Senate GOP Friday Night Obstruction Fails Hilariously

Sen. Chris Holbert (R).

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver and Nic Garcia report, last night’s attempt by Colorado Senate Republicans to procedurally obstruct legislation from passing that chamber, continuing a campaign of obstruction from the Senate GOP minority that began with a demand to read a 2,000-page technical cleanup bill into the record and continued yesterday with Republicans ordering more bills read at length and endless ad nauseum speechifying by GOP caucus members…didn’t end off the way Republicans were hoping:

The debate over House Bill 1177 ran nearly 12 hours, but the vote came down as expected, with Republicans opposing the extreme risk protection order or “red flag” bill and Democrats supporting it.

The voice vote at about 7:30 p.m. was only the beginning of the drama on the Senate floor, as Republicans triggered a procedure to continue debate, keeping senators at work…

And that’s where the tables turned on Republicans, who thought they had gummed up the works yet again:

At about 9 p.m., Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo asked for all senators to return to the chamber. That triggered a search by the state Highway Patrol to find five Republican senators who had left the building hours earlier. [Pols emphasis] According to a GOP Senate spokesperson, two were on their way to the Western Slope and at least one had left the state altogether.

As it turns out, gentle reader, if you’re trying to force endless debate into late in the night on a Friday and a third of your caucus bails on you without permission, your protest loses its intended effect! Not to mention that Senate President Leroy Garcia can and apparently did send armed State Patrol to cart your wayward caucus members back to the Senate chamber. In a late-night session forced by the same GOP minority, this was a moment of absurdity that no Democrat could have better engineered.

Ultimately, party leaders brokered a deal to proceed with debate and end the search for the absent senators — Don Coram, Ray Scott, Kevin Priola, Jim Smallwood and Larry Crowder — but mark them absent during debate on a bill that their party sees as a top-priority Second Amendment issue.

In the end, the “red flag” bill passed second reading and Senators went home around 10:00PM last night. Whether this embarrassing episode results in a check on the Senate GOP’s “slowdown” campaign when the body reconvenes on Monday is anybody’s guess, but whatever message victory Republicans were hoping to achieve with yesterday’s no-doubt exhausting effort was squandered–by five Republican Senators who decided beating the traffic out of town was more important than Minority Leader Chris Holbert’s no-win pissing match with the majority.

It’s not the message Republicans wanted to send, but it says a mouthful.

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Polis, Weiser Speak Out Against 2nd Amendment Sanctuaries

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado’s governor and attorney general both stated today that sheriffs should disregard county resolutions not to enforce gun-safety laws.

The statements came as Colorado lawmakers are poised to pass “red flag” legislation allowing police to take firearms from people deemed by a judge to be dangerous to themselves or others. Most Republicans oppose the measure, while Democrats support it.

Asked about the “2nd Amendment Sanctuary” resolutions passed by over a dozen Colorado counties, Gov. Jared Polis (R-CO) told KHOW’s Ross Kaminsky:

POLIS:  “Obviously, elected sheriffs don’t choose the laws, right? I mean, they enforce the laws. I would think that there are laws that every sheriff has qualms with and wouldn’t vote for if they were a legislator or wouldn’t sign if they were governor. So, I don’t think that it’s different than any other law that a sheriff opposes. But obviously, it’s the constitutional responsibility of a sheriff to enforce the law equally and without prejudice… We have a very important third branch of government, Ross, and that’s the courts – the judicial branch.  The judicial branch definitively determines what is constitutional and what is not.  Sometimes they put a stay on a law, and it’s not enforced pending appeal.  Sometimes the law is found unconstitutional. Sometimes laws are found constitutional. I mean, so, we have a process to do that. I have faith in our democratic republic. I have faith in that process. “

For his part, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser also stated today that such resolutions “cannot and do not override a valid judicial order implementing state law,” such as an order a judge might issued to confiscate a gun under the red flag law.

“Our nation and state depends on the rule of law. All law enforcement officers swear an oath to uphold the rule of law,” stated Weiser, a Democrat elected in November, in a news release. “I am confident that when and if the time comes, all law enforcement officials will follow the rule of law.”

The bill’s opponents disagree, saying the red flag measures violate multiple articles of the U.S. Constitution.

Weiser pointed out that that multiple states passed red flag laws, and he believes they save lives and pass “constitutional muster.”

(more…)

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Neville Family & Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Working On Recalls

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Patrick Neville and Dudley Brown talk recalls

Thursday night, House Republican leader Patrick Neville stood before a room of Rocky Mountain Gun Owner members and pledged to support their efforts to recall his colleagues, not just with a public statement, but by providing the campaign’s “infrastructure.”

Neville: I’m already getting pushback on this, but there are grassroots folks out there initiating recalls. It’s not something we asked them to do. It’s you the grassroots voter out there doing it. In 2013, the same thing happened and people in my position actually tried to prevent the grassroots from doing it. I’m not going to take that same position. I’m here to support you. We’ve actually started up a website called join.recallcolorado.org. We will provide infrastructure for those who are actually pushing recalls. If you want to recall your legislator you can email [us]. We’ve got to do something to stand up right now.” [CTR emphasis]

The website the House Minority leader is referring to was created and paid for by Values First Colorado, the House Republicans’ 527 political committee. That entity is run by Patrick’s brother Joe Neville, who previously worked as Political Director for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO).

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners organized Thursday’s event, enticing RMGO members to the Centennial Gun Club with the promise of a free hour of range time. RMGO staff broadcast the entire event on Facebook live.

Director Dudley Brown spoke largely about two topics: the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill, or “red flag” measure, which would allow judges to allow the confiscation of guns from dangerous people, and “the R-word” as he called it: recalls.

Brown mentioned the two state legislators, Sen. Jeff Bridges (D-Greenwood Village) and Rep. Meg Froelich (D-Englewood) who are already named on the recall website created by Patrick Neville and his brother Joe (who also attended the briefing).

(more…)

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In Which a Colorado Senator Straight-Up Threatens a Reporter

Sen. Vicki Marble (R).

Last night, 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark aired comments by GOP Sen. Vicki Marble of Broomfield–first reported by our friends at the Colorado Times Recorder–calling for some portion of the state to secede and form a new state to uphold conservative principles in the wake of 2018’s sweeping Democratic victory:

Republican Senator Vicki Marble of Fort Collins is suggesting conservative parts of Colorado secede to form the 51st state in response to Democrats’ proposed oil and gas regulations…

“My recourse is SECEDE,” Marble posted. “Boulder and Denver metro are so removed from the working man’s reality.”

Of course, as anyone who has lived in the state for more than a few years knows the secession impulse among Colorado Republicans is a very predictable response anytime they realize that they are not in majority power. A 2013 ballot measure in support of secession appeared on the ballot in 11 mostly rural counties in the northeast part of the state. It failed miserably, and even if it had passed the actual process of carving out a new state, requiring the approval of the existing state legislature and Congress, it was onerous enough to be a complete waste of every rational person’s time.

But if you thought that would stop Vicki Marble, who competes with pistol-packing Rep. Lori Saine each year for the honor of biggest setback to the Colorado Republican brand, you don’t know Vicki Marble!

Unfortunately, however, a little ventilation of steam from the fringe of the Senate Republican minority is not where this story ends. Sometime after 9NEWS’ report on Marble’s comments yesterday, the Senator from Broomfield responded via social media:

Marble then responded to a report on her secession comments on Next with Kyle Clark in a Facebook post Friday night.

“Let the ‘Ambush begin….you know what I mean…. Kyle,” Marble posted. “I’m coming after you.” [Pols emphasis]

[Senate GOP spox Sage] Naumann was not immediately available for comment on Marble’s threat.

We know there’s going to be some argument over how bad this is. What we’ll say is that Sen. Marble makes no attempt to clarify the nature of her threatened “ambush” on 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark, and following that up with “I’m coming after you” is nothing short of chilling. It’s very difficult to not take these comments as unambiguous threats of violence, and we are additionally obliged to point out that Marble is a strident gun-rights activist with an extremely well-armed base of support. And if that wasn’t enough, Colorado lawmakers routinely carry concealed weapons in the Capitol despite the presence of State Patrol security and the fact that all other CCW holders must disarm before entering.

In short, no one should take Sen. Marble’s silly threat of secession seriously. But as shocking as it may be to be having this conversation about a sitting Colorado lawmaker, there are far more plausible–and personal–threats from Sen. Marble to worry about. This incident raises fundamental questions about the kind of people Colorado Republicans are elevating to public office. Marble’s many previous lowlights from ChickenGate to berating a Cub Scout were clues even for the clueless that she has no business serving in the Colorado Senate.

It may be time to escalate this from an idle discussion to a matter of public safety.

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Sheriff Receives Threats For Saying Counties Can’t Refuse to Enforce State Gun Laws

(It’s not always easy to do the right thing — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder says he’s getting “threats” for denouncing the El Paso County Commission’s vote to become a “2nd Amendment Sanctuary,” under which the county would reject state laws affecting guns.

This past weekend, Elder first spoke out against the “2nd Amendment Sanctuary” measures, which are intended to block a proposed red-flag law that would allow judges to authorize the confiscation of guns from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

“I’ve already had threats, and a bunch of them from that lunatic fringe that don’t understand what Madison and the framers of the Constitution said,” Elder told KVOR’s Richard Randall today [listen below]. “There are provisions in place with our Constitution that say exactly how to deal with rogue legislators. And frankly, I’m going to follow what the framers said. Go read the Federalist Papers and you’ll see what I mean.”

The Republican sheriff, who opposes the red-flag measures, did not specify the nature of the threats, and he added on Facebook:

ELDER: “And what EXACTLY do you think would be the legal and appropriate thing to do? Did you read what I wrote? Do you understand that I said I would not initiate an action thru my office? This accounts for less than 1/4 of El Paso County and nothing inside any of the cities? A friend reminded me of these quotes from the Federalist papers which really sums this whole thing up nicely. “The court ensured that the will of the whole people, as expressed in their Constitution, would be supreme over the will of a legislature, whose statutes might express only the temporary will of part of the people.’ “Madison had written that constitutional interpretation must be lead to the reasoned judgement of independent judges, rather than to the tumult and conflict of the political process. If every constitutional question were to be decided by public political bargaining, Madison argued, the Constitution would be reduced to a battleground of competing factions, political passion, and partisan spirit.” Now there is some food for thought… Madison was right in my opinion (and in the opinion of the Supreme Court I might add) and I will use the Rule of Law, the guidance of Madison and the reasoned judgement of independent judges in this matter. [CTR emphasis]

The 2nd Amendment Sanctuary declarations were passed by over a dozen Colorado counties. They appear to rely on the local sheriff to stop enforcing state laws he or she finds unconstitutional, based on an alleged constitutional authority to do so.

RELATED: Lawmaker Wants Colorado To Become An “Oil and Gas Sanctuary”

“Do people expect a Sheriff, a Chief of Police, a Mayor, or ANY elected person to decide if a law is ‘constitutional’ or not?” tweeted Elder Saturday. “If so, I have a question about hundreds of others. I know my opinion is different than many others in the state, God knows around the country. We have a system where laws are tested and declared one way or another by the courts, don’t we?”

“I believe the point here is that we have a system that’s been in place since 1803 that is meant to hold rogue legislators in check and that is through the Supreme Court. WE MUST follow the system that provides judicial review and not allow any single individual or ruling class the power to override our Constitution.”

“How about everybody keep their heads on their shoulders, and let’s fight this [proposed red-flag bill] like a bunch of civilized Americans,” Elder told KVOR at 8 min 15 sec below.

Bill Elder on KVOR March 8:

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At Least They’re Not Your Lawmakers, Pearl Clutching Edition

Shannon Watts of the gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action Tweets from a New Hampshire legislative committee hearing today:

Don’t you get the joke? Moms (meaning women) clutch pearls–especially when they’re worried about, you know, their kids dying from gun violence! Which we should all be able to agree is just too funny! Let’s get a close up of one of the ringleaders of this little I-respect-my-constituents stunt, Rep. Scott Wallace (R) for posterity:

Exactly what Democrats were looking for to address the Republican gender gap.

And by that we mean widen it.

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Stop This Now: Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg Incites Violence

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

Much discussion at the Colorado Capitol today about an email blast sent out yesterday afternoon by Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling. Sonnenberg’s well-earned reputation as a safe-seat blowhard nevertheless left recipients unprepared for the over-the-top vitriol exhibited in this shocking stream of consciousness decrying the “evil” playing out at the hands of majority Democrats in the 2019 legislative session of the Colorado General Assembly.

It gets a little…unfocused at times, but here are some key points:

The evil seems to be a continued agenda with absolutely no desire to reach across the aisle to form good policy. From the introduction of bills which would create safe places to inject illegal drugs with new needles given by government to giving our Presidential votes away to the populated states, this governor and lawmakers are taking Colorado down a path of destruction and socialism…

Introduced legislation that would continue Denver’s safe injection sites perpetuates the evil nature of this legislature. For lawmakers to try and provide safe areas and provide tools for drug addicts to shoot up with illegal drugs that we know are bad for them only adds to the destruction of a society.

…The attempt to make sure sex-education and health classes are taught with a specific agenda is a true overreach and are one of the responsibilities of parents. It has never been, nor should it be, a schools responsibility to teach an agenda that is more appropriately taught at home.

The agenda continues with the absence of due-process in legislation that allows an upset family member to have law enforcement remove a law-abiding citizen’s guns. A court could order the removal of firearms without hearing the other side, and then when your guns are removed, you are guilty until you can prove yourself innocent of being mentally unstable. The unintended consequence here is this: folks that are currently talking to counselors may no longer do so if they think that it may be used against them in taking their firearms away.

These are all reasons that the second amendment was adopted – to allow the people to defend themselves against a tyrannical government. The Nazi regime used gun control to disarm its enemies. We know it was evil then, and it continues to be evil today. [Pols emphasis]

The new war on rural Colorado and on its values and traditions has reached a new low and we will continue to see the wedge grow larger under the new state leadership. This capitol is an evil place these days, and constituents are correct to assume that the dysfunction in D.C. has infiltrated the state of Colorado.

Yesterday, we wrote about GOP state lawmakers openly encouraging county governments to declare that they will disregard a law that hasn’t even passed yet–condemned by the sheriff of one of the state’s largest counties as an unconstitutional abuse of power. Today we have a senior Colorado Republican Senator calling the Democratic majority and governor “evil,” likening them by name with “the Nazi regime,” and not-very-subtly suggesting that an armed rebellion would be an appropriate response to a sex ed bill–or a bill to align the state’s presidential votes with the popular vote, or a gun bill supported by over 80% of the public.

We understand that losing the Senate majority in 2018 along with the historic sweep of elected offices in Colorado at every level by Democratic candidates was not a pleasant experience for Republicans. But rationally looking at the bills under debate this year, or simply approaching this from a goal of not encouraging political violence, Sonnenberg’s rhetoric is unbelievably irresponsible. This is not how you rekindle the politically advantageous conservative grassroots outrage of 2013, which is every Republicans’ underlying wish today whether or not there is any objective justification for it.

It’s how you incite angry low-information people to do bad things. And it needs to stop right now.

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El Paso County Sheriff Slams “Second Amendment Sanctuaries”

Last Friday, several of Colorado’s leading legislators on the issue of “defending the Second Amendment” including pistol-packing Rep. Lori Saine of Firestone sent a letter on official Capitol letterhead asking Weld County Commissioners to do something very unusual, especially coming from a state lawmaker: to declare the county a “sanctuary” where a law creating Extreme Risk Protection Orders to remove guns from mentally ill people in crisis would not be enforced:

Something you don’t see every day–a letter from three state lawmakers encouraging a county government to declare themselves a “sanctuary,” in which a state law that hasn’t even become law yet would be disregarded. While this does raise some novel questions, including whether Colorado Republicans just blew up their own position in the larger federal debate over “sanctuary city” policies, it’s certainly not very defensible from a standpoint of supporting…well, the rule of law. This is something that lawmakers are by definition not supposed to do, but as readers know latter-day Republican politics have become a little screwy where such previously inviolate fundamentals are concerned.

But as we can see from the reaction from El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder–who is not a supporter of the ERPO bill by any stretch–upholding the rule of law still matters to people who stop and think about the implications of starting down this road:

(more…)

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Sometimes The Bad Guys Win

KNUS-AM host Steffan Tubbs.

9NEWS’ Kyle Clark reported last night on the decision by Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood to give up on trying to pass legislation this year to authorize a pilot safe injection site for people struggling with opioid addiction, which would have been established at the location of an existing needle exchange program in downtown Denver.

As we’ll explain, those details are important:

Democrats in the Colorado Legislature will not attempt to pass a bill this session that would allow Denver to open America’s first supervised drug injection site.

Democratic Senator Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood said Republican opponents have seized on the injection sites to “bring fear and misinformation.”

…Pettersen acknowledged that faltering support from her fellow Democrats doomed the yet-to-be-introduced bill. Democrats control both houses of the Colorado Legislature and would not have needed a single Republican vote to pass the bill.

Recognizing the difficulty of addressing the opioid crisis, which has overwhelmed public health and law enforcement authorities and prompted the more recent emphasis on treatment and compassion rather than criminalization of people who suffer from opioid addiction, we understand that opinions among any group of people including our readers of this particular solution will vary.

But in the end, the opposition to this year’s effort was not policy related at all. As Colorado Public Radio reports, this was all about Republican minority politics–their first chance to draw blood from Democrats who flattened them in last year’s elections. And they seized on the opportunity with all of the usual suspects joining in, and the usual factual challenges:

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville floated the idea of recall elections to remove Democratic lawmakers from office if they voted to support the legislation. In early February, the Colorado Republican Party sent out an email that called safe injection sites an oxymoron…

Local conservative talk radio also played an active role in opposition.

KNUS talk show host Peter Boyles visited Vancouver to see the impact of a facility there and created a “No Safe Sites,” webpage, part of an effort to derail a potential Denver program. “This is so dangerous and so frightening and the cost is so expensive,” Boyles said.

Employing the same wildly false rhetoric we saw during last year’s SD-22 race, AM radio in Denver whipped up right-wing opposition to safe injection sites early this year in anticipation of a legislative debate. Peter Boyles, longtime local radio bottom feeder who we’ve called out in this space for his regular breaches of factuality and decency, was joined by Steffan Tubbs–another KNUS host who was fired by the more mainstream 850 KOA after a domestic violence arrest and has been rebuilding his career in the bush leagues.

Again, views on this issue might not always align even on the left. But the attacks on this bill were simply not accurate. This was about setting up a pilot program at a location that already serves people suffering from addiction in downtown Denver, yet these talk radio hosts had their gullible suburban audiences believing that it would mean “addicts shooting up on your street”–a situation not far from the status quo. Much like the lunatic debate over this year’s bill on sex education, opponents simply disconnected from the facts and let their imaginations run wild.

But sometimes it works. Even the best-intended efforts can be rendered politically nonviable if opponents’ misinformation becomes the dominant narrative. That’s what happened in this case, and it’s our local talk radio lowlifes–normally and correctly relegated to the fringe–taking credit for shutting down rational debate.

Whatever your opinion, we can do better. We can debate better. And hopefully next time that’s what happens.

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Tom Sullivan Makes Powerful Case for Red Flag Bill

State Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial) speaks about his support for “Red Flag” legislation.

We wrote yesterday about so-called “Red Flag” gun safety legislation (also known as an “extreme risk protection order”) that is returning to the Colorado Legislature. Freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial) is one of the bill’s sponsors, and on Thursday he delivered a heart-wrenching statement about his personal motivation for supporting the legislation. Sullivan’s son, Alex, was among the 12 people killed in the Aurora Theater Shooting on July 20, 2012.

You can watch Sullivan’s entire statement below via 9News. We have also provided a transcription of Sullivan’s statement, but you should really watch the video — just make sure you have a box of tissues nearby.

State Representative Tom Sullivan (Feb. 14, 2019):

Not many people know how to talk to the parent of a murdered child. Certainly not one whose picture was on the front page of the newspaper, that they have all seen.

I mean, I’m wearing Alex’s jacket right now. I wear this jacket every day when I take the bus on in here. Because he’s with me. And I can feel him in me. And maybe that scares some of them.

But I’m not doing this for Alex and my family. I’m doing it for yours. Because this is as bad as you think it is. Watching your child’s body drop into the ground is as bad as it gets. And I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that none of you have to do that.

And I don’t care what Party you belong to. I don’t care what gender you are. I don’t care what country you came from. I’m going to do everything until this jacket falls off of me. I’m working every day to do this.

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“Red Flag” Returns With GOP Cowed By Dudley Brown

The Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports on the introduction of a bill today that’s sure to result in some of the most vigorous debate of the 2019 session–a debate that, if history is any guide, will struggle mightily to remain inside the bounds of reality:

It’s called a “red flag” or extreme risk protection order bill, and House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, is again sponsoring it in memory of Douglas County sheriff’s deputy Zackari Parrish, who was killed at a Highlands Ranch apartment complex in 2017 while he tried to negotiate with a man in the midst of a mental health crisis…

The way an extreme risk protection order would work under this bill is that law enforcement, family member or a household member could petition a judge for the removal of a person’s firearms. The judge would hold a hearing — without the gun owner being present — to decide whether to grant a temporary order for up to 14 days.

During those two weeks, the gun owner and the person who asked for the order would tell the judge why those weapons should or shouldn’t be returned. The judge could extend the order for up to 364 days.

As Staver reports and the details are worth understanding, this year’s version of the bill includes changes suggested by criminal defense lawyers to ensure that anyone subject to a court order to temporarily surrender their firearms has access both to legal representation and a clear path to having their gun rights restored. These changes are intended to mollify Republican opponents, who have repeated the mantra for years of “focusing on mental health” with regard to gun safety instead of regulations on hardware and access. Public polling shows overwhelming 80%+ support for “red flag” legislation, which on seemingly any issue except guns would make this a political no-brainer.

Despite these changes, this year’s bill appears to have even less Republican support than the 2018 version. The reason for this is well-known to our readers, after the bill’s GOP co-sponsor in the House last year was pummeled in return by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners during the election–“friendly fire” that played a key role in Cole Wist’s loss to Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan. Sullivan, the father of a victim of the Aurora theater shooting, could not be more antithetical to RMGO’s agenda, but that didn’t matter to them as much as enforcing party discipline on their single issue.

And even though “red flag” is as good as law in the 2019 solid blue Colorado General Assembly, there’s little doubt that RMGO considers the lack of Republican support for the bill this year to be a strategic victory–while the rest of the Republican coalition would call it winning a battle to lose the war. We’ll be watching closely to see if any other Republicans who have expressed prior support have the courage to speak up for the current bill. Here’s looking at you, George Brauchler.

The key difference is that this year, Republican infighting over this bill is background noise.

They are irrelevant–thanks in no small part to RMGO.

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Stop The Presses: A Real-Life Vote Fraud Case!

Actually, don’t. They’ll catch you.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Amy Hamilton reports, and by God every time it happens somebody ought to let you know–if for no other reason than to remind you how rarely it happens:

A Grand Junction woman was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor voter fraud after she allegedly cast a mail-in ballot for her adult son last fall after becoming frustrated that her adult children didn’t seem to be voting, according to the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office.

Gail Arlene Gray, 66, told an investigator she “did a terrible thing” but she was “really (angry) at my kids for not voting, none of them were voting and then that (ballot) came in the mail and I didn’t even think, I thought I am going to vote for him…” according to an arrest affidavit released Thursday…

In a phone call on Jan. 30, the son told the investigator he had talked to his mom and learned she had voted for him. When asked by the investigator, the son said his mother’s voting choices were “not necessarily” how he voted but he “did not have hard feelings about it,” the affidavit said.

Now before anyone starts pointing partisan fingers, we looked up Gail Arlene Gray’s voter registration, and she’s unaffiliated. Considering that allegations of voter fraud are almost both exclusively leveled by Republicans and (in Colorado, anyway) and almost exclusively committed by Republicans, up to and including a former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party–but in this case, what you have is a mother upset that her son was complacent about doing his civic duty. So Mom decided to take care of it herself.

Which is, of course, a crime.

As the Sentinel reports, the fraudulent vote was caught by the system working as intended, when the son turned up at a vote center to vast a ballot in person. After confirming that a mail ballot had already been cast in his name, a signature check revealed that he wasn’t the signer–and soon after that, Mom confessed to voting on his behalf. Because Gail Arlene Gray has no criminal record, and owing to her age and cooperation with investigators, she is only facing misdemeanor election fraud charges.

The incident marks the only case of suspected voter fraud in Mesa County for the 2018 election cycle, Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said. [Pols emphasis]

Again, it’s important to take note of these bonafide cases of election fraud when they occur. Republicans from President Donald Trump all the way down to state and local officials regularly invoke the specter of “illegal voters” subverting our elections, from former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s baseless claims of tens of thousands of such voters in Colorado to more recent and very similar allegations of “95,000 illegal voters” in Texas. Gessler’s claims about Colorado voters totally collapsed under scrutiny, and those “thousands” of fraudulent votes boiled down to fewer than five actual cases.

With the actual incidence of election fraud in Colorado an infinitesimal fraction of what the usual suspects claim it is, the argument for any of the “solution” measures proposed in response becomes much more difficult. To stop thousands of fraudulent voters, a crackdown that prevents some fewer thousands of voters from lawfully participating might be more justifiable. But to effectively disenfranchise thousands in order to prevent…one case? Even five cases? That’s a “solution” in search of a problem. A cure worse than the disease.

And it’s based on one of the biggest falsehoods in politics today.

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Again, Who’s Afraid of the NRA?

NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch (top) and CEO Wayne LaPierre

As Roll Call’s Kate Ackley reports, the National Rifle Association (NRA), the leading political advocacy group for gun owners that has morphed into a much broader “movement conservative” organization closely aligned with the Republican Party, seems to be losing its fabled edge in the era of Donald Trump:

The influence of the National Rifle Association, the nation’s highest-profile Second Amendment-rights organization and a longtime powerhouse against gun-control laws, is showing signs of potential decline.

The NRA’s own tax forms show a dip in revenue. And even as the group, now under the leadership of new president Oliver North of Iran-Contra fame, continues to spend big money on federal lobbying and political campaigns, its opponents in the gun-control movement, after decades of ever more deadly mass shootings and seemingly random incidents of gun violence, have been on the rise…

The NRA has found itself ensnared in controversy in recent months, some of it stemming from the special counsel probe into foreign interference in the 2016 elections. The group had ties to Maria Butina, a Russian who pleaded guilty late last year to charges of conspiracy to act as a foreign agent. Whether the gun group has allowed foreign money to infiltrate its campaign coffers also may be under investigation, according to news reports. And it’s on the hot seat for possible campaign finance violations of improperly coordinating its independent campaign expenditures with candidates, after a report by the liberal magazine Mother Jones.

The NRA faces a combination of circumstances that aggregate into a real threat, if not to the organization’s long-term existence which seems assured, than certainly the organization’s once (pardon us) bulletproof sway among virtually all Republican lawmakers and no small number of Democrats. President Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 provoked a massive buying spree of firearms by (needlessly) panicked gun owners, and gun manufacturers obligingly plowed those profits right back into the NRA’s advocacy budget. But with Trump as President, the hype that motivated the frenzied buying of guns under Obama just doesn’t exist.

At the same time, the continuing and worsening toll of mass shooting events in the United States has forced the debate over guns outside the NRA’s strictly-enforced boundaries. Here in Colorado, public reaction to gun safety laws that led to recall campaigns against Democrats in 2013 would look very different now, after so many intervening mass shootings with body counts that dwarf the 2012 Aurora theater massacre.

Still another factor negatively impacting the NRA’s political strength is a perception among hardened gun-rights advocates that the NRA has gotten “soft” on the issue–a view eagerly promoted by Colorado’s own Dudley Brown, who wields great influence within the gun enthusiast community through his local and national front groups. The NRA’s recent broadening into multi-issue conservative advocacy was meant to counter this ebb in support, but it also has had the effect of driving politically neutral or even left of center supporters away.

For all of these reasons, it’s not a surprise to us that the NRA’s political relevance is on the wane. If the present trend of radicalization among gun owners continues, along with a growing movement in the United States for gun safety laws considerably tighter than the status quo today, it’s a trend that could continue. For intelligent gun-rights supporters, giving the Dudley Browns of the world more power to disrupt Republican election strategy like they did in 2018 is a disastrous prospect–but that is the trajectory today.

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Time To Hang Up And Drive, Colorado?

CBS4’s Shaun Boyd reports on a perennial bill introduced in the Colorado legislature that, while it hasn’t passed in previous sessions, might see a different outcome this year in under unified Democratic control–legislation to expand on the state’s existing ban on texting while driving to requiring drivers to be fully hands-free if the call truly can’t wait:

A state lawmaker says it’s not enough to ban texting while driving, the current law in Colorado. Sen. Lois Court, a Democrat representing Denver, wants to ban drivers from using hand-held phones altogether.

“This is designed to stop dangerous behavior,” said Court…

Opponents, including the ACLU and Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, say the bill goes too far, equating holding a phone while driving with reckless driving.

“Bills like this become symbolism, they don’t give you results,” Denise Maes with the ACLU told lawmakers.

A vote on Sen. Lois Court’s bill was delayed following testimony yesterday to give proponents a chance to make changes suggested during the hearing. Banning holding a phone while driving isn’t a proposal that necessarily has clean partisan cleavage, and there are legitimate countervailing public safety and personal freedom arguments to consider. Much the same way they say “a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged,” it’s possible that your view of this bill will depend on how close you’ve personally come to being in a space-time conflict with a driver distracted by their phone.

A poll follows–good idea, or trampling your sacred right to screen addiction?

Should Colorado ban the use of hand-held phones while driving?
Yes
No
Not sure/other
RECALL
View Result

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Who’s “Overreaching” On Guns Again?

Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

Denver7’s Russell Haythorn reports on the debate over gun legislation at the Colorado Capitol this year, which primarily centers on a bill allowing a court to temporarily order the removal of firearms from persons in a mental health crisis–legislation which passed last year in the House with bipartisan support only to die in the then-GOP held Senate, but is greased to pass this year:

With the balance of power now squarely in the hands of Democrats at the Colorado statehouse, there’s a new push for stronger gun control.

The so-called “red flag” bill would allow judge’s in Colorado to seize firearms from gun owners who are deemed mentally unstable.

Gun-rights advocates call that measure a shameless ploy.

“Make no mistake about it, this bill is designed to confiscate firearms from law-abiding citizens,” said Dudley Brown, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

A poll released last May by Keating Research shows that in Colorado, 81% of the public supports a “red flag” law of the kind that died last year at the hands of the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate. It’s a similar situation to the gun safety laws that were passed in 2013, which similarly enjoyed majority public support even as they were savaged by the extremely vocal gun lobby. “Red flag” bills have passed in a total of 13 states, including states with Republican governors and legislatures like Indiana and Florida.

On any other issue, it would be a considerable stretch to call legislation with 81% public support an example of “legislative overreach,” but as Haythorn reports, it was gun legislation that drove the 2013 recalls against state senate Democrats–recalls that have served as a catch-all boogeyman invoked by Republicans against Democrats ever since.

Outside the angry bubble of the gun lobby, however, the gun issue has politically evolved since 2013. Continuing mass shooting tragedies with record-setting body counts like the October 2017 shooting on the Las Vegas Strip have shifted public opinion, and made the no-compromise stonewall from Republicans under the influence of the gun lobby politically unsustainable. That’s one reason why in 2018, you saw a number of high-profile Colorado Republicans like attorney general candidate George Brauchler and Rep. Cole Wist come out in support of a red flag bill. RMGO responded by targeting both Brauchler and Wist with negative messages to the Republican base in 2018–and they both lost, satisfying Dudley Brown but only making passage of this bill more likely.

“Gun owners across this state are worried that the legislature is going to do again – what it did in 2013,” Brown said. “And that is take big leaps to turn us into California.”

Colorado’s 2013 legislature banned high capacity magazines and private gun sales.

The move backfired on some Democrats. Some lawmakers were recalled, and the party lost control of the state legislature in 2014.

With all of this in mind, to accuse Democrats of “overreach” for passing a red flag law supported by over 80% of the public, just like in 2013 when Democrats passed a universal background check law supported by a similar overwhelming majority, is spin to the point of absurdity. That this is not immediately apparent in every relevant local news story reflects the way the fringe of the gun debate–in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners–has dictated the terms of this debate for years.

At some point, maybe the local press will realize the guy on the 19% side of the equation doesn’t deserve “equal time.”

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Rich Guys Get Un-Deputized in Yuma County

Billionaire Republican megadonor Robert Mercer

Bloomberg News has a fascinating update to a story that we followed regularly in this space last year about Republican mega donor Robert Mercer and his pay-to-play posse scheme in Yuma, Colorado. As Zachary Mider writes for Bloomberg, Mercer will have to go play cops and robbers somewhere else:

The New York hedge fund magnate and conservative donor had his status as a volunteer deputy sheriff revoked by Yuma County, Colorado, Sheriff Chad Day on Monday, his last day in office. Day lost his re-election bid last year after Bloomberg News reported on Mercer’s role and his purchase of a new pickup truck for the sheriff’s official use. [Pols emphasis]

The arrangement provoked controversy in the prairie county that borders Kansas and Nebraska. Day submitted papers last week ending the appointments of Mercer, 72, and at least a dozen other volunteer posse members, effective Jan. 7, according to documents signed by Day and filed with the county clerk. Day also revoked the appointment of William Koch, 78, though a spokesman for the billionaire industrialist said he was never a posse member.

County records that became public in recent months show that four Mercer associates, including a bodyguard who says on LinkedIn that he’s a former “Cuban Special Operations Commander,” had also received badges from Day and that the value of Mercer’s donations of cash and equipment to the sheriff’s office totaled more than $135,000. Mercer declined to comment, and Day didn’t respond to multiple inquiries.

Chad Day is now the former Sheriff of Yuma County (and presumably the outgoing President of the Colorado County Sheriffs’ Association) in large part because he sold out his county in exchange for a new truck and a bunch of stun guns so that Mercer — who owns one of the world’s largest private collections of machine guns — and his buddies would be able to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the country. Day had insisted to Blair Miller of Denver7 that there was no quid, pro, or quo in this deal, but that’s not how it looks from Bloomberg’s follow-up investigation.

Much like Robert Mercer, Chad Day can now only pretend to be in law enforcement in Yuma County.

Mercer was apparently connected to Day via Rocky Mountain Gun Owners head honcho Dudley Brown, who is also associated with a certain U.S. Senator from Yuma. A spokesman for Sen. Cory Gardner told Miller at the time that “he didn’t know anything about the story aside from what he’d read in Bloomberg.”

For his part, Day had refused to answer detailed questions about the arrangement when it was first reported last spring, making the absurd claim that some of his “volunteer resources” were “directly involved in confidential undercover operations that involve direct ties and associations with the Mexican Cartel which has a presence in [the Yuma area].” No doubt the 78-year-old William Koch (yes, that Koch brother) was also a tremendous deterrent to any potential Mexican cartel operations.

The Bloomberg update to this story also provides more disconcerting details on some of the individuals involved in the arrangement Mercer had with Day and Yuma County.

In 2016, a foundation Mercer controls bought the pickup truck for Day’s agency. The foundation’s goals include educating local police forces about H.R. 218. At a county meeting, Day reported that he’d connected with Mercer through Brown, according to minutes of the meeting. It was a nicer truck, Day remarked, than the county would have spent its own money on.

That November, county records show, Mercer and four associates took oaths of office in Yuma, swearing “before the ever living God” to support the U.S. and Colorado constitutions. The crew included a Mercer son-in-law and three employees with backgrounds in bodyguard work, including the Cuban veteran; a self-described martial arts master; and a former Army Ranger whose LinkedIn page says he once guarded Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

The Cuban, Julio Garcia, had recently accompanied Mercer’s daughter Rebekah to the 2016 Republican convention. Garcia’s LinkedIn page boasts of training by Russian and Vietnamese special operations forces. An essay posted on a martial-arts website says he once served as a bodyguard to Fidel Castro. Garcia declined to comment.

In exchange for a shiny new truck and some other toys, Yuma County’s Sheriff deputized a guy who once guarded Afghan president Hamid Karzai and another man who served as a bodyguard to Fidel Freaking Castro!

Viva la revolución, Yuma County.

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Worst Possible Mag Limit Repeal Sponsor Strikes Again

Legislation filed for debate in the 2019 session of the Colorado General Assembly is starting to appear on the legislature’s website, and here’s one every Colorado voter should be aware of, regardless of how you feel about the hot-button underlying issue:

Rep. Lori Saine (R), in custody after being caught with a loaded gun at DIA.

House Bill 19-1021 is a bill to repeal Colorado’s 15-round limit on gun magazine capacity. This bill is scheduled for certain death in the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee at an unspecified time in the next few weeks.

But the point is not really the bill, which Republicans in the Colorado legislature have introduced every year since the magazine limit became law. It is worth noting that the 15-round mag limit in particular outraged the gun lobby nationwide and helped drive the 2013 recall elections which ousted two Democratic Senators and promoted the resignation of a third. In 2014, gun-rights groups managed a reasonable crowd to testify in hearings on repeal bills, but since then turnout has steadily dwindled.

The real problem here is the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lori Saine. In December of 2017, Rep. Saine was boarding a flight at Denver International Airport to receive an award from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at that organization’s annual conference. A search of her purse at the airport revealed a loaded 9mm semiautomatic handgun that Saine had “forgotten” and brought with her. Saine was arrested when she stopped cooperating with security officers, but avoided charges by profusely claiming ignorance of the loaded gun in her purse.

Because this incident did not result in a criminal conviction, Rep. Saine’s right to possess guns–and presumably the concealed carry permit that allowed her to carry one in her purse–was not affected. But in every political sense, the event renders Saine the worst possible legislator of any serving in the Colorado General Assembly to carry a bill to weaken Colorado’s gun laws. We legitimately do not understand why Republicans would allow Saine to so perfectly undermine legislation we assume they would actually like to pass.

If anyone has an explanation that doesn’t boil down to some kind of bad joke, we’d like to hear it.

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Kroenke Executive Paid Russian Spy Maria Butina To Create Pro-Putin TV Show

(From Russia with love, Colorado! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Russian spy Maria Butina

The head of a major Colorado media company hired now admitted Russian spy Maria Butina to help him create a television show starring Vladimir Putin as a conservation-minded outdoorsman.

With Butina changing her plea to guilty last week, it’s now official: a Kroenke executive hired a Russian spy to help him pitch a pro-Putin television show starring the Russian President himself. 

Jim Liberatore, CEO of Outdoor Sportsman Group (OSG), a division of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (KSE), met Butina through their shared ties to the National Rifle Association. KSE purchased the Outdoor Channel, with Liberatore at its head, in 2013. He was promoted to CEO of OSG in 2017.   

Butina invited Liberatore and his wife to Moscow in 2015 as part of a National Rifle Association delegation she organized along with her Russian handler Alexander Torshin. 

Butina’s goal, which has since been detailed by federal prosecutors and in numerous media reports, was establishing a back-channel means of communication to the Trump campaign (and subsequently the administration) via the NRA.

(more…)

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Walker Stapleton. Anti-Semitism. Calling You Out.

In the aftermath of Saturday’s deadly attack on a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, capping a week of political violence that included a racially motivated shooting in Kentucky and pipe bombs mailed by a pro-Trump Floridian to numerous Democratic leaders and other critics of President Donald Trump, NBC News reported on an underlying spike in social media attacks on Jewish people in particular–using code language anyone who follows politics locally or nationally ought to recognize.

Separate researchers who were independently looking at [Instagram and Twitter] said attacks on Jewish people had spiked on both services ahead of the midterm elections on Nov. 6, similar to a rise in harassment before the 2016 presidential election.

Many but not all of the posts mention billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros, the researchers said. Soros is frequently the subject of unfounded conspiracy theories, and his home was among the targets in a series of attempted bombings this month. [Pols emphasis]

Jonathan Albright, a researcher at Columbia University in New York who directs a center on digital forensics, told NBC News that the amount of anti-Semitic material posted to Instagram and tied to Soros was possibly the worst sample of hate speech he had seen on the site.

Billionaire investor George Soros has served as a boogeyman for the far right for many years, stemming from his support both for Democratic candidates and liberal nonprofit organizations working in support of a wide range of progressive agenda items. Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton regularly invokes Soros as a villain on the campaign trail. In truth, conservative funders from Sheldon Adelson to the Koch Brothers spend vastly more on American politics than Soros–but Soros has been the subject of intense vilification because he was born in Europe, and perceived to be a corrupting foreign influence by the nativist right.

And of course, George Soros is Jewish.

RYAN WARNER: …Recently it was reported that Americans for Prosperity, a political advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers, will be investing in your campaign perhaps to the tune of as much as a million dollars. While it sounds like that money might be welcome when you look at what your opponent is spending, I wonder what kind of influence comes with a sizeable contribution like that.

WALKER STAPLETON: Probably the same kind of influence that comes from Good Jobs Colorado which is being backed by checks from George Soros, a wealthy international financier… [Pols emphasis]

Full stop. The term “wealthy international financier” has stood in for “Jew” among anti-Semitic bigots literally for centuries. Henry Ford’s infamous anti-Semitic book The International Jew was entirely based on the trope of wealthy Jews controlling the world through financial treachery and a lack of national loyalties, like its forged predecessor The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In terms of identifying thinly-concealed prejudice against Jewish people, the phrase can be fairly considered a dead giveaway.

So the next logical question is, Did Walker Stapleton use these words by accident?

The answer: we don’t think so. And here’s why.

Stapleton was nominated for governor at the Republican State Assembly this year by former Congressman Tom Tancredo. Tancredo is a past board member of the openly racist organization VDARE, which had planned to host its annual conference in Colorado Springs but was turned away after negative press. Tancredo’s anger over the supposed bad treatment of VDARE led him to first consider a run for governor himself, then to endorse Stapleton once he was satisfied Stapleton took the “issue” seriously. If you go to VDARE’s website to read about Jewish people, this is the kind of thing you’ll find:

Jewish activity collectively, throughout history, is best understood as an elaborate and highly successful group competitive strategy directed against neighboring peoples and host societies. The objective has been control of economic resources and political power. One example: overwhelming Jewish support for non-traditional immigration, which has the effect of weakening America’s historic white majority. [Pols emphasis]

The individual in custody for the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh entered the building screaming “All Jews Must Die,” and in his social media rantings before the attack peddled conspiracy theories that Jewish immigration groups were funding the “caravan” of asylum seekers slowly traveling north through Mexico toward the U.S. border. The attack in Pittsburgh on Saturday was a direct expression of the ideology promoted by VDARE as you can read above. The ideology of Tom Tancredo. The man who nominated Walker Stapleton.

The same Walker Stapleton now demonizing “wealthy international financier” George Soros.

Stapleton’s embrace of Tom Tancredo, like Donald Trump himself, was not an accident. Employing Tancredo to tacitly reassure far-right voters about Stapleton’s own views was not an accident.  The hatred being stirred up in order to turn out conservative votes across the nation and right here in Colorado, from fact-free conspiracy theories about “Soros funding the caravan” to Stapleton’s own ad campaigns vilifying so-called “sanctuary cities,” is not an accident. Based on these facts, we have absolutely no reason to believe that Stapleton’s choice of specific racist code words to describe Mr. Soros was an accident either.

At some point, you have to stop being polite and call this out for what it is.

After the deadliest hate crime against Jewish people in American history, the time has come.

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Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack Discussion Thread

UPDATE: Amanda Henderson of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado:

At the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado our hearts are breaking with the Jewish community at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and with our Jewish family who has been experiencing an increase in anti-Semitic hate and vitriol over the past several years. Hateful and violent rhetoric must stop. Our leaders must lead. This is the time to stop pitting one person against another and to work for freedom and thriving for all.

—–

It’s difficult to find words to describe what happened today at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, but we’ll use this space to aggregate local responses and news updates on what appears to be the deadliest attack on Jewish people in American history. This is a tragedy with enormous social and political import that we’ll all be unpacking for some time. Both Colorado U.S. Senators have expressed their outrage and sympathy:

If you would like to give in response to this tragedy, we suggest the Anti-Defamation League and HIAS.

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“MAGA Bomber” Busted

Miami Herald:

The Miami Herald has learned that the suspect who has been arrested is a man in his 50s from Aventura. He is being questioned by FBI agents with the Joint Terrorism Task Force since his arrest this morning at about 10 a.m…

Live shots from a Local 10 news helicopter show federal agents examining a white van that appeared to be covered in pro-Donald Trump and right wing stickers. Investigators covered the vehicle with a blue tarp. Police have blocked off traffic at Peters Road heading north on State Road 7.

Federal investigators quickly centered the investigation on the dozen crudely fashioned “pipe bombs” sent to top Trump critics, including Hillary Clinton and Cory Booker, on a mail sorting facility in Opa-locka. The devices have been recovered in New York, Washington D.C., California and South Florida, all with the return address of Debbie Wassermann-Schultz’s office. Several words, including her name, were misspelled on the packages.

We’ll update as more is learned in this case, but hopefully this means the pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump will stop now. Lots of politics lurking in this story, and we advise everyone to make sure the time and manner of your response is something you’ll be proud of in hindsight.

With that said, yes–“MAGA Bomber” is looking like a pretty accurate moniker.

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Brauchler’s Aurora theater shooting trial conduct disqualifies him as attorney general candidate

(This is a must-read – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sandy Phillips (left) and daughter Jessica Ghawi.

We’ve known George Brauchler for six years. We spent nearly every day together in the courtroom for five agonizing months while he tried our daughter’s killer. But in the race for Colorado’s next Attorney General, we cannot support his candidacy.

We came to know George during one of the darkest times in our lives. Our beautiful 24 year-old daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was gunned down in the Aurora movie theater on July 20, 2012 by a madman armed with military-style assault weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Jessi went to a midnight showing of Batman and never came home. Eleven others were killed that night, and more than 70 sustained life-changing injuries, not to mention the emotional scars that come with living through a real-life nightmare. 

Jessi was a force. She was smart, feisty, and was thriving in her career in Colorado, covering the Avalanche for a local radio station. That night, we exchanged texts before the movie started. “I need my mama,” she texted. We’d later find out, the response “I need my baby girl,” would be the last text she would read.  We take solace in the fact Jessi knew how much she was loved, and was reminded this right before she died.

When we first met George, like many people, we were taken with his charm. He was this confident prosecutor, with a big, warm smile, who promised to bring justice for our family. But over time, we felt like our family was not George’s primary concern. It increasingly appeared as if his conduct during the trial was not about pursuing justice but about his political aspirations. George could have taken a plea deal and saved us months of sitting in the courtroom with our daughter’s killer, listening to the most gruesome details of what transpired that night in the theater. But George pursued — and lost — the death penalty, to boost his name recognition for gubernatorial bid. Not to mention, he spent nearly $5 million of taxpayer dollars to end up with same life without parole sentence we could have gotten years sooner.

We’ve had numerous conversations with George about gun safety. After the Aurora theater shooting, Colorado responded by passing common-sense gun safety laws, including background checks on private and online gun sales and limits on high-capacity magazines. We cannot wrap our minds around how, after trying a shooter who was able to amass an arsenal of weapons and ammunition and cause so much devastation, George still believes we should allow weapons of war on our streets and unlimited magazines on our gun store shelves. He has made no pretensions about his lack of support for the gun laws that are on the books in Colorado. Not only does he oppose these measures, but if elected Attorney General we believe he would work to repeal these live-saving laws and fight any efforts to strengthen them.

George might like the voters to think his views are moderate. But what moderate embraces the endorsement of an extreme right-wing radical like Ted Nugent who called for President Obama to be shot and said America would have been better off if the Confederacy had won the Civil War? Even after a number of Aurora survivors, ourselves included, called for George to denounce the endorsement, he refused.

Colorado deserves an Attorney General who will put people over politics and public safety over partisanship. And George Brauchler just isn’t that person.

Our journey has not been one we would wish on anyone, but it always brings us back to Colorado, where Jessi’s life was taken from us six years ago. We carry her spirit in our hearts as we meet people and advocate for change. For Jessi, and the tens of thousands of others taken and wounded every year, we will never stop speaking out and sharing our story, especially when there is so much at stake.

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips are the parents of Jessica Ghawi, who was murdered in the mass shooting at the Aurora Theater on July 20, 2012. Soon after Jessica’s death, they became activists for the prevention of gun violence. They currently travel the country, reaching out to and meeting with other survivors through their non-profit organization, Survivors Empowered.

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Terror Scare Hits CNN, Obamas, Clintons

UPDATE: New York Times reports as the investigation continues:

Pipe bombs were sent to several prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, setting off an intense investigation on Wednesday into whether a bomber is going after political figures vilified by the right wing.

CNN received a similar bomb, addressed to John O. Brennan, a career intelligence officer who served as Mr. Obama’s C.I.A. director. The discovery of the device caused a mass evacuation of the Time Warner Center in Midtown Manhattan, where the network is located.

None of the devices harmed anyone; it was not immediately clear whether any of them could have exploded. One law enforcement official said investigators were examining the possibility that they were hoax devices.

—–
UPDATE: Politico:

The U.S. Secret Service on Wednesday morning released a statement that it had intercepted two packages, one addressed to Clinton and another to Obama.

Shortly after the statement was released, the Time Warner Center in New York City, where CNN’s New York bureau is located, was also evacuated due to a suspicious package. The package has been removed.

In addition, police in Florida have responded to a suspicious package at Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz’s Sunrise office, which was evacuated, Sunrise police confirmed to POLITICO. Police have also dispatched a bomb squad and are determining what was in the package.

—–

CNN reports following the evacuation of their New York offices this morning:

A US intelligence official tells CNN it is too early to tell whether there is a nexus to terrorism at this point regarding the suspicious packages sent to multiple locations today.

The official says the intelligence community is monitoring the situation regarding the suspicious packages, saying it is still very early in the process.

Intelligence agencies could become involved later on but at this point law enforcement is still assessing the facts on the ground, the official tells CNN.

We’ll be watching this developing story for updates and local reactions. Until we know more, it’s best not to speculate about motives and responsibility.

With that said, be safe out there. No political disagreement merits violence, ever.

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John Morse’s Revenge Continues

Former Colorado Senators John Morse and Angela Giron (D).

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports:

A national gun control group is hoping to flip control of the Colorado Senate and other key races in the state by injecting $650,000 into campaigns and efforts to mobilize Democratic voters.

“The politics on this issue have shifted dramatically in favor of gun safety — and nowhere is that more true than in Colorado,” Everytown for Gun Safety President John Feinblatt said. “We are proud to support candidates up and down the ballot who will put public safety ahead of gun lobby priorities.”

Democrats hold a safe majority in the Colorado House of Representatives, but Republicans control the Senate by a single seat. Senate Republicans blocked a “red-flag” bill during the 2018 legislative session that would have let law enforcement confiscate weapons from people in the midst of mental health crisis. Sen. Tim Neville, R-Jefferson County, fought to kill the red-flag bill and was the sponsor on another proposal to remove the permit requirement in order to carry a concealed weapon.

In 2013, following mass shooting tragedies in Newtown, Connecticut and (especially) the July 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, the unified Democratic majorities in the Colorado House and Senate debated and passed a landmark package of gun safety bills: most controversially, laws requiring background checks on most transfers of guns including private sales and a limit on magazine capacity at 15 rounds.

These laws provoked an intense backlash from national pro-gun organizations like the National Rifle Association and the hard-line National Association for Gun Rights headed by local gun rights extremist Dudley Brown. Brown, who believes there should be no pre-sale checks on gun purchases of any kind, and allied local groups flush with NRA cash initiated a recall election in September of 2013 that successfully recalled two Democratic Senators: Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo. A third Democratic Senator, Evie Hudak of Arvada, voluntarily resigned rather than putting her swing district (and herself) through the pain of a recall.

Since that time, though, all of the gains made by Republicans as a result of the events of 2013 have been retaken by Democrats. The successors for Morse and Giron both lost their seats in 2014, and fringe-right Sen. Laura Woods held Evie Hudak’s former seat for only two years before being ousted by Rachel Zenzinger in their second matchup in 2016. And despite annual attempts by Republicans to repeal the laws passed in 2013, they remain on the books. In the meantime, the ongoing and worsening tragedy of mass gun violence in America has shifted the politics of the issue to the point where Democrats in Colorado and elsewhere no longer fear taking the gun lobby head-on.

In 2013, Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute predicted the recalls would create a “wave of fear” among Democrats across the land, and for a few years, yes–it probably did. We submit to you that those days are over, and history will record that it was Morse, Giron, Hudak, and everyone else who tried to reduce the impact of gun violence instead of make excuses for it who were on the right side.

And yes, flipping the Colorado Senate would be a powerful way to say so.

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Giffords PAC Acts Swiftly After Ad Hits Too Close To Home

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports on a controversy that erupted this week over an ad from Giffords PAC, hitting Rep. Mike Coffman’s opposition to gun safety laws and support from the National Rifle Association with a visual that bore a disturbing similarity to actual events in Colorado over a decade ago:

The parents of Emily Keyes said Wednesday that the super PAC behind an ad that depicted text messages similar to those sent during the final moments of her life had apologized, and said they believe the similarities were unintentional…

John-Michael and Ellen Keyes said in a statement the PAC had spoken with them and that they were satisfied with the committee’s response.

“Our initial response was profound disappointment…. The Giffords organization reached out to us directly to offer both their regret and apologies,” the Keyes said in a statement to Denver7. “They assured us that the similarities were coincidental and they would be altering the advertisement and reposting a new version on social media and other internet sites. We believe that any connection to the tragedy our family experienced was unintentional.” [Pols emphasis]

“We respect the ability to exercise a political voice and we understand that mistakes happen,” they added. “We appreciate the prompt attention paid by the Giffords organization and their commitment to remedy the situation.”

Although the text message dramatization in the ad does not recite the exchange of texts between 2006 school shooting victim Emily Keyes and her family verbatim, the use of the first name “Emily” was considered by many local observers to be close enough–and the fact that Coffman wasn’t elected to Congress until two years after the 2006 Platte Canyon High School shooting gave Coffman an opening to cry foul.

With that said, Coffman’s long record of support for and backing from the NRA is a matter of public record and has been a liability for years–more so since the July 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting in the heart of his district. It’s an issue that Coffman most certainly doesn’t need resurfacing in any capacity in the October before the toughest general election of his lifetime, an election in which Coffman has fled to the center on every available issue in hope not being swept away by an anti-Trump wave. That’s why Coffman seized on the negative initial response from the Keyes family–and howled from behind the family’s justifiable upset about how the ad is “beneath basic human dignity.”

Once the family is satisfied with the explanation from Giffords PAC and the changes to the ad, however, Coffman’s faux outrage lost its cover. Now, the only fact that remains is that Mike Coffman has an A+ rating from the NRA. Which is distantly out of step with a majority of voters in CD-6. And unlike previous elections, the polls say the voters in CD-6 get it now.

So, as they say, protest too much while you can.

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