Laura Ingraham Pops John Eastman’s Vote Fraud Bubble

John Eastman, photo courtesy Fulton County Sheriff.

Last night, indicted attorney and former University of Colorado conservative scholar John Eastman appeared on Fox News’ Ingraham Angle, the coziest confines this side of Newsmax for the embattled accused mastermind conspirator in the plot to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump.

But as HuffPo’s Josephine Harvey reports, infamous Fox News prime-time misinformation maven Laura Ingraham left Eastman to twist in the wind on a central point of both his and Trump’s defense in their upcoming criminal trials: any actual evidence of election fraud to back up Eastman (and Trump’s) continuing insistence that the 2020 presidential election was in fact stolen:

Eastman was one of 18 Trump allies indicted alongside the former president by the Fulton County District Attorney’s office in Georgia earlier this month. According to the indictment, Eastman and others tried to establish a slate of fake electors to falsely certify that Trump won the 2020 election in order to change the outcome.

In Tuesday’s Fox News interview, Eastman continued to double down on lies about the election, and insisted he “had lots of evidence of fraud.”

“I haven’t seen that evidence, and I’m always wanting to see everything,” Ingraham said. “I’d love to see that evidence.” [Pols emphasis]

Nearly three years after the 2020 elections, and the exhaustive investigations into the Trump campaign’s allegations of outcome-determinative voter fraud that all found no evidence to support them, Laura Ingraham doesn’t expect to see the evidence that Eastman claims to possess. The reason is simple: Ingraham knows that evidence does not exist. Ingraham as we know now after the disclosure of her desperate attempts on January 6th to persuade Trump to tell the rioters to leave the Capitol, flat-out telling Mark Meadows that the attack was “destroying his legacy,” is much more lucid about what happened in 2020 than she can ever admit to her Trump-adoring audience. And while Ingraham was quick to shovel misinformation about “Antifa” responsibility after the insurrection, subsidizing the “Big Lie” that Eastman and Trump are now relying on to prop up their criminal defense appears to be something she is not willing to do.

And as the Daily Beast reports, the damage for Eastman in this supposedly friendly interview wasn’t over:

On The Ingraham Angle, Eastman was asked by anchor Laura Ingraham about whether the prosecutors can prove the case, which Ingraham said revolved around Eastman and the other defendants “all basically agreeing—implicitly, explicitly—that you all knew this was phony and that your decision amongst yourselves was to advance the plan to overturn the election.”

Eastman responded that the prosecution has “all the evidence” and “all my emails.”

“My phone was seized over a year ago. They have got all that stuff as well. I challenge them to find a single email or communication that supports that implausible theory,” he claimed.

Yet emails show that after the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection, Eastman persisted in trying to get Vice President Mike Pence to not certify the electoral votes, begging his counsel to break the law. [Pols emphasis]

Which is 100% accurate: back in March of 2022, the January 6th Select Committee released emails from Eastman to Vice President Mike Pence’s lawyers acknowledging that they would be breaking the law to implement his strategy, even asking for “one more relatively minor violation” to delay the certification of Joe Biden’s victory for ten days beyond January 6th. Ingraham of course didn’t challenge Eastman on this point, but everyone following this story knows that Eastman’s conscious and deliberate legal advice to break the law was exposed long ago. For Eastman to not remember this raises the most basic questions about his credibility and judgment.

Or, maybe the guy just makes stuff up, and the problem is how far you can get in the field of law by doing so.

Trump Buttering Up Colorado MAGA Loyalists

UPDATE: As Erik Maulbetsch reports for the Colorado Times Recorder, the Colorado Republican Party is pushing its people to sign a pledge in support of the “January 6 prisoners.” Trump’s message has definitely been received.


“These are incredible Colorado patriots, that’s for sure.”

Donald Trump in a video naming El Paso County GOP leaders

The frontrunner for the 2024 Republican Presidential nomination isn’t getting indicted again this week (well, probably not), so Donald Trump has time to send out videos to his minions across the land.

Earlier this month, Trump greased up State Republican Party Chair Dave Williams, calling him “a fantastic man and a great friend of mine” in a video played for those in attendance at the Republican Central Committee meeting in Castle Rock.

Yesterday it was the El Paso County Republicans’ turn to get sweet talked by Trump. In this grainy video reposted to Facebook on Tuesday by an El Paso County Republican, Trump thanks the El Paso GOP for supporting “our cause,” calling Chairperson Vickie Tonkins “fantastic” (remember: the previous State GOP administration tried to oust Tonkins on several occasions, most recently in February). Trump also mentions Vice Chair Todd Watkins and Secretary Adriana Cuva before giving another shout out to Williams. The Big Orange Guy does not have many redeeming qualities, but you gotta hand it to him (or his campaign team) for being smart enough to call out prominent supporters by name — even if he probably doesn’t know Todd Watkins from Todd Helton.

Trump goes on to rail against “Crooked Joe Biden,” saying that “you could combine the five worst Presidents in American history” and they didn’t do as much damage to the United States as Biden has done in less than 3 years. Most historians consider Trump to be at the top of the “worst Presidents” list, but, whatever. The rest of the video is just Trump taking credit for everything and reciting his standard list of grand promises for 2024.

There’s no chance that Trump carries Colorado next November after falling here to Biden by 13 points in 2020 (Democrat Hillary Clinton also captured Colorado in 2016 by 5 points). However, Trump will likely play a role in the outcome of several other Colorado contests in 2024 if (and when) local Republican leaders parrot his talking points about election fraud in the 2020 Presidential election, These talking points, of course, are more about Trump trying to stay out of prison than they are about 2024, but logic and reason are not core tenets of the modern Colorado Republican Party.

Trump’s actions may be finally starting to concern some Colorado Republicans, including the gelatin-backboned Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley). Other Colorado Republicans could also start speaking out against Trump, but that won’t happen because none of them want to risk the wrath of the MAGA base.

But hey, it’s all worth it if a former President says your name in a video.

Ken Buck May Actually Be Getting Worried

Rep. Ken Buck (R).

As former President Donald Trump and his 18 alleged co-conspirators in the plot to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia turned themselves in for booking last week at Atlanta’s Fulton County Jail, Colorado’s arch-conservative Freedom Caucus member Rep. Ken Buck appeared Thursday on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell to…it’s not a misprint, Buck implored Trump to intercede with his supporters to avoid violence and let the judicial system work. Fox News:

“I think he absolutely needs to tell all Americans to stand down and allow the judicial system to take its course,” [Pols emphasis] Buck said in an interview on MSNBC. “We trust judges, we trust juries, we trust appellate courts. This isn’t over until it’s over.”

The lawmaker’s warning against violence comes after Trump surrendered to authorities Tuesday in Fulton County, Georgia. He was booked in Fulton County Jail on felony charges brought by District Attorney Fani Willis related to his alleged attempt to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. The former president – the first to be indicted in U.S. history – also faces criminal charges in New York and federal charges in Washington, D.C., and the Southern District of Florida…

“I think that setting a very clear message and also having surrogates send a very clear message that violence will not be tolerated is appropriate,” Buck said.

Buck’s latest talking point that he “trusts” judges and juries is a major reversal from Buck’s ill-advised bashing of the grand jury process earlier this year in response to Trump’s indictment in New York over “hush money” payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. Buck’s newfound concern over Trump supporters engaging in violence instead of trusting the judicial system is not an act of principle so much as a slow-dawning recognition that Trump could actually incite additional violence in response to his criminal prosecution, a well-founded concern after Trump incited the January 6th, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

However one feels about the prosecutions underway against Trump, it shouldn’t be a big lift to expressly disavow violence and call for the judicial system to do its work. Buck doesn’t address what might come after a guilty verdict, only that the judicial system should be trusted to provide a just result. But with Buck’s Freedom Caucus colleagues ramping up the bellicose rhetoric instead of calling for faith in the system, not to mention the impotent cowardice of Trump’s primary opponents, Buck’s bare minimum of statesmanship still manages to stand out.

The next test will come when it’s clear that Trump doesn’t listen to Ken Buck. Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” not to “stand down.” After January 6th, these orders can never be conflated again.

Haters Hot And Heavy At DougCo PrideFest

UPDATE: 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark with an interesting take on the DougCo PrideFest protesters, noting that they’re meddling in other people’s parenting just like they accuse the government of doing:


Douglas County Pride Fest protester.

Denver7’s Micah Smith reports on an ugly but predictable episode Saturday afternoon at the scene of conservative exurban Douglas County’s PrideFest celebration–an event that went forward with an extra heaping of political controversy after local elected officials very publicly questioned the endeavor:

Douglas County PrideFest attendees and volunteers are sharing details surrounding Saturday’s Pride celebrations that were interrupted by more than 60 protesters at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

“I received an email from someone outlining [a group’s] intentions on coming into our show,” Art Kerkezian, co-chair of Douglas County PrideFest said. “The drag show and the drag queens have always been the target.”

The group blocked a drag show performance and wore shirts that read “STAND TO PROTECT CHILDREN.”

Members of the Patriot Front militia group protest outside the DougCo Pride Fest Saturday.

Colorado Community Media via the DougCo News-Press:

Though the promises of a family-friendly drag show at PrideFest came true, about two dozen protesters stood outside the event, with some shouting messages on a bullhorn such as: “Why would you bring your children here to be groomed and assaulted by a bunch of queers?”

After two people walked up in opposition to one of the protest crowds — which gathered on behalf of Patriot Front, according to those with PrideFest — law enforcement escorted the two men away from the crowd, apparently without incident. (Patriot Front is a White supremacist group, according to the Anti-Defamation League. A person with that crowd told a Colorado Community Media reporter not to approach them.)

#BeerBellies4Kids disrupts DougCo PrideFest.

Saturday’s PrideFest event in Castle Rock was well-attended despite the gauntlet of far-right protesters attendees had to pass through, followed by the prolonged disruption of the event’s “G-rated” drag show by dozens of protesters wearing “STAND TO PROTECT CHILDREN” T-shirts. Denver7:

Eli Bazan, the founder of the Parasol Patrol, an organization that uses colorful umbrellas to shield kids from protesters, said volunteering at this year’s event was intense.

“This was the most hate that we’ve encountered in Colorado since 2019,” Bazan said. [Pols emphasis] “We did a lot of planning in the lead-up. We had lots of security meetings with volunteers and the head of security. We had agreed on several areas that need to be followed for security … And it seems that on the day of, none of those plans came to fruition.”

Colorado Community Media reports that at least some of the heightened tensions at this year’s event can be attributed to local Republican elected officials:

A call for volunteer security for PrideFest ahead of the event had elicited criticism from Douglas County Commissioner George Teal, one of the county’s elected leaders, earlier in the week. He described the call as seeking “some variety of vigilante security.”

Teal, in an Aug. 22 meeting of county officials, also referred to “the advocates of PrideFest” as “advocating vigilante violence, it sounds like.”

The “vigilante security” Teal was referring to is the Parasol Patrol, an organization that has provided ad-hoc security for LGBTQ+ events in the Denver area for several years. No one has ever accused Parasol Patrol of any kind of violence or vigilantism, unlike the Proud Boys and other militia types who showed up intending to disrupt the event. Even Commissioner George Teal’s Republican colleague Lora Thomas (though they don’t get along) acknowledged that the only issue Saturday was the right-wing agitators:

The vigorous attempt at disruption of this weekend’s DougCo PrideFest took place on a bad weekend nationally for hate crimes, with another apparently race-based mass shooting in Florida. Political tension across the nation is very high right now with Donald Trump’s slow grind toward accountability inflaming his diehard supporters even as a majority of Americans strongly support it. The renewed intensity of this protest is consistent with the steady rise in bias-motivated crimes in recent years. At the same time, beleaguered Colorado Republicans under their repellently radical new leadership are fuming in impotent rage over the state’s seemingly unshakeable Democratic majority politics.

It took this village of factors to produce the steaming, toxic stew of hateful reaction that took place Saturday in Castle Rock. While we remain optimistic about the long moral arc of history, there’s unfortunately a possibility of much more ugliness–and much worse–in the short run as we relitigate the “culture wars” Republicans have been losing for generations one more time.

Until then, support your local Parasol Patrol.

Dave Williams Keeps Doing (Not) His Job

No, not that way, Dave. Hey, Dave! Come back.

The Colorado Republican Party has a very specific list of responsibilities for the State Republican Party Chairman, which include things like making a budget and hiring staff members. The bylaws of the State Republican Central Committee don’t explicitly include that the GOP Chair’s primary job is to help Republican candidates win elections, but this is something that is more or less implied.

(Of course, it is also implied that the REPUBLICAN Party Chairperson should be working for the REPUBLICAN Party, instead of, say, the Libertarian Party, but we digress…) 

Dave Williams has been serving as the head of the State GOP for about six months now, and most of his time has been spent on projects neither implicitly nor explicitly related to his actual job. As we have chronicled in this space, Williams spends much of his time attacking other Republicans; making excuses for why the State Party has no money; and fundraising to pay a soon-to-be disbarred John Eastman for directing a lawsuit that is almost certainly doomed to fail.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, then, that Williams has wandered off in yet another direction unrelated to his job as GOP Chair. Williams recently emerged as the Registered Agent for a new effort to pass a ballot measure banning gender reassignment surgeries for minors in Colorado:

Sure, do THIS in 2024.

The (ahem) “Let Kids be Kids” campaign seems to be a response to Senate Bill 188, which was approved by the Colorado legislature last Spring and signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis. Called the “Protections for Accessing Reproductive Health Care Act,” SB-188 protects access to reproductive health care and gender-affirming medical care. As Serena Sonoma wrote for GLAAD in April:

Advocates and lawmakers celebrated in April after Gov. Jared Polis signed legislation protecting health care access for LGBTQ youth in Colorado.

Meredith Gleitz, Policy Manager at One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization dedicated to advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans and their families, called the measure “critical” for transgender people to be able to fairly access what is often lifesaving health care.

“Research shows that gender-affirming care improves mental health and overall well-being for transgender people, and is recognized and endorsed by 29 leading medical organizations. In spite of its medical necessity and health benefits, access to gender-affirming care is being politically targeted, to the detriment of providers and patients – and attacks are intensifying,” she said.

“Colorado needs shield legislation to protect patients and providers from interstate political attacks and to prevent further obstacles to accessing critical health care.”

Dave Williams

Across the country, 19 states have now passed laws banning gender-affirming care to some degree; according to the Human Rights Campaign, more than 1 in 3 transgender young people live in one of these states.

Initiatives like Williams’ proposal also help contribute to a rise in hate crimes targeting LGBTQ individuals. According to federal law enforcement statistics, 1 in 5 hate crimes now involve LGBTQ Americans.

There are no doubt plenty of right-wing Republicans in Colorado who would agree with a proposal to ban gender-affirming care for young people. However, polling shows that attempts to restrict LGBTQ health care options are absolutely NOT popular with a majority of voters nationwide. It’s a pretty fair guess that these numbers are even more lopsided in an increasingly-blue state like Colorado.

Regardless of anyone’s opinion on this issue, it’s not a great use of time for Dave Williams to be adding yet another thing to his plate that has nothing to do with his job as GOP Chairman. Every minute that Williams spends attacking LGBTQ Coloradans is another minute he is NOT spending on helping Republican candidates win elections in 2024.

On the other hand, perhaps winning elections is just no longer a priority for the Colorado Republican Party.

Ron Tupa is Not Going to be the First Person to Do This

Former State Rep. Ron Tupa embarks on the road to disappointment.

There are more than 3.9 million active registered voters in Colorado. Republicans account for about 24% of these voters, followed by Democrats at 27%. Active voters in Colorado registered as “Unaffiliated” make up most of the rest of the total, with 47% listed as of the end of July.

You could argue, as some do, that an “Unaffiliated” candidate in Colorado would thus have a YUGE advantage in a General Election over both Republicans and Democrats. The problem with this argument, as we’ve noted many times in the past, is that “Unaffiliated” is not a political party; it is merely a designation to indicate that someone has registered to vote but chosen not to affiliate with a particular political party. We know from registration and election data that most “Unaffiliated” voters tend to vote (more or less) for either Republicans or Democrats.

In fact, the last “Unaffiliated” candidate to win an election for a significant non-local office in Colorado was…um…

…As far as we know, it has NEVER happened in Colorado. Yet former state lawmaker Ron Tupa apparently thinks he can be the first person — ever — to break that streak.

He’s wrong.

Tupa is a longtime Boulder Democrat who served 14 years in the State House of Representatives and State Senate (1994-2008). Tupa changed his voter registration in April 2023 to “Unaffiliated,” and he recently filed paperwork to be a 2024 candidate for Congress in CO-07, the district that Democrat Brittany Pettersen won in 2022 by 15 points over Republican Erik Aadland.

Tupa’s official candidate filing for Congress in CO-07.

We don’t know why Tupa decided to run for Congress in CO-07 as an “Unaffiliated” candidate, but we have absolutely no hesitation in promising that he won’t be elected in 2024. In addition to trying to run as a “U,” Tupa doesn’t live in the actual district. The seventh congressional district — which meanders from northern Jefferson County all the way south to Cortez — does not include Boulder (there are no residency requirements for Congressional candidates, but it’s still never a good idea to run for an office that doesn’t even include your own neighborhood).

Tupa’s residency is probably the least of his problems as a candidate. He’s been out of sight and mind in Colorado politics for way too long to suddenly attempt a bid for anything, let alone a strong Democratic Congressional seat. Tupa, 57, was first elected to the State House in the same year that Colorado voters approved term limits. Seriously.

We’ll be watching to see if Tupa publicly states a reason for this quixotic new campaign. We may not yet know how this all started, but again, we already know how it will end.

Rep. Ken DeGraaf Doesn’t Want Facts, He Wants To Believe

Rep. Ken DeGraaf (R).

A trip into the fever swamps of conservative conspiracy theorizing can be entertaining as long as you leave a few reality-based breadcrumbs to find your way back. One currently circulating tall tale on conservative social media concerns a “Chinese COVID bioweapons lab” allegedly uncovered in central California. Local media doesn’t appear to have helped the situation much with sensationalist headlines like “Chinese-run lab in California illegally stored vials of COVID-19, other diseases,” but as the Sacramento Bee reported earlier this month below that alarming headline, the beginning of a biological World War Three this was not:

Prestige Biotech Inc., a company whose owners live in China, was using the building near Reedley’s downtown for storing and shipping an array of diagnostic test kits for COVID-19, pregnancy, drugs and more after apparently being booted out of their Fresno location in late 2022 by their landlord. The inventory of biological agents in the refrigerators include coronavirus and other exotic contagions, such as malaria, Hepatitis B and C, chlamydia, human herpes, and rubella, among others, used in the production of various test kits. [Pols emphasis]

Now, eight months after the surprising discovery, and about five months after the lab was shut down, local, state and federal agencies continue to investigate and clean up a business that has existed within a murky and muddled realm of regulatory authority. It’s apparently a first-of-its kind situation for investigators in the U.S. – even as court documents show that the company is in the midst of efforts to relocate back to Fresno.

“We’re finding out that with these private labs, there really isn’t as much regulation as there is for publicly funded labs, labs that receive grants,” said Harper, who has been involved in the investigation since Dec. 19. “There’s no one technically looking for them.”

Is it great news to learn that an unlicensed business had all of these dangerous pathogens on site? Of course not. But there’s a huge difference between operating a lab to produce test kits for diseases and producing biological weapons. Although the story is receiving a lot of press now, as the AP reports, authorities have been investigating for months and found no evidence of any threatening intent:

The discovery last December launched investigations by federal, state and local authorities who found no criminal activity at the medical lab owned by Prestige Biotech Inc., a company registered in Las Vegas, and no evidence of a threat to public health or national security. Nonetheless, it was just the beginning of a case that this summer fueled fears, rumors and conspiracy theories online about China purportedly trying to engineer biological weapons in rural America.

There’s always a period before credible media outlets investigate when exaggerated stories like these spread like wildfire–much faster in most cases than the accurate story that debunks the truly crazy stuff low-information viewers and readers are panicking over. It’s worse for those who come across misinformation weeks and even months after it was disproven and breathlessly spread it for another round.

Which is exactly what Colorado Rep. Ken “Skin” DeGraaf did a few days ago:

This is Rep. DeGraaf linking to a month-old video of a local politician making claims that have since been debunked as “unwarranted hysteria.” The additional information in numerous updated news stories that Rep. DeGraaf needed to know, namely that this was not a “bioweapons lab,” let alone a lab having anything to do with public health hero Dr. Anthony Fauci, was just a Google away.

But if there’s anything we’ve learned from Rep. DeGraaf in his free-wheeling freshman term, it’s that DeGraaf doesn’t want to know the real story. “Fauci bioweapons labs” is what Rep. DeGraaf wants to believe, and that’s where he stops reading.

It’s nothing new, but it used to come from your crackpot uncle, not your elected officials.

Why Republican Presidential Debates = BDSM (feat. Seth Masket)

This week on the Get More Smarter Podcast, your hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii have a lot to discuss. Our 8th favorite member of Congress from Colorado is trailing her leading Democratic challenger by two points. Will she realize thatshe’s the problem? The Colorado Republican/Libertarian Party alliance is getting sadder and stupider, as we predicted, reinforcing the idea that instead of playing stupid games with less than 40% of the voting population of a state like Colorado, maybe the Grand Old Party should try to appeal to another 10% of voters if they’d like to win an election in the next decade? And we have a couple of great listener comments to pass along.

BUT FIRST, eight Republican hopefuls debated one another in Milwaukee for the chance to maybe get to be Donald Trump’s running mate, as long as they don’t piss him off too much. We break it down with our returning guest, Professor Seth Masket (aka SMOTUS) of the University of Denver, who has some new results of his county chair survey and some spicy takes on the debate.

Listen to previous episodes of The Get More Smarter Podcast at

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Let us have it at Or send emails to or

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Coffman Ditches “Strong Mayor” Initiative, but Damage is Done

Heavy is the clown crown.

Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman used the occasion of a Friday news dump to announce that his politically-disastrous proposal to turn Aurora into a “strong mayor” city was being dropped on account of the fact that it was killing his chances of being re-elected in November.

Okay, that’s not what Coffman said exactly, but it’s not hard to read between the lines here. As Max Levy reports for The Aurora Sentinel:

Saying challenges from opponents caused them to miss a procedural deadline, supporters of a proposal to empower Aurora’s mayor announced Friday they are ending their 2023 campaign and want to bring the ballot initiative back in 2025.

“I’m disappointed that the ballot measure is not on the 2023 ballot to give the opportunity for voters to decide the issue, but I’m glad that it can be on the ballot in 2025 without having to gather signatures again,” said Mayor Mike Coffman in a statement. [Pols emphasis]

A City of Aurora spokesman did not immediately confirm whether the campaign would be able to resume in 2025 without repeating the process of gathering signatures and submitting paperwork to the city clerk’s office.

The city also did not immediately clarify whether an Aug. 30 hearing where opponents were scheduled to challenge the clerk’s finding that the petitions submitted by the campaign conformed to city rules would still take place.

Don’t expect Democrat Juan Marcano to stop talking about Coffman’s attempted power grab even if the ballot initiative won’t move forward.

It’s not entirely clear exactly what happened that made proponents of the “strong mayor” ballot proposal unable to move forward with an initiative that did have enough voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot (even if many of those voters might have been duped into adding their name to said petition).

But for now, at least, the “what” is less important than the “why.” And the “why” is pretty damn obvious: Team Coffman clearly decided that it was better to toss the “strong mayor” initiative overboard and hope Coffman’s badly-leaking boat could still cough and wheeze its way to Election Day on November 7. Coffman didn’t want a “strong mayor” system of government if it looked like he wouldn’t get to be the strong mayor himself.

This entire saga is the worst self-own by a Colorado politician since Levi Tillemann was macing himself in the face. Coffman finally acknowledged earlier this month that he personally came up with the idea for the “strong mayor” initiative — he had refused to discuss his position while proponents waited to see if it qualified for the ballot — and when he finally spoke, he promptly jammed both feet into his mouth (Coffman also donated $10,000 of his own money to the initiative campaign, which was revealed later).

Coffman’s “strong mayor” proposal was widely condemned and opposed by the majority of the Aurora City Council — both Democrats and Republicans — and Coffman was shelled with criticism from both The Denver Post and The Aurora Sentinel. Dave Perry, the editor of the Sentinel, wrote in an editorial that Coffman’s initiative was a “colossal scam” and a “swindle.”

“Because neither the public nor the staff here at the Sentinel are stupid, it quickly became clear that it was indeed Coffman who contrived all this, and then he refused to admit it — repeatedly.”

— Aurora Sentinel editorial (8/9/23)

The initiative campaign itself quickly became a referendum on Coffman as mayor because of how poorly it was handled by everyone involved. Charlie Richardson, a former city council member and city manager in Aurora who has been a vocal critic of Coffman’s attempted power grab, absolutely unloaded on the campaign in his comments to the Sentinel today:

“This could be studied in a political science class on how absolutely not to do a strong mayor initiative,” Richardson said of the campaign, mentioning how supporters continued submitting signatures to the clerk’s office after June 6, which was the latest the city said it could accept signatures by and still have enough time to complete the necessary pre-election processes.

“Nevertheless, they proceeded,” Richardson said. “And so people spent a lot of money, a lot of time and effort for something that was essentially dead on arrival.” [Pols emphasis]

Can we just, you know, pretend this never happened?

Aurora was already shaping up to be the most important battleground of the November 2023 election even before the “strong mayor” debacle shredded whatever was left of Coffman’s credibility in the city. The Mayor himself was on thin ice with voters anyway after his narrow 2019 victory for mayor resulted in few solutions and more problems for city residents. But the “strong mayor” initiative seemed to be the impetus for Democrats to align behind one candidate — City Council Member Juan Marcano — in order to take down the longtime Republican elected official.

For Coffman, ditching this stupid “strong mayor” initiative won’t stop the internal bleeding caused by his half-truths and doublespeak on his involvement in the process. It’s a little like a football team switching to a backup quarterback when trailing by 40 points in the fourth quarter. As Mark Harden wrote for The Denver Post:

“Aurorans…should consider whether Coffman – the mastermind of the plan’s misleading rollout, who spent months obscuring his role – can be trusted to assume a strong mayor’s powers.”

Questions about Coffman’s integrity and honesty don’t go away along with the ballot initiative, which gained so much bad attention that it turned the Aurora municipal election into a must-watch final few months. It might be time, in fact, to bring out the old, “I misspoke and I apologize” routine once again.

If Coffman loses his bid for re-election, and we’d bet against him at this point, he’ll need only place blame on the guy in his bathroom mirror.

Universal Preschool Program Takes First Steps

Governor Jared Polis visiting a Denver preschool earlier this month.

Colorado’s new universal preschool program is still being rolled out across the state, and despite a few hiccups for one of Gov. Jared Polis’s signature issues, tens of thousands of families are taking advantage of the opportunity.

As Ann Schimke reports for Chalkbeat Colorado, participants in the program are happy to get started:

The new $322 million program offers 10 to 30 hours a week of tuition-free preschool to 4-year-olds statewide and 10 hours to some 3-year-olds.

Up to 40,000 4-year-olds are expected to participate in the program this school year, double the enrollment of Colorado’s previous state-funded preschool program.

Many parents and early childhood advocates are excited about the state’s effort to help more families with preschool costs and prepare kids for kindergarten. [Pols emphasis] At the same time, some aspects of universal preschool rollout have been rushed, confusing, and punctuated by eleventh hour changes.

Thousands of families who had expected the state to cover full-day preschool based on meeting certain criteria found out in late July the program would only pay for half-day classes. Most recently, school district officials sued over the program, claiming the state is harming students with disabilities and breaking funding promises to families and schools. Religious preschools also have sued, alleging that anti-discrimination requirements violate their religious beliefs.

We wrote last week about one of those lawsuits, a ridiculous challenge from the Denver Catholic Archdiocese complaining that it should get state funding even though it openly discriminates against LGBTQ families. While there have been challenges in rolling out the new Universal Preschool program (also dubbed UPK, for “Universal Pre-Kindergarten), some of the complaints have been a tad overwrought considering that this is a BRAND NEW initiative that has room for 56,000 eligible children in Colorado:

For her part, Auraria Early Learning Center Director Emily Nelson said she’s pleased with how universal preschool is shaping up. There have been challenges, but that’s true with any new system, she said.

“I feel good with where we’re at,” she said. “I feel like parents have the information they need.” 

She’s heard some parents express relief that the state is helping defray tuition costs. [Pols emphasis] Under universal preschool, the state covers the cost of 15 hours a week at the center, dropping monthly full-day tuition from $1,531 to $921. Some parents get additional assistance through campus scholarships or a taxpayer-funded tuition credit program called the Denver Preschool Program.

Like many providers across Colorado, Nelson had empty universal preschool seats on the first day of school — eight between her two 4-year-old classrooms. Statewide, about 56,000 4-year-old seats are available, well above the number that will be needed even if more families sign up in the coming months.

“Statewide, about 56,000 4-year-old seats are available, well above the number that will be needed even if more families sign up in the coming months.”

— Chalkbeat Colorado (8/23/23)

In a recent Op-Ed published in The Denver Post, two of the leaders of the UPK initiative — Nicole Riehl and Sue Renner — explained that some program complaints are related to a “mixed delivery” implementation system that was very much intentional:

At issue is the ability of families to select programs that best meet their preschool and childcare needs. A mixed delivery system offers families such flexibility. Mixed delivery is a system that distributes funding across multiple providers of early childhood education, including licensed center-and family-based childcare programs, Head Start, Early Head Start, public schools, and community-based organizations to ensure access to high-quality, affordable care and learning options for children through age five and their families.

Requiring families to secure services exclusively from a school district, as a recent school district lawsuit would enable, does not allow families the flexibility to select a provider who can meet their children’s needs for year-round stability. [Pols emphasis]

Research has long shown that early childhood education has a significant impact on how children learn and grow in later years. While the Polis administration is working on ironing out the wrinkles with the new UPK program, that shouldn’t overshadow the significance of what is a massive statewide accomplishment.

Buck Bucks Freedom Caucus Once Again, But Won’t Really Help

The button Rep. Ken Buck could press but won’t.

Members of Congress are out of Washington for the August recess, but as the Washington Post reported Wednesday, a daunting pile of unfinished business awaits to be worked out when members return next month–and the narrow GOP House majority is divided on whether to govern like grownups, or once again force the nation down the familiar path of self-induced fiscal crisis:

The far-right House Freedom Caucus escalated the stakes Monday by releasing a list of demands to support a short-term, stopgap funding bill that will likely be needed to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30…

CRs generally extend existing funding levels and are usually free of such big policy provisions, but the group is seeking to leverage House Republicans’ razor thin majority to force a shutdown showdown right from the start.

The group’s escalatory and “unrealistic” tactics are becoming an increasing source of frustration for some of their GOP colleagues.

If you didn’t know better, once again, you might mistake Rep. Ken Buck for a reasonable voice in this conflict between Rep. Lauren Boebert’s far-right Freedom Caucus and Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Buck was quoted in this story both distancing himself from the Freedom Caucus’ demands and seemingly lamenting a shutdown:

One of the Freedom Caucus’s own members, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), said in an interview that he didn’t support the group’s move. (The group needs support from an overwhelming majority of its members to take an official position.)

“They’ve locked themselves into not voting for the CR if those things aren’t met,” Buck said, adding that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) might need to start looking for Democratic votes. [Pols emphasis]

For Buck to suggest that it may be necessary once again for Speaker McCarthy to seek support across the aisle to pass the spending bills needed to keep the government open is nothing short of heretical coming from a member of the Freedom Caucus. The imposition of this latest list of demands from the Freedom Caucus appears to have shifted Buck’s opinion toward suggesting McCarthy make another end run around his fellow Republicans into the loving arms of Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. As recently as last week, as reported in the Colorado Sun’s Unaffiliated newsletter, Buck was glumly predicting an “inevitable” shutdown:

Buck had a pessimistic view of the coming debate on the federal budget. He said a federal government shutdown is inevitable. “We are going to shut down,” he said. “There is no simple answer other than reducing spending.” [Pols emphasis] The Democrats at the luncheon expressed hope that Republicans wouldn’t let that happen.

Freedom Caucus members not named Ken Buck have already threatened to challenge McCarthy’s speakership, using the expanded power to do so they gained in the deal to allow McCarthy to take the job, if he repeats the deal made with the White House on the debt ceiling last spring and passes major legislation with Democratic support. But that now appears to be the course that Ken Buck is advocating for Kevin McCarthy to take.

So why doesn’t Buck get an atta-boy for suggesting this reasonable yet politically extremely risky course of action? That’s simple: Buck has nothing invested in the outcome. Based on Buck’s well-established voting record, he’s almost certain to vote against any spending deal that emerges. Buck’s preferred solution to the nation’s fiscal issues, as readers know, is to make America’s retirement age the highest in the world–and since nothing close to that drastic remedy ever comes up for a vote, Buck votes against basically every spending bill from either party.

Buck, who often votes against CRs, [Pols emphasis] said the Freedom Caucus should be focusing its efforts on reducing the top-line spending amount.

Ken Buck can identify the problem, and articulate a solution to the problem, but Buck has no intention of actually himself helping solve the problem. As Virginia Woolf said, “on the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points.”

History will record that is the best Ken Buck could manage.

GOP Veep Debate: A Sad Spectacle of MAGA Meh

Republican master debaters in Milwaukee last night.

Last night, a group of would-be Republican presidential candidates held a debate in  Milwaukee, an event most notable for the absence of the far-and-away frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination ex-President Donald Trump. The eight candidates who appeared are all mired in a single-digit pack after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ failure to thrive, with at least a few making obvious plays to emerge as Trump’s vice presidential pick.

So as the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake surmises, the night’s big winner was…Donald Trump:

It could scarcely have turned out better for the absentee front-runner. He decided to skip the debate because it wasn’t worth his time — what with his nearly 40-point lead in the polls. And the candidates who want to beat him spent much of the debate pretending he wasn’t even in the race…

The risk for Trump in not showing up was that he wouldn’t be able to defend himself. He didn’t have to. [Pols emphasis]

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attempting to smile.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by most accounts had a terrible night of barely concealing his inner twitching monster, made even worse by the fact that DeSantis has fallen so far in the polls that he was not the top target on stage he needed to be to retain his status as the principal Trump alternative. NBC News:

DeSantis still regularly polls in second place behind Trump, but it’s a distant second. These days he’s much closer to mid-tier candidates like Vivek Ramaswamy, a 38-year-old businessman from Ohio whom most GOP voters knew little to nothing about at the beginning of the year.

And it was Ramaswamy, not DeSantis, who found himself the night’s biggest target, taking the arrows normally reserved for the front-runner — or, in this case, the biggest target onstage, with Trump having decided to skip the debate. The two-hour showdown was punctuated by one-on-one fights between Ramaswamy and former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Vivek Ramaswamy is not a serious candidate for President, and was rightly flayed by his on-stage opponents for his gratingly enthusiastic demeanor and lack of understanding of basic subjects. The two things that Ramaswamy did accomplish, though, were to please former President Trump by sucking up to him at every opportunity, and also effectively sidelining DeSantis by becoming the principal target of his on-stage opponents.

At the same time, dunking on Ramaswamy didn’t do much to elevate former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and we’re not sure that Haley’s bickering with Ramaswamy will matter to Republican primary voters who want to be entertained as much as educated. All of these much more experienced elected officials sparring with an ignorant if quick-witted nobody was a clear lesson in the folly of pig-wrestling: they looked worse for the experience, while Ramaswamy soaked up the screen time.

The most important question of the night was the one that, had it come earlier in the debate, could have saved viewers a lot of time:

Later, they asked whether the candidates would support Trump in the general election if he is convicted. Only Christie and Hutchinson declined, [Pols emphasis] but both DeSantis and Pence were slow to raise their hands. And for some reason, there was no follow-up with them.

When given a wide-open opportunity to take a material stand against Donald Trump, and commit to the modest pledge to no longer support Trump if he is convicted of any of the dozens of felony counts Trump faces in four criminal cases, only Chris Christie and Asa Hutchison, neither of whom have a hope in hell of factoring in the presidential primary, were able to do it. That is an expression of outright contempt for the American criminal justice system that we’re not sure has any parallel in American history. And it’s a moral capitulation by all of those candidates to Trump that calls into question their presence in this race. Why are they running for President at all?

Contrary to a popular misconception among Republicans who don’t support Trump, most Democrats take no pleasure in seeing the Republican Party still in the thrall of a man who cares more about personal power than the democratic institutions Trump attempted to overthrow just a few years ago. A credible conservative alternative to Trump, who could restore trust with voters that the Republican Party is not a clear and present danger to American democracy, would help liberals sleep at night as much as conservatives who still have a conscience.

Last night, Republicans proved again they have no such candidate. It’s not enough to say the GOP is still Trump’s party, despite all the damage he has inflicted on the country to no one’s benefit but himself.

It never wasn’t Trump’s party.

Ron DeSantis is a Strange, Strange Man

We’ll have more later on last night’s Republican Presidential debate in Milwaukee, in which eight GOP hopefuls said a lot of insane things and largely avoided uttering any mean words about Donald Trump.

But first, our favorite moment of the debate: This happened early, after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answered his first question and then tried to convince his brain to make his mouth form a smile:


Ron DeSantis is a weird human being, though we’ll give him a tiny bit of credit for being unintentionally hilarious.

Break a Leg, Boss! Wait, Not Literally!

Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND).

NBC News reports from Milwaukee, the site of tonight’s Republican vice presidential debate, where Republican dark horse candidate Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota had an unusual problem on the way to his spot on stage:

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum injured his leg playing basketball here Tuesday, leaving in doubt his participation in the first Republican presidential debate Wednesday night, two sources close to the governor told NBC News.

Burgum, 67, was taken to a local emergency room and later discharged, one campaign source said. The source later confirmed that the governor has a high-grade tear of his Achilles tendon and requires crutches to walk.

The source said that Burgum will decide whether to participate in the two-hour event after completing a walk-through of the debate hall Wednesday afternoon.

“Walk-through” is an unfortunate choice of words for a man on crutches, but there’s little question Gov. Burgum needs very much to be on stage tonight with the rest of the Republican single-percenters running against (or auditioning to serve with) the 800-pound gorilla not in the room Donald Trump–and as the only guy in crutches, he’ll get more notice now than he otherwise would have. We’re not suggesting Gov. Burgum tore his Achilles heel on purpose, but anything to stand out on this stage of also-rans is probably a bonus.

Campaign managers often joke about wishing their candidates would avoid anything that might interfere with their rigorous schedule, to the point of locking them away when not on the trail and cutting up their food for them.

Add pick-up basketball games with the staff to the list we guess.

Jenna Ellis’ Disloyalty Has a Price After All

Jenna Ellis, the Colorado licensed attorney who now stands indicted along with 18 others including ex-President Donald Trump for her role in the attempted subversion of the 2020 presidential election results in the state of Georgia, has been publicly complaining for days about the lack of financial support not just she but allegedly all of Trump’s co-conspirators are suffering:

Under fire from Trump supporters, Ellis reiterated yesterday that it wasn’t just her own legal defense she was worried about, but everyone facing indictment in Georgia:

As readers know, there’s a very important difference between Jenna Ellis and the rest of the indicted Georgia co-conspirators. Ellis has formally admitted to numerous false statements about the 2020 presidential election as part of her censure agreement with Colorado attorney regulators. That sets Ellis apart from fellow Trump attorney John Eastman, who yesterday once again stated without reservation that he believes the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen. Likewise, Trump’s lead coup-torney Rudy Giuliani has refused to admit he was wrong even as he faces disbarment.

This crucial difference between Ellis and her indicted co-conspirators is why we must now be the bearer of bad tidings:

Contrary to Ellis’ belief that Trump isn’t helping any of his co-conspirators, Trump will be hosting a $100,000 per person fundraiser for Rudy Giuliani next month, at no less of a sacred space than the gravesite of Ivana Trump–otherwise known as Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey golf club. Giuliani’s legal and financial problems stemming from his loyal service to Trump are more extensive than just the indictment in Georgia, but a clutch of $100,000 checks will help Giuliani bigly.

Jenna Ellis, on the other hand, is not getting a $100,000-a-head fundraiser at Bedminster. Ellis coming out in support of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is certainly a factor working against Ellis with Trump, but more important at this point is that Ellis is a hindrance to Trump’s legal defense after having disavowed the “Big Lie.” With Trump’s legal defense depending on the illusion of the “Big Lie” as justification for their criminal actions, it would arguably be counterproductive for Trump to fund Ellis’ legal defense when she has already discredited that defense with her own admissions.

That logic holds up until the moment Ellis decides to turn against Trump. Ellis is one of a small number of people who could have clarifying insight about whether Trump knew he had lost the election as he executed the coup plot.

And Ellis has less reason not to turn on Trump with each passing day.

Republican/Libertarian “Alliance” Gets Weirder Yet

The so-called “alliance” between the Colorado Republican Party and the Colorado Libertarian Party gets more bizarre each week.

As we noted earlier this month, the Colorado Libertarian Party (LPCO) now has a questionnaire for both Federal and State level candidates in 2024 who are seeking the group’s support. That support theoretically includes a promise from the LPCO to not field a candidate in competitive districts — in order to avoid the possibility of being a spoiler for the GOP hopeful — which was the driving force behind the original idea proposed by GOP Chair Dave Williams. The LPCO, meanwhile, is pretty stoked that its 40,000-voter base now has an outsized influence on the policy decisions of Republican candidates with a much larger base of 900,000 registered voters.

As Ernest Luning reports in a fascinating story for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, you could drive a bus through the hole in this “alliance”:

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert doesn’t plan to sign a candidate pledge released by the Colorado Libertarian Party as part of a deal struck with state Republicans to avoid potential third-party spoiler candidates next year in competitive races.

Neither does Boebert’s GOP primary challenger, Grand Junction attorney Jeff Hurd.

State Libertarians agreed earlier this summer to refrain from nominating candidates in races they might “spoil” by pulling votes from Republicans — if the Republican nominees meet the minor political party’s standards.

Under an unprecedented agreement negotiated between Colorado GOP Chairman Dave Williams and his Libertarian counterpart, Hannah Goodman, the Libertarians last week released lengthy pledges for federal and state candidates to sign.

Where do you want us to move this goalpost, Dave?

We can’t entirely blame Boebert here, since LPCO Chairwoman Hannah Goodman has publicly shat on her already. And given that there is already a Libertarian candidate named [checks notes] Mark Ellworth Jr. in the race, the stated purpose of the Republican/Libertarian “alliance” was effectively rendered moot in CO-03 anyway.

Nevertheless, with Republican candidates in one of the most visible 2024 races wasting little time in deciding to ignore the LPCO pledge, Williams looks like even more of a boob than usual:

Williams said last week that he “[didn’t] think any serious candidate seeking our nomination in any competitive seat can ignore this,” referring to the Libertarians’ pledges, but on Monday said he isn’t concerned after Colorado Politics asked him about Boebert’s decision. [Pols emphasis]

“She may not have to given her record,” he said in a text message. “The Libertarians are always willing to consider these questions on a case-by-case basis. Ultimately, it’s the candidate’s call.”

Added Williams: “We are more focused on the open seats or seats with incumbent Democrats anyway, so this probably won’t be an issue.”

Oh, right, the big open seats in 2024. You know, like, um…that one district over by the thing…

…and if you elect me to lead the Colorado GOP, I promise to ask all Republican candidates to follow the demands of the Libertarian Party.

Remember, the primary example for why this GOP/LPCO alliance was necessary in the first place was in CO-08; as the thinking goes, Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer might have defeated Democrat Yadira Caraveo in 2022 were it not for the presence of a Libertarian candidate named Dan Ward. So a Republican candidate in this district in 2024 would definitely want to sign the LPCO pledge, right?

A spokesperson for the lone Republican so far running to represent Colorado’s other toss-up U.S. House seat, the 8th Congressional District, wouldn’t say whether Weld County Commissioner Scott James plans to take the pledge.

Oh. Well, at least it’s not Kirkmeyer refusing to sign the pledge! The very next paragraph is perhaps the weirdest of them all in Luning’s story:

“We received the pledge from Chairman Dave Williams and very much look forward to the dialogue as the campaign moves forward,” James’ spokesperson told Colorado Politics in a text message. [Pols emphasis]

This is amazing. Scott James is a Republican candidate for Congress in CO-08, and the Chairman of his own political party is asking him to sign a pledge from a completely different political party. Just…think about that for a moment.

It seems inevitable that Williams will eventually agree to a separate “alliance” with the American Constitution Party that makes this whole thing even more hopelessly complicated. All for one and one for all, or whatever.