BREAKING: Sen. Lois Court Will Resign

UPDATE: From Gov. Jared Polis:

“Lois Court has been a tireless champion for Coloradans at the capitol. From the House to the Senate, she fought for fiscal reform and stood up for her constituents – no one has a clearer compass on the issues she cares about,” said Governor Polis. “Sen. Court’s grit and effectiveness as a legislator will be missed. I wish Sen. Court a speedy and complete recovery as she and her family overcome this challenge.”

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Sen. Lois Court.

A press release from the Colorado Senate Democrats today with sad news, Sen. Lois Court of Denver will resign her seat for health reasons:

On December 31, 2019 Senator Lois Court was hospitalized after experiencing muscle weakness and partial paralysis. Shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome–– a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the peripheral nerves of the body.

Due to the severity of the illness, Senator Court has decided to step down, effective January 16, 2020. Although it is a serious diagnosis, 99% of people who are diagnosed recover, with 98% returning to full functionality within several weeks or months…

“Senator Court is a remarkable woman whose leadership has stood the test of time. Her fierce dedication to the people of Colorado has made her an inspiring legislator and colleague,” said Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo). “We are all very grateful for her time as Chair of the Finance Committee and President Pro Tempore of the Senate––positions I always felt confident in knowing they were led by a person with such experience and dedication. We hold Senator Court in our thoughts during this difficult time and send her much healing.”

“It has been the honor of my life to serve the people of Colorado and I am deeply saddened that this chapter of my life is at a close. But I am excited by the work my colleagues are undertaking and will continue to cheer them on and be an active citizen of Senate District 31,” said Senator Lois Court (D-Denver). “I would also like to thank all of my wonderful supporters and constituents––I could have never achieved what I did without your unfailing passion and guidance.”

With Senator Court’s departure, the Senate District 31 Committee will convene and begin their process to appoint her replacement.

Adding our wishes for a speedy recovery.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (January 6)

Welcome back to your desk. There’s a lot happening with the holiday season in our rear-view mirrors, so 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 on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Former National Security Adviser John Bolton announced today that he would agree to testify in front of the U.S. Senate on matters of impeachment if called as a witness. Aaron Blake of The Washington Post explains why this is such a big development:

Bolton is among the most potentially significant witnesses who have yet to testify about the Ukraine scandal. He was perhaps the highest-profile voice of dissent internally, objecting to the “drug deal” that he said Rudolph W. Giuliani was cooking up, according to testimony from Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top Russia adviser. Bolton’s attorney has also said that, as of early November, Bolton knew about “many relevant meetings” that hadn’t been testified to. Sources tell The Washington Post that the testimony would be damaging to Trump. [Pols emphasis]

It is not clear if the Senate will actually move forward with a true impeachment trial of President Trump that includes high-profile witnesses, but Bolton’s signal that he is open to testifying could open the door for him to be called as a witness in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. Chris Cillizza of CNN says that Bolton’s statement today puts new pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

 

The U.S. Senate is reconvening today after a couple weeks off, and the topic of an impeachment trial is still at the top of the to-do list. As Justin Wingerter reports for The Denver Post, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) remains as tight-lipped as ever:

Gardner’s every move is being closely watched as calendars flip to 2020, a year that will decide his political future. And in the Senate, where impeachment rules will require a simple majority vote, he can play the role of decider within the narrow Senate Republican majority. But he and his office have not answered questions about his impeachment preferences.

Gardner’s silence dates back months. His public appearances, never numerous in 2019, were rarer still this fall. He has avoided conservative talk radio, once a political safe space, along with most news media. His office agreed to arrange an interview with The Denver Post in Washington, D.C., during the House impeachment process, but later said he was unavailable and instead emailed a statement criticizing that process.

 

 President Trump is reiterating threats to attack Iranian sites of cultural significance amid growing concerns about a potential war with Iran. As NBC News reports:

President Donald Trump dug in Sunday night on his threat to attack Iranian cultural sites if Tehran retaliates for the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top military and intelligence officials.

Speaking aboard Air Force One on his return to Washington on Sunday from a holiday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Trump said: “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites. It doesn’t work that way.”

Trump was responding to backlash over the threat he made via Twitter on Saturday to attack 52 targets if Iran retaliates and his claim in a tweet that those targets would be “at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture,” according to a pool report.

Asked about fears Iran might retaliate, the president told reporters: “If it happens, it happens. If they do anything, there will be major retaliation.”

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to introduce a war powers resolution in Congress intended to make sure that President Trump does not increase military hostilities with Iran without Congressional approval.

Colorado Public Radio queries Colorado’s Congressional delegation on the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

 

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

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Gardner BFF John Bolton Ready To Testify

UPDATE: As the New York Times’ Emily Cochrane reports, Sen. Cory Gardner is a-bobbing and a-weaving:

Better ask him a few dozen more times.

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John Bolton.

A big development to kick off the news week/year in the impeachment case against President Donald Trump, as the New York Times reports:

John R. Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, said on Monday that he was willing to testify at President Trump’s impeachment trial if he was subpoenaed…

The development is a dramatic turn in the impeachment proceeding, which has been stalled over Democrats’ insistence on hearing from critical witnesses Mr. Trump blocked from testifying in the House inquiry into his pressure campaign on Ukraine. Mr. Bolton is a potential bombshell of a witness, with crucial knowledge of the president’s actions and conversations regarding Ukraine that could fill out key blanks in the narrative of the impeachment case.

His willingness to tell the Senate what he knows ratchets up pressure on Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, who has refused to commit to calling witnesses at the impeachment trial, to change his stance. It is unclear how the White House will respond to Mr. Bolton’s declaration, but his statement strongly suggested that he would testify regardless of whether Mr. Trump sought to prevent him. [Pols emphasis]

The meat of ex-national security adviser and by-choice scary looking man John Bolton’s statement today:

The House has concluded its Constitutional responsibility by adopting Articles of Impeachment related to the Ukraine matter. It now falls to the Senate to fulfill its Constitutional obligation to try impeachments, and it does not appear possible that a final judicial resolution of the still-unanswered Constitutional questions can be obtained before the Senate acts.

Accordingly, since my testimony is once again at issue, I have had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study. I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify.

Readers will recall that last September’s sudden exit by Bolton from the Trump White House was followed just days later be donations from Bolton’s PAC to a clutch of key Republican Senators who allegedly possess “remarkable understanding and knowledge of the threats we face” globally, prominently including Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado. Gardner has been dead silent on impeachment in recent weeks after joining Republicans in condemning the process wholesale, but Bolton being called to testify against Trump is one of a few scenarios in the upcoming impeachment trial that could make it much harder for Gardner to stay under the radar.

Bolton’s potential testimony in the Senate trial against Trump is now one of several points of contention between GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and ranking Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer the two leaders are haggling over in advance of the impeachment articles being formally delivered by the House. But either way, whenever Sen. Gardner gets cornered next an update on the Gardner/Bolton mutual admiration society is definitely in order.

For Gardner’s sake, hopefully it’s something the boss will like on Twitter.

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Because What 2020 Really Needs Is A Good War

UPDATE: As the Denver Post reports, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado is not mincing words:

“I think this was a terribly reckless and provocative act,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, [Pols emphasis] a Denver Democrat and presidential candidate, on WGBH Radio in Boston. “It’s the latest in a long string of nonstrategic choices that Donald Trump has made in the Middle East, that has weakened our position in the Middle East, that has strengthened Iran’s position in the Middle East.

“And I think you couldn’t be more naive to believe that this was going to result somehow in Iran coming to the negotiating table, rather than creating the potential for another war — which is the last thing we need in the Middle East,” Bennet added. He called Trump “the weakest foreign policy president we’ve had in my lifetime,” which began in 1964.

—–

CNN reports on the news everyone on the planet with access to news is talking about:

President Donald Trump’s targeted killing of Iran’s ruthless intelligence chief adds up to his most dangerous gamble yet with other peoples’ lives and his own political fate.

By killing Qasem Soleimani in Iraq, Trump committed the United States to a risky open conflict that at best could stop short of all-out war with Iran that could cause national security and economic shocks in the United States and across the globe.

Starting right now, and given Iran’s easy access to soft targets, the Middle East and even Europe suddenly look a lot less safe for Americans, including US troops Trump may be even more tempted to haul home.

Caption: Iran is really pissed off now.

Al Jazeera reports from Tehran that the killing of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s second most-powerful leader has a nation already given over to bellicose rhetoric talking flat-out war:

The assassination of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in air raids by the United States has triggered a wave of emotions and garnered a response of solidarity and retribution across the otherwise divided Iranian political spectrum…

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed the threat of revenge and vowed that there would be consequences. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned the killing as an “act of state terrorism” in a statement.

“The pure blood of Qassem Soleimani will surely strengthen the tree of resistance, unite the Iranian people, and make US policies in the region less effective by the day,” he said.

Iran’s National Security Council has convened an emergency meeting to decide Iran’s reaction to the killing. Reports say Khamenei has participated in the meeting for the first time ever, denoting the gravity of the situation.

One of the first reactions one can count on following a high-profile military action taken by the President without the prior approval of Congress is a protest, well-founded but routinely ignored, that at least top congressional leadership should be consulted before committing the nation to military action. Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado’s statement:

Only Congress has the power to declare war. The President’s unilateral decision to launch this airstrike, yet again, comes without consultation or caution and signals the need for clarification of the Authorization of Military Force. That is precisely why I voted in support of a bipartisan amendment earlier this year that would have avoided a dangerous escalation with Iran by preventing federal funds from being used for any military force in or against Iran without congressional authorization.

Congress must reassert its constitutional obligations under Article I without further delay. And the Administration must consult Congress, as required by law, on both the airstrike and the next steps necessary to keep our country and service members safe.

That’s consistent with the concerns expressed by members of Congress in both parties in response to unilateral military actions taken by President Barack Obama such as the 2011 military intervention in Libya, including Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver who had “significant questions” about committing American forces in that country even after Obama went on national television to explain.

But if you were hoping from similar candor from Colorado’s highest-ranked Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, you’ll be disappointed by his statement in response to the killing of Qassem Soleimani:

I commend the Administration for taking this decisive action today in Baghdad against Tehran-backed terrorists. The world should not mourn Qassem Soleimani, a man whose name is synonymous with murder in the Middle East and who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American service members. I now urge the Administration to be prepared for possible retaliation, including against U.S. troops stationed in the region, and to consult closely with Congress on any next steps should the situation escalate. I hope Iran will realize its future depends on stopping its support of terrorism.

The question of course is not whether an avowed enemy of the United States like Soleimani should be “mourned,” but whether this action results in a wider conflict in the Middle East that could result in many more deaths, and plunge the nation into a full-scale war just as the 2020 election year gets underway. At this moment, there’s a lot we don’t know–what exactly prompted the decision to strike now instead of another time and place, the nature of the “additional attacks” it has been suggested were imminent had Soleimani not been killed, and whether the Trump administration has a plan for the aftermath of this action at all.

Three U.S. Presidents have been successfully impeached. Trump could become the first President who starts a war between his impeachment and the Senate trial. Politically this is all uncharted territory, which isn’t a new experience under Donald Trump. For the good of the country and the whole world, everyone should hope that this action was taken for legitimate and urgent national security reasons, and not to distract attention from Trump’s domestic political problems.

If the latter is true, the judgment of history will be very harsh.

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Friday Open Thread

“Hate and force cannot be in just a part of the world without having an effect on the rest of it.”

–Eleanor Roosevelt

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Get Ready For CD-8, Colorado

As the Wall Street Journal reports:

New state population totals released Monday offer fresh signs of how southern and western states will gain political power after the 2020 census.

The figures from the Census Bureau measure changes to state populations for the year ended July 1. Because they come less than a year before the next decennial census, they are a close approximation for which states will gain and lose congressional seats and electoral votes based on the 2020 count that gets fully under way this spring.

Based on Monday’s figures, Texas is poised to gain two congressional seats, and Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon are expected to gain one. [Pols emphasis] Eight states are expected to lose one seat: California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

It’s been known for some time now that Colorado was likely to pick up an additional seat in Congress following the 2020 Census, and the new figures from the Census Bureau out today move the needle further from possible to probable. Ex-Denver Post reporter Nic Garcia previewed the coming 2022 free-for-all back in August:

Depending on how the lines are drawn, it could feature any number of high-profile Democrats from the Front Range. Given the churn that term limits create at the statehouse, lawmakers looking to move up usually have to wait until someone dies or retires to head to Washington. So this will be a once-in-a-political-lifetime chance for a Colorado politician to head East.

The enormous population growth in Colorado in the last decade, particularly the Front Range urban corridor and suburbs of Denver, makes some kind of further division of the metro area to accommodate a prospective CD-8 the most likely scenario. That’s good news for Colorado Democrats based on recent election results, particularly the end of ticket-splitting in suburban CD-6 that kept GOP Rep. Mike Coffman in office well past his expiration date.

And yes, assuming the state’s blue trajectory in recent years holds course, just about any way it’s drawn we expect the action for CD-8 will be in the Democratic primary. There simply aren’t enough Republicans to go around anymore.

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Steyer, Griswold Talk Vote Suppression (Elsewhere)

UPDATE: It’s been suggested, not unreasonably, that we should better acknowledge former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s large donations in support of Democratic campaigns–including a $50 million pledge this month to House Democrats following the vote to impeach President Donald Trump. Bloomberg and the other wealthy self-funding candidates in the primary have faced criticism over the potential diversion of scarce resources away from more viable Democratic priorities, and Bloomberg’s big check undeniably blunts some of that criticism–like Tom Steyer’s own $50 million pledge to youth GOTV efforts mentioned below.

We apologize if we unfairly slighted the efforts of any billionaire. All billionaires matter.

—–

Tom Steyer.

Colorado Public Radio’s Anthony Cotton reports on a town hall yesterday hosted by longshot self-funding Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer–and although Steyer’s signature issue remains human-caused climate change,

[S]peaking with about 100 voters Sunday in a Denver union hall, the environment barely came up.

Instead, the California hedge fund billionaire spoke about voter suppression across the country, and why race relations should be a greater focal point for the people running for the White House. At one point, on the topic of gun violence, he stopped the conversation to console a woman whose son was killed in a 2018 shooting…

Steyer appeared with Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Omar Montgomery, the runner-up to Mike Coffman in the 2019 Aurora mayoral election. Griswold also sponsored a town hall earlier in December with another Democratic presidential candidate, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Wherever Tom Steyer winds up in the Democratic presidential primary–here’s our interview with Steyer from August shortly after he got in the race–the $50 million Steyer has pledged to youth voter mobilization efforts nationwide in 2020 is a huge investment in turnout that will undeniably benefit Democratic candidates up and down the ticket. In contrast to a certain other self-funding billionaire who came lately to the already stratified Democratic primary field, Steyer deserves credit for spending money on the common defense instead of, you know, pure hubris.

With respect to voter suppression, Colorado’s system is a model for facilitating access to the franchise, which is the exact opposite of the intent of Byzantine election laws in so many other states. Colorado’s combination of mail ballots and same-day voter registration removes fundamental roadblocks to voting that are used every election in other states to suppress “undesired” turnout. As a result Colorado’s voter turnout is consistently in the top couple of states. Absurd disinformation notwithstanding, Colorado’s success in making the vote accessible over repeated elections and Secretaries of State from both parties simply leaves no excuse for the rest of the country to not adopt similar laws. In the end, the only reason not to adopt Colorado’s election model is if you benefit politically from vote suppression.

That’s a message we’d be happy to see carried to the four corners of the land. Starting with Georgia.

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Would The Gazette Out The Whistleblower Too?

Colorado Republican kingpin Phil Anschutz.

As the Washington Post’s Colby Itkowitz reports:

President Trump retweeted a post naming the alleged whistleblower who filed the complaint that became the catalyst for the congressional inquiry that resulted in his impeachment by the House of Representatives.

On Friday night, Trump shared a Twitter post from @surfermom77, who describes herself as “100% Trump supporter,” with his 68 million followers. That tweet prominently named the alleged whistleblower and suggested that he had committed perjury.

For most of Saturday, the retweet appeared hidden from Trump’s Twitter timeline, though accessible with a link directly to the post. Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Newsweek details the contents of the presidential Retweet in question:

President Donald Trump reportedly retweeted a controversial post [Pols emphasis] mentioning the alleged name of the Ukraine whistleblower. That retweet, which has since been deleted, prompted allegations he directly broke federal regulations that safeguard such figures from retaliation.

The president’s personal Twitter account retweeted a post from his 2020 campaign’s official “War Room” account Thursday evening that declared: “It’s pretty simple. The CIA ‘whistleblower’ is not a real whistleblower!” and included a link to a Washington Examiner report that named the alleged whistleblower in the headline. [Pols emphasis] Trump’s move reportedly prompted concern from his advisers, including Ivanka Trump…

If the name “Washington Examiner” rings a bell for you, it’s probably because you’re confusing it with the far better known Washington Post, or perhaps even the lesser-known right-wing Washington Times–both of which are seen and discussed by many more Americans. The Washington Examiner is owned by Clarity Media Group, the same company that publishes the Colorado Springs Gazette and the rebranded Colorado Statesman. Clarity Media is owned by billionaire Phil Anschutz, whose dual role as leading Republican donor and owner of reliably conservative local media outlets is a well-documented problem in Colorado politics.

Well folks, it looks like the Phil Anschutz-owned Washington Examiner has made the decision to disclose a name that President Donald Trump and his Republican defenders in Congress have been dying throughout the impeachment process to speak aloud–the name of the alleged whistleblower who went to his superiors with evidence that Trump was extorting Ukraine for domestic political assistance. That’s a very big deal, because:

The Washington Post has chosen not to publish the name. [Pols emphasis] Vice President for Communications Kris Coratti said The Post “has long respected the right of whistleblowers to report wrongdoing in confidence, which protects them against retaliation. We also withhold identities or other facts when we believe that publication would put an individual at risk. Both of those considerations apply in this case.”

CNN agrees:

Some far-right media outlets and personalities have published stories claiming to know the name of the whistleblower, but his or her identity is not known and has not been reported by mainstream outlets — including CNN. [Pols emphasis]

The Associated Press isn’t going there either:

U.S. whistleblower laws exist to protect the identity and careers of people who bring forward accusations of wrongdoing by government officials. The Associated Press typically does not reveal the identity of whistleblowers. [Pols emphasis]

Even Fox News has not as of this writing been able to work up the nerve:

President Trump’s Twitter account has removed a retweet that contained a link to an article naming the purported Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower who helped trigger impeachment proceedings.

The removal comes two days after the retweet generated widespread attention, for essentially referencing a name that has mostly been kept out of congressional hearings and media reports. [Pols emphasis]

Using this incident as a yardstick, it’s very easy to write off the Washington Examiner as a propaganda mill disreputably doing the Trump administration’s dirtiest work–helping to intimidate and even incite retaliation against the whistleblower at the heart of the impeachment case. At the very least, the Examiner should explain why they’ve seen fit to take an action that mainstream media universally considers to be unethical.

Which brings us back to the Colorado Springs Gazette. A search of the Gazette and the rebranded Colorado Statesman return no mentions of the alleged whistleblower, but it’s not like President Trump would Retweet the Gazette over Clarity’s Washington outlet. With that said, the Gazette routinely reprints Washington Examiner stories. Is there a difference between the editorial policies of the Examiner and the Gazette that would prevent this kind of whistleblower retaliation locally? Back in May of 2018, the Gazette quoted a Republican staffer in the Colorado Senate grotesquely smearing a victim of alleged sexual harassment by a GOP Senator–a story that was later heavily edited to remove those smears, and the GOP staffer involved was fired.

Here again is a case–a much more portentous case–of Phil Anschutz’s media machine going where no ethical media outlet was willing to go in the service of GOP political aims. Not even Fox News was willing to do this.

And now we must ask if this is the “new normal” in Colorado, too.

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Like It Or Not, Abortion A Defining 2020 Battleground

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

The Denver Post’s Saja Hindi published before Chirstmas a very good long-form story on the changing politics of reproductive choice in Colorado, an issue long disparaged by local political reporters as irrelevant given the state’s solid Democratic control of the levers of power, but no longer as the rightward lurch of the federal judiciary up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court under President Donald Trump makes the previously unthinkable in terms of weakening abortion rights an increasing likelihood:

“It’s a moment where we have to decide what kind of society we want to have looking forward and who gets to decide who gets to control our access to information about reproductive health care,” said Karen Middleton, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado executive director. “It’s information and access, and both of those are being limited by policies at the federal level and the Supreme Court. And ultimately, it could be a Supreme Court decision that could overturn a lot of this.”

What’s happening in the rest of the country is setting off major alarms for Colorado advocates who want to protect the state from reduced access both on behalf of residents and for women traveling from other parts of the country.

“In Colorado, it’s imperative that we hold our ground on this issue and continue being a safe haven for folks who must bear the burden of travel for their abortion care, while also continuing to expand access and affordability to reproductive health care for folks who already live in our state,” said Fawn Bolak, Keep Abortion Safe co-founder.

In the last fifteen years, Colorado voters have repeatedly and soundly rejected “Personhood” abortion ban ballot measures. Perennial Republican legislative attempts to both make abortion a felony as well as impose the full range of “targeted restrictions on abortion providers,” a.k.a. TRAP laws, like those making their way through the court system after passage in other states have all failed. In 2020, local Republicans are promising to introduce another round of anti-abortion legislation, and in the context of a right-leaning Supreme Court ready to uphold such laws these efforts can no longer simply be written off–despite a strong Democratic majority in the legislature to ensure the bills don’t get far in Colorado. Colorado is only one election away from abortion laws that would have been unimaginable a decade ago.

Although the prevalent conventional wisdom is that abortion doesn’t itself decide elections, being an issue that according to polls contributes to but does not dominate the agenda of left-breaking unaffiliated voters who represent a plurality in Colorado, the likely presence of another abortion restriction ballot measure on the 2020 ballot will ensure abortion factors in voters’ choices up and down the ballot. Anti-abortion Republicans hope the sidestep of banning abortions later in pregnancy will draw greater support, but it’s still an arbitrary unscientific limit on a personal medical decision.

Coloradans vote no on those, and Republicans historically suffer collateral damage from the attempt. Sen. Cory Gardner’s 2014 victory, in which his opposition to abortion rights became a counterintuitive asset by persuading jaded reporters Mark Udall’s warnings about Gardner on the issue were “too shrill,” runs counter to that historic trend. In 2020, Gardner’s personal role in shifting the federal judiciary toward hostility to abortion and this latest state-level assault on abortion rights will both face the ultimate test.

We don’t foresee this ticket splitting.

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: Bold Predictions for 2020

This is it: The final episode of 2019 for The Get More Smarter Podcast. To close out the year, hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii discuss the most important Colorado political stories of 2019 and look ahead to 2020 with some bold predictions. Will Democrats take control of the U.S. Senate in 2020? Can Sen. Cory Gardner win re-election? Which one of Colorado’s seven Congressional seats could flip next year? 

And for the first time, Jason plays America’s worst favorite game, “Duke or Donald.” Ian is the current record-holder in the game that nobody really wins, but can Jason take the title in the last episode of 2019?

The Get More Smarter Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Buzzcloud, Spotify, and Overcast. You can also follow the Podcast on Twitter @MoreSmarterShow. If you have a question or comment, hit us up at AngryRants@GetMoreSmarter.com.

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Cory Gardner’s Pot Promises Getting Snuffed Again

Sen. Cory Gardner (R), holding a Sham-Wow.

Bloomberg News reports on the continuing impasse in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate over passage of the SAFE Banking Act, legislation to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to access banking services currently denied them under federal law:

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said he’s hoping the Trump administration and other lawmakers can help him salvage a plan to provide banking services for the burgeoning marijuana industry that’s increasingly critical to his home state.

Gardner, facing a tough re-election bid in 2020, said he’s evaluating changes Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said must be made to a pot banking bill (H.R. 1595) that Gardner pushed for with Republicans and Democrats in both chambers.

Sen. Cory Gardner, a longtime staunch social conservative Republican who represented the beet-red 4th Congressional District, has always been a counterintuitive spokesperson in supporting the legal cannabis industry pioneered in Colorado and now the law in a growing bevy of states from coast to coast. Gardner like most of the bipartisan political establishment in Colorado opposed the passage of Amendment 64, but since legalization Gardner has made solemn vows to “honor the will of the voters.”

These are the voters Cory Gardner will answer to next year, after the voters of Colorado have punished Republicans in every subsequent election. So while Gardner may not be able to “honor” the will of Colorado voters like, you know, a Democrat would, marijuana offers Gardner a unique opportunity to please an electorate on the whole most unhappy with the Republican brand in general and Cory Gardner in particular.

But there’s just one little problem remaining: Republicans control the U.S. Senate.

Gardner said the bill has a long road ahead and that he’s nowhere close to having the number of votes required to show McConnell the measure can survive a filibuster. [Pols emphasis]

“I think the challenge is some agreement on language,” Gardner said. “It’s very difficult to come up with the 60 votes we need.”

The SAFE Banking Act, sponsored in the House by Colorado’s own Rep. Ed Perlmutter, passed in September by a lopsided 321-103 vote in favor–but with 102 of the 103 “no” votes coming from Republican House members. We haven’t heard whether the “changes” to the legislation being suggested by avowed marijuana legalization opponent Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, are acceptable to the bill’s House sponsors. Even if they are, there’s nothing to guarantee a majority of Republican Senators would be any more favorable to passing the bill.

Because this legislation would be objectively good for a burgeoning legal industry in Colorado, we certainly would welcome its passage in the Senate, and this post is not meant to criticize the efforts of anyone working to do so. But in the case of Cory Gardner, there’s just no way to separate him from the intransigence of the Republican Senate leadership Gardner voted for. If Mitch McConnell wanted the Republican Senate to pass a pro-marijuana bill, it would happen. And in a Democratic-controlled Senate, it will happen.

In the unfortunate but likely event nothing happens on the SAFE Act, let alone any of the other more permissive marijuana bills in the hopper before November, there’s only one remedy for pro-marijuana Colorado voters. Take the longer view of the issue, and do their part to flip control of the U.S. Senate.

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Colorado Pols is 15 Years Old Today!

It’s our Quinceañera!

On this day in 2004, the most important and influential website in the history of the Internet was born…and so was ColoradoPols.com! We’re 15 years old today!

Thank you for making us your first stop for news and commentary about Colorado politics.

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Monday Open Thread

“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

–James Baldwin

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One Less Nazi on Denver Talk Radio

KNUS host Steffan Tubbs, ex-KNUS producer Kirk Widlund.

Last night, the management of local hard-right AM talk radio station 710 KNUS took another step in what may become by the end the biggest housecleaning in local broadcast history: following the abrupt termination of the Chuck and Julie Show after host Chuck Bonniwell said Tuesday on the air that a “nice school shooting” would make a good distraction from the impeachment of President Donald Trump, last night the station announced that alleged unapologetic neo-Nazi Kirk Widlund is no longer employed there either.

9NEWS’ Jeremy Jojola, who picked this story up early after Widlund’s original exposure by the Colorado Springs Anti Fascists, reports on Widlund’s Friday night trip to the cannery:

Widlund was the executive producer of The Steffan Tubbs Show and The American Veteran Show. He also hosts the 710KNUS podcast Keeping America Great.

He claimed years worth of neo-Nazi social media posts attributed to him are an elaborate hoax by the leftist group Antifa.

A review of the social media profile and 710KNUS audio found the neo-Nazi profile and Widlund both described being removed from Twitter on April 14, using very similar language. The social media profile blamed the Twitter ban on Zionist-Occupied Government and a dispute with a “Jewess.”

KNUS management declined to comment on the allegations. Widlund denied any connection to the account but would not discuss why his language on 710KNUS mirrored the social media account in April.

Although Widlund and host Steffan Tubbs strenuously denied he’s the same Kirk Widlund who owns the VK social media profile in question, local news outlets including 9NEWS and Westword quickly identified incidents in real local life discussed by “Nazi Widlund” on VK and IRL Widlund on KNUS, as well as interaction between Widlund and other local racists discussing upcoming protests at a controversial Denver all-ages drag show–all additional corroboration to what Colorado Springs Antifa had exposed in detail in their own story. In the end, there were simply too many pieces that fit together for this extensive social media history to have been faked by an outside party.

Now that it appears the management of KNUS, though they don’t want to come out and say it has reached the same conclusion that everyone else has following their “internal investigation,” Steffan Tubbs, who presents himself as the leader of KNUS’ pack of far-right local hosts, is very unhappy about the situation. And he’s lashing out hard at the press:

So no, Steffan Tubbs still apparently doesn’t think Kirk Widlund deserved to be outed as a closet Nazi. Or maybe he did, but the blame is still on those rascally Antifas and media types who “destroyed a young man’s reputation”–and not the convincing evidence Tubbs has been working side by side with a Nazi for years? Either Tubbs still believes Widlund was framed despite all the corroborating evidence against him, or being Tubbs “colleague and friend” is more important than being a Nazi. Whatever the answer is, it says more about Steffan Tubbs’ judgment than anything else, and Republican officials who appear regularly on KNUS should adjust their schedules accordingly–or be prepared to take some interesting phone calls when they do.

At the end of this ugly and eye-opening exposure of an unrepentant Nazi in an important role at a local radio station, overall we think the civic reputation of the Denver media market will emerge intact. Had it not been for the intense media and public scrutiny of this relatively obscure radio station following Chuck Bonniwell’s sickening remark about desirable school shootings, it’s possible that Widlund might have weathered his exposure as a Nazi simply by denying and holding out until the requests for comment dwindled. We’re pretty sure that’s what KNUS hoped would happen.

But as it turns out, we don’t put up with Nazis on the radio in Denver.

And that makes this holiday season a little brighter.

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Weekend Open Thread

“Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.”

–Charles de Gaulle

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