The Hard Truth About Suicide And Gun-Loving Sheriffs

Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams (R).

FOX 31’s Rob Low correlated a data point in the renewed debate over gun control in general and Colorado’s extreme risk protection order (ERPO or “red flag”) law in particular: something so significant and troubling that we wanted to make sure it was mentioned in this space.

Supporters of Colorado’s “red flag” law say the measure is more likely to prevent suicides than mass shootings, even though it’s the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that led President Donald Trump to embrace red flag laws as a way to reduce gun violence.

In Colorado, more than half of the state’s 64 counties have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries opposed to the the red flag law. Many of those counties have the state’s highest gun suicide rates, according to statistics provided to FOX31 by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment… [Pols emphasis]

Counties with large urban populations like Denver and Boulder tend to have lower rates of suicide by gun: 6.5 deaths per 100,000 people in Denver; 8 per 100,000 people in Boulder between the years of 2013 and 2017. However, Custer County averaged 49 gun suicides per 100,000 people over the same time period.

Gun rights proponents often insist that suicides involving guns should be excluded from statistics used by gun control supporters, arguing that because only the perpetrator is harmed in suicide such incidents shouldn’t “count” as according-to-Hoyle gun violence. But the undeniable positive correlation between access to guns and their use in suicides as well as crimes against other people is why ERPO laws permit the removal of guns from persons ruled to be a risk to themselves or others. Suicide prevention is every bit as important as, and in theory more likely to form the basis of ERPO requests than individuals plotting attacks on others.

With respect to the large number of elected county sheriffs who have announced their intentions to refuse to enforce Colorado’s new ERPO law, the high suicide rate in many of these same counties is going to put these politician-sheriffs in a very difficult position after the law takes effect on January 1, 2020. It won’t be long, perhaps a matter of days, before someone who could have intervened in the suicide of a family member is thwarted by a county sheriff who refuses to enforce Colorado law. It’s not a hypothetical. It’s a certainty.

And it’s not something we’d ever want to face the news cameras to explain.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (August 7)

Welcome back to school, kids. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump is visiting Toledo Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas today in the wake of last weekend’s mass shootings. As the Associated Press reports:

Protesters greeted President Donald Trump’s arrival in Dayton Wednesday, blaming his incendiary rhetoric for inflaming political and racial tensions in the country, as he visited survivors of last weekend’s mass shootings and saluted first responders.

Critics say Trump’s own words have contributed to a combustible climate that can spawn violence such as the outbreaks in Dayton and El Paso, Texas.

Trump rejected that assertion as he left the White House, strongly criticizing those who say he bears some responsibility for the nation’s divisions.

“My critics are political people,” Trump said, noting the apparent political leanings of the shooter in the Dayton killings and suggesting the man was supportive of Democrats.

If pointing fingers healed wounds, President Trump would be our greatest surgeon.

 

► Republican politicians are starting to poke their heads up after a week of mass shootings in the United States and realizing that we have a gun violence problem on our hands. James Hohmann of the Washington Post explains the latest convert:

When the National Rifle Association endorsed Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) for a ninth term last fall, the group noted that he’s consistently maintained an “A” rating and has been “solidly pro-gun.” Literature sent to members emphasized Turner’s opposition to expanding background checks and banning assault weapons, as well as his past vote to immunize gun manufacturers from liability and to force all states, regardless of their own laws, to recognize concealed carry permits issued anywhere else.

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, Turner’s daughter and a family friend had just entered the Tumbleweed Connection bar in Dayton when a gunman opened fire across the street. Nine people were killed, and 27 were injured. The congressman’s daughter ran home, as he prayed for her and the community.

On Tuesday afternoon, Turner announced that he’s had a change of heart on gun control.He said he would vote for an assault weapons ban, limits on the size of gun magazines and for a federal “red flag” law that would make it easier to “quickly identify people who are dangerous” so their firearms can be taken away.

“The carnage these military style weapons are able to produce when available to the wrong people is intolerable,” Turner said in a statement. “I understand not every shooting can be prevented or stopped from these measures, but I do believe these steps are essential. … This tragedy must become a catalyst for a broader national conversation about what we can do to stop these mass shootings.”

As the saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Unfortunately, there is still not yet enough of a will from Republicans to seriously address gun violence. President Trump said Wednesday that he sees “no political appetite” for renewing a long-expired ban on assault rifles in the United States, though he left open the possibility that he would support calling Congress back into session to expand background checks for gun purchases. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing increased pressure to act on gun violence but has so far continued to refuse to even debate a pair of bills passed in February by the House of Representatives.

 

► Plans to move the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management to Colorado were met with skepticism from those who worried that the real motivation for the move was to kill off the agency altogether. Those concerns are now being realized.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Colorado House Republicans Fundraising to Recall Polis

(Everybody on the gravy boat — Promoted by Colorado Pols)
Patrick Neville "Take Back Colorado"
House Republican Leader Patrick Neville is using the statehouse GOP caucus fund to promote another recall effort, this time of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. Neville didn’t pull any punches in his email soliciting donations:
Take Back Colorado logo
Governor Polis has unleashed the most radical and overreaching agenda in Colorado’s history. Chip in now to support a recall of Jared Polis and help us take back Colorado!
Neville sent the email via Values First Colorado (VFC), which also operates “Recall Colorado,” an entity dedicated to recalling Neville’s Democratic colleagues in the state legislature. Take Back Colorado appears to be an “entity” in name only; there is neither a political committee nor a business of that name registered with the Colorado Secretary of State. VFC’s enthusiastic support of statehouse recalls caused some concern among corporate donors earlier this year. Both Xcel Energy and Noble Energy issued statements saying they intended their 2018 donations to VCF to be used to elect Republicans in November’s general election, not recalling Democrats from office. Following those statements, Neville created a new political committee, “Recall Colorado,” presumably to separate recall funds from VFC’s regular election work. The committee’s lone campaign finance report filed on July 15 shows no money raised or spent over its first 30 days. VFC also filed a campaign finance report on July 15. Top donors include the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association ($10,000 on June 12) Farmers Insurance Group ($5,000 on June 13), Ralph Nagel of Top Rock Investments ($5,000 on May 9), and United Health Group, which also gave $5,000 on May 9. The report also revealed VFC’s largest expenditure: $18,000 to Rearden Strategic for “Digital Marketing.” Rearden is owned by Patrick Neville’s brother Joe. That family connection has already raised eyebrows among Colorado press, leading 9News’ Marshall Zelinger to ask party chair Ken Buck if he thought it appropriate for the Neville family to profit from recalls. It’s unclear how much money VFC has spent on Take Back Colorado so far, but at the very least it has created a logo, built a donation page on its fundraising site, and generated an email.
The email promoting Take Back Colorado is very similar in format and wording “Recall Colorado” emails sent by VCF. The logo is identical except for the addition of the words “Take Back.” The same disclosure, that “Take Back Colorado is an entity operated by Values First Colorado and is “Paid for and authorized by Values First Colorado,” appears at the bottom of the message. A phone call to VFC’s registered agent Joe Neville requesting comment was not immediately returned.
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Get More Smarter on Friday (August 2)

Happy National Water Balloon Day. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

UPDATE: Nevermind, then. Ratcliffe has withdrawn from consideration.

Here’s a shocker: President Trump’s pick to be the next director of national intelligence seems to have a problem with making things up about himself. From the Washington Post:

President Trump’s choice to lead the nation’s intelligence community often cites a massive roundup of immigrant workers at poultry plants in 2008 as a highlight of his career. Rep. John Ratcliffe claims that as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Texas, he was the leader of the immigration crackdown, describing it as one of the largest cases of its kind.

“As a U.S. Attorney, I arrested over 300 illegal immigrants on a single day,” Rat­cliffe (R-Tex.) says on his congressional website.

Um, nope. Court documents show that only 45 people were charged by Ratcliffe’s office — and six of the cases were dismissed.

Ratcliffe’s background has come under scrutiny since Trump announced Sunday that he plans to nominate the lawmaker to be the next director of national intelligence, replacing Daniel Coats, a former longtime senator and diplomat who was often at odds with the president.

Ratcliffe has dialed back his earlier claims that he had won convictions in a high-profile terrorism case as a federal prosecutor. His planned nomination has drawn opposition from Senate Democrats and tepid support from key Republicans.

Some current and former intelligence officials have said Ratcliffe is the least-qualified person ever nominated to oversee the country’s intelligence agencies — previous directors have been former diplomats, senior intelligence officials and military leaders — and questioned whether he would use the position to serve Trump’s political interests. [Pols emphasis] The post was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to coordinate the 16 other agencies of the nation’s intelligence community.

As CBS News reports, Ratcliffe doesn’t appear to be all that interested in the subject he would be tasked with overseeing:

The House Intelligence Committee conducts the vast majority of its work behind closed doors and, often, beyond the walls of the Capitol. But a CBS News review of the eight open hearings the committee has held to date show that Ratcliffe engaged comparatively little during those sessions with the substance of intelligence topics in the panel’s purview.

While in open session, he did not ask any questions related to the work of the intelligence community — or unrelated to the Mueller investigation — in his six-month tenure on the panel.

Democrats are planning to put up a prolonged fight in an effort to prevent Ratcliffe’s nomination from being approved in the Senate.

 

► Opponents of recently-passed legislation to add Colorado to a list of states that would choose the President via a national popular vote have submitted signatures to get their measure on the ballot in 2020. Whether this actually makes political sense is another topic altogether.

 

A bunch of new laws go into effect in Colorado today, including a measure to provide cost transparency by hospitals and a cap on co-pay costs for life-saving insulin medication.

 

► According to an analysis by the Washington Post, a majority of House Democrats now support moving forward with impeachment hearings against President Trump. Aurora Democratic Rep. Jason Crow recently announced his support for impeachment proceedings.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Donors to “Official” Recall Polis Group Want Their Money Back

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

From Colorado Times Recorder intern Noah Zucker:

Across Colorado, the conservative movement to recall Democratic Gov. Jared Polis has been divided for weeks. Now, supporters of one of the groups promising to remove the governor believe they’ve been cheated out of their donations.

Recall discussions started on social media soon after Polis took office. In the ensuing months, the initial “Recall Polis” effort split into two groups: “Resist Polis PAC Recall” and the “Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis.” The word “official” in the second group’s name doesn’t denote any formal standing. It’s simply what they decided to call themselves.

On July 8, the Resist Polis group filed a recall petition with the Secretary of State and, upon approval, launched a signature gathering effort. Over 631,000 valid signatures from registered Colorado voters must be collected in 60 days to successfully put the gubernatorial recall on the ballot.

“Does anyone know how to get our money back from the fraud group if we donated?” Taylor Winters asked in the Resist Polis PAC Recall Facebook group last week.

Winters, a member of the Resist Polis PAC group, said that Shane Donnelly, who runs the “official” Recall Polis Facebook group, “took people’s money [and] did nothing with it,” before refusing “to cooperate for a common goal” with the rest of the recall movement.

(more…)

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Neville: “Establishment Republicans” Oppose Recalls Because They’re Not Profiting from Them

(You’re not supposed to say that part out loud — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado House Republican leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock thinks “establishment Republicans” don’t support efforts to recall Democrats from office because the establishment Republicans aren’t “profiting from it.”

While Neville said his organization, RecallColorado.com, is “willing to work with anyone and spend money on any of these recalls” in Colorado, “there’s a lot of different establishment Republicans out there trying to discourage that, because they’re not profiting on it.”

Neville made the comments during an interview on KLZ AM-560’s Rush to Reason show Thursday.

It’s not news that Colorado Republican Party leaders are bitterly divided on whether Democrats, including state legislators and Gov. Jared Polis, should be recalled from office.

What’s new is Neville’s accusation that opposition from establishment Republicans stems from their not making money from the recalls.

So-called establishment Republicans who’ve come out against the recalls include Ryan Call, who’s a former leader of the Republican Party; Cole Wist, a former state lawmaker; State Sen. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale); and Tyler Sandberg, a prominent GOP political operative.

Sandberg did not immediately return a call seeking to know whether he opposed the recall efforts because he was not profiting on them.

But some folks who could arguably be called “establishment Republicans,” such as state GOP vice Chair Kristi Burton Brown and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, appear to support recalls, so the division between establishment and grassroots Republicans on the recall question may not be so stark.

In addition to Neville, recall campaigns have been supported by non-establishment Republicans such as pro-gun activist Dudley Brown.

Journalists have raised questions about whether Neville’s family members and their allies are themselves profiting from the recall campaigns.

9News’ Marshall Zelinger questioned GOP state leader Ken Buck on the topic in April:

Zelinger: House Minority Leader Patrick Neville has come out supporting recalls. His family could benefit from recalls because that’s their business. Should it be appropriate for elected officials and their families to profit off of recalls and elections? By being hired for election purposes–this is an added election outside of a cycle–perhaps this is being done in a way that benefits the family business?

Buck understood the logic behind the question but didn’t answer it.

Buck: So, Patrick’s brother is a consultant in the business and certainly there were some resources from the House fund that were used in the last cycle and his brother ran some of that political operation. I think that is something that Patrick and the elected Republicans in the state House will have to decide. It’s not something the state party will intervene in in any way

9News anchor Kyle Clark raised the profit issue after Brown and allied Republicans, like Burton, dropped their plans to recall Aurora Democratic lawmaker Tom Sullivan in July.

KYLE CLARK: The failed attempt to recall Democratic State Rep. Tom Sullivan did not raise one dollar and it did not spend a dollar. We learned that from some financial filings. Now that sounds funny unless you heard us saying weeks ago that this recall was really about a gun rights group called Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. The head of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners says, they funded the entire recall and guess what? They don’t have to disclose their donors. So we are left to take that special interest group at its word that this was not just a fundraiser designed as a recall that was never going to succeed. We are left to take them at their word that they took in $30,000 and spent more than that $45,000 on a failed signature-gathering effort. If those happen to be your dollars, and your trust, my condolences.
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Editorial Boards Across Colorado Discourage Recall Fever

For several months newspaper editorial boards from every part of Colorado have been opining against the various recall efforts underway or under consideration by right-wing activists around the state. There are now more than a dozen editorials from across Colorado encouraging readers to “just say no” to signing a recall petition. Here’s a quick look at some of the most recent offerings:

The Denver Post (7/22/19)

From the Denver Post:

This summer we urge Colorado voters to decline to sign recall petitions for three elected officials.

These men and women – Gov. Jared Polis, Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood, and Sen. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs – have done nothing nefarious, or illegal or untoward. Rather, they face recalls for their votes, or in the case of the governor his signature, on issues the petition gatherers disagree with.

These are not matters that should be decided by a special election. These are issues that should be decided by the next regular election. That’s how our Democracy works – someone is elected for a term and barring some exceedingly rare and horrendous action on the part of an elected official, they serve that term until the next election. Then voters can have their say.

Recalls are not meant to be do-over elections.

The Colorado Springs Business Journal (7/26/19)

From the Colorado Springs Business Journal:

Recall elections come with a massive price tag, and not just in terms of dollars and cents.

It’s difficult to pinpoint how much a special election — the process required under Colorado Secretary of State rules — costs on a statewide level. However, in Colorado Springs alone as recently as April, the cost of a citywide special election was estimated at a half-million dollars. It stands to reason the cost of recalling a statewide official like the governor would be exponentially higher.

“It’s far better to rein in the recalls and stop the silliness now, for the sake of good governance, for our business climate and for our state’s future.”

And that’s an untenable investment to ask of taxpayers, especially when you consider that special elections historically have low voter turnout.

Recall costs aside, the process is also disruptive to good governance. When lawmakers must constantly step lightly in order to avoid losing their jobs, what chance do they have to draft thoughtful or change-making legislation? How can we expect any level of productivity?

The Colorado Springs Independent (7/24/19)

And from the Colorado Springs Independent:

It’s a sniveling threat from some far-right interests, and it’s all because the Legislature passed and the governor signed some very progressive policies during the 2019 session.

Which leaves us with a question. At what point did we become a selfish, whiny society that has made it easier to threaten to take someone’s job away than to admit you made a mistake and change it when the opportunity arises?…

…So rather than find better candidates and prepare them for victory in 2020 and beyond, they’re whining and threatening those who are doing the job for one simple fact: They’re. Doing. Their. Jobs. When it swings back to the right, what’s to stop the far left from doing the same thing?

You get the idea. From the Pueblo Chieftain and the Greeley Tribune to the Durango Herald and the Grand Junction Sentinel, the conclusion has been the same: This recall madness is wrong and it needs to stop.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (July 26)

It’s been a long, strange week in the land of politics — particularly if your name is Ken Buck — so let’s wrap things up. It’s time to “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

 It would seem to be inarguable that Russia (and perhaps others) interfered in the 2016 election, and it seems likely that they are going to try again in 2020. As CBS News reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is actively working to make sure that nobody in the United States is effectively able to prevent future interference:

Hours after former special counsel Robert Mueller testified Wednesday that Russians are still meddling in the U.S. political system, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the advancement of legislation to secure the nation’s election system. Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith also blocked a set of bills on election security Wednesday.

In blocking the legislation crafted by Senate Democrats to provide more funding for election security, McConnell declared the effort partisan and insisted the Trump administration has already done much to secure the nation’s elections.

One bill McConnell objected to would have both required the use of paper ballots and provided funding for the Election Assistance Commission. He also objected to legislation that would have required campaigns and candidates to report offers offers of election-related aid from foreign governments.

McConnell’s blocking of the legislation also comes as the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report identifying significant vulnerabilities — like aging voting equipment, paperless machines without backups and insecurity voter registration basis — exist in the United States’ election system.

As Paul Waldman writes for the Washington Post, McConnell’s rationale for cutting off election security funding is essentially that Republican candidates benefit from his inaction:

Republicans have quite plainly looked at our current state of electoral dysfunction and concluded that it’s working pretty darn well for them. Donald Trump is president, isn’t he? Why would we want to mess with a system that’s producing such wonderful outcomes?

 

► We’ve spent a lot of time in this space recently discussing the various recall grifting operations taking place across Colorado — including at least one example of a recall effort convincing poor saps to part with a piece of their Social Security checks. As Politico reports, the conservative ScamPAC business is humming these days:

After recruiting thousands of donors for the American Conservative Union — the powerful organization behind the annual CPAC conference — a Republican political operative pushed the same contributors to give millions to a PAC that promised to go after then-President Barack Obama, but then steered much of their donations to himself and his partners.

The PAC, called the Conservative Majority Fund, has raised nearly $10 million since mid-2012 and continues to solicit funds to this day, primarily from thousands of steadfast contributors to conservative causes, many of them senior citizens. But it has made just $48,400 in political contributions to candidates and committees. Public records indicate its main beneficiaries are the operative Kelley Rogers, who has a history of disputes over allegedly unethical fundraising, and one of the largest conservative fundraising companies, InfoCision Management Corp., which charged millions of dollars in fundraising fees.

The saga of how politically connected fundraisers used one of the nation’s leading conservative organizations as a springboard for fundraising that mainly benefited the fundraisers themselves sheds light on the growing problem of so-called scam PACs — organizations that take advantage of loosened campaign finance laws to reap windfalls for insiders while directing only a small portion of receipts to actual political advocacy.

If only you could still make a fortune by pretending to raise money for the purposes of attacking Hillary Clinton. Those were the days, eh, Ted Harvey?

 

► Westword’s Chase Woodruff explains how Republicans like Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton are actually trying to scuttle public lands legislation by introducing a new bill of their own. We waded into this topic earlier this week.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Why “Overreach” Is The Dumbest Word In Colorado Politics

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

A new poll from Republican David Flaherty’s Magellan Strategies, who since last year’s landslide election for Democrats has been increasingly frank about the bleak future of the Colorado Republican Party given the state’s demographic and electoral trajectory, is prompting much discussion today in the local political chattering class. The poll offers quotable quotes to both sides, but ends in a conclusion you already know: Republicans are in serious trouble in this state going into next year’s election, and there’s no authentic appetite for recalling either Gov. Jared Polis or Democrats in the legislature. The Colorado Sun’s John Frank:

President Donald Trump gets low marks. Gov. Jared Polis is popular. And people lean toward thinking that the state is headed in the right direction…

“I think having President Trump at the top of the ticket is not good for any Republican running,” said Ryan Winger at Magellan Strategies, which released its poll numbers Thursday.

…In its new poll, Magellan forecasted that 36% of 2020 voters would be unaffiliated with a political party, 33% will be Democrats, 30% would be Republicans and 1% would be from other parties. So it showed a 3-point advantage to Democrats.

The Denver Post’s Nic Garcia reports beneath the obligatory headline “Democrats overreached but…”

Asked if Democrats “went too far and were out of touch with everyday Coloradans,” 45% agreed. Meanwhile, 40% of voters said Democrats did not overreach.

Despite those feelings, most voters — 47% — said they’re not interested in efforts to recall Polis or state lawmakers, according to the poll conducted by Magellan Strategies, a Republican Colorado-based firm…

The survey results, released Thursday morning, mirror earlier findings: Coloradans are generally pleased with Polis, split on the direction state is going and unhappy with President Donald Trump.

And 9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger:

Based on the 500 survey responses, 45% felt that Polis and the legislature overreached this past session, compared to 40% who did not think so…

Unaffiliated voters are the largest bloc in Colorado, and 50% of unaffiliateds support not recalling Polis, compared to 32% who would recall him. Of the Republicans surveyed, 62% said yes compared to 24% saying no. The Democrats responded 66% no and 21% yes to a Polis recall.

The survey also showed Polis had a job approval rating of 49%, 12 points higher than those who felt he was not doing a good job. [Pols emphasis]

Practically from the moment that Colorado Democrats won in a landslide in last year’s elections, Republicans have employed the word “overreach” to describe the Democratic agenda for 2019. The theory was that Colorado voters weren’t upset with local Republicans and Republican policies so much as they were lashing out against President Donald Trump–and that despite the clear mandate for Democrats won in the 2018 elections, they would “go too far” and provoke a “grassroots backlash.”

After relentlessly beating this word into the heads of reporters, the Republican base, and as far as their message penetrates into the plurality of unaffiliated voters in Colorado who decide elections, it’s not at all surprising to see the spurious notion of “overreach” echoed back in poll numbers, much like the polling on the Affordable Care Act that consistently showed voters hated “Obamacare” but loved what the law actually did. And yes, we’ll concede that 45% of respondents agreeing Democrats “overreached” is a message win for the GOP.

But it’s a hollow victory. Even if Republicans are correct that 2018 was a referendum against Trump, dislike for the sitting Republican President greatly exceeds voter concerns about Colorado Democrats “overreaching” according to these poll numbers. Democrats ran on and were elected to pass a Democratic agenda, and Polis’ enduring high favorability is proof that staying the course was the right decision in the face of over-the-top Republican obstruction this year.

In the end, Democrats keeping their promises will never be as offensive to a majority of Colorado voters as Trump’s chaotic Presidency and the Colorado Republicans who have enabled it. That’s what this poll says most clearly, and it’s not even close.

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Recalls: The Last Gasp of a Beaten Republican Party

GOP operative Ben Engen.

The 2018 election, which in Colorado was an unprecedented landslide in modern political history for Democrats, almost immediately resulted in threats by Colorado Republicans to initiate recall elections this year. Back in April, we were forwarded since-deleted video of a briefing by GOP political consultant Ben Engen of Constellation Strategies in which Engen very frankly lays out the real reason why Colorado Republicans should pursue recalls–because voters “aren’t as aware…of a special election like a recall that just comes out of nowhere and blindsides them.” Engen admitted that Republicans can’t win the seats that would be targeted in recalls in general elections, instead telling them to rely on the “re-weighting of the electorate” afforded by an “surprise” recall election.

It took a few months, but in a must-read AP wire story today running coast-to-coast local reporter James Anderson unpacks Engen’s admissions in their full context–and in so doing severely undercuts the whole strategy:

Once reserved for targeting corrupt or inept elected officials, the recall has become part of the toolkit for Republicans seeking a do-over of election results. One GOP strategist in Colorado has put a name to it — “recall season.”

“…There’s a drop-off in turnout from presidential to midterm elections, and the same thing between midterms and off-year elections,” Engen said. “Initiators of a recall can use the timing to maximize that enthusiasm gap.”

To Democrats, that’s essentially an admission that Republicans are using the recall not as a vehicle to oust corrupt officials, but rather as an attempt to game the system and flip seats they otherwise could not win in a regular election. [Pols emphasis]

“The strategists see that a recall may be the best chance of winnowing down the electorate in such a way as to sneak through a seat,” agreed Jason Bane, a Denver-based Democratic operative. “They need something that goes under the radar for it to work.”

Here’s the thing: if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Republican only interested in politics from a team-sports perspective, Engen’s frank admission that the recalls are nothing more than an exploitation of voters’ short attention spans for political advantage isn’t a problem for you. But for regular people not already part of the daily talk radio/social media rage fest against majority Colorado Democrats who actually poll quite well, this is all they need to know to realize that recalls are a massive waste of time and money–solely for the purpose of giving angry partisans a do-over.

And that makes them much less likely to sign a recall petition.

As Anderson summarizes in today’s story, recalls are emerging as a go-to tactic in several other Western states where Republicans are in decline–like in California, where a freshman Senator was recalled in June 2018 just to deny Democrats a supermajority in that state’s legislature for a few more months. In all of these cases, recalls are being used to obstruct the clear intent of general election voters, and achieve electoral results that Republicans no longer obtain legitimately.

If you’re a Republican, and this acknowledgment that your party is in long-term decline and reliant on desperate measures to obstruct an increasingly permanent majority doesn’t trouble you, you’re not likely to be receptive to arguments that the recalls underway in Colorado constitute a gross misuse of the system. But a growing number of influential Colorado Republicans have soured on recalls after the disastrous misfire against Rep. Tom Sullivan. Editorial boards across the state are sounding off as loudly as they can. There is a scenario in which the entire recall movement simply falls apart over the next few weeks as the dubious campaigns underway die on the vine.

But whatever happens will not be a show of strength. In every way that matters, this is a story of GOP weakness.

They admit it.

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Please, Please Don’t Throw Me Into the Recall Thicket!

“Everywhere you look, people are circulating petitions to recall elected officials throughout the state. And yes, it’s all a little silly.”

The Pueblo Chieftain (July 18, 2019)

As you may have heard, there are a lot of nonsense recall campaigns being instituted by a handful of disgruntled Republicans still steaming over big election losses in 2018. Most, if not all, of these recall efforts appear doomed to fail because of disunity, disorganization, and a general lack of sense.

On Thursday, Republican Nancy “Don’t Call Me Pelosi” Pallozzi received official approval to restart her recall of State Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood), apparently after the group realized that they were basing their complaints in part on legislation that Pettersen never even had a chance to vote on (not to mention that the group was trying to collect petition signatures well outside of Pettersen’s actual Senate district).

Newspaper editorial boards across the state have been calling out these recall efforts for months. On Thursday, the editorial board of the Pueblo Chieftain took its turn at the piñata:

If you support the brand of democracy that our country’s founders intended, then you should be worried by all this…

Absent some scandals or demonstrations of monumental incompetence, these recall efforts have to be viewed as what they really are — attempts to undo the will of the voters. The recall supporters are like those kids on the playground who always insisted on a “do-over” every time they lost a game. [Pols emphasis]

Do you want to make this summer a little less silly? Then don’t sign a frivolous recall petition.

The Chieftain makes a very succinct point in this regard by using the example of the various convoluted recall efforts targeting Gov. Jared Polis:

There’s been no indication he’s done anything illegal or improper during his first six months-plus on the job. To the contrary, he’s shown himself to be pretty much the person he advertised himself to be on the campaign trail last year. [Pols emphasis]

Are there people who disagree with some of his initiatives? Sure. Those were, in large part, the same people who voted against him last November. But guess what? Polis won that election, with the support of the majority of the state’s voters.

From The Durango Herald (April 12, 2019)

The Greeley Tribune made a similar argument in March about recall efforts targeting then-Rep. Rochelle Galindo:

The best advice we can offer recall backers is put your money into electing a better candidate in 2020. [Pols emphasis] In 2018, 22,783 people cast ballots, with more than 12,000 voting for Galindo. Republican candidate Michael Thuener received more than 10,000 votes, but still lost by 7 percentage points.

Recall elections are costly, especially considering the two-year timeline of elections for the District 50 seat. Instead, it’s fine to oppose Galindo, but let her do her job. Then if she’s not working for this community, elect a new candidate, but do it in 2020.

The Galindo recall was the first such effort of 2019…and also the first to acknowledge that its actions were strictly an attempt to re-do the November election. Back in April, former Weld County GOP Chairwoman Stacey Kjeldgaard candidly (or accidentally) admitted that that Galindo recall effort was mostly about the fact that she was a Democrat and not because of any of her actions or votes at the State Capitol.

“Recall is a tool voters should use only to remove people from office who are seriously negligent in performing their duties or are engaged in official misconduct.”

The Grand Junction Sentinel (June 18, 2019)

A few months later, the Grand Junction Sentinel hit on the same points:

Some Coloradans don’t like recent legislative outcomes, so they’re interested in either changing them or punishing lawmakers for taking certain positions…

…Throughout its history, The Sentinel has taken the position that recalls are only appropriate in cases of malfeasance or incapacity. Competence is in the eye of beholder. One voter’s anger over a legislator’s record is another’s joy. There’s a huge difference between recalling someone because they are corrupt and trying to remove them from office because you disagree with their policies.

Ditto Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry from May 14:

There’s a handful of loosely related far-right extremists trying to undermine Colorado’s election system to serve their own political purposes. Among them is Joe Neville, who runs a political action committee called Values First Colorado. He’s the brother of GOP state Rep. Patrick Neville, a champion for snuffing bills like Colorado’s red flag law in favor of arming teachers with guns in schools. Joe Neville wants to recall a few Democratic state lawmakers because they voted for bills focusing on things like protecting children from sexual abuse by providing better sex ed at school, and a bill making sure local cops aren’t tools of national immigration police.

We’re not talking about extreme measures like making kids get their vaccines or making bikers wear motorcycle helmets, we’re talking about no-brainer legislation that real people in Colorado have repeatedly said they want.

These recalls are beyond Colorado crazy. This is Trump crazy.

About a month earlier, the editorial board of the Durango Herald explained how previous recall efforts merely proved that organizers were the ones who were out-of-touch with Colorado voters:

Colorado in this respect has been spooked by 2013, when two Democratic members of the state Senate were recalled, including the Senate president, after they supported gun-control measures. (Durango Rep. Mike McLachlan, another Democrat, also was targeted.) Republicans were elected in their stead, and then, in the 2014 election, they were defeated by Democrats. It was a circular exercise.

Last year, an effort to recall La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, one of two Democrats on the three-seat board, fell just short of the number of petition signatures needed. Then, in November, voters put a third Democrat on the commission.

“Oh, please don’t try to recall me.”

And here’s the editorial board of the Denver Post from April 10:

Some of the folks who are spinning this web of outrage, especially state House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, should know better. His vocal support of the recall efforts of Sen. Jeff Bridges, Rep. Meg Froelich and Rep. Rochelle Galindo is painting him and the caucus he leads as political operatives rather than thoughtful lawmakers doing the work of the people at the Capitol.

Colorado Republicans aren’t really pretending that these recall efforts are anything other than an attempt to line the pockets of consultants and sidestep Colorado voters in order to sneak in a few more Republican lawmakers. As these editorials show, the folly of these recalls look the same anywhere you travel in Colorado.

We’ve thought for awhile now that the idiocy of these recall efforts is backfiring on Colorado Republicans by giving Democrats new reasons to organize and reach out to voters a year ahead of the next election. Ol’ Brer Rabbit would be mighty proud.

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House GOP Chief Of Staff Pfaff Answers Accusation Of Threatening Fellow Republican

(Republican Party events are probably great fun these days — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Republicans continue to air internal disputes over the airwaves and social media, accusing and denying various claims of blackmail, threats and extortion.

House GOP Chief of Staff Jim Pfaff joined KNUS’ Chuck & Julie show for an hour-long interview on Monday. Responding to ongoing claims in a Denver Post column by former El Paso County Chair Josh Hosler that he threatened Hosler’s family, Pfaff technically denied the accusation, but with some significant qualifications:

KNUS host Julie Hayden: I mean one of the things he did in [the op-ed] is he attacked you for saying you were going to attack his family, right?
Pfaff: “It’s just amazing that he has been implying that the whole time. Now, if he feels threatened or whatever, I don’t– all I did was just tell him, “What if I were threatening you.” I didn’t threaten to threaten him. I didn’t say I was going to do it. And obviously, after the phone call, I didn’t.”

Listen to the exchange here, which begins with Hayden’s radio partner Chuck Bonniwell reading from Hosler’s guest column:

Pfaff also explained the origins of the dispute, recounting Hosler’s issues with Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) president Dudley Brown:

House Minority Chief of Staff Jim Pfaff: About mid-May, someone told me that Josh was putting together a book to try to expose Dudley Brown and RMGO for personal issues. And I’m like, “WHAT?!” But I kind of pawned it off for a little bit, until I got a call from someone who …would have been dragged through the mud by what Josh was trying to claim with Dudley, had they talked to him. Well, fast forward [to] just a few days after that, and he and I are having a Twitter battle over this whole thing. We’re ramping up — [Colorado Republican Party Vice Chair] Kristi Brown is ramping up the whole recall. And I’m like, going back and forth on Twitter with him, like, “Can we just back off of this? Why are we fighting together? We got to get this thing going! Maybe it won’t work, but it’s definitely not going to work if we’re all in a circular firing squad.

The recall Pfaff is referring to was the failed attempt to remove Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial), a joint effort of RMGO and the Colorado Republican Party. Although embraced by Minority Leader Neville and Vice Chair Brown, (both considered RMGO allies) the wisdom of the longshot endeavor had been questioned by other GOP officials and leaders.

Hosler stands by his column, saying via email that he has a recording of Pfaff’s threat that he has shared with others and that the Denver Post would not have printed his column without that recording. In an email, Editorial Page Editor Megan Schrader said that while she had not heard a recording of the call, in the fact-check she conducted with Pfaff he did not refute the conversation he had and that he would let Hosler’s statement stand on its own.

Rep. Dave Williams

Hosler also confirmed the claims made on Facebook by El Paso County GOP Women President Missy Ward, that Rep. Dave Williams (R-Colorado Springs) shared false rumors about Hosler w/ Pfaff in an attempt to blackmail him. Hosler further accused Williams of using those same rumors to “extort” him last year:

“While I was Chairman of El Paso County Rep Party, Rep. Williams tried to use the same rumors that Pfaff tried to use to extort me. Rep Williams said if I didn’t make sure he did not get a primary in 2018 he would smear me with the same false rumors he shared with Pfaff.”

Pfaff posted a link to his radio interview on Facebook, calling the dispute a “petty situation” and saying he “answered the accusations made against [him] by Josh Hosler.”

Rep. Mark Baisley (R-Roxborough Park) supported Pfaff on Facebook, commenting:

“I listened live to your interview, Jim. I believe that you clarified matters. It was not a case of getting too cozy with [Rocky Mountain Gun Owners]. Rather, some leftover tenderness from a lost election that did not seem fair to Josh.”

Longtime Colorado conservative Matt Arnold, who is the filing agent for Neville’s House GOP caucus fund, Values First Colorado, took issue with Bailey’s assertion that Republicans can’t afford this much infighting because a “far more determined and cruel enemy is lurking.” Arnold tracked Pfaff’s complaints about “establishment GOP operatives mucking up the system,” saying that the GOP’s real enemy is the “establishment crony class.”

Pfaff’s comments about the establishment echo those he made on the radio, when he told the hosts:

There is a cadre of consultants who make a lot of money by keeping the status quo that we’ve lived with for the last 15 years. I complained about it when I was chairman of the Douglas County Republican Party and on the state committee. This has been a problem for a long, long time. I’ve been a consultant myself in previous years, prior to going to Washington D.C., and I don’t have a problem with people making money doing consulting. My problem is that they’re not about winning.
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Do Not Sign That Recall Petition

(Another Republican voice of reason — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Senator Robert Kennedy once said “All of us might wish at times that we lived in more tranquil world, but we don’t.  And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity” 

As Coloradans, we have a lot of freedom.  Through our state constitution, written in 1876 and continually amended, we have created a government of, by, and for the people.  Colorado voters expect the people they send to Denver as state senators and representatives to be busy during their 120 session. Those four months are challenging but they are also filled with opportunity.

Far from what you expect out of Washington D.C.; the Colorado General Assembly is comprised of 100 of the most unique individuals that you could assemble.  Every two years brings new blood, new vision and new leadership to each chamber. Every legislator can sponsor five bills, guaranteed to have a hearing, regardless of where they are from or what party they belong to.  

The 2018 election produced 19 Democrats out of 35 seats to hold the majority in the state senate and an astounding 41 Democrats out of 65 seats in the House of Representatives.  There were several controversial bills of the legislative session, from energy policy to new gun laws. Despite heated rhetoric of the folks in the minority, at least one Republican lawmaker voted for 441 of 460 bills that passed both houses and headed to Governor Polis.  The Governor vetoed five bills, and signed the other 455.

We only have a few short months of time when elected officials can govern.  We expect senators and representatives to put aside partisanship and do what is in the best interest of the entire state, not just their districts.  Voters should protect the politicians that aren’t afraid to offer controversial topics, to expand our democracy by representing a minority or contrary opinion in those beautifully restored chambers in Denver.  Only through debate, compromise and contrition can we craft the best public policy.

Unfortunately, this April, when Colorado Republicans elected a new leadership team, they decided to go in a totally different direction.  Chairman and Congressman Ken Buck of Weld County, said during his victory speech that “we need to teach Democrats how to spell recall.” 

You would think that being in the minority would encourage Republicans to develop a new strategy that would expand their beleaguered base.  By electing Buck, Republicans have decided that after every general election they lose they can try a second time to pick up certain seats by targeting them in a recall.  

The right to recall an elected official is an important constitutional right that doesn’t exist in every state.  Elected officials that take bribes, trade their votes for money or influence, or commit other crimes while in office should be recalled.  There are emergencies that exist that require the people to remove an elected official and replace them before their term expires.

But with this power comes great responsibility: voters must judge when a recall is little more than a partisan attempt to circumvent the will of the majority and instead allow a minority of voters to replace that elected official.    In November of even numbered years, we see more voter participation and information about candidates. I trust Colorado voters to get the decision right the first time, and hope those that lost would try harder in two years, not in ten months when less than 30 percent of the voters participate in a surprise election.

Think about the cost of designing ballots and verifying signatures that the Colorado Secretary of State must do prior to an election.  Mailing every voter in a state senate district, or even statewide, is an unnecessary expense when our tax dollars could go toward so many more worthwhile projects.

Voters, please do not sign a recall petition.  Every state representative is up for election in 2020, as are 18 of the 35 state senate seats.  We have one more 120 day session as well as months of time to contemplate how this legislature and our new governor have behaved in office.  Colorado has to fund K-12 education, transportation infrastructure, healthcare, PERA and dozens of other pressing issues. Every cent spent pushing unnecessary recall elections is a wasted dollar that could be spent elsewhere in the budget.

The push to recall Governor Polis started as soon as he was sworn in.  What is the rush? Are Colorado Republicans are afraid that 2020 will reveal more losses across the state as Trump heads their ticket? Why should Democrats, or anyone, have to learn how to spell recall? Should we allow a small minority of passionate voters free reign to terrorize our elected officials?

As we move closer toward 2020, I like to think we are at a time and place where we can sit down and solve the problems we face.  I prefer to follow once more the example of Senator Robert Kennedy, who said “what we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another and a feeling of justice  toward those who still suffer within our country.”

Joshua Hursa is the former President of the Denver Metro Young Republicans and a longtime Colorado political activist.  

 

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Pettersen Recall Gets Recalled After 3 Days

We noted over the weekend that efforts to recall State Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) were off to a bit of a rough start, with the first petition-gathering event taking place at a location that isn’t even within the boundaries of SD-22. As Anna Staver reports for the Denver Post, the entire Pettersen recall effort is being retooled while the group tries to figure out what they are supposed to be mad about:

We don’t yet know the details of why Republicans are attempting a do-over on the Pettersen recall petition, though we can speculate a couple of potential reasons. Perhaps the group decided that Nancy “Don’t Call Me Pelosi” Pallozzi was not the ideal figurehead for the effort. It’s also possible that the group needs to get its hands on a more accurate map of the Lakewood Senate district.

Or perhaps the Recall Pettersen team realized that they made a pretty big mistake in their homework. The recall petition targeting Sen. Pettersen included an incorrect complaint about an alleged vote on HB-1312 (School Immunization Requirements), stating that Pettersen should be recalled in part “because she voted for the passage of” HB-1312.

Trying to increase vaccination rates among Colorado children was a hot topic at the State Capitol for much of the 2019 session, and HB-1312 was ultimately killed before it could come to a vote in the State Senate. Since Pettersen was not on any of the committees that heard earlier versions of the bill, she never cast a vote on HB-1312 one way or the other.

None of the various recall attempts underway in Colorado make any real sense from a practical perspective. Pettersen was elected in November 2018 by a nearly 17-point margin, which does not suggest an undercurrent of disagreement among voters. The feuding groups trying to recall Gov. Jared Polis are likewise ignoring the fact that he defeated Republican Walker Stapleton by 11 points last fall.

The Pettersen recall malfunction is yet another entry in a growing list of blunders from a handful of Republicans activists and consultants who are trying to figure out a way to get around the fact that Colorado voters elected a bunch of Democrats in 2018. We called these efforts “half-baked” in a previous post, but even that might have been a significant overestimation on our part.

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Republican Legislators Skeptical of Latest Recall Attempts

As news of recalls targeting a pair of Democratic state senators circulated through the Western Conservative Summit, two of their Republican colleagues offered their thoughts in response. Both expressed some skepticism at these latest attempts to replace legislators who were elected less than a year ago.

State Sen. Bob Rankin

State Sen. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale)

State Sen. Bob Rankin (R – Carbondale) was appointed to his Senate seat earlier this year, but was first elected to the Colorado legislature in 2012. He compared these new recall petitions of Sens. Brittany Petersen (D-Lakewood) and Pete Lee (D- Colorado Springs) to the 2013 recalls of Sen. Angela Giron and Senate President John Morse:

“You know, it didn’t work out too well that last time we did it [in 2013]. We recalled two of them and then our guys both lost in the next election. It’s a kind of way to publicly protest, but I don’t think it an effective way to choose legislators. We’ve got some tough elections coming up. 

State Rep. Matt Soper (R-Delta)

Another Western Slope legislator, Rep. Matt Soper (R -Delta) also commented on the recalls. Soper is a freshman legislator first elected to office last fall, but noted he’s been working in politics for nearly two decades.

Since I don’t live in either of their districts it really doesn’t matter, but if I did as a colleague -someone who has to work with them- I wouldn’t sign a recall- just as a blanket policy. I think the recall is a tool. I might not push it myself, but I think if you live in the district and you really want to recall you should go ahead and sign it. I’d say 95 of the legislators (there are maybe five who are really partisan), think about representing their district first with every vote. But I think for all these people [recall targets Galindo, Sullivan, and now Lee & Pettersen], the voters pretty much knew what they were getting.

The group Resist Polis PAC, which is also trying to recall Governor Jared Polis, is backing both recalls. They now have 60 days to collect 18,376 valid signatures in Pettersen’s district and 11,304 signatures in Lee’s district. If successful, special elections would then be scheduled. Pettersen and Lee each won their 2018 elections by approximately 20% margins.

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Lee, Pettersen Prepare To Fight Half-Baked Recalls

UPDATE: Here’s some evidence that the recall campaign against Sen. Brittany Pettersen is not off to what you’d call a well-organized start:

Sure enough, Green Mountain Presbyterian Church on West Alameda is way outside SD-22, smack dab in the heart of Sen. Jessie Danielson’s district to the west.

Forward to victory, boys.

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Sens. Brittany Pettersen, Pete Lee (D).

As the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul reports, just before close of business yesterday recall petitions were approved for circulation against two Democratic state senators who just won elections in 2018 by wide margins: Sen. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs, and Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood.

Both won their seats by wide margins in the November 2018 general elections. Pettersen took her seat with 58% of the vote while Lee secured 62%.

“I’m proud of my record. This is an unfortunate abuse of power,” Pettersen told The Colorado Sun on Friday afternoon. “This is what (regular) elections are for when you disagree with somebody. I look forward to talking about why I ran for office and the work that I’ve done in the time that I’ve been elected and what I did last session.”

Pettersen added that she thinks the recall’s backers are “completely out of touch with voters in the community” and that “they keep messing with the wrong people.” She and her supporters have been preparing for weeks for a potential recall effort and have already been rallying support in the district.

Lee echoed Pettersen’s sentiment, saying “I’m really disappointed that people would undermine and disrespect the voters and the democratic process by attempting to recall someone for the votes that they took.”

Both lawmakers are being targeted for the same arithmetic reason: although recall elections are intended to be reserved for cases of official misconduct and crime, the signature requirement to initiate a recall election of a state lawmaker is low enough to make the job relatively straightforward for a well-funded petition gathering drive. It’s only necessary to gather 11,300 signatures to get a recall on the ballot in Sen. Lee’s urban Colorado Springs SD-11, and just under 18,400 in Pettersen’s suburban SD-22. Where the signature requirement to recall a statewide officeholder is dauntingly high, recalls of individual lawmakers have been celebrated by Colorado Republicans as giving them voting leverage they no longer can count on in a general election.

With that said, there’s real question about whether or not these recalls have any actual support among either Republican insiders or rank-and-file members. There’s no way to know for sure how a signature campaign is going until the campaign turns in signatures or they concede failure ahead of the deadline like in the case of the campaign against Rep. Tom Sullivan. But at this point we haven’t seen anything like a Republican wave of support for these two latest recalls. In fact,

If local Republican operative Tyler Sandberg of EIS Solutions is to be believed, these recalls are not moving forward with the support of the Republican donor/consultant class. It is possible that the months of infighting, nasty press, and strategic blunders like the Sullivan fiasco really have persuaded smart Republicans to give up on recalls and focus on the rapidly approaching 2020 elections.

But until anyone knows for sure whether this is a bonafide or silly-season threat to either lawmaker, Democrats are obliged to not just take the threat seriously but to capitalize to maximum advantage on the organizing opportunity this presents for Democrats in their districts. In the next 60 days we expect both will walk their districts like it’s the fall before a general election–which is the best possible defense against both the signature drive and, should it come to it, a recall election.

As for Republicans who want to pursue recalls instead of focusing on the next regular election, they’re going to keep doing it until they lose enough times to realize it won’t work. The only thing you can be sure of is Democrats will not be complacent to the threat ever again–or until the law is changed to preserve recalls for offenses that deserve the ultimate political punishment.

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Throwback Thursday: Cory Gardner, Meet Dudley Brown

As Republicans bicker in hindsight over the takeover of the Colorado Republican Party in recent years by hard-right elements supported by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners advocacy group, which has led the party down a path of increasingly unelectable candidates and such political self-made disasters as the recent failed attempt to recall freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan from office, we thought it would be useful to recall a time, not so long ago, when Dudley Brown and his strident friends were welcomed into the fold by the state’s highest ranking Republicans. In 2010 when this photo was taken, the “Tea Party” insurgency against President Barack Obama was in full swing, and then-state Rep. Cory Gardner was delighted to accept Dudley’s money and brand support.

RMGO may be a scapegoat in today’s short-attention-span news cycle, but they’ve been shaping both the makeup and the direction of the Republican Party for many years. Cory Gardner knows it better than most, because he’s been a favorite of RMGO and the “softie” National Rifle Association for his whole career.

On the upside, Gardner hasn’t aged a day in ten years, has he?

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Bob Beauprez is Joshua Hosler’s “Puppet Master,” Says Dudley Brown

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Dudley Brown.

Dudley Brown jumped on a conservative radio show this morning to respond, for the first time, to a Republican’s accusation that his organization, which is aligned with the right wing of the Republican Party, is “Colorado’s Taliban.”

Joshua Hosler, the former chair of the El Paso County Republican Party, expressed the view in a Denver Post opinion piece, in which Hosler also accused the State House Republicans’ Chief of Staff of threatening to spread rumors about Hosler unless Hosler agreed to stop attacking Brown’s group, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

“[Hosler] is speaking for the left side of the Republican Party,” Brown told KNUS 710-AM’s host, Peter Boyles. “We call that the establishment. He might as well admit that Bob Beauprez is his puppet master.”

Brown called Hosler a “very very minor player” in the Republican Party and a “failed state house candidate,” who is “a little butt hurt because we endorsed his opponent,” State Rep. Dave Williams.

The dispute between Hosler and Brown reflects wider divisions within the Colorado Republican Party over whether to moderate hard-line stances, stop using losing consultants, distance themselves from Trump, and other issues in the wake of devastating losses in last year’s election–as well as the prospect of another blue-wave thrashing at the ballot box next year.

“I think the frustration for both Bob Beauprez and little players like Joshua Hosler is that the [Republican] Party has moved pretty substantially to the right on guns, and that’s been due to us,” said Brown on air. “Setting all humility aside, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners is the group that given [Republicans] a spine. And Greg Brophy, the former state senator, has talked about that frequently.”

(more…)

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Gardner Pours Cold Water on Polis Recall

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner, former state Sen. Tim Neville.

Cory Gardner thinks Colorado Republicans should focus on winning the next election, not recalling Democratic Gov. Jared Polis from office.

Asked about the Polis recall, Gardner recently told El Paso Republicans, as first reported by The Denver Post:

GARDNER: “You know what, we gotta focus all we can on winning in 2020; getting our congressional seats back, getting our state legislature back … . “That’s where I’m at. You may agree or disagree, but boy I think we gotta get our nuts and bolts together so that we can win.”

Gardner’s comment aligns with the views of establishment figures within the Colorado Republican Party, who’ve said repeatedly that recall organizers will never collect enough signatures to get the recall measure on the ballot–and the effort itself makes the Republican Party look petty, whiny, and chaotic in the eyes of swing voters. 

But the organizers of the Polis recall have the loud backing of conservative talk radio hosts and many party activists, who are livid at the governor for signing laws this year addressing gun-safety, the presidential popular vote, and comprehensive sex-ed, among other alleged transgressions.

Recall backers also say their organizing efforts will help them win next year’s election, bolstering their voter lists and identifying more volunteers and activists.

Gardner’s decision to publicly throw water on the Polis recall came as a surprise to some political analysts, who’ve noted that Gardner has already angered Republican activists to the point where they have given him a chilly reception at the state’s largest gathering of conservatives, the Centennial Institute’s Western Conservative Summit.

KNUS radio host Randy Corporon has speculated that Gardner was considering skipping this year’s Summit, in part, because he didn’t get a fully “warm reception” there last year. Gardner has decided to attend the gathering this weekend.

On the other hand, Gardner has pleased Republican activists by, among other things, endorsing Trump and approving Trump’s declaration of a national emergency for the purpose of funding a border wall.

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How The Hell Can Patrick Neville Remain Minority Leader?

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock).

Over the weekend, a Denver Post guest opinion piece from former El Paso County Republican Party chairman Joshua Hosler shocked the local political chattering class with allegations of threats both overt and delivered via sinister anonymous phone calls against Hosler for his criticism of powerful conservative activist group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. In particular, Hosler alleges that Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s chief of staff Jim Pfaff threatened to expose alleged professional and personal misdeeds if Hosler didn’t “back off” RMGO.

Last night, Denver7 ran a follow-up story on the fallout from Sunday’s disclosures, and got a response from Minority Leader Neville about the actions of his chief of staff on behalf of RMGO–who in addition to being a political ally is also a registered lobbying organization before the General Assembly:

House Minority Leader Rep. Patrick Neville, who is a supporter of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners sent a statement to Denver7 about the infighting among Republicans saying it’s time for the party to come together.

“…Party infighting needs to stop. We achieve great things when we come together to fight for liberty and freedom. The Democrats know we cannot be defeated if we stand together. My Chief of Staff made amends and publicly said so. He has done a great job with this caucus. Unfortunately, we still have some in the GOP who would prefer to divide us. [Pols emphasis] It is unfortunate, but it will not deter us,” Rep. Neville’s statement read.

As you can see, Minority Leader Neville doesn’t think his chief of staff’s threats on behalf of RMGO are the problem here. The problem as Rep. Neville sees it is Joshua Hosler, for daring to second-guess the decision by Colorado GOP vice chair Kristi Burton Brown, Minority Leader Neville, and RMGO to pursue a recall of freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan. Now that the Sullivan recall campaign has collapsed in a heap, it’s clear in retrospect that Hosler was right–but that’s criticism, as you can see, that Republicans in high places do not want to hear.

We’ll leave it to lawyers to assess the criminality of the threats made against Hosler by Neville’s chief of staff on behalf of RMGO, but politically this is a totally unacceptable situation. To have a state employee threatening a member of the public on behalf of an organization that both lobbies the legislature and contributes to candidates and campaigns is an outrageous conflict of interest that under ordinary circumstances would send the responsible party to the unemployment line.

But not only will Jim Pfaff keep his job, Minority Leader Patrick Neville is blaming the victim.

Folks, this is not normal. These are fundamental, essential standards being violated. It has been long suggested that the rise of the Neville clan and their allies at RMGO to dominance of the Colorado Republican Party represents something new and more sinister than any other force in contemporary Colorado politics–even accounting for such distasteful figures as Tom Tancredo.

Now it’s on display for all to see.

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Disunity Rages As Polis Recall Petition Drive Kicks Off

TUESDAY UPDATE: The Greeley Tribune’s Trevor Reid reports:

The Official Recall group said that the Dismiss group’s “premature” filing suggests malicious intent, adding the Resist and Dismiss groups may attempt to hijack the Official Recall name and logo.

Asked about such attempts, Karen Murray, co-chairwoman of the Official Recall group, shared a screenshot with the Greeley Tribune showing the main image for a Facebook event, with text reading “Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis Facebook Page.” The event is not supported by the Official Recall group, and calls to remove the Official Recall name have gone unanswered, Murray said. That includes a July 5 post to the event page pointing out the use of the Official Recall name…

Tom Good, chairman for the Resist Polis PAC, said in an email that the Official Recall group’s “actions and decisions fit well into the losing tradition conservatives in Colorado experience due to personality-driven politics and self interests.” [Pols emphasis]

As you can see, this is starting off extremely well.

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UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports that Sen. Cory Gardner is hedging hard on the recall of Gov. Jared Polis–which may not sit well with the Republican faithful he needs in 2020:

Polis beat his Republican opponent, former state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, by 10 points just eight months ago and a recent poll from Keating Research showed 55% of Coloradans think the state is on the right track.

Even the state’s highest-ranking Republican officeholder, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, danced around the question when asked about the Polis recall.

“You know what, we gotta focus all we can on winning in 2020; getting our congressional seats back, getting our state legislature back … ,” Gardner said at a recent Republican Party event in El Paso County. “That’s where I’m at. You may agree or disagree, but boy I think we gotta get our nuts and bolts together so that we can win.”

Pretty far from a vote of confidence.

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Gov. Jared Polis (D).

As Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, a longshot attempt to gather an unprecedented 600,000+ voter signatures to place a recall of Gov. Jared Polis on the ballot will start its 60-day clock this week–this being the product of the Resist Polis PAC headed by local political operative Tom Good in alliance with the “Dismiss Polis” organization fronted by the daughter of far-right Rep. Kimmi Lewis:

The first petition to seek the recall of Gov. Jared Polis — submitted by the group Dismiss Polis — was turned in Monday morning, according to a spokesperson for the Secretary of State.

Monday marks six months since Gov. Jared Polis was sworn into office. It’s also the day that those who seek his recall can officially begin circulating petitions.

A second recall, targeting state Democratic Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood, could be underway by the end of the week, according to a Monday Facebook post from Republican Nancy Pallozzi, who leads that effort.

The combined effort to push a petition to recall Gov. Polis along with petitions to recall specific targeted legislators has been long anticipated by Democrats. Although the Polis recall itself is extremely unlikely to succeed, the thinking is that a Polis petition will serve as an “icebreaker” with potential petition signers for the legislative recalls–since in many cases prospective signers may not even know who their state lawmakers are.

But as we reported last week, the largest of the groups working to recall Gov. Polis, the “Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis Issue Committee,” is actively opposing the Dismiss Polis/Resist Polis petition drive. In a press release that went out earlier this morning, ORCGJP announces they will not cooperate with the Dismiss/Resist petition campaign, and urge their 40,000+ members not to sign:

The Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis Issue Committee (Herein after referred to as ORCGJP) is NOT associated with any other recall groups. After careful consideration and financial review of the conglomerate group Resist Polis PAC, Recall Et All [sic] and Dismiss Polis, it is clear to us that a petition filed at this time will be a failure due to lack of adequate resources and no defined strategy. This conglomerate has stated their intention to file July 10th under the Dismiss Polis Issue Committee.

Combined money in the conglomerate equal $45,882. ORCGJP on-hand contributions are $62,533. Millions of dollars, not thousands, will be required to circulate a petition of this size to recall multi-millionaire Jared Polis. When a petition drops, we expect a mass media offensive by Polis’s team. Without adequate funding or clear plan of action, Dismiss does not have the necessary infrastructure in place to conduct this recall, and while the intention may be good, we believe the recall needs to be handled with proper due diligence and the highest degree of planning to ensure the greatest chance of success.

ORCGJP believes Dismiss’s premature filing also suggests malicious intent, and though we hope that is not the case, we have evidence suggesting Resist/Dismiss may attempt to hijack our ORCGJP name and logo. We feel we must warn potential signers that ORCGJP will not file a petition until we know we can win and have a well-oiled machine ready to roll. While we wish Resist/Dismiss well and hope they are successful, we anticipate “picking up the pieces” after the likely failure of the Dismiss recall petition. While some of their members’ intentions may be in the best interest of this recall, their leaders’ actions do not reflect a desire to successfully recall Jared Polis.

Estimates of what would be necessary in terms of funding to successfully gather the over 630,000 valid Colorado registered voter signatures vary considerably dependent on input factors like the amount of volunteer vs. paid-per-signature canvassing, advertising costs, and other expenses. The absolute bare-bones lowest number we’re heard is somewhere around $1 million for a campaign assuming unprecedented grassroots mobilization and minimal overhead, with higher estimates in the $5-$15 million range utilizing for-profit consultants on the scale that would be needed.

However you arrive at your estimate of the total cost, the tiny fraction that has actually been raised so far makes hope of success for the campaign presently getting underway simply irrational. They haven’t raised enough to physically print the petition forms, let alone carry out a successful campaign to collect the signatures. Meanwhile all the other attendant overhead costs of running a campaign chip away at the amount they’ve raised. Keep in mind that the bulk of fundraising for these groups appears to have come during and immediately following the legislative session, with two intervening months now for momentum to sputter out.

What does this all mean? It means that for all their considerable optics problems, the “Official” Polis recall group is right. The campaign kicking off this week cannot succeed, and because it is doomed to fail risks doing collateral damage–not just to the drive to recall Polis but to any other recalls Republicans may be planning against state legislators. We’ll leave it to readers to decide whether the Dismiss/Resist Polis alliance is a deception being run by allies of Gov. Polis, because in the end it really doesn’t matter.

When you’re your own worst enemy, the outcome is the same.

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House GOP CoS Threatens Fellow Republican Over RMGO

UPDATE: In a column for the Colorado Sun today, GOP attorney Mario Nicolais drives home a similar theme, practically begging fellow Republicans to see reason and focus on rebuilding ahead of the 2020 elections instead of recalls that feel good but ultimately backfire:

Ironically, as the Colorado Republican Party shrinks, its center shifts to the loudest, most ardent voices who have driven away other members of the coalition. The result is a slow, downward spiral that quickens as it closes in on the bottom.

In Colorado, that quickening became evident last year as Republicans lost all levers of power across the state, often by surprisingly large margins. The Republican reaction has been to channel the same energy into recall elections, presumably to take advantage of smaller electorates and concentrated resources.

Unfortunately for Colorado Republicans, the recent spat of recall elections only emphasized an inability to aggregate enough energy and clout to be effective, even in the most hospitable circumstances. That bodes very ominous for Republican hopes of winning back legislative seats, protecting Sen. Cory Gardner, or delivering the state’s electoral votes to President Trump in 2020.

When Congressman Ken Buck took the reins of the Colorado Republican Party in March, he declared the party needed to teach Democrats “to spell r-e-c-a-l-l.” As it turns out, the primary lesson to be drawn from recent recalls is that Republicans must learn how to spell “r-e-b-u-i-l-d” if they hope to remain relevant in Colorado politics.

Smart Republicans are saying it. Is there anyone listening? Anyone who isn’t afraid of the threats that will follow (see below) if they speak out too? We’ll have to wait and see how it ends. Like the Godfather movies, it’s far healthier to watch this drama than be part of it.

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House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock).

As Colorado politics starts to come alive again after a long holiday weekend, in today’s Denver Post we’re shocked to read in an op-ed from former El Paso County GOP chairman Joshua Hosler about threats he has received in recent weeks over his opposition to the failed recall attempt against Rep. Tom Sullivan–and the influence of the far-right Rocky Mountain Gun Owners over the Colorado Republican Party at manifold levels.

Hosler, a combat veteran, seems to have been the wrong guy to mess with:

In May I spoke out on social media. RMGO had launched an effort to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan, the Democrat who had defeated Wist and taken his seat in the Colorado House. Members of the Republican Party’s leadership supported RMGO’s efforts and this felt like a mistake…[a]fter that post, I received three calls from anonymous men who threatened me and my family if I did not back off RMGO and Dudley Brown. No one messes with my family, especially cowards. [Pols emphasis]

Then things got worse. On May 30th at 2:50 p.m. I received a call from the chief of staff for the Colorado House Republicans. Jim Pfaff works directly for House Minority Leader Patrick Neville. He asked when I was going to stop attacking RMGO and Dudley Brown. I responded, “I am not going to stop.”

Pfaff then threatened to smear me with rumors — false rumors that I had heard before from someone close to RMGO trying to influence my decisions — that I had rigged the party chair election and had inappropriate relationships with women in the Republican Party. I told Pfaff that I had already heard those fake rumors and it was old news. Pfaff stated, “I am sure I will find more on you.”

That the chief of state for the Colorado House Republican minority, Jim Pfaff, is the one who threatened Hosler on behalf of RMGO is extremely important to fully process. RMGO’s controversial history of attacking insufficiently strident Republicans and stacking GOP primaries with candidates personally loyal to Dudley Brown has essentially transformed the party into Brown’s fiefdom–especially where his closest allies in the Neville family hold sway. The Neville political dynasty in particular owes much of its power to RMGO’s support both for their family and their political allies, so much so that today’s it’s impossible to say where RMGO ends and the party begins in Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s House minority.

Needless to say, it’s even harder now.

The ill-fated Sullivan recall attempt was not just a product of RMGO, it was backed at the highest levels of the Colorado Republican Party. The Sullivan petition was filed by Colorado GOP vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown, who although no relation to Dudley Brown has a long work history with the Nevilles as their committee filing agent. We now know that the “official” Sullivan recall committee claims to have raised and spent nothing, meaning all of the donations and spending for this recall filed by the state party vice chair went through RMGO.

It’s clear that there are Republicans in this state who want to change course. But as this Republican just found out the hard way, changing course will require more than scapegoating one organization. There are other moving parts in the mix, including a long-running operation by two-time gubernatorial loser Bob Beauprez to “purge” the party of RMGO-backed candidates and embarrassments (here’s looking at you, Lori Saine) we’ve heard may try again for the 2020 primaries. It’s evident that nothing less than wholesale regime change in the Colorado GOP is needed, but we’re not at all convinced Colorado Republicans at any level are able to understand what that means.

The one thing we do feel certain of is it’s going to get uglier before it gets better.

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Sullivan Recall: Kiss That Cash Goodbye


9NEWS’ Kyle Clark put a headstone Monday on the failed attempt by the Colorado Republican Party vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown with support from House Minority Leader Patrick Neville and allies (see below) to recall freshman Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan with a look at the “recall campaign’s” fundraising reports–reports that allegedly show precisely $0 raised or spent on the effort. But as anybody who knows how unaccountable “dark money” flows among nonprofit political organizations can tell you, it would be silly to think that’s the whole story:

KYLE CLARK: The failed attempt to recall Democratic State Rep. Tom Sullivan did not raise one dollar and it did not spend a dollar. We learned that from some financial filings. Now that sounds funny unless you heard us saying weeks ago that this recall was really about a gun rights group called Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. The head of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners says, they funded the entire recall and guess what? They don’t have to disclose their donors.

So we are left to take that special interest group at its word that this was not just a fundraiser designed as a recall that was never going to succeed. We are left to take them at their word that they took in $30,000 and spent more than that $45,000 on a failed signature-gathering effort.

If those happen to be your dollars, and your trust, my condolences.

Because recall elections are–controversially–not considered candidate elections but rather “issue questions” under campaign finance law, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners is not technically required to spend disclosable funds in support of a recall of a state legislator. This works the other way, of course, though the instigator of a recall by definition bears the full moral responsibility for all such spending. But just as we’ve observed with the mission-impossible recall attempt against Gov. Jared Polis, raising money quickly becomes the principal objective–and if the goal is simply to amass cash, a recall that doesn’t go forward is a much more lucrative endeavor.

As the old saying goes, a fool and his money are soon parted. But in the era of “ScamPACs” and saturation-level solicitation for donations to all manner of fly-by-night political committees and campaigns, it’s extremely important that donors be aware of not just who they’re giving to, but what the specific plan is for spending their money–including obvious contingencies like the campaign unceremoniously folding up because it was the worst Republican decision since Darryl Glenn.

In every sense of the word, we hope all money donated to RMGO to recall Tom Sullivan was “disposable.” The only thing these donors can say about their money now…is that they don’t have it anymore.

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“Dismiss Polis” Moves Ahead, “Official” Recall Rages

We’re monitoring fresh developments in the long-discussed longshot movement(s) to recall Gov. Jared Polis, which as of next week will finally be able to open their 60-day window to collect an unprecedented 640,000+ signatures–an effort certain to fail without a massive infusion of cash, and even then in pursuit of an historically improbable objective just to reach the ballot. The slim likelihood of success has given rise to countercharges of grift and bad character between the two principal committees, both backed by considerable damning evidence–leading to a third Dismiss Polis campaign which yesterday claimed it will shortly begin circulating petitions.

A post to the smaller of the Polis recall Facebook groups, Resist Polis PAC yesterday announced the details:

A newly drafted recall petition, submitted this week by the Dismiss Polis Issue Committee to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, appears to be the solution concerned Coloradans wanting to recall Governor Jared Polis have sought for months.

Dismiss Polis is not affiliated with any previous recall efforts and will act as a neutral, third-party organization, being the solution to the necessity of only one petition circulating to recall the Governor.

Leadership from the Resist Polis PAC team has voted to circulate the petition of Dismiss Polis this summer, as it fits with our consistent message of unity across the state.

Polis recall petitions will be printed by Dismiss Polis and can be distributed to volunteer signature gatherers across Colorado by any recall organization wishing to assist in the recall efforts. Completed, notarized petition packets would then be returned to Dismiss Polis before all signatures are turned into the Secretary of State.

Our team at Resist Polis PAC encourages any other recall groups to make the right decision for Colorado and circulate the Dismiss Polis petition. Filing a second petition will cause division in a time when Coloradans need unity more than ever. [Pols emphasis]

Sounds like they’ve got their ducks in a row, right? Think again! The above post was to the Resist Polis PAC’s Facebook group, which consists of about 2,000 people. But over at the vastly larger “Official” Recall Polis Facebook group, which has over 40,000 users, alarms are being sounded by group administrators that “Dismiss Polis” is a doomed effort–and worse, even a diversion set up by Gov. Polis himself:

It’s no secret that there are three “Recall Governor Jared Polis” groups. We have ‘Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ (ORCGJP), a Political Issue Committee (PIC), ‘Resist Polis’, a Political Action Committee (PAC), and now ‘Dismiss Polis’, another PIC.

I want you to read this knowing where I stand on this issue, so I will begin by saying I am heavily involved in the ORCGJP group. I was approached by the Resist group, did some research, and figured out they were actually working for Polis, [Pols emphasis] trying to thwart the efforts of of ORCGJP, so I got in with ORCGJP. You will have to figure out this for yourself, but I have already…

We believe, due on their behaviour, that the other two groups exist only to thwart the efforts of ORCGJP… Evidenced by the fact that THE VERY PERSON who took the money from ORCGJP is the head of the Recall Group (Tom Good), and has proof of past run ins with the law including theft as well as embezzelment within a leadership position. How can one support the Recall or Dismiss groups? There are even documented admissions from the other groups, bragging about shutting down ORCGJP’s website over Memorial Day…. Does this sound like behaviour of like minded individuals, getting together on a common goal?… I think not…

Bottom line… DO NOT SIGN ANY RECALL POLIS PETITION 🇺🇸 UNLESS IT IS FROM ORCGJP 🇺🇸.

To summarize, there is a good chance that a petition to initiate a recall election against Gov. Jared Polis will be approved by the Secretary of State on or near the July 8th date they can legally begin to circulate. At the same time, the overwhelming majority of grassroots supporters of a Polis recall are being told that this petition effort is fraudulent and being warned not to sign. All of this combined with the yawning gap between even the most optimistic fundraising estimates and the expected need raises hard questions about the utility of the entire effort–questions that donors will be understandably reticent to answer in the form of a check. As for using a Polis recall petition as a segue into signing petitions against legislators? This controversy could be all it takes to make that strategy a loser.

How will it end? Most likely with a whimper. But like any temper tantrum, it has to play itself out.

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