Mark Ferrandino Backs Alec Garnett in HD-2

House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, right, is backing Alec Garnett as his successor in HD-2.

House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, right, is backing Alec Garnett as his successor in HD-2.

One of the most expensive legislative Primary races in Colorado is in HD-2 (Denver), where three Democrats are running to succeed term-limited House Speaker Mark Ferrandino. The frontrunner in HD-2 is Alec Garnett, the former Executive Director of the Colorado Democratic Party and the son of Boulder District Attorney (and 2010 Attorney General candidate) Stan Garnett, whose $48,000 war chest is more than any State House candidate in Colorado thus far.

Alec Garnett holds a sizable fundraising lead over fellow Democrats Aaron Silverstein and Owen Perkins, each of whom has raised a shade under $12,000, and he has also secured the endorsement of Denver Reps. Dan Pabon, Angela Williams, Beth McCann, Paul Rosenthal, and Sen. Pat Steadman. Today Garnett cemented his frontrunner status with the most important endorsement of the race: Speaker Ferrandino himself. Here's what Ferrandino had to say in an email announcement:


At Least You Didn’t Pay for this Poll

We've received the results of a new poll from Quinnipiac University, and to put it bluntly (pun intended), we learned very little. Quinnipiac is one of our favorite polling outfits in general, but this poll about Colorado Super Bowl parties and marijuana is, well, not particularly informative:

Thinking about their Super Bowl buzz, 6 percent of Colorado adults who plan to watch the game say they will enjoy it with a mix of beer and marijuana while 36 percent plan to stick with tradition and just drink beer, according to a Quinnipiac University poll completed last night and released today.  Another 2 percent plan to go with marijuana only and 56 percent say they will take neither beer nor marijuana. 

Among adults 18 to 49 years old, 3 percent plan to toke up while 43 percent plan to drink beer and 8 percent plan to do both, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.  Among adults 50 to 64 years old 4 percent plan to enjoy both beer and marijuana while 32 percent plan to only drink beer.  Among adults 65 and older, 1 percent plan to try beer and marijuana while 18 percent are keeping it to beer only.

No kidding, huh? You mean most people aren't confessing that they are going to have a big smoke-in for the Super Bowl? Did you ask what percentage are planning on a bring-your-own-heroin party?

But there are some polling results that we found especially interesting — though they have nothing to do with politics:


Scott Martinez Named Denver City Attorney

From a press release late last week out of the Denver Mayor's office:

Mayor Michael B. Hancock today appointed Scott Martinez as City Attorney for the City and County of Denver, a key position responsible for advising and representing the city on a broad range of legal and policy matters. The Mayor also announced the departure of Doug Friednash, Denver’s City Attorney since 2011…

In his capacity as City Attorney, Martinez will provide legal representation to all city officials, agencies, departments, boards and commissions, as well as 200 attorneys and staff.

“I am committed to bring cutting-edge solutions to our evolving legal landscape and honored to assume such an important role,” Martinez said.  “It’s a dream come true to serve as Mayor Hancock’s counsel, and I will defend the city and its people with all that I have.”

Friednash is leaving the City Attorney's office tol join Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck as a shareholder in its Government Relations Group.

Merida Casts Final Votes of Train-Wreck of a Term

Andrea Merida finally takes her leave from DPS

Andrea Merida finally takes her leave from DPS with the same final meeting that she once denied her predecessor.

From Ed News Colorado:

Thursday was the last regular board meeting for board president Mary Seawell, Jeannie Kaplan and Andrea Merida. Kaplan and Merida make up two-thirds of the camp that some call the last stand for traditional comprehensive neighborhood schools. Seawell, more often than not, has supported the district’s accountability-based reform efforts and charter schools.

But on Thursday, the three came together to form what Kaplan called a “weird” bloc of votes when the board considered renewing a contract with the Escuela Tlatelolco, a school founded by Denver civic rights leader Corky Gonzales.

The northwest Denver charter school, which serves students K-12, has ranked as one of the worst schools in the district for three years. According to the Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s own memo: “Escuela’s TCAP growth has consistently fallen short of District expectations by a wide margin. In addition, the School’s performance is below that of its similar school cluster across subjects.”

Merida was the most the vocal and most upset. She said it was a disservice to the Latino community to allow the school to remain open.

The final board meeting for Seawell, Kaplan and Merida was certainly more subdued than Merida's 2009 inauguration, when she kicked off a controversial, and brief, career on the Denver School Board with a strange move; Merida got a court order to allow to her be sworn-in as a new Board member before the traditional end of the final board meeting of her predecessor. Merida's only term on the School Board featured a series of bizarre stories, from grossly over-spending on her district-supplied credit card to publicly criticizing former DPS Chief (and then-U.S. Senator) Michael Bennet without disclosing that she was being paid by the campaign of Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff.

Merida had been running for re-election in 2013 until she (at last) saw the writing on the wall in September and wisely exited the race. Both union organizer Rosario C. de Baca and former City Council President Rosemary Rodriguez had the political experience and fundraising ability to crush Merida (Rodriguez ultimately won the seat).

Whether or not Merida ultimately decides to try a return to politics as a candidate herself is probably a moot point. It would be hard to find another public official in recent memory who made so many high-profile enemies, and demonstrated such inexplicably bad judgment, over such a short period of time. Maybe her name ID is strong enough that she could come back and run for something else in the future, but shaking off the skeletons she stuffed in her closet will likely prevent her from winning another race. And that's probably not a bad thing.

GOP 2016 Denver? Come On Down!


As the Denver Post's Allison Sherry was first to report:

The Colorado GOP is preparing to make a bid for Denver to host the 2016 Republican National Convention — potentially delivering the state a repeat of the economic boost it received when it hosted the Democratic National Convention five years ago…

In addition to Denver's already proven record at hosting the massive four-day international event that draws roughly 50,000 visitors, a 2016 GOP convention in Denver would be apropos, [Colorado GOP chairman Ryan] Call said, because it will be "bookends of eight years of an Obama regime."

"A Republican convention in Denver will not feature Greek columns at Mile High Stadium," Call said, referring to the stage built in 2008 for President Barack Obama's acceptance speech. "But it will showcase the issues important to the West and to America."

CBS4's Shaun Boyd:

The GOP leaders believe Denver has a good shot at landing the convention since the cityhas experience with such an event. Denver hosted the 2008 Democratic National Convention where then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama received the party nomination.

Most Denver residents have fond memories of the 2008 Democratic National Convention held at the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver, despite the inevitable inconvenience of hosting such a major event in the middle of a functioning metropolis. A report not long after the 2008 convention showed an economic benefit to the Denver metro area of some $266 million from the Democratic convention, and there's every reason to believe Republicans coming to town in 2016 would be similarly great for the local economy.

Whatever your choice of party may be, at a certain level, a party is a party.

Weirdest Voicemail You’ve Ever Heard in a Denver School Board Race

POLS UPDATE: Sources close to the school board candidates "supported" by the robocall described below insist that this recording did not originate with their campaigns, or anyone linked to them. Several sources indicate that, despite the call's ostensible targeting of "fellow Republicans," it was widely sent to Democratic voters in Denver. If correct, that would seem to indicate this robocall was a "false flag" attack, seeking to undermine support for these candidates by "outing" them as closet conservatives. We'll update as this unusual story develops.


This year's Denver School Board candidates apparently tripped, fell, and landed in Douglas County while the rest of us weren't looking, if this bizarre voicemail to "fellow Republicans" (yes, all six of you who live in Denver!) is any indication:

According to the cheery, robotic disembodied voice, Landri Taylor and Barbara O'Brien "share our conservative values" and will help parents send their kids to schools "free of the liberal agenda." Christian schools and vouchers are specifically mentioned, in connection with one another, just in case you needed the point driven home with a sledgehammer.

Maybe Scott Gessler should have suspended his campaign to work on Denver races, instead? DougCo seems to be doing a good job of electing far-right School Board members without the Honey Badger's help. Here in Denver, it looks like he'd have an opportunity to help send even more tax dollars to Christian schools, and right under Diana DeGette's nose, too. Now that's a Honey Badger move.

(End note: I absolutely hate Denver School Board races, and if this weren't so utterly bizarre, I wouldn't have posted it. And frankly, I like Landri Taylor. But seriously, what the heck? Is this Opposites Year? Multiple DSB candidates selling a pro-voucher stance?)

Hancock Submits 2014 Budget to City Council

Full letter from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock after the jump. Some of the highlights from the 2014 budget:

  • Establishing a $3 million housing fund to build new and much-needed workforce housing, as well as additional funding for homeless services and the medically indigent.
  • Hiring up to 80 new police officers, 15 firefighters and additional sheriff’s deputies during peak times to keep Denver safe while maintaining a focus on crime-prevention.
  • Investing $2 million to advance transformational change in long-overlooked neighborhoods adjacent to Interstate 70.
  • Eliminating “convenience fees” charged to consumers who pay their city fees, bills and fines with a credit card, saving citizens $2 million a year and encouraging more Denver residents to make payments online.
  • Phasing out the city’s sales and use tax on aviation parts, which will keep us competitive with other cities around the country and help attract new aviation maintenance jobs to the metro area.
  • Dedicating $500,000 to the implementation of Denver Moves, the city’s multi-modal transit infrastructure plan, to make our streets safer for walking, biking and riding.


Merida Exits Denver School Board Race

Updating the ever-contentious Denver School Board races, via Great Ed Colorado:

Andrea Merida, who represents District 2 on the Denver Public Schools board, announced Thursday that she is ending her re-election bid, citing her displeasure with the influence of national campaign contributions to board races and the increased role of federal policies in district-level decision-making…

…Merida’s withdrawal leaves union organizer Rosario C. de Baca battling former City Council President Rosemary Rodriguez for the southwest Denver board seat. In June, de Baca won the endorsement of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association over Merida, whom the union had endorsed in her initial run. Rodriguez is a well-known Denver figure who is currently the state director for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, the former DPS superintendent who launched a slate of reforms now championed by Boasberg.

Whatever Merida's stated intent for leaving the DPS race, it was clear that she had little chance of winning re-election in November. Merida could not have been elected in 2009 without the financial support of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, and losing that endorsement (as well as failing to get other notable endorsements) meant that she was going to have a difficult time finding the resources to run a competitive race this fall. The combative Merida has made an inordinate number of political enemies in a short time, and leaving what would seem to be an unwinnable race probably saves her from more attacks surrounding her infamous DPS credit card "overages."

Denver City Council Deciding on Marijuana Measures

As The Denver Post reports:

Denver is all in, but city lawmakers are finding that setting up the nation's first legal marijuana market is not so simple…

On Monday, the Amendment 64 committee meets for three hours, making decisions about 39 rules and regulations for the new industry, ranging from zoning buffers to hours to fees.

Later in the day, the full council takes up a discussion about whether to put a proposed 5 percent sales tax on pot sales on the November ballot.

While Denver is not alone in dealing with local marijuana regulations, many other municipalities have been taking a wait-and-see approach. Whatever Denver decides could end up being the basis of how sales and distribution regulations are handled throughout the state.

Denver Post Weighs in on Morrissey Death Penalty Decision

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey announced yesterday that his office would seek the death penalty in the prosecution of Dexter Lewis. As the editorial board of the Denver Post notes, Morrissey is following the law as it is written in making this decision (the Post has repeatedly editorialized in opposition to the death penalty as public policy):

Still, we're not about to castigate Morrissey's decision as illegitimate or unprincipled just because our own position differs. Capital punishment, however rarely employed in this state (just one execution since 1967), is in fact an option that remains on the books. Morrissey isn't resorting to some dubious tactic or stretching the purpose of the law. He maintains Lewis inflicted the fatal stab wounds last October on five people who were murdered at Fero's Bar and Grill in a crime of mind-boggling brutality.

Indeed, if anyone qualifies for consideration under the death statute, it surely would be a man allegedly responsible for such a crime. Prosecutors are not obliged to take a vow of unilateral abstinence on the death penalty just because some of us detest it, especially when a significant number of other citizens support it.

No, the only politicians who can end these legal spectacles that drag on inconclusively for decades are state lawmakers and of course the governor — and yet they have chosen not to do their part.

A bill to end Colorado's death penalty was filed in the legislature this year but failed in the House Judiciary Committee after Gov. John Hickenlooper said he opposed it. Since then, of course, Hickenlooper has granted a temporary reprieve to death-row resident Nathan Dunlap as well as signaled his personal opposition to capital punishment.


This is HUGE – Rosemary Rodriguez Running In District 2 Race for Denver School Board

Really big news in the Southwest Denver School Board race – Rosemary Rodriguez will be running for the District 2 seat currently occupied by that disgrace of a board member, Andrea Merida. She's formerly president of the Denver City Council, and is Senator Bennet's State Director.

This is according to this Ed News Colorado story.


Rodriguez will definitely enter the race as a clear frontrunner, and – based on the support it looks like she's already assembled – it seems like she might already have the race wrapped up. She's got a who's who of grassroots leaders, electeds, progressives, etc in her corner.


According to her website she's got the support of Wellington Webb, Dan Pabon, and Rudy Gonzales, all of whom backed Arturo Jimenez in 2011. She's got the support of Tim Sandos, who's been a longtime powerhouse in the Southwest Denver community. She's also got Polly Baca and many many others. A lot of these folks have been on the other side of some of the debates in Denver, so props to Rodriguez for assembling such a strong, diverse coalition of people. Exactly what the seat needs after Merida, who has been so divisive (among many other things).


From the looks of it, Rodriguez has a ton of great experience for the job and has represented the community before. DCTA hasn't endorsed in the race, and took a pass on Merida (who they've been allied with). Another union-linked candidate (Rosario C. de Baca, a former union organizer) has also entered the race, and Rodriguez herself has really strong progressive credentials, which should make it a very tough choice. Certainly, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to endorse against Rodriguez, given how strong she'll be. De Baca is a community activist, but as far as I can tell, she probably doesn’t have much of a shot at winning the seat – she just makes things hard, and probably now, impossible, for Merida. My guess would be that DCTA sees the writing on the wall and sits this one out. At least, that's probably the most sensible thing for them to do.

Either way, Rodriguez is a serious favorite to win this seat, so this may (finally) mark the end of our mis-adventure with Andrea Merida

Rosario C. de Baca to Challenge Andrea Merida

When the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) announced an early list of endorsed candidates for Denver School Board in late May, notably absent was controversial incumbent Andrea Merida. At the time, Ed News Colorado noted that DCTA might be waiting to see if other candidates emerged before backing Merida again.

The rumored candidacy of Rosario C. de Baca became official last week, which is bad news for Merida. While some candidates can get elected to the Denver School Board without the help of the DCTA, Merida is not one of them; if DCTA backs de Baca, Merida will have trouble finding the resources and financing needed to win re-election.

Full press release after the jump.


DCTA Announces Endorsements, With Notable Exception

Last week the Denver teachers union (DCTA: Denver Classroom Teachers Association) announced its first wave of endorsements for the 2013 campaign season. And as Ed News Colorado reports, there was one particularly notable exception:

The Denver teachers union isn’t wasting time getting ready for the November election, opting to announce three endorsements four months earlier than normal. Those endorsements are: Meg Schomp, Roger Kilgore and Michael Kiley.

The 3,000-member Denver Classroom Teachers Association Thursday announced three endorsements but conspicuously did not endorse anyone running for the southwest Denver seat now held by Andrea Merida. Merida has announced plans to run for re-election. DCTA endorsed Merida four years ago. But DCTA Fund Chairperson Michelle Miller said DCTA hasn’t had an opportunity to interview people who may run against Merida, such as union organizer Rosario De Baca. Miller said DCTA expected to make its final endorsement by the end of the school year.

Merida has been a polarizing figure on the School Board since she was first elected in 2009. She regularly engages in nasty back-and-forth discussions online with detractors, getting particularly angry when anyone questions whether or not she has paid back the staggering $12,000 she charged to her Denver Public Schools credit card in 2011. After initially pledging to pay back the charges, which included questionable charges for fast food and expensive electronics, Merida backed off that promise in favor of some weird explanation that by not using her credit card she was going to make it all equal, or something. 

It would certainly be no surprise if DCTA withheld another endorsement for Merida in hopes that another, less ethically-questionable candidate will emerge.

At Least She’s (Hopefully) Not Your School Board Member…

(The battle of Andrea Merida vs. everybody else rages on – promoted by Colorado Pols)

It’s always good to see our elected officials take to the interwebs to engage in some good ol’ interaction with the people they are supposed to be representing.

Of course, for most politicians, that might mean responding on twitter or engaging on facebook. But for a select few, it might just mean getting down in to the trenches, and starting a good old flame war.

And few are more likely to be engaging in some good ol’ blog-post-comment-wars (general belief is she had quite a few sock puppet accounts here on Pols back in the day) or general online "trolling" than the Denver school board’s very own elected super-troll, Andrea Merida (when she isn’t busy imploding in some other way, of course).

What follows is almost too ridiculous to be true. It's simply incredible that she’s (still) an elected officia, and in a job that’s important!

So, check out the kind of elected official her constituents are lucky enough to enjoy!


Heated DPS meeting prompts video that looks like start of 2013 DPS elections

Last Thursday, Denver Public Schools Board President Mary Seawell and a majority of the DPS board meeting passed a controversial vote to colocate Strive HS (formerly West Denver Prep) at North High School.  Every vote relating to the colocation passed 4-3.

I watched part of the meeting online, and dozens of North parents and community members spoke out against the idea, while reform groups such as A+ came to speak in favor.  Contentious decisions aren’t anything new to DPS, but Mary Seawell, in her new role as President of the Board, responded by lashing out against the community members who came to speak.

At one point Board Member Jeannie Kaplan attempted to propose a compromise, but Seawell quickly cut off conversation.

This morning, a video is making its way around facebook and emails from members of the “Choose North Now” group, which looks a lot like the first volley of the 2013 DPS election cycle.  

If Seawell’s “Shame on you” speech and this response video are any indicator, 2013 is going to be a long, heated campaign that will make 2011 campaigns look downright friendly by comparison.