The Real Overreach: Sullivan Breaks GOP Recall Strategy

Rep. Tom Sullivan (D).

As Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland reports–as word spreads nationally about the attempt by Colorado Republicans to recall freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was murdered in the July 2012 Aurora theater shooting leading to Sullivan’s run for office on a platform of gun safety, everybody and their mother is lining up not just to defend Sullivan, but plant the flag on this pivotal issue with Sullivan as the standard-bearer:

National Democrats are getting involved in the effort to help Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan survive a recall challenge that threatens to remove him from office…

“When the gun industry attacks one of our own, it’s important for us to respond in kind and demonstrate that our movement to save lives is just as powerful as they are,” wrote Democratic U.S Sen. Chris Murphy from Connecticut in a fundraising email he sent on Sullivan’s behalf. Murphy asked people to split a $35 donation between Sullivan’s recall effort and his own work to change gun laws.

“The gun lobby is trying to force a recall election to try to defeat Tom and the other Democrats who sponsored the bill. If our side wins, it’s a devastating blow to an already reeling gun lobby. And so Tom needs our help right now to defeat this recall effort.”

Birkeland reports that prominent Democrats from across the country have been in touch with Rep. Sullivan since the announcement of the recall effort against him. Sen. Chris Murphy in particular has been a leading proponent on the issue since the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting that occurred a few months after the Aurora theater shooting. We expect the involvement of these national players will escalate as the mid-July petition deadline approaches.

This is happening for an important reason. The recall campaign against Sullivan has received far more and far wider press coverage because of who Sullivan is. Although Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and their allies in GOP House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s political machine promised lots of recalls, it’s been nearly two weeks since the launch of the Sullivan recall by state party vice chair Kristi Burton Brown with no new petitions approved to circulate as of this writing. Even if more recall petition announcements are made today or after the long holiday weekend, Tom Sullivan has been firmly planted in the public consciousness now as the principal target.

And that, gentle readers, is a messaging disaster for the GOP.

By singling out the lawmaker with the most powerful story to tell in defense of his vote for 2019’s popular gun safety law, the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill, Republicans have chosen the battlefield–and it’s by far their riskiest choice politically, and has the greatest chance of backfiring with lasting consequences for Republicans both in and outside of HD-37. If Republicans were to successfully recall Rep. Sullivan over a law enjoying 80% public support, the moral outrage against them would further stigmatize the party ahead of the next general election with no real effect on the Democratic majority.

On the other hand, if Democrats successfully defend Sullivan, Republicans look no less like soulless villains going into 2020 and the seat is lost for the rest Sullivan’s term. We’ll confess to some surprise that Republicans chose Tom Sullivan as the centerpiece of a strategy they have staked so much on. It’s even more surprising that they’ve let two weeks go by with no attempt to get control of the message while the Sullivan recall became national news.

It’s how a bad idea gets worse. And there’s no end in sight yet.

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Weld Sheriff Sympathizes With Cliven Bundy’s Armed Standoff; Sees Similarities With Red Flag Law

(Wait, what? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

UPDATE: Reached for comment, Sheriff Reams corrected this story’s earlier inaccurate statement that he is a member of the Constitutional Sheriff and Peace Officer Association- he is not. He also clarified his interview remarks to say explicitly that he did not think the Bundy family and its supporters should have resorted to armed resistance and said he would never encourage an armed standoff with any law enforcement, nor does he think such action is appropriate.

Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams sympathizes with Cliven Bundy in his armed standoff against the federal government and compared that situation to Colorado gun rights activists opposed to the recently passed “red flag” bill.

 
“I don’t ever look for an armed confrontation with the federal government, but you can understand when people have been pushed too far. Take this red flag bill for instance,” Reams told conservative podcast Major League Liberty last week. “The Bundys have been life-long ranchers on that land and they were basically going to be told, ‘you’re going out of business.’ The way they went about it, was that the best way of doing it? I guess that’s up for debate.”

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s dispute with the BLM over his decades-long refusal to pay grazing fees came to a head in 2014, when law enforcement arrived to remove his cattle from public land. Bundy and numerous anti-government supporters took up arms against BLM staff and rangers. With rifles aimed at them, law enforcement decided to stand down and release the cattle.

Armed private militia members near the Bundy ranch in Nevada, April 23, 2014

This isn’t the first time Reams has expressed support for refusing to follow the law, just the first time he’s allowed for the possibility of using force to do so.

During the legislative debate over the “red flag” bill, which allows judges to authorize the confiscation of guns from dangerous people, Reams told CNN he would rather go to jail than enforce the new law.

(more…)

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As Democrats Seek Gun Violence Solutions, Republicans Push More Guns

Students evacuate from a STEM school in Highlands Ranch earlier this month.

In the wake of the shooting at a STEM school in Highlands Ranch earlier this month, Colorado Democrats are considering legislation to tighten the state’s laws around gun storage and child access, as the Colorado Sun reports:

“The end goal is that someone who shouldn’t have access to a firearm can’t access it,” said Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, who revealed conversations about the potential policies at The Colorado Sun’s legislative forum last week. “Usually that would be a minor, but theoretically would include someone who just isn’t allowed to have a firearm.”…

…There are reports that the shooters in the STEM School attack, which left one student dead and eight more wounded, obtained their weapons by breaking into a gun safe belonging to one of their parents. The suspects are 18 and 16 years old, too young to legally purchase handguns, which authorities say were used in the attack.

About a dozen U.S. states have laws stipulating how guns are stored and how to prevent children from accessing them. Colorado is not among them, though it does have a law against providing a handgun to a juvenile. The older suspect in the STEM attack, 18-year-old Devon Erickson, is accused of committing that crime, according to online court records.

Image of a flyer from “Bullets Both Ways” distributed at a gun rights rally on Saturday.

Republican lawmakers are not enthusiastic about this idea. Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert dismissed the proposal in an interview with the Sun, as did Sen. John Cooke (R-Greeley), who reverted to a particularly stupid argument about the fallibility of laws in general:

“We have laws against murder. It doesn’t stop people from murdering. If you’re not storing your gun responsibly, a law is not going to change that.”

Why have laws at all? 

The per-capita rate of deaths from gun violence in Colorado is at its highest level in more than 30 years, so what are Colorado Republicans going to do about the problem? They’re not going to do anything, as we’ve seen time and time again, but if backed into a corner the GOP solution continues to be to put more guns in public places.

Over the weekend, firearm enthusiasts gathered by the dozens at the State Capitol for a “Rally For Our Rights” event billed as a protest against a so-called “red flag” bill that passed through the state legislature this Spring. House Bill 1177, signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis in April, allows Colorado families and law enforcement officials to petition a court for an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” (ERPO) to temporarily remove firearms from the hands of individuals who deemed to be a risk to themselves or others. Many Republican lawmakers opposed the “red flag” bill, including Sens. Holbert and Cooke. Perhaps the most vocal opponent was House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, who has been openly advocating for recall elections against Democrats who supported the legislation (including Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan, a co-sponsor of HB-1177 and the father of a victim of the 2012 Aurora Theater shooting) .

Neville’s “solution” to gun violence has been the same since he first joined the State House in  2105; he is a leader of the movement to get more guns in the hands of teachers. This is a sentiment shared by others in the “Rally For Our Rights” circle. Among the organizations on hand for Saturday’s “more guns” rally was a Colorado-based group called “Bullets Both Ways” that believes that “Bullets Both Ways are better in our nation’s schools than bullets one way coming from an unchallenged perpetrator.” This is asinine.

What Neville and groups like “Bullets Both Ways” don’t mention, of course, is that the “more bullets” approach to gun violence actually creates…more danger for innocent people. As the Denver Post reported last week:

The district attorney for Teller and El Paso counties will review whether a security guard accused of firing at deputies responding to the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch should face criminal charges.

The source said a deputy has told authorities that the security guard, who has not been publicly identified, fired a shot at him or her while sheriff’s responders were arriving at the school. [Pols emphasis]

Investigators also are trying to determine whether the trajectory of the bullet indicates the guard may have struck and injured a student, the source said. Eight students were injured in Tuesday’s shooting, which also claimed the life of 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo.

According to an attorney for the security guard, the armed man spent four years in the Marine Corps, which means he was probably plenty experienced with firearms. Yet he still may have mistakenly fired his weapon at students and law enforcement officers responding to the scene of the shooting. It’s ludicrous to expect that anyone other than the most highly-trained law enforcement officers would be able to safely handle a weapon in the midst of a school shooting, but if Neville and other gun advocates had their way, inexperienced shooters would be firing weapons in every direction at the first sign of a threat.

We need real solutions to our gun violence epidemic, not silly fantasies of promoting “a good guy with a gun.”

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Colorado GOP Can’t Just Get A Little Bit Pregnant

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

After the announcement last week of approved recall petitions to circulate against freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan of HD-37 Centennial filed by Colorado Republican Party vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown, a major disagreement has erupted within the Republican coalition with a significant faction including Sullivan’s ousted Republican predecessor Cole Wist condemning the effort of both morally and strategically self-destructive for the GOP.

Faced with this unexpected intraparty criticism, as Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland reports, there’s an effort underway now to distance the actions of the Colorado GOP vice chair from the party as a whole:

“I would like definitely like to emphasize I’m doing this in my individual capacity as a citizen and a parent in House District 37,” Brown said. “Yes, I happened to be the vice-chair of the party, but I considered filing this recall before I got elected.”

Brown was elected to party leadership alongside Chairman Ken Buck on March 30. The “red flag” gun bill, one of the chief irritants that critics cite as the reason for the recall, passed the legislature April 1 and Gov. Jared Polis signed it 11 days later. Buck has called for the state party to be more active in recalls, but didn’t say what the official role would be in this instance.

“Kristi initiated the recall effort in her personal capacity, not as part of her leadership role with the state party. We will evaluate the HD 37 recall as it proceeds, just as we do with any potential recall or election,” Buck said.

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R).

The distinction between a Colorado Republican Party which has openly embraced the recall strategy to blunt increasingly landslide Democratic victories in general election and one of the state party’s highest officer’s personal action to initiate the recall of Rep. Sullivan is, in a word, preposterous. It’s a direct result of the condemnation of this recall attempt in particular by fellow Republicans, which makes it difficult for the party apparatus to publicly engage as party chair Rep. Ken Buck promised they would.

As readers know, vice chair Kristi Burton Brown’s principal allies in her “personal” campaign to recall Rep. Sullivan are House Minority Leader Patrick Neville and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, both of whom view recalling Sullivan as a step to restoring their own damaged credibility after 2018’s heavy losses.

To summarize, you have a Colorado Republicans led by officials who have promised to support recalls, and a recall effort against a freshman House member initiated by the party’s vice chair and supported by the House minority leader’s political machine. Yet we’re being asked to believe that this is not a campaign sanctioned by the highest levels of the Colorado GOP–which is conveniently also what allows the Sullivan recall’s Republican opponents to focus their anger on the lightning rod of RMGO instead of acknowledging the bigger problem.

The campaign to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was murdered in the Aurora shooting leading to Sullivan’s run for office on a platform of gun safety, is being run in-house by the Colorado Republican Party far more than any previous effort–including the recalls of 2013. Being by orders of magnitude the most divisive recall effort yet undertaken, including everything that happened in 2013, this is either a sign of a brazenness we haven’t seen before from a major state party or severe mismanagement that is going to further damage an already severely weakened coalition.

If you’re a Republican and against the Sullivan recall, it’s not enough to idly say so while hunting scapegoats.

It’s time to make a choice. What are you willing to live with and still call yourself a Republican?

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Rally For Our Rights: Start The Revolution Without ‘Em

We’ve been accused from time to time of posting photos of protest events that don’t quite capture the size and power of a crowd turning out to rally at the Capitol. Sometimes, like with the Women’s March events whose crowd size could literally be determined from orbit, this isn’t really an issue–but for Republicans hoping to avoid what seems to be perpetual embarrassment, it’s really very important that we get their crowd sizes “right.”

So above you can see what we think is the most flattering view of yesterday’s Rally For Our Rights protest at the Colorado Capitol–that’s everybody, right? We haven’t done a formal count of every visible head in this photo but we can’t imagine it’s more than a hundred people. It would be interesting to compare the list of attendees at yesterday’s pint-sized rally with the similarly underwhelming crowd at the previous week’s “Stand For Colorado” rallies and see how many of them attended both.

And again, for comparison, this is what a protest march in Denver can look like:

This year, Republicans have complained as loudly as they have since (not coincidentally) the last time Democrats had full control of lawmaking in this state in 2013, and vowed revenge. To listen to conservative activists tell the story to their gullible base, Democrats have taken Coloradans’ voting rights, gun rights, parental rights, and mineral rights all in one 120-day session–enough to drive any talk radio listener to distraction.

So where are the crowds of angry protesters?

The short answer is, they don’t exist. There is a core group of local conservative protesters who organize these recurring events, attend them all, yet despite all their agitation fails to grow into a mass movement no matter how much “momentum” conservatives feel they have at any given time.

On the issue chiefly motivating political backlash among gun owners thus year, the state’s new Extreme Risk Protect Order law to temporarily remove guns from persons judged in court to be a treat to themselves or others enjoys north of 80% public support in Colorado polling. We wouldn’t be surprised if that number has softened in the face of widespread misinformation about the law’s effects during debate this year, but it’s still heavily supported both here in Colorado and across the nation.

Setting aside their limitless bluster,  the reason these people can’t build a crowd to support there issue is there is no such crowd. This is now, just like in 2013, an angry sliver of the electorate making threats above their fighting weight. Does that mean they don’t matter, or can’t do political damage? Of course not.

But they’re not a majority. Not even close.

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Nugent Once Said GOP had “No Balls,” But Now He’s Loving Trump and Sheriff Reams

(Wang Dang Sweet Poontang! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Nuge.

A few years ago Rocker Ted Nugent was on Colorado radio saying the Republican Party has “no balls” and “someone extracted their scrotum with a rusty siv.”

Now he’s saying Trump is his “hero,” and Nugent is doing a fundraiser for a Republican sheriff in norther Colorado June 21.

Here’s what Rocker Ted Nugent said on Colorado radio in 2014 when asked what happened to the Republican Party:

“Someone extracted their scrotum with a rusty shiv,” Nugent replied. “They have no balls.  I don’t know where this ‘Let’s be Mr. Rogers with a Lawrence Welk soundtrack tie adjusting’ mantra came from, but my god! If there’s a life-support system attached to the GOP, it’s flat-lining.”

Then he sang “The new American Anthem.” Here at 3 min 50 sec. “I’m heart broken,” he said.

But now things appear to be looking up for Nugent.

He loves Trump.

“Finally we have president who sounds like you and I and your dad and mom at a campfire,” Rocker Ted Nugent told KHOW’s Dan Caplis May 10.

“[Trump] is a we-the-people guy,” said Nugent, who described Trump as a “good friend” and “my hero.”

And Nugent also loves Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams, who’s been fighting against Colorado’s red flag law, which allows a judge to authorize the confiscation of guns from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others. Reams has threatened not to enforce the new law, passed by Democrats this year.

“I’m cocked, locked, and I’m ready to rock, and I can’t wait to get back to Colorado, ’cause I have a feeling if I’m with Steve Reams I’ll be in the real Colorado,” said Nugent on air.

But Nugent isn’t impressed Colorado generally.

Nugent said he’s watched Colorado turn into a suburb of San Francisco, which he described as dominated by “feces, needle Capitol, celebrants.”

“I’ve always confronted the abuse of power, and the corruption, and the cronyism,” said Nugent, who says he drives the left “berzerk.”

The Nugent/Reams event at the Island at Pelican Lakes, in Windsor begins at 5 p.m. with a barbecue. A rally follows at 7 p.m.

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Sullivan Recall Implosion: Whining About RMGO Is Not Enough

Cory Gardner with Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

The week’s political news in Colorado has been dominated by the approval of petitions to recall freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial, a campaign kicked off by the vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party Kristi Burton Brown with support from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s family political consulting operation. As most of our readers know, Tom Sullivan’s son Alex was murdered in the July 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting, which led to Tom’s run for office on an unapologetic platform of enacting gun safety legislation.

The announcement of the recall against Sullivan has been met with severe and in some notable cases bipartisan backlash, with Democrats morally outraged by the threat to Sullivan for keeping his most sacred campaign promise and some moderate Republicans fearfully warning that the attempt will backfire with the voting public in HD-37–cementing Democratic control of a winnable swing seat for Republicans, and sideswiping the credibility of attempts to recall lawmakers in other parts of the state.

In a Denver Post column today, conservative writer Krista Kafer sums up the desired frame for Republicans who see the danger of going ahead with the recall of Rep. Sullivan, laying 100% of the blame for the situation at the feet of RMGO–to the exclusion of “Republicans” Kafer calls on to stand up to RMGO as though they are a distinct entity:

It is not enough to condemn behind closed doors RMGO’s depraved behavior, as many do. The GOP needs to openly rebuke these tactics and to act to ensure they fail. I am calling on my fellow Republicans and fellow gun owners to refuse to sign the recall petition against Rep. Tom Sullivan and to vote against the measure should it come to that.

There will be opportunity in the 2020 election to hold this legislature accountable for its actions. The legislature passed several pieces of legislation that are antithetical to economic prosperity, personal freedom, and constitutional rights. Ideas have consequences and the cost of these harmful laws will be evident over time. Republicans can make a strong case that new leadership is warranted. If, however, Republicans do not oppose the morally corrupt tactics of RMGO, we will not deserve to make a comeback.

Since news of the Sullivan recall broke early this week, there’s been a consistent effort by Republicans who don’t support it to insulate the Colorado Republican Party as a whole from the recall effort. The problem with this, of course, is that the recall was filed by the vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party. With the party making no attempt to distance themselves from the actions of Colorado GOP’s vice chair, no one else should either.

But even that’s not the full picture: over many years and accelerating after the 2013 recall elections, RMGO has worked successfully to install their favored candidates by winning Republican primaries. That reshaping of the Republican caucus is a major reason why close RMGO ally Patrick Neville was able hold on to his minority leadership position even after 2018’s devastating losses and allegations of mismanagement.

Whether it’s a genuine moral objection as is plainly the case from Rep. Sullivan’s Republican predecessor Rep. Cole Wist, who admits now that he was “in denial” of the extent of RMGO’s control of the Colorado Republican Party, or simple lucidity of the destructive political consequences of recalling the father of an Aurora shooting victim over gun safety legislation, the bottom line is the same: the problem is bigger than Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. In fact, vilifying RMGO while the party they effectively control carries out RMGO’s agenda makes everyone who engages in that diversion culpable.

And until the “civil” Republican talking heads accept that, Kafer is right: they don’t deserve a comeback.

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Former Rep. Cole Wist Blasts RMGO, Recalls in New Op-Ed

Former Republican State Rep. Cole Wist is fed up with right-wing recall madness.

Earlier this week, former Republican Rep. Cole Wist raised eyebrows with a direct and thorough rebuke of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) and their latest recall attempt against Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Aurora). What makes this particularly noteworthy is that Wist was defeated by Sullivan in the 2018 election cycle, in part because RMGO went after him for his 2018 support of “red flag” legislation.

In an Op-Ed published today by The Colorado Sun, Wist elaborates on his social media comments from earlier in the week and goes into greater detail about the recall grift that we have regularly discussed in this space:

Too many in politics are in it for their own personal gain, not any actual desire to affect policy or make life better for our communities

Take my experience as an example. I sponsored a bill that was opposed by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a group whose stated purpose is to advocate for gun rights. They didn’t like my bill, so they raised money to attack me and littered my district with nasty fliers hoping to elect my Democratic opponent, Tom Sullivan, who is an outspoken supporter of sweeping gun control.

Why would a group that says it’s about gun rights help elect a gun control supporter? Well, so they can raise more money. And that’s just what they are doing now. They are trying to recall Tom Sullivan, whom they helped elect, so they can raise more money. [Pols emphasis]

Since the 2018 election, it seems there has been a steady drumbeat for recall elections. What’s behind recall fever? Yes, many voters are frustrated with sweeping legislation passed by the legislature this year on a number of fronts, but for many trying to instigate these recalls, it’s mostly about money and feeding the political election machine.

Wist later makes it clear that while he disagrees with Sullivan’s politics, he doesn’t dispute what happened in November:

I disagree with Rep. Sullivan on a number of policies. And, I am opposed to numerous pieces of legislation that he voted for this last session. However, Rep. Sullivan won the election, and I lost. He ran on gun control and then pursued it.

Recall enthusiasts are still pushing their nonsense rhetoric, of course, as Nic Garcia reports for the Denver Post:

Yet, according to the Republicans behind the recall, Sullivan duped voters.

When I pushed Kristi Brown – the state GOP’s vice chair and leader of the charge to recall Sullivan – on this logic, she acknowledged Sullivan’s track record as a gun control activist. But she added that the legislation he sponsored went further than a previous version of the bill. She added that his votes on sex ed and oil and gas reform were part of the “overreach.”

RMGO leader Dudley Brown

One of the major problems with this, um, logic is that RMGO’s Dudley Brown already blew it up in an interview with RealVail.com last week:

REAL VAIL: Some sheriffs and prosecutors who supported red flag last year, including Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek, switched sides this year and opposed it. Why do you think that is? Did the bill change that much from 2018 to 2019?

BROWN: Nope, I don’t think they were that different, last year and this year’s bill. [Pols emphasis] I don’t think it was different enough to warrant some massive swing. It’s just this year sheriffs are able to read the tea leaves and that their constituents are now understanding what the concept of red flag is. And now they’re realizing that they’re going to face a big backlash from their constituents if they’re forced to carry out these, quote, protection orders. They don’t want to do it.

It’s tough to claim that the Sullivan recall is about “overreach” when one of the recall leaders admits that the “red flag” legislation that so angers them wasn’t much different than a similar bill in 2018. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of the meaning of the word “overreach.”

Efforts to recall Democratic lawmakers in Colorado are about two things, and two things only: 1) Making money for Republican consultants, and 2) trying to find a back door for Republicans to capture seats that they can’t otherwise win in a regular election. Every other rationale is just another way to justify one of the first two reasons.

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Neville: Removal of Ryan Call As Chair of Fundraising Committee Would Be “Wise Move”

(It’s war. For Colorado Republicans, it’s always war. – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock).

Republican leaders expressed what appeared to be cathartic disagreement yesterday over whether to support a move by Colorado’s Republican Party to recall a state lawmaker for backing a gun-control bill, after the lawmaker, whose his son died in the Aurora theater massacre, campaigned on the issue.

The dispute prompted a top Colorado Republican to say it would be a “wise move” to oust the former leader of the Republican Party from his chairmanship of a key GOP fundraising committee.

Colorado’s GOP House minority leader, Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, made the comment on KNUS radio during day of intense infighting among conservatives, which opened wounds, inflicted by Republicans on themselves, that have been festering under the party’s skin for at least a decade here.

The pain was evident on Twitter, where warriors representing factions of the Republican Party put aside restraints and publicly denounced one another’s stances.

After a conservative radio host Chuck Bonniwell slammed Tyler Sandberg, who was former U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s campaign manager, for telling a news site that Trump has a “less than zero” chance of winning in Colorado, Sandberg tweeted, “Chuck, take my advice, put down the meth pipe.”

But the proposed recall campaigns, opposed by the deep-pocked oil and gas industry and other corporations, were the focus of most of the day’s debate.

Former Colo GOP Chair Ryan Call came out against the recall campaign of State Rep. Tom Sullivan of Aurora, which led to this conversation on KNUS 710-AM’s Chuck and Julie Show, with Neville and hosts Chuck Bonniwell and Julie Hayden:

(more…)

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (May 15)

May 15 is Peace Officers Memorial Day. It’s time “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

A memorial service will be held today for Kendrick Castillo, the 18-year-old STEM school student who likely saved the lives of many of his classmates when he intervened during a shooting at the Highlands Ranch school last week.

 

► The Republican-controlled state legislature in Alabama on Tuesday passed the most restrictive abortion law in the country. Chris Cillizza of CNN explains where this is all headed:

The state’s Republican governor — Kay Ivey — is expected to sign it. When she does, two things will happen: 1) Alabama will become the state with the country’s most restrictive abortion law and 2) the law will immediately become fodder for the swirling debate over if (and when) the Supreme Court might consider overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

That two-pronged goal was clearly the intent of the bill’s sponsor — state Rep. Terry Collins (R), who said after the vote: “This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn, because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection.”…

…The point here is two-fold. First, there’s no doubt that legislation like the abortion ban in Alabama is aimed at the larger goal of prohibiting abortion nationwide. Second, the court has been mysterious enough on the issue to make it very difficult to predict with certainty how it might rule — and when — on these challenges to Roe.

 

► Allies of the United States are voicing their skepticism over an aggressive military shift against Iran. From the New York Times:

As the Trump administration draws up war plans against Iran over what it says are threats to American troops and interests, a senior British military official told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday that he saw no increased risk from Iran or allied militias in Iraq or Syria.

A few hours later, the United States Central Command issued an unusual rebuke: The remarks from the British official — Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, who is also the deputy commander of the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State — run “counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region.”…

…“We are aware of their presence clearly and we monitor them along with a whole range of others because of the environment we are in,” General Ghika said.

But he said, “No, there has been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria.”

As Politico reports, Trump administration officials will brief Congressional leaders on Thursday about their latest saber-rattling (or sabre-rattling, if you prefer) over Iran.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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WTF: Bizarre Sullivan Recall Launch Confounds Colorado Politics

UPDATE #2: The Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter:

The Republican who lost his seat last year to Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan said Tuesday that he does not support efforts to recall Sullivan over the recently passed red-flag bill.

Cole Wist’s remarks came a day after paperwork was filed with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office that allows Sullivan’s critics to begin collecting signatures. Sullivan, of Centennial, has been a vocal gun control proponent since his son, Alex, died in the Aurora theater shooting.

—–

UPDATE: Former GOP Rep. Cole Wist, who lost in 2018 to Rep. Tom Sullivan after Rocky Mountain Gun Owners turned on him, denounces the recall attempt:

This is truly a remarkable moment in Colorado politics.

—–

GOP operative Tyler Sandberg slams RMGO.

We’re less than 24 hours into the attempted recall of freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial by Kristi Burton Brown, the vice-chair of the Colorado Republican Party and longtime ally of the Neville family of politicians and operatives–who are in turn closely linked with the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, the hard-right single-issue advocacy group with a reputation for bloodying fellow Republicans in pursuit of caucus unity.

But by far most notable about yesterday’s oddly low-key launch is the highly visible and public lack of Republican consensus on initiating this recall attempt–with the substantial wing of the party not aligned with RMGO denouncing the group, the Nevilles, and the hit on Rep. Sullivan. Colorado Public Radio:

“Recalls can identify people, but it also can strengthen elected officials that survive them. The long-term strategy has to be to win November elections,” said Republican political consultant Michael Fields, who heads Colorado Rising Action.

Former GOP chairman Ryan Call said initiating recalls is “a dramatic departure from the historic role and practice of the Republican party in Colorado.” He added that the party historically gets behind recall efforts if there’s malfeasance or if someone in public office is acting in a way that doesn’t align with campaign pledges, which he doesn’t see as the case here.

“We have seen a pretty significant shift in public policy under single-party control of state government, but Democrats are pretty much governing how they promised they would,” [Pols emphasis] Call said. “Voters may have hoped for a more balanced and bipartisan approach, but what we saw during the legislative session is consistent with what most Democratic candidates said they would do while they were running.”

Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette confirmed RMGO’s eager involvement in his story today, which anyone with knowledge of Kristi Burton Brown’s ties with the Neville political machine could already have surmised:

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a hard-line Second Amendment advocacy group, is committed to help Kristi Brown oust Sullivan, said Dudley Brown, executive director of RMGO.

“I welcome any group that wants to jump in on it,” Kristi Brown said. “A lot of Colorado parents in my district are upset with Rep. Sullivan and the way he voted.”

The response to yesterday’s news that Rep. Sullivan would be the next Democrat targeted for recall, especially the unenthusiastic response from fellow Republicans, underscores a longstanding divide between the Neville/RMGO axis anchored by Minority Leader Patrick Neville and the rest of the Republican establishment in the state. The recent exposure of highly questionable management of the 2018 House campaigns managed by the Nevilles, which resulted in the smallest GOP House minority in decades, has put the once-formidable political dynasty on the defensive–enough so that they were given a dubious welcome at best when they arrived to “help” with the now-defunct recall campaign against Rochelle Galindo.

But more importantly, going after Tom Sullivan, whose powerful backstory inspires both personal sympathy and support for his agenda of reducing gun violence, is politically hazardous to the point of being totally inexplicable. We’ve talked to a number of smart people on both sides of the aisle, and literally no one can understand why RMGO would start with Rep. Sullivan, kick off the campaign against Sullivan without other targets among which to distribute the backlash–and above all let the news break with no attempt to control the message. To say this is not how you’re supposed to do things is an understatement, and we’re left wondering if they simply didn’t care how it looks to the outside world.

Either way, there is a bipartisan consensus following yesterday’s news that a recall of Rep. Sullivan would be a grave mistake–both objectively for our state’s politics, and politically for Republicans. And that is something we did not expect to see, at least not so quickly and so openly. After years of struggling for dominance within the GOP, the overreach of this recall attempt could represent the beginning of the end for the Nevilles and RMGO.

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Johnston Busts Down Gardner’s “Thoughts And Prayers”

No matter where you land in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, there’s no question that former state Sen. Michael Johnston has been a forceful advocate on the issue of gun control ever since the 2013 legislative session–and he’s getting a lot of views in a NowThis News video calling out Republican incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner’s NRA millions:

Worth the watch and share.

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The Nuge Boosts Steve Reams As Political Aspirations Grow

UPDATE: Does this look like a guy who is content to just run for re-election as Sheriff?


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Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams (R).

Conservative activists in the would be sovereign state of Weld County are over the moon today after it was announced that “American Legend” Ted Nugent will headline a $150 a plate fundraiser for Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams next month (see invite above). As our readers are well aware, Nugent has made himself a recurring guest star on the far right side of Colorado politics ever since anti-immigrant firebrand Tom Tancredo started running for President and then governor in the mid-to-late aughts. Since Colorado became a battleground state over gun safety laws in 2013, Nugent has bitterly criticized our state as “a poster child for apathy, disconnect, laziness, and abandonment of We the People.”

Of course, Nugent hasn’t always proven to be helpful to the politicians he has endorsed, as in Tancredo in 2014 and then George Brauchler’s abortive run for governor for the 2018 cycle. Part of that may be due to Nugent’s record of calling President Barack Obama a “subhuman mongrel” who can “suck my machine gun,” his unapologetic and continuing utilization of the “N-word,” saying women who don’t like guns deserve to be raped, and of course recording hit songs in celebration of statutory rape. If you add all that up and wonder how the hell any politician–particularly a politician in law enforcement–would allow themselves to be associated with The Nuge, you’re not alone.

Setting that aside for a moment, it’s undeniable that Sheriff Reams’ political star has risen among Republicans since he became the poster child of defiance to the state’s new extreme risk protection order (ERPO) law, vowing to go to jail rather than enforce the law despite overwhelming public support. Given renewed speculation about Ken Buck’s future and even the possibility of an upstart primary challenge to a politically weakened Sen. Cory Gardner, we wouldn’t be too confident that mere re-election as Weld County Sheriff is the limit of Reams’ ambition.

In the meantime, hopefully Sheriff Reams will keep his buddy away from the local Jailbait.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 9)

The Colorado Avalanche are out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a controversial loss in Game 7 on Wednesday, but the Denver Nuggets can advance to the Western Conference Finals with a win tonight in Portland. It’s time “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► If there’s one thing you can count on from President Trump (other than lots of Tweeting), it’s inconsistency. As CNN reports:

Trump reversed course again Thursday that he will leave it up to Attorney General William Barr as to whether special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress.

“I’m going to leave that up to our very great attorney general. He’ll make a decision on that,” Trump said, adding that Mueller’s report has come out and it is done.

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted, “Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!” But an administration official told CNN’s Jim Acosta that Trump was merely “expressing his opinion,” and was not necessarily expressing intent to block Mueller’s testimony.

 

► Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora), whose district includes the Highlands Ranch STEM school that was the scene of a shooting earlier this week, is introducing new gun safety legislation. From the Aurora Sentinel:

A proposed federal law from Aurora Democratic Congressman Jason Crow would ban immediate, over-the-counter sales of rifles and shotguns to buyers in states where they do not live.

Crow said the law closes a loophole “that allows purchasers to immediately obtain rifles and shotguns, but not handguns, when traveling out-of state.”…

…The proposed same-day gun legislation comes nearly a month after Sol Pais, a Florida woman traveled to Colorado, bought a shotgun and killed herself, as police across the Front Range sought her for unspecified threats to local schools the FBI deemed as credible. Law enforcement said she was “infatuated” with the Columbine High School shooting. She traveled to Colorado just days before the 20th anniversary of the shooting.

The threats caused most Front Range schools to cancel school as law enforcement searched for Pais.

Crow says this legislation would have prevented Pais from immediately purchasing a shotgun upon her arrival in Colorado.

 

► The Colorado Independent reports on Wednesday’s vote in the House Judiciary Committee to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt:

The committee voted 24-16 along party lines to approve a resolution recommending that the full U.S. House find Barr in contempt for his refusal to comply with a committee subpoena seeking an unredacted copy of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailing Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election…

…Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) said that, given the threats to U.S. democracy from a foreign adversary that were revealed in the Mueller report, he was “at a loss for understanding” why his GOP colleagues wouldn’t join Democrats’ efforts to secure the full Mueller report and underlying evidence. “We have no choice but to move forward with a contempt citation,” he said.

Neguse and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) both sit on the House Judiciary Committee. Buck was a ‘NO’ vote, urging his colleagues to “move on and not attack the attorney general in this way.”

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that there may be more contempt charges in the near future for Trump associates who persist in efforts to stonewall Congress.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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RMGO’s Dudley Brown: “Cut Douglas County Sheriff’s Budget by 20%. Why not?”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

At a legislative briefing in March, Gun activist Dudley Brown was so angry at Douglas County Sheriff’s support of a gun safety law, he said county commissioners’ should cut the sheriff’s budget by twenty percent. “Why not?” Brown asked.

“That’s what Douglas County Commissioners should be doing right now… I don’t give a rat’s butt about their sanctuary city resolution. I care about- why don’t you cut his funding? The guy’s down at the state capitol, working for Moms Demand Action. He can draw a paycheck from them. Cut 20% of the Douglas County Sheriff’s office funding right now. Why not?” Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Director Dudley Brown, March 8, 2019

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock was the most prominent Republican to support a 2019 bill creating the Extreme Risk Protect Order, a means by which law enforcement can ask a judge for permission to remove firearms from someone deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners organized the briefing along with House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R – Castle Rock). In addition to the ERPO or “red flag bill,” they also discussed plans to recall several legislators.

Brown also promised to end Sheriff Spurlock’s political career, saying he would either be primaried or recalled.

“I’m here to tell you,” Brown said “Tony Spurlock’s career as an elected Republican is over… he’s not going to get elected anywhere because I’ll follow him like a bad habit.”

Several Republican groups, including Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, the Douglas County Republicans and the Colorado Senate Republicans praised Sheriff Spurlock and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office for its response to Tuesday’s fatal school shooting at the Highlands Ranch STEM School.

(more…)

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Even More Sicko Speculation From Recall Polis Admins

We were forwarded this exchange on one of the Facebook groups devoted to the logistically unlikely but still popular to speculate about campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis from office once he is constitutionally eligible after being in office six months. Unlike the targets of opportunity in the legislature for whom the threshold of signatures needed to recall is arguably much too low, the massive requirement to gather over 600,000 valid voters signatures to qualify a recall of Gov. Polis for the ballot makes it a silly proposition–but also a guilt-free cash cow for enterprising Republican grifters.

It also has a tendency to attract, as we saw in the aftermath of another threat of violence against area schools last month, unhinged conspiracy theorists convinced that nothing is as it seems:

That’s Bob Tocarciuc, one of the administrators of the Resist Polis PAC Recall Facebook group operated by local political operative with ties to the Independence Institute named Tom Good–who had a falling out with a larger Recall Polis group, then helped expose nasty anti-Semitic leaders of the group in local media one of whom was later ousted.

If you Google Bob Tocarciuc, which having a last name like “Tocarciuc” makes pretty straightforward, you’ll find the KKTV news story yesterday referenced in the Facebook post about a town hall in Colorado Springs Saturday featuring the very same Gov. Jared Polis–a town hall that apparently ended in a scuffle between security and a recall supporter. In this story, Bob Tocarciuc’s role as an administrator of a recall group is curiously omitted, and he’s presented as an innocent bystander:

As the governor left, one woman pulled out a scarf that said “Recall Polis.” 11 News spoke to bystanders who watched what happened next. They say the woman was dragged over to her granddaughter, who was sitting down.

“He went from zero to complete hands-on physical, you know, submission methods,” said Bob Tocarciuc, a man who helped the woman up.

Tocaciuc also happens to be a security guard, but he was not working the event, just attending as a citizen.

“I heard screaming to my left. I was approximately 8 feet away from the lady that got assaulted, I guess. It’s the only way I can describe it,” he said.

To be clear, the incident in question didn’t directly involve Gov. Polis, but a school district security guard involved in an altercation with an attendee as Polis was leaving the town hall event Saturday evening. But it’s not really accurate to say Tocarciuc was “just attending as a citizen” either, when he’s an administrator of a group supporting Gov. Polis’ recall. This also calls into question his impartiality as a witness to the incident.

But definitely, the false flag insanity in response to yesterday’s school shooting in Highlands ranch discredits Bob Tocarciuc much more. Since it seems to be a regular occurrence based on two similar local incidents in recent weeks, we’ve been trying to understand what makes some people immediately leap to the unfounded assumption that such events must be part of a grand deception tied to contemporary politics instead of the predictable and preventable tragedies they invariably turn out to be.

For today, we can only plead with our local media to stop giving these people airtime.

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Get Rid of the Politicians Who Won’t Act on Gun Violence

Students evacuate from a STEM school in Highlands Ranch on Tuesday.

One dead. Eight injured. Two students accused of shooting classmates at a charter school in Highlands Ranch where 1,800 children – some as young as kindergarteners – attend classes daily.

The deadly attack at a STEM school in Highlands Ranch is the fourth school shooting in Colorado since the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999. It is the 12th school shooting in the United States in 2019 alone. Last year, 113 people were killed or injured in school shootings in America.

The numbers are terrifying. The pictures are heart-wrenching. The reality is undeniable.

Gun rights advocates always default to saying that this is a complicated political issue – that solving the problem requires a delicate balance between 2ndAmendment rights and protecting children from being shot in their classrooms. This is patently absurd. There can be no more “on the other hand…” rationalizing on this subject. If we can shield children from being gunned down at school, we do it. What is the point of allowing for a “well-armed militia” to protect a country that won’t even protect its own children?

As Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry explains in a column today, we can’t hope to curb gun violence until we get rid of the politicians who will do everything in their power to stand in the way of solutions:

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock)

…the state House legislator who represents the community where this shooting occurred has been a stalwart opponent of the red-flag and other common-sense gun control bills. GOP state Rep. Patrick Neville not only attended Columbine High School during the school shooting there 20 years ago, he is a lauded leader in the movement to arm teachers in schools, rather than pass gun control laws.

After I criticized Neville earlier this year for his moronic stance, Republican staffers in the House emailed reporters here saying no Sentinel writers would be permitted to speak with GOP House members because of my editorial views on the opinion page.

That’s who’s calling the shots, folks. Elected officials beholden to the likes of the National Rifle Association and, worse, wild-eyed and vicious gun-extremists from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners…[Pols emphasis]

…Here’s what will happen if the Nevilles in Colorado and the nation get booted: Other Republicans and cringing pro-gun Democrats will vote with gun-control advocates because they value their seats in Congress and state legislatures more than they value gun rights. And they know it. And you know it.

As news of the shooting in Highlands Ranch was breaking on Tuesday, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER Pat Neville Tweeted the following:

Fix it? Fix it??? This is the very same Rep. Pat Neville who has been openly advocating for recall elections against Colorado lawmakers who supported so-called “red flag” legislation that allows law enforcement officials to temporarily remove weapons — via Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) — from the hands of people believed to be a danger to themselves or others. This is the very same Rep. Pat Neville who talks about the need to prioritize mental health instead of gun control, yet voted against a separate mental health bill that passed through the legislature nonetheless.

This is the very same Rep. Pat Neville whose brother, Joe Neville, is the political consultant behind “Values First Colorado,” which was literally running these ads on Facebook yesterday:

 

The Nevilles have long been closely aligned with Dudley Brown and his “no compromises” gun rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) – which recently filed a lawsuit attempting to overturn the “red flag” legislation and is excitedly advocating for recalls across the state. When RMGO announced their lawsuit at a press conference last week, Rep. Neville stood proudly behind the dais in solidarity. We know where Rep. Neville stands on the issue of preventing gun violence – it’s the same place he’s always stood.

Pat Neville isn’t going to do a goddamn thing to prevent gun violence in Colorado or anywhere else. He’s not the only Colorado politician who will continue to sit on his hands while innocent children are killed, but this is the guy who House Republicans have consistently chosen to lead their caucus. If we want to take real steps to curb gun violence, we must first oust the politicians who have demonstrated time and again that they have no serious interest in supporting anything that might possibly reduce the number of guns available to anyone at any time. On the federal level, this includes politicians like Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley), the latter of whom is now the State Republican Party Chairman.

For politicians in Colorado and the rest of the country, preventing gun violence in schools is a binary choice. Either you work to solve the problem, or you don’t. Period.

It’s time for voters to make the same choice.

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Highlands Ranch School Shooting Thread

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: David Hogg, survivor of the Parkland, Florida school shooting who has emerged as an activist for stronger gun control laws, smacks down Sen. Cory Gardner’s “thoughts and prayers” boilerplate in response to yesterday’s shooting in Highlands Ranch:

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UPDATE: 9NEWS:

The Douglas County coroner has not released the identity of the student who died, however, the family of Kendrick Castillo, 18, confirmed to NBC News that he was the student who was killed.

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said two shooters walked into the campus’ high school at South Ridgeline Boulevard and Plaza Drive at around 1:50 p.m. Tuesday and opened fire on their classmates in “two separate locations.” The sheriff’s office initially said both suspects were male, but Wednesday morning said the second suspect is a juvenile female.

—–

We’re following tragic news from the STEM School in Douglas County, a K-12 charter school with some 1,800 students:

Two suspects are in custody and seven to eight people were injured following a shooting Tuesday afternoon at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, according to Douglas County sheriff’s officials.

Police are still searching the school, but do not believe there are any other suspects, Douglas County Undersheriff Holly Nicholson-Kluth said at a news conference.

We’ll update when more information is made available. Hug your kids.

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Republicans Prove Insincerity on Mental Health and Gun Safety

Senator Minority Leader Chris Holbert (R-Parker)

On the opening day of the 2019 legislative session, Sen. Chris Holbert (R-Parker) delivered his prepared remarks to a packed Senate chamber now controlled by Democrats after sweeping election victories two months earlier. As Senate Minority Leader, it was Holbert’s job to plot out legislative strategy for a Party that could do little more than disrupt and delay without the votes to move individual pieces of legislation.

“We have the voice, but not the votes,” acknowledged Holbert. As such, he used his time at the podium to pre-emptively position his caucus on a number of key issues, bookended by rote Republican warnings about overspending and overregulating. When it came time to talk about his concerns with so-called “red flag” gun safety legislation, Holbert stuck to the standard Republican script about focusing instead on improving mental health resources in Colorado.

“Rather than empower government to seize property, let’s focus on securing help for those persons who need our help the most.  For opioid addition, red flag scenarios, and other instances when people cry out for help, let us avoid rewarding bad behavior or trampling on the Constitution. Rather, let us work together to provide more and better mental health resources including beds, mental and physical health care, and healing for those who need our help the most.” [Pols emphasis]

Gun violence, said Holbert, is a mental health problem and not an issue about access to deadly weapons. This is a common Republican approach in pushing back against the “librul gun grabbers” who threaten their political existence. The sentiment is about as sincere as a form letter.

Pretend mental health advocate Rep. Steve Humphrey (R-Severence)

Colorado Republicans have been vocal about their opposition to “red flag” legislation, which was signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis on April 12. The Deputy Zackari Parrish III Violence Protection Act provides for the enforcement of “extreme risk protection orders” for the purpose of temporarily disarming people who are deemed a danger to themselves or to others. Here’s what a peeved Rep. Steve Humphrey (R-Severence) told the Grand Junction Sentinel in March:

“We should be looking at this issue as a mental health issue and not right away immediately going after someone’s constitutional right.”

Oh, really?

In the last week, lawmakers finalized the passage of HB19-1269, the “Behavioral Health Care Coverage Modernization Act,” which will improve access to mental health care for Coloradans. The bill made it through both legislative chambers despite widespread opposition from the same Republicans who regularly insist on prioritizing mental health improvements over gun safety measures. A total of 24 Republicans VOTED AGAINST HB-1269, including Holbert and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville. And Steve Humphrey.

Meanwhile, Republicans are still trying to rally supporters to action over the “red flag” legislation – and still claiming to be interested in prioritizing mental health improvements. On Thursday, the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) group held a press conference at the State Capitol to announce a silly lawsuit attempting to overturn the “red flag” measure. Standing alongside RMGO head honcho Dudley Brown were Rep. Neville, Rep. Humphrey, Rep. Dave Williams, and Rep. Lori Saine. All four Republican lawmakers voted ‘NO’ on the mental health bill two days earlier.

Colorado Republicans are free to express their opposition to any sort of gun safety legislation, but they can’t keep pretending that it has anything to do with prioritizing mental health improvements.

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Sen. Owen J. Hill, Everybody

As posted to Facebook moments ago by the sitting GOP Senator from eastern Colorado Springs:

Please blow this specious argument up, gentle readers! Metaphorically speaking of course.

And of course, be glad you don’t live in Venezuela…or anywhere near Sen. Owen Hill.

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“Dueling Billboards?” More Like Fact vs. Fiction

9NEWS reported Tuesday night about a series of billboards going up in Weld County paid for out of pocket by a Boulder woman, attorney Lindasue Smollen, who has had enough of the misinformation that permeates any debate over gun policy in America today:

The new signs are in direct response to [Weld County Sheriff Steve] Reams saying he would risk going to jail before seizing anyone’s guns under the red flag law.

“It’s distasteful to me that he would not enforce a law that could prevent suicides,” she told 9NEWS.

Governor Jared Polis signed the law earlier this month, but Reams has been a vocal opponent since lawmakers introduced it. When the law goes into effect in 2020, a judge could order law enforcement to temporarily seize someone’s guns if that person is considered a risk.

Reams said he is doing what he believes is right by the Constitution and that she has the right to share the signs because of her 1st Amendment rights.

Smollen cites both Politifact and Snopes for validation of her contention in the billboard you can see above that more Americans have died from gun violence here at home in the last few decades than in all of the nation’s wars throughout history. Even though the figure includes suicides, which some gun rights supporters would like to see separately categorized from acts of violence committed against other people, it’s a sobering and verified statistic.

In response, as the Greeley Tribune’s Joe Moylan reports…something rather less “verified.”

2nd Amendment advocates also are opening up their wallets for a similar cause. In the almost two days since The Post story, 20 people have donated $665 to Lesley Hollywood’s GoFundMe campaign to pay for gun rights billboards in Colorado.

Hollywood, of Johnstown, created the campaign in November with a goal to raise $15,000 for three billboards. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, the campaign had raised $5,230.

Here’s a mockup of the billboard pro-gun activists plan to put up, since it doesn’t actually exist yet:

Do you see the difference between the billboards paid for by Lindasue Smollen versus this “response” proposed by far-right activist Lesley Hollywood? It’s a very basic difference. In the former case, you have a contention backed up by factual evidence. In the latter, you have a claim without even an attempt at a factual basis.

The claim is in fact so sweeping that we’re left struggling to understand how it’s even irrationally supportable. Is it that the red flag law might be used against women, meaning a court would have to determine that the woman is a significant risk to herself or others if she possesses a gun for 14 days? Is it some kind of “slippery slope” argument where first they come for the guns of the mentally ill in crisis, and then everybody else’s?

Whatever the justification is, it’s not based in any reality we can identify.

And that makes these “dueling billboards” a metaphor for the entire gun debate, which is dependent on deliberate misinformation and irrational sweeping statements from the gun lobby to gin up outrage over proposals that in reality enjoy overwhelming public support.

In a perfect world, facts would always win out over fiction.

But in the battle for eyeballs, billboards compete equally.

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Sign Up to Help Recall Democrats from Office! Win a Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle!

(The Las Vegas shooter would be green with envy! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A hard-line pro-gun group is kicking off its campaign to recall a Greeley lawmaker with another gun raffle, this one for the largest firearm it’s ever given away, a Barrett M82A1 magazine-fed Barrett .50 BMG semi-automatic rifle.

“Dear Fellow Patriot,” reads the RMGO website. “Make no mistake, gun owners in Colorado are in the biggest fight of our lives! We need all hands on deck! To help rally the troops, RMGO is giving away the largest gun we’ve ever done…”

The gun is a semi-automatic sniper rifle with massive power and maximum range of over a mile.

All you have to do is sign up here to be eligible to win the semi-automatic.

Folks who sign up will join Republican and RMGO leaders who are working together to remove State Rep. Rochelle Galindo (D-Greeley) from office.

They’re mad not only at her vote for a “red flag bill,” which allows law enforcement personnel to seek judicial permission to take guns from dangerous people, but also her support for comprehensive sex education, for more local control of oil-and-gas operations, and more.

“Her Red Flag vote was tip of iceberg,” tweeted RMGO, which is opposed to even the most modest gun safety measures, like criminal background checks prior to gun purchases, that are supported by many Republicans.

(more…)

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Recall Polis Campaign Goes Psycho Over Sol Pais

UPDATE: Moderator of the Recall Polis Facebook group sounds the all clear:

It would appear that the faithful remain unconvinced.

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The news is breaking from multiple local outlets that an 18-year-old woman from Florida who was allegedly “obsessed” with the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton and made credible threats of violence against area schools is dead, having been found at Echo Lake near Mt. Evans this morning:

The FBI Denver office confirmed the agency had responded to the base of Mt. Evans Wednesday morning and, in a tweet just before 11 a.m., said there was no longer a threat to the community.

According to Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Albers, Pais’s body was found at 10:50 a.m. about a half-mile from Echo Lake Park, located near the Mount Evans Scenic Byway about 45 miles west of Denver.

The drama over threats made by Sol Pais and the resulting lock-out of hundreds of area public schools yesterday and again today has riveted media and dominated local social media discussion for the last 24 hours. And over at the closed Facebook group page for the conspiracy theory-positive Recall Polis campaign, there’s a clear consensus emerging that this is what’s known among the InfoWars crowd as a “false flag” operation:

Now, Jennifer McCreary may think she’s a “crazy woman” to think this could have been a trick to distract the voters of Colorado from the Polis recall campaign–and to be brutally honest, lots of our readers will agree. But you know who doesn’t think this is “crazy?”

Pastor Steven Grant and hundreds of fellow Recall Polis members, that’s who!

(more…)

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Hundreds of Schools Closed as Manhunt Continues

UPDATE:

CBS4:

A total of 20 or 30 armed officers including a SWAT team and a Clear Creek County snowcat were near the Echo Lake Campground in the Arapaho National Forest and in the midst of an extensive search operation Wednesday morning. The search was centered at the base of Mount Evans. Late Wednesday morning authorities said Pais is dead. It’s not clear how she died.

A woman who was hiking in the area in the morning told CBS4 she was told to leave the area because “a naked woman matching the description with a gun was spotted in the area running through the woods.”

—–

As the Denver Post reports:

Districts across the Denver metro area ordered their schools closed Wednesday as the FBI and local police continue a “massive manhunt” for an 18-year-old Florida woman they say is “infatuated with Columbine” and who purchased a shotgun shortly after arriving in Colorado this week.

Most major Denver-area school districts — and others across the Front Range — have canceled classes Wednesday, including Denver Public Schools, Douglas County School District, Aurora Public Schools and Jeffco Public Schools, home to Columbine High School, which was on lockout on Tuesday along with more than 20 other schools in that district over “credible threats.”

Superintendents from school districts across the Denver-metro area gathered for a call Tuesday night and collectively determined that the safest course of action would be to close schools on Wednesday.

Even school districts as far away from Columbine as those in Weld and Larimer counties have been closed Wednesday as a precaution.

Law enforcement officials are looking for 18-year-old Sol Pais, who was last seen in the foothills of Jefferson County on Monday evening. Call ‘911’ immediately if you spot the woman in the photos above.

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Recallpalooza: Inside a Growing Red-on-Red Turf War

Making sense of the competing interests within the Republican coalition, and the relationships between those interests as they relate to recall campaigns now being organized, isn’t easy. That’s been a deliberate objective after extremely negative press about the early organizers of both the Galindo recall and the longshot campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis threw both of those efforts into PR chaos.

Today, both the Galindo and Polis recall campaigns insist the variously anti-Semitic and crudely anti-LGBT elements involved at the early stages have been purged. The Independence Institute led by longtime political stuntman Jon Caldara has taken over online fundraising for both campaigns with a sweetheart deal that will financially benefit his organization greatly, and the original Galindo recall committee organized by House Minority Leader Patrick Neville along with Greeley pastor Steven Grant, who declared his intention to recall his “homosexual pervert” representative, was replaced. The “new” committee–although the Nevilles claim they’re still the masterminds of the whole effort–is trying to rebrand the effort away from Pastor Grant.

As readers may already be aware, there has been a long-running “turf war” between two ideologically competing factions within the coalition of Republican-aligned interest groups and allied lawmakers who dominate conservative politics in Colorado. On one side, you have a coalition led by the Neville political machine, along with a core group of Republican lawmakers from El Paso and Weld Counties and hardcore gun rights activists led by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. In addition to a “no compromise” position on guns, this coalition is extremely conservative on LGBT rights, abortion, and other such social wedge issues–hence the willingness to work with distasteful figures like Pastor Grant. Mario Nicolais, a moderate Republican who wound up on the wrong side of RMGO’s intraparty wrath, writes in a column for the Colorado Sun informatively:

Galindo and her Democratic allies say oil and gas concerns are just a ruse. They argue the recall isn’t about how she votes, but who she is; specifically, because she is gay and Latina.

That would be a wild accusation except a second recall group, run by state House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s brother, Joe, began their campaign with a news release touting support from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and Greeley Pastor Steven Grant.

Grant has used his pulpit to call Galindo a “homosexual pervert” who is “trying to insert her lifestyle into our lives.” From personal experience, I know RMGO front man Dudley Brown shares Grant’s beliefs; [Pols emphasis] when I ran for state Senate in 2014, Brown organized and funded a primary challenge against me.

As then-state Rep. Justin Everett explained at the time, I earned Brown’s ire by supporting civil unions in 2012 and 2013, or as Everett put it, “Dudley’s mad about the gay thing.” [Pols emphasis]

On the other side of this internal conflict is the Independence Institute, which serves as a front office for a number of conservative activists and one-off issue groups and is generally well-connected to the state’s large for-profit political consultancy firms and upper-echelon donor class. After the passage of the landmark 2013 gun safety laws that prompted the year’s recall elections, the Independence Institute proposed a compromise measure in 2015 to raise the state’s gun magazine limit to 30 rounds from the 15 round limit imposed in 2013–a measure that briefly entertained some bipartisan support. Unfortunately for Caldara, this compromise was bitterly denounced by RMGO and trounced by Republicans in the legislature, solidifying a rift that has never healed.

(more…)

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