Top Ten Stories of 2016 #2: Jon Keyser’s Stupendously Epic Flameout

Former state Rep. Jon Keyser.

The failure of Colorado Republicans to field a credible challenger to incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016, as we’ve discussed, was an historic missed opportunity–in what we now know was a much stronger election for Republican candidates across the nation than anyone (other than Vladimir Putin, apparently) could have predicted. Republican U.S. Senate nominee Darryl Glenn finished within six points of Bennet, where he had been expected to lose by double digits, and it is mathematically possible that a better-qualified Republican candidate could have rode that unexpectedly closer margin a few more points to victory.

But it didn’t happen, and the series of events that destroyed the candidate openly favored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in the GOP U.S. Senate primary in May of 2016 may well be the reason why Bennet is still a U.S. Senator. On January 11th, 2016, first-term state Rep. Jon Keyser announced his resignation from the the legislature to focus on running for the U.S. Senate. Keyser, an attorney and a decorated combat veteran, had by this point already impressed kingmakers in Washington, D.C. sufficiently to obtain potentially field-clearing tacit support in a primary field of generally minor candidates.

Keyser made what turned out to be a fateful decision to qualify for the ballot via petition instead of going through the Republican Party’s caucus process, which is how eventual primary victor Darryl Glenn qualified for the ballot in dramatic fashion at the party’s state assembly. But the petition process proved troublesome, not just for Keyser but for three candidates–who ultimately had to sue to get on the ballot, arguing that basic democratic rights trumped technicalities about the signatures and petition gatherers employed by the campaign. In the end, Keyser was on the ballot, and for his powerful supporters that was all that was needed.

That is, until Denver7 investigative reporter Marshall Zelinger started knocking on doors.

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Top Ten Stories of 2016 #6: Dems Grow State House Majority

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D).

Democratic hopes grew throughout the 2016 election season, anticipating major gains at all levels as Donald Trump went down to inglorious defeat and took a large swath of the Republican Party with him.

As you may be aware, that didn’t happen.

In Colorado, the net results of the 2016 elections were, with one notable exception, a preservation of the status quo ante. Democrats carried the state for Hillary Clinton and held Colorado’s U.S. Senate seat–albeit by a much smaller than anticipated margin than expected. Colorado’s congressional delegation remained unchanged despite determined attempts by Democrats to pick up two seats held by the GOP. The Colorado Senate remained in GOP hands by a single seat, just as in 2014.

But in the Colorado House, Democrats picked up several seats–a result that stands out from the general lack of movement elsewhere on the ballot. In particular, House Democrats were successful in flipping tightly competitive seats held by Republicans in nominally Republican areas of the state, like House District 59 in southwest Colorado held by J. Paul Brown and Kit Roupe’s House District 17 in urban Colorado Springs. At the same time, GOP pickup opportunities in the House fizzled despite arguably strong contenders–the best example being Rep.-elect Jeff Bridges’ victory over Katy Brown in outgoing Rep. Daniel Kagan’s House District 3.

The credit for Colorado House Democrats outperforming on this year’s ballot goes to two factors. The first is candidates like Bridges who worked very hard at retail politicking in their district, tirelessly knocking on thousands of doors to earn their seats the old-fashioned way. The second is that Colorado House Democrats have on their side one of the very best “527” independent messaging apparatuses in the nation. With the exception of two years from 2010 to 2012 when Republicans had control of the Colorado House by a single seat, the chamber has been in Democratic hands since Andrew Romanoff led House Democrats to victory in 2004.

The victory of Colorado House Democrats year after year, regardless (and sometimes despite) of what happens up the ticket, is something that everyone who does politics for a living should be studying. They are a model for enduring success in a world without coattails.

What’s Gardner’s Game on Russian Election Hacking?

Cory Gardner, Donald Trump.

As Politico’s Burgess Everett reports, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, fresh from concern trolling about nonexistent “riots” after Donald Trump’s Electoral College formality yesterday, might be acting out of something like genuine concern over reports of Russian state-sponsored intervention in the 2016 elections.

Or, as readers can decide for themselves, maybe not:

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) told POLITICO he would introduce a bill that, if passed, would mandate a new select Senate committee on cybersecurity. The move could intensify pressure on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who so far has resisted appointing a select committee on cybersecurity. He insists the chamber’s traditional committees, led by the intelligence panel, should handle the issue.

Gardner’s move came a day after GOP Sens. McCain (R-Ariz.) and Graham (R-S.C.), along with incoming Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), called for a special panel in a bipartisan letter to McConnell. It’s unclear, however, how extensive GOP support will be for a select committee, since any Republicans who get behind the proposal will be implicitly siding with the Democratic Senate leader instead of their own…

On the one hand, Gardner is making noise about an issue that, on balance, most Republicans would prefer to let expire on its own as quickly as possible. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is on record opposing Gardner’s proposal for a new cybersecurity committee, and other GOP committee leaders in the Senate are reluctant to cede any of their own power to some new committee.

But there’s a larger problem with Gardner’s bill to create a new cybersecurity committee in the Senate to investigate attacks like the apparent Russian intelligence operation to disrupt the 2016 election in support of Donald Trump.

Is Gardner setting up a way to bury any specific investigation of what happened in 2016?

Gardner, who is close with McConnell, took pains to cast his proposal as far broader than the Russian hacking of U.S. election officials. [Pols emphasis] His hope is to introduce the bill with bipartisan cosponsors early next year.

“From North Korea’s hack of Sony Pictures to Iran’s attack on a New York dam, it’s evident that we are facing a growing cybersecurity challenge. The nature and complexity of recent cyber-attacks require a whole of government approach to cyberspace and the development of federal policy to mitigate the threat and protect everything from personal information to the security of our critical infrastructure,” Gardner said in a statement.

The fact is, we are probably never going to get a “Benghazi Committee” to look into what happened in the 2016 elections out of a Republican-controlled Congress. The difference in the response to this potentially very large scandal and the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya from the Republican-controlled Congress obviously does not make them look good, but it is what it is.

What’s important for Colorado to understand is that Gardner’s committee may do more to obfuscate the truth about this specific incident than to uncover it. It might not, and if an impartial and comprehensive investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 elections actually happens as a result of something Sen. Gardner does, we’ll be the first to apologize. But Gardner’s vague expressions of concern over Russian hacking during this election have never once mentioned what the intelligence points to above all.

That is, the motive.

Gardner: Don’t Riot Over The Electoral College, You Dirty Hippies

“Quitcherbishin, America.”

Deep in a TV news wire story out of Washington this weekend, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner implores the so-called “Hamilton Electors,” and anybody else who might be considering a vote other than the one they are pledged to cast in today’s usually pro forma official vote of the College to formally elect Donald Trump President of the United States, to knock it off for the good of the nation:

The last-ditch effort to block Trump is exploding online, with a Change.org petition signed by millions and a website listing the addresses of 284 of the electors.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) says this isn’t helping to promote a peaceful transition of power.

“Whether or not your person won, the person that you voted for, you shouldn’t be rioting in the street as a result, but working together to unify this country so we can all prosper over the next four years,” Gardner said. [Pols emphasis]

How likely is the Electoral College to snub Trump? Based on the numbers, 38 Republican electors would need to flip their votes to someone else. But, experts say it’s highly unlikely.

Colorado is one of 29 states that bind by law the vote of Electoral College members to the results of the statewide presidential election–a result that obliges all of Colorado’s electors to vote for losing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Despite this, two Democratic electors have sued to overturn that law citing constitutional freedoms. On Friday the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal, and Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams says any “rogue electors” in Colorado would be immediately replaced if they violate the law with a vote other than for Clinton.

With that, the effective drama over the Electoral College vote shifts to other states, and very few if any credible analyses of the situation forecast success in this last-ditch attempt to deny Trump the Oval Office. We’re inclined to think that Sen. Gardner knows there will be no “rioting in the street” over the likely result, any more than there was when the Green Party’s recounts in Rust Belt states fizzled embarrassingly.

And that makes us question how Gardner’s presumptuousness helps, his words, “unify this country.”

Williams Rages So Hard At Rogue Electors, It’s Getting Weird

Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R).

Politico’s Kyle Cheney reports on Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ latest broadside against two Colorado members of the Electoral College who have sued, so far unsuccessfully, for what they see as their right to cast a “vote of conscience” in an attempt to deny Donald Trump the presidency.

Williams, who has a reputation as a mild-mannered guy as we noted last week, is really fired up:

Williams told POLITICO in a phone interview that he intends to administer an oath to electors prior to Monday’s official meeting of the Electoral College. Any electors who decide to oppose Clinton won’t just be violating the election law that requires them to support Colorado’s popular vote winner – they’ll be violating their oath as well.

“If Elector A writes down Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz or anyone other than Hillary Clinton, they immediately cease to be an elector and they’re replaced,” he said. “The difference here is you have perjured yourself.”

“If you swear the oath and then immediately violate it,” he continued, “I think there’s a basis for a more severe criminal penalty.” [Pols emphasis]

So, we’ll start by saying that we agree with the basic premise: the vote in Electoral College for Colorado electors is by law bound to the results of the election. Because Hillary Clinton won the state of Colorado, our state’s electors are legally required to vote for her. It’s not that way in every state, but it is that way in Colorado. Because we’re talking about sworn officials carrying out essential functions of the electoral process, we don’t see this is a free speech issue.

Williams noted that he’s not a prosecutor so he couldn’t say whether electors might be charged with felony perjury – a more serious charge that carries a punishment of up to six years in prison and a $500,000 fine – or misdemeanor perjury, which carries a maximum of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Here’s where this gets a little strange. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Williams say he’s “not a prosecutor”–but there’s a marked difference in the Wayne Williams we’re seeing today, haranguing “faithless” electors with perjury threats, and a similar situation Williams faced earlier this year. Back in May, when revelations of petition fraud rocked Jon Keyser’s U.S. Senate campaign–later complicated when it came out that Williams’ office had known about the forged petitions for a month and taken no action–Williams deferred questions about a criminal investigation by noting that he isn’t a prosecutor.

But then Williams went further, affirmatively helping to cover for Keyser by speculating to the press about possible defenses Keyser’s campaign could offer for the forgeries. Williams stated with no evidence, even while asserting he had no power to investigate, that “typically” it’s not the campaign’s fault when they turn in forged petitions.

What’s the difference, you ask, between the Wayne Williams who gave fellow Republican Keyser the endless benefit of the doubt on the record last May, and the Wayne Williams who declared to the media his fervent desire to lock up Democrat Polly Baca?

Never mind, we think we just answered the question.

Wayne Williams, Unlikely GOP Voice of Reason

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

We’re in the odd position of complimenting Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams once again, as Williams again publicly disputes the unhinged accusations spewing from the Twitter account of the President-elect of the United States Donald Trump–as 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman reports:

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R) seemed puzzled Monday by President-elect Donald Trump’s false assertion that “millions” of votes were cast illegally in the election earlier this month.

“People don’t always clear every tweet with me,” Williams said of his own party’s leader when asked about the political wisdom of Trump casting doubt on an election he’s already won…

On Sunday afternoon, Trump made the baseless claim on Twitter that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Williams says elections are not perfect, but said he’s seen no evidence of widespread fraud or mistakes in the American electoral system. [Pols emphasis]

We’ll admit that during Williams’ campaign for election for Secretary of State in 2014, we were not impressed by his rather feeble attempts to mimic his predecessor Scott “Honey Badger” Gessler’s rank partisanship in the then-fashionable trashing of Colorado’s 2013 election reform law. Since his election, however, Williams’ viewpoint on Colorado’s mail ballot system has brightened considerably. And as Trump ramped up his groundless accusations on the campaign trail this year that the “election is rigged,” Williams publicly disputed Trump, and assured the public that the election system both in Colorado and elsewhere was fundamentally sound.

While Williams has equivocated from time to time in an effort to not overly disparage his incoming fellow Republican President, and still fits his pet criticisms of election reform into the discussion where he can, comparing Williams’ relative honesty to the nonsensical field day Gessler would be having with Trump’s baseless allegations if he were still Secretary of State makes Williams look like an elder statesman.

And we’ll admit that is not something we would have predicted in 2014.

The Square Root of Gerrymandering

Good luck finding the "efficiency gap" in current legislative maps.

Finding the “efficiency gap” in the redistricting process could soon get much easier.

Michael Wines of the New York Times has a fascinating look at a new court ruling in Wisconsin that has the potential to dramatically change the process of redistricting/reapportionment across the country.

A panel of three federal judges ruled on Monday that the Wisconsin legislature relied upon unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering when it redrew state legislative districts in 2011.  The case could now move to the Supreme Court, where a new mathematical formula designed to measure partisan gerrymandering could significantly alter the next round of state redistricting/reapportionment in 2021. From the Times:

In Monday’s ruling, the court was swayed by a new and simple mathematical formula to measure the extent of partisan gerrymandering, called the efficiency gap. The formula divides the difference between the two parties’ “wasted votes” — votes beyond those needed by a winning side, and votes cast by a losing side — by the total number of votes cast. [Pols emphasis] When both parties waste the same number of votes, the result is zero — an ideal solution. But as a winning party wastes fewer and fewer votes than its opponent, its score rises.

A truly efficient gerrymander spreads a winning party’s votes so evenly over districts that very few votes are wasted. A review of four decades of state redistricting plans concluded that any party with an efficiency gap of 7 percent or more was likely to keep its majority during the 10 years before new districts were drawn.

In Wisconsin, experts testified, Republicans scored an efficiency gap rating of 11.69 percent to 13 percent in the first election after the maps were redrawn in 2011.

Some experts said the efficiency gap gives gerrymandering opponents their most promising chance yet to persuade a majority of the Supreme Court to limit partisan redistricting. [Pols emphasis]

The once-per-decade redistricting/reapportionment process is often a long, drawn-out (pun intended) process that involves months of legal wrangling from both sides of the political aisle. When it is done particularly poorly, as it was in the infamous 2003 “Midnight Gerrymandering” by Colorado Republicans, it can create deep political wounds that resonate for several election cycles.

We aren’t well-versed enough in election law to definitively say whether or not this “efficiency gap” calculation is the ideal approach for Colorado, but it would certainly be helpful if there were some sort of basic formula that every state could use when it begins the next redistricting/reapportionment process.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (November 10)

Get More SmarterThere are just 726 days until Election Day in 2018. 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…

► If you still have a mail ballot at home, go ahead and fold that sucker into a neat paper airplane. Here are some paper airplane templates that may or may not work.

If you want to know what happened to all of those other ballots, the Secretary of State has updated ballot return numbers this morning.

 

► In a move that should come as a surprise to, well, nobody, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler made it known on Wednesday that he will likely seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is among the Republicans who will also likely run for the big job in Colorado. On the Democratic side, look for names such as Ed PerlmutterKen SalazarCary Kennedy, and state Rep. Michael Johnston. We’ll have a new Big Line for 2018 next week.

 

► The next time you see a photograph of Donald Trump and Paul Ryan together will be the first time. As the Washington Post reports, “Trumpism” and “Ryanism” are on a political collision course:

Donald Trump will lunch with Paul Ryan at 12:30 p.m. at the Capitol Hill Club after he drops by the White House to meet with Barack Obama. The Speaker of the House declared at his post-election press conference yesterday that the president-elect has won “a mandate.” But a mandate for what?

Trump’s victory represents nothing less than a repudiation of Ryan’s brand of Republicanism, both substantively and stylistically. The two have sharply different views of what it means to be a conservative, and they want to take the Republican Party down different paths…

…There are many other issues on which Ryan and Trump disagree, such as eminent domain, but they are somewhat moot because they will not be on the docket in the next four years. As Jonathan Martin puts it in today’s New York Times, “Trump ran as a Republican, but he was effectively a third-party candidate who happened to campaign under the banner of one of the two major parties.”

 

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

Election Results Post #1

9:12 pm: Mike Coffman defeats Morgan Carroll in CD-6.

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8:54 pm: Florida goes to Donald Trump.

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8:47 pm: Michael Bennet wins U.S. Senate race over GOP challenger Darryl Glenn.

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8:38 pm: In CO-3, Republican Scott Tipton appears to be well on his way to winning re-election over Democrat Gail Schwartz.

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8:35 pm: Democrats look likely to win most competitive State House seats.

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8:31 pm: Virginia and Colorado will go to Clinton.

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8:26 pm: CNN projects Donald Trump to win Ohio.

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8:21 pm: Amendment 70 (minimum wage increase) will pass in Colorado.

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8:18 pm: In key State Senate races in Colorado, a mixed bag so far. Democrats Rachel Zenzinger (SD-19) and Daniel Kagan (SD-26) are ahead, while Republican Kevin Priola leads Jenise May in SD-25.

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8:10 pm: Proposition 106 (end of life options) in Colorado will pass. Amendment 69 (single-payer health care) appears to be lost.

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8:08 pm: Clinton projected to win New Mexico.

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7:30 pm: Detroit Free Press calls Michigan for Hillary Clinton.

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Election Day Open Thread #2

UPDATE #5: Judge rejects motion from Democrats to extend voting times in Denver:

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UPDATE #4: Democrats get excited about reports that the state of Georgia is closer than expected, though Donald Trump is narrowly ahead:

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UPDATE #3: After an outage of the state’s voter registration system during the day, Democrats go to court to extend voting:

 

Voting hours have also been extended in a key North Carolina county (Durham) due to computer errors.

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UPDATE #2: Polls close at 5:00 (Mountain) in Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and the rest of Indiana/Kentucky.

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UPDATE: The Colorado Secretary of State’s office released new ballot return numbers this afternoon.

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Polls in parts of Indiana and Kentucky close at 6:00 Eastern time. Here we go…

 

Broomfield Voters Are Very Wise

Broomfield is #1…on this list. As “The Fix” reports, Broomfield voters are pretty good at predicting statewide election results if you compare election results from each county:

We looked at this at three levels: Closest to state results since 1960, closest since 1992 and closest in 2012. The 10 counties that have been closest to the state results on average since 1960:

1. Broomfield County, Colo.: 1.1 points average deviation from state
2. Burlington County, N.J.: 1.92 points
3. Beltrami County, Minn.: 2.03 points
4. Stutsman County, N.D.: 2.11 points
5. Poweshiek County, Iowa: 2.48 points

This is certainly interesting to note, though it is a bit misleading; the City and County of Broomfield wasn’t consolidated into one entity until 2001. But for what it’s worth, here’s how early voting looked in Broomfield as of this morning:

Democrats:    10,269
Republicans:  9,492
Unaffiliated:  10,614

So, there’s that.

Guess Who Hasn’t Voted Yet?

TUESDAY UPDATE: As of this morning, still no returned ballots for the Coffmans or Sen. Gardner.

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Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) once promised to spill the beans on his choice for President “when ballots go out.” Denver Post reporter Jon Murray followed up with Coffman’s campaign recently to see if and when the Congressman would make his choice at the top of the ticket, and we’re still waiting:

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BREAKING: State Senate Control Hinges on This District…

Democrat Jenise May

Jenise May

Republican Rep. Kevin Priola

Kevin Priola

Control of the State Senate in 2016 appears as though it will be decided in SD-25 (Adams County), where Republican Rep. Kevin Priola is battling Democrat Jenise May for an open seat being vacated by the term-limited state Sen. Mary Hodge (D-Brighton).

Republicans have directed most of their financial resources in the last week toward SD-25 in hopes of propping up Priola’s sputtering campaign. Nevertheless, voter turnout numbers through Monday show Democrats with a nearly-2,000 vote lead in SD-25.

From everything we hear, Democrats appear to be in pretty good shape in the other two top-targeted State Senate races in SD-19 (Arvada/Westminster) and SD-26 (Cherry Hills). So long as Democratic voters turn out in decent numbers today, Democrats will net a one-seat advantage here (pickup in SD-19 and hold in SD-26), which would erase the one-seat lead for Republicans in the current State Senate makeup.

If May is able to hold of Priola in SD-25 today, Democrats should regain control of both chambers of the state legislature.

No pressure, or anything.

 

Ballot Returns Entering Election Day

UPDATE: Check out the ballot return figures in some of the most-watched races in Colorado today. Figures are accurate as of this morning:

Ballot return numbers through Monday, 11/7/16

Ballot return numbers through Monday, 11/7/16

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Here are the latest ballot return figures as of this morning:

 

Just Vote, Baby!

votebuttonRemember, friends don’t let friends try to mail their ballots today. All ballots must be RECEIVED by your county clerk by 7:00 pm tonight; postmarked ballots that do not arrive before this time will not be counted.

Check JustVoteColorado.org for more information on where to take your ballot or to find your nearest polling location. If you haven’t submitted your ballot or just can’t find it, you can still vote in person.