Holy Crap, Mark Kennedy is a Disaster

Former Rep. Mark Kennedy (R).

Yesterday, the newly-minted “sole finalist” for the position of President of the University of Colorado, former GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy of Minnesota, began his tour of the CU system’s four campuses–a crucial opportunity for Kennedy to ingratiate himself with students and faculty, and address the many questions about Kennedy’s anti-LGBT, anti-reproductive choice record in Congress that have resulted in angry protests over his selection to lead Colorado’s flagship public university.

As FOX 31’s Evan Kruegel reports, yesterday’s introduction did not go well:

“Mark Kennedy as a leader is problematic, and he’s unqualified,” said CU Law Student Perdeep Singh-Badhesha. “I think this is going to be the easiest of all the forums he goes to. These were softball questions, and I think he still did a very poor job.”

Singh-Badhesha says he’s concerned with Kennedy’s political views, at a school system known for welcoming and promoting LGBTQ rights…

Kennedy fielded numerous questions from the crowd, saying his political past won’t have an impact on how he handles businesses as president.

“None of those votes are going to come into play, they’re just not going to come into play. [Pols emphasis] The real question is, how good are you at running a university? That’s the question we really ought to be focusing on.”

The Denver Post’s Elizabeth Hernandez:

“None of the beliefs that have caused much of the controversy are going to have any impact,” [Pols emphasis] said Kennedy, whose votes against gay marriage and in favor of abortion restrictions as a Minnesota congressman in the early 2000s have drawn protest in some quarters.

“And (those beliefs) are largely irrelevant to what the president does. … I would hope I could gain your trust, respect and support and have that strong working relationship because faculty are the heart of any university.”

Here’s the deal: if you do not think the President of the University of Colorado’s voting record in Congress against LGBT and abortion rights is relevant to his duties, you are probably not a member of those two classes of people. If you are an LGBT student, staff, or faculty member, having a President of your university who has proven himself inimical to your rights is a huge problem. It’s worse than the present example of Bruce Benson, who although certainly a conservative Republican does not have a voting record as a lawmaker openly hostile to LGBT rights.

To us, this statement perfectly captures the disconnect between a man who cast his lot long ago, and present ambitions that simply don’t fit with his record. Mark Kennedy may not be “running for Congress,” but it’s absurd to suggest that his record in Congress is not germane to the decision of whether he is appropriate to serve as President of the University of Colorado. Perhaps most damning, there’s no evidence of contrition over these votes against the rights of large portions of the CU community at all, only the insistence that “the beliefs”–meaning Kennedy’s beliefs–are “largely irrelevant to what the President does.”

In short, everyone who imagined this guy would make a good President of the University of Colorado, including his partisan Republican supporters on the Board of Regents, made a mistake that invites fundamental questions about their own competence. Not only is it time to start over with the search for a new CU President, but the next candidate(s) need first and foremost to not insult the CU community’s intelligence like Mark Kennedy did.

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Republican Training Exposes the Naked Truth About Recalls

UPDATE: David O. Williams picks up the thread for RealVail.com:

Eagle County is indeed a very blue county these days, with Sheriff James van Beek the only elected member of the GOP currently serving.

Still, that clearly won’t thwart Republican efforts to regain power. But instead of moderating and trying to win over independents, the state GOP, which recently inducted Eagle County Republican Party Chairwoman Kaye Ferry into its hall of fame (despite that record of just one elected party member), is going the recall route…

…Extremism and recalls taking precedence over moderation and reaching out to the state’s growing electorate of registered independents. That’s the modern Colorado GOP approach. How’s that working?

—–

People are going to be traveling for Christmas. They’re not going to care. They’re not going to know that there is an election happening because they probably just turned a ballot back in a month earlier.”

We’ve demonstrated at length in this space about how Republican efforts to recall freshman Rep. Rochelle Galindo (D-Greeley), Gov. Jared Polis, and other Democrats are as much about political grift as they are about legitimate policy gripes. For those who don’t stand to profit financially off of recall election “fundraising,” the real motivation for these recall efforts is about trying to win seats that Republicans can no longer defend in a regularly-scheduled election.

This may seem like a cynical view of Republican politics in Colorado, but it is not merely an opinion. Behind closed doors, Republican operatives are completely open about the real reason for trying to recall Democrats across the state.

Republicans first started talking openly about recall elections in November 2018 — just days after the General Election took place. The current legislative session was barely a week old when House Minority Leader Patrick Neville threatened recall elections in an interview with 9News.

The video below was posted to Facebook by someone who attended a recall election training seminar on April 11 in Buena Vista, Colorado. The “recall training” is conducted by Ben Engen of Constellation Political Consulting, a Republican political consulting firm with clients that include the Colorado Republican Party and the GOP-led Senate Majority Fund. This is the full version of a video that was later redacted by Engen over concerns about what might happen if regular folks happened to get a glimpse behind the curtain. The frank discussion that takes place is almost unbelievable.

 

You can watch the entire 90-minute training session at your leisure, but let’s start by jumping ahead to the 37:30 mark where Engen explains why recall elections are the best chance for Republicans to steal a few seats while most Colorado voters aren’t paying attention:

ENGEN: Recalls are uniquely powerful because they change the dynamic of the electorate. You know, people are generally aware of midterm elections. They’re very aware of Presidential elections – everyone shows up and votes in those. They aren’t as aware, you know, of a special election like a recall that just comes out of nowhere and blindsides them. [Pols emphasis] That was one of the things that really helped us in 2013. We aren’t going to be able to count on all of those advantages again, so we have to be extra cognizant of the timing and executing things in a way that will preserve that power.

Opening screenshot from recall campaign training conducted by Constellation Political Consulting

Engen references a pie chart on a screen at the front of the room showing the voter makeup in Senate District 11 (Sen. John Morse) during the 2013 recall effort:

So, what you’re looking at here is the difference between the electoral mix in a midterm and in a recall. So this is Senate District 11. In a typical midterm for a Republican, to win Senate District 11, they would have to get 65% of the Unaffiliateds to break their way. I mean, that’s huge. Republicans in the Metro area are never going to be able to do that. [Pols emphasis]

But in the recall, in 2013, a Republican would have only had to get 46.3% of the Unaffiliateds to break their way. That is supremely doable. That’s, like, right on the cusp of what Republicans do in the Metro areas without really trying. So, the fact that people weren’t really as aware of this election – there was a differential in the motivation [that] made a big difference…

This next section is particularly damning:

…So, it’s changing this makeup of the electorate that allows us to be successful in recalls, and for Republicans to carry seats that traditionally would not break our way. Or, in the case of, you know, these seats in 2013, we’ve NEVER been able to hold. So, as you’re moving through this, that’s the thing you want to keep in mind. What you’re really trying to achieve is this re-weighting of the electorate, and there are some more points here about timing to make that happen. [Pols emphasis]

A few minutes later, Engen walks the audience through forming official committees in order to start raising money for their recall efforts. Take a look at how Engen responds to a question about whether these committees can accept donations from businesses:

Yeah, so this just happened up in Weld – that Weld recall that just started. The whole reason they kicked off right now is because they had a business cut a $100,000 check to get them started.

“What you’re really trying to achieve is this re-weighting of the electorate.”

Engen is likely referencing Steve Wells, the businessman/rancher who donated $100,000 to one of the Galindo recall efforts. Engen then explains the importance of creating a website for your recall effort — or, rather, that the only reason to have a website is so that you can collect donations. Engen even recommends a specific platform for fundraising and wonders openly about the cost of other recall fundraising efforts (such as those directed by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute):

What you want to use is a platform called Anedot to raise your money. It’s just a wee bit more expensive than using something like PayPal, but it’s a lot less expensive than whatever the Polis [recall] guys are using for some reason. [Pols emphasis]

At the 44-minute mark, Engen gets a question about how to differentiate between different recall groups. His response is telling:

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I find it hard to differentiate between which ones are real and which ones are not. There’s a ‘Recall Polis’ and there’s a ‘Resist Polis.’

ENGEN: You and me both. I don’t know how to help you with that (room erupts in laughter)…

…You want to make sure that the committee that you’re giving to is the committee that’s approved for that [purpose]. There are already three separate committees up in House District 50 trying to do this recall. Only one of them has any money. Only one of them actually has petitions. But now these other guys are just sowing confusion. So, for the love of God, people, work together… [Pols emphasis]

…Try not to get yourself in that trap that they are [caught] up in Weld. Granted, they’re well-funded already, so they’ll probably still be successful, but it’s going to hurt them because people are giving money now to other organizations that aren’t going to do anything with it. You know…who knows, it’s just up in the wind. [Pols emphasis]

We’ve written previously about these red-on-red recall turf battles that Engen is referencing.

At the 45:50 mark, Engen gets a question about involvement from the State Republican Party:

This question has come up a lot, kind of amongst the Republicans, about how involved the Republican Party can be or should be. At the state level, the way that this used to work – the state party would get involved after petitions were accepted. So, like in 2013, that’s when the State Party really got involved. They contributed money and resources to help get that done.

But the reality is, there is an infinite number of candidates that can be recalled, and the Republican Party doesn’t have the resources to be going around handing out money to recall every single person under the sun. [Pols emphasis]  And it’s too tough to call which ones are going to take off and which ones aren’t, so generally the state and in most cases the county parties just avoid that whole thing. Even if they aren’t formally engaged in it, there’s a couple of things they can do to help you. Like, they’ll have access to the voter file and they can give you access to that. The state party does have a “walk app” that they can probably let you use.

As Engen next tells the audience, they are more likely to get help from the State GOP in Senate District 5, which is represented by Democratic Sen. Kerry Donovan:

Now, if your petitions are successful and you do initiate a recall, the state party will almost always find money to support you – and especially if it’s against Kerry Donovan.

Engen goes on to emphasize the importance of finding an actual Republican candidate to run against a lawmaker targeted for recall, at which point another audience member says this:

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Our biggest challenge will be Eagle County. That’s our biggest problem with Kerry Donovan, because Eagle County is a really blue county, and that’s where the majority of the population is. So, if that county just decides to vote for her in the recall, then she might stay on.

It is indeed quite a challenge to initiate this here recall when you consider that voters in SD-5 actually want Donovan as their State Senator. Donovan was just re-elected to another 4-year term in November 2018 BY A 20-POINT MARGIN.

Before we get to the Q&A section at the end of the discussion, Engen returns to emphasize that the key to winning a recall election is basically to fool the majority of registered voters in a given area:

This is the most important consideration: Do not go out half-cocked. The reason we succeeded in 2013 is because those elections could not be conducted as mail [ballot] elections. So we can’t bank on that this go-round. But we can choose when the election happens. [Pols emphasis]

So you need to think this through and count backwards in time. Once you turn in your petitions, you have 60 days. Once you turn them in for validation, they have 15 days to approve them. After that, the Governor has 30 to 60 days to set the election. So you need to think about that: When is the worst time possible for Kerry Donovan to be dealing with this? Do you want to wait and start this in September so that the [legislative] session is back in and its harder for her to defend maybe? Do you want to try to do this during the holidays, when people are distracted and only your supporters are going to turn in their petitions. Like, start in August and the thing will have to happen in December.

People are going to be traveling for Christmas. They’re not going to care. They’re not going to know that there is an election happening because they probably just turned a ballot back in a month earlier. [Pols emphasis]

Think this through. Don’t run out of the room here and go pull petitions. Give this some thought to when you want the election to happen, because this (timing) is what ultimately determines your success. You can go out and get your petitions validated and approved, initiate the recall, and then get crushed so easily if you don’t have a favorable electoral mix. So, this is the thing, more than anything, that will determine your success – is choosing when you want to have the election and have it happen on your terms. [Pols emphasis]

Colorado voters keep electing Democrats in election after election, so Republicans are focusing their efforts on recall campaigns as a way to get around this pesky problem of Democracy. This isn’t our take on the situation — this is what Republicans are saying to each other. You can see it for yourself.

Click below for more references regarding the recall training and Constellation Political Consulting.

 

(more…)

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Open The Door To Stupid, Haters Will Follow

Gov. Jared Polis Tweeted yesterday in support of victims of the bombings in Sri Lanka against Christians celebrating Easter Sunday:

Local blog Colorado Peak Politics, operated by Republican consultant group EIS Solutions, apparently found this message of support less than satisfactory–and proceeded to complain about it, because that’s what internet trolls do:

Oops! Suddenly this cheap little shot on Gov. Polis’ faith, or whatever Peak Politics presumes about Polis’ faith, has veered off course into old-fashioned anti-Semitism. It’s not that this conservative blog itself called Gov. Polis (who happens to be Jewish) a “Christ killer,” but by drive-by slamming Polis on a question of faith while Polis was trying only to offer condolences to Christians in the wake of a terrible tragedy, they opened the door to much cheaper shots. The progression from their dig on Polis’ lack of Christian faith to the anti-Semitic slur that followed is unfortunately not much of a leap.

And that’s the moral of the story. You don’t have to attack over everything.

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Mitt Romney Blows Gardner’s Mueller Kumbaya

As you probably know from last week’s news coverage, Sen. Cory Gardner is very much ready to “move on” from the investigation into Russian support for Donald Trump in the 2016 elections, after the release this week of a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report that supporters of the President desperately want America to think “totally vindicates” Trump.

Gardner is smart enough to avoid the words “exoneration” or “vindication,” but his desire to stop talking about this is clear:

Donald Trump, Cory Gardner.

Despite Attorney General William Barr’s widely-panned attempt to spin the report ahead of its release Thursday, upon which Gardner and a large swath of the GOP based their own “let’s move on” statements immediately after, the report’s actual contents are very far from exonerating–documenting a President who repeatedly attempted to obstruct justice after his presidential campaign, if not collusively than as the willing beneficiary, freely trafficked in information illegally obtained by Russian intelligence agencies to discredit his opponent.

On Friday, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, admittedly well known for his on-again off-again criticism of President Trump relative to his own political aspirations, unleashed a broadside against Trump that left Gardner and every other Republican who sent out a “let’s move on” statement on Thursday looking like collaborationist stooges at best:

“I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office in the land, including the president,” the Utah Republican wrote. [Pols emphasis] He said that he was also “appalled” that members of the Trump campaign welcomed assistance from Russia.

However, Romney said at the beginning of his statement that he believed it was “good news” that there was insufficient evidence to charge the president of obstruction of justice. The special counsel’s office punted on the issue, not coming to a conclusion as to whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice.

The report provided evidence of 10 “discrete acts” where the president may have obstructed justice. In one instance, Mr. Trump asked then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire the special counsel. McGahn refused to do so. When The New York Times later reported Mr. Trump’s request to McGahn, Mr. Trump asked McGahn to say the president never requested that Mueller be fired. McGahn again refused to do so, as the reports were accurate.

“Reading the report is a sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders,” Romney wrote.

There is speculation this weekend about the possibility that Romney might even mount a primary challenge against Trump next year after these very harsh comments, bitterly at odds with the GOP party line that the investigation found “no crime” and Trump is in the clear. Even if that doesn’t happen, Romney’s very strong attack on Trump’s character and honesty, which he can’t take back even in the very possible event he tries, significantly complicates Gardner’s recent wholesale embrace of Trump.

If he is forced to keep talking about this at all, Gardner would much rather talk about Russia than Trump’s campaign. The problem is, you can’t simply talk about Russian interference in the 2016 elections without reckoning with the universally acknowledged objective of their interference–to elect Donald Trump President of the United States.

And that’s where we arrive at questions that not even Mitt Romney has the courage to ask.

Because the hard questions are not about Russia. They’re about the Republican Party.

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Ruling: It’s Open Season On Politicians’ Social Media

Senate President Leroy Garcia (D).

A significant development for online political poo-flingers we wanted to be sure got a mention, part of a reckoning that has been occurring across the nation as the implications of effortless social media speech–and the equally effortless censorship thereof–are weighed against constitutional rights taken for granted in every other medium. As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper reports:

Senate President Leroy Garcia was ordered to pay a $25,000 judgement this month by a Denver district court judge for blocking critical comments from a Pueblo man on Garcia’s Facebook page.

The April 12 decision from Judge R. Brooke Jackson said Garcia was wrong to block a critical comment from Alexander Armijo on Garcia’s Facebook page. The judge said that was a violation of Armijo’s First Amendment rights of free speech.

Courts have ruled that when an elected official operates a social media site in an official capacity, it is much like a public town hall meeting where the public comments generally cannot be censored.

You read that right–a critic of Senate President Leroy Garcia was actually paid $25,000 this month over the removal of a Facebook comment from Garcia’s page! The district court ruling reportedly allows a lawmaker to delete threats, defamatory comments, and advertisements. With those exceptions, your right to say whatever you want on a politician’s Facebook page and not have it deleted or otherwise censored from public view has been upheld in court with a pile of money to incentivize compliance.

All we can say is, we’ve got a lot of online political gadfly types among our readers, and you should all go check to see if you’ve been blocked, had comments deleted or suppressed, or any other kind of limitation placed on your free speech rights by a politician who has a social media presence where he public is allowed to interact with them.

Because that’s illegal now, and we seriously doubt Leroy Garcia is the only politician who’s recently deleted an undesirable comment from their page. So get out there and make this precedent stick, gadflies, while the going rate is still a boatload of money.

If you’re a politico or (more likely) a staffer reeling in horror at the prospect of your pages being overrun with angry trolls, don’t. Deleting such content is never the answer, as satisfying as it may be. It only emboldens your opponents to be censored, and denies your supporters the chance to sharpen their proverbial claws. It’s a far better practice in the long run to engage and defeat ideological opponents in any forum–and our own comment threads are a fine example of this principle working just fine over the course of many years.

So let a hundred flowers bloom! It’s the law, and it’ll be fine.

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Bennet Beats Cancer, Readies for Presidential Run

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver)

Justin Wingerter of the Denver Post reports on some good news for Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver):

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s office said Friday that his surgery to remove prostate cancer was successful, seemingly clearing the way for a 2020 presidential run.

“Last weekend, Michael underwent surgery and is recovering at his home in Colorado,” said Courtney Gidner, Bennet’s spokeswoman. “His doctors report the surgery was completely successful and he requires no further treatment.

“Michael and his family deeply appreciate the well wishes and support from Coloradans and others across the country, and he looks forward to returning to work after the recess,” she added.

Bennet announced earlier this month that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was putting his Presidential campaign inquiries on hold while he focused on his health. Bennet said at the time that he would commence a full-scale Presidential campaign pending successful cancer treatment.

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Cory Gardner Cashing Big Amway Pyramid Scheme Checks

The Colorado Independent’s Robin Bravender reports on the big donations by the billionaire DeVos family of Michigan to Sen. Cory Gardner’s re-election campaign this year, a substantial piece of his $2 million Q1 that was heavily reliant on out-of-state money. In the case of the DeVoses, that money has a backstory:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s family members spent $22,400 so far this year to help fund Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner’s re-election campaign, according to federal campaign finance data released this week.

DeVos’s in-laws — Michigan conservative donors and heirs to the Amway fortune — have plowed cash into the coffers of Republican Senate candidates across the country who are up for re-election in 2020, the records show.

DeVos’s husband, Dick, has three siblings — Doug, Daniel and Suzanne — each of whom contributed $5,600 to Gardner’s campaign in March. Doug’s wife, Maria DeVos, also contributed $5,600 to the campaign. That’s the maximum contribution allowed per election cycle under federal election law.

Although it was discussed to a limited extent during Betsy DeVos’ rocky confirmation hearing as Education Secretary, when it comes to tens of thousands of dollars in Amway money going directly into Cory Gardner’s campaign coffers the facts should be clearly understood. Amway, the multilevel marketing operation that made the DeVos family billionaires, is arguably one of the most exploitative business models in the history of American capitalism. Sold to naive new “independent business owners” as a surefire path to financial independence, the reality is that half of the “business owners” in the Amway pyramid scheme lose everything they paid in to join– and the ones who “make money” make somewhere around $200 per month on average, all the while alienating friends and family who are reduced to nothing more than increasingly desperate sales prospects.

The DeVos family’s primary method of avoiding consequences over the predatory reality of their multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme has been to become major financial supporters of the Republican Party. Lavish political giving from the profits reaped via their exploitative business model propelled the DeVoses into the upper ranks of the GOP elite–squelching criticism of their business and resulting among other things in the comically unqualified Betsy DeVos’ appointment as Secretary of Education by Donald Trump. Sen. Gardner was an enthusiastic supporter of DeVos, which makes sense after the DeVos family donated almost $50,000 to him ahead of his vote to confirm her.

In a world with more accountability than the one we currently reside in, the DeVoses would be vilified for the way they made their billions–and everyone who has benefited from their ill-gotten gains would be obliged to return the money and apologize to the victims of the DeVos family’s pyramid scheme.

At the very least, it would be nice to hear Sen. Gardner’s thoughts–since he’s at the top of the pyramid.

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There’s Stupid, Then There’s Sen. Ray Scott (R)


As the Colorado Independent’s Alex Burness reports, while everyone with a college education in Grand Junction (and plenty of students too) hangs their heads in shame:

Climate change has led to “massive improvements” and “the planet is a thing that heals itself,” state Sen. Ray Scott argued Thursday morning.

Scott, a Republican from Grand Junction, was speaking against Senate Bill 96, which would require the state to collect greenhouse gas emissions data from oil and gas wells, coal mines and other sources of planet-warming gases. Reports on emissions would be released annually, which supporters hope would help guide climate change policy.

“I will argue that climate change is occurring, but in the reverse order,” Scott told his colleagues on the Senate floor. “Anybody in this room and I can have a discussion about what was our climate like 100 years ago or 80 years ago or 50 years ago or 20 years ago. We have made massive improvements in our climate. Massive improvements.”

The clip above summarizes Sen. Scott’s singularly idiotic floor speech against Senate Bill 19-096 this morning, which can be most charitably described as a low-information conflation of particulate and other visible forms of air pollution with greenhouse gas emissions responsible for human-caused climate change. Legislation like the Clean Air Act, which Republicans of course vociferously oppose, has indeed led to a reduction in many dangerous forms of air pollution including a lot of the stuff one can see.

But of course we’re talking about the climate, not the “brown cloud”–and unless you’re stoked about the desertification of the Front Range and millions of climate refugees fleeing to high ground like Colorado from flooded coastal cities across the globe, it’s really, really hard to argue that we’re looking at anything you’d call a “massive improvement.”

Don’t spend too much time trying to figure his meaning out. All that matters is Sen. Scott doesn’t have a clue.

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GOP CU Prez Finalist Blows Basic Diversity Question

UPDATE: Gov. Jared Polis weighs in, and while he doesn’t name Mark Kennedy specifically the message is clear:

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Former Rep. Mark Kennedy (R).

As the Denver Post’s Elizabeth Hernandez reports, an interview at Colorado Public Radio with the controversial sole finalist to be the next President of the University of Colorado, former GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy, took a turn for the embarrassing when he flubbed a basic and essential question about the role of affirmative action in university admissions:

Host Ryan Warner referenced the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights requiring Texas Tech University’s medical school to stop considering race in admissions. Warner asked Kennedy what his thoughts were, in general, on affirmative action in Colorado college admissions.

Kennedy stumbled.

“I have not wrestled with that at a university yet, in that restrictions have not been as — let me go back,” Kennedy told Warner. “Can I just not answer that question?” [Pols emphasis]

No, as the sole finalist for President of the state’s flagship public university, you have to answer that question.

So Mark Kennedy did. And it was not a good answer:

Kennedy told Warner the question caught him off guard and followed up with: “I think however we do admissions, it has to be done in a way to recognize that diversity provides a benefit to all and there are many ways of doing that.”

While it’s true that diversity among student bodies is beneficial to everyone, affirmative action is most certainly and foremost meant to benefit the minority groups who have been historically underrepresented in higher education. To inartfully dance around this central fact, especially after trying to avoid the question entirely, is problematic to say the least–you might call it the college admissions equivalent of “all lives matter.”

Kennedy later told the Post that the reason for these troubling answers to a very straightforward question were the result of him worrying about being late to his next appointment, and “clarified” that affirmative action should result in neither “undue benefit or undue penalty.” Unfortunately that clarification doesn’t clarify much of anything–and honestly sounds more like a swipe against what affirmative action is, you know, all about.

Fair to say that if you’re one of the CU students protesting your new “sole finalist,” your concerns were not allayed.

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Denver Mayoral Candidate Jamie Giellis Didn’t Vote LAST YEAR

What, me vote?

It is, oddly, not unusual to see a story about a candidate for elected office who has apparently not bothered to regularly vote in prior elections. Just last year, a Republican candidate for Governor of Oklahoma struggled to explain why he himself hadn’t voted in a single Gubernatorial election since at least 1999.

As John Ensslin reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, Denver Mayoral candidate Jamie Giellis hasn’t been particularly interested in her civic duty in years past:

Giellis, a candidate for Denver mayor, has not voted in 10 of the 22 municipal elections that have occurred since she moved to the city in 2006, according to a Colorado Politics review of city election records.

Giellis, a former president of the River North Arts District, voted in 12 elections during that time but missed three runoff elections, three coordinated elections, two general elections, one municipal election and one primary election, according to her voting history.

By contrast, three others considered to be in the first tier of mayoral candidates have voted in all but a handful of elections during that same period.

“It’s my bad for not doing that.”

     —  Denver Mayoral candidate Jamie Giellis on failing to vote in nearly half of Denver’s elections

Missing an election here or there is not unusual, but it’s a little weird for a candidate to barely manage to cast a ballot in half of all previous elections. Incredibly, Giellis apparently didn’t even vote in the 2018 Primary Election in Colorado, even as she was considering her own bid for elected office (Giellis formally launched her campaign in November 2018). Giellis thinks that she did vote last June, but she eventually admits to Ensslin that, well, she’s not actually sure about that:

“The 2018 primary election is concerning to me,” she wrote. “During that time my husband and I were traveling for our wedding and living with my parents as we finished a home renovation, but in the midst of that chaos I recall casting a ballot that appears to have not been received. It was my job to ensure my vote was counted, and I failed at that.” [Pols emphasis]

During a Mayoral candidate forum moderated by 9News reporters Marshall Zelinger and Kyle Clark on Wednesday, Giellis got another chance to explain her spotty voting record. She failed. Miserably.

ZELINGER: Since 2011, when Mr. Hancock was elected, voter records show that you have only voted in half of the elections. I know you lived out of the country for some of that time, but if you want to lead the City of Denver, why didn’t you care enough to vote absentee?

GIELLIS: I think it’s a great question, and, you know, I was traveling abroad, in Singapore and the U.K., for most of that time, a big chunk of that time. And it’s a big task to vote while you’re abroad. And it’s my bad for not doing that…

…I didn’t realize that there was a litmus test for being willing to step up and take a leadership role in the city. [Pols emphasis]

Denver voters are receiving their mail ballots for the municipal election this week. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise if many of them don’t bother to vote for Giellis.

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Mueller Report Open Thread #1

UPDATE #4: Rep. Diana DeGette’s statement is much more to the point:

“The report released today paints a very different picture than what the president and attorney general had hoped the American people would see. And it’s now more important than ever that Congress be granted access to the full unredacted report immediately.”

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UPDATE #3: Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) might be the world’s fastest reader. From the Denver Post:

“I voted for the release of the Mueller report because I value transparency in government and all of my constituents should be able to read the document, firsthand,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, on Twitter. “Now it’s been released and it’s very clear – absolutely no collusion.”

Lamborn’s conclusions came 45 minutes after release of the 448-page report. [Pols emphasis] The report states that investigators did not search for collusion, but rather coordination, between Trump’s former campaign and the Russian government as the latter interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

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UPDATE #2: This deserves its own post.

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UPDATE: A key portion of the report appears to acknowledge that President Donald Trump attempted to obstruct justice, but was prevented from doing so by subordinates who refused to break the law:

That’s pretty far from “exonerating.”

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Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Attorney General William Barr

The 400-page Mueller Report will be revealed today (in a redacted form) for the first time. This morning, President Trump’s personal attorney Attorney General William Barr held a press conference to discuss the report’s release but also to preemptively defend his client the President.

We don’t yet know what the Mueller Report says, and it will take awhile for everything to be read and digested by news outlets, but here’s Aaron Blake of the Washington Post after Barr’s press conference this morning:

When Attorney General William P. Barr announced he was going to hold a news conference before the release of the Mueller report Thursday, there was instant pushback. How can the media ask questions about a report it hasn’t seen? Would this just be a whole bunch of pre-spin from a man already accused of being too friendly to the president who appointed him?

Barr’s performance did nothing to argue against those allegations.

In a lengthy opening statement, Barr found just about every way possible to say that there was no coordination, cooperation or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. He also said Trump was right about “no collusion,” expanding the Mueller report’s clearing of Trump to a more nebulous term with little legal significance.

But perhaps more importantly, on obstruction of justice, he seemed to go to bat for Trump personally, offering a sympathetic take on the president’s state of mind and cooperation. [Pols emphasis]

There will no doubt be much more to discuss on this topic as the day progresses.

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Congrats, GOP! You’re The Anti-Vaxxer Party Again

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: GOP Rep. Mark Baisley explains the GOP’s party-line opposition to House Bill 19-1312 in a lengthy post today–and it’s a worst-case scenario, invoking the most discredited of misinformation about vaccines:

The stated goal of the bill is to reduce the occurrence of childhood diseases. Colorado averages approximately 90% current vaccinations for children under 3 years of age. But recent epidemics such as autism have arisen and parents are understandably suspicious of vaccines as the cause. [Pols emphasis] Citizens should not be coerced by the State to permit pharmaceutical injections into their children. Nor should they be shamed by their own government for their choice.

Furthermore, Colorado citizens entrust billions of their hard-earned dollars every year to their government to provide K12 education. This bill threatens to withhold delivering that service to children whose parents do not cooperate with their government’s controlling ambitions.

I stand in strong opposition to HB19-1312.

In today’s Republican Party, pseudoscience has triumphed. Who can argue otherwise?

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Measles.

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reported in the wee hours, and then hopefully she went to bed:

A bill to make it harder for parents to get a vaccination exemption for their children passed out of a Colorado House committee on a 7-4 vote at about 4 a.m. Tuesday morning — nearly 14 hours after the hearing started.

It was the longest committee of the 2019 legislative session so far with hundred of parents bouncing and walking their children up and down the Capitol halls late into the night…

“This is about keeping Colorado’s kids safe. We need to be proactive, not reactive. We are in the midst of public health crisis and we can’t wait for a tragedy to occur,” Rep. Mullica, D-Northglenn, said in a statement released early Tuesday morning after the bill passed. “Experts believe this option will help improve Colorado’s dismal and dangerous immunization rates.”

Owing to the hefty Democratic majority in the Colorado House of Representatives, it should be noted that the 7-4 vote in favor of House Bill 19-1312 was in fact a party-line vote. All the Republicans on the House Health and Insurance Committee voted against the bill, which is itself a compromise from earlier proposed legislation that would have eliminated the personal-choice exemption for immunization of children headed to Colorado public schools. As we discussed previously, that proposal was considered too coercive by Gov. Jared Polis, leading to this compromise measure that should still help improve Colorado’s embarrassingly low child immunization rate.

The issue of childhood vaccinations, more to the point the highly prevalent misinformation suggesting a range of negative health effects from vaccinating children that has no scientific basis, doesn’t always divide cleanly along partisan lines. One of the areas of the state with a low rate of vaccinations is “progressive” Boulder County. Over the last few years, however, the “freedom” to not have children vaccinated has been championed almost exclusively in Colorado by Republican lawmakers on the fringy side of the caucus. Two now-defeated Republican Senators in particular, Laura Woods and Tim Neville, unapologetically championed both the pseudoscience behind anti-vaxxer ideology and conspiracy theories about children being “rounded up and vaccinated” without their parent’s consent.

In case you were wondering who was going to take up the anti-vaxxer cause now that Woods and Tim Neville are history, direct your attention to all the Republicans on the House Health and Insurance Committee.

Congratulations, Colorado Republicans, for taking ownership of this fringe issue. Again.

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Elizabeth Warren In Aurora: Not Too Shabby

As the Aurora Sentinel’s Kara Mason reports, a big show of support yesterday evening for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, in a part of the state and Denver metro area that showcased its shift from red to blue in last year’s elections:

[Warren] took to the stage at The Hangar at the Stanley Marketplace for an organizing event with one specific ask in mind: that her supporters engage with other people, especially people across political divisions, before the Colorado primary to learn what Americans have in common…

Colorado Democrats favored Bernie Sanders over Hilary Clinton in 2016 and former President Barack Obama over Hilary Clinton in 2012 — a clue that candidates like Sanders and Warren may fair better in metro Denver this cycle, too. The 2018 election also serves as a recent reminder that Arapahoe County is more blue than it once was, with the election of Congressman Jason Crow and the defeat of the Republican clerk and sheriff.

Sen. Warren’s support among the progressive base Democratic voters who decide primaries in our state is at this early point in the cycle much stronger than her popularity with the general electorate, which is attributable at least in part to the Hillary Clinton-style demonization campaign that has been pre-emptively mounted against Warren for a years in anticipation of her long-expected presidential run. We do believe that Warren has both the backstory and the present-day credibility to overcome the challenge of being pre-savaged by conservative media, and is short-list competitive in the 2020 Democratic primary as the polling indicates.

But for today, it’s enough to note–that’s a really good crowd shot! Kudos to Warren’s advance team on showing people how it’s done. The yardstick we’ll be judging future presidential whistle stops by has been upped thusly.

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Recall Polis Campaign Goes Psycho Over Sol Pais

UPDATE: Moderator of the Recall Polis Facebook group sounds the all clear:

It would appear that the faithful remain unconvinced.

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The news is breaking from multiple local outlets that an 18-year-old woman from Florida who was allegedly “obsessed” with the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton and made credible threats of violence against area schools is dead, having been found at Echo Lake near Mt. Evans this morning:

The FBI Denver office confirmed the agency had responded to the base of Mt. Evans Wednesday morning and, in a tweet just before 11 a.m., said there was no longer a threat to the community.

According to Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Albers, Pais’s body was found at 10:50 a.m. about a half-mile from Echo Lake Park, located near the Mount Evans Scenic Byway about 45 miles west of Denver.

The drama over threats made by Sol Pais and the resulting lock-out of hundreds of area public schools yesterday and again today has riveted media and dominated local social media discussion for the last 24 hours. And over at the closed Facebook group page for the conspiracy theory-positive Recall Polis campaign, there’s a clear consensus emerging that this is what’s known among the InfoWars crowd as a “false flag” operation:

Now, Jennifer McCreary may think she’s a “crazy woman” to think this could have been a trick to distract the voters of Colorado from the Polis recall campaign–and to be brutally honest, lots of our readers will agree. But you know who doesn’t think this is “crazy?”

Pastor Steven Grant and hundreds of fellow Recall Polis members, that’s who!

(more…)

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Hundreds of Schools Closed as Manhunt Continues

UPDATE:

CBS4:

A total of 20 or 30 armed officers including a SWAT team and a Clear Creek County snowcat were near the Echo Lake Campground in the Arapaho National Forest and in the midst of an extensive search operation Wednesday morning. The search was centered at the base of Mount Evans. Late Wednesday morning authorities said Pais is dead. It’s not clear how she died.

A woman who was hiking in the area in the morning told CBS4 she was told to leave the area because “a naked woman matching the description with a gun was spotted in the area running through the woods.”

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As the Denver Post reports:

Districts across the Denver metro area ordered their schools closed Wednesday as the FBI and local police continue a “massive manhunt” for an 18-year-old Florida woman they say is “infatuated with Columbine” and who purchased a shotgun shortly after arriving in Colorado this week.

Most major Denver-area school districts — and others across the Front Range — have canceled classes Wednesday, including Denver Public Schools, Douglas County School District, Aurora Public Schools and Jeffco Public Schools, home to Columbine High School, which was on lockout on Tuesday along with more than 20 other schools in that district over “credible threats.”

Superintendents from school districts across the Denver-metro area gathered for a call Tuesday night and collectively determined that the safest course of action would be to close schools on Wednesday.

Even school districts as far away from Columbine as those in Weld and Larimer counties have been closed Wednesday as a precaution.

Law enforcement officials are looking for 18-year-old Sol Pais, who was last seen in the foothills of Jefferson County on Monday evening. Call ‘911’ immediately if you spot the woman in the photos above.

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Let’s Go, Nuggets!

The Denver Nuggets take on the San Antonio Spurs tonight in the second game of their first round playoff series. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is throwing down:

San Antonio is known for its beer? Who knew?

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Crisanta Duran Fails to Clear Very Low Bar in Q1

Artist rendition of Crisanta Duran’s Congressional campaign.

Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-Denver) is the “dean” of the Colorado Congressional delegation, a title she has earned by consistently winning re-election in what has long been a safe Democratic seat in CO-1. First elected to her Denver district in 1996, DeGette has been in the House of Representatives 10 years longer than her nearest contemporaries; both Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) were first elected in 2006.

Despite that longevity — or perhaps because of it — DeGette is facing a potentially tough Democratic Primary in 2020 from former State House Speaker Crisanta Duran. Or, at least, that was the thinking before Q1 fundraising numbers were announced this week.

DeGette raised a piddling $138,000 in Q1, a shockingly-weak sum for someone looking at a third consecutive Primary challenge. Fortunately for her, Duran only managed to raise about half of that amount. As Denverite reports, Duran’s campaign is trying desperately to spin a $70,000 quarter as a positive outcome:

“This is a great start to our campaign for change,” Duran said in the release. “We received contributions from people of all walks of life and from an inclusive cross-section of leaders and grassroots supporters throughout our community.”

Duran isn’t accepting money from corporate political action committees, a fact her campaign is using to set her apart from DeGette, who is accepting money from these types of PACs. Duran campaign consultant Steve Welchert said in the release that they “don’t expect to keep up with DeGette’s corporate PAC machine, but today’s report shows we’ll build a strong, winning campaign.”

Um…no. You can’t shine a $70,000 turd.

Duran’s campaign is quick to point out that she didn’t have the benefit of a full fundraising quarter after announcing her campaign for CO-1 in late February. This is true, but also irrelevant; if Duran wasn’t confident that she could put up a good fundraising quarter, then she shouldn’t have announced her candidacy so early. This is pretty much the worst-case scenario for Duran’s campaign.

Momentum and money go hand-in-hand in politics. Duran has neither, and she’s now in a position where she’ll need a very strong Q2 just to remain somewhat viable heading into the dead summer of an off-year. If Duran doesn’t at least quadruple her Q1 numbers, what had looked to be an interesting race will be all but over a year before the Primary Election.

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