2023 State of the Union Open Thread

CNN reports, the law has been allegedly laid down:

Ahead of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy warned members during a closed-door meeting to behave themselves, reminding them that the “mics are hot” and the “cameras are on,” according to a source in the room.

House GOP conference chair Elise Stefanik issued a similar warning.

Tonight, President Joe Biden is expected to take a victory lap after a historically productive first two years in office, punctuated by the best midterm performance by a sitting President’s party in two decades. Republicans in narrow control of the House are unlikely to see things so positively, of course, necessitating Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s warning to be on their best behavior. Will Rep. Lauren Boebert make it through tonight’s address without a spectacle? We’ll be watching to see how Boebert’s ongoing feud with fellow controversy magnet Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene impacts their willingness/ability to make a scene like they did last year.

Catch the address live below, and watch this space for updates and antics:

The Circle of Strife: What Does “Winning” Really Mean?

[Pols Note: This is Part 3 of a three-part series. Click for Part 1 and Part 2]

Take a look at this headline from POLITICO and see if it seems familiar:

The story that goes with the headline is about Arizona, but it could apply equally to Colorado.

In Arizona, Republicans are rushing to censure each other for all matter of grievances — real and perceived — from the 2022 election cycle. The same thing has happened in Colorado: The El Paso County Republican Party voted to censure a bunch of Republicans on the weekend before Election Day, and the State Republican Party responded a few weeks later by censuring the El Paso County Republicans who did the earlier censuring.

Best in years? Gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl and Senate candidate Joe O’Dea lost their 2022 races by a combined 33 points.

Republicans in Arizona insist that they had strong candidates in 2022. One GOP strategist told POLITICO that gubernatorial loser Kari Lake was “the best candidate in anyone’s lifetime.” Following significant losses in Colorado last November, both State Party Chairperson Kristi Burton Brown (KBB) and former State Party Chairperson Dick Wadhams told reporters something very similar; they claimed that Colorado Republicans in 2022 had the best slate of candidates the GOP has seen in years. That’s an ominous takeaway when all of those top-ticket candidates were crushed at the polls by their Democratic opponents.

In Arizona, the outgoing State Republican Party Chair (Kelli Ward) recently told a gathering of Republicans that, “Things at the party are going great.” In Colorado, this is one message that Republicans don’t seem to be willing or able to repeat.

As Colorado Republicans prepare to elect a new State Party Chairperson next month, they are grappling with many of the same problems as their counterparts in Arizona. As Kyle Clark of 9News recently summarized on the Get More Smarter Podcast:

I think the broader question for Colorado Republicans is, ‘Do you want to win?’ I think, for a lot of them, the answer is ‘no’.

[Their answer is that] I want to stand for what I believe in and I want to influence the policy debate in that direction. I’m not interested in putting up centrists. I’m interested in putting up people who reflect my views, even if they lose. And you know what, it’s their party. They get to do what they want. 

This quote also fits perfectly in any discussion about the next State Party Chair. While other candidates could emerge between now and March 11, the current field of challengers  include Casper Stockham, Erik Aadland, and Aaron Wood. Former State Senate candidate Stephen Varela had made noise about a potential campaign but seems to have backed away since winning a vacancy committee appointment to serve on the State Board of Education.

Perhaps Stockham, Aadland, or Wood will prove to have the leadership chops to right the sinking Colorado Republican ship…but their resumes do not inspire confidence. Stockham ran for State Party Chair in 2021 and lost, an effort that followed consecutive defeats as a candidate in CO-01 and CO-07 (Stockham was also a candidate in CO-06 for a time). Aadland was an unknown candidate when he ran for the Republican Senate nomination in 2021 before switching his candidacy to CO-07; he lost to Democrat Brittany Pettersen by 15 points. Wood is an activist who founded the organization (or perhaps just a website) called the “Save Colorado Project“; he was involved in the infamous “Boot Barn” protest in late November in which GOP leadership was derided as “whores” and “asswipes.

Stockham, Aadland, and Wood may not be the most, um, exciting candidates for State Party Chair, but the bar for success in 2024 is pretty damn low. Take a look at how recent GOP leaders have fared in the charts below:



Any one of the current crop of State Party Chairperson candidates could reasonably tell GOP activists that they will have more success than their predecessors. Of course, you could also argue that Republicans would improve under the leadership of a block of cheese. Things have gotten THAT bad for the GOP.

This will also be the fourth consecutive cycle in which the previous State Party Chairperson chose not to run for re-election. Nobody has even tried to get re-elected since Steve House defeated Ryan Call in 2015. Colorado Republicans had their last real taste of success in Call’s final term in 2014; oddly enough, Call would go on to face accusations of “misappropriating” hundreds of thousands of dollars from a pro-Donald Trump SuperPAC.

Some, if not all, of the GOP candidates for State Chair will argue that the best way forward for Republicans is to move further to the right. There are a good number of people in the GOP base who will agree with that sentiment. Thus the March 11 election for State Party Chair might be less about personalities and more about deciding the most popular definition of “winning.”

Whack Week: Crazy Republican Bills On Deck To Die

Freshman Rep. Ken “Skin” DeGraaf (R).

We’re almost a month into the 2023 session of the Colorado General Assembly, and the calendar this week turns to a number of bills introduced by the Republican micro-minority that won’t survive past their first committee hearing–but tell us a great deal about what Colorado Republicans would do with legislative power in this state if they possessed any.

The fun begins today at 1:30PM in the House State, Civic, Military, & Veterans Affairs Committee, affectionately known as the “kill committee” for its longstanding role as the circular file where bills required by law to have their hearing before being mercifully put down get their moment of glory. Starting with Rep. Ken “Skin” DeGraaf–we didn’t invent this nickname and we’re not sure we want to know how he earned it–who used one of his five allotted bills in 2023 on something called the Second Amendment Preservation Act:

The bill states that any federal act, law, executive order, administrative order, rule, and regulation (federal laws) that is, or accomplishes, any of the following is an infringement on the right to bear arms in Colorado:

A tax, levy, fee, or stamp not common to all other goods and services that is imposed on a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition and that might reasonably be expected to create a “chilling effect” on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens;
Any registration or tracking of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition;
Any registration or tracking of the ownership of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition;
A prohibition on the possession, ownership, use, or transfer of a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition by law-abiding citizens; and
Any order to confiscate firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition from law-abiding citizens.

You see, folks, in order to protect your federal Second Amendment rights, Rep. “Skin” says we need to nullify all other federal gun laws! The language is broad enough to theoretically include nullification of very basic gun safety protections like federal background checks, not to mention any forthcoming federal gun control legislation like an assault weapons ban. This bill along with a new version of the perennial attempt to expand the state’s controversial “Make My Day” law to include business will both go down today/tonight after the gun nuts make an as-yet-to-be-determined spectacle.

Then hold your breath for tomorrow’s hearing of the House Health & Insurance Committee! We mean it:

Freshman GOP Rep. Scott “There Is No” Bottoms.

Because on Tuesday afternoon, “anti-vaxxer” activists are set to flood the Capitol to take on the nonexistent problem of children being, as former Sen. Laura Waters-Woods explained some years ago about different vaccines, “rounded up and vaccinated.” The problem with this bill is simple: parental consent is already required for vaccinations in Colorado. The only real change this bill makes is to allow individuals to sue Texas abortion ban-style in the event the law is violated.

Rounding out the week of Republican DOA legislation on Thursday are bills that would delay the implementation of the voter-approved FAMLI paid family and medical leave program because socialism is bad, and then slash the state’s income tax by over a billion dollars with no plan to replace the revenue. And finally, there’s House Bill 23-1127 in the House Energy & Environment Committee, “Customer’s Right To Use Energy,” ending local government power to restrict natural gas in new construction–in 180-degree opposition to the state’s climate reduction strategy that depends in part on full electrification of new residential and commercial construction.

Under the voter-approved GAVEL Amendment passed in 1988, every bill introduced in the Colorado General Assembly is required to receive a fair hearing and a vote. There are no doubt plenty of Republicans who, aware of the damage these bills cause to public perception as well as their futility in a legislature dominated by the opposing party, would be fine with these bills quietly dying with no public exposure.

But that’s not how we do it in Colorado. Every cringeworthy “message bill” gets its fifteen minutes of fame.

Kyle Clark Gets More Smarter on the GMS Podcast

This week on the Get More Smarter Podcast, 9News anchor/reporter/producer Kyle Clark (“Next With Kyle Clark”) joins the podcast to talk about how to cover a jam-packed Denver Mayoral race; calling a lie a lie (and a liar a liar); and the disservice that journalists do for a community when they “both sides” a story into oblivion.

Later, your hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii discuss the amazing ability of Republican Rep. Scott “There is No” Bottoms to find new (and old) ways to cripple the State GOP; and we dive into another segment of “What the Buck?!” as Republican Congressman Ken Buck manages once again to take every position possible within a matter of days.

Listen to previous episodes of The Get More Smarter Podcast at GetMoreSmarter.com.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Let us have it at AngryRants@getmoresmarter.com. Or send emails to jason@getmoresmarter.com or ian@getmoresmarter.com.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher |

The Circle of Strife: Republicans Set Sail in Separate Leaky Boats

MONDAY UPDATE: Republicans in Jefferson County are having their own set of problems, as this Facebook post explains:


UPDATE: Going great!


[Pols Note: This is Part Two of a three-part series]

Oh Captains, My Captains!

In part one of “The Circle of Strife,” we covered the ongoing feud between the El Paso County Republican Party and the State Republican Party. On Tuesday evening, the State GOP voted by a 139-123.8 margin (yes, 123.8) to allow a neutral group of observers to oversee the Feb. 11 election for new officers in El Paso County. The reason for this unprecedented vote is because of concerns that two-term El Paso Chair Vickie Tonkins (who is also seeking re-election) is trying to rig the election in her favor. 

This is not a new accusation – similar charges were made when Tonkins was re-elected in 2021 – but the El Paso GOP is so mad about being bigfooted by its statewide siblings that it filed a lawsuit against the State Party to stop the influence of a “neutral group of observers.” Meanwhile, accusations of election interference are also being made in Adams County regarding Chairperson JoAnn Windholz

While these battles are fascinating on their own, they are also part of a longer trend for Colorado Republicans that goes back more than a decade. It isn’t the GOP’s neverending circular firing squad that is solely responsible for recent election losses; but when you understand the history of these conflicts, it’s easy to wonder how Republicans even have the time or energy to worry about Democrats.

The timeline we reconstructed below begins in January 2019, but Republican leadership problems go much further back. For instance, the “Coffmangate” scandal of 2015 was as wild and ridiculous as anything Colorado Republicans have done since. The short version of “Coffmangate” is that a handful of powerful Republicans – including then-Attorney General Cynthia Coffman – attempted to overthrow State Republican Party Chair Steve House just three months after his election to the post. The scandal included some pretty believable stories of blackmail, which made it national news throughout the summer of 2015.

January 2019 was a pivotal time for the State Republican Party. The 2018 election had been devastating to Republicans both because of the results and because of the shattering of expectations that had grown after Donald Trump’s Presidential election in 2016. Democrat Jared Polis trounced Republican Walker Stapleton in the race for Governor by nearly 11 points; Democrats won all four statewide constitutional offices for the first time in modern history; Republicans lost six seats in the state legislature; and Democratic newcomer Jason Crow ousted longtime Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in CO-06 by an 11-point margin.

The 2022 election was dubbed by one Republican as “an extinction-level event.”

Then-State GOP Chair Jeff Hays was wrapping up a disappointing two-year term by promising not to seek re-election. Colorado Republicans SHOULD have been introspective about their 2018 performance and looking to chart a different path forward ahead of the 2020 election cycle, where they would be trying to re-elect the last remaining well-known Republican in Colorado (Sen. Cory Gardner). Instead, the GOP went with a new leader who only worked at the job of Chair when he had time away from his regular job of serving in Congress. Naturally, a part-time effort generated half-assed results. 

In May 2020, we chronicled Rep. Ken Buck’s disastrous first year as State Chair. In that same spirit, here’s a broader timeline of the many, many, many Republican missteps that brought them to their current “Circle of Strife.” 

As you’ll see below, there is one consistent commonality among all of the personalities involved with the Colorado Republican Party: Regret, rinse, and repeat. Republican leaders keep making the same mistakes by appealing to the right-wing for short-term gains and then finding themselves flummoxed when that same group creates a whole new batch of problems.



Please Don’t Tell Kevin McCarthy How Ken Buck Really Feels

Rep. Ken Buck identifies the caster of the “stupidest vote in the world.”

We wrote earlier this week about Rep. Ken Buck’s opposition to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s decision to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee–a move that required a vote of the full House due to that committee’s importance. After earning some plaudits for pushing back on what’s widely considered to be tit-for-tat retaliation for the removal by Democrats of arguably much more deserving Republicans from their committee spots in the previous Congress, as NPR reported yesterday, Rep. Buck relented after a “conversation” with McCarthy about supposedly making it harder to do this in the future:

Some Republicans have been calling for Omar’s removal from the committee for years. But others voiced concerns about due process this week, and with a razor-thin Republican majority, it wasn’t clear that the resolution had enough votes to pass.

Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., supported the move only after language was added allowing members to appeal their removal to the House Ethics Committee. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., dropped his opposition after a conversation with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy Wednesday, in which Buck proposed future removals be handled by a majority vote in the evenly split Ethics Committee.

“He committed to the process of getting something like that done,” Buck said Wednesday, adding that Congress needs to “stop this nonsense of kicking people off committees because it’s just wrong.”

Buck’s complaints that “kicking people off committees” is bad practice apparently didn’t apply to Rep. Omar, at least not enough for her to be anything more than a bargaining chip for this seemingly meager concession to apply in future circumstances. The lack of any real concession from McCarthy has led to speculation that Buck may have received some other reward for ending his opposition. Either way, as Roll Call’s Rachel Oswald scooped yesterday, Buck’s two-faced grumbling about the situation didn’t end with his cave-in to McCarthy:

Following the vote, House Foreign Affairs member Ken Buck, R-Colo., was overheard in an elevator calling it the “stupidest vote in the world.” [Pols emphasis] Fellow Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, agreed and added that all it does is make Omar a “martyr.” They both also agreed that it was simply a retaliatory vote in response to Democrats removing certain Republicans from committees in the 117th Congress.

Buck and Simpson urged fellow passengers in the elevator to not let leadership know their thoughts.

That request was not honored, and Rep. Buck’s disingenuousness is on full display–right after voting “yes” on what Buck himself describes as the “stupidest vote in the world.” If that is how Buck felt about voting to remove Rep. Omar from her committee assignment, he should have stuck to his principles and voted against it.

The lesson here must inevitably be that Buck has no principles. Or at least…principles that can be swamped.

Militiaman Mayor For Colorado Springs, Anyone?

UPDATE: We’re still waiting to hear if John Tiegen is even eligible to run for Mayor of Colorado Springs given that he openly admits to voting in Pueblo County in November 2022. Tiegen claims he’s a victim rather than just an idiot:


As you can read in the replies to the tweet above, Tiegen seems completely oblivious to the problem here.


John Tiegen (center) and his United American Defense Force (UADF).

Colorado Springs Mayor candidate John Tiegen.

As the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Mary Shinn reported last week, the race for Mayor of our state’s most conservative large city, which like Denver’s upcoming mayoral race features a long list of variably qualified candidates, is being shaken up by the entry of the only candidate for office we know of in Colorado with an armed combat force at his personal command:

The founder of a local militia group, John “Tig” Tiegen, jumped into the crowded race for Colorado Springs mayor this week.

Tiegen is one of 12 vying to replace Mayor John Suthers, who is term-limited and cannot run again. He is facing off against some well-known names, such as City Councilman and former Secretary of State Wayne Williams and former City Councilwoman Sallie Clark, El Paso County Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez and businessman Yemi Mobolade…

Tiegen fought to repel the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and collaborated with other security team members and author Mitchell Zuckoff for the book “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi.”

In recent years, he founded the United American Defense Force, a group that pledged to stand up to mobs causing mayhem. It also promises to stand up to human trafficking.

A year ago, Colorado Newsline’s Chase Woodruff reported on Tiegen’s expressed worry that a civil war was imminent unless conservatives were victorious in the 2022 elections:

“I see a war coming, if we don’t stand together,” Tiegen said. “And trust me, you don’t want to see it. A lot of veterans — I’ve seen it — there are some veterans that pray for it here in the U.S., which is stupid.”

The UADF, founded by Tiegen in the wake of nationwide 2020 protests over police violence, bills itself as a “humanitarian aid organization” with a “parallel mission” of armed defense. Tiegen regularly posted images of group members training and posing with firearms before his social media accounts were eventually suspended late last year.

Tiegen and the UADF organized the October 2020 “Patriot Muster” rally in downtown Denver, which turned deadly when a man was fatally shot by a security guard employed by a local news station.

As might be expected from the commander of election conspiracy theorist and founder of FEC United Joe Oltmann’s armed militia unit, Tiegen also believes neither the 2020 presidential election nor the 2022 gubernatorial election in Arizona were legitimately decided. And that presents the question: if you don’t believe that American elections are legitimate, why run for office at all? Is running for office against a large slate of better-known conservative candidates just a stunt to energize Tiegen’s militiaman side hustle?

We’ll all find out together when it’s time for Tiegen to concede.

Boebert Tells Us How She Really Feels About January 6th

As NBC News reports, the first hearing of the GOP-controlled U.S. House Natural Resources Committee took place yesterday, where the first order of business was an amendment to the committee rules aimed squarely at GOP outrage magnet Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado. Readers will recall that in 2021, then-freshman Rep. Boebert raised eyebrows over a comically awkward stack of guns propped up behind her for a remote meeting of the same committee. 2023’s in-person session kicked off with a similar Boebert-centric spectacle:

The House Natural Resources Committee’s first meeting of the year turned heated Wednesday when a Democratic member offered an amendment that would prohibit lawmakers from carrying guns in its hearing room.

The amendment failed, but not before Boebert had a characteristic moment of pique. After all, she’s the representative who promised to “carry her Glock to Congress.”

“With threats against members of Congress at an all-time high, now is not the time to be stripping members of our constitutional right to defend ourselves,” Boebert said before she recounted several incidents of violence in the Capitol and against lawmakers over the years…

A list that contained one telling omission:

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., who recently launched a Senate bid, noted Wednesday that Boebert’s list of incidents against lawmakers omitted the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

Omitted as readers know due to Boebert’s personal role in the events of January 6th, 2021, exhorting her followers on social media that “Today is 1776” and cheering on the rioters outside the capitol in a floor speech just moments before they stormed the building. Yesterday, thanks to Rep. Ruben Gallego, Boebert had a perfect opportunity to redeem herself and repudiate the political violence of January 6, 2021 once and for all.

You already know that didn’t happen.

“Yes, it was awful when Ashli Babbitt was murdered,” Boebert snapped back, [Pols emphasis] referring to a rioter who was shot by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to get through a door leading to where members of Congress were being evacuated.

“And you don’t care about the 100 police officers” who were injured in the attack, Gallego replied.

Boebert went on to explain that the real problem on January 6th is that she wasn’t allowed to carry her weapon at the Capitol, which is very odd indeed since the rioters who stormed the Capitol were on Boebert’s side, and presumably wouldn’t have targeted her in any way. In every other respect Boebert simply effaces the violence on January 6th by focusing exclusively on the death of one of the rioters–killed while ostensibly trying to defend Boebert–instead of the riot itself. It’s reasonable to conclude from this that Boebert believes Ashli Babbitt’s death is the only bad thing that happened on January 6th.

That’s probably not what Boebert will say when asked with any preparation.

But it’s in moments of confrontation like these when how one really feels slips out.

The Circle of Strife: Republicans Lose Control of Own Elections

[Pols Note: This is Part One of a three-part series]

“We were told we should be put in front of a firing squad and shot. We are no longer safe at [El Paso County GOP] meetings.”

 — A group of El Paso County Republicans in a letter to the State Republican Party (via Quentin Young)

The Colorado Republican Party is still reeling from devastating election defeats in 2022 that one prominent Republican called “an extinction-level event.” Instead of trying to figure out what went wrong, Colorado Republicans are spending the majority of their time and effort fighting each other and tossing around threats of physical violence.

As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, Colorado Republicans on Tuesday evening took another unprecedented step in an effort to deal with their own dysfunction:

The Colorado Republican Party voted late Tuesday to install a neutral group of outsiders to supervise the El Paso County GOP’s upcoming leadership elections in response to complaints from local Republicans who said they don’t trust incumbent county chair Vickie Tonkins to run a fair election.

The 139-123.8 vote came at the end of an unprecedented and often contentious online meeting of the state GOP’s central committee called earlier this month by outgoing state party chair Kristi Burton Brown. The results include fractional votes because multiple people split some offices. [Pols emphasis]

Late Monday, Tonkins and a handful of local party officers filed a lawsuit against the state party and Burton Brown, arguing that the state party is overstepping its authority under state law and GOP bylaws.

The conflict revolves around who will run the local county party’s Feb. 11 reorganization meeting in Colorado Springs, when local Republicans are slated to elect a county chair, vice chair and secretary to two-year terms. Tonkins, who has chaired the county party since late 2018, is running for another term…

…Held on the Zoom teleconference platform, Tuesday’s meeting drew 301 of the central committee’s nearly 500 members, which include county party officers, elected officials and so-called bonus members from larger counties, based on the total number of votes received by top-ticket GOP candidates in the last election.

El Paso County Republican Chairwoman Vicki Tonkins

The El Paso County GOP election in February is actually pretty important for the future of the State Republican Party, since whoever gets elected on Feb. 11 will represent a significant block of voters charged with selecting the next STATE Republican Party Chairperson in March. But before we jump ahead any further, let’s first explain a bit of the more recent background involved in the Colorado Republican Party’s “Circle of Strife.”


Dueling Censures

A few days before Election Day last November, the El Paso County Republican Party voted to censure a bunch of prominent Republicans for organizing their own field operation outside of the control of the El Paso GOP and Chairwoman Vickie Tonkins. Weeks after the GOP was drubbed on Election Day, a group calling itself the “Save Colorado Project” held a bananas event outside of a “Boot Barn” near the State GOP headquarters in Greenwood Village in which critics lambasted GOP leaders as “whores” and “asswipes.”

The Colorado Republican Party responded a few days later by voting to formally censure Tonkins for failing to effectively support Republican candidates in 2022; at least in part, this was an effort to “censure” Tonkins for “censuring” other Republicans a month earlier. Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds.

In late December, State Party Chairperson Kristi Burton Brown (KBB) announced that she would not seek re-election in March 2023, opening the door to a handful of well-established losers interested in the job (Casper Stockham, Aaron Wood, and Erik Aadland among them). As Colorado Newsline explained recently:

The pool of candidates to replace [KBB], even this late in the process, comprises some of the party’s most dishonest and unserious figures, and it has emboldened a conspiracy theorist-friendly effort called the Save Colorado Project to agitate for an uncompromising extremism in party leadership.

Yeah, not great.

Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams briefly appeared to be the State GOP’s best hope for competent leadership in the 2024 election cycle, but he quickly came to his senses and bowed out of the race in early January.

With a field of candidates for State Party Chair that is, shall we say, not ideal for the GOP, Republicans have grown increasingly worried about falling even further down the MAGA rabbit hole. In mid-January, a group of Republicans sent a formal complaint to KBB and the State Party that included some pretty serious allegations about notorious El Paso County Republican Party Chairperson Vickie Tonkins:


The letter was signed by some notable Republican names, including former lawmaker Lois Landgraf; State Sen. Larry Liston; State Rep. Mary Bradfield; State Sen. Bob Gardner; and Wayne Williams, a former Secretary of State (and current candidate for Mayor of Colorado Springs). These concerns can’t be dismissed as over-the-top rhetoric given the history of El Paso County Republican meetings to get so heated that law enforcement officials have to be called to intervene. As The Colorado Springs Independent explained in December 2021, the El Paso County Sheriff’s office and the Colorado Springs Police Department spend a lot of time attending to concerns about violence at El Paso GOP meetings.

This brings us back to Tuesday’s night’s unusual meeting, which was requested by the same group of Republicans listed above because of concerns about Tonkins’ heavy-handed approach to, well, everything…but particularly her many efforts to get in the way of candidates who aren’t on whatever remains of her “good side.”

“Secret list — corrupt election.”

 — Chuck Broerman, El Paso County GOP Treasurer

El Paso County Republicans — including Treasurer Chuck Broermanhave good reason to worry about Tonkins trying to rig the election for herself and her friends. That’s because Tonkins may have done it before. (Tonkins and the El Paso GOP filed a lawsuit against the State Republican Party on Monday over its demands).

Back in 2021, Tonkins narrowly defeated challenger Peggy Littleton (147-140) to win a second term as El Paso County GOP Chairperson. Littleton and her supporters immediately cried foul, accusing Tonkins of denying credentials to certain voters; allowing ineligible voters to cast ballots; and overseeing a dysfunctional “remote voting” system. Littleton appealed to the State Republican Party, but her concerns ultimately went nowhere; Tonkins and her slate of candidates were allowed to remain in office.

As Chase Woodward writes for Colorado Newsline, Republicans are so mad at other Republicans that they are calling EACH OTHER fascists:

The county party’s vice chair, Karl Schneider, has long called on Tonkins to resign, and he describes her behavior as “near-criminality.”

“She’s not doing it out of ignorance. She knows exactly what she’s doing,” he told Newsline last week. “And this is how the fascist regimes start to grow. We’re at the root level here in El Paso County.” [Pols emphasis]

Former State Rep. JoAnn Windholz (center), who now heads up the Adams County GOP.

We won’t know until Feb. 11 whether or not an “independent” arbiter will be able to establish some semblance of order when El Paso County Republicans meet to select new leaders for the 2024 cycle (Tonkins is seeking a third term in office). But we do know that this is not a problem only in El Paso County. Back to Colorado Newsline:

More than a third of the Adams County Republican Party’s executive committee called a special meeting this week in defiance of the chairwoman, former state Rep. JoAnn Windholz, who accused the rebelling faction of trying to “usurp the authority” of the party’s central committee, according to documents and communication obtained by Newsline. [Pols emphasis]

Thomas J. Scovill, a precinct committee person with the Adams County Republicans, told Newsline that some members of the party suspect that Windholz is trying to tip the scales toward favored candidates ahead of the party’s Feb. 4 reorganizational meeting elections.

“The suspicion is that she’s under the thrall” of Mathai, Scovill said, adding that the Save Colorado Project “has put a lot of us off.”

If Windholz is worried about “elephant on elephant” violence, those concerns would come with a heavy dose of irony. Following the deadly 2015 shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Spings, Windholz infamously blamed Planned Parenthood by calling the organization “the real culprit” for violence.


[Next…”Part 2: The Timeline”]

Buck Buckles After McCarthy Cucks Buck On Big Tech

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The goodwill extended below to Rep. Ken Buck for defending Rep. Ilhan Omar is hereby retracted.

If you’re wondering what swampy quid pro quo Rep. Buck received for abandoning his principles, you’re not alone. In a way, it’s good for Buck to disabuse us of notions of his integrity whenever we entertain them.


Rep. Ken Buck (R-’em all).

NBC News reported late Friday that Colorado’s periodically maverick-y GOP Rep. Ken Buck is not happy with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s decision to remove Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from her post on the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

The GOP effort to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee took another blow Friday, with Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., pledging to oppose it.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy has pledged to remove the Minnesota Democrat from the panel for past comments that he characterized as antisemitic. That would require a full House vote, and Buck’s statement Friday means McCarthy likely cannot afford to lose any more Republican votes if he wants Omar removed.

“I think that we should not engage in this tit for tat. I am opposed to the selection — or the removal — of Congresswoman Omar from committees,” Buck said in an interview on Meet the Press NOW.

Buck said he had “a little bit less certainty” about McCarthy’s decision to bar California Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee, which McCarthy could do as Speaker.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

Buck joins several other Republican representatives unexpectedly defending Rep. Omar–enough that McCarthy can’t lose any more if he follows through with the required vote to remove her. McCarthy’s retaliation against these high-profile critics of President Donald Trump are broadly viewed as score-settling for Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar bring stripped of their committee assignments in the previous Congress, after making violent threats and inferences against their colleagues. Buck didn’t support that action either, of course, but he gets credit for consistency at least in standing up for Rep. Omar.

And as the Phil Anschutz-owned Washington Examiner reports, there’s another reason why Buck might see little downside to pushing back on McCarthy:

House Republicans are set to hand libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) the gavel for the subcommittee responsible for antitrust, a snub to one of Republicans’ most vocal Big Tech critics and a sign the conference will try to steer clear of major clashes with Silicon Valley. [Pols emphasis]

Top Republican Big Tech critic Ken Buck (R-CO) was expected to take over the House Judiciary Committee panel responsible for antitrust, which would have positioned him to promote bills and oversight efforts aimed at curbing the power of Silicon Valley. Massie is viewed as more aligned with House Republicans who do not favor stronger government intervention to address perceived abuses and free-speech violations on the part of tech companies…

In the last Congress, Buck aligned himself with liberal Democrats on bipartisan measures that would step up antitrust scrutiny of the largest tech companies. The bills did not become law, thanks to opposition from centrists in both parties. Buck has made clear that he favors a more significant role for the federal government in counterbalancing the market and political influence of Big Tech, a stance long rejected by his party but that has gained currency among conservatives as they’ve found themselves opposed to tech gatekeepers on culture war issues.

Though their motivation beneath the headlines obviously differed, Rep. Buck found common cause with some liberal House members including Rep. Joe Neguse of Boulder in legislation to step up anti-trust regulation and scrutiny of the largest tech-opolies like Google, Amazon, and Apple. That effort appears to be effectively dead in Kevin McCarthy’s House, scuttling one of Buck’s biggest remaining political objectives in what’s generally believed to be the latter days of Buck’s career in Washington.

Like Bob Dylan said, when you’ve got nothing you’ve got nothing left to lose.

Once Again, “Abortion Pill Reversal” Is Not A Thing

Freshman GOP Rep. and self-schooled gynotician Scott “There Is No” Bottoms.

Quickly emerging as the go-to freshman Republican state lawmaker for self-immolating culture war legislation that Republicans would steer clear of had they any sense, Rep. Scott “There Is No” Bottoms, the prime sponsor of a “Personhood”-style abortion ban headed for the circular file in our Democratic-controlled Colorado General Assembly, has introduced another anti-abortion bill the likes of which we’ve seen before: legislation requiring doctors (contrary to actual science) to advise pregnant people that medical abortions can be reversed by medication.

The bill creates the “Abortion Pill Reversal Information Act” (act). The act requires a physician or other qualified medical professional to provide state-prepared information concerning abortion pill reversal, including a telephone number and website address where a pregnant woman can seek resources to obtain abortion pill reversal, to any woman seeking an abortion through the use of an abortion-inducing drug. The physician or other qualified medical professional must provide the information at least 24 hours before the physician prescribes or administers the abortion-inducing drug or induces the abortion.

The department of public health and environment is required to maintain the state-prepared information on its public-facing website.

The act makes it a deceptive trade practice to fail to provide the required information concerning abortion pill reversal. The act also includes civil penalties and professional discipline for failure to comply with the requirements in the act and allows the general assembly to appoint members to intervene in any lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the act.

The place to start with this legislation as we have in prior years is with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who make clear that “abortion reversal” is not sound scientific or medical practice:

Facts are important, especially when it comes to policies and discussions that impact patients. Claims regarding abortion “reversal” treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) ranks its recommendations on the strength of the evidence and does not support prescribing progesterone to stop a medication abortion.

Despite this, in states across the country, politicians are advancing legislation to require physicians to recite a script that a medication abortion can be “reversed” with doses of progesterone, to cause confusion and perpetuate stigma, and to steer women to this unproven medical approach. Unfounded legislative mandates like this one represent dangerous political interference and compromise patient care and safety.

The whole purpose of this legislation to create a false perception that abortion care is inherently bad and thus widely regretted, for which there is no support in public surveys –and even if there were, forcing doctors to present a medically unsupported option to “reverse” an abortion would not be the answer, any more than hydroxychloroquine was an appropriate treatment for COVID-19. And yes, the common embrace of quack science between abortion opponents and COVIDiots is telling.

Doctors and patients know best, not Republican “gynoticians.” Politically, Bottoms is costing Republicans more than they’ll ever gain from these dead-on-arrival “message bills.” Rather than being quietly voted down and ignored by the media like they were in prior years, in a post-Roe world these bills are a toxic reminder of the proximity of the threat to abortion rights, and they shape public perception of today’s Republican Party.

Judging by last November’s election results, Colorado voters get the message loud and clear.

At Least It’s Not Your State’s Drag Show Panic Bill

Arizona Sen. Justine Wadsack (R).

Keeping the home fires burning in the culture wars, over in Arizona where election denialists went down in defeat at the top of the ticket but Republicans remain firmly in control of the state legislature, far-right lawmakers have turned to a stack of anti-LGBT and other wedge issue legislation to keep the faithful ginned up. But as Ellie Willard of the Arizona Republic reported last week, the blowback against these far-right “message bills” is torching the culture warriors nicely:

Hundreds of demonstrators flocked to the Arizona Capitol lawn on Sunday afternoon to protest against the proposed anti-drag, LGBTQ, and abortion bills heading to legislators this session…

Earlier this month, an anti-LGBTQ bill was heard at the state Capitol. Senate Bill 1001, sponsored by Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, would ban public school employees and contractors from using a student’s preferred name or pronouns unless a parent has given permission. The bill would also allow any school employee or affiliated contractor to refuse to use the student’s pronouns or chosen name because of “religious or moral convictions,” even if the parents gave permission.

While the state Senate approved the bill, Gov. [Katie] Hobbs’ staff has made it clear she would not let it become law.

Three laws are set to be heard in the Arizona Senate this session regarding the restriction of drag performance, including Senate Bill 1026 which prohibits state and federal tax money from being used to pay a drag performer who performs in the opposite gender assigned at birth for shows targeted to minors; Senate Bill 1028, which defines drag performance as “adult cabaret” and restricts performances on public property or in a location where a minor could view it; and Senate Bill 1030, which creates harsher zoning restrictions and necessary permits to host drag performances.

Mrs. Doubtfire committing unlawful exposure to an adult-oriented business.

With a Democratic governor (narrowly) in charge in Arizona, none of these bills are going to become law even if they do pass the legislature. But with yet another anti-drag show bill more recently introduced by freshman MAGA Sen. Justine Wadsack of Tucson, clearly meant to be the most restrictive of all by straight-up criminalizing drag shows in view of minors, Senate Bill 1698, the overreach to protect the kids from men in tights takes a turn for the absurd:

(a) Inflicting or allowing sexual abuse pursuant to section 13-1404, sexual conduct with a minor pursuant to section 13-1405, sexual assault pursuant to section 13-1406, molestation of a child pursuant to section 13-1410, commercial sexual exploitation of a minor pursuant to section 13-3552, sexual exploitation of a minor pursuant to section 13-3553, incest pursuant to section 13-3608, UNLAWFUL EXPOSURE TO AN ADULT ORIENTED PERFORMANCE OR ADULT ORIENTED BUSINESS PURSUANT TO SECTION 13-3508 or child sex trafficking pursuant to section 13-3212.

“Lady Liberty?” Lock her up!

From there, Sen. Wadsack goes on to add her definition of  a “drag show” to the list of “adult-oriented performances.”




What we have here is an incredibly expansive definition of “drag show” that could result in all kinds of legitimate artistic expression being turned into an allegation of child abuse. For one thing, Sen. Wadsack might want to be aware that since women were not allowed to act on stage in English theaters into the mid-17th Century, the parts in Shakespeare’s plays written for women were originally (hold on to something) played by men! Under this bill, a historically accurate Shakespeare performance in Arizona would be a crime.

This bill like the others that preceded it in Arizona this year will never become law–but in the same spirit as Colorado has become a haven for abortion rights, in the event it becomes necessary our state’s midnight screenings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show will be there to receive their huddled masses yearning to be fabulous.

Boebert Silent While Durham Shamvestigation Crumbles

Former Attorney General William Barr.

In 2019, Attorney General William Barr appointed prosecutor John Durham to lead an investigation much desired by then-President Donald Trump, tasked with proving that the Justice Department’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to demoralize Democrats and boost Trump was itself the product of a “Deep State” conspiracy by “Never Trumper” federal officials egged on by Democrats. While Trump has been beset since leaving office by investigations into his role in the violence on January 6th, Trump’s business empire found guilty of criminal tax fraud, and the possibility looming of charges against Trump personally, MAGA loyalists like Rep. Lauren Boebert clung to the Durham inquiry as their impending counterstroke that would “whatabout” everything back into perspective.

But as the New York Times reported a few days ago, the Durham probe has itself become the closest thing to “Deep State” treachery Democrats are accused of in the “Russiagate” investigation that has been proven to actually exist:

Egged on by Mr. Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr set out in 2019 to dig into their shared theory that the Russia investigation likely stemmed from a conspiracy by intelligence or law enforcement agencies. To lead the inquiry, Mr. Barr turned to a hard-nosed prosecutor named John H. Durham, and later granted him special counsel status to carry on after Mr. Trump left office.

But after almost four years — far longer than the Russia investigation itself — Mr. Durham’s work is coming to an end without uncovering anything like the deep state plot alleged by Mr. Trump and suspected by Mr. Barr. [Pols emphasis]

Moreover, a monthslong review by The New York Times found that the main thrust of the Durham inquiry was marked by some of the very same flaws — including a strained justification for opening it and its role in fueling partisan conspiracy theories that would never be charged in court — that Trump allies claim characterized the Russia investigation.

Not only has Durham’s investigation failed to uncover evidence that federal law enforcement officials conspired to persecute Trump over Russia’s admitted efforts to interfere with the 2016 elections on Trump’s behalf, Durham appears to have been presented with further evidence of unrelated criminal activity by Trump–evidence that Durham appears to have never followed up on. Durham lost the only court case brought to trial under the original scope of his investigation, and despite constant hype of shocking revelations just around the corner from Barr then regurgitated by Boebert and other MAGA-bubble distribution channels, there is no dramatic finale coming.

Back in the spring of 2021, Rep. Boebert was so confident that the Durham investigation was going to collect heads, she told an audience in Delta there was a good possibility that Republicans would retake Congress before the 2022 midterm elections:

This is my opinion with that information that I have. I believe we’ll see resignations begin to take place and I think we can take back the majority in the House and the Senate before 2022.

That never happened, and now the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate has the duty of (stay with us) investigating the Durham investigation of the “Russiagate” investigation. The thing to keep in mind, and of course the thing partisans can never agree upon in the moment, is that not all investigations are created equal. Some are based on evidence, others in pursuit of their own confirmation bias. Still others are simply meant as a distraction from the inquiries that matter. On the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Lauren Boebert is set to be one of the principal mouthpieces of the next two years of tit-for-tat retaliatory investigations of the Biden administration.

If you believed Boebert’s hype about the Durham investigation, you’re about to be sorely disappointed.

In a perfect world, that would make it harder to believe Boebert next time.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (Jan. 31)

Today is the last day of January, which means you no longer have an excuse for writing “2022” instead of “2023.” 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 learner, check out The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.




Western states are agreeing to voluntary reductions in use from the Colorado River…except for California, that is. From The Associated Press:

Six western states that rely on water from the Colorado River have agreed on a model to dramatically cut their use, months after the federal government called for action and an initial deadline passed.

California — with the largest allocation of water from the river — is the lone holdout.

The Colorado River and its tributaries pass through seven states and into Mexico, serving 40 million people and a $5 billion-a-year agricultural industry. Some of the largest cities in the country, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver and Las Vegas, two Mexican states, Native American tribes and others depend on the river that’s been severely stressed by drought, demand and overuse.

As The Washington Post adds:

California has so far offered to reduce just 400,000 acre feet. An acre foot is 326,000 gallons, or enough to cover an acre in water one foot deep. JB Hamby, chair of the Colorado River Board of California, told the Associated Press in a statement that the state “remains focused on practical solutions that can be implemented now to protect volumes of water in storage without driving conflict and litigation” and will submit its own plan.

Officials say serious action is needed to prevent the Colorado River from running out of river.


Here’s a look at what’s happening at the state legislature this week:

♦ Democratic lawmakers want a better picture of how much money Uber and Lyft drivers are actually making for their efforts. This is part of a broader effort to better regulate ride-sharing and food-delivery companies that benefit from local labor.

♦ Lawmakers are considering a bill to make all auto thefts in Colorado a felony, regardless of the value of the vehicle.

♦ Marianne Goodland looks at gun safety proposals in a story for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman.

♦ Denver7 reports on legislation to give physician assistants more leeway in treating patients directly.

♦ Democrats want to make it easier for concertgoers to find tickets to their favorite shows without having to fight the automated bots that snap up the best seats as soon as tickets become available.


The Congressman who claims to be named “George Santos” is stepping aside from his House committee assignments in order to focus on inventing a new story about himself as he deals with numerous ethical issues. From The Associated Press:

Santos told GOP colleagues Tuesday he is temporarily stepping down from his two congressional committees, a move that comes amid a host of ethics issues and a day after he met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Santos has faced numerous calls for his resignation and is facing multiple investigations by prosecutors over his personal and campaign finances and lies about his resume and family background.

Santos was assigned to two fairly low-profile panels, the House Committee on Small Business and to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

The latest problem for Santos, as Mother Jones reports, is that many of his top campaign donors don’t appear to be real people:



Check out the latest episode of the Get More Smarter Podcast, featuring an interview with former Republican operative (and now journalist) Tim Miller:


Click below to keep learning things…



Why Do Republicans Do Anything? (feat. Tim Miller)

This week on the Get More Smarter Podcast, your hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii talk with bestselling author, Colorado (almost) native, and former Republican political consultant Tim Miller about why Republicans went off the deep end and whether they can ever find their way back from the wilderness. Miller also talks about the early days of Colorado Pols!

Later, Ian and Jason talk about gun safety legislation in the Colorado legislature and the odd fact that nearly a quarter of all state lawmakers began their legislative careers through “vacancy committee” appointments.

When you’re done listening, go buy Tim’s book: “How We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell.”

Listen to previous episodes of The Get More Smarter Podcast at GetMoreSmarter.com.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Let us have it at AngryRants@getmoresmarter.com. Or send emails to jason@getmoresmarter.com or ian@getmoresmarter.com.

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