“Benkenlooper” Makes The Cut–And Will Share The Stage

UPDATE: Here’s the complete debate lineup, via the New York Times:

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Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

Colorado Public Radio reports:

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet have both qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debates. The Democratic National Committee announced the names of the candidates that made the cut on Thursday…

An NBC News drawing Friday will divide the large field between the first and second night. Party officials have promised to weight the drawing with the intention of ensuring that top tier and lagging candidates are spread roughly evenly over the two nights.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock was the most high-profile candidate left off the list. He failed to reach the party’s polling or grassroots fundraising thresholds.

Today the grouping of the candidates was announced after the drawing mentioned above–former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Sen. Michael Bennet will share the stage with the man both have set their sights on as a principal target to plink at from the right side of the primary field, Sen. Bernie Sanders. Both candidates have a higher bar to meet in terms of polling and financial support in order to qualify for the third round of debates later in September, so it’s critical they take maximum advantage of the brief amount of camera time each candidate will receive in Miami.

Obviously it’s what they both wanted, including the chance to face off against Sanders.

We’ll see what they do with it.

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Hickenlooper: The Honest Guy Who Can’t Read a Room


Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

The Washington Post’s Dave Wiegel reports via the Denver Post on an undeniably profile-raising appearance this weekend by former Gov. John Hickenlooper before California Democrats–although whether Hick’s profile was raised positively or negatively is up for considerable debate today:

Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper found a way to stand out at a crowded gathering of California Democrats: He denounced “socialism,” and got booed.

“If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big progressive goals, socialism is not the answer,” Hickenlooper said at a Saturday afternoon session of the state party’s annual convention. As the jeering grew louder, Hickenlooper added: “You know, if we’re not careful, we’re going to end up reelecting the worst president in American history.”

Watching the clip above, you can see that Hickenlooper wasn’t just booed, but booed into submission by irate California Democrats who more or less refused to let him speak after the words “socialism is not the answer” passed his lips. In an interview afterward, Hickenlooper explained what he was (albeit clumsily) getting at:

…In an interview, Hickenlooper said he had spoken “inartfully,” and that he did not mean to single out any of his opponents, though Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is the only self-identified “democratic socialist” seeking the White House.

“We’ve got to clearly show that we reject socialism,” Hickenlooper said. “We’ve got to do that because Republicans will try to make us into socialists even if we’re not. If we’re not willing to draw a bright line and say we’re not socialists, we could quite possibly reelect this president.”

“Socialism” is a term that has almost always been used pejoratively in American politics, with anything identifying thusly marginalized in the public eye by the Red Scare and the McCarthyist purge a generation later. “Socialism” has been more recently rehabilitated and even championed by representatives of safely left constituencies like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who argue that the term has been abused and accurately applies to bipartisan American institutions like Social Security and Medicare. For decades, Republican message masters have worked to define “socialism” in the mold of totalitarian communism–an extreme meant to frighten Americans out of rational consideration of such things as universal health care and economic regulation of any kind.

Into this overheated rhetorical space steps our own former Gov. Hickenlooper, who in his eight years in office tried hard and often thanklessly to advance “progressive goals” without pitched ideological battles. Hickenlooper certainly has his issue blind spots, though overall his platform is one that a large percentage of Democrats nationally could support. But he doesn’t call his agenda “socialism,” and he thinks the term is politically repellent.

In Colorado, he’s…if not right then more right than wrong. The problem for Hickenlooper is that by waging war on the word “socialism,” he’s giving into the frame of Republicans who agree that the word is politically toxic and extend that toxicity to the Democratic agenda as a whole. Instead of railing against a word in front of a crowd who definitely doesn’t agree with his connotations of the word, Hickenlooper would do much better to remind prospective voters that what the right falsely demonizes as “socialism” today are the institutions we all depend on–and what Hickenlooper himself supported as governor.

It’s possible that this exposure will have an inverse effect from the boos of California Democrats, and increase Hickenlooper’s profile at a time when he can surely use it. But unless he can follow this up with a unifying principle that transcends any one word and its many tortured definitions, a valuable opportunity to make the case we think Hickenlooper wants to make in this presidential campaign is being lost.

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Hickenlooper: Impeach The [Expletive] [Expletive]

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Okay, okay, you already know Colorado’s genteel Gov. John Hickenlooper didn’t use that kind of Rashida Tlaib-style salty language. But As Colorado Public Radio’s Andrew Villegas reports, Hickenlooper is joining with members of the Colorado Democratic congressional delegation and a growing national chorus in support of impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump:

Today, Hickenlooper is ready.

Thursday morning on CNN, Hickenlooper said it’s time to begin an impeachment inquiry against the president.

He said listening to Mueller’s statements to the media Wednesday convinced him.

“I think he laid the responsibility clearly at the doorstep of Congress,” Hickenlooper said. “I do think we have an obligation to follow where the facts lead.”

Like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a significant number of Democratic political strategists, Hickenlooper has come around more slowly to the idea of impeachment hearings–weighing the likelihood of success against the political consequences of failure so close to the 2020 elections. But just as Diana DeGette and Joe Neguse have concluded, without impeachment hearings there may be no way as a country to conclusively reckon with the events of the last three years.

Of course, one side doesn’t want that reckoning to ever happen.

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Tightening Debate Qualifications Put “Benkenlooper” On Notice

Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

CNN reports, the winnowing’s got to start some time:

The Democratic National Committee will double the qualifying thresholds and require that 2020 candidates meet both in order to participate in the third and fourth primary debates, the committee announced Wednesday.

Candidates had to achieve 1% in three polls from an approved list of pollsters or receive campaign contributions from 65,000 unique donors, including 200 donors each from 20 different states, to qualify for the first Democratic primary debates in June, which will be hosted by NBC News, and the second set of debates in July, which will be hosted by CNN.

In order to qualify for the third and fourth set of debates in September and October respectively, candidates will now have to achieve 2% in four polls from a slightly changed list of approved pollsters and receive 130,000 unique donors (from the date of their campaign’s creation), including 400 unique donors per state in at least 20 US states.

As we discussed over the weekend, Gov. John Hickenlooper appears to have qualified to participate in the first round of Democratic presidential debates set for late June in Miami based on the required qualification of a 1% or better showing in three qualifying nationwide polls. The new higher standard announced today, however, will knock Hickenlooper off the debate stage unless he substantially improves his position between now and September. Sen. Michael Bennet remains focused on gaining enough support to qualify for the June debate. A CNN town hall later this week will give Bennet what’s likely to be his best shot at a national introduction.

We aren’t the ones who rule conclusively when the fabled “window” opens and closes in a presidential race, but this is a process that will work itself out through the summer and fall. On the other side, our local contenders will either have pulled off the legendary Broncos “revenge tour,” or ended up like the Rockies in…well, most years.

But as seems to be the rule in crowded primaries near and far–you can’t win if you don’t play.

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Bennet Fights To Make Prez Debate Stage

Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

Politico updates on the fortunes of Colorado’s other Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Michael Bennet, who is working against the clock to register enough support to qualify for presidential debates set to kick off at the end of June:

The low-key Colorado Democratic senator has a relatively centrist record that may be out of step with some primary voters, a recent cancer diagnosis and no real national profile. He’s not a cable news staple and shies away from the press in the Capitol.

And Bennet’s already facing crunch time. He’s the Democratic senator most in danger of missing the first debate in June, which would mark a major setback to Bennet’s already narrow path toward breaking out in a field of 22 other prominent White House hopefuls.

In a 30-minute interview with POLITICO ahead of a swing to New Hampshire, Bennet acknowledged the steep odds of getting 65,000 donors and cracking 1 percent in the polls one more time over the next month in order to qualify for the debate stage. He wouldn’t disclose how close he is to hitting the donor threshold and declined to guarantee he could make it happen.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper has already met the threshold to appear on stage in Miami in June 26 or 27–with 20 candidates participating, the debate is being necessarily broken up into two groups. A strong debate performance by Hickenlooper is broadly considered to be essential if he wants to move up in this historically large pack. For Bennet, whose “slow burn” campaign has made little attempt to quickly register in national polls, it’s less certain whether appearing in the early debates are as important.

“He is realistic about the big field,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a close friend who worked on health care legislation with Bennet. “The way he looks at it: … with a field so big it’s not like anybody is a prohibitive favorite.” [Pols emphasis]

For as long as that’s true it gives hope not just to Bennet’s campaign but the other nearly two dozen Democrats who have filed to run for President in 2020. With that said, favorites will emerge, and any candidate without a plan for being on the positive side of that consolidation will be sidelined long before the early primaries.

Until then, you can’t rule anybody out. We stopped doing that when Donald Trump became President.

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Good Poll Numbers for Biden, Less Good for Hick & Bennet

According to poll numbers released today by CNN, former Vice President Joe Biden is doing very well in his first week as an official candidate for President. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) have less reason to be enthused:

You don’t ever want to be listed lower than somebody who is at “<1%.”

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Who Will Be the Democratic Nominee for President? (April 2019)

Who fills this spot in 2020?

Who is it gonna be? It’s time again that we asked Colorado Pols readers to predict the name of the eventual 2020 Democratic nominee for President. When last we asked, you were still rolling with California Sen. Kamala Harris as the most likely nominee.

Mike Harden of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman is pretty excited about the fact that former Gov. John Hickenlooper may have moved from 1% to 2% in national polling. Of course, the Monmouth University Poll that sparked his enthusiasm has a margin of error of +/-5.4%, so it’s possible that Hick is actually polling in the high sevens. The leader in the Monmouth poll is still former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to officially enter the race.

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

And since there are still a bagillion candidates and we don’t want to take up the entire screen with this one poll, you’ll have to cast your vote after the jump…

(more…)

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Bernie Tops Super Early Prez Poll

Emerson College, given a favorable rating for their polling in 2016 by FiveThirtyEight, is out with a new poll of the Democratic presidential primary that supplies interesting if not yet very reliable data points:

A new national Emerson poll, including 20 Democratic candidates for President, found Senator Bernie Sanders ahead of the pack with 29%, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden at 24%. They were followed by Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 9%, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Senator Kamala Harris at 8%, and Senator Elizabeth Warren at 7%. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and former HUD secretary Julian Castro were at 3%. The poll was conducted April 11-14 of Democratic Primary voters with a subset of n=356, +/- 5.2%.

Spencer Kimball, Director of Emerson Polling, said “while still early in the nominating process, it looks like Mayor Pete is the candidate capturing voters’ imagination; the numbers had him at 0% in mid-February, 3% in March and now at 9% in April.”

Kimball also noted that “Biden has seen his support drop. In February, he led Sanders 27% to 17%, and in March the two were tied at 26%. Now, Sanders has a 5 point lead, 29% to 24%.”

Sagging numbers for Joe Biden are consistent with bad press he’s received in recent week over his “handsy” demeanor with women–although there’s an argument that Biden’s oblivious response to the backlash has been worse than the actual offenses. Seeing Bernie Sanders pulling away in this poll is something we can’t place confidence in until we see it corroborated, but Sanders’ superior name ID and loyal grassroots following are giving him undeniable early strength. We continue to be fascinated by the attention being given to South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, but the sustainability of his upstart campaign is a question only time can answer.

As for basically everybody else in this enormous pack of candidates, including Colorado’s so-far only official hat in the proverbial ring? Nowhere to go but up is what the optimists would say.

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In Politics, Presidential or Otherwise, Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

Politico’s David Siders has an interesting take on the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, in particular how many of the candidates running are more popular outside their home states than within them, that we think bears repeating in this space:

Sen. Kamala Harris has been elected three times to statewide office, and she’s one of the most popular politicians in California. Yet according to the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll, just 38 percent of likely state voters say she should be running for president.

In New Jersey, only 37 percent of Sen. Cory Booker’s constituents think he would make a good president. In Massachusetts, two-thirds of likely voters told a Suffolk University Political Research Center/Boston Globe poll last fall that Sen. Elizabeth Warren shouldn’t run for the White House…

Indeed, for much of the Democratic field, there’s little home advantage to be found. Some contenders would have a tough time winning their own states in the general election. A few seem likely to lose their states even in the Democratic primary. Never before has the designation of a favorite daughter or favorite son candidate appeared so meaningless.

The story doesn’t specifically mention Colorado’s two Democratic presidential entrants, one official and one presumed pending resolution of a health concern, but based on our experience with attitudes among local base Democrats regarding Colorado’s elected Democratic leaders–and plenty of snarky comments from our readers–it’s reasonable to suggest that local Democrats don’t as a general rule consider either Gov. John Hickenlooper or Sen. Michael Bennet to be especially competitive candidates.

But while everyone loves to pick at the flaws in our local elected leaders, and we do, we should keep in mind how base Democratic voters in California similarly aren’t very keen on Kamala Harris running for President–or Elizabeth Warren with Massachusetts Democrats, or Cory Booker with New Jersey Democrats, and so on. The polls seem to indicate we all have a tendency to be less forgiving of our own representatives, perhaps more of a reflection of frustration with American politics as a whole than anything these individuals have actually done or failed to do.

We’re just saying! Bookmark this post in the event either of our boys breaks out of the single digits…

In the meantime, click below to vote on which candidate you think is most likely to win the Democratic Presidential nomination. “Neither” is not an option, because we want to know who you think has the better chance of the two Colorado politicians.

Who Is More Likely to Win the Democratic Presidential Nomination?
John Hickenlooper
Michael Bennet
View Result
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Hick Plays To a Core Strength: Guns

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

AP reports via Colorado Public Radio from the early 2020 campaign trail in South Carolina, where former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is touring the state highlighting one of his strongest progressive issues: reducing gun violence.

During a campaign trip to South Carolina, Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper is meeting with church members who survived a racist massacre in 2015.

The former Colorado governor is scheduled to have dinner and a roundtable discussion Saturday with survivors of the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME, Hickenlooper’s campaign announced this week. Nine black parishioners were slain as they prayed during Bible study at the church. The shooter, a white man who said he hoped that the killings would start a race war, is on federal death row…

Hickenlooper is known as a staunch advocate for gun control legislation. Following the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, the then-governor called for and signed bills requiring universal background checks and limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds.

Although every Democratic candidate who travels to the early primary state of South Carolina pays their respects to the victims of the church shooting in Charleston carried out by an avowed white supremacist assailant, Hickenlooper’s bonafides on gun violence legislation are stronger than most of the Democratic field. Hickenlooper hasn’t been gaffe-free on guns since signing 2013’s landmark reforms into law, but simply weathering the test of time after six years has made Colorado’s gun laws a hard-won model for reform as the issue has steadily shifted away from the gun lobby.

And it’s a useful reminder that even as the debate over guns rages out of control once again in Colorado, the relatively modest measures Colorado has passed into law, and is soon to again with the expected signing of the Extreme Risk Protection Orders bill, enjoy very broad public support in nationwide polling on the issue–even in Texas. Whether or not this breaks Hickenlooper out of the depths of the pack of the presidential primary is less important than noting, as gets lost in the din locally, that this is an issue that politically plays very well.

Sorry Dudley Brown, the numbers don’t lie.

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Check Out Colorado’s New Logo!

As introduced today by Gov. Jared Polis in his inimitable style:

We think it looks cool! Your mileage may vary. Reportedly this logo was in existence prior to Gov. Polis taking office, but was used in other contexts than the “official” logo while former Gov. John Hickenlooper was in office. Hickenlooper’s logo design, featuring a monochrome green triangle with a second down-facing triangle serving as the logo for various departments, is what graces state vehicles, literature, and signage today:

It’s a design that was criticized in some circles, especially the department logos featuring a drill bit to “honor” the state’s mineral extraction heritage. We haven’t seen how those departmental logos will update to match the new main logo, but we’d guess that the drill bit’s days are numbered–perhaps excepting departments that deal with, you know, drilling.

Out with the old, in with the new-ish.

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Hickenlooper Introduces Himself to America

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper

On Thursday Wednesday, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper took the spotlight in the race to become the Democratic nominee for President in 2020 when he held a live CNN “town hall” event. Hickenlooper performed very well overall, but most of the attention following the event was about one specific exchange that highlights Hick’s inexperience with “soundbite politics.”

We would encourage you to watch the full town hall event yourself in order to understand the proper context for some of Hick’s remarks (for the Cliff’s Notes version, here are some key takeaways via CNN). But CNN also devotes a separate story to the one exchange that generated the most buzz on Thursday Wednesday evening:

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said that he would consider putting a woman on his presidential ticket, and then asked why female Democratic presidential candidates are not being asked if they would select a man as their running mate.

The comment struck a number of Democrats as off base, especially considering that the nation has never had a female vice president.

“Governor,” CNN’s Dana Bash said at a presidential candidate town hall, “some of your male competitors have vowed to put a woman on the ticket. Yes or no, would you do the same?”

“Of course,” Hickenlooper said, before saying he wanted to ask Bash a question.

“How come we’re not asking more often the women, ‘Would you be willing to put a man on the ticket?’ ” he said with a shrug, to audible groans from the audience.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, with CNN’s Dana Bash on March 20, 2019

Obviously, this is not a good soundbite for Hickenlooper, but it’s much less cringeworthy when Hick gets a minute to explain:

Hickenlooper stood by the comment after the town hall, telling CNN that his point was “too often media discounts the chance of a woman winning” by asking questions like that.

What Hick was trying to do, in a nutshell, was to make the case that female candidates should be considered frontrunners on an equal plane with men and that asking a question about “would you put a woman on the ticket” is disrespectful to the women who are running for President. It’s a solid point that was inartfully articulated, and it would be a shame if it dogged Hick’s campaign for an extended period of time.

Hickenlooper also had a weird moment when telling a story about watching an adult movie with his mother — this is a yarn that he’s spun before that is also included in his memoir “The Opposite of Woe.” The story is entertaining, but the problem with telling it to a wider audience is that there is no real “moral” in conclusion; it’s not clear why Hickenlooper is talking about this, and in a Presidential race where soundbites can take on a life of their own, this probably isn’t a great clip for Hick.

Hickenlooper will certainly get better at this sort of thing the more he campaigns around the country, but “soundbite politics” are not his strong suit. This is partly because Hick just doesn’t have much experience in this regard; both of his campaigns for Governor featured massively-flawed opponents who didn’t have the ability to land solid punches. By the time Hick was running for re-election in 2014, the former Denver Mayor was a well-known character to voters along the Front Range who largely got the benefit of the doubt whenever he stumbled verbally. This is the same basic reason that Hick speaks out so often against “negative ads” — it’s easy to be critical of negative advertising when you have never had to worry about employing that strategy yourself.

Hickenlooper is not any more or less likely to win the 2020 Democratic nomination based on Thursday’s Wednesday’s performance. In fact, if he learns and grows from this experience as a candidate, this CNN “town hall” might even prove to be a landmark moment for his campaign.

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Presidential Ponderation: Who Will be the Democratic Nominee in 2020?

Who fills this spot in 2020?

Polling data suggests that President Trump is in trouble as he gears up for his re-election campaign, but Democrats will still have to pick somebody to run against him. So, again, we’re asking you: Who will be the Democratic nominee in 2020? Click below to cast your vote.

When we asked this question in January, Sen. Kamala Harris was the clear favorite with 38% of the vote. Last summer, Pols readers thought former Vice President Joe Biden was the frontrunner. The field of potential candidates is changing quickly — just this week former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper officially joined the race, while Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown announced that he was out.

Pols readers are generally pretty good about predicting Colorado outcomes, so let’s see if you can keep it going in a national race.

As always, we want to know what you think will happen — not what you want to happen or who you personally might support. If you had to make a choice TODAY, who would you predict will be the Democratic nominee for President in 2020?

Since there are a gazillion candidates and we don’t want to take up the entire screen with this one poll, you’ll have to cast your vote after the jump…

(more…)

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Hickenlooper Enters Race for President

All signs were pointing to this week as the moment when former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper would formally enter the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Today is the day, as CNN reports:

He made the announcement in a video titled “Standing Tall,” which tracks Hickenlooper’s life from laid-off geologist, to owner of a brew pub, to mayor of Denver and to governor, and touts the Democrat’s experience in a variety of fields as a key reason he should be the person to take on President Donald Trump in 2020. Hickenlooper casts the President as a “bully” in the more than two-minute video.

“I’m running for president because we’re facing a crisis that threatens everything we stand for,” Hickenlooper says in the video as images of Trump play. “As a skinny kid with coke bottle glasses and a funny last name, I’ve stood up to my fair share of bullies.”

He adds: “I’m running for president because we need dreamers in Washington but we also need to get things done. I’ve proven again and again I can bring people together to produce the progressive change Washington has failed to deliver.”

Hickenlooper is the 14th candidate to formally announce a bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2020. Here’s the kickoff Hickenvideo:

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In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lion?

Tastes like President

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper appears to be close to formally announcing his bid for President in 2020. As the Colorado Sun reports:

The former Colorado governor received a permit to hold an event March 7 in the amphitheater at Civic Center park, according to records obtained by The Colorado Sun. The disclosure comes a day after The Sun cited several sources close to Hickenlooper, a Democrat, who said the campaign was planning an event in Denver for the first week of March.

The location, in front of city hall and a block from the state Capitol, would allow the former Denver mayor and two-term governor to tell his story as the laid-off geologist turned brewpub owner who became the accidental politician.

The city issued a permit Wednesday to Sarah Feldmann, who is listed as the special projects director at Hickenlooper’s federal leadership PAC, for an event expected to start at 5 p.m. The application anticipates as many as 2,000 people will attend what is billed as a “celebration.” The campaign has considered a number of locations for the event and a spokesman declined Friday to confirm the details.

Hickenlooper is considered a long-shot for the Democratic nomination but sees a path as a moderate pragmatist in a race filled with partisan noise.

Hickenlooper is sort of doing the opposite of the old saying about the weather in the month of March. He won’t be entering the Presidential race from a lion’s perch, but as everyone knows, it’s much more important to end your campaign at the top of the political food chain.

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Duran, Hick Won’t Run for Senate; Duran to Primary DeGette

UPDATE #2 (6:00 pm):


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UPDATE (5:34 pm): Word is out that Crisanta Duran will in fact challenge Diana DeGette in CO-1. Duran may announce her campaign as soon as tonight.

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News worth noting, as Tweeted from the 2020 presidential campaign trail by Axios’ Alexi McCammond:

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

Although it’s of course not a legally binding contract, former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s apparent ruling out of a run for the U.S. Senate to take on vulnerable incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner is a significant development. A not-insubstantial contingent of local Democrats had at least quietly hoped for Hickenlooper to reconsider his bid for the presidency in favor of what would have been a very strong challenge to Sen. Gardner. At the same time, the difference between legislative power, even in the august body of the U.S. Senate, and the kind of executive authority that one has as governor and certainly as President of the United States may not be something Hickenlooper wants to “step down” from–and we understand that.

The wisdom of this decision will be self-evident.

In other significant 2020 U.S. Senate news, another on-paper strong challenger in the upcoming Democratic Senate primary is ruling herself out as well–former House Speaker Crisanta Duran, as the Colorado Independent reports:

Former Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran, long seen as a favorite to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020, is rethinking that path and is engaged in serious talks about a Democratic primary run against longtime U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette in Colorado’s 1st Congressional District, according to more than a half a dozen sources with knowledge of those talks…

Sources say she has been wrestling with her decision for weeks. While Gardner is considered vulnerable, the Democratic field taking shape against him promises a tough and expensive primary — and Duran appears to have soured on the prospect of jumping in.

A primary battle against DeGette may be no less bruising, however…

Now, we can’t speak confidently one way or the other to the viability of a primary challenge against Rep. Diana DeGette, who has done much in recent years to shore up her support after acquiring something of an aloof reputation.  But it’s reasonable to assume that Former House Speaker Duran would have been a contender in the 2020 Democratic Senate primary, especially in the absence of any field-clearing candidates–and by that we mean officials who have served in Congress or a statewide elected office.

Assuming neither of these candidates reconsider their decision, this is obviously good news for the existing slate, in particular former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff whose elected experience is similar to Duran’s. There remains a real possibility of a decisive new Democratic contender entering the U.S. Senate race over the spring and summer of this year, but a window exists now for Romanoff to make his case against a field of less-competitive primary opponents.

As for aspirants as of now aspiring elsewhere, good luck to them.

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Bennet, Hickenlooper Barnstorm Iowa This Weekend

KDVR FOX 31’s Joe St. George reports:, Colorado’s so-far friendly presidential rivalry is headed east this weekend:

[Gov. John] Hickenlooper is scheduled to visit Sioux City, Carroll and Ames in Iowa beginning on Saturday, February 22.

However, now it is clear he may not be the only Coloradoan thinking about a run for President.

Sen. Michael Bennet is heading to Iowa this weekend for multiple stops.

Bennet will begin his tour in Dubuque and will add house parties and visits to farms to his agenda beginning on Thursday, February 21. Bennet will hold events in Iowa through Saturday.

Although the weather is forecast to clear up here in Colorado by the weekend, Iowa’s forecast calls for continued crappy with occasional wintry mix face-peltings through early next week. As anyone who has ever had to endure the kind of high humidity bone-chilling bitter cold weather they get in the Hawkeye State knows, you’re not going to tour the place in February unless you really want to be President.

So our two local entrants among a growing herd of presidential wannabes have got that going for them.

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Everybody And Their Mother Calls On Ralph Northam To Resign

Today in career-ending yearbook photos.

9NEWS’ Jacob Rodriguez reports the local side of a national story that only ends one way:

Despite holding a press conference denying that he was in a controversial photo from his 1984 yearbook showing someone in blackface and someone in KKK attire, Colorado Democrats Sen. Michael Bennet and former Gov. John Hickenlooper have called on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Virginia) to step down…

“This photo may not be the sum of who Ralph Northam is,” Hickenlooper wrote Friday night after the story broke, “but there’s no doubt, that the right thing for him to do as a leader is step down.”

Bennet, serving in Congress since 2009, did not mince words – and even pointed to who he’d like to get a shot in the governor’s chair.

“The photo is racist and despicable,” Bennet wrote Saturday morning. “Governor Northam should step down and allow his Lieutenant Governor, Justin Fairfax, to become the next Governor of Virginia.”

Basically every Democrat in America has now called on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to step down from his position and make way for the popular Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who happens to be African-American. Northam’s up-to-now failure to heed this overwhelming consensus is quickly making the transition from tragicomic to outrageous, and we’re hitting refresh in another browser tab as we write to make sure events don’t overtake our blog post.

And yes, lots of Republicans say Northam ought to resign as well.

Here’s to their newfound sense of decency.

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Sen. Bennet Talking More Like a Presidential Candidate

Yahoo! News:

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., confirmed in an interview Tuesday that he is considering a run for president.

“I am thinking about it,” Bennet said in an interview for the Yahoo News podcast “The Long Game.”

Bennet has reportedly been talking to staff in Iowa ahead of the first-in-the-nation caucus there and would join the enormous field of Democrats likely to seek the nomination in 2020, which is more than 30 names long.

Bennet, 54, carries himself in a low-key manner but has impressive credentials, and has been considered a rising Democratic star. Former President Obama mentioned him among a handful of young Democrats he believed could be national stars, along with Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The whole interview is worth a listen, as Colorado’s senior U.S. Senator talks about his service in the Senate, the frustration of serving in Mitch McConnell’s Senate in particular, who he accuses of  “stealing the presidency”–and how the experience could inform Michael Bennet as a presidential candidate.

And of course this turns up the heat just a little bit more in what’s shaping up to be a very interesting rivalry between Colorado’s top two Democratic elected officials, both of whom are dreaming as big as it gets in American politics. Will Bennet and Gov. John Hickenlooper find a way to collegially run against one another for the Democratic nomination? Will it get competitive? Or will the question, as they say, work itself out?

Stay tuned, it’s a hell of a time to be a Democrat in Colorado…

(more…)

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Hickenlooper, Bennet Maybe Both Want To Be President

Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland:

It turns out Gov. John Hickenlooper isn’t the only Colorado Democrat with his eye on the White House.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is considering a presidential bid, according to three people who confirmed to CPR News that they talked with him about it earlier this fall. The individuals declined to use their names because they were not authorized to speak about the matter. One of them discussed it with Bennet in the last 30 days.

“What he said to me is he is seriously thinking about running,” said another individual. “He has not made up his mind yet but he is seriously thinking about running.”

Who wouldn’t want to run against Donald Trump, asks anyone with the wherewithal?

Our highly unscientific but sure to provoke a lively debate poll asks the question:

Would Bennet or Hickenlooper be the better Democratic nominee for President?
Sen. Michael Bennet
Gov. John Hickenlooper
No preference/unsure
See irate comment below
View Result
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Hickenlooper Says It’s The Republicans Who Are The Overreaching Pigs And/Or Hogs

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

In a recent Colorado Public Radio interview, host Ryan Warner told Gov. John Hickenlooper that Jeff Hays, Colorado’s Republican Party leader, likened Democrats to pigs who will over-indulge (pass unpopular legislation) and then become fat hogs who will get slaughtered (thrown out of office by voters).

Warner quoted Hays as saying: “There’s a phrase: ‘Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.'”

Hick’s response, “Wait, is he portraying himself as a pig or as a hog?”

It’s the perfect counterpoint to Hays’ accusation of overreach, because it trains the spotlight on the fact that it’s the Republicans who’ve been overreaching by obstructing government and fattening up their donors in the process with tax policies and Grinch-like programs that favor the rich.

The progressive agenda, supported by voters, is exemplified by efforts to pass reasonable gun safety legislation like a red flag bill, shoring up K-12 education funding, expanding health insurance coverage to all, addressing student debt while reducing higher education costs to consumers, fixing roads and bridges–all of which are issues that Ryan Warner touched on in his interview.

Republicans at the state and federal level have mostly blocked efforts to fund these things, first and foremost.

And then they’ve repeatedly killed proposed laws that address the problems with moderate fixes.

So, Hickenlooper, who usually holds back on the blazing attack lines, did the right thing by calling Hays a pig or a hog or both.

It’s the Republicans who’ve been fattening themselves up by overreaching on their anti-government agenda.

And that is a point that hasn’t been made enough.

(more…)

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Caption This Photo: Ahnold’s New Buddy Picture?

That’s former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appearing today at the University of Denver with Colorado’s own Gov. John Hickenlooper to support Amendments Y and Z, the bipartisan redistricting/reapportionment initiatives expected to pass easily in November.

There’s a “trusty sidekick” thing happening here that we just couldn’t let fall into the memory hole.

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Wait, Frank McNulty is in Charge of an Ethics Group?

Frank McNulty

Imagine, if you can, Donald Trump leading a Girl Scout Troop. Or Cory Gardner coaching the high jump. Or Kanye West serving as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

If you think these scenarios might make smoke come out of your ears, then we’ve got something that will really bake your noodle: Republican Frank McNulty is the Executive Director of a new “ethics in government” organization in Colorado. Yes, that’s the same “Ethical Frank” who married a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist during his tenure as Speaker of the House.

As the Denver Post reported on Friday, McNulty unveiled a new secret “nonprofit” organization called The Public Trust Institute (PTI) with the publication of a 189-page report accusing Governor John Hickenlooper of failing to disclose “gifts” of private plane travel and other travel accommodations over a seven-year period. Hickenlooper’s office promptly called PTI’s complaint “frivolous” and “a political stunt,” pointing out that PTI only registered as an official entity with the Colorado Secretary of State on October 10.

You read that correctly: PTI had officially existed for all of two days when the Post reported on its 189-page complaint against Hickenlooper. As David Migoya writes:

McNulty’s new group is designed to “ensure that public officials are generally holding themselves to an ethical level,” he said, noting the group will pursue complaints objectively and without political persuasion.

“In this day and age, since politics slams to the left and right so quickly, we need someone to call balls and strikes from the outside,” McNulty said, refusing to identify the group’s revenue stream or its membership. [Pols emphasis] “The main focus is me and having that outward-facing figure. That’s where we’re comfortable right now.”

McNulty is heading up an “ethics” group that has officially existed for less than a week and refuses to divulge its revenue stream or membership. Seems totally legit.

If you’re not familiar with McNulty, allow us to enlighten you. McNulty is a former lobbyist and legislator who has made his living (somehow) as a Republican political consultant since completing his fourth term in the State House in 2014. He is best remembered for his disastrous two-year stint as the Speaker of the House (2010-12). Republicans captured a one-seat House majority in the 2010 Tea Party wave election year, but thanks to McNulty’s bumbling leadership – both inside and outside the Capitol — Democrats flipped the House into a 9-seat majority just two years later.

According to a brief bio of McNulty on PTI’s website, the former Highlands Ranch Republican “gained firsthand experience of the ethical challenges facing U.S. government systems” during his time as an elected official. This is a curious way to phrase McNulty’s “experience”; the reason McNulty has “firsthand” knowledge here is because he personally crossed every ethical line he could find while regularly engaging in bad-faith negotiations at the legislature.

Here’s a look at some of McNulty’s not-so-greatest hits:

♦ McNulty shut down voting on all legislation late in the 2012 session so that a bipartisan bill legalizing civil unions couldn’t be approved. He also threatened to remove Republicans from committee assignments for suggesting that they supported civil unions;

♦ McNulty skipped numerous working days during the legislative session so that he could attend Republican political strategy seminars across the country;

♦ McNulty rammed through legislation to increase per diem rates for legislators without allowing any testimony;

♦ McNulty literally invented a story about government red tape in order to justify his maniacal budget-cutting proposal. When that wasn’t enough, he made up numbers so that Colorado’s budget would look worse than it was;

♦ McNulty married a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry during his tenure as House Speaker;

♦ McNulty has been at the forefront of numerous shady attempts at rigging the redistricting process in favor of Republicans;

♦ McNulty instructed Republican House candidates to run on repealing FASTER transportation fees in 2010, then absolutely refused to consider the idea once the GOP took majority control of the House. Unsurprisingly, the GOP caucus never forgave him for hanging them out to dry;

♦ McNulty even plagiarized his own opening day speech when he took control of the Speaker’s gavel in 2011.

 

It’s no exaggeration to say that McNulty’s unethical and unwise leadership cost Republicans their majority in the State House in 2012. While McNulty was re-elected for a final term himself in ’12, his credibility was so damaged that the former House Speaker didn’t even try to run for a caucus leadership position.

The reason we bring all of this up about McNulty is not to bash the guy, but to issue an important warning: If Frank McNulty is associated with a government ethics watchdog group, then you can be damn sure that the group in question is about as legitimate as a $10 Rolex.

“The Public Trust Institute.” Yeah, sure thing.

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The End Is Nigh: Now Tim Neville’s Hiding Behind Hickenlooper

Sen. Tim Neville (R).

This is a campaign mail piece delivered late last week in incumbent GOP Sen. Tim Neville’s red-hot SD-16 race against Democratic challenger Tammy Story. We’re not completely sure which voters was targeted with this piece, sent by the “independent” Business Opportunity Fund tied to a network of well-heeled Republicans at the Colorado Concern–but we would assume it’s aimed at Democrats and left-scoring independent voters.

For readers who haven’t had the pleasure of getting to know Sen. Tim Neville over the years, we’re basically talking about the anchor of the Colorado Senate GOP Majority’s far-right fringe. Neville has been the ideological driving force behind two different Republican Senate Presidents, and along with his son House Minority Leader Patrick “Boy” Neville control a bloc in both chambers without which Republicans can’t achieve a working majority within their caucuses. Neville’s policy interests range from perennial anti-abortion campaigns to dismantling Colorado’s gun safety laws to making public schools safe for “anti-vaxxer” conspiracy theorists at the expense of public health.

In short, to imply that moderate Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper would in any way support Neville’s re-election is an absurdity like few others possible in Colorado politics. Hickenlooper supporting Tim Neville would be like Hillary Clinton endorsing Ted Cruz for re-election over the competitive Democrat in the race. No one who knows anything about Tim Neville would ever possibly believe this. That’s why a mailer with these two men together and a fake “quote” below Hickenlooper’s image praising Neville stands out as not just deceptive, but outlandish dishonesty.

Trying to remake Tim Neville into a palatable candidate outside his fringe base is an extreme example, but this is merely the latest product of a years-long strategy by Colorado Republicans to audaciously triangulate off their own brand in order to stay alive politically in a left-trending state. Much like Rep. Mike Coffman’s roundly lampooned (but probably effective) TV ads sporting Planned Parenthood logo and Coffman’s occasional press-release criticism of Donald Trump, there is an implicit recognition that Republicans are deeply unpopular with a growing and diversifying majority of Colorado voters. But maddeningly to local Democrats, Coffman and others have made this self-deprecating strategy work.

But Tim Neville takes the farce too far. This can’t work. And if it does, then truly–nothing means anything.

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Bennet, Hick Try To Slow Trump Drilling Frenzy

Sage Grouse of the Greater kind.

AP reports via CBS4 Denver:

Top Colorado Democrats on Tuesday accused the Trump administration of rushing to open public lands to oil and gas drilling without giving the public nearly enough time to comment.

In letters to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Sen. Michael Bennet and Gov. John Hickenlooper also asked the government not to go ahead with plans for oil and gas drilling on habitat for the greater sage grouse, a bird that Western states and federal agencies are trying to protect…

A joint federal-state program called the Sage Grouse Initiative, launched under the Obama administration, is trying to save the bird without resorting to the strict restrictions of the Endangered Species Act.

It’s ironic that, in barreling ahead with drilling in areas inhabited by the greater sage grouse, the Trump administration could thwart a somewhat controversial effort to protect the species without invoking the Endangered Species Act–by reducing the population enough to trigger the Act unequivocally! In the long run, it would be better for energy producers to cooperate with the current plan, demonstrate its success, and avoid much more stringent long-term oversight.

Unfortunately for the sage grouse, Donald Trump’s regulatory free-for-all isn’t going to last forever. And given the choice between short-term profit and long-term sustainability, energy companies will do what they will always do given the opportunity, undoing the best-laid plans of their apologists on both sides of the aisle.

The real moral of the story? Elections matter.

Sorry, that’s the answer for a lot of things right now.

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