Cynthia Coffman Trolls Race for Governor

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is almost certainly not running for governor in 2018, but she would really like it if you would pretend that she might. This is very, very lame…

“You know I am at least looking at governor” [Pols emphasis]. This is what Coffman told Denver Post reporter Mark Matthews today in Washington D.C. If you are unaccustomed to the language of politics, please allow us to translate:

I don’t actually plan on running for governor, but please float my name so that I can use these rumors to generate support for my re-election bid for Attorney General. 

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman

We noted back in January that Coffman was trying to gin up interest for a potential bid for governor. From everything we’ve heard, that effort didn’t go anywhere and Coffman has since indicated privately that she will seek re-election as Attorney General. That won’t stop her from continuing to troll the rest of the potential field for 2018, however.

Coffman may not particularly like her current job as AG, but there is no path for her to win a Republican primary for Governor. Coffman is not what you’d call a beloved figure in the Colorado GOP — certainly not enough to elbow her way into a Republican Primary that is already expected to include State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler (in addition to a wealthy self-funder in former legislator Victor Mitchell). It’s also important to note that Coffman’s biggest financial backer in 2014 was the Republican Attorney General’s Association (RAGA), a group that obviously doesn’t care about the Colorado race for Governor.

Now, if Coffman could figure out a way to create an office of “Chief Troll” for Colorado, she’d have to be considered a frontrunner.

Walker Stapleton Term Limits Rally a Very Expensive Fizzle

Walker Stapleton.

That was the scene on the West Steps of the Colorado state capitol building today, as Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s long-hyped rally for congressional term limits took place on an unseasonably warm Thursday afternoon. As we’ve discussed in this space and readers have seen in site ads for weeks, this event had a very large promotional budget. After all the thousands of dollars spent advertising the rally and especially Stapleton’s attendance, the estimated 150 or so who turned out is nothing short of an embarrassment (unless you consider $700 per person a good investment).

Today’s rally for congressional term limits always struck us as a contrivance, a vehicle for Stapleton to get face time ahead of his widely-expected run for governor in 2018. It’s clever in theory given that the term-limits pitch has a defiant anti-politician ring to it, which could feed off the large protests against President Donald Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress since January. But as soon as you find out this is all just a ploy to boost George W. Bush’s cousin electorally, it loses its rebellious allure.

Please clap.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 9)

Ask your boss if you can work outside this afternoon. Let’s go ahead and see if we can 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…

► Colorado lawmakers are getting closer to approving legislation that would put a tax increase on the November ballot in order to fund necessary transportation infrastructure upgrades. As the Denver Business Journal reports:

Following eight months of negotiations, the Colorado Legislature’s leaders late Wednesday introduced a 20-year transportation-funding bill asking voters to approve a sales tax hike to generate some $677 million per year for highway and transit projects — without making significant cuts to existing state revenues.

Observers, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, quickly referred to House Bill 1242 as a starting point, saying they expect details about everything from the size of the tax hike, to the allocation of new revenues, to be up for debate in the two months that the Legislature has left in its 2017 session.

But House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and state Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, both expressed gratitude at finding a compromise they believe can muster support of their two parties’ lawmakers before they take their case to voters.

We still have a couple of months of negotiating before any proposal moves toward the ballot, but this is a good sign that the Republican caucus has at least a few adults in the room who aren’t going to continue to pretend that we can finance major infrastructure projects with magic fairy dust and generic speeches about financial belt-tightening.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) held a telephone “town hall” meeting on Wednesday night that included a smackdown of President Trump’s plans for a border wall with Mexico. As Eli Stokols reports for Politico:

“We do need security on the border,” Gardner said. “That may mean personnel. It may mean a fence. That may mean an electronic fence,” the first-term lawmaker said. “But we shouldn’t just build a wall and add billions of dollars because that’s what somebody said should be done.” [Pols emphasis]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also scoffed Thursday morning at Trump’s claim that he will be able to get Mexico to pay for the wall.

“Uh, no,” McConnell said.

McConnell’s comments this morning about a proposed border wall are getting a lot of attention from national media outlets.

 

Trumpcare has passed two initial hurdles by limping through a couple of House committees, but Senate leaders continue to take a wait-and-see approach until cost and coverage estimates are available:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said lawmakers need to see the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of how the bill will affect the federal deficit.

“I think we need to know that,” McConnell said at a breakfast sponsored by Politico, adding that the CBO report could be released by Monday.

McConnell was the first in growing chorus of high-ranking Senate Republicans to question the wisdom of moving forward on the health bill without an official budget tally. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), whose committee will help craft a Senate response to the House legislation, told reporters on Thursday that he believes CBO score is a valuable tool.

The New York Times has more on Republican backlash to the Trumpcare proposal. Here in Colorado, the Bell Policy Institute outlines how Trumpcare would be a major problem for our state.

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 7)

Go away, wind. Let’s go ahead and see if we can 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…

► House Republicans finally unveiled their healthcare plan, which is basically a bizarro-Robin Hood scenario: Steal from the middle class to give tax cuts to the rich! As the Washington Post reports, Republicans are going to have trouble getting this bill past several competing factions within their own party:

As they roll out their Obamacare replacement plan, Republicans are quickly finding out what Democrats learned eight years ago: Even if you win control of Congress and the White House, there are still plenty of obstacles to passing laws that, in principle, your whole party agrees with.

Several factions within the Republican Party don’t like some key details about this new health-care plan. In fact, there’s enough opposition that these Republicans could derail the bill as it stands. It’s something President Trump appeared to acknowledge when he offered up in a tweet Tuesday morning the opportunity for “review and negotiation.”…

…Assuming no Democrats in either chamber support the bill, Republicans can’t lose more than two GOP senators or 21 Republicans in the House. That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room. Which means the factions opposed to Obamacare suddenly have a whole lot of leverage.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is apparently not immune to the concerns of constituents, even if he refuses to meet with them. On Monday Gardner signed a letter from a handful of U.S. Senators defending Medicaid expansion, which would be gutted under the House repeal-and-destroy healthcare plan. This is odd for Gardner, who voted against Medicaid expansion in late 2015.

Meanwhile, poll after poll shows that Americans are increasingly nervous about gutting Obamacare:

Fully 68% of Americans want to keep what works and fix the rest, while just 32% prefer the GOP’s repeal and replace approach, according to polling from Hart Research. Moreover, the polling showed most Americans — including 54% of President Trump’s voters — have a favorable view of the Medicaid system, which would face steep cuts under the Republican plan.

The Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity, meanwhile, considers the House bill to be nowhere near an acceptable “repeal” of Obamacare.

 

► The new Republican healthcare bill is still missing two very important points: It does not have an official score from the Congressional Budget Office, nor does it offer any sort of estimate on how many Americans would be covered under its plan. With those two major points still unknown, Politico takes a look at who wins and loses in this version of healthcare “reform.” Medicaid beneficiaries, hospitals, and Planned Parenthood are among the big losers, while rich people make out famously.

 

► President Trump’s new travel ban is succeeding in causing lots of confusion for students in Colorado. Business leaders, meanwhile, are concerned about a potential scarcity of labor as a result of the travel ban.

In response to Trump’s travel ban, Colorado legislators have proposed the “Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act.”

 

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No Opinions for You, Larry Crowder!

State Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa). No broken thumbs visible in this image.

State Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa) has tried to stake out his own positions on several key issues since first winning election in 2012, and this has not made him particularly popular with Senate Republican leaders. Crowder has broken with GOP leadership on the Hospital Provider Fee and TABOR reform, and last week he tried to go in a different direction on a bill intended to modify the composition of the PERA Board…until his mind was apparently changed for him.

On Thursday, Senate Bill 17-158 (Modify Composition Of PERA Public Employees’ Retirement Association Board Of Trustees) passed through the State Senate on an 18-17 vote. Crowder eventually voted YES on the legislation, but not before he gave an impassioned speech about why he OPPOSED the bill. Check out what Crowder said on the Senate Floor on Thursday morning:

What we’re doing here…we’re making it more politicized instead of less…

…I’ve thought a lot about this and I appreciate the sponsor bringing it forward, because I think his intentions were very pure and what not. But I do not see that this is going to correct anything…

…Unfortunately, I just don’t think this is the way to go. Both sides need to come together on how to fix this instead of making it a political statement one way or the other.

As soon as Crowder finished his speech, three other Republicans quickly descended and pronounced their full-throated support of SB-158 (for a longer explanation of the bill, read this story in the Colorado Springs Gazette). Senators Kevin LundbergTim Neville, and Jack Tate all made specific mention of Crowder’s comments and explained why their colleague was wrong, which is not all that uncommon in a legislative body (you can listen to the full audio exchange below).

But then…take a look at how Crowder voted:

After taking five minutes on the Senate floor to explain his opposition to SB-158, Sen. Crowder somehow ended up as a YES vote on the legislation.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 1)

March is definitely arriving in lamb form — in the Denver Metro area, at least. Let’s go ahead and see if we can 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 delivered his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening (full text here). As Eli Stokols writes for Politico, Trump displayed a less-angry version of himself during his prime time address, but was no less vague on his many policy proposals:

Not an official “State of the Union” address, Trump’s first speech to Congress was an attempt to stabilize his administration and improve his standing with the public, which views Trump more unfavorably than any other president after only a month in office. Beyond showcasing a more presidential posture to the largest national television audience he’s had since his inauguration, Trump also sought to set out some shared goals for the Congress that will largely determine the nature and scope of his eventual accomplishments…

…After such a rocky first five weeks, Trump needed to present himself to members of Congress, many of whom have recently been met by anti-Trump mobs at town hall meetings, as a reasonable collaborative partner as they begin a long legislative journey. He spoke not of past grievances, but of a future full of opportunity. For an hour at least, beefs gave way to bright banalities. [Pols emphasis]

For the most part, the president’s specific policy prescriptions were as broad and vague as they were sweeping and ambitious. Trump called on Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that “expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better healthcare.” He laid out a broad outline of what an alternative would look like, but steered clear of specifics that could jam up negotiations among congressional Republicans.

“Bright banalities” is a nice way to summarize Trump’s policy ideas on Tuesday. Trump stuck to his usual fact-free statements to introduce most proposals, and as Karen Tumulty writes for the Washington Post, he avoided the kind of specifics that Congressional Republicans were hoping to hear:

Nor did the president give his Republican allies in Congress what they had wanted to hear, which was a sense of clarity on how he plans to achieve the ambitious agenda he promised. There were few detail offered and no nod to the complexity of the issues nor the fact that achieving his goals will require navigating deep fissures within his own party…

…Trump’s address was also notable for some of the standard Republican themes it did not include. He mentioned the federal debt only once, and the deficit not at all.

There’s plenty of reaction to Trump’s speech on the Internet tubes. Here are five key takeaways from the New York Times. Check Politico for more fact-checking on the President’s speech. Denver7 compiles some of the local reaction to Trump’s speech.

 

► The Washington Post points to the influence of Ivanka Trump and chief strategist Steve Bannon for Tuesday’s “Teleprompter Trump.”

 

President Trump is delaying the rollout of a new travel ban proposal on account of the fact that people didn’t completely hate his first big speech as President:

The decision came late Tuesday night as positive reviews flooded in for Trump’s speech, which struck a largely optimistic and unifying tone.

Signing the executive order Wednesday, as originally indicated by the White House, would have undercut the favorable coverage. The official didn’t deny the positive reception was part of the administration’s calculus in pushing back the travel ban announcement.

 

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Walker Stapleton and the World’s Saddest Blog Post

The “Walker Stapleton face.”

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is not funny. Not intentionally, anyway.

We feel compelled to point this out after reading a particularly-sad attempt at political spin from a local right-wing blog that is harder to swallow than a tennis ball.

Stapleton was interviewed last week by Kyle Clark of 9News, not long after Deputy Treasurer Jon Forbes resigned from the job after telling the PERA board to “go f*** themselves,” and the likely GOP gubernatorial candidate was asked some pretty direct questions that he did not answer well.

The entire interview, which you can view below, is not a good look for Stapleton, who says he “understands” the frustration with the PERA board that would prompt his former Deputy to fire off profanities as he storms out of the room. Stapleton also claims at one point that he has attended “at least 90 percent” of PERA board meetings in his six years as State Treasurer, a claim that is easy to disprove. The interview is obviously not a net positive for Stapleton, which is clear just from reading the video description provided by 9News: “Great moments in awkward question asking today when we asked Colorado’s Treasurer whether it’s the official position of his office that the pension board (PERA) members should go f— themselves.”

So it was that on Monday, the right-wing blog Colorado Peak Politics tried very hard to spin the idea that Stapleton is a really funny guy who is great at deflecting difficult questions with humor and a quick wit. Um…yeah:

There are a lot of reasons that people like state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, but perhaps the most obvious is his dry, often sarcastic, sense of humor. Last week, he sat down with 9News’s Kyle Clark, and in the face of some relatively trivial “gotcha” questions Stapleton showed off these winning attributes. It’s worth watching, especially if you’re like us and keeping a close eye on the moves of potential gubernatorial candidates.

When asked about the semantics of how he described his involvement in the drafting of a bill to change the makeup of the board for the Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA), Stapleton replied that while he “didn’t follow Sen. Tate into the drafting room” (ha!) he has long supported the idea and been a champion for the legislation… [Pols emphasis]

…By using sarcasm, Stapleton is able to diffuse needing questions and in many cases point out their silliness.

Hee-larious! If any of this was meant to be a joke — and it’s not clear that Stapleton is even trying to be funny here — we’re not ashamed to admit that we missed the humor entirely. Clark does ask some tough questions of Stapleton, but the questions are both fair and largely predictable. Stapleton’s answers are not very good nor particularly funny.

This is not a “gotcha” interview. This is just a straightforward sit-down that Stapleton does not handle well, which is how a conservative blog ends up writing a ham-fisted defense that reads like something Stapleton himself might have invented.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (February 21)

You have only one shopping day left until George Washington’s birthday. Now, let’s see if we can’t 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…

► Congress is taking a break for its annual President’s Day Recess, but that doesn’t necessarily mean elected officials such as Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) are likely to make themselves available to constituents. As the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports, local residents are so incensed with Gardner’s inaccessibility that they are planning their own town hall meeting as protest. The Denver Post has more on Friday’s town hall meeting (sans Gardner):

Organizers invited U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who declined, but Farnan said it’s important to hold it anyway so that residents can share their ideas and demonstrate that town halls still matter.

“You should be standing in front of your constituents and hear what they have to say as long as it’s civil and respectful,” Farnan said.

Aides to Gardner said the Republican senator has meetings this week with the Colorado Space Coalition, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Colorado Health Care Association — to name a few — but no public forums. [Pols emphasis]

But they defended his outreach efforts and noted his past use of telephone town halls, a tool that has become an increasingly popular substitute on Capitol Hill.

You may not have any real access to your own U.S. Senator, but if you’re lucky, you might get invited to listen to him talk on the telephone! That’s pretty much the same, right?

Unfortunately for Sen. Gardner, this routine is wearing thin across the state. In the meantime, Colorado residents show no sign of letting up on demonstrations and protests.

 

► Before leaving Washington D.C. last week, House Republicans released a vague outline of a proposal about what to do with Obamacare if they end up repealing the health care law. On Monday, former South Carolina governor and current Rep. Mark Sanford admitted in a television interview that he could not guarantee that the Republican health care plan would allow all Americans to keep their current health insurance coverage.

As The Hill explains, Republicans may have a hard time convincing constituents that this vague new plan is even half-baked.

 

► We all know that campaign finance loopholes are big enough to accommodate whatever metaphor you prefer, but some paid campaigns are so brazenly sketchy that it’s hard to believe they could exist. For example, this barrage of advertisements promoting Walker Stapleton’s campaign for Governor apparent interest in term limits. The intent is so obvious that even Republican-aligned groups like Compass Colorado can’t help but applaud the name recognition boost for Stapleton.

 

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Walker Stapleton Rides The Term Limits Pony: Please Clap!

TUESDAY UPDATE: GOP-aligned advocacy group Compass Colorado spills the beans in an email update today:

Our Colorado State Treasurer, Walker Stapleton, is now the voice behind a new ad campaign promoting term limits. The ads will run across the state. Considering that Treasurer Stapleton is a likely gubernatorial candidate, the campaign will help boost his name ID across the state. [Pols emphasis]

Which is the whole point of course, but you’re not supposed to say so.

—–

Regular readers are no doubt aware of the ad that’s been planted at the top of our site more or less continuously for a number of days now, advertising a rally on March 9th at the state capitol for usual-suspect conservative message group U.S. Term Limits:

About a week into the ad campaign promoting this “grassroots” rally, the art switched to a new theme: join Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton at the term limits rally, which is still paid for by U.S. Term Limits:

So, for starters, we can dispense with the notion that U.S. Term Limits exists to propose any kind of workable limit on the terms of members of Congress. Such a major change to the legislative branch would require a constitutional amendment, either through ratification by two-thirds of the states or by a “convention of states”–the latter being the official position of U.S. Term Limits, though it has never actually been used in American history. USTL claims further that their convention would be restricted to their pet cause, but there’s no legal way they could actually guarantee that.

Meaning the whole exercise is silliness, based on the one overriding fact that term limits poll well with (no nice way to say this) low-information voters. In states like Colorado where we have term limits in our own General Assembly, the effects of the policy are overwhelmingly negative–creating a climate in which lobbyists and political pressure groups have more experience running the government than lawmakers themselves.

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.

And that could dry up the grassroots enthusiasm.

Get More Smarter on Friday (February 17)

Have a nice President’s Day Weekend; try the meatloaf. Now, let’s see if we can’t 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…

► As the Associated Press reported this morning, President Trump is considering mobilizing the National Guard — as many as 100,000 troops — to undertake mass deportation efforts across the country. Colorado is one of the states listed in the draft memo obtained by the AP.

Again: The President of the United States of America is considering deploying the military to conduct mass roundups and deportations across the country. This is all kinds of wrong.

 

A “shit sandwich.” That’s how Vice Admiral Robert Harward viewed an offer from President Trump to become the next National Security Adviser — an offer Harward publicly declined — which leaves the Trump administration scrambling to find another candidate for one of the most important jobs in the White House. The resignation of former NSA Michael Flynn highlights a massive credibility problem among national security experts, as the Washington Post explains:

Multiple former national security experts conjectured that the hang-up specifically was Trump’s deputy national security adviser, KT McFarland, a TV commentator who has not served in government since the Reagan era. Few foreign policy professionals consider her qualified for the job. [Pols emphasis]

…Harward certainly knows the struggles that Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson have had hiring their own staff — neither has an announced deputy; Harward was not about to subject himself to the same micromanaging from the White House. Former State Department official and vocal Trump critic Eliot Cohen says, “It makes it very difficult for any serious person to take the job under less reasonable conditions than Harward seems to have demanded, i.e., control of staffing.” He explains, “No sane person would take this extremely important and difficult job without (a) control of staffing, and (b) eliminating or neutering Bannon’s shadow NSC staff.” …

…Harward’s decision reflects how far the president and this administration have fallen in the eyes of esteemed national security experts, including current and former officials. The White House is without an experienced chief of staff or normal internal decision-making procedures. [Pols emphasis]

 

► Congress is preparing for its annual President’s Day recess, which will keep lawmakers out of the nation’s capitol until February 27. Before he skipped out of town, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) released a video in which he declares that he will not support a repeal of Obamacare without a concurrent replacement plan. The New York Times on Thursday reported on a potential new GOP healthcare plan that would redirect money from the lower- and middle-class to the benefit of the wealthy in America.

 

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Stapleton won’t reveal gubernatorial plans for fear of being ignored at the state Capitol if he did so

(Does that mean he’ll show up? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton will not say if he’s running for governor next year because, if he did so, “any common sense you’re trying to make when it comes to legislation goes completely out the window and people reflexively don’t want to have anything to do with you.”

Stapleton made the comment Thursday on KNUS-710 AM, but hosts Steve Kelley and Krista Kafer didn’t ask whether nonstop rumors about a possible run have the same effect.

Stapleton said it’s a “shame” that declared candidates are treated this way, but there are too many things he’d “like to try to get accomplished for the state of Colorado this legislative session.”

Stapleton, a Republican, told the conservative host he’ll sit on the sidelines and wait for others to announce their gubernatorial intentions.

“I’m keeping my head down for now, we’ll let others announce,” he said (audio below).

Despite Stapleton’s evasiveness, Kelley complimented Stapleton for not being “evasive at all.”

“Someone a long time ago who’s been quite successful in this business told me some great advice and that is, ‘Keep your head down and do you job, and people will appreciate it and recognize you for it.'”

Stapleton could have been referring to experienced politicians in his own family. Stapleton  is the second cousin of former President George W. Bush and of failed presidential candidate Jeb Bush. Jeb’s and W’s father, and Stapleton’s first cousin, is former President George Herbert Walker Bush, with “Walker” as the lineage connecting Walker Stapleton to the Bushes.

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Cynthia Coffman Laying Groundwork for Gubernatorial Bid

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman wore this red thing to the Jan. 20th “Deplorables Ball.”

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is up for re-election in 2018, but she is apparently taking a hard look at running for Governor instead. We hear that Coffman has been meeting with consultants about a potential run for the state’s top job, where she would join a Republican field already likely to include State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler.

After she was first elected in 2014, Coffman was briefly considered something of a rising star in the Colorado Republican Party. That spotlight dimmed considerably, however, when she inexplicably emerged at the center of a weird blackmail scandal aimed at trying to unseat State GOP Chairman Steve House not long after House was elected to oversee the State Republican Party (Coffman had endorsed House for the role just a few months earlier). The Coffmangate Scandal has never really been resolved, though Coffman is on the record with the media trying to explain why her actions did not constitute blackmail.

When House announced early last week that he would not seek re-election as State GOP Chair, it cleared up a significant hurdle that would have made a gubernatorial run much more awkward for everyone involved. From what we hear, Coffman is not particularly happy with her job as Attorney General and wouldn’t need much convincing to abandon a run for re-election.

We’re still skeptical that Coffman would be able to put together a strong team around her in a potential Gubernatorial bid (would you want to work for someone with such a penchant for tossing people under the bus?), but her recent rhetoric does seem to indicate that she could be testing the waters for a big jump in 2018. Coffman looks to be trying to channel the support of Donald Trump backers as she positions herself for a potential primary battle. As Ernest Luning wrote for the Colorado Statesman on Jan. 23:

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman told the crowd that she had noticed something different starting on the night of Nov. 8, when Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to win the presidency.

“I realized I was taking deep breaths, in and out, for the first time in two years,” she said. “For me, in my two years as attorney general, I think I have been holding my breath, waiting for the next over-reach from Washington, D.C., the next horrible Supreme Court decision that does not understand or appreciate the 10th Amendment, and suddenly I could take a deep breath and not worry nearly so much about the state of our country or our beautiful Colorado.”

Cynthia Coffman was not exactly a vocal Trump supporter before the election, but she seemed to sense the rising tide on Election Night at a victory celebration for her husband, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) when she put a fist in the air and yelled, “Go Trump!” (jump ahead to :30 in the video below).

Cynthia Coffman may be trying to be the “Trump candidate” for Governor in 2018. That might not be such a great idea 18 months from now.

The State of the 2018 Governor’s Race

Who wants to follow this routine?

It’s that time of year in an off-year election cycle when the rumors and name-dropping are coming from every direction. On the same day that Gov. John Hickenlooper delivered his State of the State address, we thought it would be a good time to takes a look at what we’re seeing, reading, and hearing when it comes to jockeying for Colorado’s top job in 2018…

 

IN THE RACE
Noel Ginsburg (D)
As of this writing, there are seven candidates who have officially filed with the Secretary of State’s office to run for governor in 2018. Ginsburg is the only relevant name here; the other six are just gadflies who apparently think it would be fun to run for governor. We’ve written a bit about Ginsburg already, though it’s far too early to gauge whether the Denver businessman can really make a dent in this race.

 

NOT YET “OFFICIAL,” BUT DEFINITELY RUNNING
George Brauchler (R)
Walker Stapleton (R)
Cary Kennedy (D)
Mike Johnston (D)
Brauchler and Stapleton are both going to run for governor; the only suspense is about when they will make an official announcement. Kennedy and Johnston have been moving toward a run for governor for many months now, and it would be more of a surprise at this point if they chose not to enter the race — although that could change depending on what happens with Ken Salazar and Ed Perlmutter (see below).

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 4)

Here comes the snow! Maybe. Forecasts along the Front Range call for as much as 2 feet of snow in the next two days…which probably means we’ll get an inch of rain. 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…

► The new Republican Congress got off to a curious start this week by attempting to quietly gut the House Ethics Committee before constituents (and Donald Trump) got wind of the plan and expressed their anger. House Republicans quickly backtracked on this idiotic idea, thanks in part to opposition from Trump but largely because voters made their voices heard:

This is a really, really, really, really stupid way for Republicans to start things off in 2017. As Politico explains, this move could sting for awhile:

By early Tuesday morning, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Speaker Paul Ryan and the rest of GOP leadership realized the proposal was about to tank the entire House rules package — and implode the first day of the GOP-led Congress. They convened an emergency closed-door conference meeting around noon to discuss removing the ethics provision — but it was too late. Donald Trump had tweeted his disapproval, and the public outcry had risen to such a crescendo that all anyone wanted to talk about was an obscure House office few people had ever heard of just 24 hours before.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who added that the ethics snafu was an unforced error. “Sometimes people have to learn the hard way.”…

…The day left some members shaking their heads. Many, including Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), left the chamber Tuesday night crossing their fingers that the drama of the first day would not foreshadow the next two years to come.

“I think that there is going to be a lot of tough votes we will have to take and this wasn’t one of the toughest ones, so, I think we should learn from this,” he said. “Once you launch that ship, you’ve got to keep going… We need to go forth with more sense of purpose and direction.”

Fill the swamp! Fill the swamp! Oh, wait, that’s not right…

 

► Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) won’t reveal how he voted on the controversial measure to gut the House Ethics Committee. In other words, Tipton almost certainly supported the effort. Colorado Republican Reps. Doug Lamborn, Ken Buck, and Mike Coffman are all claiming that they opposed the measure. According to reports, 119 Republicans backed crippling the Ethics Committee; we have a sneaking suspicion that this number isn’t going to match public proclamations in another few days.

 

► A media outlet finally got around to asking some of Colorado’s top Republican officials about Donald Trump…though it wasn’t a journalist related in any way to Colorado. Come on, Colorado political reporters! How can you get scooped by something called Gray Television?

As Jason Salzman notes, there may be no more relevant question for Colorado Republicans than to be asked about Trump.

 

 

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

Now, if Only Walker Stapleton Would “Show Up” Once in Awhile

This is how you make the “Walker Stapleton face.”

Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, the inexplicable frontrunner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2018, is mad again about PERA. From the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Over the protests of Colorado’s state treasurer, the head of the state’s retirement system received a 3 percent salary increase on Tuesday—his second raise in just over a year—bringing his salary to nearly $406,000 in 2017.

Greg Smith, chief executive of the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association, also will receive an incentive payment of 20 percent for leading the $47 billion, 300-employee retirement system, which amounts to nearly $79,000. Smith’s current salary is $394,000.

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, an ex-officio, voting member of PERA’s board of trustees—and a longtime critic of the system—assailed the raise, pointing out that the pension fund for the state’s more than 547,000 members faces about $30 billion in unfunded liabilities.

“It is unconscionable that Greg Smith will receive a 3 percent raise and 20 percent bonus for doing absolutely nothing to address PERA’s growing unfunded liability,” Stapleton said in a statement issued by his office. “This bonus is not tied to any performance. He is getting an extra 20 percent for simply showing up and maintaining the status quo. This is a prime example of all that is wrong with government.” [Pols emphasis]

We’re not going to even attempt to defend this raise for Greg Smith…but we also don’t have to worry about our own very public history of avoiding the office. This is a strangely-worded line of attack for Stapleton, who has had plenty of problems himself with just “showing up” for work while serving as Treasurer. Stapleton received a mountain of bad press when he was running for re-election two years ago because he apparently rarely bothered to show up at his office in the State Capitol. As we wrote in October 2014, Democratic challenger Betsy Markey hit Stapleton hard in a TV ad over results of an open records request showing that Stapleton’s key card left his wallet about as often as that old buy-5-get-one-free card from the local deli:

Based on data gleaned from an Open Records request of Stapleton’s state-appointed key card (which he needs to enter the State Capitol), there are probably tour guides who spend more time in the building than Stapleton himself. As the script for the ad explains:

At best…it’s inexcusable.

At worst…it’s a scandal. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Official key-card records from his Denver office confirm…

Stapleton only bothers showing up at his office around ten days a month.

Often, skipping the office for weeks at a time.

Or only showing up after three P.M.

This is a pretty straightforward ad that is hard for Stapleton’s campaign to fully refute, though Stapleton’s spokesperson, Michael Fortney, tried lamely to defend his boss when questioned by Denver Post reporter  Lynn Bartels. According to Fortney, Stapleton often forgets his key card, and when he does, he just enters the capitol through the public entrance.

Colorado’s State Treasurer makes an annual salary of $68,500. If this were an hourly position, Stapleton’s take-home pay would be more along the lines of the Federal Poverty Level.