Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 19)

Today is the 50th day of 2020; please celebrate responsibly. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


► We really can’t be far away from Donald Trump declaring himself King of America. As The Washington Post reports:

On Tuesday, Trump granted clemency to a clutch of political allies, circumventing the usual Justice Department process. The pardons and commutations followed Trump’s moves to punish witnesses in his impeachment trial, publicly intervene in a pending legal case to urge leniency for a friend, attack a federal judge, accuse a juror of bias and threaten to sue his own government for investigating him.

Trump defended his actions, saying he has the right to shape the country’s legal systems as he sees fit. [Pols emphasis]

“I’m allowed to be totally involved,” he told reporters as he left Washington on Tuesday for a trip to California, Nevada and Arizona. “I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country. But I’ve chosen not to be involved.”

Of course, this is NOT true. The Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer in the United States, but when the AG just does whatever the President wants…

The president’s post-impeachment behavior has alarmed Attorney General William P. Barr, who has told people close to the president that he is willing to quit unless Trump stops publicly commenting on ongoing criminal matters, according to two administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. It also has appalled several legal experts and former officials, who have said his direct intervention in legal matters risks further politicizing law enforcement at a time of fraying confidence in the Justice Department.

As The Washington Post reports in a separate story, Trump is almost daring Attorney General William Barr to quit his job:

Against the wishes of Attorney General William P. Barr, President Trump continued to tweet Wednesday about the Justice Department, relaying the sentiments of conservative allies that Barr should “clean house” and target those involved in the Russia investigation.

Former Colorado U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer is among many current and former Justice Department officials who think Barr should resign

You can thank Senate Republicans for fully unlocking Trump’s dictator mode. Here in Colorado, voters are well aware that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) voted for Trump’s impeachment acquittal purely as political protection.


The Democratic candidates for President will debate tonight in Nevada, which will also mark the first on-stage appearance of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Here’s more on how candidates are courting Coloradans leading up to Super Tuesday on March 3:

♦ Jon Murray of The Denver Post breaks down how Bloomberg has been courting politicos in Colorado for decades.

♦ Elizabeth Warren has launched a new ad campaign in Colorado.

 Amy Klobuchar will be in Denver on Thursday. Tulsi Gabbard will be in Colorado Springs and Boulder. Joe Biden will not be appearing anywhere.

♦ President Trump is in Colorado Springs on Thursday with Sen. Cory Gardner. As The Colorado Springs Independent reports, Trump’s expensive visit will be paid for…by local taxpayers.


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


Brenda Stokes Files for State Senate Race

Brenda Stokes, aka Brenda Valdez-Stokes (or vice-versa)

We wrote last week about the results of a Republican vacancy committee in HD-38 (Arapahoe County) in which some dude with the pun-worthy name of Richard Champion was selected to fill the remainder of the State House term vacated by the resignation of Rep. Susan Beckman. The outcome of that vacancy committee was a surprise to some who had expected right-wing crusader Brenda Stokes to claim Beckman’s crown. At the time, Stokes vowed that she would run a primary challenge against Champion in June, but apparently she has decided on another course of action.

Stokes is now Brenda “Valdez-Stokes” and is running for State Senate in District 26, where Democrat Jeff Bridges will be running for a full-term after winning his own vacancy election last year.

Stokes…or Valdez-Stokes, or whatever her name is now, made some local headlines last May when she promoted the disastrous recall attempt against Rep. Tom Sullivan and accused him of “politicizing” the death of his son, who was killed in the 2012 Aurora Theater Shooting. She is currently the Vice-Chair of the Arapahoe County Republican Party.

At one point last year, Colorado Republicans talked about a recall campaign against Bridges; it’s probably best that they didn’t pursue this strategy after the GOP failed spectacularly at trying to recall a bunch of other Democratic lawmakers. Senate District 26 was primed to be a battleground race in 2016, but Democrat Daniel Kagan ended up beating Republican favorite Nancy Doty by 7 points. Bridges was re-elected in HD-3 in 2018 by a 22-point margin over Toren Mushovic.

Via Colorado TRACER


Colorado GOP Leaders Will Use Stall Tactics to Kill Bills; Call HIV Prevention Coverage a ‘Feel-Good Idea’

(No peace in our times – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Speaking last month at a Republican Party fundraising luncheon in downtown Denver, all four ranking members of the GOP leadership at the Colorado Legislature said their primary strategy for this year’s legislative session is to stop proposed laws using the procedural stall tactic of demanding that the entire text of bills be read out loud.

Their plan is to wait until later in the session to deploy it for maximum effect.

As for policy priorities, House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock) argued vehemently against a bill to create a public health care option.

Calling it “conscription,” Neville said that while it might save Coloradans in the short term, a public option would eventually lead to the end of all private insurance plans on the exchange.

The Minority Leader also objected to another bill, one that would require insurers to cover HIV infection prevention drugs, which are considered highly effective by the Food & Drug Administration.

Neville dismissed that bill as a “feel-good idea” that would add to overall health insurance costs.



Republicans Who Don’t Like Anti-LGBT Bills: Whatcha Gonna Do?

Rep. Shane Sandridge (R-Your Bedroom).

As Jesse Paul at the Colorado Sun reports, at least some Republican state lawmakers in the General Assembly are…uncomfortable, we guess you could say, with a slate of starkly anti-LGBT bills set to be debated and killed in the Colorado House State Affairs Committee later today after the usual several hours of lurid testimony:

None of the bills will advance in the Democratic-led General Assembly, and if anything, the measures are sowing an ideological divide within the Republican Party. They’re also opening an avenue of attack for Democrats, who are using the legislation to angle for votes in November. Progressive lawmakers and groups are planning a rally on Thursday to blast the measures and support the LGBTQ community.

“This slate of hateful, bigoted anti-LGBTQ bills show exactly what the GOP would do if they had a majority: use their power to attack trans youth, loving couples hoping to adopt, and children,” read a tweet this week from the House Democrat caucus, which is led by House Speaker KC Becker of Boulder.

The measures are primarily being run and sponsored by three lawmakers: Republican Reps. Shane Sandridge of Colorado Springs, Dave Williams of Colorado Springs and Steve Humphrey of Severance. The lawmakers defended the legislation.

The Sun reports that a large number of Republican lawmakers didn’t want to discuss these bills at all. A few others like Sen. Don Coram, who has previously discouraged legislative attacks on LGBT people, were willing to tell a reporter–after being asked of course, not on their own–that these bills are neither politically helpful nor morally appropriate.

Today’s hearing at 1:30PM gives all Republicans who have ever argued that their party’s fixation on persecuting LGBT Americans is wrong one of the best chances they may ever have to enter those convictions into the permanent record. For years now while Republicans pulled out all the stops to kill even modest concessions to LGBT Americans’ right to exist–like civil unions in 2012–and paid dearly for their wedge issue fixation at the polls, there has always been a faction of generally younger and urban Republicans who have vocalized dismay and warned that the next generation will not accept the bigotry baby-boomer Republicans were steeped in.

If we’re to believe any of that regret was legitimate as opposed to simply the political sidestep of the moment, we expect to see an army of well-known Republicans in elected office and polite society lining up at today’s hearing to state clearly that the GOP lawmakers behind these bills do not speak for them.

Short of that, we have no reason to believe it was ever true.


Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 13)

Happy “World Radio Day.” Please celebrate responsibly. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


►As Jennifer Rubin writes for The Washington Post, President Trump is turning the Justice Department into his own political hit squad — with little sign that Senate Republicans will do anything to rein him in:

President Trump, empowered by acquittal in his impeachment trial and allowed free rein by his Republican Senate allies, has waged a war of vengeance and retribution against those who declined to enable his impeachable conduct. Now he has taken a club to the Justice Department.

The Post reports on the four prosecutors who refused to go along with their boss’s directive to reduce the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone following Trump’s tweet criticizing the seven- to nine-year sentence recommendation…

…Aside from the Saturday night massacre, we have never seen multiple Justice Department lawyers resign to protest a presidential abuse of power.

Just as Trump tried to engage a foreign government to announce an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden and ordered up a probe of Hillary Clinton (which came to nothing), this is an egregious perversion of the rule of law. The president, like a tin-pot dictator, now uses the Justice Department to shield his criminal cronies, putting his finger on the scale in a way no other president has done in the modern era.

Politico has more on the shockwaves of Trump’s Justice Department meddling, while takes a deeper dive into overall problems under Attorney General William Barr.

Meanwhile, CNN Congressional reporter Manu Raju approached Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) for comment on Wednesday. This was Gardner’s response:

“I’m sorry…miss my vote.”

As such, Rubin finishes her Washington Post column with an appropriate hammer:

Coming on the evening of the New Hampshire primary, the latest crisis should remind us of the stakes in 2020 and the necessity that Democrats nominate someone who can beat Trump and stop our slide into authoritarianism. It should also remind us that without the cowardice of Republican senators including Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and others, Trump would not be lighting a fire to the Justice Department and the Constitution. Voters must remember this come November. [Pols emphasis]


► Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will visit Denver this weekend as he campaigns for the Democratic Presidential nomination, but he won’t be the only top candidate coming through our state. From Jon Murray at The Denver Post:

Sanders, the progressive U.S. senator from Vermont who won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, has set a rally for 6 p.m. Sunday in Denver, inside the Colorado Convention Center’s Exhibition Halls C and D. Doors open at 4 p.m., the campaign says, and the event is open to the public but an RSVP is encouraged via Sanders’ website. (The location was changed to a larger venue from the convention center’s Bellco Theatre, which has a seating capacity of 5,000, due to high demand.)

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, placed a close second Tuesday and narrowly beat Sanders in Iowa last week. He will have a town hall in Aurora at 7 p.m. Feb. 22, according to a campaign event page. The location will be revealed closer to that date, but supporters are encouraged to RSVP on his website…

…Sanders has had a small staff in Colorado for months, and Buttigieg’s campaign, hoping to capitalize on its all-volunteer effort here so far, is expected to announce the hiring of its first three staffers in Colorado on Thursday. Buttigieg’s lead staffer here will be Ken Gonzalez, who has shifted from organizing duties in Iowa, a campaign spokesperson said.

Biden, the former vice president, is scheduled to visit Denver on Monday for a private fundraiser hosted by former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. He is alone among the major candidates in not having had a large public event in Colorado so far this campaign, though he has been sending surrogates.


► It’s “Hate Week” at the State Capitol. House Majority Leader Alec Garnett explains how that moniker applies to what GOP lawmakers are attempting in the latest episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast:


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


Another State Senate Seat May be Off the Board for Republicans

In 2014, voters in Senate District 19 (Arvada/Westminster) elected Republican Laura Woods by a margin of fewer than 700 votes. Woods replaced Democrat Rachel Zenzinger, who had been appointed to the seat vacated by Sen. Evie Hudak in the wake of the 2013 Republican recall efforts. Woods instantly became one of the most hard-right members of the Republican caucus.

Some Republicans were correctly skeptical about Woods’ ability to hold on to her seat; two years later, Zenzinger unseated Woods in the rematch despite a barrage of negative (and demonstrably false) attacks from Republicans.

Election History in SD-19

Zenzinger is running for re-election in 2020. The district’s electoral history would suggest that SD-19 will be among the top targeted races for Republicans hoping to claw back into a Senate majority, but voter registration and turnout numbers paint a bleaker picture. According to a new analysis of voter information from Colorado-based Republican polling firm Magellan Strategies, Senate District 19 may no longer be competitive for the GOP:

…back in 2014 Republicans actually had a turnout advantage with a plurality of 35% of the vote, largely due to lower Unaffiliated turnout.

And while it’s not a perfect apples to apples comparison since there wasn’t actually a Senate race in SD 19 in 2018, come 2018 that advantage is completely gone. Even with about 12,000 more voters compared to 2014, there were actually 700 fewer votes cast by Republicans. Compare that to 4,755 more votes cast by Democratic voters and 7,863 more votes cast by Unaffiliated/Other Party voters.

While that suggests a turnout problem with a fairly simple solution (get more Republicans to vote), in reality, the problem is not quite that easy to overcome. That’s because turnout in 2018 wasn’t even especially low for Republicans – 84% of active Republicans in the district voted, which matched the percentage for Democratic voters. For a midterm, it is hard to expect much better than that. No, the real problem can be seen looking back at voter registration: The numbers simply aren’t there anymore. It’s basic math. A comparative advantage for Republicans in SD 19 has been completely wiped away by increased Unaffiliated registration and increased voter turnout among both Democratic voters and Unaffiliated voters. [Pols emphasis]

Via Magellan Strategies

As you can see from the Magellan Strategies chart at right, Republican voter turnout in SD-19 has plummeted over the last two election cycles. Those trends seem to fit with what we saw in Colorado in 2018 in general, when Democrats gained a “trifecta” in state government — control of the State House, State Senate, and Governor’s office. When all of the votes were counted in 2018, Democrats had flipped multiple Republican-held seats for a 41-24 majority in the State House and a 19-16 majority in the State Senate.

The numbers in SD-19 are going to be pretty disheartening for Republicans, who need to net at least two seats in order to regain majority control in the State Senate (the House is almost certainly unwinnable for the GOP this year). Heading into this election cycle, SD-19 was among four State Senate districts widely thought to be the most competitive races in 2020 — along with SD-8 (Carbondale-ish), SD-25 (Adams County), and SD-27 (Arapahoe County). But SD-19 is the only one of these four districts with a Democratic incumbent; Republicans can’t gain ground in the Senate merely by holding onto the other three seats.

State Sen. Rachel Zenzinger

In 2016, Republican Kevin Priola barely managed to eke out a victory in SD-25, a seat previously held by Democrats, by a margin of about four points. That same year, incumbent Republican Sen. Jack Tate won in SD-27 by a nearly seven-point margin. Both Senate districts have moved closer toward Democrats in recent years. Republicans only maintain a healthy historical advantage in SD-8, where Bob Rankin is seeking election to a full term after replacing Randy Baumgardner in 2019.

Now, back to SD-19: Zenzinger entered 2020 with about $56,000 in the bank, and she has strong name ID in the district after essentially campaigning non-stop since 2013. Republican Matthew Lantz formally entered the race about 10 days ago, but he was not recruited into the race by top Republican officials and it’s unclear whether he will be able to run a strong campaign without a GOP Primary challenger. Either way, persistent polling problems for both President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner suggest that there won’t be much in the way of coattails for any down-ballot Republicans in 2020.

Colorado Republicans will have a hard time regaining control of the State Senate unless they can win in SD-19…which doesn’t seem likely at the moment. The GOP’s next best hope for flipping a seat might be in SD-26, but that’s also a tough sell; Democrats have never lost in the current iteration of this Arapahoe County seat, and they have a strong incumbent candidate in Sen. Jeff Bridges.

It’s entirely possible that the best-case scenario for Colorado Republicans in 2020 is to just not lose any more ground in the State Senate. That’s a hard slogan to fit onto a bumper sticker.


Gun-Safety Law Could “Address” Six Lives in Colo, But Measure Won’t Save Them, Says Brauchler

(“Six lives matter, but…” – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler (R).

UPDATE: “I am in no way saying that I don’t think those lives are worth saving, whether it’s one or six, I just don’t think those lives get saved any more with that proposed law than our existing child abuse law,” Brauchler told the Colorado Times Recorder. “I haven’t seen the draft, so we are speculating, but there is a provision in the law that says if you have a broader law out there and then the Legislature passes a much more specific law that addresses that behavior, the defendant can only be prosecuted for the more specific behavior covered by it. So if they make a misdemeanor defense for not securing your firearms, it’s possible, depending on how they draft it, that you may actually take away from me the ability to prosecute the much more serious felony, if it applied. You and I wouldn’t want that. We came up with statement law that actually makes it less costly to someone to leave their gun on the table.”


In the “best-case scenario,” a gun-safety bill under consideration at the state Legislature could “address” six homicides per year in Colorado, and “every one of those lives matters,” says Arapahoe County area District Attorney George Brauchler.

“And that’s not a small number,” he adds.

But Brauchler opposes a law, which would mandate safe-storage of guns to keep them out of the hands of children, because enforcement is “extremely, extremely tricky” and there’s already a “child abuse statute” that allows for prosecution of parents whose kids get a hold of guns, Brauchler said during an interview with KHOW’s Ross Kaminsky last Friday morning.

BRAUCHLER: “It looks like, if you look at what coroners have reported and some other stuff, that the safe storage bill, if it was 100% effective, it could address up to six homicides or injuries — I think it was homicides –a year, across the state of Colorado. And that’s not a small number. I mean, every one of those lives matters.


“But that’s the best-case scenario for that particular law. But I agree with you, enforcement is extremely, extremely tricky. I think they both sound very common sense-y, and that’s why I think they are going to end up passing. People are going to go, ‘Well, of course, you shouldn’t leave guns lying around. The issue is, we already have laws that allow us to prosecute adults under a child abuse statute that says if you put a kid in a position to hurt themselves or others, we can already prosecute you for that. We don’t need a safe-storage bill for that.”

Brauchler described the bill as “targeting kids getting guns and hurting themselves or others,” which he said on air was a “noble cause.”

“But it’s a bill that criminalizes people who don’t take steps to prevent kids from getting their hands on guns in those circumstances,” said Brauchler.

Tom Mauser, whose son died in the Columbine school shooting, says passing a safe-gun-storage bill “sends a message that gun owners need to take this seriously.” The existence and passage of the law is part of a public education process that continues when the law is used to prosecute violators, he says.

“Enforcement can be difficult for any number of laws, but we pass them anyway,” said Mauser. “We can agree that gun owners should store their guns responsibly, but we haven’t put this into law. We need to make it clear that you will be prosecuted if you are irresponsible with your guns.”



Anti-LGBT Parade Of Horrors Hearing Thursday

TUESDAY UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Saja Hindi:

For Rep. Stephen Humphrey, R-Severance, the legislation is about doing what he says his district expects of him. As a Christian man, that includes preserving what he views as religious freedoms. Humphrey introduced two bills that would affect LGBTQ people: House Bill 1272, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and only allows adoptions by heterosexual couples; and House Bill 1033, which would let businesses refuse to serve LGBTQ people based on religious beliefs.

It’s a matter of “religious freedom” to outlaw marriages and families that exist happily today? That doesn’t seem like anything Jesus would do.


Rep. Shane Sandridge (R-Transphobic).

This coming Thursday afternoon in the Colorado House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee, a marathon and intestinally challenging hearing will review (and barring something bizarre and unexpected, kill) a slew of Republican-sponsored bills featuring some of the more overt discriminatory intent in any legislation we’ve seen in Colorado in recent years. A press release from LGBT advocacy group One Colorado a few days ago warned these were coming:

During the second regular session of the 72nd Colorado General Assembly, House Republicans have introduced a total of six anti-LGBTQ bills in the first three weeks of session. The most recent, introduced on February 3rd, are HB20-1273 “Equality And Fairness In Youth Sports Act” and HB20-1272 “Colorado Natural Marriage And Adoption Act.” One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans and their families, released the following statements:

“This is the most aggressive slate of anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced in the past decade. [Pols emphasis] In the first few weeks of this legislative session, we have seen attacks on transgender Coloradans, same-sex parents, LGBTQ youth, and the list goes on. These bills do not represent who we are as Coloradans, and One Colorado will fight these bills every step of the way.” – One Colorado Executive Director, Daniel Ramos

“Some say it’s not the government’s role to interfere with personal liberty. Some would say this is textbook overreach. I would say it’s time to work on actual issues that improve people’s lives here in Colorado.” – Representative Alex Valdez (D-Denver), Chair of the LGBTQ Caucus

Rep. Steve Humphrey (R-Gynotician)

House Bills 20-1114 and 20-1273 both have Rep. Shane Sandridge of Colorado Springs as their primary sponsor, because apparently transgender people really keep him up at night. These bills strike at the heart of basic rights for transgender people by making pertinent medical treatments a felony if given to minors, and excluding transgender people from sports events in the event a participants gender is “disputed.” Rep. Stephen Humphrey, the GOP House minority’s leading “gynotician” sponsor of perennial abortion ban bills, is the prime sponsor of the “Colorado Natural Marriage And Adoption Act,” which says that the U.S. Supreme Court can stuff it on marriage equality–and families with children adopted by same-sex couples should be broken up.

Finally, there’s the “Live and Let Live Act,” a returning bill to “roll back protections for LGBTQ Coloradans in the areas of adoption and foster care, healthcare, housing, employment, and public spaces on the basis of religious freedom.” Back in 2018, Humphrey described this as legislation to “ensure that tolerance is a two-way street,” which we assume is an attempt to morally equate one group’s right to exist with a another group’s right to hate the first group.

There was a time, not so long ago, when at least a faction of Colorado Republicans pleaded with the wedge-issue warriors in their midst to stop these gratuitous insults and threats against a segment of the population most Americans believe should have the same rights and protections as anyone else, correctly arguing that politically it is doing more harm than good. With the GOP’s lurch right accelerating under President Donald Trump, that good advice seems more dated and forgotten than ever.

And like reproductive rights, it’s a reminder that the unthinkable is never more than one election away.


Get More Smarter on Monday (February 10)

Valentine’s Day is on Friday; you’re welcome. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


President Trump is making his swamp…swampier. Still basking in the orange glow of a Republican Senate cover-up for his impeachment crimes, Trump is taking out his anger on administration officials and staffers who dared speak the truth. As The Atlantic explains in a story titled, “The Crime of Doing the Right Thing“:

Trump managed to wait two days after his Senate acquittal before taking care of family business, as Michael Corleone would put it, with respect to those who had upset him in the Ukraine affair.

[On Friday] he removed from the National Security Council staff Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman—along with Vindman’s twin brother, who served as an NSC attorney, for good measure. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman had had the temerity to object to Trump’s “perfect” phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and then committed the unforgivable sin of telling the truth about the matter when the House impeachment investigation sought his testimony. The brothers were, according to reports, escorted out of the White House complex…

…Trump also fired Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, who had tried to play both sides—testifying in a fashion that upset Trump while being cagey at first and thus raising questions to House members about his candor. Sondland had managed to please nobody, and his presence on the scene at all was, in any event, a function of his large donation to the presidential inaugural committee. He had bought his way into service at the pleasure of the president and, having done so, proceeded to displease the president.


► After spending the end of last week bumbling and fumbling for a coherent message on why he voted to acquit President Trump in the Senate impeachment trial, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) threw some red meat around in an interview with “Fox & Friends.” Gardner needs these softball interviews, because he keeps bombing with local news reporters asking relevant questions.


► Voters in New Hampshire cast their ballots in Presidential Primary race on Tuesday; on the Democratic side of the ledger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders looks like the frontrunner.

Meanwhile, we finally found out who won the Iowa caucuses and associated delegates — well, mostly. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg won the most delegates, while Sanders appears to have won the popular vote. The Sanders campaign is indicating that it will ask for a remcanvass of votes in at least some districts; the current results would assign 14 delegates to Buttigieg and 12 delegates to Sanders. The New York Times breaks down how the Iowa caucuses went so awry for Democrats.

Here in Colorado, mail ballots for the Presidential Primary races will start going out this week; Jesse Paul of The Colorado Sun has more on what to expect in your mailbox.


► The Trump administration budget is rolling out its new budget proposal, which seeks to cut domestic spending on the backs of Americans relying on Medicaid and food stamps, while also slashing foreign aid by a considerable amount. Via Politico:

As with his previous budget proposals, Trump is once again seeking deep and unrealistic cuts to most federal agency budgets, according to the budget summary tables. The cuts are unlikely to be embraced by Congress.

For example, the administration is seeking an 8 percent cut to USDA’s budget over current funding levels. Trump’s plan would cut the Commerce Department by 37 percent, the Education Department by 8 percent, the Energy Department by 8 percent, the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 15 percent, and the Department of Health and Human Services by 9 percent.

The administration is also seeking a 13 percent cut to the Interior Department, a 2 percent cut to the Justice Department, an 11 percent cut to the Labor Department, a nearly 21 percent cut to the State Department and a 13 percent cut to the Department of Transportation. The EPA’s budget would see a nearly 27 percent chop, the Army Corps of Engineers would see a 22 percent reduction and the Small Business Administration would see an 11 percent decrease.

As Greg Sargent writes for The Washington Post, this seems like an odd election-year strategy for Trump:

This new budget is being widely described as a blueprint for Trump’s argument for a second term. It’s actually a very good argument against a second term.


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


Gotta Love That GOP Grassroots, HD-38 Edition

Rep.-designate Richard Champion (R).

Last weekend, outgoing Trump administration bound GOP Rep. Susan Beckman in House District 38 was replaced by the mayor of the teensy high-income enclave of Columbine Valley, Richard Champion–though the loser of the appointment Brenda Stokes vows to fight on in a primary–and as the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Michael Karlik reports, the very fine Republicans of HD-38 were feeling frisky about their preferences:

“I want a representative that’s not going to be following the rules of Lenin,” said Sandra Galpin of Centennial.

“I just know that I wish Polis would drop dead and we’d have good Republicans,” added Lucille Strohl, also of Centennial… [Pols emphasis]

Thomas McCoy of Littleton, who voted for Champion, said he would have been satisfied with either candidate, but that “Mr. Champion was the only one that addressed the solid backing of President Trump.” McCoy felt it was important for a state representative to vocally support Trump because “his values are good for the country. The state representatives should at least emotionally be on board with President Trump. If they oppose him, then what good are they to me, to us?”

After Rep. Beckman was re-elected to her seat in 2018 by fewer than 400 votes, she was understandably happy to grab an alternative brass ring when it came by instead of defending the seat again in 2020–an escape route that other Republican legislators in competitive districts have taken like ex-Rep. Clarice Navarro of Pueblo. After narrowly and controversially losing her bid to lead the Colorado Republican Party to Ken Buck, we’d guess Beckman is ready to trade in the rough and tumble of elected office for a cozy home in the D.C. swamp.

We’ll be watching to see how Rep. Champion fares in this closely divided swing district with his Lenin-free Polis-drop-dead “emotionally on board with President Trump” mandate from the HD-38 GOP vacancy committee.


Get More Smarter on Friday (February 7)

Remember that old joke about how your (grand)parents had to walk 10 miles a day to school in the snow, and it was uphill both ways? Yeah, well, your kids won’t be able to use that one. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


► The 2020 “Thanks for Covering Up for Me on Impeachment” tour is coming to Colorado. President Trump will stump for himself (mostly) and Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado Springs on February 20. If you’ve always wanted to see the Big Orange Guy bloviate in person, this could be your last chance; Colorado isn’t what you’d call a “winnable state” for Trump in 2020, so he may not be back.

Gardner could use all the help he can get for his re-election bid; he’s getting absolutely hammered in Colorado for his inept explanations about why he supported Trump’s acquittal. As the editorial board of The Denver Post writes: “Coloradans deserve better than Cory Gardner.”


President Trump held court in front of a microphone at the White House on Thursday for an airing of grievances related to his impeachment acquittal. As Chris Cillizza of CNN explains, everyone who was in attendance should be ashamed of themselves:

Less than 24 hours after formally being acquitted by the Senate, President Donald Trump riffed for over an hour from inside the White House — a vengeful, angry, fact-challenged spew of score-settling that even for this most unorthodox of presidents was eye-opening in its tone and jaw-dropping in its boundary busting…

…It felt like watching a bully beat up a helpless kid. Sure, the bully is to blame. But the crowd of people surrounding the beating and either cheering or doing nothing at all are far worse.

Trump is Trump. While he stepped beyond where has gone before in many respects during Thursday’s “celebration,” it hard to say that no one saw this coming.

But the complicity of those in attendance — the most powerful people within the Republican Party — is what was truly astounding. Yes, the Republican Party threw in its lot with Trump (and his forced takeover of it) long ago. But to sit by or even celebrate while Trump used the White House as a combination of a campaign venue, or a bathroom wall on which to write his darkest thoughts about those who oppose him, was beyond unforgivable. [Pols emphasis]

Interestingly, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner did not warrant a special shout-out from President Trump:

Meanwhile, President Trump is working on ousting all dissidents — the honest people on payroll — from his administration, as The Washington Post reports.


Surrogates for Democratic Presidential candidates are scheduled to tool around in Colorado this weekend. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro is stumping for Elizabeth Warren today and tomorrow. Former “Law & Order” actor Sam Waterston will help open new field offices this weekend for Mike Bloomberg.

Elsewhere in Democratic Presidential candidate news, the campaign for Bernie Sanders is hiring more staff in Colorado and increasing its advertising budget; and State Sen. Julie Gonzales is endorsing Elizabeth Warren.


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


Celebratin’ Trump Skatin’ On The State House Floor

Via GOP Rep. Matt Soper, Colorado House Republicans had themselves an extemporaneous party on the floor of the chamber today to celebrate the acquittal yesterday of President Donald Trump:

Rep. Soper exults less than eloquently:

The rights of the innocence [sic] were upheld. The House Republican caucus celebrated the exoneration of President Trump.

Long live the “rights of the innocence!” A couple of points though, first being that as a lawyer–even a lawyer with poor grammar–Rep. Soper should know that acquittal and “exoneration” are meaningfully distinct from one another, that is they are not synonymous and can’t be used interchangeably. We realize that Republicans right to the top are having trouble with this distinction recently.

The other problem is it was our understanding that overtly political demonstrations of this kind were not allowed inside the walls of the state capitol. Back in 2018 when a portrait of Vladimir Putin was planted where Donald Trump’s should have been in the capitol rotunda as a prank, then-Senate President Kevin Grantham was highly uptight about the supposed breach of decorum:

Grantham says he was not sure it was real at first, but says they are no looking into how it happened.

“This is basically a political statement and political demonstration within the capitol. It is simply not allowed,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

So much for that we guess!

But if at any point between now in November Colorado Republicans find it strategic to put daylight between themselves and an unpopular President who has already cost them one election, here’s a photo that will make that more or less impossible. We’ll see in November how much the House GOP minority regrets it.


The Get More Smarter Podcast: Impeach the Caucuses!

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, hosts Jason Bane and Alan Franklin discuss the disastrous Iowa caucuses; the final day of the Senate impeachment trial; and what we learned from a couple of big last-minute campaign finance reports. We also chat again with House Majority Leader Alec Garnett in our regular “Smart Alec” crossover, covering topics including the death of a puppy mill bill; the latest on efforts to repeal the death penalty; legislation that would allow college athletes to get paid; and how Colorado decided to ditch its Presidential caucus system in favor of holding a straightforward vote. It would be impossible to not Get More Smarter this week!

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Hit us up at

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Rep. Tom Sullivan Gets Big Ups In Bloomberg Ad

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, presently spending more money than you’ll see in a lifetime every couple of days to brute force his way into contention, has an undeniably powerful new ad running this week featuring state Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial. Rep. Sullivan’s loyalty to Bloomberg straightforwardly relates to both mens’ advocacy on gun violence prevention–Sullivan’s signature issue as the father of a victim of the July 2012 Aurora theater shooting.

For Rep. Sullivan, this ad–and more importantly the budget to ensure it airs at a saturation level–pays dividends no matter what happens in the long run with Bloomberg’s presidential campaign. Sullivan is increasingly viewed as one of the better assets in Colorado Democrats’ talent pool for upward mobility, a status that was significantly boosted by the extremely ill-advised attempt by Colorado Republicans to recall Sullivan last summer.

After this ad, more people will know Tom Sullivan’s story than ever before.


Get More Smarter on Monday (February 3)

It’s cold, wet, and icy today — please be careful out there, and don’t put stock in weather forecasts from rodents. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


Closing arguments are being made today in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, though acquittal appears to be a foregone conclusion — nevermind a new NBC News/Wall St. Journal poll showing that most Americans believe Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress. On Friday, Republican Senators blocked efforts to add new witnesses or documents to the impeachment inquiry, effectively ending any hope of a real trial in the Senate.

House impeachment managers are nevertheless making their final case today in the Senate. “Your duty demands you convict President Trump,” said Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) today on the Senate floor. As The Denver Post reports:

The Aurora Democrat spoke first Monday morning as the seven impeachment managers made their final case to the Senate and the American people. He quoted from the nation’s Founding Fathers and former giants of the Senate, such as Daniel Webster, as he urged senators to do what they almost certainly will not do: convict the president and remove him from office. [Pols emphasis]

“I submit to you, on behalf of the House of Representatives, that your duty demands you convict President Trump,” Crow said. “I don’t pretend this is an easy process. It’s not designed to be easy. It shouldn’t be easy to impeach or convict a president. Impeachment is an extraordinary remedy, a tool only to be used in rare instances of grave misconduct, but it is in the Constitution for a reason.

“In America, no one is above the law, even those elected president of the United States, and I would say, especially those elected president of the United States.”

You can watch Rep. Crow’s entire closing argument below:



► Meanwhile, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is still getting a lot of impeachment-related attention…but not in a good way. #CoverUpCory has become a national trend.

The editorial board of The Aurora Sentinel calls out Gardner and his fellow Republicans for their cowardice on impeachment:

America can add Jan. 31, 2020 to the list of the nation’s most appalling blunders.

Defying their sworn duty, overwhelming public opinion and decency, the Republican Party on that day succumbed to fear and corruption in the impeachment case against President Donald Trump.

Friday became historical as the day Senate Republicans refused to seek the truth about just how far the president had gone in blackmailing Ukranian officials, forcing them to undermine Trump’s political opponent…

…Republicans, and the entire nation know full well that a tsunami of truth and facts will eventually wash away Trump’s deceptions and obfuscations. Cowardly members of Trump’s own party, however,  prevented those revelations now.

Instead, Jan. 31, 2020 was the day Senate Republicans like Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner shrank in fear and colluded in the scheme to hide Trump’s crimes from the American public. [Pols emphasis]


► It’s caucus day in Iowa. Readers of Colorado Pols will tell you who is going to win tonight. The Washington Post takes a look at how the ghost of Hillary Clinton still haunts Democrats in Iowa. Here’s a primer on the Iowa caucuses and how they will be different than they were in 2016.


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


Get More Smarter on Friday (January 31)

Happy Nauru Independence Day; please celebrate responsibly. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


► It appears that we are nearing the inevitable conclusion of President Trump’s acquittal at the hands of Senate Republicans who refuse to see anything wrong with anything wrong. On Thursday evening, Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander — who is not seeking re-election — was nevertheless unable to summon the courage to support a call for more witnesses in the Senate trial. Maine Sen. Susan Collins announced that she WOULD support a call for witness testimony, but without Alexander’s support there probably aren’t enough Republicans to make that happen. CNN’s Chris Cillizza breaks down how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell kept his caucus together on avoiding new witnesses.

As The Washington Post reports, the end is near — though it may be drawn out a bit longer still:

While many Republicans have expressed hopes that the expected failure of a vote to call new witnesses would mean a rapid end to Trump’s impeachment trial, officials are warning that might not be the case.

A longer schedule could mean the trial stretches beyond Monday’s Iowa caucuses, further complicating the campaign schedules of the four senators seeking the Democratic nomination who are sitting as jurors.

A senior administration official and two congressional officials said Friday it was unlikely that senators would rush immediately to a verdict after the witness vote fails. They requested anonymity to speak candidly about internal discussions.

The administration official and a congressional official raised the possibility that the Senate could take up a new procedural resolution laying out rules for the trial’s endgame — which could include time for closing arguments, private deliberations and public speeches by senators.

The Senate passed such a supplemental resolution in the middle of the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.

Perhaps no Senate Republican is more emblematic of the GOP’s blind loyalty to Trump than Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner. As Greg Sargent of The Washington Post revealed on Thursday, there is significant evidence that Gardner has known for years that former Vice President Joe Biden did nothing unethical in relation to his dealings with Ukraine, which invalidates a key Trump argument about why $391 million in foreign aid was withheld from the country.

You’ll be seeing a lot of the hashtag #CoverUpCory over the next year.


► Jason Salzman of the Colorado Times-Recorder takes an impeachment-related comparison of two of the most endangered Republican Senators in 2020: Gardner and Susan Collins of Maine. You can probably guess who ends up looking better.


► Monday is the deadline to change your voter affiliation in Colorado if you want to cast a vote in the March 3 Democratic Presidential Primary. There will probably not be chaos.


► As Jim Anderson writes for the Associated Press, legislation to repeal the death penalty in Colorado moved a step closer to passage with a vote in the State Senate.


► We’re still waiting for end-of-year fundraising reports from several federal campaigns, most notably those of Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic Senate challenger Andrew Romanoff. If both campaigns wait as long as possible to file their reports, you probably won’t hear anything about the numbers until Saturday.


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


Get More Smarter on Thursday (January 30)

On this day in 1933, Adolf Hitler was sworn-in as Chancellor of Germany. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


► Why was #CoverUpCory trending nationally on Twitter on Wednesday? Because Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) announced — after months of dodging the issue — that he opposes calling witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump.

Earlier this week, Gardner said that he had “approached every aspect of this grave constitutional duty with the respect and attention required by law, and with the seriousness our oath requires.” He apparently forgot to add the part, “but only for two weeks.” Gardner really just wants this all to go away.

Meanwhile, the Senate impeachment trial continues today, with Republicans looking to wrap things up in the next couple of days as long as they can prevent four elephants in their ranks from voting to hear from new witnesses.


President Trump’s attorneys presented a brazen new strategy on Wednesday in the Senate impeachment trial. As Aaron Blake writes for The Washington Post:

A decade after being acquitted of murder, Alan Dershowitz’s former client O.J. Simpson questionably planned a book and a TV special titled, “If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened.”

On Wednesday, Dershowitz assisted in a novel defense for his current client, President Trump: If he did it, it’s still okay. [Pols emphasis]

As The Post’s Erica Werner, Karoun Demirjian and Elise Viebeck write, Trump’s legal team advanced an exceptionally broad defense of Trump’s actions at Wednesday’s Q&A session of the impeachment trial. The most striking parts of that defense came when they entertained the idea that Trump was indeed out for personal political gain when he asked Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a political rival, and his son Hunter Biden — despite long-standing denials that he was — and suggested even that that would be aboveboard.

It was almost as if they are girding for what might come from former national security adviser John Bolton.

In a separate story, The Washington Post points out that Trump’s attorneys notably refused to answer two very important questions.

As NBC News reports, legal experts are aghast at Dershowitz’s logic:

Dershowitz argued Wednesday that if a president engaged in a quid pro quo arrangement for their own political benefit, it is not impeachable because all politicians believe that their elections are in the public interest…

…Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley, law school, said he thought Dershowitz’s argument was “absurd and outrageous.”

“It means that a president could break any law or abuse any power and say that it was for the public interest because the public interest would be served by his or her election,” he said.

And Sanford Levinson, a University of Texas law professor, said Dershowitz’s argument was “on its face, preposterous.”

And yet…Senate Republicans are eating it up.
► Fundraising reports for federal campaigns are due to be filed before the end of the day on Friday, January 31. While many candidates for federal office in Colorado have already made their end-of-year and Q4 2019 fundraising numbers public, we’re still waiting to find out results from the campaigns of Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic Senate challenger Andrew Romanoff. If both campaigns wait as long as possible to file their reports, you probably won’t hear anything about the numbers until Saturday.


► The Colorado State Senate is again debating legislation that would end the death penalty in Colorado. House Majority Leader Alec Garnett discusses this bill and other hot items under the Gold Dome in this week’s episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast.



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


The Get More Smarter Podcast: #CoverUpCory

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, your regular (relatively) host Jason Bane is joined by Alan Franklin and producer extraordinaire Ethan Black to discuss the latest impeachment news — we had to come back and record twice just to keep up — as well as #CoverUpCory Gardner, John Bolton, and next week’s Iowa caucuses. Later, House Majority Leader Alec Garnett joins us to update the latest news on the Colorado legislative session and to provide his “lock of the week” for those of you laying down bets on the Super Bowl “Big Game” this weekend.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Hit us up at

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Please Stop Calling Big Oil “Good Corporate Citizens”

Photo courtesy Gov. Jared Polis.

With all eyes squarely focused on the slow-motion train wreck playing out in Washington, D.C., we wanted to be sure a new report from the office of Colorado State Auditor Dianne Ray got a mention. It’s the latest shining example of “good corporate citizenship” from the oil and gas industry, whose attempt to apocalyptically upend basic land use regulations in Colorado on the 2018 ballot Amendment 74 was thankfully defeated. Colorado Public Radio reports:

Colorado could be losing millions in tax revenues. A new state audit finds that oil and gas companies operating in Colorado have failed to submit thousands of monthly reports used to track how much energy they produce.

In turn, those reports help the state determine if the companies have paid the right amount of taxes.

The audit also says regulators aren’t imposing penalties or tracking the missing or incomplete production reports.

“Based on these assumptions, we estimate that operators would have been subject to about $308 million in penalties for delinquent reports for the 30-day period, none of which the [Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation] Commission actually imposed,” according to the audit.

To be clear, there are a couple of problems at work here. The biggest problem is that energy companies are failing to file reports to the state used to calculate their severance tax liability. There seems to be an attempt by Republican members of the Legislative Audit Committee to lay the blame on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, but it’s the producers who have the obvious financial motive to not file these reports in the first place.

In 2016 alone the audit said one company failed to submit as many as 1,123 monthly well reports. That potentially totals an additional $2.6 million in severance taxes that the operator would have owed the state. [Pols emphasis]

“It was distressing to see that there was a culture of acceptance of not filing forms,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelsen Jenet, the Democratic vice chair of the committee. “And the top producers are the biggest violators and we’re talking about thousands upon thousands of forms not filed. ”

We don’t think there’s a question whether regulators failing to adequately monitor compliance or producers conveniently “forgetting” to file their paperwork are at fault here. Certainly the COGCC needs to tighten their procedures make sure no one can just fail to file their production reports to avoid paying severance taxes. But the odds that the producers themselves were not aware of their own production in order to correctly report it are extremely remote.

If the oil and gas industry had not proven itself to be a predacious neighbor by spending millions trying to pass Amendment 74 in 2018, which would have either bankrupted local governments across the state or disrupted the most basic zoning and land-use authority everyone in Colorado takes for granted whether they know it or not, perhaps we’d be more inclined to let bygones be bygones–with a bill for all past due severance taxes, interest, and penalties. But that doesn’t seem like enough.

This politically vindictive industry deserves to be shamed. By every Colorado taxpayer.


ICYMI: Hospitals Making Big Bucks at Your Expense

Hospital executives

We’ve noted at length in this space that creating a “public option” for health care in Colorado will be perhaps the biggest fight of the 2020 legislative session. Governor Jared Polis has made a “public option” a priority for his administration (check out this interview with Polis for more detail), and the health care industry is already spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads and direct mail complaints in an effort to get ahead of the debate and sway public opinion.

The health care industry and “Big Hospital” (also known as the Colorado Hospital Association) have a tough task ahead of them; recent polling shows strong support for a “public option” in Colorado, and a new study released last week examines just how much Coloradans are getting gouged by the health care industry. As The Denver Post reported on Thursday:

Despite money from the state to make up for funding shortfalls and increases in Medicaid payment rates, hospitals — not the providers — are making billions in profits while forcing patients to pay more, according to a report released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing

…The report argues that hospitals are facing less of a shortfall than they did a decade ago because fewer people are uninsured and the state has increased Medicaid reimbursement rates and created other mechanisms to fund shortfalls. Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera said the state expected hospitals to stop shifting so much of their costs onto people with private insurance as their shortfall went down, but instead they’ve increased spending on executives and middle men.

The shiniest numbers in the state report show that hospital profits nearly tripled in the last decade, rising from an average of $538 per patient in 2009 to $1,518 in 2018. The Colorado Hospital Association responded to these figures with some carefully-ordered but generally meaningless words:

The hospital association said the profits the state cited don’t into account some of their costs, like taxes and the value of time spent training medical residents. It also attributed much of the increase in profitability to a strong economy and to improvements in vulnerable hospitals’ finances.

“(Profit) margin improvement is also due to hospitals working to control their costs as they work to address affordability and operate during a time of great uncertainty,” the statement said.

The health care industry doesn’t have a lot to say here in part because other studies have come to similar conclusions; a separate report from the Health Care Cost Institute showed prices for inpatient hospital services in Denver and Colorado Springs far outpacing nationwide increases.

If the Colorado Hospital Association plans to keep on yammering about “profit margin improvement” while regular Coloradans are discussing the fact that they can’t afford health care, the “public option” debate may be more one-sided than anyone could have predicted.


Former Rep. Judy Reyher is Now Out of the Race in HD-47

Ex-Rep. Judy Reyher, who famously told The Denver Post that she “hated the black half of Obama as much as” she “hated the white half.”

Republican Judy Reyher, the unabashed racist who was briefly a state legislator in HD-47 until voters decided, “no, thanks,” has removed herself from consideration for a State House seat in 2020.

We noted last November that Reyher and her technicolor dreamcoat were hoping to make a comeback in the state legislature, but that campaign was short-lived. Today, Reyher announced via Facebook that she was dropping her bid for HD-47 and throwing her support behind Republican Ron Parker for the Pueblo-area seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Bri Buentello.

“After a great deal of thought and discussion with people who matter to me, I have decided that I am dropping out of the race for Colorado House District 47 for the 2020 election,” wrote Reyher on Facebook. “I stepped in because I firmly believe we must send our current Representative home, and we must put this seat back into the hands of a Republican. We now have Ron Parker from Pueblo as a candidate. I believe he will do a good job, and I will do all I can to help elect him.”

Reyher served in the State Legislature for one full session in 2018 after winning a vacancy committee appointment, and then proceeded to lose a GOP Primary to an equally-problematic General Election candidate in Don Bendell. A few months later, Buentello defeated “Deadbeat Dad” Bendell to flip a Republican-held seat to the side of Democrats.

We have now learned two things from Reyher: 1) You can’t be a racist if you went to a wedding in China, and 2) It’s hard to make a comeback in a legislative district when your own party has already rejected you once before.


A Political Circus is Coming to Weld County

(Clockwise from bottom left): Lori Saine, Barbara Kirkmeyer, Perry Buck, and Vicki Marble

We noted last summer that Weld County voters were in for a wild game of musical chairs in 2020. It looks like the fun is going to get started a bit earlier than anticipated.

Term-limited Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway is resigning his position effective Jan. 31, which means a short-term replacement must be selected within the next couple of weeks. State Representative Perry Buck – who is also term-limited in HD-49 — was already running to succeed Conway in November and will presumably want to be appointed to the Weld County vacancy. Republican leadership in the House Minority Office appears to be aware of this; Buck has been removed from all committee assignments except for one (Education), which is the required minimum for a sitting lawmaker, after previously serving on two other committees (Rural Affairs & Agriculture, and Transportation & Local Government); this is often a pretty good indication that a lawmaker has one foot out the door of the State Capitol.

Now…if Buck is appointed Weld County Commissioner, she will need to resign her position in the State House, which is where things start to get weird. State Senator Vicki MarbleCub Scout debater, fried chicken critic, and all-around crazy person — is term-limited and has already filed to run for Buck’s State House seat in November. Marble probably would like to finish her second term in the State Senate, but not pursuing a vacancy in HD-49 would open her up to a difficult primary challenge from another Republican (unless the GOP is able to find someone for the vacancy who promises not to run for a full term in November).

If Marble does successfully pursue a vacancy in the State House, then a GOP vacancy committee will need to fill her State Senate seat sometime in February. This creates a couple of problems for Republicans. For one thing, the Senate GOP really can’t afford to lose a reliable right-wing vote given their minority status – even if it’s just for a couple of weeks. But a vacancy in SD-23 also widens a Republican rift involving a Primary fight to succeed Marble.

Rupert Parchment II

Outgoing Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer (see how this all comes full circle?) is running against Rupert Parchment II for the GOP nomination in SD-23. Kirkmeyer is a darling of the oil and gas industry, while Parchment has the backing of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), the Dudley Brown-run gun group with close ties to House Minority Leader Patrick Neville. Kirkmeyer’s campaign has raised significantly more money thus far – she has about $45k in the bank compared to less than $4k for Parchment – but with RMGO’s help, Parchment would have a decent chance to win a vacancy committee appointment. Parchment could really raise his name ID and profile among GOP voters in that scenario, which would go a long way toward evening out Kirkmeyer’s monetary advantage in the June Primary.

The last thing Colorado Republicans need right now is another bloody legislative primary race, but that might be exactly where things are headed in the coming months.


Susan Beckman Gets Last Laugh On Ken Buck

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Alex Burness:

[Beckman] did not specify what her new job will be, nor did she immediately respond to a call from The Denver Post. The White House has not yet responded to a question about Beckman, and a spokesperson for the state GOP declined to comment…

In late March, Beckman narrowly lost the election for the next Colorado Republican Party chair, a role that would have led to her resignation from the legislature. Promising to “shine a light on the backpack consultants that are getting millions and millions of dollars on the backs of Republican losses,” [Pols emphasis] Beckman grabbed a plurality of votes on the first ballot but couldn’t capture the majority needed.


The subject du jour at the Colorado Capitol today is the announcement this morning that Republican Rep. Susan Beckman of Arapahoe County will resign, effective immediately, to take a job in the Trump administration. She’s the third GOP state lawmaker from Colorado to take this particular route out of electoral harm’s way:

Rep. Beckman’s last election in 2018 was one of the night’s big nailbiters, with Beckman only narrowly prevailing over her Democratic challenger Chris Kolker by 374 votes. It’s possible that this brush with defeat inspired Beckman to start looking elsewhere for career advancement, but Beckman failed–again by a narrow margin, and this time fraught with controversy–to defeat Congressman Ken Buck in the race to lead the Colorado Republican Party.

Since then, of course, Buck’s absentee mismanagement of the party has given Beckman plenty of grounds to feel vindicated. And with Arapahoe County leading the state’s blueward shift that accelerated in 2018, we may look back in a year and observe that Beckman bailed out at exactly the right time.


Yes Virginia, Colorado’s “Red Flag” Law Is Working


Semiautomatic guns for sale.

As the Denver Post’s Elise Schmelzer reports:

In the first 15 days Colorado’s red-flag law has been active, residents and law enforcement have used the controversial statute in five cases to request that guns be removed from a wide range of people: an abusive boyfriend, a suicidal man, the father of a grandchild, a suspect who threatened a mass shooting and a police officer…

The red-flag law, which went into effect Jan. 1, allows family members, household members and law enforcement to request that a judge order the removal of person’s guns if they are a threat to themselves or others. The law caused intense debate in the legislature, including prompting some sheriffs to say they wouldn’t uphold the law because they believe it violates a person’s Second Amendment rights.

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports on the first successful use of the extreme risk protection order (ERPO) law in Denver, in which a man who made threats to hurt himself and his wife has relinquished his guns for a 364-day period:

A Denver probate court on Tuesday approved a 364-day extreme risk protection order for a Denver man who gave up two guns to Denver police in late December after he allegedly threatened himself and his wife with a handgun during and after a dispute.

A Denver police sergeant filed a petition on Jan. 2 for a 14-day temporary extreme risk protection order (ERPO) against the 26-year-old man, whom Denver7 is not naming because prosecutors declined to press charges against him. A hearing had been set for Jan. 16 to determine if a longer ERPO would be put in place for the man.

But the man and his attorney came to an agreement on a permanent order, which was filed Tuesday in Denver Probate Court, that the man will allow police to keep custody of his two semi-automatic handguns for a 364-day period that started Tuesday.

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith.

That’s an undeniably successful outcome, with a gun owner who threatened to kill himself and his wife voluntarily surrendering his guns in advance of the hearing. The Fort Collins Coloradoan reports on another “red flag” case that seems like a model utilization of the law out of Larimer County:

A Fort Collins man accused of sending texts threatening a “master plan” to eventually commit two school campus shootings is likely the first case of Colorado’s new “red flag” law being used in Larimer County.

In texts to his adoptive father in January and March last year, David Gatton, a 31-year-old military veteran, threatened to commit mass shootings, investigators say…

In the texts — which Gatton admitted to sending — he said he was struggling to find work and that if his adoptive parents didn’t stop asking him to pay back money he owed them, he would enact his plan to “kill a lot of people.”

Of the ERPO request cases filed since the law took effect at the beginning of the year, we know of two that have been denied. The first was a request made in conservative Lincoln County, where the sheriff and county government are hostile to the law–as we’ve discussed, a potential flashpoint if a refused request for an ERPO precipitates tragedy. The second case, which has received considerable attention in the last few days, concerns the mother of a young man who was killed by CSU police officers in Fort Collins, in what was determined to be a case of “suicide by cop” and a justified use of force. This ERPO case was dismissed earlier today for lack of standing, since the request falsely claimed that the petitioner and the police officer “shared a child.” The Loveland Reporter-Herald:

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a statement that the court ruled properly in denying Holmes’ petition.

“What the hearing today demonstrated is that there are protections in the ERPO law to prevent people from abusing it,” Weiser said. [Pols emphasis] “Abuse of this important law undermines the very fabric of its critical purpose, which is to protect public safety.”

During the initial confusion over Susan Holmes’ ERPO petition, which was apparently filed without a request for a temporary order making today the first opportunity for a judge to rule, local gun nuts seized on the as-yet unanswered questions about the case to spread misinformation and general discontent about the new “red flag” law. But in reality, early test cases like this one are necessary to establish precedents that determine how the law will function. The outcome of this particular case, which may include criminal charges for Holmes’ lying under oath, should inspire confidence that the checks and balances in the process to prevent abuse actually do work.

Unfortunately, the true moment to dread–the first improperly denied ERPO that results in preventable loss of life–is still out there waiting to happen. We expect that inevitability, but we do not relish it.


Finally Time To Hang Up And Drive, Colorado?

This guy.

The Denver Post’s Linnea Lipson reports:

Colorado may soon follow 20 other states in prohibiting hand-held phone use while driving.

The proposed legislation would make it illegal for adults to use a mobile device while driving, except through the use of hands-free equipment. It also would bar drivers under 18 years old from using any mobile devices. Colorado already bans texting while driving.

“It’s a pretty common-sense measure to make our roads safer,” said Rep. Dylan Roberts, who is sponsoring the bill. He said his constituents want legislators to act on this issue to cut down on crashes.

This is by our count at least the fourth time that legislation to outlaw use of a handheld cell phone while driving. In previous years, a combination of efficacy and civil liberties concerns pulled together a majority to defeat the bill. Supporters argue that the near-ubiquity of built-in speakerphone technology in cars built in the past few years makes it easier than ever for drivers to comply–an argument met with rightful concern about the impact of the law on less affluent drivers with older cars.

What say you, gentle readers? Is it time to hang up and drive, or do you have a sacred right to multitask?

Don’t worry, your answer will not be reported to your insurance company.