The Myth of the Independent Voter

(Interesting question in a state where Independents/Unaffiliateds can swing any election… – promoted by ProgressiveCowgirl)

Richard Wolf at USA Today reported today that the number of Independent voters have declined precipitously since 2008. Examining the registration statistics from 28 states, Wolf writes that voters are leaving the two major parties in ‘droves.’  

He goes on to suggest that:

The pattern continues a decades-long trend that has seen a diminution in the power of political parties, giving rise to independents as Ross Perot and Ralph Nader and the popularity this year of libertarian Republican Ron Paul.

Wolf goes on to suggest that this trend could impact the 2012 Presidential election in key swing states like Colorado. Contrary to Wolf’s assertion, however, there is little evidence for a decline in either of the two major parties.  

The problem with Wolf’s argument is that the increased number of Independents does not necessarily lead to his conclusions.  Indeed, the implicit assumption that most people hold about Independents is that they are unaffected by party ID, which political scientists have long agreed is the core consideration for understanding American voting behavior. That assumption, however, is far from true.

In their important book, The Myth of the Independent Voter,  Bruce E. Keith et al. argue that far from being unaffected by party ID, the vast majority of Independent voters are actually closet partisans.  By examining polling data gathered by the University of Michigan as part of the American National Election Studies since 1952, they find that even though there has been a remarkable increase in the proportion of Independent voters, most still lean toward one party or the other, so much so that they function essentially like partisans.  The number of true Independents, the authors argue, have remained relatively constant throughout the post-World War II period.  

Of course, it is impossible for Wolf to know if there has been an increase in true Independent voters or just closet partisans simply by looking at registration statistics. Polling data would be needed to make that kind of conclusion for his newspaper report. Nevertheless, this oversight does diminish the importance of the ‘trend’ identified by Wolf.  In fact, the increased polarization of the electorate as well as the ideological “sorting-out” that made conservative almost synonymous with Republican has, if anything, strengthened the influence of political parties and call into question what political scientists call ‘the decline of party thesis.’  

It is unlikely, in other words,  that the decline in major party registration will have any significant impact on the stability of the two party system in general, let alone the 2012 Presidential election.  

Amendment 62 and Cory Gardner’s Assault on Women’s Rights

( – promoted by ClubTwitty)

Republican Senate candidate, Ken Buck, has garnered a great deal of state and national media attention for his unusually rigid view of what rights a woman has to an abortion.  His contention that even in instances of rape and incest, abortion is still morally repugnant and should not recognized as legally permissible has even been fodder for campaign ads against the Weld county district attorney.

With all of this negative attention focused on Buck, it has gone largely unnoticed that CD-4 Republican Congressional candidate, Cory Gardner, holds similar views on abortion and women’s rights more broadly defined. In fact, where they do differ, Gardner’s pro-life position on abortion is even more extreme than Buck’s.

Last week, in an interview in the Coloradoan, Gardner, who is running against Betsy Markey, elaborated on his pro-life views and suggested that he makes no exceptions. When asked if he would allow exceptions for rape, incest, or in instances where the mother’s life was in danger, he simply answered, “I’m pro-life, and I believe abortion in wrong.”

What’s more, whereas Buck has vacillated on Colorado’s Amendment 62-he was for it before he was against it-Gardner ardently supports it.  Otherwise known as the personhood amendment, Amendment 62 is similar to 2008’s Amendment 48, which sought to define life as beginning at conception and gives developing embryos equal protection and due process of the law.

Instead of using the term “conception,” however, Amendment 62 uses the term ‘biological development.’ The term ‘biological development’ allows pro-life supporters to define the beginning of life at the moment a woman’s egg is fertilized by the male sperm. This minor semantic change from Amendment 48 is intended to keep pro-choice advocates from trying to define conception–and by implication life itself–as beginning at the moment the fertilized embryo attaches to a woman’s uterine wall.

Unlike Amendment 48, there is no ambiguity as to the intention of this new initiative. Not only would this new amendment make all abortions illegal, it would also criminalize common forms of contraception–including IUDs and some forms of birth control pills.

In other words,  even though Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected Amendment 48 in 2008, including all 18 counties of CD-4, extreme pro-life advocates like Gardner are pushing an even more radical personhood amendment this election cycle.  (Note: Yuma county, where Gardner grew up, rejected the measure by nearly 22 percentage points.)

What’s most troubling about Gardner’s record, however, is that his assault on women’s rights does not end with the personhood amendment. While in the state legislature, Gardner has consistently voted against measures that would expand or strengthen women’s rights.  In 2006, he voted against HB1212, which would have allowed, but not require, pharmacists to prescribe emergency contraception.

And, in 2007, he co-sponsored a bill (SB143), which never made it out of committee, that would have made abortion illegal except in limited instances where the woman’s life was in danger.

In 2008, moreover, he was one of only six representatives to vote against HB1276, a bill that required employers “to provide reasonable paid or unpaid break time for nursing mothers to express milk.”

Lastly, Gardner recently endorsed the House Republicans ‘Pledge to America,’ which is an economic agenda that will run up the deficit, repeal efforts by the last two administrations to pull the country out of the recession and contain long-term federal spending, and create a recipe for economic catastrophe along with the prospect of a double-dip recession.

The fragile state of the economy is fundamentally a women’s issue because, according to a recent study by the Center for American Progress, unmarried women are most vulnerable to economic insecurity and they have been disproportionately affected by the recession.

In an election year when public anger is directed toward the Washington establishment and the incumbent party, it is easy to forget that elections are about choices.  As such, it is important to ask: What is the alternative? In the case of Cory Gardner, the alternative vision for America may be one in which Americans in general and women in particular are less free and are less able to determine their own destiny.  Is that really want we want America to be?

(Note: See my original post at for the appropriate links.)

Markey In Negotiations for Two Televised Debates

Last night, Libertad posted a diary on Coloradopols commenting on Betsy Markey’s recent decision to pull out of the debate sponsored by The Coloradoan & 9 news. Referencing a recent article in the Coloradoan itself, he writes:

Shocking news from CD4 comes with a last minute announcement from the Congressman to refuse a debate with challenger Cory Gardner.

Under terms calling for a polling threshold 50% lower then Presidential debates require, ACP and other candidates were not invited. Yet these same terms existed in 2008 for the debate sponsored by 9News & The Coloradoan.

Republican Gardner was saddened by Markey’s late refusal to address the voters.

Saddened by this news, I wrote a post on my own website chastising Markey for the decision. I argued that she was doing a disservice to the district by denying the voters an opportunity to see the major candidates debate the major issues important to Colorado, match wits, and defend their positions side-by-side in a public forum.

Indeed, the Coloradoan article–the same article Libertad referenced–reported that Markey “disagreed with the organizers’ plans to only invite candidates who have shown at least 10 percent support in polls.” And it reported that she wanted all four candidates present for the one-hour televised debate even though Ken Waszkiewicz and Doug Aden are only polling five and two percent respectively.

In doing so, the article heavily implied that the Coloradoan/9 News debate is the only one Markey had committed to because the campaign hadn’t responded to a debate invitation by PBS.  

Since the publication of Libertad’s diary, as well as my post, however, I have been in contact Markey’s campaign spokesman, Ben Marter, and he has informed me that contrary to the reporting in the Coloradoan article, which omits critical information, Markey has actually already agreed to other televised debates.  

“We have agreed to two televised debates so far, but we’re still confirming dates and times,” he told me.

While still in negotiation over the details, he also told me that all four candidates will be invited.

I am heartened by this news and I look forward to a lively and festive exchange between Markey, Gardner, and the other two candidates.

For Libertad’s diary:…

The original posts on my website:



The ‘Young Guns’ Plan for Economic Insecurity

( – promoted by ClubTwitty)

For months, Cory Gardner has been touting on his campaign website his membership in the NRCC ‘Young Guns’ program, an organization that helps top Republican challengers across the country win highly coveted congressional contests like the seat held by CD-4’s Betsy Markey.  Now, it also provides an ideological blueprint for America’s future-one that Gardner must address.

The Republican National Congressional Committee announced earlier this week that the three GOP rising stars behind the Young Guns program-Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy-are publishing a book, which will be released later this month, offering a vision for the new Republican Party.  

Included in the new book, titled “Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders,” is Paul Ryan’s controversial “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a plan the New York Times described as “an unusually austere proposal to vanquish the federal debt by, among other things, partly dismantling Social Security and Medicare as they currently exist.”  

Inclusion of Ryan’s roadmap in the ‘young guns’ manifesto makes it incredibly difficult for the national GOP in general and ‘young guns’ like Gardner in particular to separate themselves from Ryan’s policy prescriptions.

It is a roadmap that masks right-wing political ideology for a pragmatic approach to solve this country’s debt crisis. The roadmap would drastically cut entitlement spending on Social Security and Medicare by raising the retirement age, cutting benefits, and radically altering the federal tax code, pushing the country closer to a regressive consumption tax. These actions would leave families and the elderly at the mercy of rising living costs and an unregulated market without the effective social safety net that has been a fundamental part of this country’s social compact nearly four generations.  It is a roadmap for economic insecurity.

More specifically, the roadmap includes an across the board cut in Social Security benefits for everyone under 55-years old, which will be indexed to income-i.e. less affluent seniors will have smaller reductions in benefits.  The plan would also call for the option to partially privatize of Social Security for everyone under 55, beginning in 2012, and it raises the eligibility age by indexing it to life expectancy.  

With respect to health care, the roadmap also raises the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 69 1/2, and it cuts benefits. All eligible people in 2020 will remain within the current Medicare system, albeit some higher income enrollees will face higher premiums and some reductions in program payments. After 2021, however, newly eligible Medicare recipients will not be given traditional Medicare coverage; rather, they will be given vouchers to buy health care coverage.  

As the CBO observes, “the average amount for the Medicare voucher would grow over time at a rate equal to the average of the growth of the consumer price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) and the growth of the price index for medical care (CPI-M).”  The problem, though, is that the rate of growth for CPI-M far outpaces the CPI-U.  Over time, the cost of medical care would far outpace the value of the Medicare voucher, which includes the slower growing CPI-U, thus leaving seniors vulnerable to rationed health care.

Moreover, the plan would push everyone away from group health insurance coverage through employers and would instead entice people through tax credits-$2,300 for an individual and $5,700 for families-to buy their own private insurance policies.  The problem, of course, is that the average health insurance policy for a family of four is $13,000, which would put each family on the hook for the remaining balance of the policy.

Lastly, the roadmap simplifies the tax code by excising nearly all tax deductions and credits; it collapses all income taxes into two brackets-10% and 25%-and abolishes the corporate tax structure and replaces it with a regressive value-added tax. It would also require that federal spending not exceed 19% of GDP. Capping maximum expenditures to a percentage of GDP may work well during times of economic prosperity, but during recessions, the federal government would struggle to meet its spending commitments, which are unaffected by fluctuations in the economy.  

This would inevitably lead to its own fiscal problems during economic downturns, just like the restrictions in California under Proposition 13 or in Colorado under TABOR.  


As a member of the elite “Young Guns,” is this the kind of blueprint for the future that Cory Gardner supports? If not, does he have a responsibility to distance himself from the organization that carried him through the GOP primary earlier this year and to return the money he’s raised through it?  After all, if Gardner beats Betsy Markey it would no doubt be in large part because of Ryan and Canter’s recruiting.  

According to the Federal Election Committee, those men’s PACs alone have donated $15,000 to Gardner’s campaign, which says nothing of the tens of thousands Gardner has acquired through fundraising networks he was introduced to through the ‘Young Guns’ program, and in the enormous contribution from the RNCC in campaign ads, staff support and strategic advice.  

That level of support from the ‘young guns’ campaign naturally begs the question: Doesn’t his continued membership in this organization represent a tacit endorsement of the ideas espoused by the program, especially when it is an organization of which Gardner actively applied for to be a member?  

(For appropriate links, please see original post at http://ryanpolitics.blogspot.c…

My Interview with House District 49 Candidate, Karen Stockley

(I think Pols has become the go-to place for in-depth interviews – promoted by DavidThi808)

Its 2:45 pm on a Sunday afternoon. I am standing at the front of Front Range Antiques on College Ave in South Fort Collins looking at a 1945 issue of the Denver Post, which was published in the wake of President Roosevelt’s death. On the front page is a series of headlines enumerating the numerous challenges facing Harry S. Truman, the new President of the United States.

The headlines struck a chord with me because like then, the country now appears bogged down by challenges of immense proportions, ranging from a deep and protracted recession, chronic fiscal issues at the state and federal levels, and a deeply polarized and distrustful electorate. My thoughts were then suddenly derailed because, even though I was 15 minutes early for my appointment, a young girl approached and told me that Karen was on her way up to meet me.

My appointment was with Karen Stockley, who is a Democrat running for the state house of representatives for district 49.  I sat down with Stockley and talked to her about her campaign, her politics, and the direction she wants to take Colorado if elected.  

For several years now, Stockley has been watching this house seat and positioning herself to run for it. Now, in 2010, she believes she has an opportunity to fulfill that goal. The only problem is that district 49 is unfriendly territory for Democrats. It is a heavily Republican district that hasn’t voted for a Democrat to fill that seat in over thirty years, and it encompasses nearly all of rural Larimer county-including Berthoud, Estes Park, and Wellington-as well as a small portion of conservative Weld County that includes Windsor.  

In addition to the sprawling geography and tough demographics, the political climate is not looking good for Democrats across the country this year.  Even in Colorado, which has been trending Democratic over the last three election cycles, Democrats are on the defensive and facing strong headwinds because of voter despondence and pervasive unemployment. Senator Michael Bennet and Congresswoman Betsy Markey, both of whom are fighting for their political lives, will appear on the same ballot as Stockley.

Yet, Stockley remains optimistic. Her optimism stems from the changing demographics of the district, the unprecedented organization of her campaign compared to past Democratic challengers, and strong fundraising figures.

She is also hopeful because the district voted Democratic in 2008, by an almost six-point margin, when it voted for Betsy Markey over Marilyn Musgrave, the staunch conservative firebrand and cultural warrior whose most notable achievement while in office was her failed attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.  

For Stockley, this creates an opportunity because her opponent is Republican incumbent, B.J. Nikkel, a woman who worked as a senior aide and district director to Musgrave for four of her six years in the House of Representatives.  What’s more, Nikkel is a relatively unknown political operative who was not even elected to her current position in the state legislature. She was appointed by a Republican committee, in an 8 to 15 vote, after Kevin Lundberg vacated the seat in 2008 .

With her low name recognition and close connections with Musgrave, Stockley hopes to define Nikkel to the voters and tie her to the unpopularity of her former boss.  “By mentioning that our opponent was a Musgrave staffer who was appointed with the help of Kevin Lundberg,” Tim Kubik, Stockley’s campaign manager, wrote in an email message to me, “we get an instant reaction that tells us whether they’re likely to be open to Karen.  Most are open, and many blurt out ‘Oh, in that case, I’m for Karen.'”  

“BJ’s political career has been marked by her willingness to ‘carry water’ for the agenda-setters in her party,” he continued. “We’ve talked to a lot of voters since Karen got into this race in October of 2009,” Kubik concluded, “and we’ve heard far more about more practical concerns like jobs, defending education, and coming up with the resources to keep our small towns thriving….A partisan purity test is not enough to represent HD 49 any more.  Voters need someone who listens to them” and  “Karen has a demonstrated track-record of doing precisely that.”

And Stockley herself used every opportunity to expound upon that campaign theme in my conversation with her.  “B.J. doesn’t know the issues in Colorado…[She] is a Party person and she is to the right within the Republican Party, obviously [since she] worked for Marilyn Musgrave for so long, something she has done a good job of covering up.”


Stockley has most of her life in Colorado and has spent the last several years in the Berthoud area. She describes herself as a type-A personality, but she conveys a humble, albeit fiercely intelligent, persona.  She is even-tempered, yet driven by an innate passion-a passion for public service and community involvement.    

After fourteen years of staying home and raising her five children, Stockley started getting active in the community, first involving herself in the schools, then as a volunteer at the museum.

“I did Victorian fashion shows for the museum with my daughters,” she told me with a soft smile.

But soon, her volunteering took on a more political bend. She served on Berthoud’s Zoning and Planning committee and, more recently, has spent the last three years on the Thompson R2-J school board, where she served on its legislative coalition, which goes to Denver and confers with the legislature on any bills pertaining to education.

And because of her years of community involvement, she has steeped herself in many of the issues central to Colorado, namely job creation, the economy, and education.    

“Jobs,” Stockley blurted emphatically, when I asked her what the major legislative challenge was going into the next legislative session. ” I see [joblessness] all the time in my business, she added.  “I have heard so many sad stories buying antiques from people on the streets; I have seen so many people facing incredible hardships.”

She continued that, “there is so much desperation out there that most people don’t see. You sure don’t see it if you are just working in an office in Denver every day.”

Indeed, the economy in Colorado has been hit particularly hard by the recession. Although Colorado has a lower unemployment rate than the country at large, the percentage drop has been greater in Colorado than the rest of the country because the state has historically outpaced everyone else.

According to Focus Colorado, an economic and revenue forecast prepared by the Colorado Legislative Council in June, state per capita personal income fell 3.9 percent between 2008 and 2009, more than the 2.6 percent drop nationwide. Moreover, mortgage debt is contributing to the financial strain that is dampening consumer spending. In the first quarter of 2010, twenty-eight percent of mortgage holders in Colorado were at or near negative equity, meaning that they owe more on their mortgage than the value of the home.  That puts Colorado among the worst in the nation. Only eight states have a higher negative equity share, including California, Florida, and Nevada.  And Colorado banks are constrained more than most because of the heavy concentration of loans moving into foreclosure, thus making new lending difficult.

As a business owner herself, Stockley feels she is uniquely qualified to help get the Colorado economy back on track.  “If I wanted to expand my business right now and I needed to get a loan to do it,” she explained to me, “I couldn’t do it because the banks aren’t loaning money, even with a good credit rating…. So we have to find a way to fix the banks in Colorado before we can move forward with jobs.”

“We also need to look at tax incentives,” she continued, so people can work on new and innovative projects, especially in the newly emerging green economy.  When asked about the feasibility of creating new tax incentives at the state level given the projected budgetary shortfalls projected for fiscal year 2011, which are looming around 175 million dollars, Stockley suggested that it was “important to look at priorities.”

“It seems,” she began, “that large corporations are always getting the tax breaks. The small businesses don’t get the same sort of tax breaks that large corporations get.  We need small businesses to get those tax breaks and incentives because they are the ones employing most of the people.” She concluded that all “large corporations do is outsource jobs out of the United States. They shouldn’t get the tax breaks. Tax breaks need to go to small businesses and the businesses creating jobs.”


Even though Stockley’s campaign focus is on the economy, it is clear that her passion is with education reform.  Last spring, the state legislature passed SB191, a series of education amendments that changed the way teachers achieve and maintain tenure.  Nikkel voted in favor of the legislation, but Stockley opposed it.  “I don’t think it had enough protections in the bill for teachers.”  Berthoud elementary, she told me, is one of the highest performing schools in the state and it has a great learning environment.  

But compare that school to a school in intercity Denver or elsewhere, where students tend to be poorer and more transient and lower performers, she said.  Teachers in both schools are equally responsible for 50% growth even though teachers in Denver schools face greater challenges. “It’s like comparing apples to oranges,” she argued.  “I say you are held accountable for your eight hours in the class room every day, and you’re accountable for keeping them safe and for educating them as best as you can.”  

“Outside forces,” she asserted,  make up 50% of a child’s learning environment, however. “You can’t force a child to do that homework at home if they don’t have a good parent.” According to Stockley, moreover, SB191 was rushed through the state legislature and did not reflect the careful thought required for a major overhaul of Colorado’s education system. “We all agree,” she concluded, “that we need to do a better job graduating kids but we can’t just blame teachers.”

Colorado is unique in terms of K-12 education because of what scholars call the ‘Colorado Paradox’-this is, Colorado boasts one of the most educated populations in the country, but in terms of student achievement in the state, its students achieve below-average rates of college attendance and completion. The implication is that Colorado imports a large percentage of its educated labor force, while not properly preparing its own children to fill the state’s most highly paid jobs.

The implication is that, according to Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute’s report on “Working Colorado,” there is a growing disparity between the highly educated, economically prosperous, and largely non-indigenous workforce that has fared well during the recession and Colorado natives who are less educated, have higher unemployment, less economic stability, and more wage stagnation.

For Stockley, this paradox is a function of the way K-12 education in the state is grossly underfunded. “I know they say you can’t throw money at education,” she exclaimed, “and before I joined the school board I kind of bought into the idea that there is so much fluff in education and so much waste, but now I know there is not. I’ve looked at our budget. We’ve gutted programs. We have made cuts over the last few years; we are looking at cuts again next year; and we are looking at the cliff the following year. We do amazing things and get amazing results with very little money, but we are still underfunding education in Colorado.”

And the statistics seem to confirm Stockley’s bleak view. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, between 1992 and 2001, Colorado declined from 35th to 49th in the nation in K-12 spending as a percentage of personal income. And using statistics from 2006, Kids Count Colorado notes in its 2008 annual report that per capita state expenditures in Colorado were nearly $1,000 less than the national average, $2,600 less than in New Mexico, and $3,500 less than in Wyoming.


In my conversation with Stockley, we covered a broad range of issues from health care to Colorado’s state pension crisis. On health care in particular, she was appalled by Nikkel’s vote against a bill in the state legislature (SB244) that would have required insurance plans to cover treatments for autism.

Although largely supportive of the massive health care overhaul passed by Congress earlier this year, Stockley nevertheless remains willing to look at an option for Colorado to legally opt out of the new federal health care reform law by activating a little known provision in the law called the ‘Empowering the States to be Innovative Amendment.’ It would allow Colorado to create its own health care system-with or without a public option, and with or without an individual mandate-provided that the state still meets the coverage requirements of the federal bill.

“The national bill was so onerous and I don’t think a lot of people could get their heads around the bill, especially with all of the backroom deals and political games, Stockley suggested.  She then added that if “we can do the same thing at the state level in a cost effective way, I think we can sidestep that fear people have of an ever more intrusive federal government….I think that would be a way to get people to really buy into this new system.”


Karen Stockley’s path to the state legislature in Denver remains uncertain.  Although no doubt more liberal than the average voter in her district, Stockley’s main strengths are her capacity for compassion towards others, love of her community, and an ability to connect with those around her.  They are strengths that play well with her message to listen to the voters in rural Larimer county and Windsor and her promise to reflect their interests in Denver.

Its a message that voters are desperately looking for in their elected representatives but live in perpetual disappointment because it has been turned into a cheap talking-point. In an era when trust in government is in short supply, the question remains whether Stockley can convince her fellow voters to believe again.


My Interview with Tom Lucero

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Over the last several weeks, both the local and national media have been aflutter over the tough re-election race faced by Betsy Markey in Colorado’s Fourth Congressional District.  For local pundits and political insiders, however, that comes as little surprise because most casual observes knew that even before Markey began her first-term, the Fort Collins Democrat was controlling a seat that had been under Republican hands for well over thirty years.

Indeed, even before she was sworn into office, Berthoud Republican, Tom Lucero, who is finishing his second term on the CU Board of Regents, declared his intention to challenge Ms. Markey. Since declaring his candidacy, however, his campaign has been plagued by problems, including staff shakeups and poor name recognition, weak fundraising numbers, as well as a strong primary challenge from Yuma Republican, Cory Gardner, whose campaign appears to be an unstoppable freight train.

I sat down with Lucero last week to discuss his campaign, his vision for CD-4, and why he believes he is a better candidate than Cory Gardner to face-off against Markey in the fall.  

In the race between him and Gardner, Lucero’s central message is that Cory Gardner is a career politician, while he is a small-business owner and political outsider. The implication, of course, is that Lucero is the defender of the average man, while Gardner is merely looking to satiate his own personal ambition and add another line to his resume.  

“[I am] a small business owner first and foremost. I’m someone who has actually created jobs and has not had anything handed to them in their life. I know what its going to take to get this economy back on track because I’ve lived it…I can talk about the unintended consequences of government intervention into the market place. ”

A staunch critic of ethanol subsidies, Lucero continued, “I was in the restaurant industry when the government made its push toward ethanol, and the cost of doing business went way up…the cost of making pizza went up 38%.”  

Lucero is particularly frustrated by Gardner’s complicated relationship with ethanol.  At the candidate forum in March, Gardner said that “we have to wean ourselves off subsidies with not just ethanol, but we have to wean ourselves off subsidies throughout government.” But during his career in the state legislature, Gardner has supported the development of ethanol, including sponsoring a bill in 2006-S.B. 06-138, The Ethanol Requirement Act-that required 75% of all gasoline in the state contain at least 10% ethanol between certain months of the year.  

The bill also sought to bolster the state’s E85 program, which requires flexible fuel vehicles, by incentivizing E85 fuel.  Ultimately, Governor Owens vetoed the bill. In a statement, Owens said, “free-market principles, which are the same principles that have established ethanol as an alternative to fossil fuels, are overlooked by this bill.”

Like Gardner, Congresswoman Markey has been a supporter of ethanol.  According to an article published by the Colorado Independent last June, Markey co-sponsored two key ethanol bills. The first was an amendment to the Clean Air Act that would limit the way ethanol’s CO2 emissions are measured. The second was legislation she co-sponsored to provide incentives through tax breaks to increase ethanol fueling-station infrastructure.

According to Lucero, however, who is closely affiliated with the libertarian Independence Institute,  “if the government has to subsidize something, it doesn’t work…The free-market works. If ethanol can survive, it has to compete on the open market with everything else.”


In part because of Lucero’s twelve-year tenure on the Board of Regents, he has made education reform-at the K-12 and university level-a central pillar of his campaign. The issue we discussed was teacher tenure. When asked whether he would support reforming tenure and, in exchange for more accountability, teachers would get substantial increases in pay based on performance, he flatly said, “Yes.” In fact, he continued, “one of the the good things to come out of Ward Churchill is that CU became one of the first public universities to do a thorough analysis of tenure.”

Ultimately, Lucero would like to replace tenure entirely at both the University level and in K-12 with short-term contracts:

“What I would much prefer to see are five year contracts. You are locked in for five years with evaluation periods along the way. Once that five year contract is up, the next five year contract comes with additional financial perks….[That said,] you also have to build into that an evaluative process that is fair to all involved. Everyone needs to know the ground rules going in.”

Lucero’s focus on education has gotten him in trouble with the Republican base over Referendum C. Last month, at the GOP candidate forum at Mountain View High School, Dean Madere attacked Lucero’s 2005 support for Referendum C, which Lucero believed was necessary to keep tuition at CU from spiraling out of control, while Cory Gardner attacked the measure by saying, “It wasn’t a TABOR timeout; it was a TABOR blowout.” Even Diggs Brown, who originally supported the measure, said that he regretted the vote in hindsight.

Referendum C still chafes at Colorado Republicans across the state, and Lucero received a great deal of criticism for his defense of the measure at the candidate forum. “I’ve got an 11-year record on the Board of Regents fighting for fiscal responsibility, and constraining the budget. I’ve actually been in that battlefield fighting those battles,” Lucero said. “That was one vote in 11 years.”

When I asked him about his defense of the measure, however, Lucero backed away from his statements. “When you have only a minute to answer a question it makes it difficult,” he told me. “I wasn’t defending Ref C. I was explaining why I supported it originally.”

Noting that Ref C was intended to fortify the state’s finances in education, transportation, and corrections, Lucero bluntly stated, “the Legislature and the Governor had an obligation to take care of those three key areas and have them set up to weather the next recession. They didn’t do it, and they lied…Ultimately what happened with the Ref C dollars…[was] the politicians and guys in Denver misspent and ultimately went against the will of the voters.”

“Cory Gardner is a perfect example of this because of his support of the Governor’s new Energy Authority,” Lucero added in reference to Gardner’s 2008 vote on H.B. 1025.  “There was 65 million dollars in earmarks right there for wind and solar,” he stated passionately. “You have a hundred guys down in Denver wanting to bring something home to their district, and all of a sudden, all of that good will and all of those dollars from the citizens of Colorado went away. ”

“Knowing what we know today, I wouldn’t have voted for it,” he concluded.

For the rest of the interview, go to

Interview with Dean Madere

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

For political observers, the Republican primary contest in Colorado’s Fourth Congressional district is a foregone conclusion. State representative Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is the run-away favorite to challenge incumbent Democrat Betsy Markey in November. Gardner carries the blessing of the national party as one of the RNC’s ‘Young Guns,’ a national organization designed for the top GOP challengers in the country, and he has been the presumptive favorite since he entered the race almost a year ago. In fact, Fort Collins City Councilman Diggs Brown, Gardner’s most competitive challenger, dropped out after finishing a distant second in a preference poll taken during the Republican caucuses on March 17th.

Not all of Gardner’s opponents have taken his impressive showing as a reason to quit, however. Dean Madere of Loveland has decided to continue with his insurgency campaign . Only entering the race last November, Madere’s candidacy is the product of the burgeoning 9-12 and Tea Party Movements in Northern Colorado, where he also draws most of his support. His campaign war-chest is so meager that he isn’t required to file a campaign financial report. Nevertheless, despite the diminutive size of his grassroots campaign, his supporters are motivated and passionate, and because of that, he still managed to register 11% in the preference poll done at the GOP caucuses in March.

Over the weekend, I sat down with Madere and talked with him about his involvement with the Tea Party movement, his campaign, and the direction he would like to take the country if he were elected to Congress.


Madere has always been a politically minded person, but it wasn’t until the onslaught of the financial crisis and all the bailouts over the last couple of years that he took to political activism. A territory manager of a heating and conditioning company, Madere became one of the original organizing members of the Glenn Beck inspired 9-12 group in Loveland, which came together last April after he and his family participated in the “Tax Day” tea parties that were organized all over the country to protest the federal government policies.

While there, Madere connected with like-minded people, who would ultimately join him to become the original members of the first 9-12 meetings. According to Madere website, the group was intended to further “the causes of Liberty, Freedom, and the founding principles of our country.” For Madere, however, the 9-12 Project wasn’t enough. With the encouragement of his family and friends, he decided that he needed to make a larger impact and “not just stand by and let career politicians make the decisions” affecting his family and friends every day. He decided to run for Congress.

When he declared his candidacy last November, both the Colorado Independent and the Colorado Statesman tied him to Sarah Palin, calling him a would-be Palin for CD-4. “Sarah Palin means different things to different people,” Madere told me as he laughed at the association. “I have never come out and said ‘I am the Sarah Palin candidate.’ That is something that other people have said about me.”

Madere does, however, see similarities with Palin, but it is less substantive than it is due to a similar personal narrative.

“For me, the connection is that we have both challenged the [Republican] Party. We both came out of nowhere to challenge the party to get better,” he explained to me. “For me, the challenge is that I want the party to get back to its real roots; I want the party to stand for something. I want the party to stand for fiscal responsibility, and not just talk about it.”

“When the Republicans had control of Congress, they blew it,” he blurted out to me.

According to Madere, he and Palin both came from relative obscurity to challenge and reform the GOP. Beyond that, though, the similarities begin to fade. Unlike Palin, Madere is a deep thinker, and he has a degree in political science from the University of Houston. In part because of his education, he has developed governing political philosophy, and he prides himself in his love and understanding of the Constitution.

Last year, he and a colleague, Jeff Mast, started the Founding Fathers Education Association, an organization dedicated to this country’s founding documents and the ideas that they represent.

“I am a constitutional conservative,” he explained to me. “I believe in really getting back to those [founding] principles,” which highlights the protection of individual liberty and limited government. Indeed, as Madere writes in his campaign website’s blog, that one of his biggest issues in this campaign is “fixing the structure of our government.” “We have to push forward our constitutional values, he declared last November, “and make it clear that this country is a republic, not a democracy.”

In this sense, Madere is a radical. He is a radical not because he is an extremist in any sense of the word, but because he is unconventional. He is a radical not because he is an anti-government revolutionary either. He is a radical because he is Utopian. More than any of the other candidates, Madere is a true Jeffersonian Republican.

For Madere, the best protection of liberty is through a decentralized republic that promotes individual productivity and state authority above national prerogatives. As a result, in many ways, he would like to return the United States to the original Constitution and the governing framework that it created.

He has a narrow view of federal authority and of the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce clause, and he is a fierce advocate of states’ rights and the Tenth Amendment. He is not fond of the Sixteenth Amendment. And when asked about repealing the Seventeenth Amendment, he suggested that it would be a good idea because it would help re-address the balance of power between the federal government and the states.

“I am not an anti-government person,” he explained. “I’m not an anarchist. I just believe that the states need to have more control and the federal government needs to have less control.” “We need to get the federal government back to its proper role,” he insisted.

“I don’t believe,” he writes in his blog, “that our federal government has the right to impose federal mandates on our states for such things as health care, energy policy, and education. These are matters best left to the states.” Even with respect to programs like Medicare and Medicaid, he believes that they are good programs that have a place, but they belong at the state level.

“There are great ideas that are being debated in Washington that are good ideas that technically the federal government doesn’t have the authority to do but are great ideas so let’s take them down to the states and do them.”

Last month, at a primary debate at Mountain View High School in Loveland, Madere suggested abolishing the income tax and restoring the import tariff as the federal government’s primary source of revenue. When I asked him to clarify his views, especially the implication that he would abolish Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, he explained that “this is where the big picture needs to be examined. When you send the money and the power to Washington, your vote matters less and your dollars are wasted because now you are sending your money there and the bureaucracy eats that money up.”

“If the federal government got back to its proper role, then we wouldn’t need the income tax to be what it is today, he concluded.”

Tom Lucero, the other GOP primary candidate trying to grab the nomination from Gardner, has latched onto Madere’s comments and argued that he wants to drop everyone on their heads from the country’s social safety net-i.e. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Flustered by the misguided implication that he wanted to “drop people on their heads,” Madere stated emphatically that “Social Security is a contract. We have made a contract with all of the people who have paid into Social Security. We need to honor our end of the contract as government. We can’t just drop people on their head.”

Ultimately, however, Madere explained to me that he would like to incrementally scale back Social Security as a government program and reconstitute it in the private sector.

If the Jeffersonian republican ideal of state sovereignty and decentralized authority are the best mechanisms for protecting individual liberty, then the person best suited to ensure that framework is not a career politician, but a citizen statesman. That, Madere believes, is what separates him from Cory Gardner. Unlike Gardner-whose resume and long history of public service are hallmarks of a career politician-Madere believes he is “more of what the founders envisioned.” “I am not a career politician,” he added. “I tell people that I am running to be your representative, not a politician.”

As the interview ended, Madere made a passionate plea telling me that “the better representative is somebody who comes from a place where they are not interested in being a career politician. And out of the three remaining candidates in this race, I possess that. I have another job; I have a career. This, for me, is something I feel that I need to do because I think that’s what Washington needs to see. They need to see someone who is not there to play games, not there to satisfy the party, and not there to satisfy his wallet. Cory is obviously following a career path.”


Madere’s vision for the United States offers a stark and vivid contrast to the trajectory the country has taken since the end of World War II. During this period of protracted economic recession and fiscal uncertainty, however, his ideas take on a renewed political saliency for a growing segment of the electorate. It is no surprise then that despite his campaign’s small operation, he has managed to elicit the amount of support that he has already gained, especially among the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. His passion is contagious, his amiable personality is infectious, and his image as an average American guy and political outsider jives well with the prevailing populist discontent directed toward established political elites in Northern Colorado and across the country.

However, like Thomas Jefferson, who saw his idyllic republic slip away due to the rise of modern industry and its requirement for a centralized state, Madere’s republican vision will be as elusive as Jefferson’s was ephemeral. The challenges and complexities of the modern economy present problems that are too large to be dealt with at a state level. Furthermore, even though he has tapped into a reservoir of discontent, as the recession recedes, it is an open question whether the vibrancy of Madere’s candidacy, as well as vitality of the Tea Party movement in general, can persist in a stronger economy.

The Census is Good for Colorado

Afton Branche wrote an article in the Huffington Post yesterday articulating why Colorado stands to benefit from an accurate and timely census. She wrote:

Only a successful 2010 Census can help Denver gets its fair share of the over the $400 billion in federal and state funding that is distributed based on population data. This means for every household counted, the city receives funding to use for hiring teachers, repairing roads, building public transportation and other critical services. Without these resources, city and state leaders cannot plan and provide for the needs of a growing population.

The census is more than a population survey for the government; the ten-minute survey is also an invaluable source of intelligence for the private sector. Large and small businesses rely upon demographic data to make investment decisions, expand markets, open new stores, limit risk, and answer questions like: Will there be enough customers to support my new location? Can this area provide the workforce I need? For example, if a child care provider wants to open a new daycare center, he or she can use age and population figures to determine how many children currently live in a target area. And a grocery chain can use census data to determine whether a potential store is within driving distance of target customers.

For retailers and other businesses, an accurate portrait of Denver’s growing population reveals growing markets. A full count will help Denver demonstrate its market potential to investors looking to determine whether the region has enough customers to support new services or the workforce necessary to staff new franchises. And more than ever, businesses will need to rely on this information to maximize scarce resources and minimize the risks of major ventures.

The the growing influence of right-wing libertarianism and fear of government intrusion into the household has led an alarmingly high number of people to boycott the census out of an odd sense of principle.  Calling themselves defenders of the Constitution, these people are thwarting the federal government from effectively carrying out one of the duties explicitly assigned to it by the Constitution itself–i.e. taking the census.  

As Branche astutely points out, however, inaccurate census numbers have actual consequences regarding private-sector investment, and federal funding for public goods and services.  

In other words, the census should not be viewed as a nefarious government plot designed to penetrate into every household in America, and failing to do it could have far reaching and unintended consequences. So, please. Fill out your census packets and send them in.  

Markey’s Health Care Vote Helps Her Re-Election

The Denver Post ran an article over the weekend arguing that Congresswoman Betsy Markey has become a polarizing force within her district in light of her recent ‘yes’ vote for health care reform.  Indeed, conventional wisdom emerging from her district holds that Markey has consigned herself to only one term in Congress because the majority of her district, which leans Republican anyway, opposed the highly controversial piece of legislation.

After all, The Coloradoan’s Bob Moore wrote in his blog last week that of all the Democrats in Congress, her vote was the gutsiest/riskiest because she represents a +6 Republican District, and it was already a tossup race before her vote.  Quoting pollster Nate Sivler, Moore then compared her to Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, who cast the deciding vote in the Clinton budget in 1994 and lost her seat soon thereafter.

Despite her controversial vote, however, I am now not convinced her political fortunes are any different than they were before two weeks. In fact, I think this vote may actually help her re-election efforts in November.

As I have argued before, Markey’s largest political weakness is going into November is being a Democrat elected to a predominately Republican district, and those who are upset with her vote on health care weren’t likely to vote for her anyway. Had she voted against the measure, her political fortunes would likely be worse off. She would have dampened her support within her own base, risked losing valuable campaign funding from unions for which health care is a new litmus test, and its doubtful she would have picked up many right-leaning voters or Republicans.

In fact, as Denver Westword blog noted after she voted against the original House bill in November, Cory Gardner’s campaign spokesman contorted himself into knots trying to tie Markey to the reform bill anyway–arguing that it was a vote of expedience, not conscience. “There’s no doubt in my mind that it was carefully calculated,” Gardner spokesman asserted.

“She knows this legislation is out of step with her district, and that’s why she voted against it — but only after doing everything she could to help it pass.” Had she voted no again, voters suspicious of her to begin with would still no doubt question her motives and integrity in voting against it and would have simply argued that she was shifting with the political winds. She would have lost either way.

Now, though, she has an energized base, that will be willing to walk through fire for her, swing voters may now see her vote as one of conviction and principle, which is something that independents value in particular. Since health care reform is now law, moreover, many of its benefits will be noticed immediately. For example, children can remain on their parents’ insurance plans until they are twenty-six, children with pre-existing conditions are will be covered within 6 months, the Medicare Part D donut hole begins to close with a $250 rebate for all Medicare recipients who hit the coverage gap, and there are immediate bans on lifetime limits on coverage and on restrictive annual limits on coverage.

As people begin to see how they benefit from the new law, they will embrace reform, which has been mired by misinformation, fear-mongering and a messy legislative process that mystified and frustrated the average voter. What’s more, the intensity of opposition to reform cannot persist at these levels forever, even the staunchest opponent of reform will tire from health care fatigue.  In fact, as I argued over the weekend, the larger political narrative over the health care debate has already begun to shift in favor of the Democrats and there are some indications that public opinion is already beginning to shift as well.

Make no mistake, Congresswoman Markey is facing a tough re-election battle this November, but her chief obstacle remains the same as it was the day she walked into office–that is, being a Democrat elected from a Republican district.  In the end, health care reform–whether she favored or opposed it–cannot change that.