Mike Coffman Draws a Primary Challenge

HIghlands Ranch Republican Roger Edwards (Photo by Ernest Luning)

Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and his ever-changing positions on…well, on everything, seems to have created a new Republican challenger for his seat in CD-6.

As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Douglas County Republican Roger Edwards announced on Wednesday that he’s challenging U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in next year’s GOP primary, charging the five-term incumbent with paying lip service to conservative priorities and using “identity politics” to divide residents of the battleground 6th Congressional District, he told Colorado Politics.

“It has become exceedingly more difficult to support Mike,” Edwards, 67, said in an interview, citing Coffman’s congressional voting record and his attempts to distance himself from presidential candidate Donald Trump during last year’s election…

…The last straw, Edwards said, was Coffman’s vote in May against a House bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, after years of campaigning on a promise to overturn the law.

Edwards also derided Coffman’s score from the conservative Heritage Action for America organization.

“He has 55 percent, according to the Heritage Action — that’s an ‘F.’ If you go to school, that’s an ‘F.’ Don’t the citizens of Colorado’s 6th District deserve better than an ‘F’ congressman? I think so,” Edwards said. He added that Coffman’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, status as a career politician and “close ties to establishment Republicans” are also reasons he decided to run.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora)

In response to news of Edwards’ Primary challenge, a spokesperson for Rep. Coffman brought up…Nancy Pelosi?

“Mike has withstood literally tens of millions of dollars of lies put on TV by Nancy Pelosi and her political cronies in the last couple years,” campaign advisor Tyler Sandberg told Colorado Politics.

Uh, okay. Shouting “Nancy Pelosi” — who hasn’t been House Speaker since 2011 —  has become something of an involuntary tick for supporters of Coffman. What does Pelosi have to do with any of this?

Anyway, Brian Eason of the Denver Post has more on Edwards’ announcement:

A Vietnam veteran who works in logistics, Edwards came out of the gates swinging at Coffman, whom he called a “career politician” that says one thing publicly, while voting another way.

Edwards singled out Coffman’s “lip service” to repealing and replacing Obamacare, while ultimately voting against a GOP plan to undo major pieces of the health care law…

…Edwards is coming at Coffman from the populist right, chastising Coffman for his “grudging support of the president,” and noting that Republicans have made little progress on Trump’s agenda, including tax reform, a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and an infrastructure package.

If Edwards proves to be a compelling speaker, it’s not out of the question that he could generate some real support through a Congressional assembly next Spring. Remember that in 2016, a complete unknown named Kyle Bradell managed to capture 26.1% of delegates at the GOP’s Congressional assembly — just shy of the 30% needed to get his name onto the Primary ballot. If Edwards can put together a modest campaign by the Spring, it’s not out of the question that he could at least make it onto the June Primary ballot.

Does Edwards have a real chance of beating Coffman in the June Republican Primary? Probably not, but he is still trouble for Coffman regardless. Tuesday’s election results indicate a coming Democratic wave, and the last thing Coffman wants to do right now is to tack back to the right in order to make sure he secures Republican support.

Brauchler Builds “Suspense” For Inevitable Gov Race Exit

George Brauchler.

CBS4 keeps up the George Brauchler death watch, after word spread yesterday that the flagging GOP candidate for governor is considering a “switch” to the attorney general’s race after failing to thrive in the gubernatorial race:

It seems while the race for governor in Colorado is growing, one Republican candidate may be dropping out.

Sources close to the gubernatorial campaign of 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler told CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd that he is leaving the race…

It is unclear when Brauchler will make the formal announcement.

Interestingly, this brief story makes no mention of Brauchler’s possible bid for attorney general, only that he is likely to exit the gubernatorial race. As we said yesterday, the mere fact that this possibility of switching races was disclosed makes it basically impossible for Brauchler to remain in the gubernatorial race. On the other hand, “stepping down” to run for attorney general isn’t a very auspicious way to mount a campaign for attorney general, either. We’re not privy to the internal decisionmaking guiding Brauchler’s “campaign,” which is now without a campaign manager–but this is all being handled very, very poorly from a public relations perspective. It’s not a situation that inspires confidence in Brauchler as a candidate for, well, anything.

It’s a remarkable turn of events for a man hailed in late July as the “frontrunner” in the GOP gubernatorial primary after he won the straw poll at the Western Conservative Summit. Today Brauchler’s campaign for governor is on the edge of ending with a whimper, not a bang, and any forthcoming step down to the “consolation prize” of running for AG is tainted by his reluctant embrace of that campaign.

This is the stuff early retirements from electoral politics are made of.

Throwback Thursday: Michelle Malkin and Swastika Guy!

It was February 17, 2009, and President Barack Obama had just signed the first major piece of legislation of his administration: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a.k.a. “teh failed stimulus bill” in Denver–notably declared a “failure” by the then-GOP minority before it even had a chance to stimulate anything. Despite the ample evidence that the ARRA did indeed reduce the impact of the Great Recession, that Obama’s stimulus package was a total failure is an article of faith in the GOP today.

On that chilly February morning as Obama signed ARRA at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin, who had recently moved to Colorado Springs, held a boisterous proto-Tea Party protest on the steps of the Colorado Capitol. Malkin pulled up with a roasted whole pig to “celebrate” the passage of “Porkulus.”

And then things got a little off kilter:

It might almost seem quaint after all these years of hyperbole, but in February of 2009 at the Denver “Porkulus” protest you could see signs–literally–of the ugly future that lay ahead. The photo above of Malkin with an unnamed protester holding a sign with the “O” in Obama stylized into a swastika made national news, and Malkin claimed the whole thing was a “transparent attack ploy”–even suggesting that the protester may have been a “ringer” sent by leftists to discredit her.

That was February of 2009. In November of 2017, “Swastika Guy” doesn’t seem very shocking at all, does he? Certainly the discourse in American politics has evolved, or more accurately descended, enough to make this once-outlandish comparison par for the course.

Which could be in part because it actually can be made to fit now.

With Malkin back in the news again as a backer of hard-right GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, this seemed like a fun trip back down memory lane. Perhaps “Swastika Guy” will finally reveal himself after all these years, joining Based Stickman in the alt-right annals of greatness?

It seems like the narrative has finally caught up with him.

Thursday Open Thread

“Honesty is the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a failure.”

–James Altucher

Brauchler Confirms Interest in Attorney General Bid

Do I look like a good candidate for Attorney General?

Last week the Denver Post pulled out its own sad trumpet for Republican George Brauchler, who has driven his gubernatorial campaign off a cliff with awful fundraising numbers and then had a piano dropped on his corpse by Tom Tancredo. The Post story also suggested that Brauchler may be considering changing horses in mid-cycle in order to run for Attorney General in 2018, but that seemed like just a rumor…

Until today.

Mark Matthews has the rundown for the Denver Post on a fascinating game of musical chairs taking place in Colorado’s top races:

Brauchler’s campaign confirmed in a statement that he has entertained the idea of switching races. Brauchler serves as the 18th Judicial District attorney and made his name as the prosecutor as the Aurora theater shooter.

“The AG race in Colorado will be bigger than George, and the list of people qualified and dynamic enough to win a down-ticket race at this late date, less than one year out, is short. So, is he taking the calls and hearing people out? Yes, he is,” wrote Sean Tonner, a Brauchler adviser.

Wow.

We’re not going to pretend that it doesn’t make some sense for Brauchler to abandon his increasingly-hopeless bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, but we also have to admit that we’re surprised Brauchler is being so open about the possibility now that Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has entered the race for Governor.

As Matthews reports, Brauchler has been reaching out to potential rivals in an Attorney General’s race, including Rep. Ken Buck, who confirmed today that he will not run for the AG job himself. Some of this probably has to do with political necessity; with state Rep. Cole Wist preparing for a potential run at Attorney General, Brauchler needs to move quickly to stake out his position. It’s not unlikely that Wist may step aside for Brauchler — so long as the ask comes soon enough.

Whether or not Brauchler can clear out a GOP Primary in a race for Attorney General is a question for another day. By admitting that he is seriously considering leaving the governor’s race for something else, Brauchler is essentially waving the white flag on a gubernatorial bid. There’s no real way back from this kind of announcement.

 

Who’s Afraid of Big Bad Teacher’s Unions?

Evidently Kyle Clark didn’t like his school teachers very much.

9NEWS’ Kyle Clark, that’s who!

School board candidates backed and financed by teachers unions [Pols emphasis] are in positions for convincing wins in Jefferson County and Douglas County, with strong leads on Wednesday morning.

In Douglas County, where eight candidates are running for four seats, the union-backed slate [Pols emphasis] needs to flip only one race to gain control of the school board. If that happens, the new school board majority would likely abandon its defense of a controversial voucher program instituted by conservative school reformers. A legal challenge to that program is working its way toward the Supreme Court…

The union-backed [Pols emphasis] candidates for the DougCo school board maintained double-digit leads over the so-called education reform slate into Wednesday.

…In Jefferson County, three of five Board of Education seats were up for grabs. Two of the races were contested by conservative candidates looking to unseat union-supported [Pols emphasis] board members.

Kyle Clark’s full story on the school board elections in Douglas County and Jefferson County is eleven sentences long. Four of those eleven sentences–in addition to the title of the story–contain the words “unions,” “union-backed,” or “union-supported.” Now, we’re not disputing that the Colorado Education Association and their subsidiary organizations in Jefferson and Douglas Counties played a role in these elections–certainly they did, just as they did in the historic recall elections two years ago that swept a controversial far-right school board majority in Jefferson County from power.

But here’s the thing: over 120,000 Jefferson County voters participated in the school board elections that concluded yesterday. No doubt the teacher’s union’s support was helpful to the candidates who prevailed, but it’s Jefferson County voters who made the final decision–not the teacher’s union–and the winning candidates won by a landslide. And that means to obsess over the role of the union to the absolutely ridiculous extent Kyle Clark did in this story makes what he did here something other than journalism. This is a story written by someone so steeped in the demonization pushed by conservatives of organized labor that he completely lost sight of the larger reality–which is not “the unions,” but the fact that 120,000 voters who threw far-right radicals out of power in Jefferson County two years ago reaffirmed their choice by a similarly overwhelming margin.

Much like the Denver Post’s just-plain-sad endorsements that the voters ignored, this is a local TV newsman demonstrating only one thing: that he listens to the wrong people.

It Sucks To Be The Denver Post Editorial Board

Local blogger and Tweetizen Chase Woodruff put together a collage of result headlines from last night’s local elections with their matching Denver Post endorsements and…well, safe to say it was not a good night for editorial board editor Chuck Plunkett and his crew of hot-takin’ civic concern trolls:

Wow, the state’s newspaper of record has totally got their finger on the pulse of Colorado’s electorate!

Not that we relish further disparaging our beleaguered fourth estate, but it might be time to evaluate these woefully out-of-touch endorsements against the Denver Post’s declining circulation. Between this and that regrettable 2014 Cory Gardner endorsement Plunkett has spent the last three years nervously talking his way around, loyal Post readers have plenty of reasons to look elsewhere for their editorial content.

And judging by these results, it looks like they are.

Frackers Reel, Plot Revenge After Another Big Loss

As the Denver Post’s John Aguilar reports, another popular vote goes strongly against the oil and gas industry–this time in Broomfield, where voters overwhelmingly opted to give local authorities more power over regulate drilling, setting up yet another legal battle that the industry feels comfortable about winning but still spent almost $350,000 trying to avoid:

Voters on Tuesday passed a controversial ballot issue that gives Broomfield more local oversight of oil and gas operations in the city, a move that probably will invite a legal challenge from Colorado’s large energy sector.

According to a late-night vote tally in the mail-in election that accounts for most of the ballots cast in the city, the yes vote for Question 301 was comfortably ahead of the no vote by a margin of 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent.

As of late Tuesday night, nearly 42 percent of eligible electors in Broomfield — or 20,643 voters — cast a ballot.

What does the industry led by its PR front groups at Vital Colorado and Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) have to say after Broomfield voters turned out in big numbers to overwhelmingly pass Question 301?

Screw ’em:

“It is in violation of state law as upheld by the state Supreme Court,” said Don Beezley, a “No on 301” committee member. “The result will be Broomfield spending tens of thousands of dollars or more defending lawsuits, most likely from both the state of Colorado and the operators, with apparently 100 percent likelihood of losing said suits.”

Vital for Colorado, an advocacy group that has been active in supporting pro-business and pro-oil and gas candidates in the state, conceded defeat Tuesday night and said 301’s passage “will trigger lawsuits.”

It’s true that the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that local regulations over oil and gas drilling are overruled by state law giving that power to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Local communities, especially suburban and exurban communities along the northern Front Range where drilling is encroaching on surface land uses (and vice versa), have felt obliged to pass additional regulations–even moratoria and bans while the the impact of drilling remains uncertain–if they believe the state rules don’t adequately protect their residents.

So why don’t drillers just go to court, instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight ballot measures they claim are illegal anyway? The answer is simple: they don’t want it proven that local communities are against them. Too many Longmonts and Broomfields take action only to see our industry-friendly state government ignore their pleas, and suddenly a statewide ballot measure to change the rules that let drillers walk on local communities becomes a viable prospect.

Which, by the way, it is.

Folks, we’ve been saying for years that the oil and gas industry’s arrogance is increasingly out of touch with the changing political realities in the state of Colorado. This is an industry that is in fact ripe for comeuppance, and has had its day of reckoning postponed in part by aggressively courting Democratic support as Democrats have solidified their control here. Some of those Democrats, like Gov. John Hickenlooper, have damaged their political standing by dissing their own base on the industry’s behalf.

After eight years of Hickenlooper’s uneasy status quo, this may be all about to change. The 2018 governor’s race is expected to focus on the future of energy policy in Colorado–and depending on the choices Democrats in particular make in their primary, it could be a much clearer-cut choice between the parties than we’ve seen since well before Colorado’s most famous oilman/brewer came on the scene.

Once again, the voters have signaled loud and clear what they’d do if the politicians got out of the way.

At Least He’s (Still) Not Your Governor (Again)

Maine Gov. Paul LePage

Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage has already been featured twice in our long-running series, “At Least They’re Not Your Legislator” (here, and here). Today marks the third mention for LePage, which is probably a record or something.

As The Hill reports:

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) said Wednesday his administration will not expand Medicaid until the state finds a way to pay for it, a day after voters approved a ballot measure to broaden the program.

“Credit agencies are predicting that this fiscally irresponsible Medicaid expansion will be ruinous to Maine’s budget,” LePage said in a statement.

“Therefore, my administration will not implement Medicaid expansion until it has been fully funded by the Legislature at the levels [the Department of Health and Human Services] has calculated, and I will not support increasing taxes on Maine families, raiding the rainy day fund or reducing services to our elderly or disabled.”

Maine voters on Tuesday approved a ballot measure calling for the state to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare, the first state to do so through a referendum.

Maine voters didn’t just approve a Medicaid expansion — they overwhelmingly supported the proposal. The measure passed on Tuesday by a 59-41 margin.

As the Washington Post explains, it doesn’t look like LePage can legally follow through with these threats:

Supporters of the ballot measure say that LePage has no choice but to implement it. The measure dictates that the state has until mid-August to get its Medicaid expansion plan approved by the federal government. After that date, a new group of qualifying Mainers should be able to enroll in Medicaid.

If they can’t, LePage could open himself up to a lawsuit. Once a state elects to participate in the Medicaid program, as Maine has, that state is legally bound to comply with federal law.

Thankfully for Mainers, LePage is term-limited out of office in 2018.

Cynthia Coffman Finally Enters Race for Governor

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has been hemming and hawing about running for Governor for more than a year now. On Wednesday, Coffman finally made it official: She will seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018.

As the Denver Post explains:

Coffman long considered entering the governor’s race and traveled the country in recent months to raise her profile. One sign that she might not seek re-election as attorney general came in October when reports showed she had raised just $10,600 since July 1 for her attorney general campaign.

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has already locked down many top Republican donors, but Coffman said she’s confident “money is going to come.”

Sure to surface in the campaign is the unsuccessful attempt Coffman in 2015 helped lead to oust then-Colorado GOP Chairman Steve House in a saga that involved accusations of extramarital affairs and threats. But when asked about the episode, she brushed it aside.

“I don’t think I need to talk about it a lot because I think it’s old news,” she said. “To me, Steve and I resolved that situation several years ago and it’s not something I give a lot of thought to.”

We have no doubt that the Attorney General would prefer that the “Coffmangate” scandal could just be swept under the rug, but as a candidate for the top job in the state, the odds of that happening are about zero. Coffman’s defense for this whole sordid scandal (click here for more background) has been, essentially, that her actions probably did not meet the legal standard for blackmail. As the Denver Post reported in June 2015:

Coffman said the meeting at the Warwick took place over wine and was meant to be confidential. She said she mentioned House’s alleged mistress by her first name at that meeting, but not in a threatening manner. “Nobody accused him of an affair. Nobody threatened to expose anything,” she said.

Coffman said: “If you look up the legal definition of blackmail this doesn’t fit it.” [Pols emphasis]

Yeah, that’s not good. Coffman’s entry in the race, and the necessary reminder of the “Coffmangate” scandal, could also be problematic for Republican candidate Tom Tancredo, who played a central role in trying to oust Steve House as the Chair of the State Republican Party in 2015.

Coffman will also have trouble explaining to a conservative electorate about her decision to offer a favorable opinion on the legality of the “Hospital Provider Fee” change that dominated the 2017 legislative session. Michael Fields of the Koch-brothers funded Americans for Prosperity made that argument in a Tweet this morning:

Coffman is the eighth or ninth Republican running for Governor (depending on whether you count Barry Farah, and we’re not sure if you should). Getting such a late start on the race is certainly a head-scratching decision for Coffman — particularly when you consider that she has been working on putting a campaign together for a very long time — and it’s not clear that there will be enough support for her to sustain a real challenge to more well-known and better funded Republican candidates.

Coffman’s decision to run for Governor also creates new problems for Republicans in the now-open race for Attorney General. Congressman Ken Buck had been considering a run but seemed to have grown wary of Coffman’s inability to make a decision on the race. If Buck stays out of the race, the likely Republican candidate is state Rep. Cole Wist, but it’s not clear that he would have the GOP field to himself.

Election Night 2017 Results Thread

UPDATE 7:35PM: Depart Ed Gillespie, for Donald Trump never knew thee:

Losers walk. Meanwhile, big losses for conservatives out of DougCo continues to be the big local story:

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UPDATE 7:30PM: Out of Broomfield, Question 301 to tighten protections on oil and gas drilling passes:

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UPDATE 7:25PM: Jeffco school board incumbents (2015 recall winners) sweep. Denver bond measures passing handily.

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UPDATE 7:10PM: First results coming in from Colorado races:

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UPDATE 6:15PM: Race called for Democrat Ralph Northam in Virginia.

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UPDATE 6:00PM: Night starting well for Democrats–Phil Murphy wins in New Jersey, Ralph Northam out in front in Virginia gubernatorial race where Democrats are outperforming across the board.

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Watch this space as the numbers come in.

GOP Donors Close Their Wallets, Like Cory Gardner Said

Don’t you wish, Cory.

Vox’s Dylan Scott reports on a most revealing moment of candor from GOP Rep. Chris Collins of New York:

The House Republican tax overhaul has already made a lot of enemies.

Moderate Republicans from New York and New Jersey worry their constituents would lose big if they can no longer deduct their state and local taxes from their federal tax bill — one of the key ways Republicans are hoping to pay for the corporate tax cut at the center of the plan. Outside groups on the right, like Club for Growth, also object to the bill, saying that taxes for millionaires should be cut even more. Outside estimates project that millions of middle-class Americans could end up paying higher taxes.

Yet the bill is still expected to pass…

Why? Consider this comment from Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), one of those New York Republicans who theoretically might be upset that his constituents would be expected to lose under the GOP bill.

Rep. Collins’ remarks as reported by Christina Marcos of The Hill are a close paraphrase of what Sen. Cory Gardner, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told fellow Senators during the health care fight:

Mr. Gardner is in charge of his party’s midterm re-election push, and he warned that donors of all stripes were refusing to contribute another penny until the struggling majority produced some concrete results.

“Donors are furious,” one person knowledgeable about the private meeting quoted Mr. Gardner as saying. “We haven’t kept our promise.”

It’s acknowledged with varying degrees of frankness among Republicans that the failure to accomplish any part of the 2016 GOP agenda other than small and controversial actions by the administration is doing frightful political damage to the party with each passing day. It’s a bizarre situation, in which the party in unchallenged control of every branch of the federal government is suddenly paralyzed by the consequences of what they’ve promised for years–but are only now in a position to deliver. Now, all those harsh policy prescriptions so useful for firing up the right-wing electorate look like career-enders as Americans who cheered on “smaller government” began to understand what that means for themselves personally. The result is a tiny but highly influential Republican donor base fully indoctrinated by the promises conservatives have made outraged that elected Republicans in total control over the government won’t keep them.

The fact that these promises cannot be responsibly kept is beside the point. Republicans now face the politically nightmarish choice of betraying either their wealthy donors or the rest of the country. And there are just not enough rich people to win elections by themselves.

How do you bridge this gap between a platform of political fantasy and reality? Damned if we know, folks.

Malkin reportedly endorses Tancredo

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin has apparently endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, according to a Facebook post of a well-known conservative activist.

On Wednesday, Conservative activist Kanda Calef posted an invitation to a Nov. 18 Tancredo fundraiser, with Michelle Malkin, with the comment:

Breaking News: Not only is Michelle Malkin endorsing Tom Tancredo, but is hosting a fundraiser for him!!!

Malkin’s Twitter feed has been boosting Tancredo of late, and Calef’s post cited Reardenstrategic, which is assisting Trancredo.

Malkin, who resides in Colorado Springs, is widely known to share Tancredo’s hardline views on immigration and guns, among other issues, often spreading misinformation along the way.

In a 2014 column about Tancredo, Malkin wrote:

Malkin: And he’s got all the right enemies. What sets Tom apart is his lifelong independence and his proven record of bucking establishment politics. Nobody ever will accuse him of straddling the fence, sugarcoating his message or selling out. No wonder the powers that be in the bipartisan halls of power are scared.

In 2014, when Malkin endorsed Tancredo’s gubernatorial run, she called him “a principled, proven public leader committed to individual and economic liberty and our national sovereignty.”

When Tancredo ran for governor in 2010, Malkin was reportedly under consideration as a running mate.