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.

Tom Tancredo Will Run for Governor

UPDATE: Here’s a telling quote in a story from Mark Matthews for the Denver Post:

“I think people really are ready for somebody who is not a part of the establishment, and that is certainly yours truly,” said Tancredo in a phone call confirming his bid.

—–

Here we go again…

Ernest Luning has the scoop for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Tom Tancredo is set to kick off a campaign for governor of Colorado, joining a crowded Republican primary field in what will be his third run for the office, Colorado Politics has learned.

Tancredo enters the race — after more than two months spent exploring a run — on the heels of a private poll showing him with a wide lead over other GOP candidates. The poll also shows Tancredo in a statistical dead heat with leading Democratic candidate U.S. Rep. Jared Polis…

…Tancredo plans to hold Front Range events Wednesday to officially launch his candidacy — including a noon stop at the Denver headquarters of the Independence Institute, the self-described free-market think tank Tancredo headed in the 1990s before winning the first of his five terms in Congress. He’s scheduled to start the day at Whistling Pines Gun Club in Colorado Springs and finish with an afternoon appearance at Grimm Brothers Brewhouse in Loveland.

We’ve said many times in this space that a Tancredo gubernatorial bid actually makes more strategic sense in 2018 than it did when he sought the state’s top job in 2010 and 2014. Tancredo appears to be in position to consolidate support from Steve Bannon, and potentially, from President Trump himself (Tancredo spent last weekend hunting pheasant with Donald Trump, Jr.). Polling data shows that Tancredo is an early favorite in a very crowded Republican field. Weak fundraising efforts from other top Republican candidates means the Tanc doesn’t have far to go to catch up with campaigns that have been underway for months.

It’s too early to gauge Tancredo’s potential in a theoretical General Election matchup, but his candidacy certainly shakes things up in a Republican Primary. The most immediate impact is with Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, for whom a Tancredo candidacy represents the worst-case scenario for his bid to win the GOP nomination. If Brauchler fell off a cliff with an awful Q3 fundraising effort, Tancredo just dropped a piano on his corpse.

Republicans Press Brauchler to Resign as District Attorney

George Brauchler

To resign or not to resign: That is the question that is beginning to dog George Brauchler in a crowded Republican Primary for Governor.

Brauchler serves as the District Attorney in Arapahoe County (technically the 18th Judicial District, which is one of the largest DA offices in the state), a job that he continues to maintain while seeking the GOP nomination for Governor. It certainly isn’t unusual for a statewide candidate to hold a different elected office while campaigning, but the issue seems to be coming up more often for Brauchler in Republican circles. Earlier this month, Brauchler spoke to a group of Castle Rock Republicans and was asked some pointed questions about running for governor while simultaneously holding a job that pays $190,000 per year (his salary was specifically mentioned in one of two follow-up questions).

The topic is a multi-edged sword for Brauchler; it creates doubt about his ability to run an effective campaign for governor, but also questions whether he is effectively performing his duties as the elected District Attorney. 

In late September, the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman published a guest editorial signed by former state representative Jim Kerr and well-known Republican agitator Steve Durham (also a former legislator and a current member of the Colorado Board of Education) that was aimed squarely at Brauchler:

Down in Texas, the state legislature is considering measures to require local governments to seek voter approval before raising taxes, along the lines of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Here in Colorado, we might want to return the favor by adopting a version of Texas’s “resign-to-run” law, a measure that requires some state and local officials to resign their present office before running for a different office.

This is a common-sense measure, already law in five states, that Colorado should have adopted long ago. Campaigning for another office takes a lot of time and almost certainly means that the candidate will neglect current responsibilities, shortchanging taxpayers. Ask yourself, “Why should taxpayers continue to pay an officeholder when he or she is spending considerable time on the campaign trail seeking a new office?”…

Let’s look at some current races to see the effect of this. George Brauchler, the Arapahoe District Attorney is campaigning nearly full time for the office of governor these days. If you don’t believe us, check out his Facebook page. Almost every day, sometimes twice or three times a day lately, he’s here or there in Colorado, making speeches and pressing the flesh, soliciting campaign contributions. Recent disclosures regarding his salary have shown that taxpayers are paying him $195,000 a year to be D.A. Is he devoting his “undivided attention” to being D.A. and earning his paycheck? No.

Hey, we don’t protest Brauchler running, but he should resign his well-paid current post to do so. [Pols emphasis]

Brauchler typically answers these questions by making a joke about not sleeping much and then pivoting to talk about wealthy candidates (like Victor Mitchell, Walker Stapleton, and Mitt Romney’s Nephew) who have personal fortunes they can draw upon for campaign support; he is normally very direct in saying that he is not going to resign from his current job. But it’s clear that this is dangerous territory for Brauchler, and he’s setting himself up for trouble with his own actions.

For one example of where this becomes problematic for Brauchler, take a look at what he said during an appearance on the Dan Caplis Show on 710 KNUS in late June. Guest host Casey Bloyer asks Brauchler about juggling a full-time job with a statewide campaign, and Brauchler trips up on the answer:

I’m at my desk right now. [Pols emphasis] In between 18 million emails and trying coordinate stuff between HR issues, trying to stay on top of case cases we have…like right now, we have a large case going on in Colorado Springs, where we’re the special prosecution, where our office is prosecuting the former sheriff [Terry Maketa]. We’ve got some other officer-involved things that we take care of. It’s refreshing to not have to campaign all day every day.”

Former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, aka the “Shirtless Sheriff.”

Brauchler is most certainly not supposed to be campaigning for another office while working his day job, but that’s what he seems to be indicating here. He also brings up the fact that his office is overseeing a high-profile case involving former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa; a re-trial for Maketa will happen early next year after Brauchler’s office failed to come up with a conviction on multiple charges in July (the Colorado Springs Gazette ran a story about Brauchler’s potential conflicts with a retrial after Maketa escaped penalty).

On the campaign side, Brauchler’s inability to raise money is a significant concern that plays into the narrative of a man who is over-extending himself, but it is the time constraints with his day job that could prove most problematic. Brauchler has repeatedly said that the buck stops with him on all decisions out of the DA’s office, which means that he owns the outcomes in the Maketa trial and other high-profile cases (including recent allegations of sexual assault at South High School in Denver, which Brauchler’s office is now investigating).

Republicans could make similar complaints about job effectiveness with Walker Stapleton, who is running for Governor while serving as State Treasurer, but it’s much easier to explain wins and losses for a prosecutor’s office than for the relatively-obscure work handled by the Treasurer. On the Democratic side, a comparable argument for Rep. Jared Polis doesn’t really get off the ground, either; for all its faults, Congress actually does keep a pretty thorough attendance record.

Because it works as a negative message about both his campaigning and his job effectiveness, Republicans are likely to keep pressing this attack on Brauchler ahead of the GOP Primary next June.

Tancredo Tops GOP Field in New Gubernatorial Poll

UPDATE: We almost forgot to point out this an unintentionally hilarious quote in Luning’s story from Ryan Lynch, the campaign manager for Republican George Brauchler:

“With momentum on his side, George has advanced to the top of the GOP field for governor.”

This is not what momentum looks like.

—–

The 2018 cycle couldn’t be shaping up better for Tom Tancredo.

Former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo is still weighing a potential campaign for governor in 2018, and according to a new poll, things seem to be falling into place for the Tanc. As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, Tancredo is the odds-on favorite in a crowded Republican field of candidates:

Tancredo holds a wide lead in Colorado’s crowded Republican gubernatorial primary field and is in a statistical tie with leading Democratic candidate Jared Polis, according to a survey conducted by the pollster who set up the polling and data operations for Donald Trump’s  presidential campaign.

The poll shows about half the likely primary and general election voters are undecided roughly eight months before the primary and a year before the general election.

The results of the poll, obtained exclusively by Colorado Politics, show “a real path to victory” for Tancredo, a former congressman and two-time candidate for governor, said pollster Matt Braynard of the Washington-based Braynard Group.

The survey of 1,000 likely Colorado voters and 400 likely Republican primary election voters, conducted in late September, shows Tancredo atop a primary field of six declared and potential GOP candidates with 22.1 percent support, with the runner-up, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, showing 8.5 percent support. [Pols emphasis]

District Attorney George Brauchler was next with 6.8 percent, followed by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman — a potential gubernatorial candidate who hasn’t declared her plans — with 5.6 percent. Former state lawmaker and businessman Victor Mitchell polls at 0.8 percent, and former investment banker Doug Robinson had 0.3 percent. (Braynard didn’t include declared candidates Steve Barlock, Greg Lopez and Jim Rundberg in the survey.)

As we’ve said many times in this space, a 2018 gubernatorial run for Tancredo actually makes a lot of sense — moreso than it ever has in the past. Tancredo ran for governor in 2010 (under the banner of the American Constitution Party) and again in 2014 (as a Republican), but the national political mood is setting up much better for Tancredo in 2018.

Moderate-ish Republicans such as Sen. Jeff Flake and Sen. Bob Corker are declining to run for re-election in 2018 in part because they don’t think they can make it through a Republican Primary. Steve Bannon, a former Trump adviser, is championing a wave of right-wing Republicans that already picked up a big victory in Alabama with Roy Moore’s landslide win in a GOP primary; just last month, Bannon met with Tancredo to talk about running for governor. And the timing is even right for Tancredo’s immigration reform message — an issue that didn’t have nearly the same attraction in 2010 or 2014 as it does this cycle.

Quite frankly, there are more reasons for Tancredo to join the double-digit field of Republican candidates than there are for him to stay away from the race. If Tancredo does not run for governor in 2018 it will be because he just doesn’t want to do it…and the Tanc wouldn’t even be talking about this if he wasn’t already very interested.

George Brauchler Falls Off a Cliff

UPDATE: Via reporter Ernest Luning, attempts to shine this turd did not go well:

While Brauchler’s campaign manager Ryan Lynch boasted in a tweet early Monday about the 18th Judicial District attorney winning the quarter with a $98,846 haul, the tweet disappeared later in the morning after Michael Fortney, Stapleton’s campaign manager, asked in a tweet why Lynch was “trying to spin” the modest haul. After spending $68,842 during the quarter, Brauchler had $173,970 in the bank. (Lynch told Colorado Politics he deleted the tweet because it was meant as a preliminary message in advance of the campaign’s statement.)

—–

UPDATE: Brauchler supporters are a tad, um, delusional…

“This is what momentum looks like.”
—–

George Brauchler Q3-2017 Fundraising Report

Wow.

It is difficult to come up with a more appropriate reaction to the Q3 fundraising numbers posted by Republican gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler late Monday night. Brauchler’s campaign reported a stunningly-awful $98,846 in contributions for the fundraising period between July-Septembe.

If you were sketching out a worst-case scenario for Brauchler’s Q3 fundraising report, failing to reach $100,000 in contributions would have most certainly been at the top of that list. Getting hit by a bus would be about the only thing that might have qualified as worse than raising just $98,846. Brauchler’s paltry Q2 fundraising haul of $190,696 looks positively gargantuan in comparison.

Brauchler now has $173,970 in the bank, which is absolutely awful for a candidate who was supposed to be one of the top Republican candidates of 2018. By comparison, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne raised $384,335 in only two months, and she doesn’t have anywhere near the name ID of the Arapahoe County Attorney General. Brauchler’s candidacy already had plenty of problems, but this disastrous fundraising performance may well mark the beginning of the end for his gubernatorial hopes. There is no spin required here; failing to hit triple digits is preposterously terrible.

Brauchler supporters may try to say that it is still early in the race, but that’s not reality for a candidate whose only path to the June Primary ballot lies in making it through the caucus/assembly process. This isn’t about whether or not Brauchler will have enough money to pay for an effective advertising campaign — at this rate, Brauchler is barely going to have enough money to run a functional campaign at all. Brauchler’s campaign needs to be staffing up by the end of this quarter and opening offices around the state if he is going to have the organization to succeed at the GOP state convention, and it’s difficult to see from here how he might be able to pull that together.

These Q3 fundraising numbers will also go a long way toward convincing Tom Tancredo to jump in the race for Governor, which would be particularly awful for Brauchler. Any concerns Tancredo might have had about harming the chances of a Republican like Brauchler are largely irrelevant now that Brauchler has proven to be so inept as a statewide candidate.

We’ll have much more commentary on the Q3 fundraising numbers later today, but it’s safe to say that no other report will reverberate quite as much this turd from Brauchler.

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.

Enter Walker Stapleton

Treasurer Walker Stapleton made his long-awaited (understatement) entry into the GOP gubernatorial primary official this weekend, launching his campaign with a new website and a flattering story from Joey Bunch of the Phil Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette:

In 2011, when Standard and Poors downgraded U.S. credit ratings, county treasurers found themselves no longer able to invest their county’s tax dollars into U.S. bonds, costing counties across Colorado and the nation millions of dollars. Walker immediately recognized the real ramifications that this would have on Colorado communities, and in collaboration with county treasurers across the state, led the passage of bipartisan legislation to allow Colorado counties to continue to invest in U.S. Treasuries. Doing so saved Colorado communities millions of dollars.

Every single year that Walker has been charged with investing Coloradans’ tax dollars, the state has made money and beat investment benchmarks. None of these efforts were lost on Colorado voters, who in 2014 comfortably reelected Walker for a second term as State Treasurer.

His willingness to fight for the financial security of Coloradans has extended far beyond his official capacity as a statewide elected official. In 2013, Walker led the fight to defeat Amendment 66, a proposed billion-dollar tax increase that provided no safeguards for where Coloradans’ hard-earned tax dollars would have been allocated. The measure failed by a nearly two-to-one margin, reflecting what Walker has and continues to believe: at its core, Colorado is a fiscally conservative state with economically responsible voters.

In 2016, an even more fiscally irresponsible measure landed on Colorado ballots: Amendment 69 would have created a single-payer health care system in Colorado at a staggering $25 billion price tag, per year. Walker, understanding such a tax increase would have crushed Colorado families, went to battle for the state’s taxpayers, traveling the state to warn communities of the consequences of such a disastrous proposal. His message resonated with Colorado voters, who rejected Amendment 69 by a more than three-to-one margin.

You think we’re kidding about the aliens, don’t you?

Stapleton’s controversial fundraising strategy over the summer, which basically made a mockery of the rules meant to separate candidates from the “independent” supporting efforts on their behalf, made this weekend’s announcement much less suspenseful. With that said, it’s widely expected that Stapleton will lead the GOP field in the governor’s race, with a nationwide–or worldwide, maybe even including the aliens depending on your particular flavor of Bush family conspiracy theory–backfield of support.

Stapleton’s dark-horse stalking of the gubernatorial race is also a major reason why other candidates have found it difficult to raise funds and buy up the experienced campaign staff needed to win the gubernatorial primary. This has perhaps been hardest on Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler, whose candidacy has struggled badly in the vacuum created by Stapleton’s looming bid. The biggest remaining piece of the puzzle in this race is the still-uncertain entry of Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, who faces an uphill battle in a Republican primary expected to trend rightward on just about every issue. With Stapleton now official in the race, Coffman’s moment to “put up or shut up” has arrived.

The buzz for today? Stapleton and upstart millionaire Victor “Nice Trump” Mitchell. Slugging it out.

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.

(more…)

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.

Get More Smarter on Friday (September 1)

For those of you who haven’t already left town for a “four-day weekend,” allow us to catch you up on your political news. It’s time to Get More Smarter. 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…

► President Trump is calling his own bluff — again — on a potential government shutdown. The White House is backing off of Trump’s most-recent threats to “shut down” the federal government if Congress doesn’t appropriate enough money to build a giant wall between the U.S.-Mexico border. As the Washington Post reports:

“Build that wall,” Trump said at the Aug. 22 rally in Phoenix. “Now the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it. But believe me, if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.”

But shortly after Trump made those comments, White House officials quietly notified Congress that the $1.6 billion would not need to be in a “continuing resolution” that was meant to fund government operations from October until sometime in early December, a senior GOP congressional aide said…

…Trump could still follow through on a threat to shut down the government in December, but this marks the second time he has pulled back from the wall demand in order to allow lawmakers to pass a budget bill. The first time came in May, when lawmakers voted to authorize government funding through September and refrained from including money that would allow for the construction of a new wall.

The OVER/UNDER for the number of times that Trump will threaten to shut down the federal government (in 2017) is now at 3.5.

 

► Governor John Hickenlooper and his new BFF, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are promoting a healthcare policy plan of their own for Congress to get behind. The key tenets of the “Kasichlooper” plan are to stabilize insurance markets in part through retaining the “individual mandate” for insurance coverage. Governors from Nevada, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Virginia, Louisiana and Montana have also signed onto the plan.

Why is it so important to retain the “individual mandate?” Read this story from the Seattle Times about what happened in the state of Washington when state legislators dumped the mandate (SPOLER ALERT: It didn’t go well).

 

President Trump is expected to rescind DACA — an Obama-era policy halting the deportation of children of undocumented immigrants — a decision that could mark a significant turning point for the electoral hopes of Republicans in years to come. Denver7 provides some Colorado-centered specifics:

They were brought to the U.S. as children of undocumented immigrants and a program called DACA allowed them to stay, to go to school and enter the workforce. But Thursday night, the hundreds of thousands of so-called ‘Dreamers,’ including those living in Colorado, fear their dreams could vanish as President Donald Trump nears a decision on whether to end DACA.

Denver7 talked to a local Dreamer, Monica Acosta about what’s at stake…

…This would essentially deport 17,000 Dreamers in Colorado and 800,000 across the country. Acosta is trying to cope and says she plans to stay put in the only place she has ever called home.

Officials with Denver Public Schools are warning that ending DACA would have “catastrophic” effects on the community as a whole. Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced on Friday that he does not believe President Trump should axe DAVA.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Waiting For Walker: Stapleton Will Enter Race as Frontrunner

The 2018 Colorado GOP gubernatorial primary has attracted a hefty pool of candidates, but there’s a reason why nobody in the race today has much in the way of traction: the all-but-certain imminent entry into the race of who should on paper be the frontrunner the moment he announces: Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

As the Denver Post reported early this month, Stapleton has been building up his “independent” campaign apparatus for some time now without having formally declared his candidacy for governor. The arrangement allows Stapleton to personally steer contributions to the independent group supporting him, exploiting a loophole in the law that as we discussed before more or less makes a joke of the notion that these entities should remain separate and uncoordinated. It also potentially gives future Stapleton campaign staff a place to draw a paycheck from before the campaign launches.

As for exactly when Stapleton gets into the race, there’s some debate on the best timing–waiting for any other big-name challengers to make their intentions clear can be a good strategy, but it can also leave a candidate with erstwhile supporters locked up with rivals before they even enter the race. Of course, since Walker’s entry one way or the other is a foregone conclusion at this point, that’s maybe not as big a consideration.

There’s little question that once Stapleton enters the race, the stakes for other GOP candidates rise dramatically. Stapleton’s ability to raise funds as a close cousin of the Bush family, not to mention his personal wealth if needed, make him a major threat. His experience as a statewide elected official eclipses other officeholding contenders (here’s looking at you, George Brauchler). Stapleton is also largely free of involvement in recent Colorado GOP intraparty squabbles. If we were laying odds on when Stapleton gets in, we would guess he’ll wait until well after Labor Day–and give himself the last splash.

And then, unless something unpredictable happens, he’s the candidate to beat.

Barry Farah Joining Republican Melee for Governor

We are fast approaching the point where it will make more sense to announce the names of Republicans who are not running for Governor in 2018.

As the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman reports, Colorado Springs entrepreneur/pastor/author Barry Farah is getting ready to join an increasingly-crowded field of candidates seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Barry’s wife, Tamra Farah — the Deputy State Director for Americans for Prosperity in Colorado — took to Twitter today to make it clear that this is no pretend “exploratory” run:

Farah is not a name you should recognize unless you are regularly involved with Republican fundraising efforts in Colorado. Farah is a donor to the Koch Brothers political network and an admitted supporter of President Trump who authored a strange half-hearted explanation for his Trump vote in an Op-Ed for the Colorado Springs Gazette that was published just prior to Election Day in 2016. According to a bio on his personal website, Farah is the “CEO of Precocity LLC, a leading-edge technology company specializing in delivering end-to-end customer experience strategy.” Whatever that means.

Barry Farah

In short, Farah is (another) wealthy businessman with established connections to the GOP donor network. If you’re having trouble figuring out what political niche Farah plans to fill in the Republican field for governor (other than the role of Kent Thiry’s lookalike) you’re not alone. Republicans already have a handful of “Barry Farahs” running for the top job in the state, including Victor MitchellMitt Romney’s Nephew, and soon-to-be-declared-candidate Walker Stapleton.

The fascinating thing about Farah’s candidacy for governor is what it says about the Republican field in general: There is no candidate who can scare off potential challengers and claim the role of frontrunner.

In the last few decades, both Democrats and Republicans have tended to coalesce early around one or two candidates for the top offices in Colorado. This changed in the 2016 GOP Senate primary, when Republicans fielded what seemed like dozens of different candidates, and perhaps that odd field was a harbinger of a changing political landscape for Colorado Republicans.

By the end of this year the number of GOP candidates for governor should surpass double-digits. Some Republicans will claim that this is a healthy sign of competition, but with this large of a field, things can quickly become more of a melee than a tournament.

Walker Stapleton Works the Loopholes

dealinwalkerfinState Treasurer Walker Stapleton is a sure bet to run for Governor in 2018, but he won’t make it official anytime soon. As Mark Matthews writes for the Denver Post, Stapleton is holding off on a formal announcement while he drives a bus through a loophole in our campaign finance laws:

The longer Stapleton waits before formally announcing his bid for Colorado’s top job, the more he can help steer unlimited sums of money toward a super PAC-style group that is expected to provide his artillery during the campaign.

It’s a setup that watchdogs said could stretch the limits of Colorado election law, even as it projects Stapleton’s fundraising might — particularly toward his rivals in the GOP primary…

…The upcoming Aug. 21 fundraiser for Stapleton will be held at the Cherry Hills Village home of Republican booster Greg Maffei, and the host committee is a who’s who of the party’s money class, notably beer magnate Pete Coors, Broncos legend John Elway and businessman Larry Mizel, according to a copy of the invitation.

The proceeds, however, won’t go into Stapleton’s campaign fund — as he doesn’t have one yet.

Instead, the windfall will be routed to an independent expenditure committee called Better Colorado Now, an outfit run by political consultant Andy George, a co-worker of longtime Stapleton adviser Michael Fortney at the Denver-based firm Clear Creek Strategies.

Walker Stapleton

Candidates for Governor in Colorado are limited to max donations of $575 for the Primary Election and $575 for the General Election ($1,150 total). There are NO LIMITS, however, to the amount of money that can be collected by “Better Colorado Now,” an “Independent Expenditure Committee” (IEC) registered with the Colorado Secretary of State.

“Better Colorado Now” lists as its official purpose “to oppose Democrat candidates for Governor,” and as of June 30, the IEC reported $123,000 in contributions. Under state law, Stapleton is permitted to help raise money for the IEC so long as he isn’t an official candidate for Governor. This loophole may face a legal challenge at some point, but for now, Stapleton can be listed as a “special guest” for fundraisers benefitting an “independent” committee that really only exists to promote him.

Weaseling around campaign finance law is nothing new for Stapleton. Earlier this year, Stapleton’s name and face were featured prominently in advertisements for a nonsense group called “U.S. Term Limits.” As we wrote in February:

Some of our longtime readers will remember a previous ad campaign from U.S. Term Limits, a large buy in support of U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer in 2008. Their “Thanks, Bob” ad (which said nothing about term limits) was parodied and laughed at generally in a race Schaffer went on to badly lose, as well as provoking an FEC complaint. But it was a good lesson in the true purpose of the organization–which is to support favored Republican candidates of Howard Rich, a New York real estate developer and member of the board of the much larger right-wing advocacy group the Club for Growth.

With protests related to government…you know, stuff (better for Walker Stapleton to keep that as vague as possible) raging throughout the land, we can understand why this “grasstops” organization run by and for well-heeled Republicans is trying to insert itself in the action. Once the organization’s true motives are unpacked, though, it’s pretty easy to understand that this is a cynical campaign vehicle–funded by a New York billionaire to support George and Jeb Bush’s cousin’s political ambitions.

Stapleton may not be breaking campaign finance laws with these stunts, but he’s certainly thumbing his nose at the spirit of contribution limits. That’s Walker Stapleton, buddy!

Remember George Brauchler?

George Brauchler’s gubernatorial campaign, metaphorically-speaking.

If you were going to compose a theme song for the already-sputtering gubernatorial campaign of Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, you would probably start with a sad trombone (wah-wah-wahhhh) accompanied with the sound of air escaping from a deflated balloon. For vocal accompaniment, hiring the teacher from Charlie Brown would be ideal.

As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, Brauchler announced his Q2 fundraising numbers on Monday without enough practical spin to generate any momentum whatsoever:

Republican gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler raised $190,696 in the just-completed fundraising quarter — nearly all of it from Colorado residents and with donors in all 64 of the counties, his campaign said Monday.

Brauchler received contributions from 673 donors, with just over 95 percent of them from Colorado. After spending $46,731, he ended June with $143,966 cash on hand…

…His primary rivals include Douglas County entrepreneur and former state lawmaker Victor Mitchell, who launched his campaign by writing himself a $3 million check, and former investment banker and Mitt Romney nephew Doug Robinson. On top of the millions he loaned his campaign, Mitchell raised $13,098 in the quarter that ended in June. Robinson reported raising $207,532 and loaned himself $57,022 in the same period.

George Brauchler.

Brauchler was always going to have trouble competing with the self-funded campaigns of Victor Mitchell and Mitt Romney’s Nephew, both of whom seem able and willing to bankroll their own gubernatorial bids. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a proven fundraiser, should join the gubernatorial field later this summer, and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is likely to enter the fray as well. If Brauchler couldn’t even raise $200k when he was the only somewhat-known name in the field, then there is little chance he will be able to ramp up the money machine when he is competing for donations with Stapleton and Coffman.

Brauchler doesn’t need to be the top fundraiser on the Republican side, but he needs a minimal amount of dough just to keep the lights on in a statewide campaign. Brauchler ended June with $143,966 in the bank; that’s enough to keep the doors open for another quarter, but there’s not much money left over for important things like advertising and voter outreach. This is dangerous territory for a statewide candidate.

While money isn’t everything in politics, timing certainly is. Two years ago, Republicans thought Brauchler might be their next big thing as a candidate for U.S. Senate. Brauchler passed on that race and focused his sights on running for governor, but whatever gravitas he may have had in September 2015 seems not to have followed him into 2017.