Denver Teachers Win Big After Successful Strike

Vox’s Alexia Fernández Campbell reports on the developing conclusion to the three-day strike by teachers of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, ending in victory for the teachers and heralding a new ascendancy for organized labor power in Colorado under Gov. Jared Polis:

Details are not yet available, but the deal includes an average 11.7 percent pay raise and annual cost of living increases, according to the school district and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, a labor union representing more than 5,000 educators in Denver public schools. It will also include raises for school support staff. Bus drivers and cafeteria workers may also get a raise, but that’s not part of the official agreement with the teachers union.

It also addresses the teachers’ biggest concern: the need to overhaul the merit-pay system, which relies heavily on annual bonuses that fluctuate from year to year. The new system will place more emphasis on education and training when considering promotions, while keeping some bonuses in place…

Teachers did make some concessions, but the deal represents a remarkable win for Denver’s teachers, who have been picketing and rallying in the streets for the past two days, while school administrators struggled to keep classes on schedule. It’s also a sign of the overwhelming momentum teachers have on their side from months of widespread teacher strikes across the country over school funding cuts and low teacher pay.

After the DCTA voted by 93% to walk out, the state Department of Labor and Employment under the direction of Gov. Polis could have ordered a so-called “cooling off period” of up to six months, which would have deprived teachers of their power to back up their negotiations with action. There was considerable worry that Polis would do just that, especially after the governor and his staff took an active role in attempting to mediate between the sides early on.

In the end, though, the decision by Gov. Polis not to curtail the teachers’ ability to strike made it clear who would have the upper hand. In addition Denver Public Schools management did very little to ingratiate themselves with the public, after a message to visa-holding noncitizen teachers wrongly threatening to report them to immigration officials and stories of school administrators trying to censor students documenting the dysfunction on campus.

The proposed new contract, which still needs to be ratified by the teachers, gives the teachers much more than they were offered before the strike–which is, of course, the most important measurement of success. And for Gov. Polis, his campaign promise to be an advocate for working people and organized labor in particular is looking well-kept as of now.

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BREAKING: Polis Will Not Intervene, DPS Strikes Next Week

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Elizabeth Hernandez:

Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday declined to intervene in the impending Denver teacher strike, which could have delayed a teacher walkout by up to 180 days…

At the heart of the disagreement is Denver’s teacher compensation plan ProComp. Both sides have proposals they claim improve the pay scale that determines how and what teachers get paid. DCTA’s proposal kicks in about $28.5 million toward teacher compensation, while the district’s is about $20.8 million.

In addition to the $8 million difference in teachers pay plans, the district and union disagree on how educators should advance along their proposed compensation schedules. The union’s plan allows for more opportunities for teachers to bump up in pay as they accrue credits toward advancing their education.

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That’s the breaking word from the first floor of the state capitol, Gov. Jared Polis will NOT order a 180-day cooling-off period via the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, returning power to the Denver Classroom Teachers Association to commence a strike if a deal isn’t reached by Monday, February 11th.

We’ll update with coverage and statements, but this is a big win for teachers that will shore up Polis’ left flank on the hot-button issue of public education–and puts teeth in Polis’ campaign pledge to help organized workers flex their muscles.

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Fracking Fracas: The Bill Is Coming

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

Bente Birkeland and Grace Hood at Colorado Public Radio offer another preview of the big fight on the near horizon in the Colorado General Assembly–meaningfully tightening regulations on the oil and gas industry after years of intra-Democratic gridlock on the issue under the previous administration:

All parties in the debate were locked in a holding pattern under former Gov. John Hickenlooper, but Gov. Jared Polis is expected to take a different approach. Some Democrats want 2019 to be the year that significantly changes the regulation of oil and gas companies.

There’s more than activists or oil and gas companies with their eyes on the state capitol. The Front Range cities of Lafayette, Superior and Erie have all enacted drilling moratoriums to wait and see what rules the legislature adopts in 2019…

Democrats will have a difficult needle to thread on oil and gas issues, that’s why they say they’re taking their time before unveiling legislation.

“Our bills now have a fighting chance, we have to make sure that we do it right,” said Democratic Sen. Mike Foote of Lafayette. He has pushed for tougher regulations in previous years, and is one of the handful of lawmakers involved in negotiations this session. “In the past, the oil and gas bills that I introduced, were introduced for a specific reason. I thought that they faced uphill battles, and in fact they did, but we still had to push the issue forward.”

CPR reports that the final legislation is coming together now, and is expected to take the form of one large bill covering a variety of subjects from giving local communities more direct control in drilling decisions to legislatively undoing the recent Colorado Supreme Court decision that controversially declared public health and safety subordinate to the “fostering” of oil and gas resource development as prescribed by existing law.

The extremely high stakes in this debate, coupled with the changed political climate at the state capitol, makes this issue by orders of magnitude the biggest issue of the 2019 legislative session that nobody is talking about in public yet. Whatever the final form this bill takes, we fully expect Republicans and the oil and gas industry to freak out as hard as they possibly can, firing off the usual warnings of a million billion jobs lost and the entire population of Colorado freezing to death.

Somewhere between the industry’s absurd hyperbole and the very real status quo of the state valuing promotion of an industry over public health, you’ll find the legislative sweet spot Democrats need to land on. And as much as the oil and gas industry wants to kill this whole effort, base Democrats and independent voters who are passionate about energy policy and climate change–and who swept Democrats into power last year–expect results.

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Will Polis Let ‘Em Strike?

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Colorado Public Radio’s Jenny Brundin reports as the standoff between the Denver Public Schools management and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) grinds on with no sign of rapprochement between the sides:

Gov. Jared Polis is making one last attempt to meet with both sides in Denver’s contentious teacher labor dispute and broker an agreement before the state decides whether it will intervene…

Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment will decide whether or not to step in by Feb. 11. In the meantime the strike teachers voted for is on hold. If the state decides to intervene, it could postpone a strike for up to 180 days.

In a letter, the agency said a lack of meaningful dialogue, a fundamental disagreement over the facts and costs of competing proposals, and the reopening of negotiations last week that turned into “political theater at its worst,” all weigh heavily on the state’s decision.

In response, the teacher’s union insisted the state not get involved.

With negotiations between DPS management and the DCTA effectively stalled and teachers itching to get out on the picket line, there is undeniable pushback building over Gov. Jared Polis’ attempt to informally broker a compromise. The real deadline now is the one observed by the Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), who will soon decide whether or not to order a six-month “cooling off period”–a decision that would buoy management’s negotiating position but greatly increase tensions between the teachers and the governor’s office.

As we said last week, all parties are watching closely to see how Gov. Polis navigates this situation, the first real political controversy of his brand-new administration. Polis campaigned with the strong support of organized labor in this state, but also has been a supporter of the sometimes-divisive education “reform” agenda that underlies the dispute between teachers and Denver Public Schools officials.

The only thing we can say for sure is that kids won’t get to play hooky either way.

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So, About That GOP Tax Cut Bill…

TUESDAY UPDATE: Apropos from the Colorado Sun’s Brian Eason:

President Donald Trump’s $400 billion federal tax cut for pass-through businesses has emerged as a top target of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis as he looks to eliminate corporate tax breaks to pay for a statewide income tax cut.

The Democratic governor’s goal: A permanent cut to the state income tax rate that would lower the tax bills of most Colorado households and many businesses. But to pay for it, some wealthy households and businesses — namely large retailers and a wide category of companies that includes law firms and much of the financial industry — would see their taxes go up…

Polis wants to eliminate an unspecified amount of corporate income tax breaks to pay for a cut to the state’s income tax rate. In the campaign Polis said he hoped to reduce income taxes by 3 to 5 percent — or up to $450 million. But administration officials now are cautioning that the number will depend on the value of the tax breaks they’re able to eliminate. [Pols emphasis]

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Just over a week ago, the Colorado Fiscal Institute put out their detailed analysis of a Republican tax cut bill introduced this session–Senate Bill 19-055, which would cut the state’s income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.49%, would cost the state an estimated $280 million while reducing taxes by a whopping $59 on a resident earning $60,000 per year.

The net effect (or lack thereof) was best illustrated by this table from the CFI:

The politics of this bill, which is likely to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate Finance Committee tomorrow afternoon, were briefly scrambled after Gov. Jared Polis Tweeted in apparent support shortly after it was announced by the Senate GOP minority. One of Gov. Polis’ platform planks as he took office, after all, was a shake-up of the tax system, with the goal of relief for individuals and more skin in the game for wealthy corporate interests.

Under the hood, as CFI explained well in their analysis, this legislation doesn’t do anything to accomplish Polis’ goal of changing the tax system in a “revenue neutral” manner. It simply cuts taxes, and regressively at that–providing almost no relief to the residents who everyone likes to say need tax relief the most. If we really want to give meaningful tax relief to working families, programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit are a far better way to direct it.

Because this particular bill never really had a chance in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, most observers we’ve talked to think that Gov. Polis was more interested in showing good faith on one component of his agenda, with the party who wants to hear about that part the most. In reality, a reduction in any particular tax rate will have to be part of a larger conversation–one that takes into account the state’s long-term fiscal shortfall, and a realistic appraisal of the backlog in funding priorities of every kind.

Suffice to say that we’re in the very earliest stages of that discussion.

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DPS Management Strike PR Off To Really Horrible Start

Are you SURE you want to strike?

Denver7’s Oscar Contreras reports on a nasty little “misunderstanding” this week between Denver Public Schools officials and Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) teachers who voted overwhelmingly this week to strike for better pay:

Denver Public School officials are apologizing after a notice went out to teachers warning those on working visas that they would be reported to immigration officials should they participate in a district-wide strike voted on earlier this week .

The letter, obtained by Denver7, states the district needs to be informed of the decision of teachers on H or J visas to go on strike “as soon as possible as we are required to report that to immigration and the US Department of State.”

That letter, however, was the result of “misrepresentation” of information received by the district’s immigration firm and an incorrect communication, according to DPS spokesman Will Jones.

“The communication was in no way intended to cause fear for our educators on visas,” Jones said in the prepared statement sent to Denver7 Thursday evening.

First of all, and this needs to be bold faced in every single story about this incident, we are not talking about undocumented immigrants. Teachers from abroad in Denver Public Schools have work visas and fully legal status to do their jobs. According to DPS officials doing damage control after reporters contacted them about these letters sent to teachers, the individual names of noncitizen teachers would not be reported to ICE–just the fact that a strike is taking place, and presumably ICE can…take it from there?

On second thought, that’s not very comforting either, is it?

It should go without saying that DPS management should be extremely careful and diplomatic with their communications with teachers ahead of a strike, and in this case their comms carelessness just happened to come down on the side of intimidating legal immigrant teachers with the specter of Donald Trump’s immigration enforcers–who we’re going to go out on a limb and suggest don’t like strikes much either.

Whether an accident or, you know, not so much, we can all agree this is not the way to win hearts and minds.

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DPS Teachers Vote To Strike, Polis Wades Into The Fray

AP via Colorado Public Radio reports on a situation we’re monitoring closely in Denver, after teachers represented by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) voted overwhelmingly to strike for better across-the-board pay and other unresolved disagreements with the school board.

Into this widening divide steps Colorado’s new Gov. Jared Polis, hoping to bridge the impasse before the potentially disruptive strike is set to begin next Monday:

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday he is seeking to prevent Denver teachers from walking off the job next week after they overwhelmingly voted to strike over pay.

Polis, who took office this month, said he would meet with representatives of the school district and teachers’ union to see if he could “play a role in bringing them together.” But the Democrat who has vowed to increase school funding declined to elaborate…

The earliest teachers could legally walk off the job is Monday. However, the state labor department could also intervene and put the strike on hold for up to 180 days. It would be the first teacher walkout in 25 years.

Can Gov. Polis bring the sides together in a fight dripping with subtext over major philosophical differences in public education? Will the state flex its controversial muscle and impose a cooling-off period? Whatever happens next, this is the first big labor fight of a new era of full Democratic control in Colorado. The outcome here is going to, as they say, set a tone.

We’ll update with developments, and we don’t expect to wait long. Stay tuned.

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So Much For #RadiCalifornia: Electric Cars Go Bipartisan

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

The Greeley Tribune’s Trevor Reid reports on executive orders signed today by Gov. Jared Polis to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles in Colorado, including shifting funds from the emissions fraud settlement with Volkswagen to building out electric charging infrastructure:

Gov. Jared Polis signed Thursday morning an executive order to support a transition to electric vehicles.

The executive order establishes a work group of 17 members from 13 state departments to develop policies and programs supporting the transition to electric vehicles, as well as a revision to the state’s allocation of the remains of $68.7 million it received from the Volkswagen emissions settlement to support electrifying transportation including transit buses, school buses and trucks. The work group will report to the governor beginning July 1 on its progress.

Polis pointed to transportation as a key contributor to local air pollution, causing health complications for children and adults with asthma and other chronic conditions.

“Nationwide and in Colorado, transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions,” Polis said.

Among the attendees at the press conference today was Republican Sen. Kevin Priola, who spoke immediately after Gov. Polis:

Sen. Priola’s high-profile appearance at today’s press conference in support of Polis’ executive orders to encourage the switch to electric vehicles, part of the new governor’s plan to move the state to 100% renewable energy sources, scrambles the politics for Republicans looking to take their inevitable potshots on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. During the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, Republicans lambasted Polis for his “radical” campaign pledge of a transition to 100% renewable energy.

After Polis trounced his Republican opponent and Democrats triumphed in the legislature last November, here’s a swing-district Republican up in 2020 turning over a new (Nissan) Leaf.

As they say, elections matter.

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Gov. Jared Polis Takes Office

UPDATE: Watch live:

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UPDATE: Incoming Gov. Jared Polis’ vanquished Republican opponent Walker Stapleton sends his regards…from jury duty:

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KDVR reporting on preparation and road closures around the state capitol building for today’s inauguration of Gov. Jared Polis:

Polis will be sworn in as the 43rd governor at 11 a.m. Tuesday on the west steps of the Colorado State Capitol.

Most of the road closures will begin at 10 p.m. on Monday night and last until around 8 p.m. on Tuesday. The Colorado State Patrol recommends planning accordingly and avoiding the area.

Grant Street: Two lanes between Colfax Avenue and 14th Avenue
Lincoln Street: Complete closure between 13th Avenue and Colfax Avenue
Sherman Street: Complete closure from 13th Avenue to 14th Avenue
14th Avenue: Complete closure at Broadway to Grant Street

We’ll update this post with coverage, and watch the inauguration live here at 11:00AM.

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Polis and Primavera, Then and Now

Rep. Matt Gray Tweeted out a found photo last night that’s quickly making its way around the weekend ahead of incoming Gov. Jared Polis’ inauguration–the Governor-elect and our new Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, but at least a decade ago when both held very much non-executive offices:

From this year’s campaign, for comparison:

We’d love to know more about precisely when and where the historic photo at top was taken, but it’s a reminder of how long both have been friends and public servants. We should all call ourselves fortunate to have held together as well through a whole intervening decade. Also, as you can see Gov.-elect Polis was rocking the polo shirt years before he made it the hot fashion choice in Congress!

You’re right, that last one is a stretch. But congrats to the new administration just the same.

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Discuss: The Big Colorado Politics Stories of 2018

It’s the final week of the year, which means it’s time to take stock one more time of the big events and themes that shaped the narrative of Colorado politics in 2018. We’re working on our own recap blog series, changing up our long-used “Top Ten Stories” format in hopes of better capturing the dynamics of the biggest year for Colorado Democrats since FDR and Harry Truman led the party (with honorable mentions for 1958 and 1974).

After a year of jubilation for Democrats and destruction for Colorado Republicans surpassing even the most optimistic forecasts including our own, take a step back and tell us what you think it all means–today and for the future.

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You’ve Come a Long Way, Colorado–Let’s Party

Among the many inaugural festivities to break out your black tie for (or your “dressy Western,” this being Colorado), here is one that even if you don’t get to attend, every Coloradan should be proud to know is happening:

One Colorado Executive Director Daniel Ramos:

“As the state’s leading advocacy organization for LGBTQ Coloradans and their families, it’s important we recognize Colorado’s contributions to the history of the LGBTQ community, including the election of Colorado’s first openly gay Governor, Jared Polis. The story of Colorado from the Hate State to the Great State is a recognition of early investments from the Gill Foundation; expanding protections for LGBTQ Coloradans in areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations; protecting LGBTQ youth from bullying in Colorado schools; and ensuring transgender Coloradans can access identity documents that match who they are. Our work continues to improve the lives of LGBTQ Coloradans and their families. So for this night, we will honor the work of those who paved this path before us, celebrate this historic occasion of our country’s first gay governor, and then get back to work ensuring a more fair and just Colorado for all.”

Special guests will include:

The Honorable Barney Frank, the first gay member of Congress to come out voluntarily.

Melissa Etheridge, an Academy Award and Oscar Award winning singer-songwriter and gay rights activist.

David Mullins and Charlie Craig, the plaintiffs from the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court case.

Of all the inaugural wing-wings scheduled for the second week of January in addition to the main event, here’s one more that could draw out some truly big nationwide stars in addition to headlining LGBTQ royalty. Gov.-elect Jared Polis was already bicoastal A-Lister before being elected Colorado’s chief executive, and the historic moment his inauguration represents makes it an occasion for a party like Denver perhaps hasn’t seen since hosting the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

And when you reflect back on history a quarter century to 1992, the year both an unconstitutional constitutional amendment sanctioning discrimination against LGBTQ people in Colorado and another amendment stripping all future Colorado lawmakers of their most essential fiscal authority became law, this inauguration and the new straight Democratic control backing it up take on even more significance. From the Masterpiece Cakeshop court decision to the coming battles over spending priorities in Colorado, these are struggles that continue.

But Colorado has come a long way since that bad old days of 1992. We’re a “hate state” no longer.

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U.S. Olympic Committee Spurns Cash-Strapped Colorado

Abandoned Olympic stuff.

Colorado Public Radio reports, no Winter Games for you Colorado:

The U.S. Olympic Committee has nominated Salt Lake City to be the host city of the 2030 Winter Olympics, eliminating Denver from the process…

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) announced their choice for the 2030 host city on Friday.

Denver and Salt Lake City were two of the few true competitors for the title. Most cities have been ambivalent at best in their efforts (or lack thereof) to woo the upcoming Winter Olympics. The Reno-Tahoe area declined an invitation to bid for the host city title.

The Denver Sports Commission said in a statement the decision was “disappointing.”

Not everyone is disappointed by the decision of the U.S. Olympic Committee to return to Utah once again as the nation’s host entry for the 2030 Winter Olympics instead of Colorado, or the Colorado-Utah co-hosted Games also proposed–first among them Gov.-elect Jared Polis, who broke with the previous administration’s support for a Colorado Olympic bid with a “meh” that was probably decisive.

And as exciting as it would have been, there are lots of more important things to spend money on.

Just like Dick Lamm said in 1972.

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“Overreach”–What Losers Always Say To Winners

With Democrats about to take charge of the governor’s office, the statewide offices of treasurer, attorney general, and secretary of state, and in full control of both chambers of the Colorado General Assembly, the narrative from defeated Republicans has shifted to dire warnings of the “overreach” in store from Democrats without a Republican majority somewhere along the line with veto power to check their aspirations.

The Greeley Tribune recently editorialized:

Five years ago, Democrats in Colorado controlled all the levers of power. They held majorities in the House and Senate. The governor also was a Democrat.

As leaders of political parties in the U.S. often do when they find themselves in this position, the Democrats pressed their advantage — passing gun control legislation and a controversial renewable energy standard. They also pursued tight regulations on the oil and gas industry.

In Weld County, which remained steadfastly red, the consequences of all this were almost unimaginable. A group of activists and elected officials — led by the Board of Weld County Commissioners — began to push a secession movement. The group pointed to a divide between the urban Denver metro area and much of the rest of the state…

As all sides in Colorado politics take stock of this year’s landslide victory for Democrats up and down the ballot, we’re seeing reactions that closely parallel–at least on the surface–the response to the last big Democratic surge in Colorado in the 2012 elections. Hand-wringing about the supposed horrors of life under Democratic control in Colorado leads to talk of certain areas of the state either seceding or (new in 2018) joining Wyoming.

And that’s how it’s spun: Democratic “overreach” prompts a completely unhinged secession movement that is nonetheless taken at least somewhat seriously. And of course, in 2013 Democratic “overreach” led to recalls! Some variation of this faux concern warning  to victorious Democrats has been the conclusion of the majority of post-election opinion from conservatives, as well as the state’s crop of aging white male “centrist” opinionmakers.

But does it have any basis in reality? In a word, no.

(more…)

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A Few Words About Polis Education Transition Heartburn

Bob Schaffer.

Gov.-elect Jared Polis is grappling with the first real controversy he’s encountered since his double-digit victory earlier this month, with a less-then-enthusiastic response to certain members of his “transition team.” As John Frank at the Colorado Sun reported last week:

The team includes prominent Democrats, such as former Gov. Bill Ritter, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, former Colorado State University President Al Yates, former Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio and two former Democratic House speakers, Crisanta Duran and Andrew Romanoff. The Keystone Center will facilitate the effort.

But Polis touted his transition effort as a bipartisan affair and pointed to one prominent Republican on the team, former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer, a charter school leader who is a member of the education effort. Schaffer served in a similar role for Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2010, a move that drew scorn from liberals for his controversial stances in the past.

Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette elaborated further on the education team, which has justifiably rankled public school supporters:

The Polis education team — one of seven teams whose members were announced Friday — includes Jen Walmer, director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a political group that advocates for charter schools. Some education-policy liberals accuse the group of seeking to restrict teacher unions.

Another is former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer, a Republican advocate for taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools and formerly a member of the state board of education.

Schaffer also is chairman of the board of the Leadership Program of the Rockies (LPR) a Republican-leaning organization that provides training on conservative principles and leadership. Its graduates include three of the former members of the Douglas County Board of Education who approved a controversial private-school voucher program in 2011. Schaffer advocated for the state board of education to endorse the voucher program.
The Dougco program led to lawsuits, including a trip all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was dismantled last year after voters elected an anti-voucher school board.

Bob Schaffer, the failed 2008 GOP U.S. Senate turned headmaster of a politically conservative charter high school in Fort Collins, is not the only member of Polis’ education team drawing criticism. There’s also Mike Johnston, who lost to Polis in the Democratic primary largely due to his authorship of a much-reviled “teacher effectiveness” bill that since passage in 2010 has contributed directly to a shortage of teachers in Colorado with no discernible impact on student performance. For the large number of Democratic voters who think supporting public schools is predicate to “reforming” them, these people are more than bad choices: they’re the bad actors in public education base Democrats thought they were voting against. We said the same thing when John Hickenlooper appointed Schaffer to his education transition team, and it’s no less true today.

Since 2010, however, the landscape of education politics in Colorado has significantly changed. The Douglas County religious school voucher program was stymied in court and then soundly rejected by Douglas County voters who threw out the conservative board. The conservative education “reform” movement hit its zenith in 2013 after a slate of far-right school board members took power in Jefferson County, only to be overwhelmingly recalled from office two years later. Johnston’s rejection by Democratic primary voters despite massive infusions of cash from out-of-state education “reform” interests further underscores where the power has shifted on education in the last decade.

In 2004, Polis founded the New America School charter high schools with the specific purpose of “empowering new immigrants, English language learners, and academically underserved students.” Far from the predatory cherry-picking suburban charter schools (rightly) vilified by neighborhood school supporters, NAS is an example of a niche need charter schools can gainfully fill under the right circumstances. Will that experience manifest as a blind spot for Polis with regard to charter schools that aren’t so well-intentioned? That remains to be seen. But this is a charter school doing more good than harm.

With all of this in mind, and especially with Democratic majorities in both chambers of the legislature, the potential harm from appointing Schaffer and “ed reform” Democrats to Polis’ transition team is self-limiting–more so than when Hickenlooper appointed Schaffer to the same committee eight years ago. Polis himself takes pride in engaging with all sides, including those he has little to nothing in common with. The best response is for public education supporters to be loud in their opposition, and back that up with a strong presence in the legislature next year to ensure their policy goals are upheld.

And be assured, Colorado’s public schools are in better hands than the alternative.

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Jared Polis Will Win Governor’s Race by Double Digits

We don’t yet know the final vote tally from the 2018 election in Colorado, but the numbers continue to grow for Democrats. Check out these totals as of 4:00 pm on Monday (Nov. 12):

The race for Governor was called in favor of Democrat Jared Polis early on Election Night, but Polis’ margin of victory over Republican Walker Stapleton has only risen as more ballots are counted. Also worth noting: Stapleton received the fewest total votes of any of the four major statewide Republican candidates.

And for the record, we called this outcome in our pre-election forecast:

A double-digit Polis win is now a real possibility.

These vote totals should also scare the crap out of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who is up for re-election in 2020. Gardner defeated Democrat Mark Udall by less than two points in 2014 with a total vote count of 965,974. In 2018, the Republican candidate for Governor received nearly 100,000 more votes than Gardner’s 2014 total…and will still end up losing to a Democrat by more than 10 points.

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We Told You So (Apparently)

dealinwalkerfinA Colorado Pols reader reminded us over the weekend that we had long ago predicted that Republican Walker Stapleton would not be the next Governor of Colorado.

We had honestly forgotten about this, but everything that we wrote in this May 2015 post — “Walker Stapleton Shows (Again) Why He’ll Never Make it to Higher Office” — held up pretty well in 2018. For example:

Walker Stapleton [is] Colorado’s “gold standard” when it comes to the stereotypical, fast-talking, bullshitting politician. Stapleton has made such a caricature of himself over the last couple of years that it he hardly seems real. Surely, you think, nobody can truly be this transparently smarmy and exist as an actual human politician…or can he?

The State Treasurer doesn’t traditionally generally get a lot of press in Colorado, and Stapleton has been no exception to the norm. But when Stapleton’s name does end up in the news, the odds are pretty good that it’s because he did something stupid. Stapleton is good at stupid.

When we wrote about Stapleton in May 2015, it was in relation to his bizarre attempt to claim that he had opposed a controversial PERA-related bill — nevermind that he wrote a letter in support of the legislation and even testified in favor of HB-1388. We marveled at the fact that Republicans were looking at Stapleton as a contender for higher office in the future despite his obvious shortcomings:

Stapleton is pretty good at fundraising, largely because of his family connections (he’s directly related to the Bush family), but he’s otherwise a complete political dunce who frequently stumbles into obvious potholes. Stapleton was re-elected as State Treasurer in 2014, but it was an unexpectedly close race due entirely to his own idiocy; when an open records request revealed that Stapleton rarely bothered to show up at his office, he made ridiculous excuses and then wouldn’t stop talking about it.

We wrote after the November election that Stapleton’s panicky errors and laughable TV ads should remove his name from future discussion about higher office; since then, Stapleton has done nothing to prove us wrong. Democrats can only hope that Stapleton is someday the Republican nominee for Governor or Senate. [Pols emphasis]

Walker Stapleton was always the candidate that Democrats hoped they would face in November 2018. As the Republican candidate for Governor, Stapleton was exactly who we thought he would be.

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What’s Your Favorite Blue Wave Win?

This week’s historic victory for Colorado Democrats leaves in its wake innumerable stories of hard work and triumph. There are so many big markers for the history books, like the first gay man elected governor of any state, the sweep of downballot statewide offices, recapturing the Colorado Senate after four years at the mercy of a one-seat GOP majority, the come-from-behind wins growing the Democratic House majority to unexpected heights, major Democratic wins in suburban Denver local governments–we could go on and on, and over the next few weeks we’ll be expounding at length on what this all means.

Use this thread to tell us about the 2018 success stories you were close to, or enjoyed reading about, or anything else you found inspiring coming out of the midterm elections in our state. Before the inevitable plunge back into partisan squabbles and pundit second-guessing, take a moment to contemplate significance of what we’ve just been through.

You earned this moment, Colorado.

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Get More Smarter: The Big Predictions Thread

With the 2018 elections wrapping up today, here’s our master list of official predictions on the outcome in Colorado. If you’re looking for national predictions, we suggest FiveThirtyEight or your choice of outlets focused on the national map. For the next 24 hours, we’re focused exclusively on the home front.

With that in mind, please refer to this list as you roast your hosts on Wednesday for everything we get wrong:

Governor: Jared Polis will handily win the race for governor. Our previous forecasts had held the prediction of Polis’ win margin below 10% citing a number of factors, but over the past few weeks the climate has only improved for Democrats in Colorado and ballot returns echo this growing confidence. A double-digit Polis win is now a real possibility.

CD-6: After years of trying, Democrats harpoon the proverbial white whale and bring incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Coffman down. Coffman’s ticket-splitting survival strategy of triangulation off his own party was confounded by Donald Trump’s election, and he has been unable to maintain the illusory separation from the GOP brand that kept him in office in a district unsupportive of conservative Republican politics.

CD-3: Despite a spirited campaign by state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, recent polling and anecdotes from the field suggest that incumbent GOP Rep. Scott Tipton will retain his seat and thus serve as the Republican Party’s firewall in Colorado for 2018. This race is a good barometer of the size of a potential “Blue Wave” nationally; if Tipton loses, that means Democrats are wiping out Republicans everywhere.

Colorado House: Democrats are poised to gain seats in the chamber they already control by a comfortable margin.

Colorado Senate: Republicans have poured at least $10 million into preserving their single-seat majority in the Colorado Senate, the only locus of Republican veto power in Colorado state government. Control over the chamber appears to be focusing on the SD-24 race between Republican Beth Martinez Humenik and Faith Winter. This race, and with it control of the Senate, is an absolute toss-up, and we honestly have no idea which way it will fall.

Colorado Attorney General: Phil Weiser appears poised to win this race after an ugly but bumbling negative campaign waged by Republican George Brauchler. Historic frustration for Democrats in this race obliges contained enthusiasm, but this is the constitutional statewide office Democrats feel strongest about flipping (other than Governor, of course).

Colorado Treasurer: Republican Brian Watson’s prodigious baggage has been thoroughly aired in this campaign, combining with high Democratic turnout to inspire a measure of confidence in Democrat Dave Young. We give Young the slight edge.

Colorado Secretary of State: Colorado voters haven’t awarded the top four statewide offices to the same party in more than 20 years. Despite a checkered record as Secretary of State and late-breaking scandals that likely would have sunk his re-election bid had they come out earlier, Wayne Williams is the most likely Republican to win statewide in Colorado this year.

We expect this year’s “alphabet amendments,” Amendments V, W, X, Y, Z, and A to all pass handily, as will the payday loan rate cap Proposition 111Amendment 73, a measure to hike taxes on high-income earners for public education, may outperform previous similar measures that were handily defeated but is still unlikely to pass. Amendment 74, the highly controversial takings measure opposed by basically everyone except the oil and gas industry, is also likely to die–as is Proposition 112, a measure to substantially increase setbacks between new oil and gas drilling and surface development, leaving a status quo ante on the issue for the next governor.

Of the two transportation funding measures, Proposition 109 and Proposition 110, we’d say 109 is the more likely of the two to pass because it promises something for nothing to voters by borrowing money to fix roads (assuming legislators will find cuts in the state’s budget to pay for it). We’re concerned that the work to educate voters on the irresponsibility of 109 versus the responsible pay-fors of 110 has not been sufficient, though the overall confusion with two competing ballot measures could sink both options.

And there you have it, readers! We, like everybody on the ballot, await the judgement of history.

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Winning, Losing: What It Looks Like

One of the prevalent narratives of the 2018 elections in Colorado is a tremendous gap in voter enthusiasm between Republicans on the defensive under Donald Trump’s widening cloud and Democrats surging to avenge themselves upon every candidate with an (R) after their name. This difference in enthusiasm is broadly evident in the final weekend of field campaigning before Tuesday’s election, with photographic evidence all over social media.

On the Saturday before Election Day in a race GOP incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman is expected by every responsible observer to lose, it would seem that friends are hard to come by. We count ten supporters in this picture, some of whom we assume are staff.

Coffman’s Democratic opponent Jason Crow…did a little better.

A similar story appears to be playing out in races all over the state. In the slate of key state senate races set to determine control of the chamber, big crowds of canvassers mobilized this morning for Faith Winter, Jessie Danielson, Tammy Story, Brittany Pettersen, and Kerry Donovan’s re-election on the Western Slope.

In the interest of fairness, here’s GOP gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton rallying a respectable number of party faithful in the conservative exurban bastion of Douglas County this morning:

But any Republican feeling reassured by this decent turnout in solidly Republican Douglas County is going to have to explain Democratic nominee Jared Polis’ substantially bigger crowd last night in the equally arch-conservative bastion of Colorado Springs. Here’s a campaign not conceding a single precinct:

The rule of winning statewide in Colorado is that you have to run up the score in your base regions of the state, but you can’t lose too badly in areas you’re destined to lose. El Paso County’s large number of Democratic and swingable votes can’t be overlooked simply because they don’t add up to a majority in El Paso County–and the Polis campaign clearly understands this.

All told, the photos tell a story consistent with the polling and analysis that all says Tuesday will be a very good night for Colorado Democrats up and down the ballot. There’s certainly no sign of complacency here on the part of Democrats, which would pose the biggest danger at this point of undercutting Tuesday’s results. This is a party mindful of the opportunity this election presents, and determined to close the deal.

If you have photos from campaign events, field operations, or anything else that helps document this unfolding moment in history, please share them in comments below.

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This Is Not a Good Look for the Colorado Springs Gazette

Wayne and Dede Laugesen

The Washington Post has been conducting interviews with female voters in the suburbs of Atlanta and Denver, and today published a long story looking at how women are shaping the 2018 election. In what was probably an unintentional side-effect, the Post story also laid bare the right-wing leanings of the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Among the women included in the Post’s story is Dede Laugesen, the Republican political consultant and a former campaign operative with the Donald Trump for President campaign who is married to Wayne Laugesen, the Editorial Page Editor for the Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper. The Gazette is an unapologetically right-wing newspaper that has worked hard to carry water for Republicans in 2018, spinning for Mike Coffman and putting their thumb on the scale for Walker Stapleton. The Gazette is so far from the mainstream that it has even recently defended hate groups, but that wasn’t even their most ridiculous editorial; that honor goes to this stupendously dumb editorial in August that tried to defend Stapleton’s family history with the Ku Klux Klan by making a ridiculous argument that Jared Polis should also be dinged for white supremacist connections.

Political observers in Colorado know that the Gazette is a right-wing newspaper. That might not have been as obvious elsewhere, but it would be impossible to miss after reading about Dede Laugesen’s story in the Post:

In early 2015, Dede Laugesen attended the annual Conservative Political Action Conference with her husband in the Washington suburbs.

After Trump spoke, she walked to the press area in the back of the room, where her husband, the editorial page editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, was sitting. “I said I think it’s Donald Trump,” Laugesen recalled. “He patted my shoulder and he said, ‘Oh honey, he’s not even going to run. . . . ’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s a shame, because I really think that he is the guy who could win.’ ”…

That right there should tell you plenty about the political leanings of the Editorial Page of the Colorado Springs Gazette, but we haven’t yet scratched the surface of this weirdness. Let’s keep reading:

…In the summer of 2016, she joined the Trump campaign, first as a volunteer and then as a member of the staff. On the day the “Access Hollywood” video was released, she was at the El Paso County Republican Party’s headquarters. “I remember taking a really deep breath, closing my computer, packing it up and walking out of the office without saying anything to anybody,” she said.

She prayed about it and pondered the salacious revelation and what it said about her candidate. She talked with her husband. “I found that my commitment to him was firm,” she said. [Pols emphasis] She reached that conclusion based on her faith, of “being a Catholic who is forgiving of sinners, recognizing that we all sinned and have things in our life that we’re not proud of.”

“And the Lord sayeth, thou shalt grab the woman by the pussy.”

— Nowhere in the Bible

Yes, friends, Dede Laugesen prayed about Donald Trump’s disgusting comments in the now-infamous “Access Hollywood Tape,” and the voice in her head replied, “Eh, whatever.”

You know, because Barack Obama. Back to the Washington Post:

Laugesen blames Obama for many of today’s political divisions. When President Barack Obama talked about change, she saw that as an effort to move the country “away from what we have been in the world, a constitutional republic, and moving us toward socialism.” Trump’s message, to make America great again, was a signal that he “wanted to return us to our roots and reaffirm the goodness that is America.”

She is skeptical about talk of a blue wave in November. She is puzzled by the polls that show so many women do not like the president. [Pols emphasis] “It’s hard for me,” she said. “I’ve always been one who gets along better with the guys than I do the girls. And maybe that’s why God made me mother to six boys. I like a guy who can speak his mind and get things done.”

And there you have it. Just remember this when the Gazette runs an editorial this weekend calling the Washington Post a “fake news source.”

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Donald Trump Loves Him Some Walker Stapleton

And hilarity ensues…

 

This Tweet started out fine, but President Trump went off the rails with the “He is strong, smart, and has been successful at everything he has ever done” part. If you’ve ever wondered if Trump was well-acquainted with Walker Stapleton, you now have your answer (though they do have plenty in common).

Trump’s renewed endorsement might be a helpful message in a place like Mississippi or Nebraska. Or Russia. But here in Colorado, the only person more unpopular than Trump is Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Coincidentally, Gardner is traveling with Stapleton today on the Republican GOTV circuit. Things are really going well for Stapleton.

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Poll: Predict Polis’ Win Margin (Knock On Wood)

Jared Polis (left) and Walker Stapleton.

There a growing consensus now with just a few days of voting left in the 2018 elections that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis will win his race. Polling in this race has been remarkably consistent showing an upper-single digit lead for Polis enduring throughout the season, and surviving all the frightful negatives thrown at him by Republican opponent Walker Stapleton. The likelihood of a Polis victory is further underscored by ballot returns showing serious underperformance for Republicans compared to the last midterm election in 2014.

With this in mind, we thought it appropriate to poll our users not just on who will win the race as we’ve been tracking weekly, but on what the margin of victory for Polis is likely to be. It’s a question with significant implications down the ballot, and without jinxing anything it does seem to be the more important question to ask as of now.

As with all of our highly unscientific user polls, all we ask is that you vote for what you honestly think will be the outcome–not your personal preference.

By what margin will Jared Polis win the gubernatorial race?
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Polis Maintains Lead in Latest Poll Numbers

Jared Polis (left) and Walker Stapleton.

Democrat Jared Polis has consistently polled ahead of Republican Walker Stapleton in the race for Governor, and two new polls indicate much of the same.

Republican-leaning outfit Magellan Strategies shows Polis with a 5-point lead over Stapleton. This is a slight change from a Magellan poll conducted two weeks ago, but the difference is well within the margin of error. Poll results from a consortium led by Democratic-leaning Keating Research and OnSight Public Affairs indicate that Polis is leading Stapleton by 8 points heading into the final days of the election.

As Jon Murray reports for the Denver Post, a closer look at the numbers show Polis well ahead in several important subgroups:

In both of the new polls, Polis notched double-digit leads over Stapleton among women, unaffiliated voters and voters in their 40s or younger. Notably, the Magellan poll reported more voters undecided overall (11 percent) than the Colorado Poll (4 percent)…

…David Flaherty [of Magellan Strategies] said Stapleton remains the clear underdog, given Polis’ consistent leads as well as mail ballot returns that, so far, show registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters outpacing their 2014 midterm turnout. Republicans, while leading slightly in returns through Tuesday, were underperforming significantly compared to the GOP wave election four years ago.

The latest ballot return numbers available this morning from the Colorado Secretary of State show a surge of returns from Unaffiliated voters and no indication that Republican turnout is on the uptick. More than 1 million Coloradans have now returned ballots.

The Keating/OnSight poll also tracked approval ratings for President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), both of whom will likely be on the ballot in 2020. Trump is viewed unfavorably by 59 percent of respondents, with only 39 percent expressing a positive opinion of the President. Gardner’s favorability rating remains upside-down, with 43 percent of respondents professing a negative view of the freshman Senator (compared to 42 percent showing approval). Perhaps more concerning for Gardner is that he is only viewed favorably by 71 percent of Republicans, compared to Trump’s 82 percent approval with the GOP base.

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The Real Walker Stapleton Stands Back Up

Walker Stapleton.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton penned an opinion piece for Fox News this week about his great big battle against “socialism” in Colorado. The entire column consists of 558 words of Trumpian talking points, but it does illustrate something of moderate interest…

This is the real Walker Stapleton.

It is difficult to find someone in Colorado who truly believes that Stapleton might defeat Democrat Jared Polis next Tuesday, so perhaps Stapleton now feels comfortable enough to return to his truest shade of red.

This is the Walker Stapleton who used to appear on Fox News to complain about legislative efforts to limit obscene bonuses for corporate executives. This is the Walker Stapleton who said these words on national television:

“The most alarming thing to me [is that] President Obama is now trying to take away tax loopholes for corporations.”

Walker Stapleton, fighting to protect corporate tax loopholes!

Like most things Stapleton, our favorite part about his Fox News opinion piece is the end:

While we are working tirelessly to defeat socialism in Colorado, it ultimately will be up to voters. It is my hope and prayer that voters across the country choose to let freedom ring and that Coloradans’ voices are heard from coast to coast.

You can imagine this closing paragraph going through several iterations:

While we are occasionally working to defeat socialism…

If it is after 3:00 in the afternoon, we are working to defeat socialism…

If it is not raining or snowing, we are working to defeat socialism…

Unless we fell asleep, we are working to defeat socialism…

 

Honestly, we could do this all day. We’ll let our readers take it from here.

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