Ritter Announces Post-Governor Job

According to a press release today from the Governor’s office:

Gov. Bill Ritter announced today he will become director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University to build on his internationally leading clean-energy accomplishments of the past four years. Effective Feb. 1, Gov. Ritter also will assume the title of senior scholar within CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability.

Full release after the jump.

Gov. Bill Ritter announced today he will become director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University to build on his internationally leading clean-energy accomplishments of the past four years. Effective Feb. 1, Gov. Ritter also will assume the title of senior scholar within CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability.

Gov. Ritter leaves office Jan. 11 after establishing Colorado as a globally recognized clean-energy leader. He worked with the private sector and other partners to help create thousands of new jobs, attract hundreds of new companies and sign an unprecedented 57 clean-energy bills into law. Colorado is now home to the fourth-highest concentration of clean-energy workers in the country, the second-highest renewable energy standard in the nation, and the first law in the country that will convert old and inefficient coal plants to cleaner natural gas.

“The New Energy Economy is now synonymous with Colorado,” Gov. Ritter said, “and the Center for the New Energy Economy will serve as a national leader as we move toward a future in which our children will produce and consume energy far differently than we do today. This new Center will help address three key challenges for America: economic security, energy security and environmental security.

“It will facilitate science-based policy, research, and education to support the growth of clean energy in Colorado, the nation and the world. This is also a natural partnership that allows me to combine two of my passions – higher education and the New Energy Economy – and is something of a homecoming for me.” Gov. Ritter earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from CSU in 1978.

With CSU now considered a world research leader in engineering clean and alternative energy solutions, the Center for the New Energy Economy will be part of the university’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability. Funding for the Center for the New Energy Economy and the Governor’s position will come entirely from private sources: the San Francisco-based Energy Foundation and the Fort Collins-based Bohemian Foundation. Additional funding from a number of other donor organizations is anticipated to build an endowment to sustain the center long-term.

In his new role, Gov. Ritter will work closely with CSU’s rural economic development activities to advance statewide economic initiatives related to clean and renewable energy. Other responsibilities will include:

·        Directing and overseeing the development of the Center for the New Energy Economy, working with internal and external partners to clearly define its mission, scope, and a five-year strategic plan.

·        Identifying and pursuing opportunities for The Center to lead and participate in productive public policy discussions and debates related to clean-energy policy and the growth of the New Energy Economy.

·        Building and promoting the Center as a vital, credible source of unbiased, science-based information, data, and research on clean energy policy and its economic impacts.

·        Engaging other universities, the private sector and other partners in the Center’s mission and activities.

“Clean and renewable energy is a new economic frontier, and it’s important for Colorado and our country that we continue to position ourselves as leaders in this emerging economy,” said CSU President Tony Frank. “This policy center — under Gov. Ritter’s leadership — will help build essential partnerships around research-based clean energy solutions, workforce development, and advancement of technologies that will fuel long-term, sustainable economic growth.”

 

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Ritter the “Jobs Governor”?

New employment numbers are out this morning from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, and the news is good: Colorado has now added jobs for three consecutive months for the first time in three years. According to a press release from Gov. Bill Ritter’s office (full text after the jump):

In addition to the 3,800 jobs added in November, Colorado employers added 5,200 jobs in October and 3,300 jobs in September, for a three-month total of 12,300.

At 8.6 percent, Colorado’s unemployment rate remains well below the national average of 9.8 percent and is lower than rates in many other states.

Economists and politicos can (and will) debate on the reasons behind the job growth in Colorado, but will Gov. Ritter’s legacy be in part defined as a “Jobs Governor”? Take a look at the statement from Tom Clark, EVP of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., in today’s press release:

“I think Bill Ritter in many respects may go down as the biggest economic development governor,” said Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.

Those are certainly strong words, and coming from the well-respected Clark, that statement will raise plenty of eyebrows. But it’s hard to completely dispute the idea; with Colorado in better shape than much of the country in terms of unemployment numbers, the Governor has to get some of the credit…just as he would get much of the blame if the opposite were true.  

Gov. Bill Ritter said he is encouraged by today’s job numbers and believes there is much reason for optimism about the state’s economic recovery heading into the new year. Colorado employers added 3,800 jobs in November – marking three consecutive months of jobs gains for the first time in three years – the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported this morning.

“The primary indicator for any state of economic recovery is job growth, and for the first time in three years, we have experienced three straight months of job growth here in Colorado,” Gov. Ritter said. “While families, businesses and the state’s economy as a whole continue to struggle, these numbers demonstrate the recovery has started and our economic-development strategies are working.”

In addition to the 3,800 jobs added in November, Colorado employers added 5,200 jobs in October and 3,300 jobs in September, for a three-month total of 12,300.

At 8.6 percent, Colorado’s unemployment rate remains well below the national average of 9.8 percent and is lower than rates in many other states.

For the past four years, Gov. Ritter has advanced an aggressive economic-development agenda. He has focused on emerging industries such as energy, aerospace, information technology and the biosciences, while also building on the state’s assets, including cornerstone industries such as tourism, the creative industries and agricultural sectors.

Strategies have included:

  • Establishing Colorado as an internationally recognized leader in the New Energy Economy;
  • Cutting taxes for 30,000 small businesses;
  • Simplifying the corporate tax code;
  • Creating a job-growth incentive for new and existing companies; and
  • Providing hundreds of small businesses with access to capital so they can retain and create jobs.
  • “I think Bill Ritter in many respects may go down as the biggest economic development governor,” said Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.

    Just this week, Gov. Ritter announced a partnership with NASA intended to create 10,000 new jobs over the next five years by accelerating the commercial rollout of aerospace and energy technologies.

    Earlier this year, for the second year in a row, Forbes named Colorado the fourth best state for businesses and for encouraging economic growth. CNBC also has ranked Colorado the third best state two years running, and according to the American Legislative Exchange Council, Colorado’s economic outlook ranks second best of all 50 states.

    “Our economy is recovering and Colorado is well-positioned for a strong and healthy future,” Gov. Ritter said. “Colorado has not escaped the worst recession since the Great Depression, but we are beginning to see the kind of sustainable job growth necessary to move Colorado forward.”

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    Carpenter Leaving to Build His Own Shop

    According to a press release from the Governor’s office:

    Gov. Bill Ritter announced today that his chief of staff, Jim Carpenter, will depart the administration Dec. 17.

    “Jim has been a lynchpin in moving our agenda forward,” Gov. Ritter said. “His efforts have been central to our many successes¸ and my administration and the people of Colorado have benefited from his ability to manage complex issues under tough circumstances calmly and without fanfare.”

    Carpenter will join veteran public affairs consultant Mike Stratton as a principal in a renamed firm, Stratton-Carpenter Associates.[Pols emphasis]

    Carpenter was hired as chief of staff shortly after Ritter’s gubernatorial election four years ago. Carpenter managed Ken Salazar’s successful 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, then served as Sen. Salazar’s state director until joining the Ritter Administration in November 2006. Carpenter also has served as head of public affairs at National Jewish Health, as director of communications and chief of staff for former Gov. Roy Romer, and in several capacities for former U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth.

    “As Jim moves ahead to new opportunities, I want to thank him for his long service to our state and for his deep commitment to Colorado,” Ritter said.

    Carpenter and Mike Stratton are close friends from campaigns past, most recently as two of the top advisors for Democrat Ken Salazar’s 2004 Senate race.

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    Democrats Hold Hands, Sing Kumbaya, Share Cookies and Milk

    The Democratic “Unity” Rally was held this afternoon in Denver to show that things were just hunky-dorey for Sen. Michael Bennet and former challenger Andrew Romanoff (full press release from the Bennet campaign and from Colorado Democrats after the jump).

    Said Romanoff:

    “I am very, very proud of our grassroots team, and proud to see so many folks standing with us together in this united Democratic Party today. For not just my sake, and not Michael’s sake, and not even for the sake of the Democratic Party, I’m asking you today to throw your support fully and unequivocally behind Michael Bennet for the United States Senate.”

    This is all pretty standard stuff in terms of the Kumbaya atmosphere, which makes it all the more curious that Colorado Republicans don’t seem prepared to do the same thing just yet. Heck, GOP Gubernatorial nominee Dan Maes apparently can’t even get a phone call right now from other Republicans.

    Bennet Campaign Press Release:

    Supporters of Andrew Romanoff and Michael Bennet filled the lawn of the state Capitol building today as the former rivals came together in a united front, pledging to work together as sights turn toward November. Two days after Michael won the Colorado Democratic Senate primary, Speaker Romanoff rallied supporters of his campaign to support Michael and asked them to do everything in their power to keep Michael in the Senate.

    “I am very, very proud of our grassroots team, and proud to see so many folks standing with us together in this united Democratic Party today,” said Romanoff.  “For not just my sake, and not Michael’s sake, and not even for the sake of the Democratic Party, I’m asking you today to throw your support fully and unequivocally behind Michael Bennet for the United States Senate.”

    Following the Speaker’s sincere and gracious speech, Michael Bennet addressed the crowd of supporters gathered at the Capitol. Michael spoke to Romanoff’s supporters, volunteers, and staff, promising to work hard to earn their support.

    Michael went on to say, “Andrew’s legacy within the Democratic Party runs deep and will only continue on in the years to come. He is a man who has given his time and talents to this state, its people and our party, and Colorado is a better place for having Andrew as a leader.”

    For the past year, Michael and Speaker Romanoff competed in a spirited primary that challenged both candidates to build an extensive grassroots network, cultivate a fundraising base, and develop the type of campaign organization essential to winning in November. Michael’s campaign, Bennet for Colorado, has emerged a stronger, battle-tested organization as a result of Speaker Romanoff’s challenge.

    Michael closed the rally highlighting several key issues on which he and his Republican opponent Ken Buck clearly disagree. Michael vowed to reject ideological extremes in favor of common-sense solutions informed by his unique, real-world experience saving jobs, balancing budgets and reforming public schools – experience that has separated him from every other candidate in the race since the beginning.  

    In closing, Michael and Speaker Romanoff both drew clear distinctions between the extreme positions Ken Buck represents and the solutions for Colorado that Michael is fighting for everyday.  

    “The end that we share is a better quality of life, a higher standard of living, a cleaner and healthier environment, more affordable healthcare, stronger schools, more jobs,” said Romanoff. “Those goals, which we share, will better be advanced by Michael Bennet than any other candidate in this race. It is an easy call for me, and it should be an easy call for all of you as well.”

    These points were echoed by Michael,”As we face the most savage economy since the Great Depression, we must look at providing a better education for our kids, and as we tackle the out-of-control spending that stands to saddle generations to come with debt, there is a serious debate to be had about how we bring about solutions. Because the opponent we’re facing this fall believes in efforts that are simply too extreme for Colorado.”

    Colorado Democratic Party Press Release

    The Colorado Democratic Party celebrated Democratic candidates statewide today during a unity rally in front of the state capitol building. Democratic elected officials and candidates alike came together and pledged to support each other’s campaigns. Senator Michael Bennet and Former Speaker Andrew Romanoff appeared together. Governor Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC),  Senator Mark Udall, Senator Michael Bennet, Former Speaker Andrew Romanoff, Congressman Ed Perlmutter, Lt. Governor Barbara O’Brien, State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, Attorney General Candidate Stan Garnett, House Speaker Terrance Carroll, Senate President Brandon Shaffer, Lt. Governor Candidate Joe Garcia, CD 6 Candidate John Flerlage, CU Regent Candidate Melissa Hart, CDP Chair Pat Waak and many more were present during the rally.

    Below are remarks from Democratic officials statewide:

    Senator Mark Udall stated, “Michael has spent his life outside of politics, he has turned around struggling companies and turned around failing schools, those skills and experiences are desperately needed in Washington. He has been a strong and effective voice for solving problems and putting aside political games. Having earned voters’ support and the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, I am confident Michael is the best choice for Colorado and the partner I need in the Senate.  I look forward to campaigning with Michael in the coming months so we can continue our partnership working on behalf of the people of Colorado.”

    “Colorado Democrats this year are fired up and ready to go,” said Congressman Ed Perlmutter.  “Democrats want to drive this country forward in getting people back to work and toward economic stability, unlike the Republicans who want to put the gears in reverse and go back to the Bush failed policies and Wall Street free-for-all.  The bottom line is they are in disarray and divided, and we are united.”

    Congresswoman Diana DeGette said, “Throughout their careers both Michael and Andrew have served the people of Colorado admirably. Now, thanks to our democracy, they can bring together their shared passion and leadership, to make sure we keep our delegation strong to fight for Colorado.”

    State Treasurer Cary Kennedy said, “Over the past year, two amazingly talented, caring and dedicated men have shown us how deeply they care about our state and how deeply they care about us — the people who call Colorado their home. That passion can inspire us in the months ahead as we work together to continue to make Colorado such a wonderful place to live.”

    “Democrats and all Coloradans are lucky to have such talented public servants willing to step up. It is going to take Democrats working together to make sure we have a government that is accountable and transparent to the citizens. We can’t afford to return to failed leadership of the Bush-Cheney era,” stated Speaker Terrance Carroll. “As the outgoing Speaker, I am so pleased to look around and see what the future of the state house looks like — we look like Colorado, we Democrats ARE Colorado!  We are Black, Latino and White, straight and gay, younger and older, men and women working together for jobs and a strong economy.”

    Senate President Brandon Shaffer stated, “This has been a primary season in which everyone has worked very hard for their favorite candidate.  Now it’s time to unite behind our Democratic nominees.  I know we can and I know we will.”

    “We are united and will harness the energy of the primary to elect our candidates up and down the ticket,” stated Pat Waak, Colorado Democratic Party Chair.

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    Trey Rogers Leaving Ritter’s Office

    According to a press release from Gov. Bill Ritter’s office:

    Gov. Bill Ritter announced today that his Chief Legal Counsel, Trey Rogers, will leave his office to return to private practice effective March 1. Gov. Ritter has named his Senior Deputy Legal Counsel, Craig Welling, to the Chief Counsel position.

    Welling has served as Senior Deputy Legal Counsel for three years. Prior to joining Gov. Ritter’s office, he was a litigation attorney with Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons, LLP in Denver.

    Rogers has served as Chief Legal Counsel since Gov. Ritter took office.  He will re-join Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons, LLP as a partner, the position he held prior to joining the Governor’s office.

    Of course, Trey Rogers has been more than just “Chief Legal Counsel” under Ritter. Rogers has always been one of Ritter’s closest advisors, on both political and policy questions, and his departure from the office will certainly change the way things are done (or not done) as the Governor enters his final 10 months in office.

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    Know When to Walk Away, Know When to Run…

    Andrew Romanoff held a press conference today to announce that he is still running for the U.S. Senate and will not seek any other office or accept any other job offer in the meantime.

    So there’s that.

    On one hand, this is the first good bit of strategy (okay, really the only strategic move) that we’ve seen from Romanoff as a U.S. Senate candidate. Romanoff got a lot of free media attention by holding a press conference to announce basically nothing, while at the same time trying to beef up the impression that he is still a sought-after politician due to all of the people who encouraged him to run for Governor. Romanoff also needed to publicly affirm that he was staying in the race for Senate because of so much speculation to the contrary. In that regard, today’s press conference was a good move.

    On the other hand, it’s hard to really understand this decision in general. Romanoff is a talented policy wonk who is widely liked and respected by both Democrats and Republicans, but his campaign for Senate has been downright awful…and it’s destroying his political future in the process. Romanoff has tried meekly to distinguish himself from incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet on the basis of not accepting PAC money or special interest contributions, but policy-wise and issues-wise, there’s really not much difference between the two. The lack of a strong, clear message for why Romanoff is running for Senate has been startling, and his campaign in general has been a mess. Witness this weird item today from Westword:  

    The morning after Bill Ritter announced that he wasn’t going to run for governor this year, I reached out to Romanoff spokesman John Schroyer for a comment about whether or not his guy would consider switching his focus from the senate to Ritter’s gig.

    Schroyer pointed me to a comment Romanoff had made at a public event the evening before about still being a candidate for the Senate — but when I asked followup questions about how his challenge to Michael Bennet was going, Schroyer said someone else from the organization would have to provide answers. I suggested new campaign manager Bill Romjue. Schoryer said he wasn’t sure if he could get in touch with Romjue, but he would have someone contact me shortly.

    That didn’t happen — and after Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar endorsed Denver mayor John Hickenlooper amid his own announcement that he wasn’t going to step in for Ritter, it was clear that Romanoff’s window of opportunity had closed.

    Nonetheless, I received e-mails from Schroyer later that day, and for several days thereafter, asking if I’d gotten what I needed in terms of an interview. Each time I replied that I had not — that neither Romjue nor anyone else from the Romanoff campaign had contacted me. But these notes never prompted any action. No call ever came.

    The Westword story pretty well sums up Romanoff’s campaign in general. He waited way too long to begin his campaign, he went months without a campaign manager, and he still hasn’t really articulated what he would do as a Senator that Bennet isn’t already doing. Romanoff had to announce soon that he was either running for Senate or switching to Governor, but ironically, it is the disarray of his Senate campaign that precluded a real run for Governor. We heard from more than one politico in the last two weeks who would have supported a Romanoff bid for Governor six months ago but had lost confidence in his ability to run a strong statewide campaign. Had Romanoff stayed on the sidelines and waited for his next opportunity, there likely would have been a strong sentiment that he should be the Democratic nominee for Governor.

    But because he has spent the last six months running a head-scratcher of a campaign while simultaneously alienating a good number of Democrats with his messageless Bennet challenge, Romanoff was never going to be able to elbow someone like John Hickenlooper out of the race.

    The reason we’re having such a hard time understanding today’s announcement is because there’s really no good ending in sight for Romanoff. His fundraising numbers for Q4 haven’t been released yet, but there’s no way he’s going to be able to keep up with Bennet. Romanoff doesn’t need to outraise Bennet in order to beat him in August, but he does need to raise a considerable amount of money just to keep his campaign running. You cannot run a truly effective statewide campaign when many of your staffers are volunteers, as they are for Romanoff. But if Romanoff spends the money he needs in order to staff up appropriately, then there’s no way he’ll have enough money for the kind of TV ad buy that will overcome Bennet. Remember, Romanoff may be popular and well-known with activist Democrats, but 85% of primary voters are uninformed, generally uninterested voters. Most primary voters don’t know Romanoff or Bennet, because most primary voters aren’t all that different than most general election voters. By and large, those voters will select the person they are most familiar with come August, and Bennet will be able to go up on TV with an ad buy that will all but assure that he has strong ID among Democratic voters.  

    In order to be a success in politics, you need either to be feared or loved (or, ideally, both). In less than a year, Romanoff has gone from being universally loved and respected (if not-quite feared as a candidate for higher office), to only somewhat loved and not-at-all feared. As long as he remains in the Senate race, nobody who has seen Romanoff’s campaign to this point will ever again fear what he might do as an opponent. As long as he stays in this race, Romanoff will never again enjoy the kind of popularity among Democrats that he once had. The only positive outcome for Romanoff at this point is an all-or-nothing gamble that seems like more of a long shot than anything. . He’s risking his entire political career on a bet that he’s going to get dealt two or three amazing cards between now and August – cards that will somehow propel him to an improbable victory.

    Maybe Romanoff will surprise us and go on to win both the primary and the general election, but no serious observer can watch this race at this point and really, truly believe that Romanoff has a significantly better chance than Bennet. If Romanoff exits the race soon, he can chalk his crappy campaign up to wrong place, wrong time and write it off as an aberration. If Romanoff gets out now, he can start to rebuild the relationships he has broken while continuing to serve as a leader to those who support him now. Romanoff is talented and young, and he can live to fight another day. But if he loses the primary to Bennet while running a bad campaign, then he’s done. Or even worse, if he loses the primary and then Bennet loses the general election, Romanoff will be blamed (fairly or not, he’ll be blamed) for damaging the chances of Democrats to hold this seat.

    Perceived political power is as important, if not more important, than actual legislative or executive power. If Romanoff loses to Bennet, then he also loses his place in line for future races. No other Democrat is going to defer to Romanoff if he has already proved that he can’t even win a primary, but if Romanoff exits the race now, he can do so while preserving some chits in his pocket to use for a future run.

    Look, we didn’t think that Bennet was the right choice when Gov. Bill Ritter appointed him to replace Ken Salazar last year; we thought that it should have been Romanoff, Hickenlooper or Rep. Ed Perlmutter, and we said as much. We were skeptical of Bennet when he fumbled around early, and we wrote that Romanoff and Perlmutter might have been better. There was an opportunity for someone like Romanoff to challenge Bennet and even emerge as the frontrunner while doing it. But that time passed in late spring while Romanoff waited, and waited, and waited. When he finally made a decision in August, it was too late; Bennet had raised a lot of money and was picking up more and more support. Similarly, there was a time, back in 2005, when virtually every Democrat in Colorado would have moved over to allow Romanoff to be the Democratic candidate for Governor. But Romanoff passed, and the political world moved on without him.

    Did Romanoff get screwed over by not being appointed to the Senate or as Secretary of State by Ritter? Probably, but you can’t ignore the fact that Romanoff also passed up opportunities of his own. Either way, perhaps Romanoff does deserve better than this; but as Clint Eastwood once said, “Deserve ain’t got nothin’ to do with it.”  

    It looks like Romanoff is going to continue ahead with a Senate campaign that he most likely cannot win, and that’s a shame. Politics is as much art as science, and you’ve got to know (to use another poker analogy) when to hold ’em, and when to fold ’em. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s just not there for Romanoff in 2010.

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    Thursday Open Thread on Gov. Race: It Looks Like Hickenlooper

    UPDATE #5:No confirmation yet that Hickenlooper is going to run, but last night sources said that the Mayor really wanted to do it but was waiting for Salazar’s decision. Given the fact that Salazar publicly endorsed Hick if he runs, it’s not a stretch to assume that he did so with knowledge of what the answer would be.

    If Hickenlooper does not run, the next name to watch is Rep. Ed Perlmutter. We wrote earlier that is was highly unlikely that Salazar, Hickenlooper and Perlmutter all pass on running for Governor, but if that does happen for some reason, the next names on the list are Treasurer Cary Kennedy (the only potential candidate who could actually transfer some of her current warchest to a race for Governor), Andrew Romanoff and Rep. Betsy Markey.

    UPDATE #4: Denver Post reports Salazar will endorse John Hickenlooper for Governor.

    “I know John and Helen will seriously consider this historic opportunity that will define the future of State of Colorado and her people. This is a personal decision they must make and I will fully respect that decision,” Salazar said.

    “As for me, I have a job to do as Secretary of the Interior to implement President Obama’s vision for a clean energy economy and to better protect America’s great outdoors.”

    UPDATE #3: Multiple sources now confirming, Ken Salazar will NOT run. In that case, we’d put the odds that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper will run at 95%. Developing.

    UPDATE #2: Ken Salazar out? Just relaying this from The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder until we get additional word, which we are seeking now:

    This just in…. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has decided NOT to run for governor in Colorado. Incumbent Democrat Bill Ritter is retiring. The likely candidate for the Dems, then, is Denver mayor John Hickenlooper.

    UPDATE #1:: It seems that The Denver Post isn’t buying the Republican spin that Ritter is retiring because he didn’t think he could win:

    we don’t believe that Ritter dropped out of the race because he was down in recent polls and feared losing the gubernatorial election to Republican Scott McInnis. [Pols emphasis] The margin was only single digits, and voters haven’t unseated an incumbent governor since 1962…

    …It may not have been noticeable to Coloradans, but this job has worn on the governor. We couldn’t help but notice the lightness in Ritter’s demeanor at his press conference, joking at times with journalists. It seemed as if the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders.

    He had the appearance of a man who was very comfortable with his very difficult decision, and we’re happy for him. The moment he finished his speech in the Capitol foyer, he turned and hugged his teenage son. Sometimes stepping away from a job to spend time with one’s family means just that.

    There are 244 comments and counting on Tuesday’s post, 300 and counting on Wednesday’s post and quickly growing comments on this post.

    Colorado Pols also broke a record yesterday with our highest number of Page Views in one day, with 60,629 (but not a record for Unique Visitors in one day, curiously enough).

    So we thought you might want another open thread on the topic.

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    Questions, Answers (And Theories) From Ritter Announcement

    (Bumped into Thursday for self-evident reasons – promoted by Colorado Pols)

    After a wild 24 hours that saw more than 500 comments from Polsters in two separate posts, its time to take a look at the questions and answers from one of the more surprising political announcements in recent Colorado history.

    Here’s what we know, what we’ve heard, and all of the questions both answered and unanswered surrounding Gov. Bill Ritter’s announcement today that he will not run for re-election in 2010.

    WHY IS RITTER NOT RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION?

    Whenever a business executive, a sports figure or a politician says that they are stepping away from their job “in order to spend more time with their family,” people always question the real reason behind the decision. And in many cases, there is another reason aside from the standard rationale.

    But in Ritter’s case, everything we’ve heard makes it sound like he really is retiring in order to devote more time to his family; there really may not be anything more to it. Remember, Ritter is not a lifelong politician — his 2006 campaign for Governor was his first real race for any office (we’re not counting his one re-election bid for Denver DA against Craig Silverman). Neither he nor his family were accustomed to the type of life they have led in the past three years, and it seems to have taken a toll on his family.

    DID RITTER PULL OUT BECAUSE HE THOUGHT HE WOULD LOSE?

    Republicans are strategically correct in trying to push the story that Ritter retired because he felt he would lose to Republican Scott McInnis, but it’s simply not true. While Ritter’s polling numbers may not have been great, it’s way too early for any politician to take polling results that seriously. Ritter’s fundraising was going well and he was working hard on the campaign trail.

    To suggest that Ritter was afraid of McInnis — a flawed candidate in his own right — is silly. In fact, no Democrats are overly worried about McInnis in 2010; the three strongest Dems in Colorado are ready to run for Governor right now (more on that in a moment). If McInnis was such a concern, most Democrats would be hemming and hawing about a run like they were in 2005 — when then-Rep. Bob Beauprez was thought to be a very tough opponent. Democrats are not afraid of McInnis in the least, and neither was Ritter.

    WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR REPUBLICANS?

    Republicans are sticking to their message that Ritter is retiring because he couldn’t win in 2010, and again, that’s the right public spin to put on this. But privately, Republican strategists are very concerned.

    McInnis’ entire campaign strategy was based on telling voters that Ritter had screwed up the state and thus Colorado needed a new leader; that strategy is now worthless. Polling nationwide has shown that voters are displeased with incumbents in either Party, which was the biggest advantage McInnis had; that advantage is now gone. And compared with other potential Democratic candidates, Ritter was definitely the preferred opponent for Republicans. Not only was Ritter weakened by being an incumbent faced with implementing unpopular budget and service cuts, but he’s never been the most charismatic of Dems nor a top fundraiser, and the Democratic base had been less than pleased with him lately.

    All in all, this was not a good day for Republicans in Colorado, and it’s about to get worse because…

    THE DEMOCRATIC FIELD IS STRONG

    Here’s how the potential field for Governor breaks down:

    1. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

    2. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper

    3. CD-7 Rep. Ed Perlmutter

    From everything we’ve heard, there will only be one Democrat, and it will be decided in this order. If Salazar says yes, and by all indications he will, then he’s the guy. If not, then Hickenlooper has the next right of first refusal. If for some reason both Salazar and Hick decide against a run — a highly unlikely scenario — then Perlmutter will almost certainly run for Governor.

    Any of these three candidates are stronger than McInnis. All three are proven fundraisers with good name ID in the Denver Metro area — where most of Colorado’s voters reside. And none of them have any connections to Colorado’s budget crisis, which makes them nearly impossible to attack over what they did or didn’t do to harm the state financially.

    But the Democratic nominee will most likely be Salazar, who presents a whole set of problems for McInnis and the GOP in Colorado in general. Not only does Salazar have fantastic name ID and fundraising contacts, but he’s one of just a few Democrats in Colorado who could really turn out Hispanic voters in large numbers. If Democratic voter turnout is depressed in 2010, which many pundits have predicted, a large turnout by Hispanic voters to vote for the state’s first Hispanic Governor could more than make up the difference. And that increased turnout will trickle down to help Democrats across the state, which is not something that Ritter could have provided.

    When all is said and done, Ritter’s surprise retirement will likely turn out to be a significant benefit for Democrats in Colorado. Democrats don’t have to run an incumbent at the top of the ticket in a year where voters are mad at incumbents, and his replacement could turn out huge numbers of voters by himself. Republicans actually had a better chance of taking back the Governor’s mansion on Monday than they do today.

     

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    A Blueprint That Can’t Be Followed

    The political blog “The Fix” recently named Republican Bob McDonnell’s campaign for Governor in Virginia as its “Campaign of the Year.” As you’ll see in a moment, the award says a lot about the problems ahead for Scott McInnis:

    …from the start of the race, McDonnell had the message exactly right: jobs, jobs and more jobs. Everywhere he went, McDonnell talked about not only his commitment to create more jobs in the state but his plan on how to make it happen. His slogan — “Bob’s for jobs” — was a little cheesy but it undoubtedly stuck in the minds of voters whose number one priority was the health of the economy and the need to bring more jobs to the Commonwealth…

    McDonnell, learning from the mistakes of past GOP nominees Mark Earley (2001) and Jerry Kilgore (2005), almost never talked about his social conservative beliefs — understanding, rightly, that it would alienate a critical segment of votes in northern Virginia and that even among his base of support there was as much interest in solving the economic crisis. [Pols emphasis]

    …In winning so overwhelmingly — 59 percent to 41 percent — McDonnell helped revive the Republican party nationally but also provided aspiring GOP candidates with a campaign plan for how to win (and win big) in a swing state.

    Virginia has some political similarities to Colorado in that both have relatively moderate electorates that had recently trended toward Democrats in races for U.S. Senate and Governor. McDonnell understood from the beginning that he needed to stick to an economy/jobs theme and avoid divisive social issues, particularly since he had a weird history of strange proclamations in his past.

    Here in Colorado, McInnis may understand that he should avoid social issues, but he also might not have a choice given that the State GOP has clearly decided that Tea Party activists are going to be vitally important in 2010. In order to placate the Teabaggers, McInnis must pander to their interests, including taking public positions on things aside from divisive social issues. As we’ve pointed out before, opposing things like FASTER and the destructive “Dr. Evil ballot initiatives” may make the Tea Party people happy, but it doesn’t endear him to traditional GOP supporters like private construction contractors who depend on government projects to stay afloat.

    McDonnell may have provided a great blueprint for McInnis to follow in his own gubernatorial campaign, but that doesn’t mean he can follow the instructions. It could be a mighty frustrating 11 months for McInnis of doing exactly what he knows he shouldn’t do.

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    Media Not Buying McInnis, GOP Platform Duck and Dodge

    We noted yesterday that while the Republican “Contract for Colorado” “Platform for Prosperity” might be a good political move to get voters to believe that the GOP actually has a plan, the meat of the “Platform” was a little weak.

    We aren’t the only ones asking just how GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis plans to fix Colorado’s budget crisis with mystical new cuts and no plan for bringing in new revenue. Even conservative Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll is having a hard time with McInnis’ vague answers:

    If McInnis wants to establish a new level of seriousness in political campaigns, however, he’s got to do more than rail against the current administration’s tax hikes and regulatory excesses, and disdain for voter-approved amendments. He ought to explain how he’d balance the budget and make needed investments, too. After all, even the most pro-jobs governor can’t wave a wand and repeal the business cycle.

    If he intends to roll back auto-registration fees, for example, how would he repair Colorado’s decrepit bridges, or get a handle on the backlog of road maintenance? How would he invest in infrastructure without going to voters with fees, taxes or tolls? [Pols emphasis]

    “I can’t drive the machine until I get the keys to the machine . . . ,” McInnis told me Tuesday. “We won’t even know what we’re facing until after the legislative session. . . . What we can talk about are basic premises.”

    I received essentially the same dodge when I asked him about support for higher education, which could plummet when federal stimulus funds expire.

    Not only is McInnis determined to spare taxpayers when balancing the budget and shoring up highway or higher-ed spending, he even opposes an extension of Referendum C’s timeout on TABOR refunds – a position that could come back to haunt him if the economy heats up.

    McInnis talks as if he will identify major waste or inefficiencies once he dives into the budget and reviews property leases, credit card use, management of state lands and buildings, and so forth. This is unlikely, to say the least. When pressed, he volunteers that more dramatic reform is inevitable. “We are going to have to do with less,” he says. “We are going to have to make very hard decisions between what we want and what we need. . . . We are going to have to downsize.”

    Yes, we are – absent new sources of revenue or a visit from a very wealthy leprechaun. And at some point next summer or fall, McInnis should be expected to tell us how. [Pols emphasis]

    We’ve seen a noticeable change from the media in recent months in regards to how they cover politicians and their talking points about the budget. Reporters and columnists are no longer letting them get away with broad generalities about how “we need to just cut more” without saying exactly what we could cut that hasn’t already been decimated. Politicians are no longer getting away with boldly claiming “no new taxes” when the stark reality is that Colorado needs some kind of new revenue, and soon.

    So kudos to those reporters and other media folks who are keeping a closer eye on the reality of our state’s troubled budget and ignoring empty statements. Telling the public that we can just cut our way out of the problem and won’t need new revenue isn’t just disingenuous — it’s downright dangerous. Whoever ends up as Governor in 2011 is going to have a lot of work to do, and they are going to need the support of the general public to turn the budget around.

    UPDATE: More editorial boards weigh in after the jump.

    The Durango Herald:

    It is only natural that the platform endorses job creation, defends home schooling, calls for denying funding for any organization that provides abortion, promises to support gun rights, end fraud and waste, and combat illegal immigration. That is a Republican definition of good government.

    And it is understandable that it promises support for health-care reforms such as allowing insurance to be sold across state lines, which reflect federal laws not up to the governor at all. It is, after all, a campaign document.

    But when it comes to money, McInnis needs to be more specific in the coming months. How, for example, can the platform promise to invest more on roads, bridges and water systems, as well as on higher education and work-force training, and create a rainy day fund – while at the same time promising not to raise taxes or increase fees?

    The math is inexorable. The economic downturn has left Colorado with a stark choice. We can increase state government’s revenue or we can further reduce the services it provides. And at the point where things are now, that means serious cuts to education, prisons, transportation and other core functions of state government.

    The conservative Grand Junction Sentinel:

    One can certainly make a reasoned argument that the nursing facility at the Regional Center should have been lower on the governor’s budget-cutting priority list. But that raises inevitable questions: What should have been cut instead? And where would McInnis cut now to meet the state’s requirement for a balanced budget when revenue is declining?

    The former congressman from Grand Junction has said he wants to keep state taxes low, improve Colorado’s business atmosphere, examine some of the financial instruments the state uses to see if potential savings can be found and conduct a program-by-program assessment of state services to eliminate waste. But there have been few specific proposals for cuts to date…

    The platform also pledges to roll back the highly unpopular increase in vehicle registration fees approved by the Legislature this year with Gov. Ritter’s backing. But the platform also says Republicans will make investing in roads and bridges a top priority.

    Voters deserve to know how McInnis and the Republicans plan to make road and bridge investments a priority if they are going to reduce a major source of highway funding.

    And as you can imagine, liberal Denver Post columnist Mike Littwin’s piece today is more or less a slaughter. Not that we’re trying to unfairly color your opinion, but it turns out the “Contract for Colorado” “Platform for Prosperity” isn’t exactly the shot heard ’round the world–is it?

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    Pols Poll 2: Governor (Democrats)

    As always, please vote based on what you think will happen, not on who you would vote for or which candidate you support personally. Think of it this way: If you had to bet the deed to your house, who would you pick?

    [poll id=”1013″]

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    Four More Furlough Days for State Employees

    Just announced from Gov. Bill Ritter’s office:

    With the global economic downturn continuing to impact state government, Gov. Bill Ritter announced today that state employees will be taking four additional unpaid furlough days in the current fiscal year, bringing the total number to eight.

    About 15,500 employees already have taken two furlough days, Sept. 8 and Oct. 9, with two more days scheduled for Nov. 27 and Dec. 31. The new days, all Fridays, will be Jan. 15, Feb. 12, April 2 and May 28. Many government offices will be closed those days.

    The eight closure days will save about $27.2 million in FY09-10, which started July 1 and ends June 30…

    …Over the past year, the global recession has forced Gov. Ritter and lawmakers to close budget shortfalls of about $1.8 billion.

    Gov. Ritter will present the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee with a plan to close an additional $270 million shortfall at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

    Remember, folks, that this isn’t just about saving money by not paying salaries for four days. This means that most government offices will not be open to the public, and that affects a lot of people in Colorado one way or the other.

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    Rothenberg Political Report Not There Yet

    The Rothenberg Political Report recently released new assessments of Colorado’s Senate race and Governor’s race, and we think they’ve got the assessments a little, um, not correct.

    Rothenberg lists Sen. Michael Bennet as having a “Clear Advantage for Incumbent Party,” while Gov. Bill Ritter is listed as a “Toss-Up.” We think they’ve got both races listed incorrectly, because we’d put both the Senate and Governor’s race in the “Narrow Advantage for Incumbent Party” position.

    This is a classic example of Washington D.C. outsiders looking at races across the country based on limited information. For example, Republican Josh Penry has been getting good national press as the “new, fresh face” in Colorado Republican politics, but that ignores the facts: Scott McInnis beats him easily in head-to-head polling, and Penry has yet to show that he can be a strong fund raiser. Ritter is by no means safe for re-election, but given that there is a tough GOP primary with two flawed candidates, this is still his race to lose.

    On the Senate side, Bennet has a tough primary with House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and finally has a strong potential GOP challenger in Jane Norton. Again, this is Bennet’s race to lose, but we certainly wouldn’t say he has a “clear advantage” at winning re-election.

    What say you?

    [poll id=”1002″]

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    Pols Poll: Governor (Democrats)

    As we’ve done in other election years, we regularly poll our readers on various races to gauge changing perceptions. These obviously aren’t scientific polls, but they do help to show how the perception of various candidates are changing. We’ll conduct these polls each month and then show the results to see how the winds are shifting.

    As always, please vote based on what you think will happen, not on who you would vote for or which candidate you support personally. Think of it this way: If you had to bet the deed to your house, who would you pick?

    Tomorrow we’ll poll on the big races on the Republican side.

    [poll id=”991″]

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    Ritter Hopes Primary Won’t Split Democrats; Also Wants a Unicorn

    From The Denver Post:

    Gov. Bill Ritter says he would have been better off politically if he had picked former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Democrat Ken Salazar.

    But the governor, speaking Monday on the Mike Rosen Show on 850 KOA, said he is sticking by his appointment of Michael Bennet to the seat…

    …”What I am hopeful of is that it (the primary) does not split the party or split it in way that causes damage in the November election,” Ritter said. “I obviously would have counseled Andrew against this, but this is something he decided to do, and I’m going to be with Michael Bennet.”

    Ritter, who has repeatedly cited Bennet’s personal qualities as assets for the Senate post, said his choice wasn’t the safe, easy one.

    “I could have appointed Andrew, and it would have been better for me politically to have done that because he had sort of a longer history in Colorado politics,” he said.

    Make no mistake: Romanoff’s challenge of Bennet is also a clear challenge of Ritter as well. Even if Ritter wins re-election, a Bennet loss will significantly weaken Ritter’s position among Democrats. In fact, it’s fair to say that a Romanoff win would make him the acknowledged leader of the Democrats in Colorado, even with a two-term Ritter in the Governor’s mansion.

    So, yes, picking Romanoff (or John Hickenlooper, or Ed Perlmutter) would have been safer politically for Ritter. Smarter, too.

    And you thought that whole discussion was over in January.

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    Good and Bad Attacks from McInnis

    As The Denver Post reports, GOP Gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis is working on his attacks. Some are better than others:

    At a fundraiser in Greenwood Village on Tuesday night, McInnis ripped the governor, saying Ritter was more interested in his re-election campaign than handling delays at the Department of Labor and Employment, which has been besieged with unemployment claims.

    “Get these unemployment checks out of the door. It means something to somebody,” McInnis said.

    “You know at the department of labor, these people all get their paychecks on the 30th of the month,” McInnis said. “They don’t have to worry if they’re getting their paycheck or not.”

    Why McInnis would attack state employees is beyond us, especially since they are all being forced to take furlough days to help with the budget crisis. There are more than 30,000 state employees, and we’d assume most of them vote.

    But the messaging wasn’t all bad for McInnis.

    McInnis also took a swipe at his most formidable GOP opponent, state Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, of Grand Junction, although he never mentioned Penry by name.

    “Somebody told me the other day, ‘I kind of like a fresh face,’ ” McInnis said.

    “I said, ‘Good, keep that in mind the next time you’re in an accident and they rush you to the emergency room. Say to them, ‘You know, I want the new doctor, the one that just graduated from medical school.’

    We’ve said before that we think Josh Penry’s age is an issue that will become more and more of a problem for him as the campaign progresses, and McInnis’ comparison to a new doctor is a great line. Voters across the country have been willing to elect younger candidates to Congress and U.S. Senate, but will they really pull the lever for a young candidate to lead the entire state?  

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    Ritter Announces Four Furlough Days for State Employees

    It could be worse, but of course, it could be better. Just another sign of the down economy and budget in Colorado. According to a press release from the Governor’s office:

    Gov. Bill Ritter today announced the four dates that state employees will be taking unpaid furloughs this year. The Governor also said he will be returning the equivalent of four days of his own pay to the state treasury…

    …Public safety and other essential state workers will be exempted from the furloughs. The furloughs will be part of a comprehensive budget-cutting plan to close a nearly $400 million shortfall in FY09-10. The governor and legislature already have erased a $1.4 billion gap in fiscal years 08-09 and 09-10.

    Full press release follows.

    Gov. Bill Ritter today announced the four dates that state employees will be taking unpaid furloughs this year. The Governor also said he will be returning the equivalent of four days of his own pay to the state treasury. The four furlough days will be:

    ·         Tuesday, Sept. 8 (the day following Labor Day)

    ·         Friday, Oct. 9 (the day before the Columbus Day weekend)

    ·         Friday, Nov. 27 (the day following Thanksgiving)

    ·         Thursday, Dec. 31 (New Year’s Eve)

    Public safety and other essential state workers will be exempted from the furloughs. The furloughs will be part of a comprehensive budget-cutting plan to close a nearly $400 million shortfall in FY09-10. The governor and legislature already have erased a $1.4 billion gap in fiscal years 08-09 and 09-10.

    “We’ve done a good job protecting essential safety-net services and our investments in the economy, education and healthcare,” Gov. Ritter said. “This new round of cuts will be harder. It will be painful, and virtually every state service will be impacted.

    “But we will make the tough decisions that families and business all across the state are making. The budget will be balanced, and it will be done fairly and responsibly,” Gov. Ritter said. “Protecting the public’s health, life and safety will be an extremely high priority, as will job protection and creation. Every option is on the table, and shared sacrifice will be part of the solution, and that includes sacrifice on the part of state employees.”

    Gov. Ritter also said he will be returning four days of his own pay – $1,254.32, or $313.58 per day – to the state. “As an elected official, I can’t be furloughed. But I can and will do my part, so I’ll be writing a check for about $1,200 back to the treasury,” Gov. Ritter said. “If there are additional furlough days, I’ll return those amounts to the state as well. This is going to require sacrifice on the part of everyone.”

    Gov. Ritter said he and his administration will continue to craft the $400 million budget-cutting plan over the next few weeks, consulting with lawmakers and stakeholders and taking public input. The proposed plan will be released for public review in August, with expected implementation in September.

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    Ritter Approval Rating Bad, But Could Be Worse?

    We missed this latest poll from Tarrance Group, a Republican polling outfit, that was released last week.

    According to the poll, Gov. Bill Ritter’s approval rating is at 44%, which is obviously not very good. The numbers are particularly scary for the Guv’s supporters considering that Ritter is a sitting governor 18 months from re-election in a state that just voted strongly for a Democrat for President. Ritter should be safely above 50% at this point in his term.

    The upside, if there is any upside, is that Ritter isn’t polling any worse than 44%. We’ve actually heard polls a month or two ago had him below 40%, which could still be the case given the margin of error of these things. But with all of the negative press Ritter has received in the last several months, combined with some bafflingly-bad political decisions, perhaps 44% is about the best he could hope for…which tells you all you need to know about the race for governor at this point.

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    Republican, In Colo. Springs, Wants to (GASP!) Raise Taxes

    As The Denver Post reports, perhaps the rational Conservative Republican politician isn’t dead after all:

    A Republican county commissioner furious over increased auto-registration fees said he’s willing to campaign alongside the Democratic governor for a 10-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax hike instead.

    Commissioner Jim Bensberg of El Paso County got out his calculator after he discovered the registration for his 1978 El Camino increased 116 percent because of a state law that went into effect July 1. He calculated he would pay less with a gas-tax increase, and it would be more fair, too, because tourists would pay to improve Colorado’s roads.

    Politicians in both parties have questioned whether voters would approve a gas-tax hike, but Bensberg said it’s time to find out.

    “Colorado taxpayers should be given an opportunity to vote on a proposed gas-tax increase instead of bearing a compulsory across-the-board fee increase,” he said.

    Bensberg, who is term-limited next year, added that a “modest” increase to the existing 22-cents-a-gallon tax would provide an incentive for Coloradans to use more fuel-efficient vehicles. But a 10-cents-a-gallon hike would make Colorado’s gas tax the highest in the Rocky Mountain region. Utah’s gas tax is 24.5 cents, New Mexico’s is 18.8 cents and Wyoming’s is 14 cents, according to industry data.

    Gov. Bill Ritter pointed out this week that the legislature used to increase the gas tax and last did so in 1991. The following year, voters approved the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, requiring a vote of the people for any tax increase.

    Although transportation needs have grown, Ritter said no governor since then has asked voters to increase the tax, in part because of the expense of pushing a ballot measure that many predict would go down.

    Bensberg said he would be “pleased to join the governor” in pushing for the gas-tax increase – including one less than 10 cents a gallon – to replace the registration increase.

    Ritter declined Bensberg’s offer.

    We’re sorry to see that Ritter declined Bensber’s offer, because – as we’ve said here for a long time – Colorado desperately needs more revenue after mindless years of cutting taxes and spending to the point where services are flat-out dying off. Like in El Paso County, for example, where selling parks and foregoing health inspections are just the tip of the melting iceberg.

    Nobody likes raising taxes, and nobody likes paying them, but we’re kind of running out of options here. Somebody needs to start showing some leadership in standing up to the voters to explain why we need a tax increase.

    [poll id=”947″]

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    I’m Still the Chief of Staff, I’m Still the Chief of Staff, I’m Still…

    Rumors have been swirling since Gov. Bill Ritter named Don Elliman to the newly-created post of State Chief Operating Officer (COO) that Chief of Staff (COS) Jim Carpenter was being bumped out of the administration. An emphatic no (and a little overly-emphatic, if you ask us) is the word from the Governor’s office.

    As The Denver Post reports (we’ve helpfully highlighted the message in bold):

    Gov. Bill Ritter’s chief of staff says he will not be superseded by a new “chief operating officer” – but rather co-manage state government with him.

    Jim Carpenter, who has served as chief of staff since the Democratic governor was elected, said he and Don Elliman, Ritter’s economic development director, will be “partners” in administering the state.

    Don and I are the senior management team,” Carpenter said. “I’m the chief of staff. Don and I both report to Bill Ritter. I’m still the chief of staff, and Don is a partner with me in that.”

    Elliman’s comments mirrored Carpenter’s.

    “I work with Jim, and I report to the governor,” Elliman said. “He (Carpenter) is still chief of staff.

    Are we all clear on that? Pretty good message consistency, we’d say. But then it all breaks down later in the story…

    Ritter named Elliman, the former president of Kroenke Sports Enterprises and a longtime publishing executive who oversaw advertising and marketing for Time Inc., as the state’s first chief operating officer on June 8…

    …Carpenter and Elliman said managing the state was a big job that required more muscle with some $3 billion in stimulus funds headed to Colorado.

    “It’s really a significant job to effectively manage state government, particularly with all the ARRA money that has come in,” Carpenter said. He dismissed suggestions that there was a management shake-up in the office.

    “We’re trying to manage an $18 billion enterprise in a way that is effective and delivers what it’s supposed to to the taxpayers,” Carpenter said.

    Elliman is still serving as head of the economic development office, saying he was trying to do both jobs until the governor finds a new director. Elliman said Ritter concluded there needed to be “more assets” at the management level overseeing state government.

    “What I’m going to be doing in conjunction with Jim Carpenter is providing a little more bandwidth for that management,” he said.”There’s plenty for two of us to do.”

    The problem with that last part of the story is that it plays right into the hands of Ritter’s opponents. One of the main attacks, if not the main attack on Ritter will be that he is a “do-nothing Governor” who is in over his head. We’re not saying that this is fair or not, but it’s going to come, and it only helps boost those attacks when your own office publicly admits that it needs more help in top management.

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    Today is Random Declaration Day

    UPDATE: We just got a statement from the House Majority Office that helps explain the Governor’s seemingly random “Filipino Independence Day” proclamation. Freshman Rep. Dennis Apuan, the only Filipino-American in the Colorado legislature, will be presenting the Governor’s proclamation at a Philippine cultural festival in Edgewater this Saturday. From the release:

    Rep. Apuan said, “As the first Filipino-American elected to the Colorado Statehouse, I am deeply honored to extend my heartfelt felicitations and best wishes to the general membership of the Filipino-American Community of Colorado and to the wider Colorado community. The Filipino community’s noble efforts to showcase the very best of Philippine arts, entertainment and culture — along with a taste of our world-renown hospitality and cuisine – are a magnificent testament to the enduring Filipino spirit of bayanihan or community cooperation…”

    It would have been nice to have gotten some context for the Governor’s proclamation in the original release so people weren’t left scratching their heads, but helping Rep. Apuan, who faces a tough fight for re-election to his Ft. Carson-area seat and can certainly use all the press time he can get, is something that Democrats shouldn’t find any fault with. Original post after the jump.

    According to a press release from the Governor’s office:

    Gov. Bill Ritter today proclaimed June 12, 2009, “Philippine Independence Day” throughout Colorado, recognizing the friendship the Republic of the Philippines has shown the United States for more than a century, and the contributions that Filipinos and Filipino-Americans have made to the State of Colorado. According to a 2007 survey by the American Community Survey, more than 15,000 Filipinos currently reside in Colorado, helping grow the economy and adding another unique cultural dynamic to Colorado’s already-rich melting pot

    This is a nice proclamation and all (full text after the jump), but is it just us, or does this seem kind of random and completely out of the blue? We don’t necessarily mean this as a criticism; it just seemed like an odd declaration to make all of a sudden. It’s not like there has been some sort of Filipino issue that has been brewing in the state recently.

    Or maybe Ritter’s campaign figures the 15,000 Filipinos currently residing in Colorado can help make up for his loss of support from Democrats and labor unions.

    We kid, we kid. Sort of.

    GOV. RITTER THANKS FILIPINO-AMERICANS FOR CONTRIBUTIONS AND PROCLAIMS

    “PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE DAY”

    Gov. Bill Ritter today proclaimed June 12, 2009, “Philippine Independence Day” throughout Colorado, recognizing the friendship the Republic of the Philippines has shown the United States for more than a century, and the contributions that Filipinos and Filipino-Americans have made to the State of Colorado. According to a 2007 survey by the American Community Survey, more than 15,000 Filipinos currently reside in Colorado, helping grow the economy and adding another unique cultural dynamic to Colorado’s already-rich melting pot. Below is the text of the proclamation.

    PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE DAY

    June 12, 2009

    WHEREAS, on June 12, 1898, General Emilio Aguinaldo declared Filipino independence from Spain and established the Philippine Republic; and

    WHEREAS, strong bonds of friendship and alliance have bound the people of the Philippines and the people of the United States for more than a century, including the period of time that the Philippines had Commonwealth status as part of the United States; and

    WHEREAS, Filipino and Filipino-American veterans served with courage and distinction in liberating Asia during World War II, further strengthening the bonds of friendship between the Philippines and the United States; and

    WHEREAS, the Filipino-American community has made and continues to make important contributions to the economic, artistic, and cultural diversity of Colorado and the United States; and

    WHEREAS, Filipino-Americans are a growing and vibrant part of the Asian-American community in Colorado; and

    WHEREAS, the Filipino-American Community Center in Edgewater has expanded its services and outreach, welcoming an historic mission to Colorado by the San Francisco Philippine Consulate General in 2006; and

    WHEREAS, the State of Colorado recognizes the Philippines on the 111th anniversary since declaring independence, and appreciates the many Filipino-Americans that add to the rich diversity and cultural fabric of our state;

    Therefore, I, Bill Ritter, Jr., Governor of the State of Colorado, do hereby proclaim June 12, 2009,

    PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE DAY

    in the State of Colorado.

    GIVEN under my hand and the Executive Seal of the State of Colorado, this eleventh day of June, 2009

    Bill Ritter, Jr.

    Governor

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    Colorado Leader in Green Jobs

    Some much-needed good news for Gov. Bill Ritter, whose “new energy economy” efforts will be one of the keys to his re-election bid: According to the Pew Charitable Trust, Colorado is one of just three states ahead of the national average for green job creation.

    According to a press release from the Governor’s office:

    Colorado is home to one of the largest and fastest growing pieces of America’s clean energy economy, according to a report released today by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The report, titled, “The Clean Energy Economy:  Repowering Jobs, Businesses and Investments Across America,” is considered a groundbreaking analysis that sheds light on an increasingly important part of the nation’s economic recovery.  This is the first effort by a major national organization to quantify the scale, scope and promise of clean energy jobs.

    “I am very proud that Pew Charitable Trust is reinforcing our vision to transform Colorado into a national and international leader on new energy,” Gov. Bill Ritter said. “We have been extremely deliberate about rebuilding our state’s economy and converting it to a sustainable and knowledge-based one.  The Pew report shows that Colorado is at the forefront of the country’s New Energy Economy.”

    The report found that jobs in the clean energy economy grew at a national rate of 9.1 percent, while traditional jobs grew by only 3.7 percent between 1998 and 2007.  There was a similar pattern at the state level, where job growth in the clean energy economy outperformed overall job growth in 38 states and the District of Columbia during the same period.   In Colorado, clean energy jobs grew at a rate of 18.2 percent in the same time frame, while traditional jobs grew by 8.2 percent, according to the report.

    “Coloradans can be proud that our hard work has paid off – creating thousands of clean energy jobs and attracting more than $600 million in venture capital in the past three years – making us one of the top five states for clean energy investment,” Gov. Ritter said.  “With those efforts we are creating new economic opportunities and business, and reducing emissions of the pollution that causes climate change.   I am committed to continuing Colorado’s leadership in forging a path forward toward a new energy economy for our state, the nation and the world.”

    Colorado is one of only three states (along with Oregon and Tennessee) that are ahead of the national average for the number of jobs in the clean energy economy (15,106) and annual growth rate (1.9 percent).  In addition, the report found that Colorado had more than 17,000 jobs in the clean energy economy in 2007 and also attracted more than $620 million in venture capital in the past three years-the fifth-largest amount in the nation. Three quarters of which have been invested in clean energy generation.  Jobs in Colorado’s Clean Energy category grew 50 percent between 1998 and 2007 and the Energy Efficiency sector grew 56 percent in the same time.

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    Ritter Signs SB 228, Republicans Attack from…Grand Junction?

    Governor Bill Ritter today signed SB 228, which rescinds the budget-crippling Arveschoug-Bird amendment. According to a press release from the Governor’s office:

    Senate Bill 228, sponsored by Republican Rep. Don Marostica and Democrats Sen. John Morse and Rep. Lois Court, establishes consistent and reliable funding for transportation projects, while also removing an arbitrary allocation formula that prevents the recovery of vital state services when the economy recovers…

    …”This is a fiscally responsible approach to creating a rainy day fund and ensuring that we are adequately funding transportation and capital construction,” Rep. Marostica said. “More importantly, this accomplishes those goals without raising taxes.”

     

    Republican Rep. Don Marostica’s deservedly praised sponsorship on this issue has made it tough for the right-wing of the GOP to really gain traction against the legislation, so how did they fight back?

    Well, yesterday afternoon Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry and House Minority Leader Mike May held a press conference in Grand Junction.

    Seriously.

    The GOP leadership had to take its traction-less attack on a needed piece of legislation sponsored by a Republican member of the Joint Budget Committee to the tiny Grand Junction market in order to get somebody to pay attention to their cries.

    We’ve been saying for months that Colorado Republicans would have been better off trying to find compromise on budget solutions rather than just saying no to everything. But instead they’ve held firm to their plan of doing nothing and complaining often, and now they’re relegated to holding meaningless press conferences in Grand Junction because every other market won’t pay attention any more.

    Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican legislative leadership!

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    Ritter Vetoes (Another) Labor Union Bill

    Just announced today from the Governor’s office:

    I am filing with the Secretary of State House Bill 09-1170, “Concerning unemployment insurance benefits for locked-out employees.”  I vetoed this bill as of 4:55 p.m. today, and this letter sets forth my reasons for doing so.

    There are currently ongoing contract negotiations between the United Food and Commercial Workers No. 7 and several grocery stores, including King Soopers, Safeway, Albertsons, and City Market.  The parties to these negotiations have been working hard for several months to try to reach an agreement.  I believe it is ill-advised and counterproductive to enact legislation that materially impacts the relative bargaining position of parties in the midst of ongoing negotiations.  In these troubled economic times, I am deeply concerned about the effect a strike or lockout of employees would have on grocery store workers and consumers across the state, and I am concerned that signing this bill into law will make a negotiated resolution of the grocery store contract more difficult, not less.  

    Therefore, under these circumstances, the state should not interject itself into these contract negotiations by enacting House Bill 09-1170 into law.

    Unless there is some sort of negotiation taking place with the grocery chains and workers that included this veto as part of the deal, Ritter isn’t doing himself any favors by once again vetoing a bill promoted by a labor union and passed by the legislature.

    “I am deeply concerned about the effect a strike or lockout of employees would have on grocery store workers and consumers across the state, and I am concerned that signing this bill into law will make a negotiated resolution of the grocery store contract more difficult, not less,” he writes. Well, Governor, you just did take a position on the contract talks – this veto basically strengthens the grocery chain’s bargaining position.

    This is a controversial bill, to be sure, but many legislators put their own asses on the line when they voted for it. Those legislators are now going to be subject to attack pieces in 2010 criticizing their support for a bill that their own Party’s governor vetoed.

    If Ritter was going to veto this bill, he should have gotten word to Democratic leadership before they passed it. These are the kind of vetoes that have angered many Democrats in the legislature, and for good reason; this has happened several times now, and not just with bills that were labor-backed.

    And all of this is for what? To placate a business community that doesn’t support him anyway?

    Full text of veto explanation follows.

    GOV. RITTER VETO MESSAGE ON HOUSE BILL 09-1170

    May 19, 2009

    Honorable Colorado House of Representatives

    67th General Assembly

    First Regular Session

    State Capitol

    Denver, CO  80203

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    I am filing with the Secretary of State House Bill 09-1170, “Concerning unemployment insurance benefits for locked-out employees.”  I vetoed this bill as of 4:55 p.m. today, and this letter sets forth my reasons for doing so.

    There are currently ongoing contract negotiations between the United Food and Commercial Workers No. 7 and several grocery stores, including King Soopers, Safeway, Albertsons, and City Market.  The parties to these negotiations have been working hard for several months to try to reach an agreement.  I believe it is ill-advised and counterproductive to enact legislation that materially impacts the relative bargaining position of parties in the midst of ongoing negotiations.  In these troubled economic times, I am deeply concerned about the effect a strike or lockout of employees would have on grocery store workers and consumers across the state, and I am concerned that signing this bill into law will make a negotiated resolution of the grocery store contract more difficult, not less.  

    Therefore, under these circumstances, the state should not interject itself into these contract negotiations by enacting House Bill 09-1170 into law.

    The merits of this bill, however, are worthy of future discussion and perhaps future legislation.  In 1999, the statutory provision that House Bill 09-1170 would repeal and reenact was substantially amended for the first time in twenty-four years, upsetting the longstanding balance governing when locked-out and striking workers were eligible for unemployment benefits.  The issue of how best to restore this balance is a debate that we should have.  But the debate should be had and legislation crafted outside of the shadow of a major contract negotiation that has the imminent threat of a strike or lockout.

    Accordingly, I have vetoed this bill.

    Sincerely,

    Bill Ritter, Jr.

    Governor

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    Ritter’s Leadership Perception Problem

    A story in today’s Denver Post tells you everything you need to know about why Gov. Bill Ritter is in trouble heading into his bid for re-election in 2010:

    Gov. Bill Ritter said Thursday that he has an opinion on the death penalty but won’t say what it is. Ritter spoke about the death penalty at a news conference to discuss the 2009 legislative session, which ended Wednesday.

    House Bill 1274, which ultimately failed, would have eliminated the death penalty in Colorado and used expected savings to pay for the investigation of unsolved homicides.

    Supporters argued that by repealing the death penalty, the state could save $1.5 million a year in legal costs, creating funding for eight state investigators to reopen more than 1,400 cold-case homicides.

    The House had already narrowly approved the bill, but it failed in the Senate on a 17-18 vote Wednesday, the last day of the session. With two Democratic vacancies in the Senate – and a potential third – the vote count could change if the issue returns next year.

    This session marked the closest the Democratic-controlled legislature had ever come to repealing the death penalty.

    Still, Ritter has never said whether he would have signed or vetoed the bill, saying only that he would listen to the arguments on both sides.

    Asked Thursday if that meant he didn’t have an opinion on the death penalty, the former prosecutor did not clarify his stance.

    “Yes, I have an opinion, but I’m not going to share that with you,” Ritter said, “because then people feel like the argument (they make) is meaningless. [Pols emphasis]

    “And the fact of the matter is on a host of issues, arguments are not meaningless. It’s important for a person in my position to hear their arguments and make decisions based on their arguments.”

    There’s no two ways about it: This is flat-out embarrassing. The GOVERNOR of a state shouldn’t be candidly refusing to take a position on an important issue. Everybody dances around issues, but rarely do politicians flat-out admit that they are dancing.

    By all accounts Ritter is not polling well, and his various policy positions (whatever they are) don’t have anything to do with it. Ritter is weak and getting weaker because he’s not perceived to be a leader. Refusing to take a position doesn’t make you look like a moderate–it makes you look weak and indecisive.

    Voters elect people to lead them–not to placate them. For most of his first term, Ritter has been so worried about not angering certain constituencies that he’s actually done the exact opposite–he’s pissed off everybody. He doesn’t want to make one group angry, but he doesn’t do enough to make that first group happy, so he ends up just riling up the whole hornet’s nest. To use a football analogy for the former high school player, Ritter’s strategy is always the same: Punt.

    As Post columnist Mike Littwin noted last month during the Pinnacol/Budget discussions:

    Republicans grumble because, when you’re completely out of power, what else is there to do? But Democrats are grumbling, too. Here’s a conversation I recently had with a Democratic insider:

    Me: What do you think of Ritter’s leadership style?

    Democratic insider: What leadership?…

    …And the governor? Did I mention the governor? Umm, no.

    The governor has not yet commented on this idea. As I understand it, his people are negotiating with Pinnacol, trying to find an alternative solution, one in which Pinnacol comes to the rescue without being, well, forced to come to the rescue.

    There could be another reason why he hasn’t commented, which is that he can’t figure out how to explain this to his pals in the business community.

    The knock on Ritter is that he’s not willing to claim ownership on tough issues. His predecessor, Bill Owens, was a micromanager who enjoyed knocking heads with legislative leaders, which may have been why so many were so glad to see him go.

    Democrats in the legislature were rightly upset at Ritter for not publicly (or even privately, say some) leading the way on the Pinnacol discussions, and they are equally upset over the death penalty discussions. Democratic legislators are forced to go out on a limb and make a vote on controversial issues, without knowing where their own governor stands on the issue.

    This was the same scenario that played out in the first month of Ritter’s term when he vetoed the “Labor Peace Act” despite every Democrat in the legislature voting for it. Yet Ritter still hasn’t learned his lesson.

    Machiavelli famously wrote that it is better to be feared than loved. But nobody fears Ritter, and nobody loves him, either. Nobody knows where Ritter is on anything, other than alternative energy, and everybody is in favor of alternative energy. Ritter has opened the door for 2010 opponents to use the old “do-nothing politician” campaign.

    Ritter has just one more legislative session to try to pick up enough friends – and dissuade disaffected voters – to help him win re-election in 2010. He has one more session to make himself into the leader that voters wanted in 2006. If he doesn’t reinvent himself, Ritter will have one more legislative session…period.

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