A Tale Of Two Auroras

Beto O’Rourke (D).

Two of the most contentious national political issues passed in the night in the last 24 hours in Aurora, Colorado. First, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke held a town hall event yesterday evening just a short distance from the movie theater where a mass shooting in 2012 helped change the debate over gun control in Colorado.

The politics of gun control in Colorado have evolved from the intense pro-gun pushback against the 2013 Colorado gun safety laws to the present, where Colorado serves as a model for nationwide legislation being considered in response to mass shootings that have continued and worsened across the nation since the Aurora theater shooting.

As the Denver Post’s Jon Murray reports, Beto made his point and a smattering of open-carrying gun activists made theirs:

Beto O’Rourke repeated his recent call to round up high-powered assault-style weapons and pushed for stronger gun-control measures Thursday during an outdoor town hall in this Denver suburb, but rarely has his attention to the issue resonated so deeply in a crowd…

“I am here to say: Hell, no, you’re not,” Lauren Boebert said to scattered jeers.

She’d driven three hours from Rifle on the Western Slope to deliver that message. She owns a restaurant called Shooters Grill, where the wait staff packs heat, and her Glock handgun was holstered at her side Thursday. Boebert, 32, pressed O’Rourke to explain “how you intend to legislate the hearts of men and leave American citizens like myself” defenseless.

We’re relieved to report that although a number of people did show up carrying weapons there was no significant confrontation and no violence at O’Rourke’s town hall. Although no one expects O’Rourke to move into the top tier of Democratic candidates, he’s getting a lot of credit from frustrated gun control advocates for taking a bold stand that could help break the gun lobby’s logjam in Washington. O’Rourke also deftly handled disingenuous questions from Evan Todd of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners about banning all semiautomatic weapons, which is beyond the scope of O’Rourke’s proposal.

The backdrop of Aurora, with its history of tragedy as a model of hope for meaningful progress nationwide on the issue after Colorado took action in 2013, served O’Rourke and his message very well. But then the second act of Aurora’s busy night got underway–and things went, as they say, sideways from there. Colorado Public Radio:



Yes, Everyone Believes This is Possible

Media outlets have been scrambling to uncover more details about an alleged whistleblower complaint that might involve President Trump making some questionable promises to a foreign leader. Earlier today, Trump made a poor attempt to brush off the story:

“…is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader…”

Hmmm…let’s go to the polls:

Are You Dumb Enough to Believe that President Trump Would Say Something Inappropriate to a Foreign Leader?
View Result

So Much For That: Denise Burgess Out of Senate Race

UPDATE: The Colorado Sun is reporting that Burgess has some federal tax liens that somebody with her campaign probably should have figured out a long time ago:

The Sun found at least four federal tax liens under Burgess’ name dating back to 1998 and totaling nearly $165,000, whose company managed part of the construction of the Westin and transportation plaza at Denver International Airport. That’s in addition to several liens filed against her construction management business, including for failure to pay employee payroll taxes.

At least one of those liens remains outstanding, her campaign acknowledged to The Sun on Wednesday. The most recent Internal Revenue Service lien leveled against her was for $67,957 in unpaid personal individual income taxes from the 2014 tax year, records show.

Opposition research: It’s not just for other candidates.


We noted on Monday that the Democratic field for U.S. Senate was back up to double-digit numbers thanks to the belated candidacy of Denver businesswoman Denise Burgess.

Welp, that candidacy is has apparently already run its course. Burgess announced today that she was ending her Senate bid just days after it first began:

Screenshot of email from Denise Burgess’s brief Senate campaign.

Last Spring, we heard a rumor that Burgess was being discussed as a potential U.S. Senate candidate by a particular progressive advocacy group; that rumor disappeared quickly, however, and we hadn’t heard anything more about Burgess until she abruptly announced her candidacy on Monday. As we discussed earlier this week, Burgess’s Senate candidacy made little sense given the already-crowded field and the presence of a well-known frontrunner like former Gov. John Hickenlooper.

We’ll update this post if we learn more information about why Burgess was in and out of the race so quickly.


Watch Out, Cory Gardner: BLM Move Controversy Grinds On

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports:

A Montana group filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday to force the Department of the Interior to release public documents related to its decision to relocate the Bureau of Land Management to Grand Junction and several other western states.

The Whitefish, Montana-based Western Values Project filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to release information under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act for details about the department’s plan to relocate the BLM out of Washington, D.C…

Like the project, some groups — including dozens of retired BLM workers — have said they believe the BLM is being systemically dismantled to open the door for private interests to take over public lands. [Pols emphasis]

From the Western Values Project’s press release yesterday announcing the suit:

WVP filed several FOIA requests shortly after Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Interior announced the relocation of BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado. FOIA laws require agencies to respond within 20 working days of a request. The Interior Department requested and was granted a 10-workday extension on two of the requests, which has since lapsed. WVP is seeking public documents related to the BLM’s relocation from Interior, General Services Administration, Office of Budget and Management, and the BLM itself.

Last week, Acting BLM Director and known anti-public lands zealot William Pendley was grilled in front of the House Natural Resources Committee on the relocation but could offer little more than generalities and platitudes, reaffirming that the Trump Administration’s relocation plan is a not-so-veiled attempt to hand over public lands to their special interest allies…

The proposed BLM HQ move has been widely criticized for lacking a purpose since the vast majority of BLM staff are already based in the states. Reorganizing the BLM is seen by members of Congress as part of a larger effort to appease special interests by skirting government accountability efforts. The move has also been called into question by former BLM career public servants and the Western Governors Association, who believe it is a not-so-veiled attempt to transfer public lands to states, a precursor to selling them to private interests. Recently, Trump’s Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitted that the intent of relocating federal employees was to force them to quit. [Pols emphasis]

It’s entirely possible that the Interior Department under Rifle-born oil and gas lawyer David Bernhardt is stonewalling the release of records related to this move because the records will reveal more overwhelming dissent from Bureau of Land Management employees–whose complaints that the move is intended to weaken the BLM instead of strengthen it are echoed by environmental groups across the country. Sen. Cory Gardner’s initial celebration of this move, which found some knee-jerk support from local boosters, has given way to angry defensiveness from Gardner as it became obvious that this relocation was nothing for anyone except the BLM’s enemies to celebrate.

A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit is not intended to halt the BLM’s move to Grand Junction, of course, but the likely revelations of intense political pressure overcoming the judgment of experts and career public servants will add to the growing political toxicity of a move Sen. Gardner has staked a surprisingly large portion of his case for re-election on.

Whatever happens next, politically speaking the jig is increasingly up. There will be no “BLM bounce” for Cory Gardner–and for America’s Most Vulnerable Senator™, that’s bad news he doesn’t need.


WARNING: Armed Gun Nuts Likely Outside Beto Town Hall

As we reported earlier this week, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who has emerged as a strong advocate for gun control on the campaign trail after a deadly shooting in O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso earlier this summer, will hold a town hall meeting tonight in Aurora. The event is being held inside the Aurora Municipal Center on East Alameda beginning at 5PM. If you’d like to attend you can RSVP here.

We are obliged to inform you, however, that protesters from the state’s hard-right gun rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) are expected to be out in force near the event:

And by out in force, unfortunately, we mean literally out in force:

Even many locals may not realize this since so many public rallies are in the City and County of Denver, but in Colorado open carrying of firearms is generally allowed outside the boundaries of Colorado’s largest city. O’Rourke’s increasingly blunt campaign promises to remove AR-15 and AK-47 type assault weapons from civilian ownership through a mandatory buyback are exactly what Dudley Brown and his “no compromise” gun rights supporters say they fear most, and there is a scenario in which a substantial number of RMGO supporters descend on this town hall openly carrying assault weapons that make them visually indistinguishable from a mass shooter arriving to kill people.

Our purpose here is not to frighten anyone away from tonight’s event. But if you’re going, you do need to be aware of what you may find outside. We of course hope that everyone present, armed and not, conducts themselves “respectfully and responsibly.” But even in the absence of something terrible, and we hope we see in tomorrow’s news that nothing terrible happened, openly carrying assault weapons in a town with Aurora’s history, to intimidate people after this summer of deadly mass shootings across the nation, is a sickening affront all by itself.

Politically, we can only hope it will backfire like most of RMGO’s self-immolating ideas.


Who Will be the Democratic Nominee for President in 2020?

Who fills this spot in 2020?

It’s been way too long since we last asked this question, so let’s skip the formalities and get right to it.

As always, we want to know what you think will happen here — not what you want to happen or who you personally might support. If you had to place a bet on the outcome TODAY, who do you predict will be the Democratic nominee for President in 2020?

We don’t want to take up the entire screen with this one poll, so you’ll have to cast your vote after the jump…



Thursday Open Thread

“The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and these are ignorance, superstition and incompetence.”

–Elbert Hubbard


The Real Reason Republicans Love the Electoral College

Colorado voters will get to decide in 2020 whether or not to remain part of a compact of other states that awards the Presidency of the United States to the winner of the national popular vote. Or, as the Colorado Independent deftly explained, “Colorado will decide by popular vote whether it supports electing presidents by popular vote.”

Proponents of a national popular vote (NPV) believe the current winner-take-all Electoral College system essentially disregards votes for the losing candidate in a Presidential election. Recent history supports this argument. Of the five different elections in which the Presidential candidate who received the most votes was not awarded the keys to the White House, two of them happened in the last twenty years.

“The Electoral College has, at various times, given an advantage to Democrats, Republicans, and the now-defunct Whig Party. Now it gives a clear advantage to Republicans.”

— Vox.com (9/17/19)

Opponents of a national popular vote — including Sen. Cory Gardner, who donated $50,000 to the campaign seeking to repeal the NPV proposal– publicly argue that dismissing the Electoral College would disregard rural voters (nevermind that this is already happening) and would diminish the power of less-populated plots of land (which we call “states”) in determining the most powerful elected position in the country.

Privately, however, Republicans cling to the Electoral College for a much more simplistic reason: Because right now it benefits them bigly.

According to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the setup of the Electoral College significantly increases the odds of an “inversion,” in which one Presidential candidate wins the popular vote but a different candidate wins the office itself. Given the current population makeup of the United States, this is a sizable advantage for a Republican Presidential candidate.

As Vox.com explains:

In modern elections where one party prevails by just 2 points in the two-party popular vote, “inversions are expected in more than 30% of elections.” That number rises to 40 percent in elections with a 1 percentage-point margin.

Republicans, moreover, are far more likely to benefit from an inversion than Democrats. “In the modern period,” the study suggests, “Republicans should be expected to win 65% of Presidential contests in which they narrowly lose the popular vote.”…

…The Electoral College skews elections by giving a structural advantage to small states. Each state receives a number of electoral votes equal to the number of United States House of Representatives members from that state, plus two. These two additional votes effectively triple the voting power of the smallest states, while having only a negligible impact on the voting power of large states.

Republicans today tend to be clustered together in smaller states, so it is to their great advantage to allow boundaries of land – dirt, basically — to determine winners instead of an overall popular vote.




“Recall Polis” Grift Descends To New Depths Of Griftiness

With the campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis now consigned to the dustbin of history, we’ve been following developments surrounding the roughly $100,000 raised by the “Official” Recall Jared Polis committee–which readers will recall is the committee that decided not to launch a recall attempt without the huge financial and volunteer commitment that would be necessary and condemned the “Dismiss Polis” campaign for moving ahead without the resources to succeed. Earlier this month, we took note of a large transfer of funds from the “Official” Polis Recall committee to a committee named “Colorado For Trump,” and took that as a sign that their operations were winding down.

But as 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark reports in the video above, that’s not where this sorry story ends:

You read that correctly: “Colorado For Trump” is not affiliated with the Trump campaign whatsoever, and is in fact run by the same Juli-Andra Fuentes who ran the “Official” Recall Polis committee. The Trump campaign is threatening legal action, and now Fuentes is talking about all kinds of alternative destinations for the committee’s remaining cash:

Of course Scott Gessler gets some of the money! Gessler attaching himself to the revenue stream of this summer’s failed recall attempts has got to be one of the most under-reported angles on the whole story and we hope somebody catches up with him for a few questions. As for the rest of the cash, this boils down to a hard lesson in the pitfalls of political giving–in particular giving to PACs and other entities without a clear purpose and accountability for the monies raised.

This is a campaign that literally had donors pledging their disability and Social Security checks to make donations in their misguided low-information fervor to bring Gov. Polis down. To see that money now slushing around in the hands of obviously marginal people with no sense of responsibility to the donors they spent months fleecing is…well, it ought to be a crime. The only reason it may not be is because the “ScamPAC” industry pays the mortgages of a lot of people in politics. Like Scott Gessler.

When does it stop being a political campaign and just become a fraud? This situation is pushing the boundary.


The Get More Smarter Podcast: Episode 9

This week: Cory Gardner is very sad, a celebration of saying nothing, one more recall to spell out, a fundraiser mystery (sort of) in Aspen, a clever chess move in a Denver primary race, and thinning out the Democratic Senate primary! With Ian Silverii on vacation, host Jason Bane trots Progress Now Colorado political director Alan Franklin out of his mom’s basement to fill in. A full transcript follows after the jump.

The Get More Smarter Podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts, Buzzcloud, Spotify, and Overcast. You can also follow the Podcast on Twitter @MoreSmarterShow. Thanks for listening!



Wednesday Open Thread

“The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”

–Sydney J. Harris


Get More Smarter on Tuesday (September 17)

Today is Constitution Day, which is apparently a thing; please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us Facebook and Twitter.


► Former President Teddy Roosevelt was known for his “big stick diplomacy” when it came to foreign policy. Surely you remember the quotation: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

President Trump’s philosophy is a little different; it’s more like, “Yell loudly and make occasional references to the size of your stick.” As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump has said Iran is the greatest threat in the Middle East, a would-be nuclear power that he has brought low through the stiffest sanctions ever applied to a single nation. He has warned that the United States is “locked and loaded” to punish Iran if it is found to be responsible for the attack on Saudi oil facilities over the weekend.

But Trump has also eagerly courted a sit-down negotiation with the leader of Iran, called off a military strike earlier this year because it could have killed too many Iranians and flirted with a plan to offer Tehran a $15 billion lifeline to help it deal with the crushing U.S. sanctions.

On Monday in the Oval Office, Trump told reporters “we don’t want war with anybody” and then less than an hour later said he thinks a U.S. military strike on an Iranian oil facility would be a proportional response.

On Tuesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader appeared to rule out direct negotiations with the United States. From a separate Washington Post story:

U.S. officials rejected claims by Houthi rebels in Yemen, who receive Iranian support, that they had launched the strikes Saturday. The officials described the attacks as more sophisticated and powerful than anything the rebels could accomplish on their own.

But neither Trump nor Saudi leaders would say unequivocally that Iran was responsible…

…Trump’s reluctance to assign blame appeared to reflect his long-standing desire to keep the United States out of wars, despite his tweet Sunday that the United States was “locked and loaded depending on verification.”

“I’m not looking to get into new conflict, but sometimes you have to,” Trump said Monday.

Trump did not rule out a military response but made clear that the Saudis would take the lead — and pay the bill.

Oh, good. The Saudis will pay the bill — just as soon as the check clears from Mexico to pay for a border wall.


 Former Trump campaign manager and aspiring U.S. Senate candidate Corey Lewandowski is testifying today before the House Judiciary Committee. According to a report from Reuters, Lewandowski was “excited” to be able to defend Trump in a public setting. With any luck, Colorado Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) will again unintentionally create new problems for the White House.


►  It’s Election Day (again) in Israel today. Vox.com considers the possibility that longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might lose his job.


► Congressman — and State Republican Party Chairman — Ken Buck knows how to spell “recall.” He’s still working on the spelling of “leadership.”


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


Beto Bringing F-Bombin’ Straight Talk To Aurora Thursday

Beto O’Rourke (D).

A quick note from CBS4 Denver, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is coming to Aurora later this week for a town hall focused on reducing gun violence–an  issue O’Rourke has taken a commanding lead on since the recent mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, breathing some renewed life into what was a flagging campaign:

On the heels of his Democratic debate appearance, presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke will hold a town hall in Aurora Thursday. He’ll listen to community members about the impact of gun violence.

O’Rourke has repeatedly called for immediate action on gun control. One of his proposed plans is a mandatory assault weapon buyback program. He’ll be introduced by Colorado State Representative Tom Sullivan, who lost his son in the 2012 Aurora Theater Shooting.

Though we can’t say much for poll movement, O’Rourke is getting a lot of moral credit in the past few weeks for nudging the “Overton window” on guns toward greater protection–with his unapologetic call for an Australia-style mandatory assault weapons buyback to meaningfully reduce the number of such weapons in civilian circulation. That’s well to the left of the “mainstream” Democratic Party platform, which calls for the reinstatement of the 1994 assault weapons sales ban. But gun safety advocates tell us it’s a refreshing shot of courage that could help make something like a renewed assault weapons ban a reality.

And of course, to the gun lobby Beto is now the second coming of [insert historical bogeyman here].

Love him or hate him, Thursday Colorado gets our chance to see Beto in action.


This is What Elected Officials Are Supposed to Do

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) held his 100th “Government in the Grocery” event last weekend.

We all get tired of negative news, even if we recognize that the negative aspect of a story might be what makes that story relevant in the first place. Media outlets report on airplane crashes but never list out every flight that landed safely in a given day. “Dog Bites Man” is not a newsworthy headline because it’s not unique, but “Man Bites Dog” will get your attention every time.

It is for similar reasons that we often discuss the inexplicable inaccessibility of Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who can be easily located in cardboard form but can be almost impossible to find in real life. It is not normal — nor should it be — for an elected official to be so completely disconnected from his or her constituents. To quote Kyle Clark of 9News:”Citizens shouldn’t have to be detectives to meet with their representatives.”

Or, to put it another way, Sen. Gardner is the “Bizarro” version of Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County).

Perlmutter was first elected in CO-7 in 2006 and hasn’t lost a re-election contest ever since. In fact, Perlmutter has won every one of his re-election bids by at least a double-digit margin. There are many reasons for Perlmutter’s success, but at the top of the list is a very simple explanation: Constituent services. Perlmutter makes it easy for his constituents to find him and goes out of his way to provide assistance — which is exactly what you should expect from your elected official.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter holds a “Government in the Grocery” event in 2007.

Over the weekend, Perlmutter reached a milestone by holding his 100th “Government in the Grocery” event, in which he sets up a table at a grocery store in the district so that constituents can talk to their Congressman directly. From a press release:

Perlmutter started the Government in the Grocery program when he first took office in 2007 in order to better hear from constituents and meet them in their local community. The first Government in the Grocery was held on January 27, 2007 in Wheat Ridge. Perlmutter holds these events on a regular basis at different grocery stores in cities across the 7th Congressional District and meets with constituents one-on-one about whatever is on their mind.

“I believe being accessible and engaging often with constituents is essential to the fabric of our democracy,” said Perlmutter. “The Government in the Grocery program is an easy and convenient way for constituents to share their concerns, ideas and questions and, in turn, makes me a better representative.”

Congratulations, and kudos, to Congressman Perlmutter.


Ken Buck’s “Spell R-E-C-A-L-L” Speech Bites Back Hard

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R).

The Denver Post’s Anna Staver wrote an excellent post-mortem of the Colorado Republican Party’s failed summer of recalls this past weekend, and here’s how it starts:

When Congressman Ken Buck took the reins of the Colorado Republican Party in March, he stood on the stage in Englewood High School’s auditorium and told the party faithful they were going to teach Democrats “how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L.”

The room erupted in applause…

[I]n the nearly six months since that fiery speech in the high school auditorium, conservatives have tried to recall five Democratic lawmakers and the governor. Four of those campaigns failed to gather enough signatures to put a recall election on the ballot, one recall target resigned for unrelated reasons, and the attempt to remove Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, is ongoing. His opponents have until Oct. 18 to turn in their petitions.

“I think the recall process has done what it was supposed to do,” said former GOP chair Dick Wadhams. “It provided an outlet for Republicans. … Were they politically smart? I think it’s a resounding no.”

As the Republican recall threats that dominated the end of the 2019 session of the Colorado General Assembly have collapsed under their own weight in the last two weeks, Rep. Ken Buck’s speech in late March before the GOP state convention committing the party to support for recalls against Democratic lawmakers with dramatic flair has emerged as a symbol of the party’s incompetent reaction to massive defeat in the 2018 elections. Moderate GOP columnist Mario Nicolais writes in the Colorado Sun:

Rep. Ken Buck took the reins of the Colorado Republican Party promising to “teach [Democrats] how to spell r-e-c-a-l-l.” Vice Chair Kristi Burton Brown initiated the recall against state Sen. Tom Sullivan. Former state House candidate Nancy Pallozzi targeted her historical nemesis state Sen. Brittany Pettersen.

Heading into a critical 2020 election year, the Colorado Republicans spent the past six months demonstrating an ineffectual ground game and undermining their own credibility. That doesn’t bode well for President Trump’s reelection efforts or Sen. Cory Gardner’s slim hope of hanging onto the seat he narrowly won in 2014.

Mike Littwin of the Colorado Independent:

When the effort to recall state Rep. Tom Sullivan failed just as spectacularly as the recall-Polis movement, I asked whether the Colorado GOP knew enough to be embarrassed. I think we have now answered that question. The attempt to recall Polis may not have been an official GOP project, but it’s close enough. Marianne Goodland of Colorado Politics reports that groups aligned with House Minority Leader Patrick Neville donated $10,000 to the effort.

And remember Ken Buck’s speech when he was elected GOP state chair last March, promising Democrats would need to learn how to spell r-e-c-a-l-l in the coming months? We remember Sen. Cory Gardner standing on the stage in support of Buck.

Jim Spehar in the Grand Junction Sentinel:

The correct spelling is in the headline. Your dictionary (for those of a certain age) or spell-check (for those who don’t remember or never used that heavy old bound Webster’s) will confirm it. The alternative spelling, at least for disgruntled conservatives and Colorado Republicans, is F-A-I-L.

My GOP friends need to forward that alternative spelling to their state party chair. It was Ken Buck, whose day job is representing Colorado’s 4th congressional district, who pledged at the party’s last state convention that “we’re going to teach them (Democrats) how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L.” To applause, it’s worth noting, from the only two remaining Republicans officeholders elected statewide, Sen. Cory Gardner and University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl.

Republican sources tell us that there is a fierce intraparty debate underway today on both sides of “recall season” as to how seriously Rep. Buck’s absentee leadership of the Colorado GOP contributed to the failures. On the one hand, Buck certainly could have (and in retrospect should have) intervened in the filing of the doomed recall petition against Rep. Tom Sullivan, the failure of which effectively stymied any momentum Republicans had coming out of the legislative session. On the other hand, Buck is widely rumored to have discouraged the Polis recall behind the scenes, helping further alienate the party’s radical wing after paying them lip service.

Perhaps most telling in all of this is that Staver reports Rep. Buck couldn’t be reached for comment on how the spelling lesson ended up! At this point, that’s probably Buck’s best option. Comparing the rhetoric to the outcome of the now-faceplanted “summer of recalls” is an embarrassment to more than Ken Buck, but there’s only one chairman.

Perhaps it’s time to hang up both hats.


Yet Another Democrat Running for U.S. Senate

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper is a tough act to follow as a Senate candidate.

Last week Democrats John Walsh and Dan Baer separately announced that they were ending their campaigns for U.S. Senate and endorsing former Gov. John Hickenlooper for the Democratic nomination in 2020. This all seemed inevitable once Hickenlooper walked through a very open door to join the field last month; all available information since that moment supports the idea of Hick as an overwhelming frontrunner for the Democratic nomination to take on Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

But as Anna Staver reports for the Denver Post, hope (or something) rings eternal in politics:

Denise Burgess, who serves on the board of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, is announcing her entry into the race Monday morning, taking the number of candidates back up to 10.

“Me running for U.S. Senate wasn’t about anyone else,” Burgess said when asked about the timing of her decision. “You don’t become a successful woman in construction by letting someone else determining your fate.”

Burgess is a second-generation Coloradan who worked with her father to grow the family’s heating and air conditioning business into a nationwide construction management firm, Burgess Services Inc. Her company has worked on the City and County of Denver Justice Center and the Westin Hotel at Denver International Airport.

That Burgess is running for Senate isn’t a total shock in one regard; we heard a rumor last Spring that Burgess was considering a Senate bid, but that whisper vanished as quickly as it emerged and we just wrote it down to typical off-year political speculation. If it is true that Burgess has been considering this decision for some time and waited until now to make it official — well, lets just say she’s getting some terrible advice.

Burgess has an impressive resume in the Denver business community, but she’s virtually unknown among potential voters and Democratic activists. It would have been a stretch for Burgess to start a statewide campaign four months ago when the field was very much unsettled; now she’ll also have to find a way around Hickenlooper, arguably the single most identifiable political name in Colorado at the moment.

Burgess tells the Post that she is planning to make the June Primary ballot via the petition process, which is about the only part of her Senate announcement that makes any sort of strategic sense whatsoever.


“Dismiss Polis” Turns To Next Existential Threat: Vaccines!

The social media groups for the now-defeated recall attempt against Gov. Jared Polis have been fairly quiet in the week since the effort met its ignominious end–which makes sense since when one suffers a humiliating defeat that should rightly make one question the last six months of their lives’ work at least, if not much larger and more basic questions about their worldview, it’s probably a good idea to look at the floor and think about things for awhile quietly.

But of course the world is never rid of bogeymen, especially when you see them everywhere–and in the “Dismiss Polis” Facebook group, they’ve already moved on to the next crisis:

Back in June, Gov. Polis announced an executive order aiming to improve the state of Colorado’s last-in-the-nation ranking for kindergarten immunizations, with a number of limited steps directing the state Department of Public Health and Environment to look at the problem and standardize the process for requesting exemptions under the law. This order came after Polis controversially opposed a substantially stronger bill from Rep. Kyle Mullica (D) to require vaccine exemption requests to be filed in person. We haven’t seen it confirmed, but it’s reasonable to speculate that this position posting is either related to that executive order or is simply an existing position at CDPHE being turned over.

Either way, Gov. Polis is in no way part of any kind of “crackdown” on child immunizations–to the extent that he took a lot of criticism in the last session for opposing Rep. Mullica’s legislation. How do you get from that reality to sounding the alarm on the Polis recall internets over “immunization compliance inspectors?”

It’s easy if you’re already unhinged.


Monday Open Thread

“You can wipe out your opponents. But if you do it unjustly you become eligible for being wiped out yourself.”

–Ernest Hemingway


John Bolton Loves Him Some Cory Gardner…?

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

A sidenote worth noting following last week’s news of the firing/resignation of National Security Adviser John “Bomb Errybody” Bolton, as reported by Vanity Fair et al:

When he left the White House earlier this week, John Bolton did not thank the president for the high privilege of serving the country, as other ejectees had before him. Instead, after Donald Trump tweeted that he had fired the national security adviser on Monday night, Bolton contradicted the president, saying that he’d offered to quit first. And after Trump went on a prolonged rant about how he, the president, was stronger than “Mr. Tough Guy,” Bolton announced that he was getting back into the political arena, rebooting his PAC and Super PAC and throwing money at candidates who disagreed with a certain someone’s national security policies.

“The John Bolton PAC and John Bolton Super PAC seek a strong, clear, and dependable U.S. national security policy, resting on constancy and resolve,” Bolton said in a press release issued Friday. “The experience that these incumbent members of Congress have provides them with a remarkable understanding and knowledge of the threats we face from international terrorism and rogue regimes such as Iran and North Korea.”

…While Trump and Bolton’s dramatic, ego-driven breakup seems inevitable in hindsight, it’s unclear whether Bolton has the leverage to truly strike back against Trump, other than through chest-thumping. The five recipients of Bolton’s donations—Tom Cotton, Cory Gardner, [Pols emphasis] Thom Tillis, Adam Kinzinger, and Lee Zeldin, all former recipients of Bolton PAC money—share his hawkish stance on foreign policy, but should Trump’s differences with Bolton become a matter of doctrine for his rabid base, taking the former national security adviser’s money could become a black mark on right wing résumés. [Pols emphasis]

So first of all, we have to call out the major mistake of Sen. Cory Gardner’s views on North Korea characterized as in meaningful disagreement with President Donald Trump, since Gardner’s statements on North Korea have blown with the wind during the last couple of years of on-again off-again detente with the “Hermit Kingdom” under the current president. Far from challenging Trump over his erratic and concession-free engagement with North Korea, Gardner has been forced to both repeatedly praise Trump while simultaneously maintaining the fiction that the Trump administration’s policy toward North Korea reflects the “maximum pressure” Gardner insists is needed.

With most of the world breathing a sigh of relief now that Bolton’s belligerent brand of foreign policy no longer has Trump’s ear, it’s tough to imagine who this endorsement would motivate to support Gardner. Trump’s base is hearing a negative message about Bolton, and that’s still Gardner’s base, too. And as far as voters who don’t like Trump are concerned, how many of them want to be on John Bolton’s side of anything?

Either way, Gardner’s infamously petty and vengeful President is a hot potato he has struggled mightily to juggle ever since calling for Trump to pull out of the presidential race in October of 2016. Trying to stay alive politically in a state turning bluer every election while holding his conservative Trump-loving base together, the last thing Gardner needs is for all those glowing Trump Tweets he regularly receives to turn into…the other kind of Trump Tweets.


DeGette Nabs Notable Endorsement

Rep. Diana DeGette (left) and Crisanta Duran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allegations surfaced this year about misspent union funds.

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

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

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