Enough About Sad Club 20; This Argument is Settled

Colorado Governor Jared Polis

In today’s Denver Post political newsletter “The Spot,” reporter Nic Garcia resurrects a topic that was a brief flashpoint last summer: The demise of Club 20 as a statewide political power. Garcia takes a tone that is oddly deferential to Club 20 and glosses over the reality that the organization made itself irrelevant with a rightward partisan lurch over the last decade:

It has been 205 days since then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis declined to debate his Republican opponent, Walker Stapleton, in front a crowd of Western Slope movers and shakers.

While Polis’ apparent snub of Club 20 meant little to the general public, his calendar conflict sent shock waves through the state’s political class and reinforced – rightly or wrongly – a long-held belief that Colorado Democrats don’t care about the rural parts of the state. [Pols emphasis]

Enough.

This “Democrats hate rural voters” narrative is what Club 20 has clung to in its desperation to remain relevant, but the truth is much simpler: Polis skipped the group’s annual kiss-the-ring gathering in Grand Junction in 2018 because he and his campaign correctly understood that Club 20 doesn’t represent rural Coloradans any more than groups like the Colorado chapter of the NFIB accurately reflect the interests of everyday small business owners.

Club 20 has long presented itself as the voice of the Western Slope, which might have been true at one point; but in the last several election cycles, Club 20 has consistently favored right-wing candidates and oil and gas interests at the expense of all other constituents. When Club 20 zigged right, it never bothered to turn around to check if anyone else was following along. It is true that the annual Club 20 debates were once a key date on the election calendar; people also used to wear leg warmers in public. Things change.

Last summer, Club 20 complained loudly about Polis’ decision to skip their gubernatorial debate – at one point, calling the decision “simply outrageous” – but the absence of the Democratic nominee did little to hurt his General Election hopes. The Republican Governor’s Association later tried hard to spin the Club 20 snub as a broader diss of the Western Slope…which also went nowhere.

This is the point where we remind you that Polis won the election by nearly 11 points over Republican Walker Stapleton.

Polis is Governor today because he outperformed Stapleton in the more heavily-populated parts of Colorado, but he also held his own on the Western Slope. Take a look at this county-by-county map of the 2018 gubernatorial election via the New York Times. You’ll notice that the left side of the map is not engulfed in a giant swatch of red:

Results from 2018 Governor’s race in Colorado, via The New York Times

 

Stapleton carried West Slope counties like Mesa, Delta, and Montrose. But Polis actually came out ahead in counties like Garfield, Routt, and Gunnison. Polis held events all across the Western Slope and did just fine, proving that a statewide candidate can differentiate between the lobby groups and the West Slope voters.

The headline of “The Spot” newsletter posits the wrong question when it asks, “After apparent snub, has Polis regained this group’s trust?” To whatever degree that there is a burden of reconciliation in this case, that responsibility rests solely on Club 20.

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Denver Teachers Win Big After Successful Strike

Vox’s Alexia Fernández Campbell reports on the developing conclusion to the three-day strike by teachers of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, ending in victory for the teachers and heralding a new ascendancy for organized labor power in Colorado under Gov. Jared Polis:

Details are not yet available, but the deal includes an average 11.7 percent pay raise and annual cost of living increases, according to the school district and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, a labor union representing more than 5,000 educators in Denver public schools. It will also include raises for school support staff. Bus drivers and cafeteria workers may also get a raise, but that’s not part of the official agreement with the teachers union.

It also addresses the teachers’ biggest concern: the need to overhaul the merit-pay system, which relies heavily on annual bonuses that fluctuate from year to year. The new system will place more emphasis on education and training when considering promotions, while keeping some bonuses in place…

Teachers did make some concessions, but the deal represents a remarkable win for Denver’s teachers, who have been picketing and rallying in the streets for the past two days, while school administrators struggled to keep classes on schedule. It’s also a sign of the overwhelming momentum teachers have on their side from months of widespread teacher strikes across the country over school funding cuts and low teacher pay.

After the DCTA voted by 93% to walk out, the state Department of Labor and Employment under the direction of Gov. Polis could have ordered a so-called “cooling off period” of up to six months, which would have deprived teachers of their power to back up their negotiations with action. There was considerable worry that Polis would do just that, especially after the governor and his staff took an active role in attempting to mediate between the sides early on.

In the end, though, the decision by Gov. Polis not to curtail the teachers’ ability to strike made it clear who would have the upper hand. In addition Denver Public Schools management did very little to ingratiate themselves with the public, after a message to visa-holding noncitizen teachers wrongly threatening to report them to immigration officials and stories of school administrators trying to censor students documenting the dysfunction on campus.

The proposed new contract, which still needs to be ratified by the teachers, gives the teachers much more than they were offered before the strike–which is, of course, the most important measurement of success. And for Gov. Polis, his campaign promise to be an advocate for working people and organized labor in particular is looking well-kept as of now.

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BREAKING: Polis Will Not Intervene, DPS Strikes Next Week

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Elizabeth Hernandez:

Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday declined to intervene in the impending Denver teacher strike, which could have delayed a teacher walkout by up to 180 days…

At the heart of the disagreement is Denver’s teacher compensation plan ProComp. Both sides have proposals they claim improve the pay scale that determines how and what teachers get paid. DCTA’s proposal kicks in about $28.5 million toward teacher compensation, while the district’s is about $20.8 million.

In addition to the $8 million difference in teachers pay plans, the district and union disagree on how educators should advance along their proposed compensation schedules. The union’s plan allows for more opportunities for teachers to bump up in pay as they accrue credits toward advancing their education.

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That’s the breaking word from the first floor of the state capitol, Gov. Jared Polis will NOT order a 180-day cooling-off period via the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, returning power to the Denver Classroom Teachers Association to commence a strike if a deal isn’t reached by Monday, February 11th.

We’ll update with coverage and statements, but this is a big win for teachers that will shore up Polis’ left flank on the hot-button issue of public education–and puts teeth in Polis’ campaign pledge to help organized workers flex their muscles.

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Walker Wants Our Water

(He’s never running in Colorado again, that’s for sure – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Former Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton shared a new money-making strategy with his Twitter followers today: invest in water!

The article shared by Stapleton encourages investing “Like Dr. Michael Burry from the Big Short.”

For those who haven’t seen the movie, Dr. Burry is one of a handful of financial speculators who anticipated the 2008 mortgage crash and bet against the market, making billions off the massive losses in value sustained by millions of American families, homeowners and retirees.

Why water? Because it’s a limited resource that’s dwindling by the day! To make its point, the article addresses the shortage from a global perspective:

By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity, with 2/3rds of the world’s population living in water-stressed regions. …Ask the residents of Flint, Michigan, who are experiencing firsthand the effects of America’s aging water infrastructure. Clearly there’s a growing and critical demand for access to freshwater and for related products and services. So how can an intelligent investor profit from it?

None of this is news to those of us in Colorado, where drought conditions have lowered reservoir levels to near-record lows. Last year’s snow-melt was so small that the Colorado River Basin received just a third of its average annual water volume. This forced the state to close the Yampa river to fishing and boating last summer and eventually to cut water to some users in September.

(more…)

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Fracking Fracas: The Bill Is Coming

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

Bente Birkeland and Grace Hood at Colorado Public Radio offer another preview of the big fight on the near horizon in the Colorado General Assembly–meaningfully tightening regulations on the oil and gas industry after years of intra-Democratic gridlock on the issue under the previous administration:

All parties in the debate were locked in a holding pattern under former Gov. John Hickenlooper, but Gov. Jared Polis is expected to take a different approach. Some Democrats want 2019 to be the year that significantly changes the regulation of oil and gas companies.

There’s more than activists or oil and gas companies with their eyes on the state capitol. The Front Range cities of Lafayette, Superior and Erie have all enacted drilling moratoriums to wait and see what rules the legislature adopts in 2019…

Democrats will have a difficult needle to thread on oil and gas issues, that’s why they say they’re taking their time before unveiling legislation.

“Our bills now have a fighting chance, we have to make sure that we do it right,” said Democratic Sen. Mike Foote of Lafayette. He has pushed for tougher regulations in previous years, and is one of the handful of lawmakers involved in negotiations this session. “In the past, the oil and gas bills that I introduced, were introduced for a specific reason. I thought that they faced uphill battles, and in fact they did, but we still had to push the issue forward.”

CPR reports that the final legislation is coming together now, and is expected to take the form of one large bill covering a variety of subjects from giving local communities more direct control in drilling decisions to legislatively undoing the recent Colorado Supreme Court decision that controversially declared public health and safety subordinate to the “fostering” of oil and gas resource development as prescribed by existing law.

The extremely high stakes in this debate, coupled with the changed political climate at the state capitol, makes this issue by orders of magnitude the biggest issue of the 2019 legislative session that nobody is talking about in public yet. Whatever the final form this bill takes, we fully expect Republicans and the oil and gas industry to freak out as hard as they possibly can, firing off the usual warnings of a million billion jobs lost and the entire population of Colorado freezing to death.

Somewhere between the industry’s absurd hyperbole and the very real status quo of the state valuing promotion of an industry over public health, you’ll find the legislative sweet spot Democrats need to land on. And as much as the oil and gas industry wants to kill this whole effort, base Democrats and independent voters who are passionate about energy policy and climate change–and who swept Democrats into power last year–expect results.

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Will Polis Let ‘Em Strike?

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Colorado Public Radio’s Jenny Brundin reports as the standoff between the Denver Public Schools management and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) grinds on with no sign of rapprochement between the sides:

Gov. Jared Polis is making one last attempt to meet with both sides in Denver’s contentious teacher labor dispute and broker an agreement before the state decides whether it will intervene…

Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment will decide whether or not to step in by Feb. 11. In the meantime the strike teachers voted for is on hold. If the state decides to intervene, it could postpone a strike for up to 180 days.

In a letter, the agency said a lack of meaningful dialogue, a fundamental disagreement over the facts and costs of competing proposals, and the reopening of negotiations last week that turned into “political theater at its worst,” all weigh heavily on the state’s decision.

In response, the teacher’s union insisted the state not get involved.

With negotiations between DPS management and the DCTA effectively stalled and teachers itching to get out on the picket line, there is undeniable pushback building over Gov. Jared Polis’ attempt to informally broker a compromise. The real deadline now is the one observed by the Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), who will soon decide whether or not to order a six-month “cooling off period”–a decision that would buoy management’s negotiating position but greatly increase tensions between the teachers and the governor’s office.

As we said last week, all parties are watching closely to see how Gov. Polis navigates this situation, the first real political controversy of his brand-new administration. Polis campaigned with the strong support of organized labor in this state, but also has been a supporter of the sometimes-divisive education “reform” agenda that underlies the dispute between teachers and Denver Public Schools officials.

The only thing we can say for sure is that kids won’t get to play hooky either way.

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So, About That GOP Tax Cut Bill…

TUESDAY UPDATE: Apropos from the Colorado Sun’s Brian Eason:

President Donald Trump’s $400 billion federal tax cut for pass-through businesses has emerged as a top target of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis as he looks to eliminate corporate tax breaks to pay for a statewide income tax cut.

The Democratic governor’s goal: A permanent cut to the state income tax rate that would lower the tax bills of most Colorado households and many businesses. But to pay for it, some wealthy households and businesses — namely large retailers and a wide category of companies that includes law firms and much of the financial industry — would see their taxes go up…

Polis wants to eliminate an unspecified amount of corporate income tax breaks to pay for a cut to the state’s income tax rate. In the campaign Polis said he hoped to reduce income taxes by 3 to 5 percent — or up to $450 million. But administration officials now are cautioning that the number will depend on the value of the tax breaks they’re able to eliminate. [Pols emphasis]

—–

Just over a week ago, the Colorado Fiscal Institute put out their detailed analysis of a Republican tax cut bill introduced this session–Senate Bill 19-055, which would cut the state’s income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.49%, would cost the state an estimated $280 million while reducing taxes by a whopping $59 on a resident earning $60,000 per year.

The net effect (or lack thereof) was best illustrated by this table from the CFI:

The politics of this bill, which is likely to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate Finance Committee tomorrow afternoon, were briefly scrambled after Gov. Jared Polis Tweeted in apparent support shortly after it was announced by the Senate GOP minority. One of Gov. Polis’ platform planks as he took office, after all, was a shake-up of the tax system, with the goal of relief for individuals and more skin in the game for wealthy corporate interests.

Under the hood, as CFI explained well in their analysis, this legislation doesn’t do anything to accomplish Polis’ goal of changing the tax system in a “revenue neutral” manner. It simply cuts taxes, and regressively at that–providing almost no relief to the residents who everyone likes to say need tax relief the most. If we really want to give meaningful tax relief to working families, programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit are a far better way to direct it.

Because this particular bill never really had a chance in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, most observers we’ve talked to think that Gov. Polis was more interested in showing good faith on one component of his agenda, with the party who wants to hear about that part the most. In reality, a reduction in any particular tax rate will have to be part of a larger conversation–one that takes into account the state’s long-term fiscal shortfall, and a realistic appraisal of the backlog in funding priorities of every kind.

Suffice to say that we’re in the very earliest stages of that discussion.

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DPS Management Strike PR Off To Really Horrible Start

Are you SURE you want to strike?

Denver7’s Oscar Contreras reports on a nasty little “misunderstanding” this week between Denver Public Schools officials and Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) teachers who voted overwhelmingly this week to strike for better pay:

Denver Public School officials are apologizing after a notice went out to teachers warning those on working visas that they would be reported to immigration officials should they participate in a district-wide strike voted on earlier this week .

The letter, obtained by Denver7, states the district needs to be informed of the decision of teachers on H or J visas to go on strike “as soon as possible as we are required to report that to immigration and the US Department of State.”

That letter, however, was the result of “misrepresentation” of information received by the district’s immigration firm and an incorrect communication, according to DPS spokesman Will Jones.

“The communication was in no way intended to cause fear for our educators on visas,” Jones said in the prepared statement sent to Denver7 Thursday evening.

First of all, and this needs to be bold faced in every single story about this incident, we are not talking about undocumented immigrants. Teachers from abroad in Denver Public Schools have work visas and fully legal status to do their jobs. According to DPS officials doing damage control after reporters contacted them about these letters sent to teachers, the individual names of noncitizen teachers would not be reported to ICE–just the fact that a strike is taking place, and presumably ICE can…take it from there?

On second thought, that’s not very comforting either, is it?

It should go without saying that DPS management should be extremely careful and diplomatic with their communications with teachers ahead of a strike, and in this case their comms carelessness just happened to come down on the side of intimidating legal immigrant teachers with the specter of Donald Trump’s immigration enforcers–who we’re going to go out on a limb and suggest don’t like strikes much either.

Whether an accident or, you know, not so much, we can all agree this is not the way to win hearts and minds.

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DPS Teachers Vote To Strike, Polis Wades Into The Fray

AP via Colorado Public Radio reports on a situation we’re monitoring closely in Denver, after teachers represented by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) voted overwhelmingly to strike for better across-the-board pay and other unresolved disagreements with the school board.

Into this widening divide steps Colorado’s new Gov. Jared Polis, hoping to bridge the impasse before the potentially disruptive strike is set to begin next Monday:

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday he is seeking to prevent Denver teachers from walking off the job next week after they overwhelmingly voted to strike over pay.

Polis, who took office this month, said he would meet with representatives of the school district and teachers’ union to see if he could “play a role in bringing them together.” But the Democrat who has vowed to increase school funding declined to elaborate…

The earliest teachers could legally walk off the job is Monday. However, the state labor department could also intervene and put the strike on hold for up to 180 days. It would be the first teacher walkout in 25 years.

Can Gov. Polis bring the sides together in a fight dripping with subtext over major philosophical differences in public education? Will the state flex its controversial muscle and impose a cooling-off period? Whatever happens next, this is the first big labor fight of a new era of full Democratic control in Colorado. The outcome here is going to, as they say, set a tone.

We’ll update with developments, and we don’t expect to wait long. Stay tuned.

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So Much For #RadiCalifornia: Electric Cars Go Bipartisan

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

The Greeley Tribune’s Trevor Reid reports on executive orders signed today by Gov. Jared Polis to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles in Colorado, including shifting funds from the emissions fraud settlement with Volkswagen to building out electric charging infrastructure:

Gov. Jared Polis signed Thursday morning an executive order to support a transition to electric vehicles.

The executive order establishes a work group of 17 members from 13 state departments to develop policies and programs supporting the transition to electric vehicles, as well as a revision to the state’s allocation of the remains of $68.7 million it received from the Volkswagen emissions settlement to support electrifying transportation including transit buses, school buses and trucks. The work group will report to the governor beginning July 1 on its progress.

Polis pointed to transportation as a key contributor to local air pollution, causing health complications for children and adults with asthma and other chronic conditions.

“Nationwide and in Colorado, transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions,” Polis said.

Among the attendees at the press conference today was Republican Sen. Kevin Priola, who spoke immediately after Gov. Polis:

Sen. Priola’s high-profile appearance at today’s press conference in support of Polis’ executive orders to encourage the switch to electric vehicles, part of the new governor’s plan to move the state to 100% renewable energy sources, scrambles the politics for Republicans looking to take their inevitable potshots on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. During the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, Republicans lambasted Polis for his “radical” campaign pledge of a transition to 100% renewable energy.

After Polis trounced his Republican opponent and Democrats triumphed in the legislature last November, here’s a swing-district Republican up in 2020 turning over a new (Nissan) Leaf.

As they say, elections matter.

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2018 Colorado House Vote Totals

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Much of the attention has been about the 41 seats out of 65 that Democrats captured in the house or the double digit margin of victory for Jared Polis in the governor’s race. A margin of 10.62% is nothing to disparage, but the Democratic victory in the Colorado House of Representatives was even larger. Adding up all the votes for house candidates shows that Democrats won the statewide vote by a margin of 12.27%.

This result shows the power of turn out. There were 27,178 fewer votes for Democratic candidates than they picked up for governor, but the Republicans suffered a down ballot drop-off of 55,036. Put another way Democratic candidates performed 2.01% worse than their candidate for governor, but Republicans performed 5.09% worse. Some of this is Republicans entirely failing to field a candidate in five very blue districts, but looking at similar districts and the lower turn out for the unopposed Democrats it seems likely to me that the Democratic margin would only have been reduced to 11.75% if the Republicans had run in every district.

Because there is no easy way to compare Colorado State Senate districts using the spreadsheet provided by the SoS office I have not tried to do so, but it is interesting that Democrats did not win the same way they did in the house. Is this the power of incumbency? The districts being slightly more conservative? I am not sure. Though it seems likely that when 2022 comes around there will be big state senate gains for Democrats due to redistricting and the large population gains along the front range.

Governor
53.42% Democratic 1,348,888
42.80% Republican 1,080,801
2.75%   Libertarian 69,519
1.02%   Unity Party 25,854
Total votes: 2,525,062

State House
54.80% Democratic 1,321,710
42.53% Republican 1,025,765
1.42% Independent 34,298
0.71% Libertarian 17,153
0.50% unaffiliated 12,149
0.04% Unity Party 874
Total votes: 2411949
Total Drop-off: -4.48% : -113,113
Dem Drop-off: -2.01% : -27,178
Rep Drop-off: -5.09% : -55,036

State Senate
50.32% Democratic 608,037
46.75% Republican 564,971
1.98% Libertarian 23,898
0.67% Independent 8,156
0.28% unaffiliated 3,328
Total votes: 1,208,390

Next Time: What the executive races say about how the Democrats did in 2018.

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Gov. Jared Polis Takes Office

UPDATE: Watch live:

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UPDATE: Incoming Gov. Jared Polis’ vanquished Republican opponent Walker Stapleton sends his regards…from jury duty:

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KDVR reporting on preparation and road closures around the state capitol building for today’s inauguration of Gov. Jared Polis:

Polis will be sworn in as the 43rd governor at 11 a.m. Tuesday on the west steps of the Colorado State Capitol.

Most of the road closures will begin at 10 p.m. on Monday night and last until around 8 p.m. on Tuesday. The Colorado State Patrol recommends planning accordingly and avoiding the area.

Grant Street: Two lanes between Colfax Avenue and 14th Avenue
Lincoln Street: Complete closure between 13th Avenue and Colfax Avenue
Sherman Street: Complete closure from 13th Avenue to 14th Avenue
14th Avenue: Complete closure at Broadway to Grant Street

We’ll update this post with coverage, and watch the inauguration live here at 11:00AM.

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Polis and Primavera, Then and Now

Rep. Matt Gray Tweeted out a found photo last night that’s quickly making its way around the weekend ahead of incoming Gov. Jared Polis’ inauguration–the Governor-elect and our new Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, but at least a decade ago when both held very much non-executive offices:

From this year’s campaign, for comparison:

We’d love to know more about precisely when and where the historic photo at top was taken, but it’s a reminder of how long both have been friends and public servants. We should all call ourselves fortunate to have held together as well through a whole intervening decade. Also, as you can see Gov.-elect Polis was rocking the polo shirt years before he made it the hot fashion choice in Congress!

You’re right, that last one is a stretch. But congrats to the new administration just the same.

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2018 In Review: Colorado Pols’ Top Ten Most Shared Posts

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Recovering from our New Year celebrations after the most momentous year in Colorado politics since before most of us were born, here’s a list of our top stories of 2018 as determined by our readers’ social media sharing habits–which seems like a nice, small-d democratic way to do things.

Two familiar names dominated readers’ interest:

  1. New Poll: Cory Gardner Would Lose The Election Today
  2. Gardner’s Hollow Words on Kavanaugh Accusers Exposed
  3. BREAKING: Denver7 Pulls False Ad Attacking Jared Polis
  4. Cory Gardner is So Screwed
  5. Suppose The Vice President Showed Up And Nobody Came
  6. Walker Stapleton: The Candidate Nobody is Afraid to Face
  7. Seriously, Is Everything About Walker Stapleton a Lie?
  8. Hate Group Rally At Capitol Features Colorado Republican Speakers and Stapleton Super PAC
  9. Walker Stapleton’s Packed-House Victory Tour Continues
  10. Stapleton Says He’s Bringing Trump To Stump!

Honorable Mentions:

Thanks to everyone who saw fit not only to visit, but help circulate our content throughout the internets in 2018.

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Discuss: The Big Colorado Politics Stories of 2018

It’s the final week of the year, which means it’s time to take stock one more time of the big events and themes that shaped the narrative of Colorado politics in 2018. We’re working on our own recap blog series, changing up our long-used “Top Ten Stories” format in hopes of better capturing the dynamics of the biggest year for Colorado Democrats since FDR and Harry Truman led the party (with honorable mentions for 1958 and 1974).

After a year of jubilation for Democrats and destruction for Colorado Republicans surpassing even the most optimistic forecasts including our own, take a step back and tell us what you think it all means–today and for the future.

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You’ve Come a Long Way, Colorado–Let’s Party

Among the many inaugural festivities to break out your black tie for (or your “dressy Western,” this being Colorado), here is one that even if you don’t get to attend, every Coloradan should be proud to know is happening:

One Colorado Executive Director Daniel Ramos:

“As the state’s leading advocacy organization for LGBTQ Coloradans and their families, it’s important we recognize Colorado’s contributions to the history of the LGBTQ community, including the election of Colorado’s first openly gay Governor, Jared Polis. The story of Colorado from the Hate State to the Great State is a recognition of early investments from the Gill Foundation; expanding protections for LGBTQ Coloradans in areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations; protecting LGBTQ youth from bullying in Colorado schools; and ensuring transgender Coloradans can access identity documents that match who they are. Our work continues to improve the lives of LGBTQ Coloradans and their families. So for this night, we will honor the work of those who paved this path before us, celebrate this historic occasion of our country’s first gay governor, and then get back to work ensuring a more fair and just Colorado for all.”

Special guests will include:

The Honorable Barney Frank, the first gay member of Congress to come out voluntarily.

Melissa Etheridge, an Academy Award and Oscar Award winning singer-songwriter and gay rights activist.

David Mullins and Charlie Craig, the plaintiffs from the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court case.

Of all the inaugural wing-wings scheduled for the second week of January in addition to the main event, here’s one more that could draw out some truly big nationwide stars in addition to headlining LGBTQ royalty. Gov.-elect Jared Polis was already bicoastal A-Lister before being elected Colorado’s chief executive, and the historic moment his inauguration represents makes it an occasion for a party like Denver perhaps hasn’t seen since hosting the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

And when you reflect back on history a quarter century to 1992, the year both an unconstitutional constitutional amendment sanctioning discrimination against LGBTQ people in Colorado and another amendment stripping all future Colorado lawmakers of their most essential fiscal authority became law, this inauguration and the new straight Democratic control backing it up take on even more significance. From the Masterpiece Cakeshop court decision to the coming battles over spending priorities in Colorado, these are struggles that continue.

But Colorado has come a long way since that bad old days of 1992. We’re a “hate state” no longer.

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U.S. Olympic Committee Spurns Cash-Strapped Colorado

Abandoned Olympic stuff.

Colorado Public Radio reports, no Winter Games for you Colorado:

The U.S. Olympic Committee has nominated Salt Lake City to be the host city of the 2030 Winter Olympics, eliminating Denver from the process…

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) announced their choice for the 2030 host city on Friday.

Denver and Salt Lake City were two of the few true competitors for the title. Most cities have been ambivalent at best in their efforts (or lack thereof) to woo the upcoming Winter Olympics. The Reno-Tahoe area declined an invitation to bid for the host city title.

The Denver Sports Commission said in a statement the decision was “disappointing.”

Not everyone is disappointed by the decision of the U.S. Olympic Committee to return to Utah once again as the nation’s host entry for the 2030 Winter Olympics instead of Colorado, or the Colorado-Utah co-hosted Games also proposed–first among them Gov.-elect Jared Polis, who broke with the previous administration’s support for a Colorado Olympic bid with a “meh” that was probably decisive.

And as exciting as it would have been, there are lots of more important things to spend money on.

Just like Dick Lamm said in 1972.

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“Overreach”–What Losers Always Say To Winners

With Democrats about to take charge of the governor’s office, the statewide offices of treasurer, attorney general, and secretary of state, and in full control of both chambers of the Colorado General Assembly, the narrative from defeated Republicans has shifted to dire warnings of the “overreach” in store from Democrats without a Republican majority somewhere along the line with veto power to check their aspirations.

The Greeley Tribune recently editorialized:

Five years ago, Democrats in Colorado controlled all the levers of power. They held majorities in the House and Senate. The governor also was a Democrat.

As leaders of political parties in the U.S. often do when they find themselves in this position, the Democrats pressed their advantage — passing gun control legislation and a controversial renewable energy standard. They also pursued tight regulations on the oil and gas industry.

In Weld County, which remained steadfastly red, the consequences of all this were almost unimaginable. A group of activists and elected officials — led by the Board of Weld County Commissioners — began to push a secession movement. The group pointed to a divide between the urban Denver metro area and much of the rest of the state…

As all sides in Colorado politics take stock of this year’s landslide victory for Democrats up and down the ballot, we’re seeing reactions that closely parallel–at least on the surface–the response to the last big Democratic surge in Colorado in the 2012 elections. Hand-wringing about the supposed horrors of life under Democratic control in Colorado leads to talk of certain areas of the state either seceding or (new in 2018) joining Wyoming.

And that’s how it’s spun: Democratic “overreach” prompts a completely unhinged secession movement that is nonetheless taken at least somewhat seriously. And of course, in 2013 Democratic “overreach” led to recalls! Some variation of this faux concern warning  to victorious Democrats has been the conclusion of the majority of post-election opinion from conservatives, as well as the state’s crop of aging white male “centrist” opinionmakers.

But does it have any basis in reality? In a word, no.

(more…)

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Caption This Photo: Walker Stapleton, Happy At Last

Walker Stapleton, the Republican nominee for governor of Colorado who lost this year’s election by over 10 points, was a candidate who never seemed quite comfortable in his own skin on the campaign trail. It was a running gag during the campaign among Democrats to share the worst possible photos of Stapleton, which was easy because there were so few good photos among dozens of new ones every day.

But with the election over and the pressure finally off Colorado’s dynastic son, you can see the difference in this photo from Stapleton’s post-election holiday in Hawaii:

Seriously, that’s the happiest we’ve ever seen Walker Stapleton. Civilian life is going to be just fine for him.

We approve of the beard, too–hopefully it’s not just a no-shave November thing.

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A Few Words About Polis Education Transition Heartburn

Bob Schaffer.

Gov.-elect Jared Polis is grappling with the first real controversy he’s encountered since his double-digit victory earlier this month, with a less-then-enthusiastic response to certain members of his “transition team.” As John Frank at the Colorado Sun reported last week:

The team includes prominent Democrats, such as former Gov. Bill Ritter, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, former Colorado State University President Al Yates, former Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio and two former Democratic House speakers, Crisanta Duran and Andrew Romanoff. The Keystone Center will facilitate the effort.

But Polis touted his transition effort as a bipartisan affair and pointed to one prominent Republican on the team, former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer, a charter school leader who is a member of the education effort. Schaffer served in a similar role for Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2010, a move that drew scorn from liberals for his controversial stances in the past.

Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette elaborated further on the education team, which has justifiably rankled public school supporters:

The Polis education team — one of seven teams whose members were announced Friday — includes Jen Walmer, director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a political group that advocates for charter schools. Some education-policy liberals accuse the group of seeking to restrict teacher unions.

Another is former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer, a Republican advocate for taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools and formerly a member of the state board of education.

Schaffer also is chairman of the board of the Leadership Program of the Rockies (LPR) a Republican-leaning organization that provides training on conservative principles and leadership. Its graduates include three of the former members of the Douglas County Board of Education who approved a controversial private-school voucher program in 2011. Schaffer advocated for the state board of education to endorse the voucher program.
The Dougco program led to lawsuits, including a trip all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was dismantled last year after voters elected an anti-voucher school board.

Bob Schaffer, the failed 2008 GOP U.S. Senate turned headmaster of a politically conservative charter high school in Fort Collins, is not the only member of Polis’ education team drawing criticism. There’s also Mike Johnston, who lost to Polis in the Democratic primary largely due to his authorship of a much-reviled “teacher effectiveness” bill that since passage in 2010 has contributed directly to a shortage of teachers in Colorado with no discernible impact on student performance. For the large number of Democratic voters who think supporting public schools is predicate to “reforming” them, these people are more than bad choices: they’re the bad actors in public education base Democrats thought they were voting against. We said the same thing when John Hickenlooper appointed Schaffer to his education transition team, and it’s no less true today.

Since 2010, however, the landscape of education politics in Colorado has significantly changed. The Douglas County religious school voucher program was stymied in court and then soundly rejected by Douglas County voters who threw out the conservative board. The conservative education “reform” movement hit its zenith in 2013 after a slate of far-right school board members took power in Jefferson County, only to be overwhelmingly recalled from office two years later. Johnston’s rejection by Democratic primary voters despite massive infusions of cash from out-of-state education “reform” interests further underscores where the power has shifted on education in the last decade.

In 2004, Polis founded the New America School charter high schools with the specific purpose of “empowering new immigrants, English language learners, and academically underserved students.” Far from the predatory cherry-picking suburban charter schools (rightly) vilified by neighborhood school supporters, NAS is an example of a niche need charter schools can gainfully fill under the right circumstances. Will that experience manifest as a blind spot for Polis with regard to charter schools that aren’t so well-intentioned? That remains to be seen. But this is a charter school doing more good than harm.

With all of this in mind, and especially with Democratic majorities in both chambers of the legislature, the potential harm from appointing Schaffer and “ed reform” Democrats to Polis’ transition team is self-limiting–more so than when Hickenlooper appointed Schaffer to the same committee eight years ago. Polis himself takes pride in engaging with all sides, including those he has little to nothing in common with. The best response is for public education supporters to be loud in their opposition, and back that up with a strong presence in the legislature next year to ensure their policy goals are upheld.

And be assured, Colorado’s public schools are in better hands than the alternative.

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“Radicalifornia” Endnotes

California.

As readers know, the state of California factored oddly heavily in the 2018 midterm elections in Colorado. Colorado Republicans attempted to capitalize on the “threat” of Colorado becoming more like the Golden State in all kinds of ways, from the horrors of life in San Francisco to the supposedly wrecked California economy–and, of course, a generous helping of dog-whistle subtext about hippie liberals and their “alternative lifestyles.”

But as it turns out, the states of Colorado and California did have something in common in the 2018 elections. For Republicans in both states, 2018 was an historic wipeout that has left the state’s Republican establishments wondering what the future (if any) looks like. As Politico reports:

In the wake of a near-political annihilation in California that has left even longtime conservative stronghold Orange County bereft of a single Republican in the House of Representatives, a growing chorus of GOP loyalists here say there’s only one hope for reviving the flatlining party: Blow it up and start again from scratch.

That harsh assessment comes as Republicans survey the damage from the devastation of a “blue tsunami” in California which wiped out five GOP-held House seats — with more still threatened — while handing every statewide seat and a supermajority to the Democrats in both houses of the state legislature this week…

For anyone with an understanding of California politics, the idea of the conservative bastion of Orange County failing to send a single Republican back to Congress for 2019 is practically unthinkable. California’s Democratic majorities in the State Assembly and Senate are now supermajorities–a critical hurdle since California requires a two-thirds legislative majority to pass a budget. California’s blue wave, like Colorado’s, delivered a sweep of statewide races to the Democrats.

“I believe that the party has to die before it can be rebuilt. And by die — I mean, completely decimated. And I think Tuesday night was a big step,’’ says veteran California GOP political consultant Mike Madrid. “There is no message. There is no messenger. There is no money. And there is no infrastructure.” [Pols emphasis]

It’s striking to us how you can change the name “Mike Madrid” to any number of veteran Republicans in Colorado, and the quote above would remain generally accurate. When Colorado Republicans warned that Colorado would become “like California” if Colorado Democrats won, it wasn’t just a warning about the culture.

They foresaw their own destruction. And they were right.

As we said during the campaign, demonizing California was a strategy fully dependent on cultural prejudice and a kind of weird talk radio intra-American xenophobia that was never going to appeal to a majority of Colorado voters. In 2016, less than 43% of Coloradans were born in the state at all. Not only did the “Radicalifornia” message miss the mark, it helped cement the Colorado GOP’s image of being ignorant and out of touch.

In both states, the results speak for themselves.

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Elway Is A Loser On And Off The Football Field This Election Season

(Sad trombone – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

John Elway and Tim Neville

One reason political analysts think the waters of the blue wave won’t be leaving Colorado anytime soon is the absence of a Republican candidate who appears to be able to win.

Bronco legend John Elway has been thought of as such a candidate in the past, even though he’s apparently never really wanted to run.

And, even if he did, he appears to be on a deep losing streak, presiding over both a losing football team and endorsing failed GOP candidates.

John Elway and Beth Martinez Humenik

His favorite candidates appear to have included State Sen.Tim Neville (R-Littleton), who lost to Democrat Tammy Story; GOP businesswomen Christine Jensen, who lost to State Rep. Jessie Danielson  (D-Wheat Ridge); and State Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik (R-Thornton), who was defeated by Democratic State Rep. Faith Winter, of Adams County.

Apparently trying to jump to an early lead, the Superbowl quarterback gave $10,000 in August to Better Colorado Now, which spent heavily on behalf Walker Stapleton, who was blown out by Democrat Jared Polis by over 10 percentage points. Whether that entity was playing by the rules when Stapleton helped collect early donations has been questioned.

(more…)

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Post-Mortem Poll: Trump Led Colorado GOP To Slaughter

The Denver Post’s Jon Murray reports on a post-election poll from GOP-aligned pollster Magellan Strategies out today, documenting how backlash over President Donald Trump’s election and controversial term in office since 2016 directly translated to historic defeat for Republicans at every level in Colorado in 2018:

The phone poll, conducted by a Republican firm Nov. 7-9, confirmed that unaffiliated voters — whose participation surged to historic levels for a midterm election — broke with tradition by favoring Democrats by huge margins on Nov. 6. Unaffiliated voters who turn out in midterms in Colorado tend to break for Republicans, while leaning left in presidential elections.

And unlike previous Democratic electoral routs, the poll suggests, it’s less likely Republicans will be in a position to bounce back in two years, when Trump is up for re-election.

“What is still the most important voting bloc is all of the unaffiliated voters,” said David Flaherty, the founder and CEO of Louisville-based Magellan Strategies. “And the bottom line is that boy oh boy, they did not like what Republicans were offering up. And boy oh boy, they do not like this president. … It could not have been a darker day.”

Midterm losses for the party holding the White House are almost always certain, but there’s a reason why the “blue wave” of 2018 crested higher in our state than most. Despite the fact that Trump lost Colorado in the 2016 presidential election, Colorado Republicans deliberately embraced Trump on the campaign trail. This began in earnest during the Republican gubernatorial primary, in which eventual nominee Walker Stapleton made “supporting President Trump” his principal message to the party faithful. Whether motivated by sheer hubris or a misguided calculation that holding the Republican base together was more important than alienating swing voters hostile to Trump, the result was disaster.

Colorado Republicans willfully, consciously, happily followed President Trump into the abyss. Responsibility for this mistake is both broad and deep. From Stapleton to the state party brass to every Republican candidate who made the choice either to stand with the President or remain silent–they earned this outcome. They chose it.

And the unaffiliated voters of Colorado who decide elections will not soon forget.

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Jared Polis Will Win Governor’s Race by Double Digits

We don’t yet know the final vote tally from the 2018 election in Colorado, but the numbers continue to grow for Democrats. Check out these totals as of 4:00 pm on Monday (Nov. 12):

The race for Governor was called in favor of Democrat Jared Polis early on Election Night, but Polis’ margin of victory over Republican Walker Stapleton has only risen as more ballots are counted. Also worth noting: Stapleton received the fewest total votes of any of the four major statewide Republican candidates.

And for the record, we called this outcome in our pre-election forecast:

A double-digit Polis win is now a real possibility.

These vote totals should also scare the crap out of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who is up for re-election in 2020. Gardner defeated Democrat Mark Udall by less than two points in 2014 with a total vote count of 965,974. In 2018, the Republican candidate for Governor received nearly 100,000 more votes than Gardner’s 2014 total…and will still end up losing to a Democrat by more than 10 points.

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We Told You So (Apparently)

dealinwalkerfinA Colorado Pols reader reminded us over the weekend that we had long ago predicted that Republican Walker Stapleton would not be the next Governor of Colorado.

We had honestly forgotten about this, but everything that we wrote in this May 2015 post — “Walker Stapleton Shows (Again) Why He’ll Never Make it to Higher Office” — held up pretty well in 2018. For example:

Walker Stapleton [is] Colorado’s “gold standard” when it comes to the stereotypical, fast-talking, bullshitting politician. Stapleton has made such a caricature of himself over the last couple of years that it he hardly seems real. Surely, you think, nobody can truly be this transparently smarmy and exist as an actual human politician…or can he?

The State Treasurer doesn’t traditionally generally get a lot of press in Colorado, and Stapleton has been no exception to the norm. But when Stapleton’s name does end up in the news, the odds are pretty good that it’s because he did something stupid. Stapleton is good at stupid.

When we wrote about Stapleton in May 2015, it was in relation to his bizarre attempt to claim that he had opposed a controversial PERA-related bill — nevermind that he wrote a letter in support of the legislation and even testified in favor of HB-1388. We marveled at the fact that Republicans were looking at Stapleton as a contender for higher office in the future despite his obvious shortcomings:

Stapleton is pretty good at fundraising, largely because of his family connections (he’s directly related to the Bush family), but he’s otherwise a complete political dunce who frequently stumbles into obvious potholes. Stapleton was re-elected as State Treasurer in 2014, but it was an unexpectedly close race due entirely to his own idiocy; when an open records request revealed that Stapleton rarely bothered to show up at his office, he made ridiculous excuses and then wouldn’t stop talking about it.

We wrote after the November election that Stapleton’s panicky errors and laughable TV ads should remove his name from future discussion about higher office; since then, Stapleton has done nothing to prove us wrong. Democrats can only hope that Stapleton is someday the Republican nominee for Governor or Senate. [Pols emphasis]

Walker Stapleton was always the candidate that Democrats hoped they would face in November 2018. As the Republican candidate for Governor, Stapleton was exactly who we thought he would be.

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