Heated Debate Shakes Up HD 41

(In-person, original coverage of a local race — wonderful. – promoted by ProgressiveCowgirl)

It was everything I hoped it would be and more. The Candidates all brought everything they had (which is more impressive for some than others) and provided a couple hours of very entertaining discussion in one of the most (if not the most) contentious Democratic primaries in the state.

The debate was hosted in Arapahoe County’s brand new headquarters, which looks fantastic, and featured the three Democratic Candidates vying for the open House District 41 seat.

The candidates are/were:

Andrew Bateman: The Activist

Jovan Melton: The Staffer

Terry Todd: The Husband

Highlights and my version of Monday-morning-QBing after the jump…

Here’s how I felt about the race before the debate, including some background on the candidates themselves.

The Short Version: Bateman Won. Melton made a good showing. And Todd reinforced the feeling that he is out of his league.

Opening Statements

In the opening statements, the candidates each gave the routine “thanks for being here, isn’t democracy great, I’m a good person” type remarks. Bateman also asked the crowd (packed to the walls) to watch for who was being vague about what they want to do versus who put forward serious and specific policies, and that he planned to do the latter. In my opinion, he was the only one to do so.

The First (and most predictable) Question

When asked what they each thought the most important issue for HD41 was, Todd answered first with a vague response related to economy that could be created (yes, he said “economy created”) by ensuring that the light rail expansion is completed. Bateman immediately came out swinging, saying that if Todd thought RTD was the most important issue in the district, he should consider running for the RTD board, but since this was a race for the state legislature, Bateman would address a state-wide issue. He then laid out a fascinating proposal for what he called “partial unemployment” which could prevent workers from being laid off during a recession and help companies re-staff faster during recovery. Melton’s answer, I honestly can’t remember. It didn’t stand out to me.

The Meat of the Debate

Most of the evening followed that tone. Melton came across as likable and capable, but failed to demonstrate much knowledge of public policy. Bateman, on the other hand, was never unable to answer a question in detail and easily came across as the smartest guy up there. What’s more, he showed his work, listing off a new example of actual accomplishment and progress that he had contributed to, or even led, for nearly every issue raised by the audience.

I got the feeling throughout the evening that Bateman and Melton were united in the cause of de-legitimizing Todd. If so, it was very successful. Neither missed an opportunity to highlight what Todd didn’t know about something, including a moment where Bateman had to remind Todd what Ref C was. Meanwhile, each of them seemed to hold off on openly attacking each other. Maybe that is just a sign of who respects whom.

They did all come together at one point when Independent HD41 candidate JM Fay asked a nonsensical question about four-square-mile. All three of them, as well as anyone else in the room who knew her, let out a unanimous exasperated sigh at the woman who has become little more than an incessant bother to everyone she encounters, barraging us all with hard-headed personal vendettas and crusades. I was happy to see the three of them trade smiling glances before brushing off the question and moving on.

My Favorite Moment of the Whole Evening

Toward the end, when the candidates were given time to ask questions of each other, Todd took a desperate swing, pulling out the only criticism of Bateman and Melton he’s been able to come up with since last April. He accused both Melton and Bateman of being dishonest about their history of residency within the district. As this issue has been raised a number of times by Todd and his allies and consequently rebutted several times over the last year, I caught several people rolling their eyes.

Melton responded first by pointing out that he attended public school in the district and grew up here. He had only left the district because he was working at the capitol, but returned to care for his ill mother well before deciding to run for office.

Bateman then gave the same answer he’s been giving all along, that while he has lived in several places around the county, he has lived in Arapahoe County since the day he was born. And that while he did, in fact, move across the district board (a move of a few blocks) to run for 41, he didn’t believe that people on opposite sides of an imaginary line had significantly different issues. He went on to state that, as people who had grown up in the area, he and Melton had a much better understanding of what it is like to live, work, and go to school in the district than Todd, who grew up, went to school, went to college, and began his career in another state, moving to Colorado only after establishing a stable career.  

Bateman then responded directly to the accusation of dishonestly, calling out Todd for refusing to give a straight answer on whether or not he was running when asked repeatedly by Bateman leading up to his entrance in the race. A the time Bateman announced and filed, he was the only candidate of either party in the race.

Favorite Lines From Each Candidate

Todd: “My website is www dot… um… Terry… uh… J… Todd dot Com”

Melton: (while talking about the repeal of TABOR, which both he and Bateman committed to supporting, and which Todd avoided committing to)”You can’t eat the elephant all at once, you have to do it one bite at a time. I call it an elephant because, well, that’s where it came from.”

Bateman: “There is more to being a representative than raising your hand at the right moment. You have to be willing and able to do the hard work and convince others to raise their hands at the same time.”

What Each Candidate Could Have Done Better

Melton: Every time you followed one of the other candidates, you started by saying “I agree with…”, which made it difficult for the things you said to stand out. You have the opposite problem as Bateman. While your personality is very appealing, you don’t speak up for yourself enough to get noticed.

Bateman: I get that you are the smartest guy in the race and that you want to demonstrate that, but you have a tendency to come across as a bit arrogant. Deserved or not, it’s a little off-putting and you may want to work on it. A forceful presentation is necessary sometimes, like when pumping up a rally, but you have to be able to play the humble public servant sometimes, too. Crack some jokes, smile more, and inspire people to be a part of what you’re trying to do.

Todd: For the love of God, study! You were a teacher for crying out loud (albeit an elementary gym teacher). Being the husband of a legislator does not qualify you to be one. If you want to make it through the next few weeks as a candidate, you have got to be able to show up with something more substantive than weak lines about “liberty and justice for all.” Tell us what you plan to do. Show us you can bring something to the table. Or get out of the way and let the two who did their homework have a productive primary without you in it.

Where I Stand

Bateman and Melton both impressed me overall. Todd did not. While I think Melton could easily do the job of being a legislator and do it competently, I believe that Bateman would be able to light a much needed fire under some asses at the capitol.

I encourage others in the district or around the state to support one of these two as well. They are good, strong, up-and-coming politicos and this position will be a great fit and a great start for either of them. Todd, on the other hand, is 72. And I hate to make it about age, but this is not a person that we can hope for big things from. At best, he will follow his wife’s footsteps, serve 8 years in each house and then retire from politics at the age of 89.

I wish all the candidates well at caucus. But I sincerely hope that Bateman and Melton emerge as the primary contenders and that Todd sees the light and backs out. I think primaries are good for a party, but only if the participants are elevating the level of debate, not dragging it down.


About IndyNinja

I support People, not Parties.
I support Ideas, not Ideologies.
I am an independent voter.

23 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Wasn’t at the event myself, but there were several pleasant surprises for me in your coverage. Proud that a group I’m involved with will be hosting both Jovan and Melton later this week! 🙂

    There may be an HD 28 debate in April; perhaps you’d like to come.

  2. Say Hey Kid says:

    Does the GOP have a strong challenger in November or is this race over in June?

    All three sound and look like they’d be vulnerable to a strong Republican

  3. bronco45 says:

    I attended the HD 41 Debate as well and was impressed with Andrew’s speaking style but less than IndyNinja was with his substance.  His answers seemed designed to gain the support of Democractic activists but showed a lack of knowledge of how the Capitol actually works.  Is he really going to change TABOR all by himself?  That’s what he seemed to be saying.  That pesky 2/3 rule for a referred measure might get in his way.

    I loved the idea about partial unemployment but getting that past the NFIB, various Chambers of Commerce, the Colorado Restaurant Assoc. and the Republican party might prove to be a little difficult.  Andrew seemed to think it was merely a matter of coming down here and showing everyone who’s the boss.

    Terry’s responses might not have been everything they could be for some hard core Dem activist, but did show he has a nuanced grasp of how the legislature works and that he is willing to listen to both sides.  God forbid we support a candidate like that.

    • IndyNinjaIndyNinja says:

      He certainly can’t do anything himself, but that’s why I liked that quote I chose for the “favorite lines” section.

      I never got the sense that he wanted to take down tabor by himself, just that it had to start somewhere, that someone had to lead the charge. And after 20 years of Tabor, I’m ready to get get behind someone who will do that.

      Todd, to me, just feels like another average dem, at best. This is a seat that’s a guaranteed win for the left, they should be picking someone who going to be a champion for their biggest issues. Someone who can and will speak up for stuff that others in more competitive seats can’t.

      This is where I get frustrated with the dems, and what the Republicans do so well. And for the last three decades, Republicans have been able to drag the political center farther and farther right. I’d like to see someone who might be able to pull it a little back to the left of center where I am. I think that Melton has potential and I believe that Bateman could do it. But Todd, he’s the status quo candidate, and we’ve got enough of those already.

      • bronco45 says:

        Another pat line from a Pro-Bateman supporter.  What HD 41 needs is someone who will represent the district to the best of their abilities.  Not someone like Jovan or Bateman who see it as a stepping stone in political advancement.  Terry is running out of a sense of civic duty to the city,  the district and his neighbors.  Both of the other candidates moved to the district knowing if they won the primary the general would be a cake walk.

        Personally, I like what all three candidates had to say but Andrew seems inexperienced, Jovan almost overwhelmed the room with his “staff” from Denver, and Denver doesn’t need one of our Reps, they have enough of their own.  

        Terry stood on his own. He has worked all over Aurora to help get Democrats elected and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have another elected official that understands how important education is.  As a retired Teacher that candidate is Terry Todd.  

    • ColoMod says:

      Bateman has NO idea what it takes to work in the real world of politics.

      No one would respect him down at the capitol.

      Oh, and “ACLU ‘Fundraiser'”? Last time I checked being a canvasser didn’t make you a fundraiser.

      • baaramewe says:

        I do not live in the district, but I have met Bateman. He is arrogant and pompous.

        And yeah, you didn’t work fundraising for the ACLU you deceitful twat.

        You worked for PIRG which is an organization the ACLU HIRED TO WORK FOR THEM.

        I sure hope Jovan pulls this out.  

  4. ColoMod says:

    Apparently Batenman **cough** I mean Indy and I weren’t at the same debate.

    Folks, this piece is bloated with some pro-Bateman bullshit.

    And I do mean bullshit.

    Bateman’s so called “specific policy” suggestions are, perhaps, a Democrat’s dream, but apparently he forgot about how he’s not the only person making decisions under the golden dome. Moderate Dems probably wouldn’t gravitate to many of his policy positions.

    My advice?

    Andrew, being in student government doesn’t make you qualified for the state house. Go get some legitimate policy experience and come back in ten years

    Or don’t. The fact that you, by your own statement last night, are unwilling to sit down at a table with R’s and try to hash out what is best for Coloradans proves that you are too immature to fill this position.

    p.s. Good job Jovan, for staying out of the pettiness that Andrew and Terry entered into in the closing statements

    • IndyNinjaIndyNinja says:

      You have a different one than I do.

      As to what qualifies a person to be in the legislature, I guess that’s debatable. I think that all three of the candidates have completely different backgrounds and each of them thinks that their individual experience best qualifies them for the position. Melton, for his campaign experience, Bateman for his activism work, and Terry for his spouse. In the end, the folks in HD41 will decide which they want.

    • MADCO says:

      But I’m not holding my breath.

  5. nancycronknancycronk says:

    Thank you for the review. I heard very different things from different people. One thing is for sure — this is a very heated race in Aurora. Since all four of the candidates are friends of mine, I cannot choose between them. There is an abundance of riches in HD 41.

    As you said, JM Faye is running as an independent. JM has a disability, and that disability must be very frustrating to her, so your description of her made me wince and cringe. I really wish you wouldn’t have gone there — there was no need.

    Best wishes to all of the candidates. Aurora will undoubtedly have a terrific representative in HD41!

    • IndyNinjaIndyNinja says:

      She does have a disability. That’s not frustrating to me. When she walks up to people she doesn’t know and butts into their discussion to interject her unsolicited opinion, that bothers me. When she leaves the democratic party to run as an “independent”, that bothers me. And when she continues to show up to every democratic party event and gets upset that she isn’t treated with the same patience she was when she was a member of the party, that bothers me. Her platform is completely radical and primarily based on her personal issues, not those of her constituents, like trying to disband the library board because one of the libraries (just a down the street from my home) rightfully banned her.

      So I think there IS a need to call it out for what it is. I’ve seen the way she conducts herself, and I have never seen anything but selfishness and animosity. Maybe you’ve had a chance to know her at a deeper level, but after several interactions with her, I can’t imagine that. And I will be amazed if she manages to get 10 votes in the election.

  6. Prophet says:

    But have heard from many current and past activists from there that they don’t want to get in the middle of it because they really love Terry, but they think Jovan is great. Which says to me that no one really wants to support Terry but that some kind of loyalty keeps people from backing Melton, who they really want to support.

    As far as I’ve heard, Bateman is a joke. I’ve seen him speak and he is good, but his background is nothing compared to the other two. Maybe in 10 years, get to know the district, grow up a little, learn some more about policy and what actually works, then come back.

    Oh, and if anyone calls Todd “The Spouse” I sure hope you weren’t Clinton supporters in 2008 or you are a total hypocrite.  

    • IndyNinjaIndyNinja says:

      When Clinton ran for President, she was a member of the US Senate, and previous to that, had led the national campaign for health care reform. While I didn’t personally support her in that election, I thought she would have done well as President. Terry, on the other hand, has less experience in legislative work than either of the other two candidates and would not be considered a serious candidate if he wasn’t married to Nancy Todd.

      I agree with your assessment that most people are staying out of the race because loyalty to the Todd family prevents them from supporting either of the others. I think Melton has a great advantage their because most of his support is coming from Denver, where he started his political work and where almost all of his allies are. His staff, his endorsements, and his base of donors is almost exclusively Denver people who don’t feel that burden of obligation.  

      • droll says:

        not overly related to your excellent diary (with the mistake of favoring Bateman 🙂 ). I suspect it depends on how much the spouse saw, did and, of course, what they thought of the whole thing. Sen. Clinton never just sat, enjoying being Mrs. Clinton and drinking tea. She was involved.

        I’ve met Mr. Todd as a plus one and had a brief conversation. He didn’t seem involved or not, in fact, I didn’t get an impression at all. But I didn’t of the new Sen. White either and she seems to be doing a fine job. Brodsky (an incredibly nice man) and Coleman had no business in those seats and never got to sit in them.

        But I digress. Your above assessment of this particular race is spot on.

        • Prophet says:

          A quick glance at Mr. Todds website lists quite a few accomplishments that could arguably be better for the makings of a Representative from Aurora than the other two.

          Terry is active in the community, serving on the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Advisory Board for the city of Aurora.  He is also a Board Member on the Governor’s Council for Physical Fitness.   Terry continues to be an advocate for children and families as a Co-Founder of “Aurora Youth 4 Success”, a three week summer program for Aurora High School students. Terry serves on the Eastridge Civic Association and is the Chair of the Verne Shelley Scholarship Committee that provides  continuing education scholarships to Cherry Creek School District employees.

          A few of his accomplishments along the way have been:

          Eastridge Gym named -” Terry Todd Gymnasium”

          There are a few more accomplishments listed there as well.

          So really, Ms. Clinton, being a Senator, gave her equal marks to President Obama. Mr. Todd, serving on a couple of boards, teaching in the district, involved with his HOA, I’m sure walking the district with his wife for 8 years etc. gives him equal if not superior knowledge and skill to the other two candidates.  

          To be fair?

          • droll says:

            my comment was only meant to be a brief discussion on spouse candidates. I believe I wrote that.

            But, since you insist on dragging me into something I specifically stayed out of, NO, it does not necessarily give him “superior knowledge.” I also already wrote that I think it depends on what the spouse got out of it.

            I’ve worked with loads of elected officials and only learned how to lobby and to make a pain of rules. It didn’t magically make me a statesman. Did it Todd? No idea. I wrote that. It’s right there, you may refer to it for reference. That seems fair, right?

            • Prophet says:

              I was trying to write a legitimate point to expand on your thoughts, not trying to offend anyone. Didn’t mean to drag you in to anything! Just trying to bring a different perspective.  

    • bronco45 says:

      Good point Prophet.  Whoever Indy Ninja is as(nudge, nudge, wink, wink) is just trying to tear down the front runner for the seat.  Terry has lived and worked in the district for decades and has great name recognition and deservedly so.  

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