Stand for Children Endorses Watson in HD-3

Education reform group Stand for Children has endorsed Republican Brian Watson in his HD-3 campaign against incumbent State Representative Dan Kagan, just days after the hyper-competitive race topped out the Colorado Statesman’s August list of the top 12 campaigns to watch in Colorado.

From Ed News Colorado:

The education advocacy group Stand for Children has endorsed a split ticket of six Democrats and five Republicans in 2012 races for seats in the Colorado legislature.

Here’s the rundown of Stand’s endorsements, plus snapshots of the races and the involvement of other education groups:

House District 3 (Greenwood Village area) – Stand endorsed GOP businessman Brian Watson over Rep. Daniel Kagan. The race is considered tight; groups affiliated with the Colorado Education Association have contributed to Kagan.

Stand’s endorsement won’t drastically shift the dynamics of this race. Kagan, after all, was never expected to receive any support from the group. He was a vocal opponent of State Senator Michael Johnston’s SB-191, the teacher-effectiveness bill that Stand both crafted and advocated heavily for at the end of the 2010 legislative session. When that bill came to the House floor, you may remember, Kagan led a 90 minute “filibuster” in an attempt to block its passage. Kagan’s efforts failed, much to the chagrin of the Colorado Education Association and several House Democrats, and the “Great Teachers and Leaders” bill was eventually signed into law.

Still, with Stand’s endorsement, Watson added another talking point to his campaign arsenal. He can now paint himself as forward-thinking on education, willing to take on the much-maligned teacher’s unions in order to provide the district’s kids with the education they deserve. This race won’t be won or lost because of an education group’s endorsement — or even over education policy itself — but for a seat this competitive, even the anticipated endorsements matter.

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Reminder: Denver Furlough Day Tomorrow

Many components of Denver city government will be closed tomorrow as part of a previously announced furlough day. The Friday closure comes in addition to Denver’s regularly scheduled holiday in observance of Labor Day on Monday.

From Denver Mayor Michael Hancock:

Most City and County of Denver offices will be closed Monday, Sept. 3 in observance of the Labor Day holiday. In addition, all City and County of Denver offices will be closed Friday, Aug. 31 due to a previously announced furlough day for city employees.

Friday is the fourth of five planned furlough days for 2012. The furlough days were suggested by many employees as a way to save money during a time of revenue decline. Each furlough day saves approximately $1 million for the city’s general fund.

As a result of the holiday and budget-required furlough, the Mayor’s Office, City Council offices, Clerk and Recorder’s Office, Auditor’s Office and most city agencies will be closed on Friday and Monday.

Partner entities such as Denver Health and the Denver Zoo will remain open Friday and Monday, as will agencies that operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, such as Denver International Airport. Sworn members of the Denver Sheriff, Police and Fire departments and other emergency responders will report for duty Friday and Monday as well.

The Denver County Department of Motor Vehicles will remain open on Friday — though not on Monday — as part of Hancock’s pledge to “cut down wait times” and to provide “the highest level of service to our customers, the neighborhoods, residents and businesses of Denver.”

With city residents set to vote on a de-Brucing measure this fall, these furlough days act as an important reminder that Denver simply does not have the revenue to serve its residents every single day of the year. That reminder would’ve likely been more poignant if the DMV had shut down and displayed signs announcing “Closed today for lack of funds,” but it’s probably better that the city provide the services it can instead of making a political point.

And, even if the tax revenue measure passes this year, Denver will likely continue to force furlough days onto its employees. With a $94 million shortfall in the 2013 budget, the $64 million in returned revenue from de-Brucing needs to be supplemented by additional belt-tightening measures. Nobody likes furlough days, but they are a way to cut costs without cutting jobs.  

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Poll: Will de-Brucing Measure Pass This Year?

Early last week, the Denver City Council voted to refer Mayor Michael Hancock’s “de-Brucing” measure to the November ballot, asking voters to allow the city to keep the $86 million in revenues currently returned to the public every year.

Hancock was quick to celebrate the decision in a statement:

“I applaud my colleagues for their overwhelming support of this bill and for giving Denver voters the opportunity to eliminate the city’s budget deficit, recover from the recession and restore essential services that have been cut over the past four years. I also want to thank the business and civic leaders, including former Mayor Guillermo “Bill” Vidal, who stood today in support of a better future for our entire city.

“Nearly every other municipality and school district in Colorado has taken similar steps to help their local economies grow out of this recession and it is time Denver does the same. This proposal is part of a fair, balanced and reasonable approach to eliminate Denver’s budget gap and restore city services to our children, open libraries full-time, replace aging police and fire vehicles and repave streets that haven’t been resurfaced in two decades.”

Denver voters approved a similar measure in 2005, Referred Measure 1B, with 66% in favor and 34% opposed. Although that initiative passed handily with turnout especially high for an off-year election, it was aided by the statewide campaign for other TABOR-related measures, Referendums C & D.

It’s also important to remember that when voters were debating whether to give Denver additional revenues in 2005, Colorado’s economy had more or less rebounded from the 2001-2003 recession.

In 2012, then, with a struggling economy the central issue in a fiercely competitive presidential campaign, many voters might just be inclined to vote “no” either because they’re unsure about the measure’s effects or because they’re hesitant to allow the city to keep a single penny more of their money when their own pocketbooks are looking a little bare.

In famously-liberal Denver, the first outcome is probably a lot more likely than the second. And that’s nothing a well-oiled “YES on” campaign can’t fix.

What do you think? That is, if the election were held tomorrow, do you believe Denver’s de-Brucing measure will pass this year?

A poll follows.

[poll id=”1583″]

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Rule Number 1 of Political Web Design: Don’t Rip Off Your Opponent

State Senator Pat Steadman’s recently-appointed opponent Michael Carr has put together an surprisingly professional professional campaign website — astonishing because Carr cannot win and he’s only been in the race for a month. Navigating you to electcarr.com  presents visitors with a sleek black and yellow color scheme, complete with a candidate bio, a diminutive issues page, contact info, and, of course, a blog and donation button. The website’s not perfect. There’s no substantive text anywhere — the issues page is only 76 words long — and there’s not a single photo of Carr to be found.

Still, for a first-time candidate who only recently moved to Colorado and who only recently found out he’d be running for office, Carr’s done a pretty good job. That’s likely the result of Carr’s background in internet marketing.

Given the candidate’s experience as founder of Aspirant Marketing, a firm which announces that “We do Internet marketing. We do it because we’re passionate about it (and because we’re good at it),” you’d think that Carr would have the professional (and common) sense not to steal language from his opponent’s website.

He doesn’t.

Carr’s District Map page is nearly identical to Steadman’s.

Here’s Carr’s:

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HD-3 is Statesman’s “Top Race to Watch.”

The race between incumbent Dem Dan Kagan and Republican Brian Watson is something of a bellwether race for the legislature this year. Because the House GOP is just one seat away from ceding the speaker’s gavel to Mark Ferrandino, Republicans simply have to win against Kagan in order to compensate for inevitable losses caused by both redistricting and horrible candidates. A Republican win against Kagan also presages victory in other competitive seats across the state: if the moderate Watson is able to beat the incumbent Kagan, Democrats like Max Tyler in Jeffco and Linda Newell in Littleton might also find themselves without an office under the golden dome.

It’s fitting, then, that the Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning lists the HD-3 race as August’s top legislative race to watch:

1. House District 3

Incumbent Democratic state Rep. Daniel Kagan vs. Republican challenger Brian Watson (up from No. 2 last month)

Both parties’ legislative campaign operations point to their respective candidates in this south-suburban swing district as their star contenders this year, and with good reason. Watson was the first Republican candidate to make the top-tier of the state GOP’s Trailblazers program, passing benchmarks in fundraising and voter-contact, and Kagan is regularly used as an example of the Democrats’ best fundraiser and organizer. Early returns from this district could portend which way Colorado is heading on election night.

Who won the month: Watson is already mailing into the district and whispers that he could be ready to unleash TV ads against Kagan, though Democrats counter that Kagan has the strongest field operation in the state.

HD 3 race profile:

Geography: Northwestern Arapahoe County, covering Englewood, Cherry Hills Village, Greenwood Village and parts of Littleton

Active Democrats: 11,535 (31.9%)

Active Republicans: 13,016 (36.0%)

Active Unaffiliateds: 11,264 (31.2%)

Total active voters: 36,154

Hispanic population: 15.91%

• Bennet won the current district with 50.25% to Buck’s 44.71%; Kennedy won with 50.94% to Stapleton’s 49.06%; Bosley won with 50.02% to Hart’s 44.80%

• Kagan raised $84,131 and Watson raised $134,895 through the end of July. On Aug. 1, Kagan reported $55,369 cash on hand, and Watson had $62,343. Total raised for this race through July: $213,706; total spent: $100,005.

Because Kagan is known to work the hardest when the pressure is on and because Watson appears to be doing everything right — no small feat for a first-time candidate, no matter how much party support he’s receiving — this race will probably stay at or near the top of the Statesman’s list for the remaining few months before the election.

That is, of course, barring the discovery of the proverbial “dead girl or live boy.

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Poll: Should Denver Have a Wal-Mart Development at 8th and Colorado?

The development of Wal-Mart and other so-called “big box stores” is generally one of the most contentious zoning issues any city has to navigate.

Neighborhood opponents of these stores rely on the same three talking points: Wal-Mart is governed by an inhumane corporate culture focused solely on the bottom-line, building a Wal-Mart will shutter many small and locally owned businesses in a variety of industries, and the concomitant traffic increase will create safety and crime issues while lowering property values.

Supporters, meanwhile, usually point to the hundreds of jobs created by any one neighborhood Wal-Mart. They also emphasize that the huge parcels of property occupied by a big box retailer would generally be left blighted or otherwise derelict, and developing Wal-Mart as an “anchor store” creates space for other businesses to flourish. Not to mention the increased tax revenue spilling into city coffers as a result of both Wal-Mart development and sales.

In the case of the proposed Wal-Mart at 8th and Colorado, both sides are parroting their perspectives, as Fox31 reports:

Congress Park residents got a chance Wednesday evening to hear more about a proposed development that would put a Walmart in their neighborhood. The 28-acre residential/retail project would fill the area formerly occupied by the C.U. Health Sciences Center between 8th and 10th Avenues just east of Colorado Blvd.

Several hundred residents packed a room at National Jewish Health to hear representatives of Fuqua Development and Walmart outline details of the plan. The Walmart store would be three-quarters the size of one of its traditional superstores. It would include underground parking and other amenities that a spokesman said would represent a good fit for the neighborhood.

“Once people see the different concept that we have here, that it’s not a suburban store but more of an urban concept, they’re much more understanding and willing to consider supporting the idea,” said Joshua Phair, Walmart’s Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations.

Many residents worry that the Walmart will increase traffic headaches. They also criticize the company’s labor and business practices. One woman said the neighborhood wants “good sustainable well-paying jobs for our neighbors and none of these are values that Walmart stands for.”

Although Congress Park residents will be adversely impacted by many of the negative elements of a neighborhood Wal-Mart, the benefits — and yes, there are some — will be shared by Denver at-large.

As such, we want to hear from you. Do you think the Denver City Council should approve tax increment financing for a Wal-Mart store at 8th and Colorado, thereby ensuring its development? In other words, do you think Denver should be getting a Wal-Mart?

A poll follows.

[poll id=”1582″]

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Metro State Tuition Equity Generating National Press

Two months ago, Metropolitan State University of Denver stirred both headlines and the ire of local conservatives by announcing that undocumented students would be able to enroll in classes there at a tuition rate slightly higher than that of other Colorado residents but drastically lower than they had previously been forced to pay. This so-called “tuition equity” mirrored the potential effects of last session’s “ASSET” bill, which would’ve created a special tuition rate for undocumented students at all state universities. That bill ultimately died at the hands of the Republican-controlled House Finance Committee in April.

When Metro State took the matter into its own hands, then, Republicans were incensed: Metro had effectively implemented tuition equity despite the GOP’s best efforts to sideline the issue. Attorney General John Suthers issued a non-binding “advisory opinion” informing the school that it couldn’t legally create the new tuition category. University administrators, meanwhile, were forced to defend their proposal at a meeting convened by JBC Chairwoman Cheri Gerou.

The university still stands by its decision, and the start of classes today signals more affordable tuition rates for undocumented students, as the New York Times reports:

The new rate, approved by the university’s board of trustees in June, has garnered praise from immigrant rights advocates here who have tried for years to get legislation passed that would allow state colleges to offer discounted tuition to local, illegal immigrant students.

Stephen Jordan, Metro State’s president, said the board took action after Colorado lawmakers failed to pass a similar tuition proposal this year. “Clearly, from our perspective, these are young people who were brought here of no accord of their own,” he said.

“I think what our board was saying was, ‘Why wouldn’t we want to provide an affordable tuition rate for these students?’ ” he added. “So that they can get a college degree and become meaningful contributors to the economy of Colorado.”

Still, in a state where about 20 percent of residents are Hispanic and where the tuition issue generates rancor in the legislature, the new policy has provoked a furor, largely among Republican lawmakers.

With former Congressman Tom Tancredo threatening litigation over the issue, the headlines won’t be dissipating anytime soon. Indeed controversy and national press will sustain political and policy conversations about the issue. Tuition equity won’t necessarily be an election year hot topic, but continued focus on Metro’s policy will push the issue near the top of next year’s legislative agenda.

Which, considering the House GOP’s unwillingness to put tuition equity to a full house vote, underscores exactly why Metro would implement the changes in the first place.  

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Hancock: “The heart of the problem starts with the individual behind the gun.”

Sam Levin over at Westword recently wrote a great piece outlining Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s views on gun policy in the wake of the Aurora theater shooting last month. Unlike Denver Congresswoman Diana DeGette, Hancock does not believe the tragedy in Aurora signals the necessity of stricter guns laws — despite his membership in the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition.

From Westword:

“You know, that tragedy in Aurora, I would not use — and the reason why I did not speak out about it — I wouldn’t use it as a bully pulpit for political [reach],” Hancock said when asked if he supports the coalition’s ad campaign. “That suspect obtained those weapons legally. I certainly will stand firm against illegal guns…. The reality is this: If we want to talk about how we avoid situations like Aurora, let’s go to the heart of the problem and not the symptoms.”



“Obviously, we don’t want our young people to be carrying weapons. There’s no excuse for them to be carrying weapons — certainly, illegal gun possession,” Hancock said. “You can tell from my message today that I really believe this is much bigger than just gun control…. This is about individuals who have low sense of worth and purpose, where they can engage in activity that’s going to put them behind bars potentially for the rest of their lives or could end someone else’s life indiscriminately. So I think it’s much deeper. I think it’s about families, it’s about communities, it’s about self-worth, and we’ve still got to stay aggressive on the issues of gun control.”



About suspect James Holmes, Hancock said, “What you saw was the manifestation of some problems that went unaddressed…. We’re seeing now, as the stories are becoming known, that people knew he had psychological…psychiatric problems, and quite frankly, they didn’t respond appropriately and give him the help as well as to make sure…we prevented this kind of violence.”



He added, “The heart of the problem starts with the individual behind the gun.”

Hancock’s stance against using last month’s shooting to advance political agendas is admirable, but it certainly isn’t original. In the hours and days following the massacre, many politicians across the country echoed similar sentiments.

That said, re-examining local, state, and federal gun regulations following a mass shooting shouldn’t always be framed as the manipulation of tragedy for political purposes. Indeed, “why?” and “how?” are perfectly reasonable questions for policymakers to ask, as is “what can we do to prevent this?” Hancock believes, according to Westword, that community support for the mentally ill must be one part of the conversation.

He’s right. But so too should discussions about the accessibility of guns, legal or illegal, and ammunition. Hancock’s in a unique position to spark those conversations, and he shouldn’t fear that speaking out is akin to seizing the “bully pulpit.”

This, remember, is the same mayor who banned the short-term problem of “urban camping” to address the long-term problem of homelessness. And while long-term examinations of armed violence should indeed start with helping those with psychological or self-worth problems, in the short-term, a discussion about gun control is far from inappropriate.  

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Denver Crime Lab: A Monument to Mitch Morrissey’s Expertise

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and United States Senator Michael Bennet yesterday toured the city’s recently-dedicated, 77,000 square foot crime lab, using the facility as a backdrop to push for the passage of Bennet’s bipartisan SAFER act.

From Bennet’s office:

Denver, CO – TODAY, Monday, August 13, at 9:30 AM MT, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet will tour the newly-opened Denver Crime Laboratory, joined by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. Immediately after the tour, Bennet and Hancock, along with Karen Moldovan of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault and two sexual assault survivors will hold a press conference to highlight the SAFER Act.

In May, Bennet introduced the SAFER Act with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), which would help states and local governments conduct audits of rape kits in law enforcement storage facilities and increase available funds for crime labs to process those kits through testing and capacity building. According to prominent victim’s rights groups, there is a national backlog of at least 400,000 rape kits sitting untested across the country . The City of Denver has conducted its own recent audits of DNA evidence and has proven to be a leader in ensuring that rape kits are handled efficiently and effectively to bring perpetrators of sexual assault to justice, a model which SAFER seeks to support and expand to cities around the nation. The bill is paid for through repurposing of existing federal funds and will not add to the deficit.

The 2007 voter-approved Better Denver Bond Program budgeted $36 million for the new Denver Crime Laboratory. The lab opened in June 2012 and currently employs 50 people to complete forensic analysis on cases and other duties. Bennet has supported several federal grant applications to support the work of the crime lab.

It’s fitting that Bennet chose the Denver Crime Laboratory to highlight his federal rape kit legislation. Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, after all, is one of the nation’s foremost experts on DNA evidence and pushed heavily for the lab’s construction. Although Morrissey has another four years left as DA — he’s currently running unopposed for a third term — he cemented his legacy in the office the very second the Denver Crime Laboratory opened its doors. And, with the SAFER Act slowly working its way through Congressional committee, Morrissey’s leadership on the issue may soon be codified into a national model.

That’s rewarding in and of itself for the prosecutor, sure, but the DA’s innovations in public safety will also help him politically. Morrissey’s law and order image will lend itself well to a CD-1 bid (pending Diana DeGette’s eventual retirement) or even something bigger.

Morrissey is more than happy to spend another 4 years in his current job, but his leadership within that office opens doors for him when term limits regrettably force him out. Mitch loves being DA. If and when the opportunity arises, however, he’s positioned himself perfectly to leap to another high-profile perch of public service.  

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Susman Elected City Council President

Denver City Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman has been elected by her peers to serve as City Council president, succeeding Chris Nevitt who held the post for two years. District 11 Councilman Chris Herndon is the new president pro-tem.

From the Denver City Council:

(DENVER) The Denver City Council has announced that Mary Beth Susman has been elected to the position of President, and Christopher Herndon has been elected to the position of President Pro-tem. Council members Susman and Herndon replace outgoing President, Councilman Chris Nevitt, and Pro-tem, Councilwoman Peggy Lehmann, who served in these posts since July 2010.

Councilwoman Susman joined City Council in July 2011 after being elected from District 5. Prior to running for City Council, Ms. Susman was the Vice President of the Colorado Community College System and a longtime community leader.

Commenting on her election, Councilwoman Susman said, “I am honored to serve my fellow council members and our city in this way and look forward to a productive and collegial year for all of us.”

Councilman Herndon was elected to the City Council in July 2011 from District 11. A 1999 West Point graduate and Iraqi veteran, Mr. Herndon served for nearly seven years in the United States Army. Before joining Council, he worked in various managerial positions for United Airlines and Walmart.

“I’m very excited to serve as City Council President Pro-Tem. I look forward to working with President Susman over the next year and thank my colleagues for the vote of confidence,” said Councilman Herndon regarding his appointment.

Although Nevitt made a bid for a record third term as president, the majority of the Council backed Susman, not necessarily because of any criticisms against Nevitt but instead in deference to the traditional (though unofficial) two term limit for Council presidents.

Still, elected just last year, Susman has less experience on Council than any president in recent memory. Former Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth had served for over three years when she took the president’s office in 2003, as had Chris Nevitt and Councilman (and now Mayor) Michael Hancock. District 10 Councilwoman Jeanne Robb had to wait five years before being elected to the top spot.

There’s no question that Susman is qualified to lead the chamber by dint of her experience in the Colorado Community College bureaucracy, but it’s still peculiar that she’s the titular head of the body after just a year in office. To put that into perspective, that’s an eleventh of the amount of time Charlie Brown has served on Council in total.

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PSA: Denver Needs Elections Judges

With Secretary of State Scott Gessler doing everything in his power to purge hundreds from the state’s voter rolls, local election judges have taken on an increasingly important duty: ensuring that everybody who is eligible to vote is able to cast their ballot safely, efficiently, and accurately.

If you want to secure a spot on the front lines of the fight for democracy itself, or, more likely, you want to earn a little extra cash in the lead up to and on election day, the Denver Elections Division is hiring judges for November’s general election.

The positions pay “10 – $13 per hour, depending on assignment” according to the Denver City Clerk’s website. Even better, if the application is any indication, being able to “sit for long periods” is a pre-requisite for the job.

All Denver residents over 16 who have never been convicted of election fraud and don’t have an immediate relative on the ballot are invited to apply. Then again, if you’re in high school and you’ve already been convicted of tampering with elections, chances are you’re well on your way to becoming secretary of state!

More information is available at the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s website, and you can fill out an application here.  

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Denver Line Updated: New Opponent for Pat Steadman

We’ve updated the Denver Line to the left to include the SD-31 race between incumbent State Senator Pat Steadman and GOP opponent Michael Carr.  

Steadman originally faced a nominal challenge from Republican Brandon Kelley. Kelley withdrew his candidacy in June, leaving Denver Republicans with an empty spot on the ballot. Late last month, however, a Republican vacancy committee convened and appointed recent Colorado transplant Michael Carr as its party’s candidate for the seat.

Carr — like Steadman — is gay, and earlier this year led the ultimately unsuccessful fight to incorporate support for the Colorado Civil Unions act as an official plank of the Denver Republican Party. Although the first-time candidate stands no chance of defeating one of the state’s highest-profile and hardest-working state senators, the fact that both the Democratic and Republican candidates are LGBT activists is novel, at the very least.

From OutFront Colorado:

A Colorado Republican vacancy committee is scheduled Saturday to interview – and is expected to appoint – a Denver gay man in order to fill an empty position on the November ballot.

“This is not a district that is considered Republican friendly,” said Alexander Hornaday, an attorney consulting Carr on election law and finances. “But even if Michael doesn’t win, I’m excited to show my fellow Republicans that you can be a good Republican, a loyal Republican and a gay Republican.”

Denver GOP Chairwoman Wendy Warner said she isn’t concerned with Carr’s sexual orientation.

“Mr. Carr’s sexual orientation is not our focus,” she said. “Our focus needs to be on economic issues. Some big decisions have to be made next year and we need strong, prudent and fiscal conservatives in the state legislature.”

Warner said in her three decades of politics she’s seen Republicans win Denver seats and she thinks with the right ground game it can happen again.

“It’s not impossible,” she said. “It’s a good year for Republicans.”

“I’m anxious to have candidates that are ready to run,” she continued. “It takes a lot of effort to be a Republican in Denver. It will take a lot of hard work, but I’ve heard Mr. Carr might be that type of person.”

Carr may indeed be “that type of person,” but it won’t matter. Steadman has been an incredibly responsive legislator — he’s as popular in his district as he is notable across the state. And while Carr’s support of marriage equality could help him come across as a moderate in the left-leaning Denver district, it patently does not help him earn votes in his race against one of Colorado’s most tenacious LGBT advocates.

Moreover, the Republican candidate at the the top of the ticket is an outspoken opponent of both gay marriage and civil unions. Not only can’t Carr win in his race against Steadman, then, he may also struggle in turning out votes for Mitt Romney.

Then again, given that 3/4 of Coloradans support either gay marriage or civil unions, perhaps Carr will be instrumental in reminding members of his own party that not all Republicans are socially-conservative reactionaries.  

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Denver’s New Independent Monitor: Richard Mitchell

Just a week after three finalists were in Denver to be interviewed for the job, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has selected the city’s second independent monitor: Nicholas Mitchell.

From the mayor’s office:

DENVER – Mayor Michael B. Hancock today announced the selection of Nicholas E. Mitchell, Esq. to be Denver’s next Independent Monitor, pending City Council confirmation.

Mitchell will be responsible for actively monitoring and participating in investigations of sworn personnel in the City and County of Denver’s Police and Sheriff Departments.

“Strengthening the relationship between our residents and our safety officials is one of my highest priorities, and the Independent Monitor plays a vital role in that process,” Mayor Hancock said. “Nicholas will bring a judicious eye and investigative wherewithal to the position, traits we are working to instill at all levels of the civilian oversight process. He will aid in providing transparent, balanced and swift resolution to our disciplinary actions, and ultimately help make Denver a safer city.”

The Office of the Independent Monitor was created to provide fair and objective oversight of the Denver Police and Sheriff’s Departments. As the Independent Monitor, Mitchell will make recommendations to the Manager of Safety, Chief of Police and Director of Corrections regarding disciplinary action as well as broader disciplinary policy issues.

“I’m greatly honored to have been selected by Mayor Hancock to take on this important position,” Mitchell said. “This is a unique opportunity for a fresh approach when it comes to investigating cases of alleged misconduct. I will work to ensure that investigations are conducted aggressively but fairly, to foster transparency in the process and to help strengthen relationships between the public and Denver’s safety departments.”

Mitchell currently works as a federal and state commercial litigator at Silver & DeBoskey in Denver, focusing on complex commercial, real estate and employment matters. Before joining Silver & DeBoskey, Mitchell was a litigator at Allen & Overy, a large international law firm, where he litigated securities class-action lawsuits and U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigations.

Prior to his career in private practice, Mitchell served as an investigator for the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, supervising a team of investigators responsible for investigating alleged police misconduct.

So why Mitchell, and not Gary Maas or Kenneth Moore? Only Hancock knows for sure, although Kelsey Whipple sheds some light over at Westword:

At last week’s public forum featuring Mitchell, Gary Maas and Kenneth Moore, the final three independent monitor candidates, the former distinguished himself from his peers by addressing the small audience in Spanish, in which he is fluent. (Other local speakers applauded his pronunciation.)

It’s unlikely that Mitchell’s Spanish-language fluency was the sole reason he landed the job, but given that one of the core duties of the independent monitor is to investigate biased policing and that Hispanics make up the city’s largest minority group, it certainly didn’t hurt.

Mitchell’s selection is expected to be approved by the Denver City Council in an upcoming vote, at which point the job will officially be his.

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Prendergast from the Past: Former State Rep. “Directing” Gamache’s HD-9 Bid

HD-9 Republican candidate Celeste Gamache has found an unlikely “campaign director,” former State Representative Ruth Prendergast.

Prendergast, who represented Denver in the State House for two terms from 1981-1985, currently sits on the board of the anti-tax Colorado Union of Taxpayers. There’s nothing strange about those qualifications, of course. Quite the opposite; they make Prendergast the ideal campaign manager for Gamache’s uphill bid in the heavily Democratic district. What’s novel about Prendergast’s role, then, is her age: the former lawmaker will turn 84 in December.

The octogenarian has remained heavily involved in politics long sense she left the House. Ten years ago, Prendergast led the bi-partisan Save the Caucus campaign against Rutt Bridges’ Open Balllot Access Initiative. She was also one of the first Republicans to endorse Tom Tancredo’s third-party bid for governor last year — no surprise, as the two briefly served together in the early 80s. In return, Tancredo last month presented Prendergast with the Denver Republican Party’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Still, at age 83, Prendergast is probably one of the oldest campaign managers in the entire country right now. Although it’s more likely she’s only advising and lending her name to the Gamache campaign and not actually managing its day-to-day operations, that she’s still influential in southeast Denver Republican circles some thirty years after leaving office is remarkable either way.

No matter how impressive her accomplishments are, however, Prendergast won’t be able to add a Gamache victory to her lifetime achievement list: Democrats maintain a 15% registration lead in HD-9.

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More Bad News for Denver’s Red-Light Cameras

If Denver drivers weren’t angry enough about being constantly watched by the city’s much-maligned red-light and speed cameras, they’ll certainly be incensed to learn that many city employees haven’t had to pay the bill for their own on-the-clock violations.

From an investigation by 9Wants to Know:

DENVER – A 9Wants to Know investigation has discovered hundreds of unpaid photo-speed-van and red-light-camera violation notices given to Denver city employees while driving city cars…

Most city agencies have a policy that requires employees to pay for red-light and photo-speed citations issued while they are driving a city vehicle.

When a city car gets captured, most departments send the notice of violation to the employee’s boss. The supervisor is supposed to ask the employee to pay. Even when that happens, 9Wants to Know found supervisors don’t always follow up to make sure the citation is paid.

There is no citywide policy requiring this.

That’s something Denver Mayor Michael Hancock says should be reviewed.

After learning of our investigation, Hancock ordered a review of policies at each city department.

It’s a little ridiculous that there isn’t already a uniform policy on this, considering that Denver operates a fleet of official vehicles ranging from garbage trucks and police cruisers to take-home vehicles for city officials.

After all, if a city has both cars and red-light cameras, doesn’t it stand to reason that eventually the two will come into contact?

Denver Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz appears as flummoxed as everybody else:

“I was really surprised when you told me this,” Faatz told 9Wants to Know investigative reporter Jace Larson.

She says all city employees should have to pay for their citations.

“I know of no language that says the police department shouldn’t have to pay or that the city employees shouldn’t have to pay. Unless there is legal authorization, it appears to me that the first order of business should be that the employee pays the ticket,” she said.

Faatz is correct, the Denver City Council can easily solve this particular problem: require city employees driving city vehicles to foot the bill for recorded traffic violations. Still, it’s a bit of an legislative oversight that there isn’t an existing ordinance to regulate something otherwise governed by common sense.

The fact that there isn’t, of course, only makes Denver’s defense of the reviled cameras that much more difficult in the wake of Auditor Dennis Gallagher’s scathing assessment that it “undermines public trust to maintain photo enforcement programs that are profitable but whose safety impact has not been conclusively shown.”

It’s safe to assume that public trust is also undermined when government employees can effectively breeze through red lights scot-free.  

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Denver’s Independent Monitor Search Drawing to a Close

In December of last year, Denver’s Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal announced his departure from the position in order to take a similar job in Vancouver. A lengthy search process then ensued, and in April, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock offered the position to Julie Ruhlin, who opted instead to stay in the Los Angeles Office of Independent Review. Another search was then initiated, culminating in a public forum on Wednesday with this round’s finalists: Gary Maas, Kenneth Moore, and Nicholas Mitchell. All three candidates interviewed with Hancock yesterday, so we suspect a formal appointment shouldn’t be too far off — assuming, of course, that whichever one of the selected candidates actually accepts the position.

From Westword’s Kelsey Whipple, who’s done an incredible job covering the search from the beginning:

Today, Mayor Michael Hancock will interview the last three candidates for Denver’s open Independent Monitor position — again. In the second round of a search that has lasted six months, finalists Kenneth Moore, Nicholas Mitchell and Gary Maas all share connections to Colorado. Last night, they answered questions from the public at Escuela Tlatelolco, where their opinions on the future of the role occasionallly differed as much as the patterns on their ties.

Prior to his current position as the associate director for the Colorado Department of Corrections, Maas worked as the police chief in Littleton and Sioux City, Iowa. Attorney Nicholas Mitchell’s past experience includes time as an investigator for New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, where he took part in more than 300 investigations alleging police misconduct. For more than two decades, Kenneth Moore has worked for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

Despite the fact that this search process has dragged on for months, Denver’s still ahead of the game on responding to allegations of police misconduct. Denver’s had an Independent Monitor since 2005. New York City, on the other hand? They’re currently debating whether or not the position is a good idea.

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Diana DeGette Wades into Primary Skirmish…in Michigan

By virtue of her incredibly safe district, Congresswoman Diana DeGette doesn’t have to spend much time campaigning for her own reelection this year — or, for that matter, interacting with her constituents. That doesn’t mean that the Denver Democrat gets off easy, though.

After all, DeGette last week endorsed Trevor Thomas, an “an openly gay, pro-choice, pro-environment progressive” running for the Democratic nomination in Michigan’s 3rd district.

From the aptly named “Trevor for Congress” campaign:

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH – U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) spoke out in favor of Congressional candidate Trevor Thomas (MI-3) in an email ahead of his August 7th Democratic Primary against anti-choice opponent Steve Pestka.

“Trevor’s opponent voted to de-fund Planned Parenthood and he doesn’t even believe in abortion rights in such extreme cases as rape or incest,” said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, co-chair of the U.S. House Pro-Choice Caucus. “And with House Republicans waging a war against women’s rights, we need as many pro-choice Democrats as we can get. Trevor is the only candidate in the race that holds Democratic values we share.”

DeGette doesn’t wield a whole lot of regional clout — though she is, of course, all too happy to stress that she’s the “dean of the Colorado delegation” — but she is one of the loudest voices in the House on reproductive rights. Pro-choice public policy has always been her signature issue, and there’s no doubt DeGette is itching to take back the House in order to continue her defense of women’s rights.

So, while it may appear strange at first blush for DeGette to make an endorsement in a Congressional district 1200 miles away from her own, given the fact that Thomas’ primary opponent voted to defund Planned Parenthood and has a 100% rating from Right to Life Michigan, DeGette’s profile as one of the most vehemently pro-choice members of Congress might actually help the Thomas campaign.

Nobody in Michigan, of course, has ever heard of Diana DeGette. But her entree into the primary there brings with it additional money and outside attention.

And hey, watching someone else’s primary unfold probably cuts through the nauseating boredom DeGette no doubt endures after nine terms in Congress.

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Poll: Who Will Win in HD-3?

The campaign between Democrat Dan Kagan and Republican Brian Watson in HD-3 has become a sort of marquee race for the House this year — odd for a seat which hugs (though no longer includes) left-leaning Denver precincts.

Kagan’s a Democratic favorite in part because of his proclivity to deliver rallying speeches at the microphone — a talent made all that more captivating by his emphatic fist-shaking and that oh-so-charming British accent. While that eloquence is doubtless an asset at the doorstep, Kagan’s re-election is anything but a lock. As one of the legislature’s most outspoken and unabashedly liberal members, Kagan’s going to have to defend his record and reputation in a seat that’s shifted from having a 32.5% Democratic registration lead to one with a .1% Republican tilt. To win, Kagan will need to appeal to the district’s 12,000 unaffiliated voters, much as former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy did when she won the district by about two percentage points in 2010.

Watson, however, has significantly outraised Kagan, bringing in over $100,000 to the Democrat’s $62,000. As a commercial real estate investor, not only does Watson have deep pockets, he has friends with even deeper pockets, and it shows in his fundraising reports. Watson’s also a good fit for the district: he’s a successful, moderate Republican — standard fare for affluent Cherry Hills and Greenwood Village neighborhoods.

The HD-3 race is one of the most competitive in the entire state. That means that Kagan’s fundraising deficit will almost certainly be bolstered by outside spending. This is the kind of seat that Republicans have to win if they want to keep control of the House, of course, so there will be plenty of outside money in Watson’s column too.

We want to know: who do you think will win in HD-3? In other words, which candidate you would put money on to win if the election were held tomorrow? When we last asked this question in March, votes were unanimously cast in favor of Kagan. Since then, of course, huge sums of money have poured into Watson’s war chest. Does it make a difference?

A poll follows.  

[poll id=”1581″]

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Prayer Vigil for Aurora Tonight

UPDATE: The vigil has switched to a new location, the Kaiser Permanente complex at 14701 E. Exposition Ave, Aurora, CO, 80012. We’ve updated the map and details below.

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State Representative Rhonda Fields, who serves the Aurora district in which last night’s tragedy unfolded, will be joining other community members and leaders at a vigil across the street from the Century 16 theater.

From Fields:

Dear Friends and Family,

At 2:30 a.m. this morning I learned of the horrific murders that occurred at Century 16 theater in the Aurora Town Center. This is less than 3 miles away from my home.

As a mother and survivor of a murder, I am horrified, shaken, and distressed over this enormous loss. It is time for us to collectively strategize to address preventative factors to ensure community safety and well-being. I will do everything possible to support the families, friends and community members whom have been impacted.

We’ve included a map of the Kaiser Permanente complex — catty-corner from the Century 16 theater where the shootings took place — below.


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2014 Just Became that Much Worse for Corrie Houck

After a blistering primary loss to incumbent HD-1 Rep. Jeanne Labuda, the political future of erstwhile Democratic challenger Corrie Houck is far from certain.

Few thought Houck could win, of course: she received little outside support and was campaigning against a three term incumbent. While Jeanne Labuda certainly isn’t the most popular legislator in her caucus, the fact remains that voters in southwest Denver were given no reason not to vote for the most recognizable name on the ballot.

The benefit of being expected to lose, however, is that Houck could’ve easily parlayed her second-place finish into a 2014 campaign — when term limits will prohibit Labuda from running for re-election. Given just how unpopular the incumbent is in some circles, few would have held Houck’s 2012 challenge against her once the seat opens up. She would’ve had a primary of her own to contend with, of course, but Houck would’ve had an edge in any race two years down the line.

Houck, however, burned more bridges than she built over the course of her primary campaign. Not only did she fail to demonstrate any fundraising chops, her ad hominem attacks on the incumbent alienated Houck from several influential members of Denver’s political class. 30 area politicos, after all, sent out a letter defending Laubda and decrying her challenger’s attacks.

Although she had plenty of ammunition to hurl at the incumbent and paint her record as out of touch with the district, Houck instead attacked Labuda’s character. Mudslinging is as much a part of local politics as yard signs — although Houck couldn’t get those right, either — but you simply cannot run a campaign based on how bad the incumbent is without saying why and how you would be better.

If Corrie Houck had run a positive campaign centered on the issues, she could’ve held her head high in spite of the devastating margins by which she lost. She could’ve improved her name ID and rolodex heading into an eventual campaign for an open seat. Instead, she’s earned the reputation of the woman who “played dirty and lost.” Houck came off as an amateur, too ambitious for her own good and willing to throw anything at the wall, desperately hoping that something, anything, would stick.

Voters don’t really care about dirty politics, but the fact remains that Corrie Houck couldn’t even take down one of the House’s most unpopular Democrats by going negative. That doesn’t necessarily preclude a future run for office, but it certainly gives potential endorsers reason to be wary and future opponents an easy attack point.  

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Poll: How Would You Rate Michael Hancock’s First Year in Office?

With Denver Mayor Michael Hancock set to deliver his State of the City Address later today, we want to know how you would rate his first year as mayor.

Hancock’s made his fair share of controversial decisions, sure, and he’s already had a few staff shakeups. Still, considering he inherited the shoes of Colorado’s most popular politician, Hancock’s done an admirable job at defining his own priorities for the city. He’s not Hickenlooper, of course, but maybe that’s a good thing.

How do you think Michael Hancock is doing as mayor? A poll follows.  

[poll id=”1580″]

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Hancock to Deliver State of City on Monday

It’s been a big year for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock since his swearing in last July. Is Denver on its way to hosting the 2022 Olympics? Well, no. But Denver’s Civic Center might just become a National Historic Landmark. And hey, at least nobody can “camp” there anymore!

After two communications directors, hundreds of press releases describing Denver as a “world-class city,” and a year as mayor, Hancock will be delivering his second-ever State of the City address on Monday. In his first such address, delivered just a month after his swearing in, Hancock simply parroted many of the talking points that got him elected — par for the course, considering he didn’t have the time to, you know, actually accomplish anything yet.

In this year’s speech, however, Hancock has a year’s worth of decisions, successes, and failures to discuss. He’ll also take the opportunity, if he’s anything like predecessor John Hickenlooper, to announce new initiatives.

Here’s the media advisory from Hancock’s office:

DENVER – Mayor Michael B. Hancock will deliver the annual State of the City Address at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on Monday, July 16, 2012. The Address will lay out the Administration’s work and accomplishments from the first year in office and present priorities for the future.

WHO:              Mayor Michael B. Hancock

                        City and County of Denver Elected Officials

WHAT:            2012 State of the City Address

WHERE:           South Atrium of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science at 2001 Colorado Blvd.

WHEN:            Monday, July 16, 2012 at 10 a.m.

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Michael Chertoff in Denver Tonight

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock will once again be sharing the stage with a Bush-era official — though, this time, not with Dubya himself. Hancock will be joining former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff this evening for the ribbon-cutting of a new exhibit at Larry Mizel’s Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab’s (CELL) museum.

From Hancock’s office:

DENVER – The Honorable Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security will join Mayor Michael B. Hancock, Larry A. Mizel and more than 700 participants in celebrating the opening of the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab’s (CELL) new exhibit on July 12, 2012.

In honor of the lives lost on 9-11, the CELL worked diligently to bring a girder from one of the fallen World Trade Center towers to Colorado.  This memorial is one of the seventeen sections within this unique exhibit that teaches visitors about terrorism awareness and prevention.  To learn more, visit www.theCELL.org.

WHO: The Honorable Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, and Co-Hosts Mayor Michael B. Hancock and Larry A. Mizel.

WHAT: Grand Exhibit Opening and Speaker Series Program: Terrorism in Our Times: Emerging Threats

The Speaker Series Program will feature former Sec. Chertoff (bio upon request).

The key note speech, entitled Terrorism in Our Times: Emerging Threats, will address new global security concerns, national security strategy and public-private partnerships that can enhance public safety (synopsis available upon request).

WHEN: Thursday, July 12, 2012

WHERE: 5:00 p.m. – Exhibit Tour at the CELL, 99 W. 12th Ave.

           6:30 p.m. – Speaker Series Program

           The Denver Art Museum – North Building

No word if Bush’s disastrous FEMA director, and now NewsRadio 850 KOA talking head, Michael “Brownie” Brown will also be in attendance. Hopefully not: three high-profile Michaels at any event is probably too many.

Just imagine the small talk. “Hey Michael, you’re doing great stuff with the City of Denver.” “Thanks, Michael, we’re proud to have installed some of your full body scanners at DIA.  Oh, and Michael, how are you liking Denver? Not many Arabian horses around here, I bet!” “Sadly no, Michael, but at least I’m not being blamed for all the fires.”

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That’s Not How E-mail Works, Danny Stroud

Quixotic CD-1 Republican challenger Danny Stroud, fresh off his win against “truck driving political neophyte” Richard Murphy, dutifully sent out a blast e-mail recently decrying the Supreme Court’s decision upholding Obamacare. He’s the token Republican running against a longtime and high-profile Democrat, of course, so what else what was he going to do?

Ignore the fact that Stroud dresses up like some country music caricature of a cowboy while campaigning in Colorado’s most hip and urban district, and you’ll realize that he included one of those QR code things in the text of his e-mail.

Wow, that’s so neat and high-tech for this digital age, isn’t it? Except that nobody is going to whip out their cell phone to take a picture of an e-mail when they could, you know, click a link with their mouse. And what happens if you opened Stroud’s e-mail on your phone? How would the QR code work then? Riddle me this, Stroud!

Stroud’s clearly not a serious candidate, but we’re sure he feels pretty politically legitimate whenever he sends e-mails like this. Oh well, maybe he deserves to have a little fun: he’s spending his own money, after all.  

We’re not including a link to Stroud’s campaign website here, so you’re going to have to use that barcode thingy if you truly “Regret DeGette.” We think Stroud deserves his money’s worth.  

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Denver Line Updated

With the primary over and the final slate of candidates settled, we’re excited to announce the 2012 Denver Line.

As per usual, Denver’s Democrats are almost certain to win their respective bids for the state house. Even in the aftermath of last year’s tumultuous reapportionment process, nearly every single incumbent is expected to return to the Capitol with one striking exception: State Rep. Dan Kagan faces a legitimate challenge from Republican real estate investor Brian Watson. Yes, technically HD-3 is competitive this year because it no longer contains any Denver precincts, but the high profile nature of that race combined with its proximity to the Mile High City warrants its inclusion on the Denver Line. We may also handicap a few Aurora races in the future — don’t take our name so literally.

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey is up for re-election this year, as is his occasional foe Senator Pat Steadman. Neither have general election opponents, so we didn’t include either race on the line.

It’s almost impossible to argue with Denver’s registration numbers, but we encourage you to try: sound off below to let us know where you think we got it wrong.  

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