Poll: Cary Kennedy Would Kick Tom Tancredo’s Butt

Cary Kennedy.

Ernest Luning writing for the former Colorado Statesman:

A new statewide poll of likely Colorado voters shows Democrat Cary Kennedy ahead of Republican Tom Tancredo by 16 points in a general election match-up between the leading gubernatorial candidates.

According to the survey, conducted over the past week by Colorado-based Democratic polling firm Keating Research and obtained exclusively by Colorado Politics, Kennedy, a former state treasurer, leads Tancredo, a former congressman, 50-34 percent, with 13 percent undecided and 3 percent saying they’d vote for another candidate even when pressed to choose between the two. No other candidates were listed in the poll…

Though partisan pollsters, Keating Research and the North Carolina-based Democratic firm Public Policy Polling were the most accurate pollsters in Colorado for last year’s presidential election, predicting Democrat Hillary Clinton would win the state by 5 points — almost precisely her margin on Election Day — according to Real Clear Politics.

Among Democrats Keating Research has an excellent reputation for accuracy, so these are definitely numbers that anyone following the Democratic gubernatorial primary should be paying close attention to. Luning also refers to another recent poll showing Rep. Jared Polis also ahead of Tom Tancredo, though by a much smaller margin. Because the Keating poll didn’t include other candidates besides Cary Kennedy, a methodological apples-to-apples comparison isn’t really possible here–we would speculate that other Democrats would also score well against Tancredo had they been matched up.

With that said it’s certainly a good data point for Kennedy’s campaign to circulate, and it highlights the danger Tancredo poses in the long term to Republicans. Ever popular with the ideological base that decides GOP primaries, Tancredo’s liabilities only truly emerge in the general election. That’s where the party in Tancredo’s case would presumably end.

Of course, we said that about Donald Trump too.

Bad Policy, Clever Politics for Victor Mitchell

Victor Mitchell

Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell today released a new online ad to jumpstart an idea he has been pushing for a few months now: Going after elected officials who campaign for a new job while maintaining their old position. From a press release:

The Victor Mitchell campaign has unveiled a new web-video explaining his support for a new law that would require Colorado candidates holding full-time state or local elective offices to resign before seeking a higher office. “Taxpayers should not be forced to continue to pay the salaries of officeholders who are seeking promotion to a higher office,” says Mitchell, the businessman and former state legislator. “Campaigning is almost a full-time job these days and we can’t expect an officeholder to run for a different office without neglecting their current office responsibilities.”

“This law would not prevent anyone from seeking any office they choose. It would merely prevent neglect of duty and taxpayer subsidies of campaigners,” continued Mitchell. “I don’t like corporate welfare, and I don’t like welfare for politicians, either.”

“In the same spirit that “Term Limits” has constrained political careerism and TABOR has promoted financial accountability, Resign-To-Run will help keep the political insiders accountable to the people that elect them,” contends Mitchell. “Don’t expect the establishment to embrace this new idea, but I am already seeing that the people of Colorado believe it’s a welcome check on political ambition.”

The web video itself is very well done and could be an effective message for Mitchell. Take a look:

We actually like the strategy of what Mitchell is trying to do here, but we have to point out the unworkability of the policy idea. Requiring elected officials to resign from office if the are running for another elected office isn’t going to solve the alleged problem here of officials who aren’t getting their work done. Frankly, it could make the situation worse.

But, of course, this is an advertisement designed to help Mitchell win a Republican Primary, and to that end it will probably work well. Mitchell doesn’t have the name ID of many of the other top GOP candidates, so he needs to differentiate himself in some way. He does that here with what he doesn’t say: That Republican gubernatorial candidates such as State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman –and, before he dropped out of the race on Monday, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler — are part of the problem while Mitchell is seeking the solution (though in Stapleton’s case, he could just say that he was never showing up to work in the first place).

Positioning yourself as a regular Joe Businessman running against a bunch of career politicians is a tried and true political tactic. With public polling showing consistently that people aren’t particularly happy with their elected officials, this could be the kind of spark that gets Mitchell’s campaign going.

The State of the Race (for the State): November 2017

Tom Tancredo and Cynthia Coffman are in, and George Brauchler is out. There’s been lots of upheaval in the 2018 race for Governor in the last couple of weeks, so lets reset the field as we near the end of the year. Here’s our latest look at the State of the Race (for the State).

 

LOOKING GOOD

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulderish) remains the frontrunner in the race for governor.

Democratic candidates are outraising Republican counterparts not named Walker Stapleton by significant margins. Democrats Jared Polis, Cary Kennedy, Mike Johnston, and even Donna Lynne are running strong campaigns as we enter the campaign doldrums of the Holiday Season. Things should start to shake out a bit once we cross into 2018, because there just isn’t room for all four of these candidates to mathematically make the ballot through the caucus/assembly process; remember, any candidate who does not petition onto the ballot must get at least 30% of the vote at the state assembly for ballot access.

Polis has the name ID and the resources to go the caucus route, so at least one of the other three major Democratic candidates will need to spend a great deal of time and money on gathering petition signatures if they hope to see their name on the June Primary ballot. It’s hard to envision a scenario where Lynne does not go the petition route; the bigger question will be about what Kennedy and Johnston decide. Right now, all four major Democratic candidates are essentially rowing in the same direction. Expect that to change in January.

On the Republican side, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and former Congressman Tom Tancredo have pulled away from the rest of a crowded pack. Stapleton is sweeping up one major Republican donor after another, and he likely ends the year with the largest amount of contributions among Republican candidates. Stapleton raised more than $300k just from major donors (contributions of $1,000 or more) in the last six weeks, and wrote himself a $250k check. This doesn’t count the hundreds of thousands of dollars being funneled into a pro-Stapleton PAC, either.

Ed Gillespie, Tom Tancredo, and Donald Trump

Tancredo, meanwhile, seems to be establishing himself as the [quote-unquote] insurgent candidate for Republicans. We learned from last Tuesday’s election results that incumbency won’t save Republicans in 2018. We saw that the Republican brand is in tatters. And Tuesday’s Democratic wipeout confirmed something many had long expected: That Trumpism doesn’t exist without Donald Trump. Tancredo is not an establishment Republican like failed Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, nor is he a diehard Trumpian whose political fortunes will be tied to President Twitterer. In 2018, Tancredo may be embraced by national Republican factions – rather than openly opposed – and his strong name ID among Republican voters means that he doesn’t need to compete dollar-for-dollar with Stapleton.

 

LOOKING LOST

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman

Cynthia Coffman finally entered the GOP field for Governor after nearly a year of publicly teasing the idea. Even with Brauchler out of the race, it’s difficult to see how she might have a path to the GOP nomination in June. Longtime Republican operative/consultant Dick Wadhams told CBS4 Denver that Coffman’s entry into the race probably helps Tancredo more than anything else:

“Tancredo starts off with anywhere from 20 to 23 percent — a rock hard political base,” Wadhams said. “So the more the rest of the vote is divided up by these other Republican candidates, it helps him.

“Now, the challenge for the other candidates is for somebody to break through.”

Coffman is essentially running for Governor because she doesn’t want to be Attorney General any longer; if she’s going to run another statewide race in 2018, she figures that she might as well try for the top prize. Unfortunately for Coffman, she has neither the fundraising chops nor the conservative bonafides to be a top contender in a Republican Primary. Coffman has never been good at raising money; when she was first campaigning for Attorney General in 2013, she failed to surpass $100k in donations in her first four months in the race. It’s fair to say that Coffman would have entered the race for Governor long ago if she knew that the money would be there to sustain a campaign.

As for her conservative credentials, Coffman has lots of explaining to do to a right-wing base about why she issued a ruling in support of legislative efforts to reclassify the Hospital Provider Fee (HPF). Coffman may have been doing her legal duty with the HPF decision, but that won’t make diehard Republican voters feel any better. If you don’t think Coffman doesn’t already realize this problem, take a look at how she answered some straightforward budget questions in an interview with the Durango Herald:

Coffman deflected a question about the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and Gallagher Amendment, which limit tax collections and have been blamed for hampering the state budget and dozens of local government budgets, including special districts.

“We would need to set a longer conversation,” she said. “I don’t want to give it short shrift.”

Nothing demonstrates leadership by refusing to answer questions about the state budget.

Oh, and then there’s the whole “Coffmangate” scandal that will be rehashed repeatedly.

 

STILL LOOKING AROUND

Things aren’t going well for the first 3 GOP candidates for Governor: Victor Mitchell, Mitt Romney’s Nephew, and George Brauchler.

Colorado Springs entrepreneur/pastor/author Barry Farah was supposedly going to enter the Republican gubernatorial field back in August, but he seems to have vanished since those initial reports. Farah is either playing a complicated political shell game, or (most likely) he just decided that there was no place for him in the 2018 field.

Republicans Victor Mitchell and Mitt Romney’s Nephew are still plugging along as candidates. Both men have the financial resources to make a serious run at the nomination, but thus far neither has been able to grab much of a foothold of support to reach top-tier status. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see both candidates out of the race by the beginning of 2018…nor would it be a shock if one or both made a late push to get into contention.

The longest-running candidate on the Democratic side, meanwhile, is businessman Noel Ginsburg, who officially joined the race last December. But like the Denver Broncos, Ginsburg is going nowhere fast; unless something changes, he is largely inconsequential in this discussion.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Colorado’s next Governor is going to come out of the current field of candidates. There is really no other potential candidate lurking who could make a serious bid for the job at this late date.

Walker Stapleton’s Weird Announcement

dealinwalkerfinState Treasurer Walker Stapleton finally made it official over the weekend that he will seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018. We noted the announcement on Saturday, but it’s worth taking an extended look because the campaign rollout was so…strange.

According to Joe St. George at Fox 31, Stapleton had originally planned to formally announce his gubernatorial bid on October 2. Stapleton’s camp had to scrap this idea when Gov. John Hickenlooper called for a special legislative session to begin on that same day — you don’t want to be competing for headlines when virtually all of Colorado’s political reporters are covering the legislature — but that doesn’t explain why Stapleton’s team would decide to instead roll-out their campaign on a Saturday afternoon. The only reason to announce anything on a Friday or Saturday afternoon is if you are hoping it will get buried by the press and overlooked by everyone else. If Stapleton’s goal was to just get a small mention in the Denver Post two days later, it seems to have worked out well.

On Monday morning, Stapleton’s campaign did a secondary “announcement” with a cringeworthy two-and-a-half minute video. As Blair Miller writes for Denver7:

He is the grandson of Benjamin Stapleton, the former mayor of Denver who had ties to the Ku Klux Klan, and is also related to the Bush family. Some have raised eyebrows at his fundraising methods in the run-up to his announcement.

In a video announcement, Stapleton said he would “put the people of Colorado above politics.”

Walker Stapleton

Putting “people above politics” is a standard generic line for political candidates, but in Stapleton’s case, it doesn’t mesh with what he told Joey Bunch of the Colorado Springs Gazette in that story on Saturday. Here’s what Stapleton said to Bunch about why he is running for Governor:

“The exact reason I’m running for governor is because we need a governor who can responsibly develop Colorado’s natural resources with the industry [Pols emphasis], while protecting the environment and recognizing what a vital contribution this industry makes to Colorado’s economic future,” Stapleton said.

“The exact reason” Stapleton says he’s running for Governor is to be a champion for the oil and gas industry. That’s a very weird thing to say out loud, let alone in a story announcing your candidacy for Governor.

Perhaps Stapleton was not supposed to present himself as the “oil and gas candidate,” because his Twitter account has a different message:

“I will put taxpayers first, not bureaucrats and special interest [sic].”

Stapleton’s bungled entry into the Governor’s race is particularly baffling because he and his advisors have been preparing for this moment for years; it’s not like Stapleton just decided to run for Governor a couple of weeks ago. His announcement video is full of talking points that have obviously been tested in polls and focus groups, including this statement targeting CDOT:

And most of all, we’re tired of wasteful spending, like our Department of Transportation, which has spent $150 million of our money on new offices instead of new roads, leaving us all sitting in traffic.

Stapleton is presumably talking about the fact that CDOT is building a new headquarters near Mile High Stadium (or whatever it’s called now), but this is a questionable approach to addressing transportation issues. The reason CDOT is building a new office is because they are currently working out of buildings that are really old and not intended to accommodate a huge state government office. As Denver7 reported last year:

“We have, obviously, significant needs in the transportation system here in Colorado, and at the same time, we also use some of that budget to maintain up to 1,500 facilities around the state, so that we can provide transportation services,” said CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford. “Most of our buildings were built in the 30s and the 40s and the 50s and we have to maintain them.”

The headquarters building near Colorado Boulevard and Arkansas Avenue was originally supposed to be a Denver Public School. CDOT said the boiler needs to be replaced, asbestos issues exist and other unsafe working conditions in that building and the facility it owns near Holly Street and Evans Avenue.

Stapleton is insinuating that CDOT is choosing to build office space instead of fixing roads, but the funding comes out of an entirely different pot of money dedicated to facilities maintenance. As Colorado’s State Treasurer, we would think this is something Stapleton would understand.

Despite this very weird announcement strategy, Walker Stapleton is still the likely frontrunner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. What that ultimately means for Colorado Republicans is self-explanatory.

No Nibiru, just rural Democrats causing trouble.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

So the world didn’t end today (yet). I  bet a 6th grader a chocolate bar that we’d still have class Monday.  His older brother had told him for sure that September 23 was it. Young students are all on Facebook, gobbling up and sharing every bit of fake news and conspiracy theory out there.

The eclipse, the hurricanes, and the earthquakes proved that doomsday was at hand.

This didn’t happen. Nibiru hitting earth, debunked on Snopes.com

My more sciencey students rushed to debunk this: “If there was a planet about to hit the earth, we would have seen it coming! Planets don’t just jump out of their orbits and go wherever they want! NASA says it’s not true. ”

I love that they’re paying attention in science class, and using evidence-based arguments.

But, no Nibiru in sight. Just another day, living the dream in northeast Colorado. Something else surprising is happening, though….Democrats are organizing in Northeast Colorado, and in rural counties all over the state.

At Octoberfest, it was chilly and drizzly. Felt like fall.  The Morgan County Democrats were boothed next to the American Legion, so we had lots of opportunities to chat while we waited for people to stop by.

I quickly found that we could talk about anything as long as I didn’t directly criticize the President. They could criticize him, though, and did. “Needs to take a Speech 101 class,” said a spry old gentleman who later showed off his world-class polka moves. “He’s embarrassing us with all the tweeting,” confided a lifelong Republican.

Democrats were zeroing in on us, too. “You have a booth? Here? How many Democrats are in Morgan County?” Turns out, about 3,000 registered Dems to about 6,000 registered Republicans, with ~4,500 unaffiliated. Dems have kept rather quiet until now, what with that 2:1 disadvantage.

But those days are gone. Dems had big, loud, crowded floats in all of the recent town parades.

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Polis Lands Big Endorsement in Governor’s Race

As Joey Bunch writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

In some races, certain endorsements matter much more than others, and Jared Polis bagged a big one early in the Democratic race for governor Wednesday.

Colorado Politics is the first to report that the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Colorado State Conference of Electrical Workers is backing the congressman from Boulder in the nine-candidate Democratic primary. Polis, in turn, cites the union’s role in his energy and infrastructure plans…

…While labor unions aren’t as politically potent as they used to, the endorsement remains coveted in Democratic circles.

This is a big deal for Polis, particularly in a competitive Democratic primary for Governor. Along with SEIU (nurses, janitors) and UFCW (grocery workers), the IBEW is one of the most influential labor unions in Colorado. Labor unions won’t necessarily follow the same path of candidate endorsements in a high-profile race, but landing IBEW certainly gives Polis an advantage in courting support from other labor groups.

Polis is already the frontrunner in the Democratic Primary, and endorsements like this are particularly important because of who doesn’t receive them; this is the kind of support that candidates such as Cary Kennedy and Mike Johnston desperately need in order to differentiate themselves with Democratic voters next June.

Stapleton Put On Notice for Sketchy Fundraising Tactics

Walker Stapleton

Sometime in early October, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton is expected to announce that he will seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018. Even though he’s not yet a candidate for the top job in the state, Stapleton is already facing legal questions about an independent expenditure committee that is raising money ostensibly on his behalf.

As Mark Matthews reports for the Denver Post:

The Democratic Governors Association is threatening to file a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State against Republican Walker Stapleton over his ties to a campaign group that is raising money to support his expected bid for governor.

The DGA said Stapleton may have run afoul of state election law by headlining an Aug. 21 fundraiser for the group, an independent expenditure committee known as Better Colorado Now, whose primary purpose is to get Stapleton elected.

Colorado prohibits its candidates from coordinating with these committees — which can raise and spend an unlimited amount of money. The DGA vowed to file a complaint with the Colorado secretary of state against Stapleton, the committee and its donors if Better Colorado Now spent any money to back his candidacy.

Stapleton is not the only 2018 hopeful who will benefit from an independent expenditure committee (IEC), but he’s the only one pushing the legal line by being involved with the fundraising efforts. Stapleton’s name appeared as a “special guest” on the invitation for the Aug. 21 fundraiser for an IEC called “Better Colorado Now,” which lists as its official purpose “to oppose Democrat candidates for Governor” but is almost certainly going to be a vehicle meant to benefit Stapleton’s gubernatorial bid.

As we wrote last month, Stapleton may be legally permitted to help raise money for the IEC so long as he isn’t an official candidate for Governor — which is a big reason why he hasn’t already formally announced his candidacy. That could change once the lawyers get involved here, but the legality of this move won’t alter the awful perception for Stapleton. As Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell told the Grand Junction Sentinel:

“Stapleton has been running for four years. He’s been doing unethical fundraising that’s basically just down and out wrong. He’s giving political speeches wherever he goes. He’s raising unlimited sums. It’s everything that’s wrong with our political discourse today.”

“Better Colorado Now” had raised about $121,000 as of June 30, and that figure has certainly grown since then. We’ll find out in a few months whether the total amount raised by this IEC is enough to override the negative news it has generated for Stapleton.

Everybody And Their Mother Endorses Jared Polis

Rep. Jared Polis.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Jared Polis released a very long list of endorsements today (after the jump) of Colorado Democrats backing his campaign, including former Congresswoman Betsy Markey and most of the state’s legislative leadership from the area Polis represents in Congress. It’s a strong show of support for Polis ahead of tomorrow’s entry of Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne into the race, and also helps pinpoint where Polis can expect to run strongly in the Democratic primary–urbanizing communities along the northern Front Range adversely affected by oil and gas development, many of which are in Polis’ congressional district.

This list is illustrative of the difficulty not just Lynne but all of the Democratic primary candidates are going to have catching up with Polis, whose vast financial resources and solid base of support among environmentally-minded Democrats have cemented his status as the Democratic frontrunner following the departure of Rep. Ed Perlmutter from the race. In fact it’s a fair statement to say that Lynne’s expected entry tomorrow into the gubernatorial primary is a problem for every Democratic candidate except Polis, who is already well on the way to owning the field.

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Donna Lynne Seeks Third Term for Hickenlooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CD-2 GOP Primary: Nikkel vs. Lundberg?

Former Rep. BJ Nikkel.

With Rep. Jared Polis now running for governor of Colorado instead of re-election to his CD-2 seat, Republicans can be reasonably expected to mount a more vigorous challenge in 2018 than they might have otherwise. In 2014 and 2016, Rep. Polis faced two Republican challenges who could best be described as “minor candidates,” and defeated them both by substantially wider margins than the partisan spread for voters in the district.

With Polis now trading up, speculation for a Republican CD-2 challenger is focusing as of this writing on two possible candidates: state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, the arch-conservative state lawmaker who lost against Polis in 2012, and former state Rep. BJ Nikkel. Nikkel, who earned praise on both sides of the aisle for her support for civil unions legislation in 2012, was a major local proponent of now-President Donald Trump’s campaign–a gamble that could pay off now in the form of high-level support if she were to run for Congress, though it leaves her vulnerable with the anti-Trump majority of voters in general.

To be clear, Republicans are not deluded about their chances of winning in this Democratic-leaning district, and privately acknowledge that a destructively bitter Democratic primary is one of the few viable paths to competitiveness here. Given Sen. Lundberg’s propensity for just plain wacky fringe-right public statements, we would argue that Nikkel is the candidate of choice for any Republican looking seriously at competing in this race.

Or, you know, somebody else. But at this point it’s tough to see who that might be.

CD-2 Suitors Include Two Gun Safety Luminaries

Shannon Watts.

The Denver Post’s Jesse Paul and Mark Matthews reporting–after Rep. Jared Polis’ announcement yesterday that he will run for governor of Colorado in 2018, a bevy of potential Democratic successors is already lining up–including two names familiar to everyone in Colorado who has followed the debates over gun safety legislation in recent years:

Within about a day of U.S. Rep. Jared Polis formally announcing his run for Colorado governor, two Democrats — Ken Toltz and Shannon Watts, both gun-control advocates — have already said they are eyeing the Boulder Democrat’s congressional seat.

It’s unlikely to stop there, however. Several other hopefuls soon could join a race that likely will be settled in the Democratic primary. The 10-county district includes the cities of Boulder, Fort Collins and Vail, and Democrats have a big edge in voter registration.

Other potential candidates for Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District include Joe Neguse, who served on the University of Colorado Board of Regents for that seat, and Dan Gibbs, a Summit County commissioner.

Ken Toltz ran for Congress a number of years ago, and has been a fixture at debates at the Colorado state capitol over gun safety legislation as the head of Safe Campus Colorado. Shannon Watts, on the other hand, has nationwide name recognition as the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America–one of the highest-profile groups advocating for tighter gun laws following several mass shootings around the country–though she has only lived in Colorado for a few years.

Toltz and Watts are close enough policywise (and personally as friends) that it’s likely that only one of them would mount a serious bid for the CD-2 nomination–and of those two Watts almost certainly has the stronger shot. With well-known and popular Democrats like Joe Neguse and Dan Gibbs now looking seriously at the race, it may well take more than single-issue politics to grab this nomination.

Jared Polis Owns The Town Hall

Rep. Jared Polis (D).

As the Boulder Daily Camera’s Jennifer Rios reports–this weekend, Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder held two public in-person town hall events in Broomfield and Fort Collins, both by all accounts highly successful and packed to the proverbial gills:

A warm welcome and words of gratitude greeted Rep. Jared Polis in Broomfield where the congressman answered community questions at the first of two town halls Sunday.

A mariachi group serenaded the approximately 1,000 constituents from Broomfield, Boulder, Longmont, Erie, Lafayette and Louisville who formed a line outside the Broomfield High School gymnasium.

Polis, who represents the 2nd congressional district, gave a short address before turning microphones over to residents who asked questions on topics that ranged from education and health care to the environment, as well as general fears and disdain about the Donald Trump administration.

And the Loveland Reporter-Herald’s Saja Hindi reports from Fort Collins:

Earlier, he held a town hall in Broomfield that drew 1,000 attendees. The CSU event attracted 800.

“So many people are engaged and worried about what’s going on or want to know what’s going on,” Polis said in an interview.

Despite the Republican majority in both houses of Congress and the White House, Polis told attendees at the event that he’s working on several bipartisan bills and said he would work with the president if there’s a way on tax policy and infrastructure.

However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t hold serious concerns, ones that attendees at the event appeared to share from their questions — the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and replacement with one many won’t be able to afford; anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies; taking a step back on LGBTQ equal rights; and defunding Planned Parenthood; among others.

And with that, Rep. Polis just showed up every other member of Colorado’s congressional delegation! Polis isn’t the only Colorado congressional representative who makes a point of retail politicking–Rep. Ed Perlmutter regularly holds his “Government in the Grocery” outreach events as well, and Rep. Diana DeGette regularly engages locally including a press conference today in Denver on the future of the Affordable Care Act. Although GOP Rep. Scott Tipton hasn’t held any in-person town hall events since the beginning of he year, Tipton did show up unannounced to an in-absentia town hall in Paonia organized by the Indivisible group.

But as of now, Polis has set the standard that every other representative in both parties should live up to. That includes both of Colorado’s U.S. Senators. Yes, he faced a friendlier audience than a Republican would today, and found common ground with attendees where Republicans would meet with hostility.

But this, as much as anything, is their job.

(Some) Colorado Lawmakers React Angrily To Trump Weed Threats

Rep. Jared Polis (D).

As the Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning reports:

Word that the White House could begin cracking down on the marijuana trade in states that have legalized the drug drew swift rebuke Thursday from Democratic lawmakers in Colorado, the first state to cultivate a recreational pot industry.

“Whether it is building a wall or stripping protections for trans students, President Trump has already shown he’s willing to trample Colorado values to further his regressive agenda,” said state Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, in a statement. “Now, he’s going to use his Department of Justice to trample states’ rights? The people of Colorado voted for the legalization of recreational marijuana, and the federal government needs to respect the will of Coloradans.”

…U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat and a founder of the bipartisan congressional Cannabis Caucus, invoked states’ rights and the burgeoning marijuana economy in his sharp criticism of Spicer’s statement.

“The president has said time and again that the decision about marijuana needs to be left to the states,” Polis said in a statement. “Now either the president is flip-flopping or his staff is, once again, speaking out of turn; either way, these comments leave doubt and uncertainty for the marijuana industry, stifling job growth in my state. The public has spoken on recreational marijuana, we’ve seen it work in Colorado, and now is the time to lift the federal prohibition.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper has a less strident but still fairly supportive tone, via Politico:

Hickenlooper also weighed in on the issue of legalized marijuana. Following White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s statement Thursday that the Department of Justice would be “taking action” on the recreational use of marijuana, Hickenlooper called legalized marijuana “one of the great experiments of the 21st century.”

He said while he was against legalized marijuana, the state has anecdotally seen less drug dealers and has not experienced an uptick in usage among teenagers.

Twenty-four hours since the Trump administration’s announcement of “greater enforcement” of federal law prohibiting recreational marijuana sales and possession, we’re struck by how little comment there’s been from Colorado politicians–especially Republican Colorado politicians who presumably would be opposed, and would have more pull interceding on Colorado’s behalf with Trump than Democratic lawmakers.

Yesterday’s announcement by White House spokesman Sean Spicer contained very little in the way of details on what the “greater enforcement” against marijuana would look like, and the administration has refused requests for more information. That vacuum leaves room for rumor and misinformation that further darkens the picture for this billion-dollar industry.

If we really do value the marijuana industry’s economic and public revenue benefits to our state, the time to speak up is right now. That includes, in fact it’s fair to say it depends on, Republicans with access to the new administration leading the opposition.

If they don’t? Well, there are going to be a lot of upset (and sober) stoners voting in 2018.

Ken Buck Only Member of Colo. Delegation to Back Travel Ban

Rep. Ken Buck presses whatever button President Trump prefers.

Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) has generally refused to answer reporter questions about his position on Donald Trump’s travel ban for immigrants, leaving local news outlets such as Denver7 and the Denver Post to guess about his position on one of the more pressing issues in the country. But Ernest Luning of the Colorado Statesman will not be denied; as Luning reports, Rep. Buck on Monday offered his unqualified support for the Muslim travel ban:

“Our country has always offered hope for the oppressed and homeless, but hope also requires safety and security,” Buck said. We should not let people into this country unless we can thoroughly vet them. America welcomes Muslims from 190 countries and temporarily bans all individuals from 7 countries. The President’s executive order is a temporary effort that addresses a serious issue with terrorist hot spots.”

Congressman Buck is the only member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation to offer his full support for Trump’s travel ban. Even Colorado Springs Rep. Doug Lamborn made it clear that he opposes Trump’s Executive Order creating the travel ban.

Jared Polis Attending Trump’s Inauguration and The Protest, Too

Rep. Jared Polis (D).

As the Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Nick Coltrain reports:

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Jared Polis still plan to attend President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday, even as almost 50 of their Democratic congressional colleagues plan to boycott the event…

Polis and Bennet both stumped for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the fall. Polis has vowed to fight many of Trump’s proposals and said he would register as a Muslim in protest if Trump followed through with plans for a religion-based registry.

Polis will attend the inauguration “out of a respect for our democracy and the peaceful transition of power,” spokesperson Jessica Bralish told the Coloradoan. He will also join the Women’s March on Washington the day after “to display the importance of holding the Trump Administration accountable,” she said.

This seems like a good way to split the difference. The fact is that peaceful transfers of power to and from opposing political factions is a time-honored and very important component of the American political system. Even with a candidate as controversial and divisive as Donald Trump, there’s an understandable pull on lawmakers to honor the system if not, you know, the man. Your mileage may vary, but we can’t bring ourselves to disparage Democrats who make the choice to follow protocol on Friday.

On the other hand, we wouldn’t want to miss the fun on Saturday.