Get More Smarter on Friday (January 13)

Superstitions like “Friday the 13th” seem like they belong in a simpler time — when reality wasn’t so scary. 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.


►As the Obamacare repeal-and-we-swear-we-have-a-plan-for-replacement debate rages on in Congress, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is finally getting a bit more attention from local media outlets. Gardner is fully onboard with plans to repeal Obamacare – replacement be damned — and is doing his best to pretend that his constituents in Colorado actually want this mess…nevermind the fact that constituents are not able to get through to Gardner’s office at all. As the Associated Press reports today, Senate Republicans still seem to be no closer to even having a plan for replacement.

Polling results are continually showing that repealing Obamacare without a replacement in place is HUGELY UNPOPULAR with Americans. From The Hill:

Only 18 percent of voters think Congress and President-elect Donald Trump should fully repeal ObamaCare, a new poll released Thursday finds.

Another 47 percent said only some of ObamaCare should be repealed, while 31 percent said it should be left untouched.

According to a separate poll from NPR/Ipsos, only 14% of Americans support repealing Obamacare without a replacement plan in place. 


► When President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated next week, he will assume office as the most unpopular incoming President in modern history. From “The Fix”:

Just four in ten people polled by Gallup say they approve of the way Trump is handling his transition — a stand-in for presidential approval in this odd three-month interregnum.  Those are the lowest marks ever measured by Gallup for an incoming president. They are also half — yes HALF — as high as the 83 percent of people who approved of how then President-elect Barack Obama handled his own transition in late 2008/early 2009.  And Trump’s numbers even track well below those of George W. Bush, whose transition was cut short by an extended recount that left lots of the country unconvinced that he had actually won! [Pols emphasis]

Wow. Worse than Dubya?

The Colorado Springs Independent has a handy list of local events related to the January 20th Inauguration.


► In his State of the State address on Thursday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper called on the legislature to ask voters to approve a tax hike for transportation and infrastructure needs.

“We’ve had this debate for too long. If talk could fill potholes, we’d have the best roads in the country.”



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

The State of the 2018 Governor’s Race

Who wants to follow this routine?

It’s that time of year in an off-year election cycle when the rumors and name-dropping are coming from every direction. On the same day that Gov. John Hickenlooper delivered his State of the State address, we thought it would be a good time to takes a look at what we’re seeing, reading, and hearing when it comes to jockeying for Colorado’s top job in 2018…


Noel Ginsburg (D)
As of this writing, there are seven candidates who have officially filed with the Secretary of State’s office to run for governor in 2018. Ginsburg is the only relevant name here; the other six are just gadflies who apparently think it would be fun to run for governor. We’ve written a bit about Ginsburg already, though it’s far too early to gauge whether the Denver businessman can really make a dent in this race.


George Brauchler (R)
Walker Stapleton (R)
Cary Kennedy (D)
Mike Johnston (D)
Brauchler and Stapleton are both going to run for governor; the only suspense is about when they will make an official announcement. Kennedy and Johnston have been moving toward a run for governor for many months now, and it would be more of a surprise at this point if they chose not to enter the race — although that could change depending on what happens with Ken Salazar and Ed Perlmutter (see below).



Get More Smarter on Thursday (January 12)

The State of the State is…pretty good, we guess. 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.


Congress took a step closer to repealing Obamacare late Wednesday evening/Thursday morning, though Republicans are still fighting about whether anybody actually has a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act with something else. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was tracked down by Grey DC and promised that Republicans will definitely have a plan for replacing Obamacare. That’s the plan, anyway:

 “When it’s repealed it will be replaced there is no doubt it will be replaced with an idea that is better than the disastrous results of Obama care,” Gardner (R-CO) said.

Uh, yeah. How about giving the rest of us some actual details about this big plan, eh Sen. Gardner?


► Governor John Hickenlooper delivers his State of the State address today with an eye toward securing his legacy. From John Frank at the Denver Post:

The Democrat’s list of accomplishments is lengthy, but many of his biggest challenges remain — notably how to address what he calls the state’s “fiscal thicket” of spending rules tied to TABOR, an issue he identified in his first address after being re-elected.

Other unfinished business includes implementation of a generational water management plan, a tax hike to improve the state’s roads and transit, a crackdown on the illegal marijuana market and a push to reduce homelessness — one of the issues that led him to public office 13 years ago.

His 11 a.m. speech to a joint session of the General Assembly will diverge in tone from a year ago, when he peppered his remarks with a pop-culture montage and basked in the glow of a new marriage. Instead, he will focus more soberly on the challenges ahead and the need to tackle the most complicated political questions.


► Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was less than thrilled with some of the answers provided Wednesday by Rex TillersonDonald Trump’s choice for Secretary of State. As Politico reports:

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is narrowly divided, with the GOP holding just a one-seat advantage. And most Democrats, if not all, sounded skeptical about Tillerson’s performance before the panel. So Rubio may determine whether Tillerson’s nomination can successfully win committee approval — or come to a floor vote after being given an “unfavorable” recommendation by the panel.

On Wednesday during multiple rounds of questioning, Tillerson largely failed to satisfy Rubio’s obvious desire for tough talk on Russian President Vladimir Putin, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte and Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women. Tillerson, the former chief executive at oil giant ExxonMobil, wouldn’t call Putin a “war criminal,” or criticize reports of extrajudicial killings by Duterte’s police forces, leading a seemingly exasperated Rubio to repeatedly ask Tillerson what it would take for him to do so.

The clashes forced Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to step in several times, in an effort to get Tillerson to clarify that if he had access to classified information detailing atrocities by Putin or Duterte he would endorse Rubio’s critiques. And remarkably, at one point Tillerson protested that he and Rubio had gotten off on the wrong foot and insisted they share the same values.



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

Bill would protect Colorado residents and immigrants, not provide “sanctuary”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Joe Salazar.

A Channel 7 story Monday alleged that a bill, sponsored by Rep. Joseph Salazar (D-Thornton) would “make Colorado a sanctuary state.”

In its piece, titled “Proposed bill aims to make Colorado a sanctuary state,” Channel 7 reported:

If state Rep. Joseph Salazar, D-Adams Co., gets his way, Colorado could be the nation’s first sanctuary state…

Salazar says the passage of this is bill would be timely due to the president’s elect rhetoric on immigration.

“I’m going to take him for his words and actions in terms of his cabinet appointments, and we are going to prepare state of Colorado to defend ourselves against it,” said Joseph Salazar.

Salazar’s bill (here) never uses the word “sanctuary,” for good reason.

No local jurisdiction can provide “sanctuary” to undocumented immigrants.  No state or city can prevent the federal government from arresting undocumented immigrants–or enforcing federal immigration law.

But states don’t have to help Trump arrest undocumented immigrants. They don’t have to assist the feds in racial or religious profiling. States don’t have to help Trump develop a registry of immigrants or residents based on race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, or religious affiliation.

And that’s what Salazar’s bill would do, basically.

So it’s a mistake for journalists, who pride themselves on precise language, to refer to Salazar’s bill as making Colorado a “sanctuary state.”

It won’t. And, if you’ve watched conservatives and bigots, like Trump, use the term “sanctuary city,” you know that it inflames people. Which would be okay if it accurately described what cities are doing when they pass laws protecting citizens and undocumented immigrants from over-reach by the federal government.

That’s what Salazar’s bill would do–and that’s how journalists should describe it.

Westminster City Councilman: Rapists, Immigrants, Whatever

Westminster City Councillor Bruce Baker, who briefly ran for Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s CD-7 last year before losing the primary to George Athanasopoulos, has a reputation as a far-out anti-immigrant firebrand–so much so that he has drawn the ire of moderate Republicans for “embarrassing the party.”

But since the election of Donald Trump, Baker has been on an empowered tear against immigrants, and (especially) the response of his fellow councillors to Trump’s immigration proposals–which culminated yesterday evening in a bizarre recorded statement played back by Baker into his own microphone during a council meeting. Apparently, it was easier for Baker to record his little diatribe in advance than, you know, say it live. Excerpts:

The plain fact is that American culture has poorly dealt with sexual assault…addressing these crimes after the fact is too little too late. It was a mere forty years ago that marital rape was finally recognized as a crime in the United States. Old attitudes die slowly…we all must obey the law. Support the law. Be smart about situations, intervene if possible, and encourage everyone in society to do the same…

It is only by obeying the law that we will keep full value of the wonderful place we are. Sexual assault laws are not weapons that hurt Americans, sexual assault laws are a shield that protects Americans…and that’s true with robbery, and fraud, and embezzlement, and being unlawfully present in the United States. [Pols emphasis]

My colleagues are afraid to approach the crime of being unlawfully present in the United States. Part of that fear stems from the fact that for the crime of being unlawfully present in the United States, there is no sympathetic victim to which we can point. If there was a distinct individual victim, that victim and their injuries would provide a point of focus we all could grasp. But the victims of people that are unlawfully present in the United States, while many in number, have no obvious injuries which the media can showcase. Their stories of loss and displacement are difficult to quantify. Their hurting is minimized and ignored…

Instead of talking about the real harm to victims of people unlawfully in the United States, my colleagues chose to talk about being a ‘welcoming community.’ How odd. I do not think for a second that my colleagues would be welcoming to perpetrators of sexual assault. [Pols emphasis]

So, there’s a lot wrong with this. First of all, the simple act of being present in the United States without documentation is not a crime. It’s a civil offense under federal law. The act of entering the U.S. illegally is a misdemeanor offense, but not simply being here. That means the whole premise of Baker’s diatribe, that illegal immigration is a “crime” on par with sexual assault, is nonsense.

From there, we can explain that in addition to being nonsense, likening undocumented immigrants to perpetrators of sexual assault is extremely offensive. It’s interesting how Baker concedes there is no “distinct individual victim” of illegal immigration, in effect admitting that scaring Americans about this supposed imminent threat has no factual basis.

Yes, comparing undocumented immigrants to rapists worked for the President-elect of the United States. But–and we mean it in every possible way except this lowest common denominator–Bruce Baker is no Donald Trump.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 10)

There are 355 days remaining in 2017. 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.


► President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for Attorney General is facing hearings on Capitol Hill today. Among the early highlights of the confirmation hearing for Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is an admission from Sessions that he would have to recuse himself on anything related to criminal investigations of Hillary Clinton.

Elsewhere, several Colorado groups are calling on Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) to support the interests of Colorado over those of the Republican Party in confirmation hearings for members of Trump’s cabinet.


► It turns out that some Republican lawmakers are actually a little concerned about the idea of repealing Obamacare without a replacement program in its place. As the Washington Post reports:

Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are scrambling to ease growing concerns among GOP lawmakers about rushing to repeal the federal health-care law before plans for a replacement take firmer shape, addressing complications to the effort to deliver on one of the party’s signature campaign promises.

In the Senate, where Republicans are using a budget package to move swiftly ahead with repeal, leaders are looking at ways to adjust their plans to address the skittishness that GOP senators have voiced in recent days.

The legislative crossroads highlights a key dilemma facing Republicans as they look to make good on their long-stated goal of shredding the law known as Obamacare: Although there is broad consensus in the party about doing away with the law, there is far less agreement about what a substitute should look like — or even how quickly one needs to be in place.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has been a leading voice over concerns that “repeal without replacement” could be a disaster for millions of Americans and the economy in general.


► One of Donald Trump’s most prominent campaign promises was to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and make Mexico pay for the construction. Trump seems to be backing off this plan, since Mexico has told him to go jump in a lake, and now other Republicans — including Colorado’s own Rep. Mike Coffman — are acknowledging that this whole proposal was nonsense from the beginning.

“I never thought that would happen,” said Rep. Coffman in an interview with CNN. “I thought it was a gimmick.”

A “gimmick?” That’s probably not what millions of Trump voters thought of the proposal from the GOP Presidential nominee.


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

Coffman: Trump Vow To Make Mexico Pay For Wall a “Gimmick”

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Manu Raju at CNN reports on growing skepticism among Republicans about President-elect Donald Trump’s oft-repeated longshot vow to “build a wall on the southern border and make Mexico pay for it”–including Colorado’s leading on-again off-again Trump backer, Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora:

President-elect Donald Trump is still insisting that Mexico will ultimately pay billions for the construction of a massive wall along the southern border.

Many Republicans on Capitol Hill are not so sure.

In interviews with CNN, a number of Republicans suggested that Trump’s claim amounted to wishful thinking, saying they believed the billionaire businessman would ultimately backtrack on one of his central campaign promises.

“I doubt that they’re going to pay for it,” said Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Senate Republican, referring to Mexico. “There’s a lot he could do if he wanted to (force Mexico’s hand). In all honesty, I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican, added: “I never thought that would happen. I thought it was a gimmick.” [Pols emphasis]

The story quotes other Republicans variously agreeing with Trump that forcing Mexico to pay for–or at least reimburse–the United States for the costs of building a wall across the entire 1,989 miles of border between the two nations is plausible. Or if it’s not, at least agreeing that America needs “border security.”

Less clear from this story, either in Coffman’s case or that of other Republicans quoted, is the answer to what may be the only question that matters: will Republicans in Congress vote to pay for Trump’s wall first and “collect” from Mexico later? Even Trump seems to admit now that this is the only practical way to proceed.

For Mike Coffman, who has kept his career alive by changing his stripes on immigration to fit his changing constituency, the question is twofold: voting to build a wall America would have to pay for–and on a more basic level, voting to build Trump’s wall at all.

You’ll notice Coffman’s response to the question disclosed neither.

Crowder/Thurlow TABOR Reform Probably Not Happening

Rep. Dan Thurlow (R), as depicted by hard-right advocacy group RMGO.

Peter Marcus at the Colorado Springs Gazette reports on a fledgling proposal from two Republican lawmakers in the Colorado General Assembly to change the maximum rate of allowable revenue growth under the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR)–a long way of saying that two Republicans in the legislature are proposing messing with TABOR, which in itself is very big news:

Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa are heading down a road as bumpy as the crumbling state highways that have partially fallen victim to TABOR’s spending constraints. The lawmakers are proposing that the state’s spending cap formula be tied to personal income, rather than consumer inflation plus population change.

The battle ahead is long. It was once considered unthinkable for a Colorado Republican to imagine restructuring the TABOR formula so that government could grow when economic times are good.

Legislation – which would have to be referred to voters under TABOR – is planned for the upcoming session that begins on Jan. 11, with Thurlow carrying the bill in the House and Crowder sponsoring it in the Senate.

Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction makes a good point about the long-term future of TABOR if the law keeps forcing damaging budget cuts even in good economic times–too much of this and voters might be more receptive to a wholesale repeal of TABOR than a mere tweaking. Changing the limit on growth of revenue to go by personal income growth instead of the more restrained rate of inflation would give the state more to work with, especially in boom times–without risking better-known core tenets of the law like the requirement that voters approve tax increases.

Meaning Thurlow is taking a position that smart Republicans should strongly consider.

Whatever good intentions went into this proposal, it’s unlikely to pass the legislature as a referred measure. Even though it’s a relatively small change, most Republicans in the General Assembly are dogmatically opposed to any relaxation of TABOR’s strict revenue limits. On the other side, there may be Democrats willing to accept this proposal as an incremental step, but many others are as dead-set against TABOR as Republicans are committed to preserving it. Building a coalition between Republican and Democratic “TABOR moderates” without the ideologues on either side won’t be easy.

With all of that said, the fact that you have two Republicans at least indirectly acknowledging a problem with the sacred cow of TABOR is the real story here. Call it a small crack, in what has been a very high edifice up to now.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 4)

Here comes the snow! Maybe. Forecasts along the Front Range call for as much as 2 feet of snow in the next two days…which probably means we’ll get an inch of rain. 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.


► The new Republican Congress got off to a curious start this week by attempting to quietly gut the House Ethics Committee before constituents (and Donald Trump) got wind of the plan and expressed their anger. House Republicans quickly backtracked on this idiotic idea, thanks in part to opposition from Trump but largely because voters made their voices heard:

This is a really, really, really, really stupid way for Republicans to start things off in 2017. As Politico explains, this move could sting for awhile:

By early Tuesday morning, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Speaker Paul Ryan and the rest of GOP leadership realized the proposal was about to tank the entire House rules package — and implode the first day of the GOP-led Congress. They convened an emergency closed-door conference meeting around noon to discuss removing the ethics provision — but it was too late. Donald Trump had tweeted his disapproval, and the public outcry had risen to such a crescendo that all anyone wanted to talk about was an obscure House office few people had ever heard of just 24 hours before.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who added that the ethics snafu was an unforced error. “Sometimes people have to learn the hard way.”…

…The day left some members shaking their heads. Many, including Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), left the chamber Tuesday night crossing their fingers that the drama of the first day would not foreshadow the next two years to come.

“I think that there is going to be a lot of tough votes we will have to take and this wasn’t one of the toughest ones, so, I think we should learn from this,” he said. “Once you launch that ship, you’ve got to keep going… We need to go forth with more sense of purpose and direction.”

Fill the swamp! Fill the swamp! Oh, wait, that’s not right…


► Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) won’t reveal how he voted on the controversial measure to gut the House Ethics Committee. In other words, Tipton almost certainly supported the effort. Colorado Republican Reps. Doug Lamborn, Ken Buck, and Mike Coffman are all claiming that they opposed the measure. According to reports, 119 Republicans backed crippling the Ethics Committee; we have a sneaking suspicion that this number isn’t going to match public proclamations in another few days.


► A media outlet finally got around to asking some of Colorado’s top Republican officials about Donald Trump…though it wasn’t a journalist related in any way to Colorado. Come on, Colorado political reporters! How can you get scooped by something called Gray Television?

As Jason Salzman notes, there may be no more relevant question for Colorado Republicans than to be asked about Trump.



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

State senator declines to sign fake news pledge, saying the term fake news “smacks of a new censorship”

(Leave it to Lundberg – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

You’d think twice about signing some pledges, if you’re a politician.

But a pledge not to spread fake news, if it’s found to be false by “Snopes, Politifact,, or by a respected news outlet?”  And to remove such falsehoods accidentally posted on Facebook unless “detailed reasons for not deleting” them are provided.

That’s kind of like saying, I promise to tell the truth, as I see it, to the best of my ability.

So why wouldn’t everyone sign such the pledge? Alas, Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) has rejected the fake news pledge, stating in an email to me:

Lundberg: I have always been as careful as I can in not promoting inaccurate information. However, there is a troubling element to the idea that news out of the mainstream might be suspected of being “fake.”

Having been a legislator for many years, and at one time a member of the news media, I know that every story is laced with the assumptions and perspective of the reporter. Hence, almost all stories have elements of what somebody might want to brand as “fake.” This is the reality of news reporting and the consumer of this information should always be discerning.

This new term “fake news,” to me smacks of a new censorship that ultimately could do more damage than what inaccurate news could ever do on its own.

I will respectfully decline to sign your pledge.

Kevin Lundberg
Colorado State Senate

I disagree with Lundberg, because the fake news pledge, developed in response to Colorado lawmakers who spread fake news last year, specifically allows him to post “out of the mainstream” news on his Facebook page, even if mainstream news outlets find it to be false. All he has to do is defend it.

And if spotlighting the term “fake news” “smacks of a new censorship” and risks causing more damage than inaccurate news is currently causing, than how can we challenge misinformation? What terms can we use to talk about falsehoods without being accused of censorship?

But I do appreciate Lundberg taking time to explain his position on the fake-news-pledge to me. It’s a step toward creating the civil, factual discourse that the pledge seeks to nurture.

Still, lawmakers who disagree with Lundberg can sign the pledge here. Citizens sign here.

Winners and Losers from 2016

Today is the first “official” workday following the Holidays, and since we’re still practicing writing “2-0-1-7,” let’s take one more look back on the year in politics that concluded (finally) over the weekend…


Darryl Glenn is neither a unicorn nor a U.S. Senator.

Michael Bennet
Few politicians entered 2016 with more at stake than Bennet, who was widely considered to be the number one Senate pickup opportunity for Republicans in the entire country (with Harry Reid’s retirement, Bennet was in fact the only incumbent Democrat facing re-election in a swing state in 2016). Bennet ran a strong re-election race, raising tons of money and making himself a consistent presence in TV ads for months leading up to Election Day, but his re-election was all but assured when Colorado Republicans turned the GOP Senate nomination into a dumpster fire. After a 2010 campaign against Republican Ken Buck that went down to the wire, Bennet no doubt appreciated being able to shift into cruise control for most of 2016.


Mike Coffman

After more than 30 years in elected office, the Aurora Republican can finally exhale. Four years ago, Coffman nearly lost his seat in CD-6, eking out a 2-point win over a fairly weak challenger in Democrat Joe Miklosi. Democrats smelled blood in the water, but since then Coffman has handily dispatched two difficult Democratic opponents (9-point victory over Andrew Romanoff in 2014 and 8-point win over Morgan Carroll in 2016). Coffman’s consistent obfuscation seems to be the right formula in his Aurora-centered district, where he keeps winning big no matter the coattails (or lack thereof) in Colorado. The 61-year-old Coffman is not particularly well-liked among Republicans and is unlikely to be a factor for higher office in Colorado, but Democrats won’t likely expend serious effort at defeating him again…at least until redistricting muddles the picture in 2022.



2016’s Top Story: The Year Everyone Got Wrong (Including Us)

Dick Morris, the king of getting it wrong in politics.

At the beginning of 2016 we believe that the eventual outcome of the 2016 elections, both here in Colorado and nationally, could not have been predicted. We feel pretty confident about that because almost no one correctly predicted the course of the primary and general elections in 2016–from the results of the presidential election, to Colorado’s U.S. Senate race, marquee congressional races, and multitude of state legislative contests.

Yes, readers, the political prognostication industry, which includes this humble little blog and stretches upward to include lots of people even you might consider important, failed in a spectacular fashion to predict the outcome of the 2016 elections. We failed in whole by missing Donald Trump’s disruptive appeal to broadly frustrated American voters, which had no equivalent outlet for the left after Democrats crushed the disruption of Bernie Sanders. We failed in part by missing the far higher baseline of support for Trump that manifested on Election Day, which swamped downballot races in many states and made other states (including Colorado) much closer than expected.

We are here to tell you today that we take the failure to predict the dynamics of the 2016 elections very seriously for our part, and we trust in the ability of all the smart people whose job it is to understand why things happen in politics to similarly engage in the kind of hard, unsparing introspection that is now required. In that spirit, let’s take a minute to be very frank about the things we got wrong in 2016–and if we miss anything, we trust our readers will remind us in comments. Be brutally honest. We can take it.


Top Ten Stories of 2016 #5: Kevin Priola Saves The GOP Senate

Sen.-elect Kevin Priola (R).

In 2014, Colorado Republicans wrested control of the state senate by defeating appointed Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada in Senate District 19. The victor in that race, Laura Woods, faced the unusual prospect for an elected state senator of being up again for re-election in only two years. Because Zenzinger was appointed to replace Evie Hudak early in her second term she stood for election in 2014, then the seat came up again for its regular interval this year.

As we’ve already noted, Sen. Woods was an exceedingly poor political fit for her swing suburban district. As the results of the 2016 election demonstrated, she was not capable of holding this critically important seat. Smart Republicans, many of whom had supported Woods’ 2014 primary opponent Lang Sias knew this, and were already looking elsewhere to hold their tenuous majority.

They found the answer in a Republican pickup, taking a seat long held by Democrats in Adams County. Senate District 25, held by Democratic Sen. Mary Hodge, was contested in 2016 by Republican Rep. Kevin Priola and Democratic former Rep. Jenise May. Democrats had high hopes of winning this seat, not least due to what they perceived to be potent negatives on Priola from his long record in the legislature.

Certainly the SD-25 race was not neglected by either side, but it’s fair to say the fight for SD-19 received the most attention of any state senate race in Colorado. While the media and pundit class stayed focused on Arvada, a combination of familiarity with Priola from his overlapping House district and Priola tirelessly knocking on doors was quietly turning the race in his favor. Priola’s win in this key race, which proved decisive in Republicans retaining any power in our state’s legislative process, is a lesson about the fundamentals of how to win in politics that haven’t changed in generations. The one who knocks on the most doors, who wins votes the old-fashioned way face-to-face, wins–even in the era of ubiquitous social media.

Priola has other qualities that give him significant appeal in Adams County, which has increasingly become a battleground after a long history of working-class Democratic reliability. Priola is a devout Catholic who has bucked his party on issues like the death penalty, and that gives him an opening with the district’s large Latino population other Republicans don’t have. As Democrats work to heal the undeniable rift that has appeared in their coalition in places like Adams County, it’s important to distinguish where Democrats may be weak collectively from Priola’s strengths personally.

In 2016 Kevin Priola was the right man at the right moment, and Republicans owe him their Colorado Senate majority.

Top Ten Stories of 2016 #8: Orange is the New Black

Rep. Tim Leonard (R).

2016 bore witness to one of the most unusual circumstances we’ve ever seen ensnaring a sitting Colorado legislator. Rep. Tim Leonard, Republican of Evergreen, was found in contempt of court at the end of September after repeatedly violating court orders regarding the custody of his children. According to the very few news reports available about this ruling at the time, Leonard’s former spouse had been awarded education decisionmaking authority over their children–a ruling Leonard disregarded is various apparently peevish ways in disputes with his ex-wife ranging from testing opt-outs to the use of iPads in instruction.

Most news media declined to report on this ruling before the election, calling it a personal matter that would be inappropriate to cover–but Democrats made a last-ditch attempt to publicize the situation in mailers supporting Leonard’s Democratic opponent Tammy Story. It’s very possible that if this story had been covered at the end of September, which a Jefferson County magistrate basically told Leonard he was going to be locked up, it might have effected the outcome of the race for his seat.

The local media’s questionable decision to suppress this story was reversed on December 9th, when Rep. Leonard was handcuffed and sentenced to 14 days in Jefferson County jail–a severe penalty that underscores how far Leonard had gone in violation of the court’s orders. To be sentenced to serve jail time over these kind of mundane civil proceedings indicates the judge considered Leonard willfully defiant of the court’s orders. Once Leonard was “dressed in” and his mugshot made public, he was the lead story on the news that night.


Top Ten Stories of 2016 #9: End of an Error in SD-19

Outgoing Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada).

In 2013, a unified Democratic Colorado General Assembly passed a slate of gun safety bills in the aftermath of two horrific mass shooting events in the prior year: the December 2012 massacre of elementary students and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, and especially the July 20th, 2012 killing of a dozen movie patrons at the Century Theater in Aurora, Colorado. Legislation passed in 2013 included a bill requiring the same standard background checks required for commercial gun sales for most private transfers of firearms, and a limitation on gun magazine capacity in the state of 15 rounds–the latter being particularly controversial, with supporters pointing to a high-capacity drum magazine used in the Aurora massacre and opponents calling the limit a gross violation of their constitutional rights.

The backlash against the 2013 gun safety bills resulted in the successful recall of two relatively vulnerable Democratic state senators, including then-Senate President John Morse in Colorado Springs. After the September 2013 recalls, pro-gun conservatives began a third recall attempt against Sen. Evie Hudak of Arvada in closely competitive suburban Senate District 19. Hudak resigned from office rather than be subjected to the same abuse the recalled Senators experienced on the way to defeat, and was replaced by SD-19 Democrats with Arvada City Councillor Rachel Zenzinger.

In 2014 a nasty GOP primary in SD-19 pitted longtime legislative wannabe Lang Sias against Laura Woods, a grassroots pro-gun activist who helped organize the recall effort against Sen. Hudak. The 2014 GOP SD-19 primary became a proxy battlefield for “mainstream” Republicans who backed Sias versus the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and their hard-right coalition energized by the fight over gun control. Woods prevailed after a highly divisive GOP primary, and went on to defeat appointed Sen. Zenzinger by about 700 votes in the “GOP wave” election of 2014.

And then things started to unravel for Laura Woods.