We took note last March of an unusual lawsuit filed by Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman against campaign finance rules recently enacted by the city that would have prevented Coffman from supporting candidates for City Council in this year’s municipal elections. This development was noteworthy due in part to the specific candidate Coffman wants to support in the upcoming election: Dustin Zvonek, who served as Coffman’s congressional aide in addition to a variety of other Republican operative support roles during Coffman’s long career in partisan office. Zvonek on the Aurora City Council would essentially be a proxy vote for Coffman, greatly easing his troubled relationship with the body on a range of issues.
On a related note, the Colorado Springs Gazette’s political blog reported earlier this month that Zvonek is raising money hand over fist:
Dustin Zvonek said Monday he’s raised more than $90,000 to back his bid for the at-large seat on the Aurora City Council since getting in the race in February…
“I am honored to have received such a wide base of support for my candidacy in the first three months of the race, as it will ensure my campaign has the resources necessary to run an effective, issue focused campaign into the fall,” Zvonek said in a statement as he released his fundraising total. “This election is about the future of Aurora. I am deeply concerned that if we don’t prioritize making our community safer, our city more open and welcoming to small businesses and focus on the issues that matter most to our citizens and our communities, the future potential of this great city could be in real jeopardy.
He said he believed his “unmatched grassroots campaign” had set a fundraising record for the Aurora council races.
In some of the only press coverage of Zvonek’s campaign so far, the GOP-friendly Gazette made absolutely no mention of the fact that Zvonek was Coffman’s former employee. As for Zvonek’s claim uncritically reprinted by the Gazette that his fundraising came as the result of a “wide base of support” and an “unmatched grassroots campaign,” a look at some of the donors making up that haul quickly dispels that hokum:
Bill Owens, former Colorado Governor
George Brauchler, former AG candidate
Greg Brophy, Former State Senator
Laura Teal, Chief of Staff to GOP funder Larry Mizel
Chris McGowne, Government Affairs, American Petroleum Institute
Brent Gardner, Americans for Prosperity, Government Affairs Officer
Mac Zimmerman, Wisconsin Congressman Tom Tiffany Staff, former Tom Tancredo Chief of Staff
Jesse Mallory, Americans for Prosperity, Colorado State Director
Luke Hilgemann, CEO, Americans for Prosperity USA
Daniel Cole, Senate Majority Fund Director
Lora Thomas, notorious “COVIDiot” DougCo Commissioner
Alex Chaffetz, Brother of former Rep. Jason Chaffetz
Cinamon Watson, longtime GOP communications operative
Laura Leprino, “Common Sense Institute” Board of Directors
Jack Graham, former GOP Candidate for US Senate
TQ Houlton, former Spokesperson for Trump’s Department of Homeland Security
This is not a complete list but it gives one an idea of who is actually donating to Zvonek’s campaign–and far from a “wide base of support,” Zvonek is being bankrolled by a who’s who of leading Republican political operatives and Mayor Mike Coffman’s old-school GOP allies.
One name in particular that stood out in this list of GOP usual suspects is TQ Houlton, the former spokesman for President Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security after serving as spokesman for the notoriously anti-immigrant hardliner Rep. Tom Tancredo. Readers may recall that DHS’s press operation under Trump and TQ Houlton became so toxic that even Sen. Lindsey Graham couldn’t take it anymore:
Lindsey Graham continues tirade against Trump administration and its handling of immigration. “As long as Stephen Miller is running the White House and Tom Tancredo’s press secretary at DHS,” things are going nowhere fast
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 15, 2018
That’s the same TQ Houlton, folks! In nearly two years as spokesman for Trump’s DHS, Houlton was the mouthpiece-in-chief for some of the most reviled anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration. And it raises an obvious question: How will TQ Houlton’s support for Zvonek play in the city with Colorado’s highest immigrant population?
The answer: not well. Which is why the less Aurora voters know about Dustin Zvonek beyond press releases and puff pieces, the better his chances of winning a seat on the Aurora City Council are.
Fuck Mike Coffman and the toadies he rode in on. That's enough of a message for Aurora.
How about a recall?
Mike Coffman only won the Mayor election by 215 votes, so a recall is do-able. But on what grounds?
I've assumed that Coffman took the job to keep his foot in the door of Colorado politics after being forced to eat Crow in CD6, and also to represent the interests of real estate developers and oil and gas companies wanting to drill within Aurora city limits. Now, it looks like he wants to frontload City Council to help move those interests forward.
Is supporting his flunky Zvonek for city council really enough of an issue to motivate Aurora voters to recall?
Zvonek wouldn't be a reason to recall by himself, no. Coffman's handling of police misconduct and his insulting homeless tourism shit, though….
I'd settle for him losing next regular election like he should have lost the last one.
I'm not a big fan of recalls for "I don't like this" sorts of violations. Find something criminal or perhaps barely legal and substantially outrageous and it makes sense. Having a politician back a former staffer doesn't rise to a sufficient level of outrage. It isn't like the connection is being hidden…
Here's hoping the on-going exposure to Mike Coffman in office will continue to create non-Republican voters. As Aurora grows, as there is a clear comparison between Coffman and Crow in voter services and issue management, and as the Republican brand continues to be tarnished by federal and state Republican "leaders," we can hope the 215 vote margin disappears and Coffman adds another "former" line to the resume.
If anyone here remembers confusion about Unite Colorado vs. Unite For Colorado – Zvonek was the head of Unite For Colorado, which pumped maybe $7 million into anti-Hick ads and conservative ballot measure campaigns during the last cycle. Having an operative like Zvonek on Aurora City Council would be more troublesome to me than his being a Coffman proxy, so caveat emptor Aurora!
BTW, former CO Speaker Terrance Carroll heads Unite Colorado.