ICYMI: Beyond the Headlines from State Assemblies

Both Democrats and Republicans held their state conventions/assemblies on Saturday. While you’ve probably seen the headlines from everything that happened over the weekend – including multiple Congressional District assemblies last Thursday and Friday – there are a lot of secondary stories that you may have missed. Let’s get you caught up…

 

“When President Trump Says Something, He Really Means It!”
This is an actual quote from Rep. Mike Coffman’s speech at the State Republican assembly on Saturday. You might remember that Coffman spoke out forcefullyabout challenging Trump during the 2016 election, but that was back when it seemed improbable that Trump might be elected President. Coffman has since decidedthat he needs to work with Trumpand has even warmed to the idea of campaigningwith Trump in 2018. Coffman’s backpedaling reached its apex on Saturday when he thoroughly buried his face in Trump’s backside.

 

Greg Lopez: Not Walker Stapleton
Former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez managed to surpass 30% of the vote at the GOP state assembly on Saturday to formally get his name on the ballot in June. Up until Saturday, the only thing anybody really knew about Lopez is that he was one of the first politicians to actually answer the question, “When did you stop beating your wife?”

According to Michael Roberts at Westword, Lopez finds his name on the ballot because of a rousing speech he delivered on Saturday. This is a nice story, but it’s not particularly accurate (watch Lopez’s nothingburger speechyourself). The reason Lopez is on the ballot is because other Republican gubernatorial candidates decided that Lopez was their best potential foil for Stapleton on Saturday. In an interview last week on “The Ross Kaminsky Show,” Mitt Romney’s Nephew let slip that he planned to vote for Lopez (Mitt’s Nephew was a delegate himself, but is seeking to make the GOP Primary ballot for Governor via the petition route). Lopez became the go-to candidate for Republican delegates who didn’t want Walker Stapleton to run away with the vote at the state assembly, and that’s why he’ll be on the ballot in June.

 

Walker Stapleton Talks Abortion
This might not seem like a big deal, but Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Walker Stapleton has rarely brought up his positions on abortion in the past. On Saturday, Stapleton’s speech to Republican delegates included a line about protecting children “born and unborn,” which is about as far as he’s ever gone (publicly) on this issue. Stapleton still has a long way to go to make up with Republicans on a number of issues.

 

Stapleton and Tancredo, for Better or Worse
Last week former Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo made the surprise announcementthat he would endorse Stapleton for the GOP nomination for Governor. On Saturday, Tancredo did one better by taking the stage himself to nominateStapleton. Having Tancredo’s support no doubt helped Stapleton with the GOP delegate crowd, but this may turn into quite the albatross for Stapleton in a General Election. There’s no going back now – take a look at the digital ad (right) that circulated on Saturday from “Better Colorado Now,” a SuperPAC that exists ostensibly to support Stapleton’s bid for Governor.

 

Judy Reyher Gets 2ndPlace
Republican state Rep. Judy Reyherand her Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat won’t be top line on the GOP Primary ballot in June. Republican Don Bendell outpolled Reyher at the HD-47 GOP assembly on Friday.

 

State Assemblies End; The Big Line Updates

With both the Democratic and Republican state assemblies/conventions now behind us, we’ve made a multitude of updates to The Big Line. If you’re looking for information on who made the ballot and who didn’t, you’ll find those updates in The Big Line. If you’re looking for a good restaurant in Colorado, you will not find that information in The Big Line. If you’re looking for an analysis of the 2018 races for Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Congress…it’s in The Big Line.

You may now commence with your complaints…

(P.S.: The Big Line)

Cynthia Coffman’s Campaign For Governor Is Over

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s John Frank reports on the end of the line for Cynthia Coffman, whose campaign for governor collapsed in a heap earlier this afternoon:

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, once considered a sure bet for the primary, suffered a devastating defeat and took only 5 percent of the vote, finishing behind first-time candidate Barry Farah.

The race became nasty in the final hours before the vote, as campaigns and independent political committees bombarded delegates with phone calls, emails and text messages that forced Coffman and Stapleton into a mud-slinging match…

Stapleton managed to win support despite the reintroduction of a 1999 drunken-driving conviction and a new controversy about apparent fraud in how his campaign collected voter signatures to qualify for the ballot through the petition process.

In short, Cynthia Coffman received almost no support for her bid to be governor–but managed to inflict damage on the Republican frontrunner worth much more than the amount of support she attracted to her campaign. For Democrats, this could be considered something akin to a best-case scenario.

And for a candidate attacked today as “not a real Republican,” Coffman proved she can sabotage fellow Republicans with the best of them! Which is, as any truthful Republican will tell you, a quintessentially Republican trait.

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We’re tracking happenings at the Colorado Republican Party’s state assembly, where as expected the desperate struggle by Cynthia Coffman to avoid elimination from the gubernatorial race at the hands of Walker Stapleton in the early afternoon is taking a decidedly ad hominem turn:

Longtime readers will recall the late-breaking story in the 2010 Colorado Treasurer’s race of Stapleton’s DUI in San Francisco back in June 1999–complicated by charges that he attempted to leave the scene of an accident after causing bodily injury to two victims. The story came too late to affect the race in 2010, but we’ve always expected that when Stapleton attempted his next move up in elected office the story would be more rigorously investigated.

And thanks to Cynthia Coffman, today’s the day!

Not to be outdone on the objective scale of nastiness, convicted felon tax cheat and author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), Doug Bruce, is working the floor against Coffman with his usual charm:

Put on your hip waders and stay tuned, we’ll update as the votes come in this afternoon.

Republicans Take Aim at Walker Stapleton

Screenshot from WhoIsWalkerStapleton.com

Sometimes the best way to figure out the frontrunner in a Primary race is to take a look at which candidate is getting attacked the most. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has been the prohibitive favorite for the Republican gubernatorial nomination since before he was even an official candidate, but until recently other Republican candidates had largely stayed away from direct attacks. Now that the GOP Primary is kicking in to high gear, the gloves are coming off.

Stapleton’s campaign has been busy trying to consolidate support, with Tom Tancredo and Rep. Ken Buck recently announcing their endorsements and pals at the Colorado Springs Gazette going out of their way to prop him up. But at the same time that Stapleton is touting new supporters, he’s taking an increasing amount of fire from the right.

An independent expenditure committee (IEC) called “Build Colorado’s Future” — which has been linked to Mitt Romney’s Nephew — has been running digital ads lately that link to the website WhoIsWalkerStapleton.com. The site is an opposition research dump hitting Stapleton on his checkered history with trying to reform PERA, his problems with petition signatures (also detailed in a separate website StapletonPetitionFraud.com), and a 1999 DUI case in California that alleges Stapleton is guilty of a hit-and-run.

Screenshot of a digital ad targeting Walker Stapleton from a Republican-aligned group called “Build Colorado’s Future.”

During a 9News debate between Republican candidates for Governor on Thursday — which did not include Stapleton or Cynthia Coffman, both of whom declined invitations — Mitt Romney’s Nephew (Doug Robinson) went after Stapleton right off the bat. Here’s his response to a question about whether illegal immigrants suspected of traffic violations should be reported to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE):

I’m not familiar with DUIs. Walker? He’s not here.

A bit later, Robinson jumps right into an answer about issues on which he disagrees with Stapleton:

I would say first, marijuana policy. Where has he been? He’s been the Treasurer of this state. We’re not getting the taxes that we promised. He had a platform to stand up and to protect Coloradans as marijuana [policy] was rolled out, and he hasn’t been there.

Two, PERA. He says he’s been a voice for PERA for a long time. I am tired of voices. I want action. The PERA situation is twice as bad as it was when he was first on that board. He’s missed, I think, about half of the board meetings. He’s not here today. I expect somebody who’s in that position to stand up and be courageous, and take on tough issues and solve them.

Victor Mitchell responded to the same question by going after Stapleton on his signature PERA issue.

I don’t think PERA beneficiaries should be beaten down and demonized. I think that’s fundamentally wrong. People who receive PERA benefits today don’t receive social security [benefits]. It’s their life. It’s their check. And they haven’t done anything wrong — they’ve paid into the system. We love to throw the word ‘crisis’ around. I don’t believe PERA is in crisis.

Stapleton is seeking to make it onto the Primary ballot via the state assembly process on Saturday, where he will compete against Coffman and a handful of other Republican candidates such as Steve Barlock and Greg Lopez (Robinson and Mitchell are trying to petition onto the ballot). Barlock has been particularly vocal about his concerns over Stapleton’s family ties to the Ku Klux Klan; Walker’s great-grandfather, Ben Stapleton, was Mayor of Denver from 1923-31 and received significant support from white supremacist organizations.

The Knives Come Out For Cynthia Coffman

UPDATE: Freelance reporter Sandra Fish firms up the propriety of “Questioning Coffman,” which lead Team Stapleton operative Andy George apparently made little attempt to conceal:

The group registered in mid-March, so won’t have to report where the money is coming from until May 7. But the address listed for the group in corporate documents is a home owned by Better Colorado Now director Andy George.

And there you have it, folks.
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GOP operative and director of Walker Stapleton’s “independent” SuperPAC, Andy George, directs us to an opposition research dump website targeting Stapleton’s mortal enemy for the next 72 hours–Attorney General Cynthia Coffman:

“Questioning Coffman’s” summary of AG Coffman’s record appears aimed squarely at conservative Republicans:

Will Cynthia Coffman stand up for your religious liberties?

Probably not. Coffman has taken a “moderate“ stance on religious liberty in the state. As Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman refused to defend the religious liberty rights of bakers who had a conscientious objection to making a cake for a gay wedding!

Coffman’s support for the Civil Rights Commission suit is troubling because as the highest law-enforcement officer in the state, short of the Governor, Coffman has failed to defend our religious liberties.

Will Cynthia Coffman fix our broken immigration system?

Probably not. She’s consistently proven herself with record of problematic immigration positions!

She refused to join other state Attorney Generals in the DACA Suit Against Obama. When President Trump issued a travel ban from countries that have large numbers of terrorist, Attorney General Coffman refused to come out in support of the ban.

Coffman continued to distance herself from strong immigration enforcement laws. Cynthia Coffman supports providing amnesty for illegal aliens. When strong illegal immigration opponent Jan Brewer came to Colorado for an event with Cynthia Coffman, the Attorney General said that she did not support Brewer’s immigration enforcement agenda.

Will Cynthia Coffman defend life?

Probably not…

Although Andy George “breaking” the existence of this site makes it likely this was whipped up by Team Stapleton, that’s not 100% provable at first glance. The “independent” group Real Colorado Conservatives responsible for this site registered on March 15 with its stated purpose “TO OPPOSE CYNTHIA COFFMAN AND EVERY DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR.” Whoever created the site, from now through Saturday’s Republican state assembly we do expect that everyone supporting Stapleton will be spreading its contents.

Stapleton’s foremost goal at the state assembly is to hold Coffman below the 30% threshold required for her to appear on the June primary ballot, and these are the exact points necessary to communicate to the GOP base to make it impossible for them to support her. The likelihood of such an attack is why Coffman never intended to go through the assemblies–only doing so belatedly after it became clear she didn’t have the resources to mount a successful petition campaign.

As of now, it’s less likely than ever that Cynthia Coffman’s campaign for governor lives to see Sunday morning.

Walker Stapleton Blows Up Republican Political Landscape

Walker Stapleton speaks at a press conference Tuesday morning.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton dropped an absolute bomb on the GOP political landscape today with his announcement that he is withdrawing from the petition process for the Republican Primary and threatening a lawsuit against the political firm his campaign hired to get him on the ballot.

From Denverite:

In a press conference outside the Colorado Secretary of State’s office Tuesday morning, Stapleton said he’ll now be looking to secure a spot on his party’s ballot through Saturday’s assembly.

He told the press Tuesday that his campaign was “defrauded” by signature gathering firm Kennedy Enterprises. He said there was “misconduct” in the way the signatures were collected, that the company lied to him and that he would be filing a lawsuit.

Media outlets across Colorado have been scrambling to report on questionable signatures and petitions collected by Kennedy Enterprises, a firm that was also hired by the campaigns for Doug Lamborn (CD-5) and Polly Lawrence (State Treasurer). Lamborn’s campaign was already in a court hearing this morning defending its petitions for the June Primary ballot when Stapleton’s campaign released a letter to the Secretary of State’s office alleging fraud by Kennedy Enterprises in the signature collection process. Here is the full text of that letter:

Last night my campaign learned that Kennedy Enterprises, LLC, the signature gathering firm we retained to conduct and manage our petition gathering process, engaged in fraudulent conduct when gathering signatures in support of my candidacy for Governor. [Pols emphasis] Specifically, Kennedy Enterprises employed a “trainee circulator” by the name of Daniel Velasquez and allowed this individual to circulate petitions which were then executed by another circulator as though that circulator – and not Mr. Velasquez – had circulated them.

Kennedy Enterprises repeatedly lied to my campaign when we asked them about news reports alleging this conduct weeks ago. Until last night, Dan Kennedy and those working for him insisted that no such individual had ever worked for Kennedy Enterprises. Worse than lying to my campaign, they lied to your office when your office specifically asked about these news reports.

Because I can now have absolutely no confidence in the representations of Kennedy Enterprises as to the conduct of our petition campaign, I must request that your office reject all signatures we submitted and withdraw the Statement of Sufficiency you issued to my campaign last Friday. [Pols emphasis] While I know that the signatures on the petitions were independently verified by your office as those of real Colorado republicans [sic], I cannot and will not allow my name to go onto the primary election ballot in this manner.

Both I and my campaign team hope that your office will conduct an investigation into Kennedy Enterprises. We stand ready to assist in any way we can.

Sincerely,

Walker Stapleton

The fallout from Stapleton’s surprise announcement is, in a word, massive. In order to keep his bid for Governor alive, Stapleton is all but destroying at least two other Republican campaigns, with potentially more political carnage to come (including Kennedy Enterprises, a GOP consulting firm that is now as good as dead). Stapleton’s move this morning is a clear effort to avoid — at all costs — the kind of exhaustive media coverage that essentially killed the 2016 Senate campaign of Republican Jon Keyser.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) is hosed.

First, Congressman Doug Lamborn, who is seeking re-election to his seventh term, is probably toast; Stapleton’s public challenge of Kennedy Enterprises likely cripples Lamborn’s defense of his own petitions, many of which would have been circulated by the same group of employees and contractors. If Lamborn’s petitions are invalid, then he will not be on the June Primary ballot and the Colorado Springs area will elect a new Congressman — either Owen Hill or Darryl Glenn. Lamborn’s hopes of being on the ballot were looking grim anyway, but Stapleton’s announcement should be the nail in this coffin.

Republican candidate for Treasurer Polly Lawrence is probably not going to get her name on the June Primary ballot, either, unless by some miracle she is able to garner at least 30% of the vote in Saturday’s state GOP assembly (she had not been organizing an effort to win over Republican delegates). Whatever problems existed with Stapleton’s petitions almost certainly exist with Lawrence’s signatures. Lawrence appeared to be one of the top Republican candidates for State Treasurer, and her absence from the field will open up a new lane for others.

Stapleton’s move to put all of his eggs in the assembly basket has a domino effect in the Governor’s race as well. Republican Barry Farah, who was a late entry into the field, today pulled out of a Republican gubernatorial debate at 9News scheduled for Thursday. Farah says that he still plans to compete at Saturday’s state assembly with the goal of knocking Attorney General Cynthia Coffman from the race. Don’t be surprised to see Farah pull out of the field altogether to throw his support behind Stapleton, who absolutely must make top-line at the assembly to avoid significantly weakening his GOP frontrunner status. In short, Stapleton’s announcement today may be the killing blows for both Farah and Coffman’s gubernatorial bids.

And then there’s Secretary of State Wayne Williams, whose office initially approved Stapleton’s petitions for ballot access. Williams has a lot of explaining to do himself.

Doug Lamborn. Polly Lawrence. Cynthia Coffman. Barry Farah. Wayne Williams. Dan Kennedy. Something tells us that there is more to come about Stapleton’s involvement with sketchy signature gathering, but if he nevertheless manages to get elected Governor in November, it will be because he drove a bus over a whole bunch of other Republicans in the process.

BREAKING: Stapleton to Make Campaign Announcement

UPDATE #3: Did Barry Farah make a deal with Stapleton? Sure looks that way:


—–

UPDATE #2: Stapleton is throwing Kennedy Enterprises, the petition firm his campaign hired, as far under the bus as possible:


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UPDATE:


—–
Stories about potential problems with petition signatures have been swirling across virtually every local media outlet in the last few days.

Republican Walker Stapleton announced this morning that his campaign for Governor will make some sort of announcement outside of the Secretary of State’s office at 11:00 am. We’ll update this story as soon as more information is available.

Because They Have To Win The General Election, That’s Why

The Denver Post’s John Frank documents an interesting if not-unexpected phenomenon in Colorado politics this year: the reluctance of Republican gubernatorial candidates to publicly embrace President Donald Trump during the period of the campaign it would be most valuable to do so, the Republican primary, where they are courting the segment of voters most loyal to Trump:

Trump is a defining figure in the 2018 election in Colorado, particularly in Republican primary contests, where a poll shows support for the president among the party’s likely voters holds at 80 percent.

But many of the state’s Republican candidates remain reluctant to embrace Trump. The two most prominent contenders for governor — state Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman — won’t say whether they will accept the president’s endorsement or campaign with him. And most others offer conditional support…

Stapleton, a two-term treasurer and relative of George W. Bush, touts his early endorsement of Trump’s tax law on the campaign trail, saying in an interview that he hoped the alignment would help him win support ahead of the June primary.

But when asked about his opinion of Trump’s record in office, he didn’t answer directly. [Pols emphasis]

In the 2012 presidential election, a top adviser to Republican nominee Mitt Romney told the press that transitioning from the primary to the general election was like ‘shaking the Etch-a-Sketch’–meaning that a candidate could essentially disregard the positions they took to win the primary election in order to appeal to general election voters. But as Romney learned in November, voter memories are not simply erased when the primary ends–and what candidate tells base voters in order to gain their support in the primary most certainly does matter once the primary election is over.

Having learned that lesson, Republicans who would in most other circumstances be competing to align themselves with a President favored by 80% of Republican voters are instead finding ways to change the subject when it comes up. Understanding that the electorate in 2018 is likely to punish anyone they connect to the Trump administration, with the exception of Steve Barlock (who won the Adams County caucus straw poll) our local Republicans are making a gamble that their long-term viability is more important.

And it might work–as long as voters somehow don’t put together that what Trump and Republicans have in common is that they are all Republicans! Which seems unlikely. And once voters on both sides figure out what’s going on here, these attempts to put daylight between Republican candidates and the leader of the Republican party look awfully craven.

It’s one of those situations where, even though we don’t have a better idea on how they should proceed, the risk of a disaster worse than the consequences of saying nothing at all is very high. Any way you look at it, Trump is an albatross around the neck of Republican candidates in 2018. The question will only be one of degree.

The English is Not So Good Here

In every election cycle there is at least one high-profile campaign that, for whatever reason, appears to be snakebitten at every turn. We’re still more than six months away from the General Election, but the gubernatorial campaign for Cynthia Coffman is the clear frontrunner as the biggest dumpster fire of 2018. Here’s more proof for that claim…

The vast majority of digital ads that appear on Colorado Pols are propagated through the Google Display Network. We have nothing to do with the content or placement of these advertisements; our role is to provide the relevant audience and the space — in the form of banner ads at the top of the page and “hi-rise” ads on the right-hand side — in exchange for a portion of the ad revenue.

The reason we bring this up is because you might have seen an advertisement on this site touting Coffman for Governor that is paid for by the independent expenditure committee (IEC) “Stronger Colorado Ahead” (see image at right).

Now, if we had anything to do with the creation or placement of this advertisement, we would have suggested that someone at “Stronger Colorado Ahead” take an extra moment to proofread the text that accompanies the image of the Attorney General. The advertisement definitely uses English letters and words…just not in a particularly helpful order:

Cynthia Coffman is THE only conservative leader to win back the Governor’s seat in November

Huh? From the manner in which this is worded, you would be forgiven for thinking that Coffman won the race for Governor last November. We also wouldn’t have put the word “THE” in all CAPS, but that’s a secondary problem.

There are only two sentences of text in this ad. Here is the second:

Vote Cynthia Coffman for Republican Governor on April 14th

Vote Coffman for “Republican Governor.” Not “Democratic Governor,” or “Independent Governor,” or “Idaho Governor.”

The Denver Post reported in January that the “Stronger Colorado Ahead” IEC is largely financed by oil and gas interests. At the end of 2017, “Stronger Colorado Ahead” had raised significantly more money than Coffman’s actual campaign itself (which helps explain this story).

Cynthia Coffman: Your Safety “Not The Only Consideration”

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reports, sometimes legal briefs force the uncomfortable facts into unvarnished view. Today’s case in point: a legal brief filed in response to a landmark court ruling on the safety of oil and gas drilling by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, in which her office is obliged to state for the record something we suspect a majority of Colorado citizens would not want to know:

Coffman and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation are challenging a ruling that the commission is required to protect health, safety and welfare as a condition of allowing oil and gas development…

In this week’s brief, Coffman and her office wrote that while the state Oil and Gas Conservation Act, as amended in 1994, requires consideration of protection of health, safety and welfare, “it was not the only consideration, [Pols emphasis] nor did it supplant the Act’s objective of fostering oil and gas development.”

In an earlier filing asking the Supreme Court to consider the matter, Coffman said that under the appeals court’s view, the COGCC could “disregard the Act’s directive to foster responsible oil and gas development and enact rules that would entirely prohibit oil and gas-related activity unless it can occur with zero direct or cumulative environmental impact.”

The Denver Post’s Bruce Finley puts a finer point on the conflict:

She’s pressing the case that the phrase “in a manner consistent with” in Colorado’s evolving oil and gas law is unambiguous and means balancing industry interests with health and the environment — rather than ensuring protection as a precondition that must be met.

If the state Supreme Court justices agree, they could reverse the existing legal ruling that requires protecting people and the environment before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission can issue drilling permits.

The oil and gas industry has been in a state of slow-boiling panic over the Xiuhtezcatl Martinez vs. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission case ever since the appeals court ruling last year, and yesterday the industry-backed Mountain States Legal Foundation fired off a statement of their own titled “Environmental Hysteria Threatens All Oil and Gas Development in Colorado.” Apparently the notion that regulators should make public safety and health a primary consideration instead of “balancing” public health and safety with the “need” to “foster oil and gas development” is extremely bad for the oil and gas industry! Which seems weird given their catchy ads featuring pristine mountain landscapes and smiling healthy children.

For us, this situation is another example of how far removed the oil and gas industry and their mouthpieces are from the interests of ordinary Coloradans. If you ask the average homeowner in bedroom community sitting over oil and gas in Colorado–Erie, perfect example–whether the state should protect public health and safety first and foremost, or make public safety part of a “balance” of considerations that includes the industry’s God-given right and responsibility to drill baby drill, what do you think they’re going to say?

They’d say it’s crazy that access to minerals in the ground are as considered just as important as the health and safety of the people above ground. And outside a shrinking bubble within the fossil fuel political/industrial complex of Colorado politics, it’s hard to imagine anyone who would disagree with them.

If this doesn’t make a powerful, basic kind of sense to you, you need to quit drinking frack fluid.

Help us stop GOP petition fraud in Colorado–again

POLS UPDATE: As the Denver Post’s John Frank reports:

Walker Stapleton, the front-runner in the Republican race for governor, is facing accusations from a GOP rival that he broke state law when collecting signatures to qualify for the primary ballot.

Doug Robinson, a first-time candidate and nephew of Mitt Romney, is demanding the secretary of state’s office conduct a formal investigation after a secretly recorded phone call raised questions about one person circulating petitions for Stapleton, the current state treasurer.

“We spent so much time and money trying to do this the right way it makes me upset that people were doing it the wrong way,” Robinson said in an interview after claiming Stapleton’s petitions were “gathered illegally.”

The situation sets up some interesting and unpredictable variables. If rumors that Walker Stapleton’s petitions are on the bubble of insufficiency prove correct, any uncertainty about the signatures Stapleton did turn in becomes perilous. The Secretary of State’s “preliminary inquiry” didn’t find anything they considered actionable, but given their track record from 2016 we doubt they’ll have the final word–which explains the appeal over Wayne Williams’ head to Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Who, if you haven’t heard, is running for governor too! Once again petition signatures appear to be a real stumbling block for nominally “front runner” Republican candidates. It’s going to be fascinating to watch how this all shakes out for them.

Make some popcorn and stay tuned.

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Two years ago, ProgressNow Colorado helped uncover a scandal that ended the campaign of a leading Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. The discovery of numerous forged petition signatures filed to qualify then-Rep. Jon Keyser for the ballot, led to felony forgery charges against one of Keyser’s petition gatherers and a new law passed in 2017 requiring the Secretary of State to check candidate petitions for signature fraud for the first time.

Fast-forward to 2018. It may be happening again.

Walker Stapleton, a Republican candidate for governor, has been accused by a competitor in the race of illegally gathering signatures to qualify for the June primary ballot. [1] A paid signature gatherer who claims to be collecting signatures for Stapleton boasted in a recorded conversation that “most of my people can’t even register to vote because they’re all felons,” and though he claims to have collected signatures for Stapleton, there’s no record of anyone by his name. [2] Both developments suggest that Stapleton’s campaign broke the law.

The integrity of our elections is at stake. Sign our petition demanding an immediate investigation by Colorado’s Attorney General into alleged lawbreaking by Walker Stapleton’s campaign.

Our democracy works, but only if everyone plays by the rules. In 2016, Jon Keyser’s campaign was caught red-handed turning in forged signatures. The Secretary of State didn’t catch it, and if it wasn’t for ProgressNow Colorado’s investigation, Keyser might well have gotten away with it.

Don’t let Walker Stapleton get away with breaking the law. Tell Attorney General Cynthia Coffman to immediately investigation allegations that Stapleton’s campaign illegally collected signatures. We’ll share your names and comments with Coffman’s office and the press.

Thanks for taking action to protect our elections. In politics there is truly nothing more important.

Cynthia Coffman Just Keeps Digging and Digging

Cynthia! Are you down there, Cynthia?

We’ve been tough on Attorney General Cynthia Coffman in this space, but it would be impossible to ignore the fantastical absurdity that is her campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Ever since her belated announcement for Governor in November, Coffman has been unable to figure out if she is here or there or anywhere else.

Ernest Luning reports on Coffman’s latest political gymnastics for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Coffman…told a GOP group last week she would sign a bill removing protection based on sexual orientation from Colorado’s anti-discrimination law.

Her remarks drew criticism from the state’s leading LGBTQ-advocacy organization, but Coffman later said she meant she would repeal the protection only if it turned out it wasn’t needed anymore. [Pols emphasis]

Coffman, who has staked out a position as a defender of LGBTQ rights, made the remarks at a March 21 meeting of the Greeley Republican Politics for Breakfast group at the end of a discussion about her controversial role defending the state’s nondiscrimination law in a U.S. Supreme Court Court case about a Lakewood baker who cited religious reasons when he refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

Well, except that she probably did.

Coffman is seeking a place on the June Primary ballot via the caucus/assembly process, which concludes on April 14, and she’s been taking a strange approach in courting diehard Republicans across the state. Coffman’s pitch to GOP voters is that she is the most moderate Republican in the race, and therefore the candidate with the best chance of winning a General Election in November. But it seems like every time she tries to make this case, she ends up walking it back in a very public manner.

Put aside, for a moment, the question of whether or not it makes sense to court right-wing Republicans with a moderate message; Coffman’s bigger problem has been her persistant inability to be consistent in her positions. Coffman’s supposed support of LGBTQ rights is one of her main talking points for her “moderate” image — but when she gets into a room with conservative Republicans, she compulsively un-moderates herself. As Luning explains further:

Last summer, Coffman praised Colorado’s anti-bias laws as among the strongest in the country when she addressed a rally celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered equality on the steps of the state Capitol. She pointed out that her office had recently helped pass bipartisan legislation adding sexual orientation and transgender status to the state’s existing law covering bias-motivated crimes.

“Whatever happens on the national front, and I know there is great fear about what lies ahead because it is unknown to us, let me tell you what we do know about Colorado,” Coffman, the only Republican on stage, told the rally. “This state, your legislators, your state officials — we will all stand up for gay rights, for human rights in Colorado.” [Pols emphasis]

Cynthia Coffman will stand up for LGBTQ rights! Unless she won’t.

We’d guess that Coffman isn’t likely to win over many conservative Republicans with this dance, so why risk losing potential supporters from the LGBTQ community?

After reviewing a recording of Coffman’s remarks before the Republican group, a spokesman for One Colorado, the state’s leading LGBTQ-advocacy organization, said her statement “feels like a betrayal” from someone the group has long considered an ally.

Of course, this isn’t the only issue that has Coffman flopping about. Coffman thinks Colorado voters are anxious to vote for a female candidate at the top of the ticket (which they did in 2016 with Hillary Clinton), yet she is an unabashed supporter of President Trump.

Coffman doesn’t want to talk about Planned Parenthood, but she can’t very well sidestep the issue because of her involvement in important court cases about funding the organization. In fact, Coffman has waffled so much in the past few months on the issue of abortion that it is nearly impossible to ascertain if she is really “pro-choice” or “pro-life” (as far as we can tell, she’s definitely sorta “pro-life” at the moment).

If Coffman’s political strategy is intentional obfuscation, then she’s doing a hell of a job staying on “message.” But if this is NOT the plan, and we’re guessing it isn’t, then it’s almost sad to see Coffman winding down her political career by pulling up whatever policy stakes she once planted.

Cynthia Coffman’s campaign chair gave maximum donations to both Coffman and Democrat Donna Lynne

(Insurance – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

The chair of Republican Cynthia Coffman’s gubernatorial campaign donated the maximum allowable amount this election period not only to Coffman but also to Democratic Lt. Governor Donna Lynne, who’s also running for governor.

L. Roger Hutson, whose role in the Coffman campaign was announced just last week, has a history of donating mostly to Republicans but to Democrats as well.

“I’m a Republican, but I’m happy to work on both sides of the aisle,” said Hutson in a statement. “Cynthia is my first choice for governor, and I support her 100 percent. Donna Lynne is a friend, and of all of the Democratic candidates, in my opinion, she would be the best Democratic candidate. I hope she defeats Jared Polis for the Democratic nomination because Jared’s policies and lack of leadership skills are a huge threat to Colorado’s economy.”

Campaign-finance records show that, since 2010, Hutson has given to, among others, former GOP Attorney General John Suthers, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, former state Sen. Amy Stephens (R-Colorado Springs), State Rep. Paul Rosenthal (D-Denver), former Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler, GOP Treasurer Walker Stapleton, and the Democratic Party of Colorado.

Such a history of cross-party political donations isn’t uncommon for a businessman like Hutson, who runs runs a Denver oil-and-gas business and was appointed by Hickenlooper to the Colorado Limited Gaming Commission.

Political observers were surprised that the chair of a campaign would be a top donor to two campaigns, one from each dominant party, during the same primary election cycle, but noted that the donations would have been even more surprising if Hutson made them during the time he was Coffman’s campaign chair.

Hutson’s last donation to Lynne was reported Dec. 6, about a week after he last donated to Coffman’s gubernatorial effort. He’d also given to Coffman’s campaign for attorney general last year, before he first gave to her current campaign.

Lynne’s campaign declined comment.

The Colorado Times Recorder did not yet conduct a thorough investigation of the donation histories of the campaign chairs of all gubernatorial campaigns, but if relevant information is found, this blog post will be updated.

Barry Farah for Governor? Bring the Chaos

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Farah confirms his candidacy with Ernest Luning at the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman and John Frank at the Denver Post. Here’s what Farah said in an interview with the Post:

“I have not seen a genuine conservative that has a credible chance of winning in November being represented at the assembly…”

…”Conservatives don’t really want a non-conservative to win — that’s not accomplishing anything,” he added, referring to Coffman. “So that doesn’t make sense. And the rest of the field at the assembly doesn’t seem to really be gaining any traction.”

You heard it here first.

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UPDATE: Judging by updates made to Farah’s YouTube account this afternoon, a campaign announcement would seem to be forthcoming:

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Barry Farah

Colorado Springs Republican guy Barry Farah made a bit of noise last year when he appeared to be on the brink of joining the race for Governor. Farah never emerged from the shadows of those rumors as an actual candidate, but we’re hearing that an actual campaign announcement may now be imminent.

We know what you’re thinking — why now? Today is the deadline to submit petition signatures for ballot access, so Farah would have to get at least 30% of the vote through the caucus/assembly process in order to qualify for the June Primary. But it is the relative weakness of the Republican caucus/assembly field that may have convinced Farah that it isn’t too late to make a run for the GOP nomination.

The Republican Party’s state convention is on April 14 in Boulder, and while that doesn’t give Farah a lot of time to make his case, it’s plenty reasonable to think that he could attract at least 30% of the vote in a field where Cynthia Coffman and Steve Barlock seem to be at the front of the line. Republican turnout at county assemblies has been fairly weak, so Farah might already have a pretty good idea of where he stands with the GOP base.

Presumed Republican frontrunner Walker Stapleton may also have to make a major effort to qualify for the ballot through the state assembly because of concerns about his petition signatures. Stapleton submitted 21,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office for ballot access, but after Democrat Michael Johnston barely made the ballot with a 56% validity rate (and 1,500 more signatures than Stapleton), there is concern in Republican circles that Stapleton might need the convention process in order to get his name on the June Primary ballot. In this scenario, the GOP state convention could be an absolute free-for-all in the battle for delegates — which makes Farah’s potential late entry into the race all the more plausible.

These Conference Calls Could Get Confusing

“Roger, Roger”

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is seeking the Republican nomination for Governor, and she’s finally hired herself a campaign staff as she seeks to make it onto the June Primary through the caucus/assembly process. Coffman announced her new campaign team this morning, and we’re still rubbing our necks from the double-take it caused:

CYNTHIA COFFMAN FOR GOVERNOR CAMPAIGN TEAM

L. Roger Hutson, Campaign Chairman
Roger is the President/CEO of HRM Resources III, LLC, a private firm specializing in the acquisition, operation and development of producing oil and gas assets headquartered in Denver, Colorado. In March of 2004, Mr. Hutson was appointed by Gov. Bill Owens to the Colorado School of Mines Board of Trustees and was re-appointed in January 2009 by Gov. Bill Ritter. During his dual terms of service, he served as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees as well as the Chairman of the Finance and Audit Committee. Mr. Hutson is also the past President of the Board of Directors of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, and currently serves as an active member of the board. In 2011, Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed Mr. Hutson to the Colorado Limited Gaming Commission which oversees Colorado’s casino operations, and he presently acts as the Chairman of the Commission…

Roger D. Hudson, Chief of Communications – Roger D. Hudson is the principal media consultant, political strategist, and legislative advocate for both The Hudson Firm, LLC and THE LOBBY, LLC. With more than 25 years as an award-winning journalist, Hudson has managed major market newsrooms in San Francisco, Sacramento, and Houston. As a Republican campaign strategist, Roger was chief of communications for Bob Beauprez’s gubernatorial primary win in 2014. He has also acted as spokesperson for the Colorado Republican Party in 2017. He has also acted as the chief of communications for high profile state agencies the Colorado Department of Corrections and the Department of Law under Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman.

If your name contains any variation of Roger and Hudson/Hutson, you should probably send in a job application on the double.