DeGette Nabs Notable Endorsement

Rep. Diana DeGette (left) and Crisanta Duran

Politics is often compared to chess, and for good reason. A successful political campaign requires sound strategy and foresight to cut off your opponent at the most opportune moments.

This analogy is particularly apt in light of a notable endorsement today in the Democratic Primary race for CO-1. Incumbent Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) picked up the endorsement of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), one of the largest labor unions in Colorado. From a press release:

Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 Union announced their endorsement of Congresswoman Diana DeGette as she seeks re-election in 2020. UFCW Local 7 President, Kim Cordova, announced the endorsement at their union hall alongside Congresswoman DeGette and Local 7 members.

“United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 is proud to announce our Endorsement of Diana DeGette, a proven workers champion for another term. Diana shares our core values through her advocacy for affordable and quality healthcare, gender equity, raising the minimum wage and workers’ rights. Colorado needs her continued strong leadership in Congress to fight for workers and to ensure Labor has a voice.” – UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova…

…UFCW Local 7 is Colorado’s largest labor union representing Supermarkets, Packing Houses, Food Processing Plants, Barbers and Cosmetologists and Healthcare facilities. Large employers in Congressional District One include Mission Tortillas, King Soopers, and Safeway.

The significance of this endorsement will be obvious to longtime political observers. It was nearly 10 years ago to the day that Ernie Duran, Jr. — UFCW’s longest-standing President — was voted out of office after charges of nepotism. As the Denver Post reported on September 22, 2009:

During the contentious battle over the “right to work” ballot measure last year, reports surfaced about nepotism within the union under Duran’s leadership.

In 2007, Crisanta Duran was paid $133,410 and Ernie Duran’s son, Ernie Duran III, was paid $134,378 as an executive staff member, according to Labor Department filings. The elder Duran earned $162,368 that year.

“The nepotism was a big issue with the workers — Ernie hiring his family and putting them into high-paid positions,” Cordova said.

Allegations surfaced this year about misspent union funds.

Duran’s daughter is Crisanta Duran, who picked up the job as UFCW’s staff attorney not long after she graduated from law school. Duran would later earn a seat in the State House of Representatives, where she served as the first Latina Speaker of the House in Colorado (2017-19). Earlier this year Duran announced that she was mounting a Primary challenge against DeGette, the longest-serving member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation.

Duran kicked off her CO-1 campaign with much fanfare but has failed to gain any momentum against DeGette; Duran has posted a couple of miserable fundraising quarters and lost out on the endorsement of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which backed DeGette in July.

Given the controversy that surrounded the elder Duran’s departure from UFCW, it was probably unlikely that Crisanta Duran was ever going to earn the support of the grocery workers’ union — but it’s not insignificant that the UFCW decided to publicly back DeGette. In every political campaign, some endorsements mean more than others. For Denver politicos — the sort of voters that DeGette and Duran will be fighting over next spring — this is one of those endorsements.

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Get More Smarter on Friday the 13th

For the first time in nearly two decades, there will be a full moon on Friday the 13th; this won’t happen again for another 30 years. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Ten Democratic candidates for President took to the debate stage in Houston on Thursday night. The Washington Post does a quick breakdown of everything you might have missed.

There are plenty of “Winners and Losers” lists from Thursday’s debate. Check out the Washington Post; CNN; the New York Times; Vox.com; and Politico.

 

 The Trump administration is rolling back clean water standards to 1986 levels, and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is thrilled about the move. From the Associated Press via Fox 31 Denver:

The Trump administration on Thursday revoked an Obama-era regulation that shielded many U.S. wetlands and streams from pollution but was opposed by developers and farmers who said it hurt economic development and infringed on property rights, a move that Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner cheered as “a victory for Colorado’s farmers.”…

…Environmentalists say the move would leave millions of Americans with less safe drinking water and allow damage of wetlands that prevent flooding, filter pollutants and provide habitat for a multitude of fish, waterfowl and other wildlife…

…Betsy Southerland, who was director of science and technology in EPA’s Office of Water during the Obama administration, said repealing its regulation would create further regulatory confusion.

“This repeal is a victory for land developers, oil and gas drillers and miners who will exploit that ambiguity to dredge and fill small streams and wetlands that were protected from destruction by the 2015 rule because of their critical impact on national water quality,” Southerland said.

 

► Taking money from military projects to fund a wall along the Mexico border is a serious security risk, according to a report from the U.S. Air Force. As NBC News reports:

The report, obtained by NBC News, details the importance of each of the 51 military projects chosen by the Trump administration to lose their funding, including construction of a new gate to address a growing security concern at an overseas U.S. base, projects to build facilities to safely store more than $1 billion in munitions overseas, and even replacing a boiler whose failure is “imminent” and could cause the evacuation of an entire base in Alaska…

…There is no guarantee the funds will automatically be backfilled, according to a congressional official and a U.S. defense official. The congressional official said the projects may be set back a year or more.

The funding diversions include an $8 million project for Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado; Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) promised to prevent this exact scenario last spring.

 

The mystery of two anonymous donors who covered security costs for Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Aspen this summer has been solved…but it creates a whole new batch of questions. Thanks in part to an idiotic comment from the Chair of the Pitkin County Republican Party, this story is getting an extended shelf-life.

 

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

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D-Back Double Take–OF COURSE You Can’t Do This

Earl G. “Ken” Kendrick.

The Aspen Times’ Rick Carroll has an important follow-up story to a controversy we’ve been following since July–a Republican Party fundraiser in Aspen starring Vice President Mike Pence that resulted in almost $20,000 in security costs incurred by the Pitkin County Sheriff and other local government agencies, which Sheriff Joe DiSalvo had to publicly insist on being covered before receiving two large checks from Republican donors who asked to remain anonymous.

As it turns out and we predicted at the time, their desire for anonymity was untenable under Colorado law, since the checks and the identities of the check writers are a public record easily obtainable by a Colorado Open Records Act request. Earlier this week, 9NEWS identified the donors in question as an Arizona investment banker as well as E. G. “Ken” Kendrick, managing owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and a longtime “Never Trump” Republican whose surreptitious support at a Pence fundraiser raises all kinds of juicy political questions.

Setting aside Kendrick’s “Never Trump” politics and the curious turnabout in his views of the President, there would seem to be little question that the checks to Pitkin County to cover security expenses for the fundraiser are in-kind donations that cannot be made anonymously and must be reported to the Federal Election Commission. Except kind of ridiculously, Republicans are trying to dispute this now that the proverbial jig is up:

“I do not believe it is a political donation,” said Anna Zane, chair of the Pitkin GOP. “I believe it was two good Samaritans that stepped up to pay the security costs that Pitkin County and neighboring jurisdictions incurred when the sitting vice president visited our town.”

Yet Denver attorney Mark Grueskin, whose area of expertise includes campaign finance law, said the contributions should be reported and the donors’ identities should not be protected.

“This was clearly a payment to benefit a federal campaign and a national political party,” he said, adding “it must be reported by the candidate or the party or both to the FEC.” [Pols emphasis]

In all fairness, here’s a Republican lawyer who says differently:

According to Christopher O. Murray, who was deputy general counsel for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, Love and Kendrick’s payments were not political contributions because they did not cover expenses the Pence campaign or the RNC were legally obligated to pay, or had previously committed to pay.

This strikes us as in incredibly strained interpretation of the law. Whether or not the campaign was “obligated” to pay these security costs for the Pence fundraiser is irrelevant. The invoice presented by Pitkin County was paid, and paid to avoid what was turning into a considerable scandal for the organizers of the Pence fundraiser after Sheriff DiSalvo’s frustration made the press. That means by any reasonable definition this was an in-kind donation to the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. It may require litigation to resolve specific circumstantial questions here, but it’s difficult to imagine the outcome being in doubt.

It’s an embarrassment for a major national Republican donor to get caught making donations on the sly via an open records request, but the real sticky wicket in this situation is “Never Trump” Kendrick’s clandestine support for Donald Trump’s re-election. There are hard questions about such a change of heart that only Ken Kendrick can answer, which could explain why he wanted to support Trump’s re-election campaign anonymously.

All together now: you can’t do that.

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Friday Open Thread

“They appear to have become so attached to their outrage that they are even more outraged that they won’t be able to be outraged anymore.”

–Barney Frank

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Dan Baer Drops Senate Bid, Backs Hickenlooper

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper

Democrat Dan Baer announced today that he is suspending (ending) his campaign for U.S. Senate and endorsing former Gov. John Hickenlooper.

“I am suspending my campaign for the U.S. Senate and endorsing John Hickenlooper as the candidate who will beat Cory Gardner next November,” said Baer in a statement. “We must win this seat!”

Baer’s announcement comes one day after former U.S. Attorney John Walsh dropped his own bid for the Democratic nomination in 2020. Walsh also endorsed Hickenlooper.

Baer is dropping out of a federal race in Colorado for the second time in three years as he again finds his eyes to be bigger than his stomach. Baer was a candidate for Congress in CO-7 in 2017 until incumbent Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) changed his mind on retirement and decided to run for re-election (though it took Baer a longer period of time than it should have before he finally ended that campaign). Baer’s U.S. Senate bid was notable mostly for his fundraising ability; he is a Colorado native but has only been back in the state for a few years and and would have struggled to make much of a mark in a Democratic Primary with or without Hickenlooper.

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Pence Aspen Money Mystery Solved–Raising New Questions

Vice President Mike Pence.

Back in July, we took note of an interesting FOX 31 story following up a Republican Party fundraiser in Aspen starring Vice President Mike Pence. As Joe St. George reported at the time, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo sought to collect over $18,000 in reimbursement for security costs related to the fundraiser. After a surprising amount of rigamarole and a round of bad press for the Trump campaign, DiSalvo’s invoice was paid–by donors who wished to remain anonymous.

That’s a big problem, of course, since these were arguably in-kind campaign contributions to the GOP and the Trump 2020 campaign with no reporting to the Federal Election Commission. But it wasn’t a big problem to find out who wrote the checks, whether these donors who requested anonymity knew it or not, because as we noted then Colorado’s open records law made the checks and the checkwriters’ identities a public record the moment they were given to the Pitkin County Sheriff.

Which is where 9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger picks up the story yesterday:

“Usually, we don’t have this much trouble. And we do ask way in advance, so it doesn’t usually come as a surprise to the hosts,” said DiSalvo. “I usually use that time to contact the hosts and say, ‘this is an impact on my small department, and it does cost a lot of money, could you please reimburse us?’ I’ve never really had a problem, and I’m not saying that this is a problem this time because we did get reimbursed, but it was kind of uncharted waters for me to have to dig and dig and dig just to find out who the host of this party was, and I still don’t know.”

…There is no requirement that the president or vice president reimburse local law enforcement for visits, even if they’re political and not official visits. If someone pays, it’s usually from a campaign account.

Since the payment came directly from individuals and not the Trump campaign, it isn’t tracked by the Federal Elections Commission. Whereas contributions [EG] Kendrick made to Gardner’s reelection campaign and former Congressman Mike Coffman’s 2018 campaign are searchable. Those contributions were made to the campaigns and recorded with the FEC. These payments were not.

Earl G. “Ken” Kendrick.

The two donors who wrote equal $9,087 checks and asked to remain anonymous were Mark Horace Love, an Arizona investment banker and (much more newsworthy) Earl G. “Ken” Kendrick, the managing owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks. This is where it gets politically quite interesting, since Kendrick’s family has been long on record as fiercely opposed to Donald Trump–reportedly giving big money to a PAC that spent millions in a failed attempt to stop Trump from winning the nomination in 2016.

Much like Sen. Cory Gardner’s about-face from calling for Trump to pull out of the presidential race in October of 2016 to endorsing and defending Trump today, Ken Kendrick’s about-face from a “Never Trumper” to trying to sneak in-kind money to the Trump re-election campaign presents big and obvious questions. What changed? A good place to start would be with Kendrick’s expansive business networks in Arizona and elsewhere. For example, in July fellow Diamondbacks owner and close associate of Kendricks, Mike Ingram, was targeted by a congressional investigation after allegedly getting “help” on a permit from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt for a southern Arizona home development over objections that it could harm threatened species. What else might be out there to underwrite Kendrick’s change of heart?

One thing’s for sure: somebody at this level of the game, and we’re not talking baseball, should have known better.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (September 12)

On this day 45 years ago, it was 1974. Let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Immigration advocates are facing a setback after a big Supreme Court decision late Wednesday. As the New York Times reports:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the Trump administration to bar most Central American migrants from seeking asylum in the United States, while the legal fight plays out in the courts.

The Supreme Court, in a brief, unsigned order, said the administration may enforce new rules that generally forbid asylum applications from migrants who have traveled through another country on their way to the United States without being denied asylum in that country.

The court’s order was a major victory for the administration, allowing it to enforce a policy that will achieve one of its central goals: effectively barring most migration across the nation’s southwestern border by Hondurans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans and others. Mexican migrants, who need not travel through another country to reach the United States, are not affected by the new policy.

It was the second time in recent months that the Supreme Court has allowed a major Trump administration immigration initiative to go forward. In July, the court allowed the administration to begin using $2.5 billion in Pentagon money for the construction of a barrier along the Mexican border. Last year, the court upheld President Trump’s ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries.

From Vox.com (9/12/19)

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is livid with her colleagues’ decision, however. As the Washington Post explains:

No vote was recorded in the Supreme Court’s order, which is standard on a matter like this, but Sotomayor wrote an uncharacteristically blistering five-page dissent. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cosigned.

“The rule here may be, as the District Court concluded, in significant tension with the asylum statute,” Sotomayor said. “It may also be arbitrary and capricious for failing to engage with the record evidence contradicting its conclusions. It is especially concerning, moreover, that the rule the Government promulgated topples decades of settled asylum practices and affects some of the most vulnerable people in the Western Hemisphere.”…

…The bulk of Sotomayor’s critique relates to process. She argues, essentially, that it’s in poor form for the Trump administration to immediately come running to the Supreme Court, with two Trump appointees and five of the nine justices appointed by Republicans, every time a lower court puts on hold a policy while legal challenges are being heard. She would prefer to let the process play out the way it has in the past.

 

► On orders from the Trump administration, the Environmental Protection Agency is scaling back clean water standards to where they were in 1986. From the Washington Post:

In the halls of Washington and on sprawling farms and ranches, in courtrooms and corporate boardrooms, a legal tug of war has unfolded over a 2015 rule that gave the Environmental Protection Agency much broader authority over the nation’s waterways. Critics say the Obama rule gave the federal government far too much power; supporters countered it would prevent the loss of vast swaths of wetlands. Court rulings have temporarily blocked the regulation in 28 states, while keeping it in effect in 22 others.

On Thursday, the Trump administration plans to scrap the Obama-era definition of what qualifies as “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act, returning the country to standards put in place in 1986…

…critics say the rollback will speed the conversion of wetlands and headwaters, which provide critical habitat for wildlife and support the nation’s drinking water supply. Americans drained about half of the 220 million acres of wetlands in the contiguous United States between the 1780s and 1980s, most of it to expand farmland. That rate began to slow after George H.W. Bush took office, pledging to stem the tide of wetlands loss.

 

 As CBS4 Denver reports, Colorado Democrats are leading the charge in Washington D.C. in pushing for new gun safety regulations:

Congressman Joe Neguse said he favors changes to federal law, and hopes Republicans will too.

“If my colleagues are serious about addressing gun violence, about addressing suicide — Colorado happens to have the 10th highest rate of suicides in the United States, 50% of those involve a firearm — if my colleagues are serious about that, I would hope that they would join us tonight in supporting this bill so that we can finally do something about the pervasive gun violence that is ravaging communities across our country,” he said during Tuesday’s hearing.

While the bills have support in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, there’s an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled Senate. President Donald Trump at first seemed to favor some changes in gun laws several weeks ago, but it’s unclear where he stands now.

 

 Ten Democratic candidates for President will take to the debate stage tonight in Houston, Texas. The New York Times previews the big show.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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What In the Hell Is Cory Gardner Doing?

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)

Senate Democrats are pushing for another vote to get Republicans on the record supporting President Trump’s money grab for building his great big wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. As Politico explains:

Last week, the Trump administration unveiled its plan to divert $3.6 billion in military construction funding to build the president’s border wall, a move which came after Trump declared a national emergency in February to access the funds. Among the states with projects the administration plans to raid are Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, Texas and South Carolina — all of which have senators up for re-election in 2020.

But Democrats are seeking to pressure Republicans to go on the record with their support for Trump’s national emergency by forcing another vote disapproving of it in the next month.

You may recall a similar vote back in March that turned Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) into a crispy waffle. After pretending that he was opposed to President Trump’s efforts to go around Congress for wall money, Gardner ultimately folded and voted “NO” on a resolution of opposition to Trump’s bogus emergency declaration. It was this vote that prompted the Denver Post editorial board to famously un-endorse Gardner, an unusual and incredibly damaging moment for Gardner’s re-election hopes in 2020.

But since Gardner has already taken his lumps for that terrible decision last March, you would think his response to this latest effort by Senate Democrats would be pretty straightforward. You would be wrong.

Let’s go back to Politico:

Democrats plan to attack Republicans politically for supporting Trump’s wall over projects in their home states. Democratic challengers bashed Republicans last week when the list of military projects affected was announced. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, referenced a Denver Post editorial criticizing Sen. Cory Gardner for failing to speak out against Colorado funds being diverted.

“I think from my perspective, at the end of the day we should all be fighting for our states on issues that matter and no matter what the president is doing if it’s going to harm our communities then we should be standing up against it,” Cortez Masto said. “At least from what I’ve seen from the Denver Post it’s having an impact, absolutely.”

When asked Wednesday if he’d support the national emergency declaration, Gardner responded: “I haven’t seen the resolution of disapproval, but I mean, the Democrats refuse to fund the border.” [Pols emphasis]

Trying to shift blame to Democrats is the same dumbass comment that caused the Denver Post to rip into Gardner just last weekend, but that’s not what makes this response from Gardner so supremely stupid (although continuing to touch a hot stovetop is pretty silly in itself). What is truly baffling here is that Gardner is avoiding a direct response about a question he’s already answered.

Because Gardner was not one of the 12 Republicans to support the March resolution condemning Trump’s emergency declaration, there would be no logical reason for him to support a similar resolution in the coming weeks — yet he still dances around the question. Even Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) was smart enough to acknowledge to Politico that he would oppose such a resolution — and Tillis famously wrote an Op-Ed for the Washington Post condemning Trump’s emergency declaration just days before he flip-flopped and voted in the opposite direction.

Perhaps feigning ignorance is such a reflex for Gardner that he doesn’t even think twice about muttering that sort of statement anymore, but these defensive responses don’t serve him well at all. Gardner has already proven that he’ll acquiesce to President Trump on any topic; anybody paying even a lick of attention to this knows that Gardner will absolutely do it again if Senate Democrats force another vote. What’s the point of pretending otherwise?

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At Least It’s Not Your State House

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R) yucks it up after today’s surprise vote.

As the Raleigh News & Observer reports, North Carolina House Republicans pulled a fast one today while many Democrats were away from the chambers commemorating the 9/11 terrorist attacks–using the absence of most of the Democratic minority to jam through an override of Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the GOP-controlled legislature’s budget. It’s the latest treacherous move by Republicans in that state’s continuing partisan battle over expanding Medicaid:

In a surprise move Wednesday morning, the N.C. House of Representatives voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget with just over half of the 120 members present to vote.

Democrats in the chamber objected to the bill being brought up, saying they were told there would be no votes during the 8:30 a.m. session and that it was just a formality so work could begin. Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, made the motion to reconsider the state budget and chaos in the chamber quickly ensued…

Moore ignored the objections of the Democrats that were in the room and instead mowed through the vote with only 64 members voting. The vote was 55-9. Later, multiple Democratic House members who were there but who weren’t able to vote in time had their votes recorded as “no.” But it still wasn’t enough to change the outcome.

About three hours after the morning vote, Cooper held a press conference to condemn Republicans for what he called “an assault on our Democracy.” He’s been negotiating the budget with Republican leaders for months and was caught off-guard by Wednesday’s vote.

“Today, on the 18th anniversary of 9/11, while the state was honoring first responders, Republicans called a deceptive, surprise override of my budget veto,” he told reporters.

Democrats in the North Carolina House say Speaker Tim Moore explicitly told them there would be no votes on the morning of the 9/11 anniversary, freeing them up to attend other events. We suppose it might have been a telltale warning that Republicans were not at any 9/11 commemorations themselves, but in parliamentary give-and-take like everything else there’s a natural inclination to take people at their word.

Looks like North Carolina Democrats won’t be doing that again.

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Colorado GOP In Chaos After Recalls Crash And Burn

Yesterday afternoon, the recall campaigns targeting state Sens. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs and Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood announced the failure of their efforts after having collected an unknown number of signatures short of the requirement in both districts. This news yesterday afternoon came following Friday’s announcement that the “Dismiss Polis” recall petition campaign gathered less than half the required signatures to qualify a recall question against Gov. Jared Polis for the ballot. Back in June, the recall petition campaign targeting Rep. Tom Sullivan failed after intense national news coverage highlighted the offense of trying to recall the father of an Aurora theater massacre victim for passing gun control legislation.

 

The Recall Polis “creeper van.”

Last March, Rep. Ken Buck was elected chairman of the Colorado Republican Party on a promise to teach Democrats “how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L.” The ill-fated recall attempt against Rep. Tom Sullivan was filed by Colorado Republican Party vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown, who subsequently tried to distance the party from her actions as it became clear to all parties that a serious political and moral error had been made in attempting to recall Rep. Sullivan.

The recall campaign against Gov. Polis kicked off, as readers know well, over the strenuous objections of the “Official” Recall Polis committee who (as it turns out correctly) predicted the effort would fail. Two competing fundraising operations nominally dedicated to the same extremely unlikely goal of recalling Gov. Polis confusingly solicited Republicans for funds, and laid out opposing but always unrealistic visions for how the recall would proceed. In the end the “official” committee denounced the petition drive managed by GOP attorney Korry Lewis, and wrote a big check to Colorado For Trump in hope of deflecting allegations of defrauding its donors–in spirit if not in legal point of fact.

The Polis recall petition campaign claimed to have collected around 300,000 signatures, less than half the required total let alone the 30%+ margin required to cover invalid signatures during the verification process. Because these signatures will never be turned in, no one will ever know if even these claimed numbers are accurate. Likewise with the now-dead recall petition drives targeting Sens. Lee and Pettersen–those campaigns did not disclose even an estimate of signatures they had collected, and it would be impossible to verify any number they provided. On the other hand, Democrats used these petition drives to mobilize large canvass operations in the targeted districts, giving them a jump on the next cycle.

“Herbie The Hate Bug.”

The collapse in just the space of a few days of recall campaigns that have dominated political news coverage in Colorado for most of 2019 has been so stunning that the magnitude of the defeat for Republicans risks not being fully digested by the relentless news cycle. There’s an understandable desire in the wake of this defeat to lay blame on the recall organizers, from the freaks and ghouls of the Polis recall to Nancy Pallozzi, the silly-season caricature who ran the recall campaign against Sen. Pettersen in SD-22 after losing to Pettersen by 20 points in her House race three years ago. In retrospect, yes, these were fringe types who did not deserve the attention they were paid–but the responsibility for what they did goes right back to GOP chairman Ken Buck, House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, and every other high-placed Republican who led the party to this state of ruin instead of preparing for the next general election in 2020.

The red-on-red recriminations are already starting. Buck’s absentee leadership of the Colorado Republican Party while radical subordinates like Kristi Burton Brown run amok, the chokehold of the Neville clan and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) on the GOP House caucus as well as county sheriffs and party organizations across the state, occurring against the backdrop of the Republican Party’s massive losses in Colorado in the 2018 elections–all of this is now a burning issue for every Colorado Republican who wants to avoid another wholesale disaster in November of 2020.

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock).

Over the years as Republicans have faced ever-greater defeats in Colorado both in accordance with and opposed to national trends, voices within the party have made half-hearted and in many cases disingenuous calls for a fundamental shift in direction. After sweeping losses in 2012, Republican strategists Josh Penry and Rob Witwer said flatly that Republicans “must improve or die”–and then Penry in particular got rich as a grifting “consultant” for losing Republican campaigns. In 2016, two-time gubernatorial loser Bob Beauprez, himself no stranger to fringy self-destructive politics, tried unsuccessfully to purge the GOP’s slate of legislative candidates, incumbents and fresh faces alike, whom he believed were doing more harm than good for the party in the long term.

Today, Colorado Republicans find themselves at another such crossroads. Almost a year has been wasted in foolish pursuit of revenge for the losses of 2018 instead of getting ready to minimize what’s shaping up to be yet another Democratic wave in 2020. The state party is in the hands of unserious radicals who do not possess elementary political sense based on their own actions, and still tightly bound to RMGO and the Nevilles even as it costs them their last vestiges of relevance.

In 2010, Dan Maes led the Colorado GOP to an 11% finish in the governor’s race.

The hole they’re in today is every bit as deep, with no one but themselves to blame.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (September 11)

It’s been 18 years since the September 11 attacks; the Denver Post remembers Coloradans who perished that day. Let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

Congressional Republicans avoided a disastrous outcome in a special election in North Carolina on Tuesday. But as Chris Cillizza writes for CNN, all is not well:

Republican Dan Bishop beat Democrat Dan McCready in a special election in North Carolina’s 9th District, an outcome that, given the clear Republican lean of the suburban Charlotte district, should have been a lay-up for the GOP. Bishop won by 2 points after both national parties spent more than $10 million in the district.

That Bishop won — whether by two votes, 2 points or 20 points — averts what would have been an absolute panic within the GOP conference had he come up short. Politics is, at its essence, about winning and losing — and when you have a party coming off as sweeping a defeat as House Republicans suffered in 2018, it’s always a good thing to wind up on the victorious side of the ledger.

But it is also true that Bishop’s victory — and the way in which it was achieved — should still be read as a warning sign for a party that is dealing with a very unpopular President and a decidedly unsettled political environment.

President Trump carried NC-9 by 12 points in 2016. Bishop’s 2-point victory on Tuesday means that the national environment is still terrible for Republicans. That’s significant news in Colorado for Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora), who will be defending his seat for the first time in 2020.

 

 Democratic Senate candidate John Walsh is exiting the 2020 race and endorsing former Gov. John Hickenlooper for his party’s nomination:

 

 Colorado Republicans are now 0-4 in their efforts to recall various elected officials in Colorado. On Tuesday recall groups announced that they were ending efforts to gather petition signatures for the removal of State Sens. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs) and Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood). In a nutty statement, the group “Recall Et. All” said that they “are confident in the success of our future efforts to recall both of these elected officials” and then accused mysterious “leftists” of targeting 60-80 year old female petition gatherers for abuse of some sort.

 

 Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is quite clearly very nervous about the lack of enthusiasm over his pet project to move the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to Colorado. Gardner delivered a stupifying speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday that relied on absurd rhetoric to make his point:

The only reason to oppose this move is if you don’t care about the people of the western United States, or you don’t think somehow the people of the western United States are smart enough to figure out how to run public lands, or to manage public lands. Or maybe you don’t think that Colorado is up to the task of being the headquarters of the BLM, because apparently you don’t trust the people in the West.

This is, in a word, childish.

Members of the House Resources Committee grilled BLM leaders on Tuesday about the proposed HQ move to Grand Junction.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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John Walsh Exits Senate Race, Backs Hickenlooper

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter:

In a morning email and video message to supporters, Walsh said he has suspended his Democratic campaign and backs the former governor, who is a friend of his. He’s the second candidate to leave the race due to Hickenlooper’s entry; Mike Johnston did so last week.

“After talking with my family, my friends and with Governor Hickenlooper, I have concluded that Governor Hickenlooper offers our clear and best opportunity to defeat Cory Gardner,” Walsh said in the email to supporters, referring to the Republican senator he had hoped to take on in 2020. “His long record of fighting for Coloradans is unmatched and leaves no doubt in my mind that he will win this campaign, and that he will make an outstanding senator.”

Walsh raised $777,000 in the first three months of his candidacy, placing him near the top of the fundraising race. He gained early support from Obama-era Justice Department officials, such as former Attorney General Eric Holder and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

Former U.S. Attorney John Walsh’s exit statement is all about the long-term objective of taking down Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020, and his assessment that former Gov. John Hickenlooper is the best-qualified candidate to ensure that outcome. We’ve always considered Walsh to be a professional first and a politician second, and that’s what this decision reflects–a professional focus on the big picture.

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As Ernest Luning of the publication formerly know as the Colorado Statesman reports:

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BREAKING: Recall Attempts Against Sens. Lee, Pettersen Fail

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark plants a suitable headstone on the day’s news. Republicans lose, but the grift wins big!

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UPDATE #4: Denver7’s Blair Miller:

This is the fourth recall petition against Democratic lawmakers this year that has failed.

Last Friday, organizers of an effort to recall Gov. Jared Polis announced they had failed to gather enough signatures for a recall. They claimed to have gathered around 300,000 of the necessary 631,266 but provided no proof…

“It’s hardly a surprise that these bogus recalls failed to find support beyond the grifters, extremists and sore losers who hatched the ploys in the first place,” said the group’s spokesman, Curtis Hubbard. “These scams were designed to raise money and collect data on voters in competitive districts, and all Coloradans — regardless of political affiliation — should be disgusted by the abuse of the recall process.”

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Sens. Brittany Pettersen, Pete Lee (D).

UPDATE #3: Here’s the statement from “Recall Et All,” blaming the failure of the Lee and Pettersen recalls on big bad nasty union thugs, et al. — who target 60-80 year old women, no less — while promising like good Scooby Doo villains to be back next time for total victory!

Recall Et All is suspending the recall campaigns for Senators Pete Lee (SD11) and Brittany Pettersen (SD22). We are confident in the success of our future efforts to recall both of these elected officials. In the meantime, we will continue to educate the public regarding the party-line politics being played in both districts that completely undermine the will of the people.

We want to thank each and every volunteer who fought through extreme heat, countless sunburns, and the harassment of dissenters which was not limited to vile name calling and crude gestures. Our dedicated volunteers also went up against the onslaught of paid protesters whose only purpose was to harass and intimidate. We learned that the leftists will stop at nothing to impede our signature-gathering efforts, as they focused on 60-80 year-old volunteers, mostly women.

We are so proud of our volunteers for standing up for freedom. They did not back down from these juvenile, dirty tactics! This opposition only showed the citizens of Colorado their true colors, making the decision to sign that much easier.

To our law enforcement officers and security guards, thank you for checking on us, treating us with dignity and respect, and recognizing our First Amendment rights.

Lastly, our sincere gratitude to the businesses in and around Senate Districts 11 and 22, both large and small, that protected our volunteers’ signature-gathering activities and their right to petition in parking lots, store fronts, etc. Protecting our freedoms is what this whole movement is about, and we will continue to fight that battle for the people of Colorado. The fight isn’t over, it’s just begun.

We’re so confident in future recall efforts that we’re just going to stop altogether! That makes lotsa sense.

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UPDATE #2: Colorado Democratic Party chair Morgan Carroll:

Considering that both Senators Lee and Pettersen won their 2018 elections overwhelmingly by double digits, it is hardly surprising the sore losers running these sham recalls are throwing in the towel. As has been the case with the previous failed recalls, this was never about their votes. These were far-right activists who are upset they lost so badly in 2018 and were desperate for a redo through these ridiculous recalls. The people of SD11 and SD22 saw through this sham, which is exactly why they rejected this cynical effort to overthrow their 2018 votes.

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UPDATE: Colorado Times Recorder:

An attempted recall of state Sen. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs) fizzled today, as proponents will not meet the deadline to submit over 11,000 signatures.

Resist Polis PAC board member Kristina Finley confirmed that signatures will not be submitted by 5:00 PM today…

Recall Et Al, the issue group behind the recall, still has a donor pages for Sens. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) and Kerry Donovan (D-Vail). However, the local leader of the nascent movement to recall Donovan recently posted on Facebook that “it seems the effort is dying as more people are refusing to help or won’t volunteer.”

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That’s the late-breaking word this afternoon from the Colorado Secretary of State–after a 60-day period to collect 11,304 signatures in the case of Sen. Pete Lee and the recall petition against Sen. Brittany Pettersen nearing its deadline next week, both campaigns are announcing failure–via Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland:

They’re “confident in the success of their future efforts?” We’ve seen this one before:

And with that, another singularly stupid chapter in Colorado politics comes to an ignominious end–four recalls in succession now crashed and burned. We’ll update shortly with statements and coverage.

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Cory Gardner is Very Sad That You Don’t Love BLM Move

Indignation or flatulation?

Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is outraged. Outraged! So much outrage!

Gardner is perplexed that he is not being welcomed like a conquering hero for using his political capital to move the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to Grand Junction. He is furious that Congress would dare — DARE! — to question this brilliant idea of his. As Justin Wingerter reports for the Denver Post:

The acting director of the Bureau of Land Management on Tuesday defended his agency’s decision to move its headquarters to Grand Junction in the face of criticisms that it will cause career employees to depart, will needlessly cost federal coffers and will harm tribal interests.

Gardner apparently thought moving the BLM would be a slam dunk of a political proposal that could propel him to re-election victory in 2020, but as it turns out, people aren’t actually thrilled about the idea. Bringing 27 whole jobs to Grand Junction clearly hasn’t obscured the fact that moving a big federal agency is really about trying to destroy that federal agency altogether.

Today, Gardner took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to voice his manufactured outrage about opposition to the BLM’s move, which he says has been “a priority I’ve been working on for a number of years.” A transparently defensive Gardner delivered a long, rambling speech full of odd factoids and indignation that plainly betrayed any facade of confidence in the decision. You can read the full transcript of Gardner’s remarks after the jump, but we’ll break out some of the more inexplicable segments for you below.

Look at how much red is on this map. Look at it!

After a bunch of platitudes about the beauty of the West, Gardner gets to what has been his primary argument in support of moving the BLM offices: That public lands management will work better if the managers are closer to the public lands. Jabbing his finger at a red-colored map of the United States, Gardner said this:

So in the case of Grand Junction, Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management, almost 73 percent of Mesa County, which Grand Junction resides, is public land. Why not make the decisions facing these millions of acres of public lands in the West, where the lands reside instead of thousands of miles removed in Washington D.C.?

This is, of course, a stupid argument. If moving the BLM to a place close to public land was really the primary motivation here, then why not stick the new HQ in the middle of Nevada where it could be 100% surrounded by public lands? Why settle for just 73 percent?

Next, Gardner tries (sort of) to target his critics:

Unfortunately, we’re starting to hear some partisan debate though creep into this incredibly important move. Because what we’re seeing in Washington of course, are Washington Democrats trying to stop the process.

In the news we’ve read about Washington bureaucrats who are opposed to the move, but it’s important to realize that this decision is not about the bureaucrats, it is about the job that we are doing to represent our public lands. This is an agency that doesn’t just work for each other. It’s an agency that works for the people of this country to do the best job they can representing and managing our public lands, the public lands that they are charged to manage and to protect.

Those “Washington bureaucrats” that Gardner denigrates are not exactly divided on moving the BLM headquarters. As E&E News reported from a closed-door meeting last week, “Not one of the more than 200 employees present expressed support for the move.”

But nevermind that, because we’re going to save literally thousands of dollars by moving the BLM…because, uh, well. Says Gardner:

It will also save states in Western communities thousands of dollars in travel expenses. Imagine, if you live in western Colorado, you no longer have to fly thousands of miles to Washington D.C. You don’t have to buy an expensive roundtrip airplane ticket, spend a night in an expensive hotel, buy an expensive meal at an expensive restaurant. You get to travel, drive, or fly a very short trip to western Colorado with great air service and great interstate access. You don’t have to pay for a Washington hotel or a Washington meal. These are things that you can do when the BLM is actually located where 99 percent of the land they represent resides.

Apparently, once the BLM moves its headquarters to Grand Junction, nobody will ever again have to travel to Washington D.C. Anyone who still needs to travel to Grand Junction will be able to use a teleportation machine.

You know, it’s a little bit absurd. It talks a little bit about the lack of hubris that government has, to think that only Washington knows best and only Washington can lead. To think you can’t manage these lands from where they’re at.

Who is saying this? Who is saying that the BLM can’t manage public lands from Colorado? Name just one of these people.

Let’s move along to the math section of Gardner’s speech:

Leasing costs are also worth raising when we talk about the BLM headquarters. The BLM compared leasing space for 27 staffers in Washington versus the leasing space available in Grand Junction, Colorado. The difference is $50 per square foot in Washington versus just over $32 per square foot in Grand Junction. If you think about what that means, that’s a significant savings.

What? How is that a significant savings? How many square feet of office space do you need for 27 people?

You think about what it means for travel, and the cost to taxpayers of travel expenses for BLM employees. According to the Department, in fiscal year 2018 BLM employee travel from Washington to the West was more than $3.2 million. There’s no question that these resources could have been better spent on state offices and field offices that have been starving for resources for years.

Again, Gardner touts the absurd idea that moving the BLM offices will eliminate the need for people to travel anymore. A middle school debater wouldn’t rely on this argument.

As Gardner starts to wrap things up, he turns up the indignity meter to full ludicrousness:

The only reason to oppose this move is if you don’t care about the people of the western United States, or you don’t think somehow the people of the western United States are smart enough to figure out how to run public lands, or to manage public lands. Or maybe you don’t think that Colorado is up to the task of being the headquarters of the BLM, because apparently you don’t trust the people in the West. [Pols emphasis]

If you don’t like my idea to move the BLM headquarters, then you hate Colorado and the entire American West! This is a real argument proposed by a real person.

In conclusion, Sen. Gardner trots out his straw men for one last admonishment:

It’s offensive. It really is, to think that there are people in Washington who think that only Washington can do this job. It’s wrong, and we should stand up against that kind of idea that only Washington can do something and fight back against that mentality…

…Only in Washington do they think it’s only Washington that can do the job. Washington bureaucrats and Washington Democrats can oppose Colorado all they want, but I believe in Colorado. I believe in our ability to manage these public lands better than they’ve ever been managed before.

To the imaginary people who say, “only Washington can do this job,” Cory Gardner says that Colorado can manage the crap out of public lands!

This is all incredibly silly from Gardner, but it is instructive to note how worried he is that his one big Senate thing isn’t going over as well as he imagined. It would be hard to telegraph those concerns any more obviously.

 

(more…)

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (September 10)

Sorry, Broncos fans — it’s gonna be a loonnngg season. Let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump is looking for a new National Security Adviser — the fourth NSA of his first term in office — after dismissing John Bolton and his obnoxious mustache on Tuesday. Bolton is a notorious Hawk whose default position on national security matters tended to start and end with dropping bombs, metaphorical and otherwise. Trump Tweeted that Bolton is out because the Big Orange Guy continually disagreed with his advice, though Bolton is insisting that he actually resigned.  

Meanwhile, Trump’s approval ratings are as bad as the Denver Broncos. From Politico:

Thirty-eight percent of respondents in an ABC News/Washington Post pollreleased Tuesday approve of Trump’s performance in office, a drop of 6 percentage points from a peak of 44 percent approval in July. A majority, 56 percent, disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job as president, while 6 percent have no opinion.

Americans’ opinions on Trump’s stewardship of the economy, which his campaign plans to emphasize to voters as he battles for a second term, have also diminished, according to the survey.

Less than half of respondents, 46 percent, approve of the way the president is handling the economy, a decrease from 51 percent approval in midsummer. Fewer of those polled, 35 percent, approve of the way the president is handling trade negotiations with China, and 60 percent worry the trade conflict between the two countries will raise the price of goods for their families.

 

 As the Associated Press reports, the number of uninsured Americans is on the rise as President Trump and Congressional Republicans continue to undermine the Affordable Care Act:

The number of Americans without health insurance edged up in 2018 — the first evidence from the government that coverage gains from President Barack Obama’s health care plan might be eroding under President Donald Trump…

…Though the increase in the number of uninsured Americans last year was modest, it could be a turning point, the first real sign that coverage gains under Obama could be at least partly reversed. This year, the number of uninsured could rise again because a previous Republican-led Congress repealed fines under the Affordable Care Act for people who remain uninsured if they can afford coverage.

 

 An effort to recall State Sen. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs) comes to a tipping point today, the deadline for the group to submit signatures in hopes of initiating a recall election. If the results are anything like the recent failed attempt to oust Gov. Jared Polis, this will be another sad day for Colorado Republicans.

Elsewhere, there appears to be a bipartisan effort forming in Colorado to reform the process for attempting a recall of an elected official.

 

► Why, yes, there is a new episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast. This week, hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii discuss Sen. Cory Gardner’s no-good, very bad summer; the empty Republican bench; and more trouble with the Bureau of Land Management’s pending move to Colorado.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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BREAKING: Trump Ousts John Bolton ‘Stache-First

John Bolton.

Via Politico, here’s turnover in the highest reaches of the Trump administration Americans uninterested in starting another war won’t object to:

“I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,” Trump wrote.

“I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore … I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service,” the president continued, adding that he will name a new national security adviser sometime next week.

But Bolton, who was scheduled to appear at a White House briefing later Tuesday afternoon alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, offered a conflicting account on Twitter minutes after the Trump’s posts.

The appointment of neoconservative firebrand John Bolton as Donald Trump’s national security adviser set of alarm bells across the globe, stoking fresh fears of interventionism and renewed American belligerence in lieu of diplomacy–and in the end even Trump couldn’t stomach Bolton’s bellicosity, as the New York Times reports:

To his admirers, Mr. Bolton was supposed to be a check on what they feared would be naïve diplomacy, a cleareyed realist who would keep a president without prior experience in foreign affairs from giving away the store to wily adversaries. But Mr. Trump has long complained privately that Mr. Bolton was too willing to get the United States into another war.

Bolton is apparently strongly disputing the claim that he was “fired,” but the method of his departure really doesn’t make much difference. In short, it is now somewhat less likely that we’ll have a war under President Trump.

We’ll call that an incrementally good thing.

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Bernie Packs Civic Center Park

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign arrived in downtown Denver last night, and proved again Sanders’ ability to rally massive adoring crowds:

Thousands of people sojourned to Civic Center park early Monday night, where they loudly and proudly cheered on Bernie Sanders as the progressive presidential contender denounced insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry and America’s military industrial complex…

The 78-year-old democratic socialist senator from Vermont, a darling of liberals young and old, made a loud return to Colorado, 11 months after he stumped for now-Gov. Jared Polis and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse last October in Boulder and Fort Collins.

“I am here in Denver asking your support for more than just defeating Trump,” Sanders told the cheering crowd in a raspy, cracking voice. “I am here to ask you to help me transform this country and create an economy and government that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.”

We expect nothing less than a big show of support for Sanders in Colorado, a state where he is in the lead according to a recent poll–though by a single point, with Joe Biden statistically tied and Elizabeth Warren vacuuming up loose votes to settle into a strong third place. Biden will be in Colorado later in September, and Warren is due soon with her last rally in April in Aurora also drawing a very respectable crowd.

But make no mistake: the size and enthusiasm of Bernie’s base in Colorado is formidable today, just like it was in 2016–and Bernie fully intends to win here again. The difference in Colorado is that this time, we’re a top Super Tuesday primary target, and the current field of candidates offers alternatives to Democratic primary voters that 2016 did not. Can Bernie keep the magic alive for progressives while attracting enough support from unaffiliated primary voters and moderate Democrats to win?

We’ll say this: a crowd like in that photo above makes anything seem possible.

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Republicans Cancelling Presidential Primary for Trump

No voting for you!

Republicans in four states — Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, and South Carolina — will cancel their 2020 Primary elections in order to provide a nice glide path for President Trump to earn the GOP nomination once again. As CNN’s Chris Cillizza explains:

…there are legitimate reasons to decide against holding primaries — especially at the presidential level. It costs a big chunk of change to stage a primary and often cash-strapped state parties either don’t have the money or don’t want to spend it on a meaningless vote.

But this isn’t a meaningless vote! Yes, Trump is a heavy favorite, but there are three credible former Republican elected officials running in the race as well. This is not a walkover situation!

So what’s really going on here? Well, Trump’s campaign has, almost from the moment he won the White House, worked to install loyalists at state parties around the country in hopes of thwarting any active rebellion as the president looks to a second term. [Pols emphasis]

The cancellation of primaries is simply an extension of that approach. Trump doesn’t want there to be a public opposition to him in the Republican primary — for fear of being embarrassed — and so he and his people have worked hard to ensure that outcome.

It is not unprecedented for state parties to cancel Presidential primaries, but it is a bit odd for it to happen in 2020 considering that there are three other Republican candidates seeking the GOP nomination (Bill Weld, Joe Walsh, and Mark Sanford). Whether or not it could happen in Colorado is a different story.

Colorado Republicans essentially declined to select a nominee for President in 2016 over fallout with the National GOP over rules regarding the allocation of delegates, but our state was still using the caucus system at the time. The 2016 passage of Propositions 107 & 108 in Colorado gave Unaffiliated voters the opportunity to cast a ballot in a Presidential Primary, beginning in 2020 (Colorado held Presidential Primary elections from 1992 to 2000, but went to a caucus system beginning in 2004 in order to save money on election costs). It’s not clear if Colorado Republicans could cancel their Primary even if they wanted to nix it next year, though the possibility seems unlikely. We’re no election lawyers, but Prop. 107 doesn’t appear to include a loophole to allow the State GOP to unilaterally cancel their Primary in 2020:

We would guess that it is unlikely that there will be no other Republican Presidential candidate on the ballot in Colorado, given our state’s fairly easy ballot access process; hopefuls in Colorado need only to pay $500 or get 5,000 signatures from Colorado residents in order to qualify for the Presidential ballot.

Colorado is scheduled to hold its Presidential Primary on Super Tuesday (March 3, 2020), but mail balloting means that voters here will be able to vote as soon as mid-February.

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Bennet’s Going The Distance, Bennet’s Going For Speed

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

As Colorado Public Radio’s Caitlyn Kim reports:

When Colorado’s Gary Hart ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1984, he was a “long shot” going into the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire. The U.S. senator pulled off a “stunning” victory over the front runner, Walter Mondale, eventually propelling Hart to the head of the pack.

Now another senator from Colorado, Michael Bennet, hopes a little of Hart’s magic will rub off on him. Bennet is way behind other Democrats in the primary for 2020. On Saturday, though, he picked up Hart’s formal endorsement, and the two friends campaigned together in Manchester, New Hampshire in hopes of giving Bennet’s campaign a shot in the arm…

Yet the double-digit polling and massive fundraising deficits Bennet faces will get even tougher to overcome since he will not be on stage with the leading Democrats at the next primary debate, which is coming up Thursday evening. Other candidates who have polled similarly to Bennet have recently dropped out of the race.

We’ll confess to a little Gary Hart nostalgia as you read this story, but let’s be clear for just a moment on what’s really going on lest readers think Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado is plowing ahead on a fool’s errand. Without exception we can think of, every 2020 Democratic candidate for President who managed to get on the main stage for even the earliest “clown car” debate featuring 20 contenders reaped a benefit even if they will never be President–and obviously, most of them won’t be. The name recognition gained from being in the hunt for a losing candidate in terms of future runs for higher office is an end to itself.

But within the just-beginning to winnow down field of Democratic presidential candidate, there is a subset of particularly well-qualified people who could well be on the short list for high-level appointments in the next Democratic administration, up to and including the big prize of vice presidential running mate. Sen. Bennet is certainly in that list of qualified officials who, while they didn’t catch fire as a presidential candidate, would be a fine choice to serve in the next president’s Cabinet. And yes, there’s even a scenario in which Bennet would make a good veep counterbalance to, say, a strong progressive woman.

In any event, this is why Sen. Bennet is keeping his hand in as much as any “Hail Mary” shot at New Hampshire.

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The Denver Post Is Done Coddling Cory Gardner

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

The news last week that millions of dollars slated to fund construction of an important new Space Command facility in Colorado Springs would be diverted instead to fund President Donald Trump’s controversial border wall despite Congress’ refusal to appropriate funds for the purpose has been widely interpreted as a bad development for vulnerable incumbent Republicans in affected states.

In Colorado, every discussion of national political trends and vulnerable politicians this year begins with Sen. Cory Gardner, taking over the status of “most endangered Republican” from ex-Rep. Mike Coffman who wore this badge to defeat in 2018. The battle over funding Trump’s border wall has severely damaged Gardner’s credibility on the entire issue of immigration. Gardner at first opposed construction of a wall, then voted to defend Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to allow Trump to bypass Congress’ appropriations power, and now blames Democrats for refusing to fund the wall Gardner originally claimed he didn’t support either to excuse the diversion of funds from Colorado projects.

The Denver Post editorial board, whose original endorsement of Gardner in 2014 is both credited and condemned with helping him eke out his narrow sub-2% victory, rescinded their endorsement of Gardner in March over his vote to uphold Trump’s national emergency. This weekend, the Post struck again with another blistering editorial slamming Gardner for disingenuously blaming Democrats over a situation he helped engineer:

Instead of expressing anger at the news last week that Trump is diverting $8 million from construction at Peterson Air Force Base to fund his border wall project, Gardner lashed out at Democrats in a pitiful attempt to rewrite history in his favor…

Trump took the unprecedented step of declaring an emergency at the border allowing him to divert funds from things Congress had funded to build the wall. Gardner had his opportunity to oppose this clear effort to undermine congressional authority. He had a chance to stand up for the Constitution and send a message to future presidents that they are not dictators with ultimate authority over spending and legislation. Gardner did none of those things. He voted against the resolution of disapproval of the president’s emergency declaration — the resolution passed with the support of 12 Republicans who saw the danger Trump’s actions posed to our legislative branch of government, but Trump vetoed it. Gardner’s support would have been one step closer to a veto-proof majority. It mattered, as did the message it would have sent.

Republicans at the time defended Gardner saying that the senator had secured a promise to protect Colorado’s military institutions from the cuts needed to fund the wall. This was a senator who prioritized protecting his constituents, Gardner’s supporters said. Yes, who cares about scruples and convictions when local funding is at risk? Gardner’s office even boasted that Colorado would be spared from any fiscal year 2019 cuts … failing to mention or not being aware that the fiscal year 2018 project at Peterson Air Force base was on the chopping block.

For all the Democrats who have complained that the local media runs cover for Cory Gardner, whether in the Post’s 2014 endorsement or since then by pulling punches that should have landed on Gardner and Trump at least equally, we submit to you that those days are over. Whatever the motivation for giving Gardner a pass over the direction of his party, his president, or the effects of legislation Gardner has himself supported like repeal of the Affordable Care Act with no protection for pre-existing conditions or the millions who would lose coverage, he’s not getting that pass anymore.

This is nothing more than what a Senator who doesn’t represent the majority in his state should be reading.

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