Why Paul Rosenthal Lost His House Seat

Rep. Paul Rosenthal (D-Denver)

Democratic State Rep. Paul Rosenthal will not be elected for a fourth and final term in November because his name won’t even be on the ballot.

As John Frank reports for the Denver Post, Rosenthal failed the meet the threshold to get his name on the June Primary ballot at Saturday’s HD-9 Democratic assembly:

The three-term incumbent’s defeat is the first in Colorado for an accused lawmaker amid the #MeToo movement.

A sexual harassment complaint prompted a Democratic primary challenge from two women, Ashley Wheeland and Emily Sirota. The allegations played a role in the vote, according to interviews with delegates, along with Rosenthal’s break from liberal activists on homeless and energy issues…

…Rosenthal received only 24.7 percent of the assembly vote, below the 30 percent needed to make the ballot. Wheeland won 39.5 percent and Sirota won 35.8 percent.

It’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback Rosenthal’s downfall as a result of the sexual harassment allegations made against him in recent months — which certainly played a significant role — but poor campaigning and some particularly bad votes in the legislature sealed his fate.

The allegations against Rosenthal contributed heavily to an initial Primary challenge from Emily Sirota, and soon thereafter Ashley Wheeland entered the race herself. Sirota quickly announced several high-profile endorsements and has been raising money at an impressive clip. Wheeland, meanwhile, is a well-known Democrat with strong ties to women’s rights groups (including Planned Parenthood) and the LGBTQ community. Both Sirota and Wheeland are strong candidates, and Rosenthal — who had never faced a serious Republican challenge in this heavily-Democratic House district — was completely unprepared for even token opposition.

Rosenthal didn’t even try to gather signatures to petition his way onto the ballot — a miscalculation that proved fatal to his re-election hopes — and he couldn’t rally support among his Democratic base because of some strange votes. Rosenthal was the deciding vote in 2016 that killed legislation intended to give communities more local control over fracking, and in 2017 he opposed a “Homeless Bill of Rights” measure that was not unpopular with his liberal base.

As Wheeland told Denverite in February, HD-9 is a changing area of Denver where voters are looking for more progressive candidates. In the end, Rosenthal just gave them too many reasons to choose someone else.

Hold Everything, Says Victim in Hancock Harassment Case

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

Denver7’s Tony Kovaleski updates the story of a sexual harassment claim against Denver Mayor Michael Hancock from a former member of his police security detail–a story which, despite the apparent reluctance of the City Council to wade into a complex and politically murky situation further scrambled by opportunistic score-settling against the Mayor by the police union, is not going away:

Nearly three weeks after Detective Leslie Branch-Wise broke her silence accusing Denver Mayor Michael Hancock of sexual harassment, calls for an investigation have gone nowhere. Now, in an exclusive interview with Denver7 Investigates, Branch-Wise is accusing Denver City Council of protecting the mayor and sweeping the issue under the rug.

The bombshell accusations come just days after Denver City Council released a joint statement indicating there will be no further investigation into the sexual harassment claims against the mayor, out of concern that doing so would further victimize the former security detail officer who told Denver7 Chief Investigator Tony Kovaleski on Feb. 27 that the mayor’s texts made her uncomfortable.

On Sunday, Branch-Wise confirmed with Kovaleski nobody from City Hall had contacted her to ask if she wanted an investigation into the mayor.

“That says to me that they don’t want to investigate… they don’t want to investigate the mayor,” Branch-Wise said. “That says to me they have no interest in how I feel about what happened to me. I was victimized. In not asking me how I feel about this victimizing is to say, ‘how she feels doesn’t matter.’”

Does she consider this a cover-up?

“I do. I strongly do,” Branch-wise told Kovaleski.

Obviously the stated reason by Denver City Council for not investigating further, the risk of “re-victimizing” Leslie Branch-Wise, can no longer be considered valid. We are very sensitive to the difficult situation Branch-Wise is in, with her settlement in a sexual harassment complaint against Mayor Hancock’s close friend and aide having apparently prevented her from getting accountability for Hancock’s own actions. We’ll say further that there is something especially distasteful about this woman being victimized twice with no apparent regard by the Mayor for her prior experience.

We also understand that Hancock’s long-running battle with the police union has grown highly acrimonious of late, with a recent appearance by the head of the DPD union to help the Trump administration demonize immigrants at the city’s expense and the union jumping to call for Hancock’s resignation in the wake of the disclosure of Branch-Wise’s story. It’s further true that Hancock has apologized, which differentiates his case from other recent cases in Colorado politics where the alleged harassers have issued blanket denials.

But when the victim says justice has not been done, justice has not been done.

And that means the questions must continue, if not by City Council than the press or whatever other oversight there is. The full story of both what happened in 2011, as well as what has been happening for years between the Mayor of Denver and the city’s police force over much larger issues, should be told. And let the chips fall where they may.

Decriminalized Magic Mushrooms, Anyone?

Colorado Public Radio reports on an initiative Denver voters may soon have the chance to approve–and depending on how pharmaceutically colorful your own adolescence was, it might bring back fond memories:

After a few rousing chants of “free the spores,” a small group of roughly 20 citizens filtered into the Denver city and county building Monday for a meeting with city officials and emerged knowing they may soon have the all-clear to gather signatures on a measure to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms.

The group calls itself Colorado for Psilocybin after the fungi’s scientific name. Their proposed measure would do away with felony charges for people caught with mushrooms, and make them the lowest enforcement priority for Denver police…

A 2005 appeals court decision in New Mexico effectively legalized the cultivation of psilocybin. Last year, Oregon reduced possession charges for many illegal drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor. California voters approved a similar measure in 2014.

Another state may beat Colorado to the ballot: California may vote on a similar measure later this year.

Although to the uninitiated any drug identified as “psychedelic” conjures up visions of wild-eyed naked hippies running through the forest in hot pursuit of elves/gods/whatever it is they’re seeing at the time, in truth the effects of psilocybin mushrooms are quite mild with little to no danger of lethal overdose or addiction. It’s certainly nothing you would want to operate machinery under the influence of, but on objective scale of public safety hazards, magic mushrooms rate low enough that in the era of legal marijuana it’s just not something to get worked up about–not to mention the benefits some users cite from consumption.

If this passes, the next generation of hippies might have yet another reason to include Denver on their gap year world tour! Please trip responsibly.

Denver Mayor Faces Troubling Sexual Harassment Allegation

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

Westword’s Michael Roberts reports and it’s not good for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock:

Last night, Mayor Michael Hancock issued an extraordinary video apology for what his office has termed “inappropriate behavior” toward Denver Police Detective Leslie Branch-Wise when she was part of his security detail approximately six years ago. The clip, on view below, was prompted by Branch-Wise’s participation in a February 27 Denver7 report in which she shared text messages from Hancock, one of which asked if she’d ever taken a pole-dancing course before warning her, “Be careful! I’m curious;)!”

Hancock’s star has continued to rise despite past links to stories alleging sexually inappropriate behavior — most notably involving the Denver Players/Denver Sugar prostitution ring. But the latest revelation, which is emerging amid the post-Harvey Weinstein rise of the #MeToo movement, suggests that this time around, he won’t so easily avoid paying a political price as he’s gearing up to run for his third term as mayor.

In her interview with Denver7, Branch-Wise made public an open secret among political observers and the press: She was the Denver police officer to whom Hancock friend and political adviser Wayne McDonald was accused of making inappropriate comments in 2012. This behavior prompted Branch-Wise to request removal from the mayor’s security detail, and Hancock sacked McDonald four days later…

But allegedly, Mayor Hancock was something rather less than sympathetic.

He joined in.

[Hancock] goes on to say that “during Detective Branch-Wise’s time on the security team, we became friends, but my text messages in 2012 blurred the lines between being a friend and being a boss. Unfortunately, I didn’t know until just a few days ago that she felt our text exchanges were unwelcome and contributed to the pain and disrespect she was already feeling. [Pols emphasis] But it is obvious now that she did feel that way. I sincerely apologize to Detective Branch-Wise. I apologize to my wife and family and to the people of Denver.”

DPD Detective Leslie Branch-Wise requested a transfer off Mayor Hancock’s security detail following alleged sexual harassment by Hancock’s aide Wayne McDonald, and received a settlement that reportedly prevented her from filing any other lawsuits against city employees. It should be noted, as Westword correctly does, that McDonald also sued and received a settlement over the case.

But none of those details excuse Hancock’s own behavior, or the possibility that justice for the police officer in question may have been thwarted because of the McDonald case. Hancock problematically denies that his conduct rose to the level of sexual harassment, but in its context–and above all, based on the opinion of the victim–that simply can’t be justified with the reported information.

Politically, this creates a dicey situation as Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly pursue a resolution to expel a lawmaker accused of both many more and arguably more severe instances of sexual harassment. We are not the ones tasked with handing down punishment in these cases, but it’s very important that accountability in all cases of sexual harassment be both consistent and sufficiently severe to deter further offense.

And that means everybody, even the Mayor of Denver.

Michael Hancock Getting Ready Early for Third Term Campaign

Good politicians with strong political organizations understand that the best way to win an election is to prevent top opponents from ever entering the race.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock won’t be up for re-election until May 2019, but he’s already working to clear the road for his third term. Hancock is holding a “reception” tonight with some very prominent names on the host list, including House Speaker Crisanta Duran, businessman Zee Ferrufino, former Denver Fire Chief Larry Trujillo, and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

You’ll notice that most of the names on this list are those of well-known Latino politicos in the Denver area, which is certainly by design. A list of supporters like this will undoubtedly make any potential Latino candidates think twice about taking on the two-term incumbent Mayor of Denver. Sure, there is a lot that can happen between now and Spring 2019 that could change the dynamics of the next municipal elections in Denver, but the wise move for any incumbent is to get out in front of possible challengers as soon as possible.

Tonight’s event is not being billed as an official “kick-off” for Hancock’s third term, but the message it sends is unmistakable.

If DPS Isn’t Reform-y Enough For Betsy DeVos, What The Hell Is?

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Sarah Darville writes for Chalkbeat Colorado:

Earlier this month, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was praising Denver’s efforts to support school choice. Not today.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution Wednesday, she called out Denver as an example of a district that appears to be choice-friendly — but actually lacks sufficient options for families.

A new Brookings report gave the city the top score for school choice, citing the unified application process that allows families to consider charter and district-run schools at the same time.

But DeVos implied that without vouchers to pay for private schools (something Colorado’s state Supreme Court has twice ruled unconstitutional) and a sufficient supply of charter schools, Denver’s application process amounts to an optical illusion.

“The benefits of making choices accessible are canceled out when you don’t have a full menu of options,” she said, pointing to New Orleans as a better example of the choice ecosystem she’d like to see. “Choice without accessibility doesn’t matter. Just like accessibility without choices doesn’t matter. Neither scenario ultimately benefits students.”

As a reform-minded public school district responsible for a large and diverse urban population of students, Denver Public Schools has been on the front lines in the battle over “innovation” and school choice for a number of years. Battles over the district’s school choice programs and reform efforts in struggling DPS schools have made for bitter infighting between nominally allied liberal Democrats, and frequently sparked conflict between the school board and the district’s teachers.

With that said, there should be absolutely no daylight between the factions in Denver Public Schools when it comes to opposing private school vouchers, a question that has already been thoroughly explored by the Douglas County school district to the south of Denver. Colorado’s constitution explicitly prohibits public funding for religious schools, which has been repeatedly upheld by the state supreme court. The Brookings Institution’s report praising DPS for its accommodation of choice for parents shows that the district is doing everything it can be reasonably expected to do under state law.

And if that’s not good enough for Education Secretary Betsy “Amway U” DeVos, that only demonstrates how far she is from the mainstream–not Denver Public Schools.

Poll: Who Will Win The Denver DA Democratic Primary?

With the June 28th primary election now less than a week away, we’re rolling out informal polls for our readers in a number of races around the state. The Denver District Attorney’s Office, currently occupied by term-limited DA Mitch Morrissey, features an intense three-way Democratic primary between Kenneth Boyd, Michael Carrigan, and Beth McCann.

As with all of our polls, we’re interested in knowing who you actually think will win this election–not your personal preference.

Who will win the Denver DA Democratic primary?
Kenneth Boyd
Michael Carrigan
Beth McCann
View Result

Poll: Who Will Win The Democratic HD-3 Primary?

With the June 28th primary election now just a week away, we’re rolling out informal polls for our readers in a number of key races around the state. Highly competitive Colorado House District 3, presently held by Rep. Daniel Kagan, features a robust Democratic primary race between Jeff Bridges and Meg Froelich.

As with all of our polls, we’re interested in knowing who you actually think will win this election–not your personal preference.

Who will win the HD-3 Democratic primary?
Jeff Bridges
Meg Froelich
View Result

 

Poll: Who Will Win The Democratic HD-8 Primary?

With the June 28th primary election now just a week away, we’re rolling out informal polls for our readers in a number of key races around the state. Strongly Democratic Colorado House District 8, presently held by Denver DA candidate Beth McCann, features a closely-watched primary this year between Aaron Goldhamer and Leslie Herod.

As with all of our polls, we’re interested in knowing who you actually think will win this election–not your personal preference.

Who will win the HD-8 Democratic primary?
Aaron Goldhamer
Leslie Herod
View Result

 

Aurora School Board Member, House Candidate, Appears to be Spectacular Con Artist

UPDATE #3: Nelson for Colorado responds directly in the comments below….

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UPDATE #2: Rep. Rhonda Fields, who holds the HD-42 seat Eric Nelson is running for, calls for him to withdraw from the race and resign from the Aurora school board:

“Impersonating a military officer, violence against women, bigamy, dodging child support payments? This pattern of behavior is deeply disturbing to me, it’s unacceptable in a leader, it goes against everything Democrats stand for, and I believe the people of Aurora and the state of Colorado deserve better. Therefore, I call on Eric Nelson to immediately withdraw his candidacy for state representative and to resign his seat on the school board.”

—–

UPDATE: The “you know what” is hitting the proverbial fan in Aurora:

Meanwhile, Nelson’s Democratic Primary opponent in HD-42 — Dominique Jackson — is speaking out and taking the high road.

—–

While you were tucked all snug in your bed last evening, Ernest Luning of the Colorado Statesman was breaking a story that is so bizarre you’d be forgiven if you thought it was a fairy tale. Eric Nelson, a member of the Aurora School Board and a Democratic candidate for House District 42 (Aurora), is one hell of a con man:

This is Eric Nelson. As far as anyone else knows, anyway.

This is Eric Nelson. Or a man who calls himself Eric Nelson.

A member of the Aurora Public School Board and Democratic state House candidate who describes his occupation as “Life Visionary” appears to have taken his knack for self-invention to extreme heights, an investigation by The Colorado Statesman has revealed. [Pols emphasis]Eric Durane Nelson, 38, one of two Aurora Democrats in a primary for the House District 42 seat, was rebuked by the state Division of Insurance for lying about his criminal background — including domestic violence arrests spanning a decade — and was denied an application for another insurance license for “failure to demonstrate that you are competent, trustworthy and of good moral character.”

At another time, Nelson was married to two women at the same time, according to court documents.

Based on information uncovered by The Statesman, the organization that works to elect House Democrats on Monday said it is calling on Nelson to withdraw from the race and, in an unprecedented move, will endorse his primary opponent, Dominique Jackson. [Pols emphasis]

The HD 42 seat is currently represented by state Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, who is term-limited and in a primary of her own against state Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, for an open state Senate seat. Republican Mike Donald is running unopposed for the GOP nomination for the heavily Democratic House seat.

You really have to read the entire story yourself — it is an incredible tale of a career criminal and con man who talked his way into a position of being the top-line candidate on the June 28th Primary ballot. Just look at some of these examples:

Although the specifics of his claims have changed over the years, Nelson says he’s earned numerous advanced degrees — as many as seven have shown up on various resumés — including a master’s degree from a university that says he was never enrolled there.

Asked by The Statesman early Monday afternoon why the Northeastern University registrar’s office in Boston said the school had no record of him, Nelson promised to email copies of his diploma and academic records but six hours later hadn’t sent anything.

—–

In earlier versions of his resume, Nelson describes himself as an Air Force veteran and has also been fond of posting photographs of himself on social media in a captain’s uniform, despite having been an active duty member of the service for just eight weeks, according to Department of Defense documents.

The story is not without its victims, unfortunately. Luning writes that Nelson recently talked his way into a job leading a nonprofit called Angel Eyes, claiming to have a Master of Social Work degree. By the time other employees and volunteers realized the lie, he had nearly robbed them blind.

“We were thinking, this couldn’t be happening because he was so slick. But it just snowballed,” said a woman who works at Angel Eyes, a Cherry Creek-based organization that comes to the aid of parents who have lost an infant.

From a political perspective, House Democrats absolutely did the right thing by immediately calling on Nelson to drop out of the race, as well as endorsing a Primary opponent for the first time in the history of the House Majority Project. It is a pretty stark difference between Democrats and Republicans in Colorado in recent years, particularly when it comes to troublesome individual candidates or campaigns.

Republicans often spend days and weeks wringing their hands when bad eggs emerge and legislators make terrible comments without rebuke; they only seem to act when something is so egregious that virtually no member of the public at-large would disagree. The Nelson story is going to leave a lot of confused and angry Democrats — particularly those who endorsed his House candidacy — but this is a band-aid that needs to be pulled quickly.

“Both Ways Beth?” Denver DA Candidate Flips on Death Penalty

Beth McCann, left, appears to have changed her position on the death penalty to more closely resemble Michael Carrigan's stance on the issue.

Beth McCann, left, appears to have changed her position on the death penalty to more closely resemble Michael Carrigan’s stance on the issue.

The race for the Democratic nomination for Denver District Attorney is one of the more interesting battles to watch in Colorado this Primary season. Three candidates — Michael Carrigan, Beth McCann, and Kenneth Boyd — are running to replace outgoing, term-limited Denver D.A. Mitch Morrissey.

The winner of the June 28th Democratic Primary in Democrat-heavy Denver will almost certainly go on to wrap up the job in the General Election, which is particularly enticing because the Denver D.A. can serve three terms, for a total of 12 years, without ever really needing to worry about re-election efforts again. The Democratic Primary has been a heated affair thus far and has emerged as the single most expensive Primary race in the state (not counting federal races). University of Colorado Regent and attorney Michael Carrigan has long been considered the odds-on favorite in this race, which may help explain why State Rep. Beth McCann is flipping her position on a pretty major issue.

On Sunday the Denver Post ran a long comparison piece on the race that includes several answers to specific policy questions. Here’s how McCann and Carrigan responded to the following question:” The death penalty is seldom used in Denver. What is your position on the death penalty and when — if at all — would you find it appropriate to seek that punishment?”

Carrigan 

Carrigan will not seek the death penalty if elected.

“It’s inefficient, it’s expensive, it prolongs the process and is something that is not practiced in the industrialized world,” Carrigan said.

 

McCann

McCann will not seek the death penalty if elected.

“I would not bring it because I don’t believe in it,” McCann said. “I don’t think the state should be in the business of killing people.” [Pols emphasis]

 

The problem here is that McCann’s statement that she would refuse to seek the death penalty is not what she has been saying on the campaign trail for 18 months. Here’s what McCann said about the death penalty in a September story for Law Week – September 2015 (PDF file):

I am personally opposed to the death penalty, and I voted in the legislature to repeal it. But it is the law, and as the DA, you are bound by the law. [Pols emphasis] So I suppose there might be an awful, horrific case where I might file, but it would have to be egregious.

By contrast, here’s Carrigan’s answer to the Law Week question:

I’m against the death penalty. It’s expensive and inefficient, and it’s not something that should continue. If I was elected DA, I would support a repeal.

In a February 2016 forum in House District 8, McCann expanded a little on her previous answer regarding the death penalty (skip ahead to about the 20 minute mark for McCann’s answer).

I am opposed to it. I need to make that very clear…Now, that said, we do have a victim’s rights act…I believe, in deference to people who have lost a child, lost a mother, lost a family member, in the most heinous of circumstances.

That if i’m the DA, I at least owe that family the right to sit down and talk to them. I’m not going to bring the death penalty — I’ll explain my thinking and reasoning to them…but I owe them that courtesy…

And I wonder what other laws Mr. Carrigan would disregard? Because if he doesn’t like the law, then he is just not going to apply it? That is not what the oath is for the District Attorney. You take an oath to uphold the law. So I believe that I would have to respect that.” [Pols emphasis]

Okay, so McCann does not believe in the death penalty and would not seek the death penalty if elected District Attorney…but she would pretend to be open to the idea so that families could tell their side of the story (even though McCann already made up her mind).  McCann concludes her answer by criticizing Carrigan for “disregarding” laws — which she just said she would do herself — as a way of attacking Carrigan’s much simpler answer that he would not pursue the death penalty, period.

The death penalty, as Gov. John Hickenlooper well knows, is not an issue with much room in the middle. You are either against the death penalty or in favor of the death penalty, and the more you try to massage your answer one way or the other, the more confusing your position becomes. McCann can’t very well say now that she would just flat-out refuse to seek the death penalty after nearly a year of equivocating.

Dear Candidates: Proofread Your Websites

Running for office is exhausting, time-killing, and sometimes soul-crushing — and that’s just for those candidates who don’t make ridiculous errors.

We stumbled across the “About the Candidate” link for Elet Valentine, one of three Democrats seeking to win a Primary in HD-7 (Northeast Denver), and…wow.

We really don’t know much about this race or the other candidates seeking the office, but we are confident about one thing: Elet Valentine should proofread her website. Also, it’s never a good idea to shift between first-person and third-person perspectives when discussing your own biography:

From EValentineForStateRep.com

Actual screenshot from EValentineForStateRep.com

Denver DA Candidate Michael Carrigan Debuts Unique TV Ad

If you spend any time watching politics in the United States, the chances are pretty good that you’ve seen just about every variation of a campaign advertisement that there is to see. But every now and then, a TV ad pops up that looks a little different than the rest…like this ad for Denver District Attorney candidate Michael Carrigan titled “Kid Pile”:

Carrigan’s “Kid Pile” ad is presented in a “vertical” format — both on television and online — which is intended to look like something that could have been shot on a cellphone (when the ad appears on television, it is centered between two bars of black space just like a cellphone video might appear). It’s an interesting approach to a campaign ad that should help catch the attention of viewers who are starting to be barraged with TV advertisements for various other campaigns.

Carrigan is the favorite to win the Democratic Primary for Denver DA on June 28th, which essentially serves as the general election in Democratic-heavy Denver. The “Kid Pile” ad is part of an ad buy on TV and online that will exceed $200k. Fellow candidates Beth McCann and Kenneth Boyd are also on the air (or were on the air) with TV buys of only a few thousand dollars apiece.

A Few Words on that Child Abuser/DPS Board Appointee

standholmes

MiDian Holmes.

MiDian Holmes.

We wanted to make sure the recent controversy on the Denver Public Schools board, in which a newly-appointed school board member connected to the corporate-backed education “reform” group Stand for Children was exposed in the media as having been convicted of child abuse, didn’t get too far in the rear-view mirror without a mention. Eric Gorski and Melanie Asmar at Chalkbeat Colorado reported last Thursday:

MiDian Holmes announced on her Facebook page Thursday night that she would not accept her appointment to the Denver school board, saying she did not want to be a distraction after details of a misdemeanor child abuse conviction became public…

In 2005, she was charged with “wrongs to minors” in violation of the Denver municipal code. Documents explaining what led to the charge were not immediately available. Holmes was sentenced to a year of probation, after which the case was dismissed.

In 2006, she was charged with child abuse in violation of state law. Documents reveal that Holmes left her three young children — age 7, 6 and 2 — home alone for more than eight hours while she was at work. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child abuse and again was sentenced to probation.

FOX 31 reported more details from MiDian Holmes’ second child abuse case, which Holmes was reportedly not completely honest about with the DPS board that appointed her:

(more…)