperwork to run for governor as of Aug. 11. There is no such thing as an “exploratory committee” in Colorado — you either file paperwork to form a candidate committee or you don’t — but this detail is apparently confusing to some news outlets.

As the Aspen Times Tweeted today, the only step left for Lynne’s pending gubernatorial campaign is to announce that she is really running for Governor. This is partially true; the real next step for Lynne is to STOP SAYING THAT YOU DON’T KNOW IF PEOPLE WILL SUPPORT YOUR CAMPAIGN.

I’m Donna Lynne, and I’m really not sure that anybody wants me to run for governor!  

In politics and in life, cantaloupes can be great metaphors. We’ll leave you with this image from the La Junta Tribune-Democrat on July 30, 2017 (we couldn’t possible make this up):

Mostly ripe, but I’ll make a final decision at a later date.

 

Get More Smarter on Thursday (August 17)

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TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) isn’t up for re-election until 2020, but he has a LOT of work to do just to win back his Republican base. Conservative writer Jennifer Rubin absolutely dismantled Gardner in a column yesterday in the Washington Post titled “Cory Gardner Has a Choice: Voters or Trump.” Here’s an excerpt:

Gardner has sacrificed his integrity and betrayed the confidence voters place in him to be an independent-minded voice. And for what? His reputation has suffered, his profile has fallen…

…It’s Gardner’s moral absenteeism that reminds all voters how unworthy of office are Trump and his go-along Republicans. Anti-Trump Republicans and Democrats should get ready for 2020 — they can and should have the chance to knock him out of office.

Yikes! It has not been a good week for Sen. Gardner. Maybe he’ll feel better tomorrow after he hosts a fundraiser tonight in Denver along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

 

President Trump is on a mission to burn every bridge imaginable, and it may only be a matter of time before he is forced to answer his own phones in the White House. As Politico reports, Trump is essentially just an orang-er version of that angry old man down the street who shakes his fist at kids for running on his lawn:

President Donald Trump’s decision to double down on his argument that “both sides” were to blame for the violent clashes at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was driven in part by his own anger — and his disdain for being told what to do…

…The controversy over his response to the Charlottesville violence was no different. Agitated about being pressured by aides to clarify his first public statement, Trump unexpectedly unwound the damage control of the prior two days by assigning blame to the “alt-left” and calling some of the white supremacist protesters “very fine people.”

“In some ways, Trump would rather have people calling him racist than say he backed down the minute he was wrong,” one adviser to the White House said on Wednesday about Charlottesville. “This may turn into the biggest mess of his presidency because he is stubborn and doesn’t realize how bad this is getting.”

That thing about the old guy down the street? We take that back. Trump is 9-years-old. You’re not the boss of me!!!

Never content to let a divisive issue settle, Trump is now raging about the removal of statues that celebrate the Confederate Army. From the Washington Post:

President Trump on Thursday mourned the loss of “beautiful statues and monuments” in the wake of the violent clashes in Charlottesville during a white supremacist demonstration protesting the planned removal of a statue depicting Confederate military commander Robert E. Lee.

Trump’s string of morning tweets made clear the president was not willing to back down over his claims Tuesday that some of the demonstrators had legitimate grievances over the loss of Southern “history,” and that “both sides” were to blame in the mayhem that left a woman dead and at least 19 more injured. Trump made those claims a day after he had belatedly condemned the neo-Nazi and Klux Klan groups that organized the Unite the Right rally. Politicians from both parties have criticized the president for inflaming racial tensions and failing to provide clear moral leadership for the nation.

History may well show that Trump’s Presidency truly did collapse this week. Hell, even Brick Tamland Rep. Doug Lamborn is condemning Trump’s comments about white supremacists in no uncertain terms.

 

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