So Long, Dan McMinimee

Soon to be ex-Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports on another endnote in the long battle to wrest control of Jefferson County Public Schools back from a conservative majority elected in 2013 and ousted in an historic 2015 recall election–the departure of conservative superintendent Dan McMinimee:

Jeffco Public Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee is out of his job early, as the district announced Thursday he was stepping down immediately.

The district announced in December that his three-year contract would not be renewed, and he was set to be out of a job as of June 30.

But the district said Thursday that McMinimee and the school board agreed to McMinimee’s early ouster.

He will remain with the district through June 30, Jeffco Public Schools Communications Office Diana Wilson said, but will not have day-to-day operations responsibilities.

Wilson said McMinimee will “be available to the board in an advisory capacity and will assist as needed in the transition to a new superintendent.”

Dan McMinimee was hired by the conservative majority Jeffco school board in 2014, a pick that was fraught with controversy–McMinimee was formerly an assistant superintendent at arch-conservative Douglas County Schools, whose right-wing board and perceived anti-teacher bias resulted in an exodus of qualified teachers from the district.

As the battles between the new board and the district’s parents and teachers heated up, McMinimee drew fire for not intervening in the board alleged “bullying” of students who showed up to testify at board meetings, as well as his participation in intra-board intrigue on behalf of the majority.

After the recall election that sent the conservative board majority packing, McMinimee was the career equivalent of a dead man walking. Immediately after the recall election we predicted his swift departure, but the new board made the magnanimous (and fiscally prudent) decision to allow McMinimee to serve out his contract. We suppose it’s even hypothetically possible that he might have lived up to the expectations of the new board and had his contract renewed.

But it didn’t happen, and now McMinimee’s departure marks the final stages of a housecleaning three years in the making.

Betsy DeVos Confirmed As Gardner, Bennet Split Vote

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

New York Times:

The Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos on Tuesday as education secretary, approving the embattled nominee only with the help of a historic tiebreaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.

The 51-to-50 vote elevates Ms. DeVos — a wealthy donor from Michigan who has devoted much of her life to expanding educational choice through charter schools and vouchers, but has limited experience with the public school system — to be steward of the nation’s schools.

GOP Sen. Cory Gardner voted for Betsy DeVos, giving his final answer to protesters who have besieged his office and phone lines for weeks. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, on the other hand, joined the Democrats’ late-night protest against DeVos’ confirmation:

And now we’ll all have to await the judgment of history! Gardner has obviously made the calculation that supporting DeVos now will not be a political problem for him when he’s up for re-election in 2020. With that said, Gardner is now by the same yardstick he used against his Democratic opponent in 2014 the “deciding vote” for DeVos–which helps link Gardner’s fate to hers, and to the Trump administration as a whole.

Hope that works out.

Teachers Keep Up The Pressure On Cory Gardner

As CBS4 reports–the stretch of Skyline Park next to Sen. Cory Gardner’s downtown Denver offices in the Chase Bank building is turning into a semi-permanent protest zone, with another large protest yesterday of teachers and parents calling for the rejection of Donald Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos:

Hundreds of parents, teachers and other community members rallied outside the office of Sen. Cory Gardner.

Protesters were urging Gardner to vote against confirmation of Betsy DeVos, nominee for the U.S. education secretary…

“She felt very out of touch with what my day-to-day reality with students actually is,” said Heather C., a public school teacher in the Denver metro area.

She said that DeVos lacked the experience needed to run the country’s education and higher learning finance systems. For that reason, she was asking Gardner to help rescind DeVos’ nomination.

“And for him to realize that we are not paid protesters,” Heather C. continued. “And that simply because someone disagrees with his point of view does not mean they’re being bribed or that they have some other kind of agenda.” [Pols emphasis]

Gardner’s dismissal of the protesters showing up regularly at his offices as “paid operatives” very clearly appears to have backfired, both in terms of attracting negative press and growing the crowds of demonstrators in Skyline Park. The national attention Gardner received for his arrogance toward these protesters is a major misstep for a normally very disciplined politician, much better known for slickly talking his way around controversy than stepping in it.

And it helps explain why Gardner is becoming the local face for everything bad happening in Washington.

Get More Smarter on Friday (February 3)

Can we demand a recount in Punxsutawney? How do we know that the groundhog wasn’t paid off by “Big Winter” to keep it cold for another six weeks? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► That big wall between Mexico and the United States that President Trump has repeatedly promised is running into plenty of opposition from Congressional Republicans. As CNN reports:

A growing number of congressional Republicans are objecting to the cost and viability of a proposal that was a rallying cry for the billionaire businessman during his insurgent campaign. Interviews with more than a dozen GOP lawmakers across the ideological spectrum suggest Trump could have a difficult time getting funding for his plan approved by Congress.

Many bluntly told CNN they’d likely vote against any Trump plan that is not fully offset with spending cuts, while others questioned whether Trump’s vision would adequately resolve the problems at the border.

“If you’re going to spend that kind of money, you’re going to have to show me where you’re going to get that money,” said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a key swing vote who has already broken with Trump over his nominee for secretary of education.

“I don’t see how you can get a bill like that through (Congress) without offsets,” she added. “I don’t see how that’s possible.”

At a projected cost of $12-15 billion, it’s not hard to see why so-called “fiscal conservatives” would be freaking out a little bit.

 

► Remember Bowling Green!?

Don’t remember Bowling Green? You’re not alone. But here’s what President Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway told Chris Matthews of MSNBC on Thursday:

“Two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. Most people didn’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”

Conway is correct that this didn’t get covered…primarily because it never happened. From the Washington Post:

In defending President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees, immigrants and citizens from Iraq and six other Muslim-majority countries, Conway referred to something that didn’t happen — the “Bowling Green massacre.” (She also incorrectly said that Obama “banned” Iraqi refugees, which we have previously fact-checked as false.)

Conway was on her way to a Four-Pinocchio rating when, about an hour and a half after The Fact Checker sent her a query about her remarks, she tweeted that she meant to say “Bowling Green terrorists.”

Alternative facts.

 

One of the foremost charter school advocates in the United States says that Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is absolutely not qualified for the position and is urging the Senate to reject her nomination. Despite a series of shaky performances during the confirmation process, DeVos is still moving forward in the process but will have to sweat out a full floor vote on Monday.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 2)

You dirty son of a groundhog! Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter after emerging from his palace this morning and seeing his shadow. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► There are growing concerns about President Trump’s mental and emotional fitness, and it’s becoming a problem in international relations. On Wednesday, President Trump hung up the phone during a conversation with the Australian Prime Minister. From the Washington Post:

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”

Also on Wednesday, Trump may or may not have threatened to send U.S. troops into Mexico.

Trump has a position on a topic, and everything else is wrong. If you are concerned about any of this, President Trump says, “Just don’t worry about it.

 

► President Trump’s over-the-top rhetoric may be fun for campaigns and television shows, but it may actually backfire in International diplomacy. From the Washington Post:

President Trump and Iran traded sharp statements Thursday, with Trump amplifying warnings over Tehran’s missile tests and a top adviser to Iran’s leader saying it was not the first time an “inexperienced person has threatened” his country.

The exchanges reflect the Trump administration’s toughening stance on Iran, but also point to wider changes in the White House as it advances a combative and iconoclastic ­foreign policy. The shifts appear to ­sideline traditional diplomacy and concentrate decision-making among a small group of aides who are quickly projecting their new “America first” approach to the world.

Just before the Senate confirmed Trump’s new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, on Wednesday, national security adviser ­Michael Flynn made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room to deliver a stern warning to Iran over its most recent ballistic missile test.

Trump bangs his fists, and Iran shrugs.

 

► It’s an icy day in Metro Denver, which is something Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is growing quite accustomed to feeling. After a series of shaky performances during the confirmation process, DeVos may need a tie-breaking Senate vote from Vice President Mike Pence to make it into the Department of Education. As we noted in this space yesterday, DeVos has lost the support of two Republican Senators after demonstrating during the last few weeks that she has very little understanding of what her proposed job entails.

As the Colorado Statesman reports, a growing number of state lawmakers are also voicing their opposition to DeVos.

 

The fight is on over the Supreme Court now that Donald Trump’s nominee has been announced. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) wasted no time in sitting down for a meeting with Judge Neil Gorsuchwhich is more than Gardner would even consider for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

DeVos Confirmation Hangs By a Thread

Betsy DeVos.

The Hill reporting–bad news for charterizers, voucherfyers, and Amway:

GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski in back-to-back speeches on the Senate floor announced Wednesday that they would oppose Betsy DeVos’s nomination to be Education secretary.

They are the first two Republicans to break with Trump on any of his Cabinet picks, and the votes could make it difficult for DeVos to win confirmation.

If all of the Senate’s Democrats vote against DeVos, she would have 50 votes if the remaining Republicans backed her — with Vice President Mike Pence potentially breaking the tie. No Democrats have backed DeVos…

That includes Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who despite his reputation as a reform-friendly education policy guy has little use for Betsy DeVos’ brand of “reform.”

“There is nothing in the conversations I’ve had with this nominee, or in her experience in Michigan or Detroit, that gives me confidence that she can lead us in the direction we need, which is to ensure that every kid in America has access to high-quality education, whether or not they are born into wealth,” Bennet said. “That is why I will vote against this nomination.”

In remarks during the Senate committee’s vote on Devos, Bennet, a former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, discussed the inequalities in the American public education system.

“While we have these partisan squabbles in the Senate, there are millions of American kids who are attending schools that are foreclosing on their future from the start,” Bennet said. “There are millions of people teaching today in America who have a job that is much harder than anyone on this panel, who are not being adequately supported in their work.”

“I was a school superintendent of an urban school district,” he added. “The last thing I wanted was the federal government telling me what to do. But I believe we have a profound national interest to ensure that more than 9 out of 100 kids born into poverty in this country are able to obtain a college degree. We also have a profound national interest to attract the next 1.5 million teachers to teach, especially in our high poverty schools in our cities and rural communities.”

It should be noted that even former state Sen. Michael Johnston, who is well right of most Democrats on education policy, is vocally opposing DeVos as well:

Our children deserve someone who understands the complexity of the challenges we face and is committed to the transparency, accountability and high standards families deserve. Being divisive is no substitute for being diligent, and being partisan is no proxy for being prepared.

At this point, it looks as though DeVos might become Trump’s first Cabinet confirmation casualty–which would cheer public school supporters, but also leave uncertainty as to who might be nominated next for this important job. There’s an argument that if you have to put an unqualified candidate in an important position, maybe they should be so unqualified that the amount of damage they can do is self-limiting.

You’re right, that’s no way to run the government. Stay tuned.

Owen Hill advocates for less local control in school funding, less accountability for teacher licensing

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Owen Hill.

State Senator Owen Hill, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, appeared on KNUS last Saturday to discuss upcoming legislation which will impact school funding and licensure for Colorado teachers.

Earlier in same “Weekend Wakeup” show, hosts Chuck Bonniwell and Julie Hayden featured another guest, Stacy Rader, from the Colorado League of Charter Schools.  Both Rader and Sen. Hill advocated in favor of legislation that would mandate equal sharing of all tax revenues between public schools and charter schools, which receive public funding but are independently operated.

Sen. Hill and Rader also oppose possible legislation that would mandate that teachers in publicly funded schools be licensed by the state.

While Senator Hill maintained that there is bipartisan support for the equal funding proposal, the interviews with him and Rader revealed that lawmakers may not be in agreement that these two categories of schools operate under the same rules and laws governing their accountability and transparency, and that funding is discriminately unfair to charters.

Despite the differences in management, accountability, and oversight,  Owen Hill and Vader work hard to frame both categories of schools as “public”.  They appear to want to blur the lines of distinction between them for funding purposes, but insist on distinguishing them for purposes of teacher accountability.

It gets confusing when charter advocates demand local and independent control for charters, but reject state-wide mandates for accountability and oversight of teachers.  Yet, at the same time, they reject the current laws which allow local districts to fund their schools according to the needs and demands of their communities.

COLORADO STATE SENATOR AND CHAIRMAN OF THE STATE SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE, OWEN HILL:  Absolutely.  We’ve got a bipartisan opportunity here. We have two kind of main categories of our public schools in Colorado.  We have the traditional neighborhood schools, and then we have public charter schools.  So when you hear about people going to charter school, these are all public schools as well.  But sadly, there are many districts in Colorado that don’t share the tax dollars — the property tax dollars or the bonding money — they don’t share that money equally with these public charter schools.  […]  So, when you pay your taxes to the state, you know, every April, those are all shared equally.  But when you write that check for your property taxes — usually it will come out of your mortgage — that property tax money, that is not shared equally.  And many districts are saying they are going to fund public charters at about 75 to 80% of the other traditional charter — [correcting himself] or  traditional public schools.  And so we need to honor our constitution and say, “Every single one of the public school students will be treated equally and fairly.”  That’s what our bill will do this year.  […] We give our local school boards the opportunity to determine how that funding is shared.  And sadly, many of these local school boards have this — uh, they kind of treat the public charters like a, uh, inferior—

BONNIWELL: Red-headed, left-handed stepchild.  Yeah.

HILL:  There you go, that’s exactly right.

Following the discussion on equal funding for charter schools, host Chuck Bonniwell questioned Hill about a possible teacher licensing mandate, which seemed to dismiss pedagogical study and training, while conflating advanced degrees in different subject areas with a person’s ability and expertise to understand and implement proven, effective, developmentally appropriate practices in the classroom.

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Rep. Tim Leonard Works Out His Personal Problems Legislatively

State Rep. Tim Leonard (R-Evergreen) in his off-season attire.

Last December, GOP Rep. Tim Leonard had the unusual dishonor of being an incumbent state legislature sent to jail for two weeks on a contempt of court charge–a ruling that reportedly stemmed from Leonard’s defiance of court orders giving his ex-wife full educational decisionmaking authority over their minor children.

Well, as the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports, Leonard is working the “problem” that resulted in his incarceration from an end most citizens don’t have access to–the legislative end:

State Rep. Tim Leonard, who spent a couple weeks in jail last month on contempt charges stemming, in part, from his effort to opt his children out of certain state tests, has introduced a bill to eliminate some of those same tests for all Colorado public school students.

The tests are known as the Colorado Measures of Academic Success, or CMAS. They are given to students in grades three through 11.

Leonard’s bill would eliminate CMAS testing in social studies and do away with all CMAS assessments for ninth-graders…

House Democrats have not yet made a decision on whether to sanction Leonard for his problems in family court. He was Colorado’s first sitting lawmaker in at least four decades to spend time in jail.

They have, however, protested that Leonard was appointed to the House Education Committee, pointing out that he would be making decisions about public education despite the fact that he is barred by court order from making educational decisions for his own children.

After Rep. Leonard was ruled in contempt of court last October, he complained bitterly about the supposed problems in state law he blamed for the situation, such as the fact that “the school requires two signatures on a form” to opt children out of state tests. Of course, the real issue was Leonard refusing to comply with the court order to stay out of his kids’ educational matters, including his wife’s decision to not opt his children out of testing.

Isn’t Leonard a lucky guy to have this kind of recourse after being sent to jail? The questions this chain of events invites are why some observers speculated that Leonard might not want to be a lawmaker anymore after his release. But as Joey Bunch at the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, Leonard apparently feels no conflict about voting on education policy, even now:

[Rep. Sue] Lontine is sponsoring a bill to impose a statewide ban on corporal punishment in public schools, state-licensed child care facilities and specialized group homes. House Bill 1038 passed the House Education Committee Monday afternoon, 11-2. Republican Reps. Justin Everett of Littleton and Tim Leonard of Evergreen voted against it.

With all due respect, here’s hoping that vote was not motivated by experience.

Betsy DeVos Bombs in Education Sec. Confirmation Hearings

Betsy DeVos might want to do a little homework before she next talks to the Senate.

Holy crap, Betsy DeVos! President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education had her first Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday evening, and it did not go well was an absolute train wreck.

As the Washington Post reports (as well as Mother Jones, Slate, and a number of other media outlets), DeVos might be the most ill-prepared cabinet nominee we’ve seen in quite some time:

At her contentious confirmation hearing as Donald Trump’s nominee to be education secretary on Tuesday, Betsy DeVos was asked a question by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) about an important education debate involving how student progress should be measured. The query essentially rendered her speechless as she appeared not to know how to answer. When Franken told her he was upset she didn’t understand it, she did not protest.

That was just one of several moments during the hearing in which DeVos either displayed a lack of knowledge about education fundamentals or refused to answer questions that Democratic members of the Senate Education Committee believe are critical to her fitness for the job.

When Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) asked her whether she would agree that guns don’t belong in schools, she said: “I will refer back to Sen. [Mike] Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.”

Guns in schools protect kids from grizzly bears? Amazingly, this wasn’t the worst comment DeVos made on Tuesday. DeVos seemed completely unfamiliar with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; she declined to agree with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) that all schools that receive public federal funds should be held to the same standards of accountability; she botched a question about gainful employment regulations; and she seemed clueless about the debate over measuring student growth through test scores, which seems like a pretty obvious topic for discussion.

DeVos didn’t even have an answer for Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) when he asked her about lessons learned from failures in trying to implement public charter schools in Detroit (DeVos is a Michigan native who was a primary architect of Detroit’s charter schools plan). This answer to this question should have been right in her wheelhouse, but instead DeVos tried to respond to Bennet by outlining a history of Detroit.

Ladies and gentlemen, your nominee for Secretary of Education!

Top Ten Stories of 2016 #8: Orange is the New Black

Rep. Tim Leonard (R).

2016 bore witness to one of the most unusual circumstances we’ve ever seen ensnaring a sitting Colorado legislator. Rep. Tim Leonard, Republican of Evergreen, was found in contempt of court at the end of September after repeatedly violating court orders regarding the custody of his children. According to the very few news reports available about this ruling at the time, Leonard’s former spouse had been awarded education decisionmaking authority over their children–a ruling Leonard disregarded is various apparently peevish ways in disputes with his ex-wife ranging from testing opt-outs to the use of iPads in instruction.

Most news media declined to report on this ruling before the election, calling it a personal matter that would be inappropriate to cover–but Democrats made a last-ditch attempt to publicize the situation in mailers supporting Leonard’s Democratic opponent Tammy Story. It’s very possible that if this story had been covered at the end of September, which a Jefferson County magistrate basically told Leonard he was going to be locked up, it might have effected the outcome of the race for his seat.

The local media’s questionable decision to suppress this story was reversed on December 9th, when Rep. Leonard was handcuffed and sentenced to 14 days in Jefferson County jail–a severe penalty that underscores how far Leonard had gone in violation of the court’s orders. To be sentenced to serve jail time over these kind of mundane civil proceedings indicates the judge considered Leonard willfully defiant of the court’s orders. Once Leonard was “dressed in” and his mugshot made public, he was the lead story on the news that night.

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Michael Johnston’s Next Big Thing

Sen. Michael Johnston (D).

Chalkbeat Colorado’s Nic Garcia reports on the feelers being put out by term-limited Democratic state Sen. Michael Johnston about a potential gubernatorial run in 2018:

State Sen. Michael Johnston, a former principal who designed the state’s landmark teacher evaluation law and is a prominent figure in Colorado’s education reform movement, is considering joining what could be a crowded Democratic primary field for the 2018 governor’s race.

Johnston’s name has appeared in early reports speculating about potential candidates, and he has confirmed to Chalkbeat and other media that he is weighing a run…

“The question for me is, ‘Where can you make the most impact on the issues you care about?’” Johnston said in an interview Thursday. “(It’s) not ‘What is it that you want to be?’ But, ‘What is it that you want to change?’”

Sen. Johnston has a record as a solid progressive Democrat, among many other accomplishments being a lead voice for passage of the post-Aurora theater shooter gun safety bills in 2013. Where Johnston runs into trouble, however, is with his support for right-leaning education “reform” plans–including sponsorship of a hotly controversial bill in 2010 that implemented “teacher effectiveness” standards. Senate Bill 10-191 has created lasting rifts with the predominately Democratic education community in Colorado, and puts Sen. Johnston in particular as the Democratic face of the legislation in a difficult position with a significant segment of that party’s rank and file.

It remains a fact that a number of candidates senior to Johnston in terms of experience and name ID are considering a run. Johnston’s notoriety in education policy, contrary to his own party’s traditional politics though it may be, likely does give him great career paths after two terms in the Colorado Senate.

As far as running for governor of Colorado in 2018 is concerned, however, the path is a little muddy.

Dems Take Ed Board: End of the Reign of the “Prince of Darkness”

Rebecca McClellan.

Rebecca McClellan.

As Chalkbeat Colorado’s Nic Garcia reported this weekend, and it’s an important endnote on the recent elections: Democrats will take control of the Colorado Board of Education for the first time in nearly 50 years after a squeaker of a win for Democratic CD-6 board candidate Rebecca McClellan.

Democratic challenger Rebecca McClellan has outlasted incumbent Republican Debora Scheffel in a hard-fought State Board of Education race that extended beyond Election Day, handing Democrats control of the governing board for the first time in nearly 50 years.

McClellan, a former Centennial City Council member, has an insurmountable lead of 1,296 votes over Debora Scheffel, a career educator and dean of the School of Education at Colorado Christian University, according to the latest unofficial results released Friday…

“It’s exciting, very exciting” McClellan told Chalkbeat. “I think that people in the district really believe in public education, particularly in the Cherry Creek School District. … It’s not a trivial matter. I think people want to see their public schools preserved.”

Steve Durham.

Steve Durham.

McClellan’s narrow victory is nonetheless expected to have a large impact on the future course of the Board of Education, which has been dominated in recent years by less-than-serious right-wing ideologues who have rendered the body almost a malevolent influence on public education in the state. Dogmatic crusades against important public health surveys and programs, and bizarre spates of conspiracy theorizing from board member and longtime Capitol lobbyist Steve “Prince of Darkness” Durham have overshadowed the board’s less controversial work–which led in part to the decision by Republican Board Chair Marcia Neal to resign last year.

Well folks, in a photo finish, it’s a new day for the Colorado Board of Ed.

Checking Ben$on: The CU Regent Race’s Backstory

CU President Bruce Ben$on.

CU President Bruce Ben$on.

With Election Day finally upon us, a race that’s been simmering in the background for most of this election season could loom large for the future of one of Colorado’s foremost Republican elder statesmen–as the Denver Post’s Monte Whaley reported last week:

Heated political partisanship in Colorado is reaching into the race for the at-large seat on the University of Colorado Board of Regents, changing a usually tame contest into one attracting big money and loud rhetoric.

The statewide election could change the face of the nine-member board, putting it in the hands of a Democratic majority for the first time in nearly 40 years. Republican Heidi Ganahl and her allies say if the Democrats take over, it could mean the end of the tenure of Bruce Benson, a Republican who became CU president in 2008.

All that has made a historically staid run for a Board of Regent seat suddenly a hot commodity, said John Straayer, a Colorado State University political science professor and longtime political observer of Colorado elections.

“Maybe it’s because it’s a statewide race and maybe people are so sick and tired of putting their money in other bigger races,” Straayer said. “Or maybe it’s because we’ve come to a point where it’s one tribe against another, Democrat against Republican, and we are going after each other.”

The at-large CU Regent position is sometimes referred to as “the biggest statewide race you’ve never heard of,” running under the radar to other bigger-name contests higher up the ballot. But this year, the race could tip control of the University of Colorado Board of Regents to Democrats, and the well-known Alice Madden has a leg up on Republican challenger Heidi Ganahl.

This has made the significant wing of the Republican Party loyal to CU President Bruce Benson rather nervous.

We’d say Benson, a former GOP gubernatorial candidate and longtime major donor, has less to fear from Madden winning this election than Republicans are telling voters right now. With that said, Benson’s tenure has seen more than its share of political controversy–much of it a result of Benson’s obsession with “ideological diversity” on the CU campus, criticized by his opponents as “conservative affirmative action.” Benson’s creation of a visiting professorship for “conservative thought” has had mixed results at best, and the school came under fire last year after students protested their university being used as a backdrop for Republican presidential candidates while excluding them from the mostly-empty debate venue.

With Democrats in narrow control of the CU Board of Regents, what you might see from Benson and his ideological conservative agenda at the state’s flagship university is a little more restraint.

And that doesn’t sound so bad.

Poll: Who Will Win The CU Regent’s Race?

With the 2016 elections less than one week away, we’re rolling out informal, highly unscientific polls of our readers to gauge where key races and ballot measures stand. As always with our reader polls, we’re looking for your honest prediction–not your personal preference.

The race for University of Colorado At-Large Regent this year is attracting a great deal of attention, pitting well-known former Democratic lawmaker Alice Madden against Republican businesswoman Heidi Ganahl.

[cardoza_wp_poll id=36]

Rep. Tim Leonard, You’re in a World of Hurt

SUNDAY UPDATE: Via the Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning, Rep. Tim Leonard’s response to the story:

leonardresponse

Here’s what’s important to remember: Rep. Leonard’s wife has the court-appointed authority to make education decisions for her kids, and Leonard does not. So when Leonard bemoans the fact that “the school requires two signatures on a form,” or that he only wants to opt the kid out from a test like any “good parent,” left unsaid is the fact that he is using these situations to meddle with his wife’s court-ordered authority–to the extent that he has been ruled in contempt of court.

Which invites a more basic question: how is it that Leonard has seen fit to file some 80 motions against his wife over their divorce, but Leonard can’t follow simple instructions from a judge about letting his wife make these decisions? We’d say the answer lies in what Leonard’s ex-wife describes as “controlling and manipulative behavior.”

Rep. Leonard’s response to this story did him no favors.

—–

Rep. Tim Leonard

Rep. Tim Leonard

A story breaking today from the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland spells bad news for one of the state’s most conservative lawmakers, Rep. Tim Leonard of Evergreen:

During a hearing in Jefferson County District Court on Sept. 29th, a magistrate scolded Leonard for repeatedly shrugging off the judge’s order and interfering with his ex-wife’s educational decisions.

This time, it could cost him his freedom.

Magistrate Marianne Marshall Tims found Leonard in contempt of court on two charges related to educational decision-making. She said she intends to enter a punitive sanction, which she told him could be a jail sentence of up to six months. But the hearing adjourned after 5 p.m. in the business day, after the bailiff had ended the shift.

“If it was earlier, Mr. Leonard, you need to know that a sheriff would be coming to take you into custody,” the magistrate said, according to a transcript of the hearing obtained by The Colorado Independent this week. [Pols emphasis]

The situation presents novel possibilities if Leonard were to be in jail for contempt of court on a civil matter at the start of the legislative session in January. Perhaps they’d let him vote from his cell? Of course, this presumes the situation Leonard finds himself in doesn’t cost him his seat on November 8th. And depending on what happens in the coming days, that’s something we wouldn’t take for granted.

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