Jessie Danielson Runs To Succeed Sen. Cheri Jahn In Key District

Rep. Jessie Danielson (D).

Rep. Jessie Danielson of Wheat Ridge announced her run for Senate District 20 yesterday, a closely-divided swing Senate seat now held by term-limited Sen. Cheri Jahn:

Serving Jeffco in the State House has been a tremendous honor – and I am proud to have passed laws that are protecting vulnerable seniors, advancing equal pay, looking out for veterans, protecting our environment, and helping Colorado families get a fair shake when the odds are often stacked against us…

With your help, I will go to the State Senate and continue fighting for a better future – by empowering hard-working Coloradans who want to send their kids to great public schools and build a secure future for their families.

Whether it’s legalizing rain barrels or making child care more affordable, I have passed common sense laws focused on helping make day-to-day life a little easier for regular people. Just this year I passed the Wage Theft Transparency Act, which will shine a light on employers caught cheating workers out of their pay.

In the State Senate, I will continue to uphold the Colorado values that make our state a better place to live. The chaos in Washington shows that it’s up to us – here in the states – to stand up to powerful special interests and protect what makes Colorado unique. As state senator, I will never stop fighting for Colorado, for Jeffco and for you.

Sen. Jahn’s last election in 2014 against Republican candidate Larry Queen was a real nail-biter, with Jahn emerging victorious by fewer than 500 votes. Democrats nonetheless consider Rep. Danielson an ideal successor to hold the seat, with an excellent legislative track record and solid campaign skill and experience–good enough that she was considered a possible candidate for Congress to succeed Rep. Ed Perlmutter. Danielson is a sufficiently strong contender that we would be surprised to see a serious primary opponent emerge, though with an open seat you can never rule one out.

Either way, Democrats are feeling good about holding this swing seat on their way to recapturing the Senate majority in 2018, and now you know why.

In light of Jeffco school board recall, Brauchler’s early support of vouchers raises questions

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

George Brauchler.

Education is a motivating issue anywhere in soccer-mom country, but in Colorado its force is compounded by the lingering impact of the emotional 2015 Jefferson County School Board recall election, in which voters overwhelmingly tossed out conservatives.

Republican Bob Beauprez’s outspoken alignment with the losing school board members, including his support of vouchers, during the 2014 gubernatorial election was arguably a key factor in his loss to Democrat John Hickenlooper. And Republicans have lost a string of state legislative races in Jeffco, with the winning Democrats standing against public school privatization.

So along comes the 2018 gubernatorial race, and reporters should note where Republican candidates come down on vouchers, charters, and education issues. Will they distance themselves from the positions of the losing Jeffco School Board members? Or will they align with them?

Republican candidate George Brauchler, the Arapahoe County District Attorney, has already spoken up for vouchers, agreeing “100 percent” with KNUS 710-AM’s Dan Caplis last month that vouchers benefit kids and empower parents, particularly in low-income areas.

Caplis (11 min 30 sec below): I’m a big believer without even increasing the budget, kids would be benefited immediately by healthy education competition, and by empowering those poor and middle income parents with true purchasing power in education through vouchers, etc. Where do you come down on school choice?

Brauchler: I 100 percent agree with you, in every place, specifically inner cities and socio economically depressed areas. Every place you offer parents the opportunity at a charter school or choice, you see a mad scramble to be part of that successful system. And our family is no different. I got four kids, 14, 12, 9, and 7. They are all in charter schools. They’ve all gone to charter grade schools. Two of them are still there. I am a big believer in choice. And they are figuring out a way to put a better product on the field and turn out students with a better education, better scores than the big establishment system. That’s not an indictment of the entire big establishment system. That is a challenge. That is that kind of competition that you and I have talked about that give you a better product. I am a big believer in choice…big-time public school system, which I am a product of, my wife’s a product of, my kids are going to be a product of it, has got to look internally, but also externally at a better way to do what they are doing.”

I can’t find campaign statements by other Republican candidates on public school privatization, but it’s likely they will be coming soon–with Democrats likely to continue to oppose vouchers. In any case, it’s clearly a key issue for reporters to track, given the Jeffco history and the stakes involved.

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Yes, THAT Tony Sanchez

Tony Sanchez is like the Winter Olympics of Colorado politics: He re-appears every four years to a lukewarm reception, and most everything he does is fairly confusing. This snapshot from Sanchez’s Twitter feed tells you everything you need to know about his return to Colorado politics:

Tony Sanchez last appeared on Twitter in Oct. 2014

Colorado political observers will recall that Sanchez emerged out of nowhere (also called “California”) when he announced in 2014 that he would seek the Republican nomination for State Senate in SD-22 (Lakewood). Sanchez was a recent arrival in Colorado, but he somehow convinced conservative groups such as Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) to back him in a GOP Primary against the more moderate and better-known Mario Nicolais.

Sanchez pulled off a surprise victory over Nicolais in a bitter primary fight that caused much consternation among Republicans; Democratic incumbent Andy Kerr went on to defeat Sanchez in the General Election for a seat that Republicans thought they had a decent chance of winning. Kerr was a probably a better candidate than either Nicolais or Sanchez, but the general opinion at the time was that Republicans might have had a shot at capturing SD-22 with a less-extreme candidate who actually had some sort of personal history in the area.

Kerr will exhaust his term limits in the state Senate in 2018 (he’s running for Congress in CD-7), and Sanchez is back to take another shot at the legislature. It is not clear yet who will be the Democratic candidate for SD-22, but the presence of Sanchez won’t exactly be a deterrent for anyone considering the possibility.

So Long, Dan McMinimee

Soon to be ex-Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports on another endnote in the long battle to wrest control of Jefferson County Public Schools back from a conservative majority elected in 2013 and ousted in an historic 2015 recall election–the departure of conservative superintendent Dan McMinimee:

Jeffco Public Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee is out of his job early, as the district announced Thursday he was stepping down immediately.

The district announced in December that his three-year contract would not be renewed, and he was set to be out of a job as of June 30.

But the district said Thursday that McMinimee and the school board agreed to McMinimee’s early ouster.

He will remain with the district through June 30, Jeffco Public Schools Communications Office Diana Wilson said, but will not have day-to-day operations responsibilities.

Wilson said McMinimee will “be available to the board in an advisory capacity and will assist as needed in the transition to a new superintendent.”

Dan McMinimee was hired by the conservative majority Jeffco school board in 2014, a pick that was fraught with controversy–McMinimee was formerly an assistant superintendent at arch-conservative Douglas County Schools, whose right-wing board and perceived anti-teacher bias resulted in an exodus of qualified teachers from the district.

As the battles between the new board and the district’s parents and teachers heated up, McMinimee drew fire for not intervening in the board alleged “bullying” of students who showed up to testify at board meetings, as well as his participation in intra-board intrigue on behalf of the majority.

After the recall election that sent the conservative board majority packing, McMinimee was the career equivalent of a dead man walking. Immediately after the recall election we predicted his swift departure, but the new board made the magnanimous (and fiscally prudent) decision to allow McMinimee to serve out his contract. We suppose it’s even hypothetically possible that he might have lived up to the expectations of the new board and had his contract renewed.

But it didn’t happen, and now McMinimee’s departure marks the final stages of a housecleaning three years in the making.

Deep Jeffco Bench Ready For Perlmutter’s Next Move

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County)

Ernest Luning at the Colorado Statesman reports on the next generation of Colorado Democrats in Jefferson County, waiting to move up in the event Rep. Ed Perlmutter makes the decision to run for Governor in 2018:

Two Lakewood Democrats say they’re likely to run next year for the 7th Congressional District seat represented by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter if the six-term incumbent Democrat jumps in the race for governor.

State Rep. Brittany Pettersen told The Colorado Statesman this week that she will run for the suburban congressional seat if Perlmutter seeks the gubernatorial nomination in 2018, and state Sen. Andy Kerr told The Statesman he’s “very seriously looking at it.”

The two legislators share many of the same constituents — Kerr held Pettersen’s House District 28 seat for three terms before winning an open seat in the upper chamber in 2012 — and both say their ability to win in their own swing districts means they’d be contenders for Perlmutter’s suburban swing seat.

Although Rep. Perlmutter’s seat is on-paper competitive, his strong leadership and deep ties to his Jefferson County constituents have made CD-7 completely unwinnable for the GOP since defeating Rick O’Donnell for Bob Beauprez’s open seat in 2006. The last real attempt at the seat was in 2012, when the late Joe Coors lost to Perlmutter 53-41%. Since then Perlmutter has faced only B-List opposition.

With that said, we do expect that Perlmutter giving up the CD-7 seat to run for Governor would embolden Republicans to make another attempt. Either Sen. Andy Kerr or Rep. Brittany Pettersen would make for excellent general election candidates against any Republican we could think of who might run–especially in potential matchups against Tim Neville, Lang SiasLibby Szabo, and other early names that have been floated.

With the biggest variable everyone is waiting on being Rep. Perlmutter’s next move, we don’t expect to see any major updates in this race until he makes his decision–a decision that reportedly depends on whether former Sen. Ken Salazar decides to run for Governor. But if Perlmutter does jump, there is a deep bench in Jefferson County waiting to fill resulting vacancies all the way down the ticket.

“Draft Ed” Movement Pushing Perlmutter for Governor

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County)

UPDATE: The Gazette has corrected their story with the appropriate Facebook link. We have adjusted the excerpt below to reflect the change.

—–

As Peter Marcus reports for the Colorado Springs Gazette, an online campaign to convince Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) to run for Governor is growing quickly:

There seems to be more of a buzz surrounding the Jefferson County Democrat these days, though Perlmutter has been playing things close to the vest.

A Facebook page has been created, “Draft Ed Perlmutter for Governor.”

“Run, Ed, Run! Ed Perlmutter’s always a true congressman with character. Now a whole lot of us want him to be a governor with guts. Draft Ed for Gov!” the page states.

“Ed’s district has always been a top target for House Republicans. And he’s always won it, and BIG! If nominated, Ed Perlmutter will keep the Governor’s Mansion blue — and he’ll stand up to Donald Trump like few others can,” a post on the page states.

Backers of the page are even paying for Facebook sponsorship status, though who the backers are has been a mystery to many in the Jefferson County Democratic community.

The link provided in the story above directs readers to Perlmutter’s congressional campaign website; we’re assuming this is a mistake and is meant to point to this “Draft Ed Perlmutter for Governor” Facebook page instead.

 

You Won’t Believe Who Tim Leonard Hired As His Legislative Aide

State Rep. Tim Leonard (R-Evergreen) in his off-season attire.

State Rep. Tim Leonard (R-Evergreen) is at the State Capitol today as the legislature officially convenes for the 2017 session. The accommodations under the Gold Dome are (probably) considerably more comfortable than where Leonard was biding his time three weeks ago, when he was finishing up a 14-day jail sentence in Jefferson County.

From everything we hear, a majority of Republicans at the state legislature would like Leonard to resign — nobody really wants to be associated with the first sitting legislator in at least 40 years to spend time in jail — but Leonard has no plans to give up his seat in the near future. House Minority Leader Patrick Neville is a personal friend of Leonard, so there is no immediate pressure from GOP leadership, either. Since Leonard is likely stay right where he is for the time being, you might think he would be eager to keep his head down and do a little reputation cleansing.

Former Jeffco School Board member John Newkirk

Or not.

Leonard’s paid legislative aide at the State Capitol is a name you may recognize: John Newkirk.

Yes, this is the same John Newkirk who was booted off the Jefferson County School Board in a 2015 recall election.

In short, a state lawmaker who just spent time in jail has hired a legislative aide who was recently kicked out of a different office by essentially the same group of constituents that Leonard represents. This seems like a bad idea.

Newkirk is independently wealthy and doesn’t really need the $12.50 per hour wage paid to legislative aides, so it would make sense that this is being orchestrated so that Newkirk can eventually try to take over Leonard’s seat in HD-25. Leonard isn’t likely to resign from the legislature, but that doesn’t mean he plans to run for re-election in 2018 (not that we would blame him — this video alone would run on a loop for months).

Keep an eye out for this pairing as the legislative session grinds along. Leonard-Newkirk is Colorado’s bizarro Batman and Robin.

Westminster City Councilman: Rapists, Immigrants, Whatever

Westminster City Councillor Bruce Baker, who briefly ran for Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s CD-7 last year before losing the primary to George Athanasopoulos, has a reputation as a far-out anti-immigrant firebrand–so much so that he has drawn the ire of moderate Republicans for “embarrassing the party.”

But since the election of Donald Trump, Baker has been on an empowered tear against immigrants, and (especially) the response of his fellow councillors to Trump’s immigration proposals–which culminated yesterday evening in a bizarre recorded statement played back by Baker into his own microphone during a council meeting. Apparently, it was easier for Baker to record his little diatribe in advance than, you know, say it live. Excerpts:

The plain fact is that American culture has poorly dealt with sexual assault…addressing these crimes after the fact is too little too late. It was a mere forty years ago that marital rape was finally recognized as a crime in the United States. Old attitudes die slowly…we all must obey the law. Support the law. Be smart about situations, intervene if possible, and encourage everyone in society to do the same…

It is only by obeying the law that we will keep full value of the wonderful place we are. Sexual assault laws are not weapons that hurt Americans, sexual assault laws are a shield that protects Americans…and that’s true with robbery, and fraud, and embezzlement, and being unlawfully present in the United States. [Pols emphasis]

My colleagues are afraid to approach the crime of being unlawfully present in the United States. Part of that fear stems from the fact that for the crime of being unlawfully present in the United States, there is no sympathetic victim to which we can point. If there was a distinct individual victim, that victim and their injuries would provide a point of focus we all could grasp. But the victims of people that are unlawfully present in the United States, while many in number, have no obvious injuries which the media can showcase. Their stories of loss and displacement are difficult to quantify. Their hurting is minimized and ignored…

Instead of talking about the real harm to victims of people unlawfully in the United States, my colleagues chose to talk about being a ‘welcoming community.’ How odd. I do not think for a second that my colleagues would be welcoming to perpetrators of sexual assault. [Pols emphasis]

So, there’s a lot wrong with this. First of all, the simple act of being present in the United States without documentation is not a crime. It’s a civil offense under federal law. The act of entering the U.S. illegally is a misdemeanor offense, but not simply being here. That means the whole premise of Baker’s diatribe, that illegal immigration is a “crime” on par with sexual assault, is nonsense.

From there, we can explain that in addition to being nonsense, likening undocumented immigrants to perpetrators of sexual assault is extremely offensive. It’s interesting how Baker concedes there is no “distinct individual victim” of illegal immigration, in effect admitting that scaring Americans about this supposed imminent threat has no factual basis.

Yes, comparing undocumented immigrants to rapists worked for the President-elect of the United States. But–and we mean it in every possible way except this lowest common denominator–Bruce Baker is no Donald Trump.

Former Jeffco DA Busted For DUI

Scott Storey.

Former Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey, who returned to the ranks as a deputy DA after being termed out of the top job, had a little too much to drink on New Year’s Eve as FOX 31 reports:

Former First Judicial District Attorney Scott Storey was arrested on New Year’s Eve on suspicion of driving under the influence, according to court records.

Storey, who served two terms as district attorney for Jefferson and Gilpin counties, was cited for a misdemeanor charge of driving while under the influence of alcohol early Saturday morning by the Littleton Police Department, according to court records.

There isn’t much more being reported as of now, except that there was reportedly an accident that preceded Storey’s arrest. One interesting sidenote to this case is that Storey’s prosecution will presumably be handled by the office of his former subordinate, Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler. It’s widely rumored that there is no love lost between these two prosecutors, and Brauchler likely hasn’t forgotten his former boss’s conspicuous failure to endorse him in his own run for elective office in 2012.

Also, don’t drink and drive.

Jeffco School Board Considers New Direction for Superintendent

Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

As Yesenia Robles reports for Chalkbeat, the Jefferson County School Board is pondering what to do about its Superintendent as the end of Dan McMinimee’s contract approaches:

Jeffco school board members held an executive session last week during a conference in Colorado Springs in which they started discussions on the superintendent’s contract, a district spokeswoman said. The board is scheduled to go into executive session again Thursday to continue the discussion.

“You don’t wait until the contract expires,” Ron Mitchell, the Jeffco school board president, told Chalkbeat. “Should the board be thinking we want to go in another direction, that requires a fair amount of prior planning. That’s the rationale for the timing — the only reason we’re beginning those discussions.”

McMinimee is a former assistant superintendent from Douglas County whose controversial hiring came at the hands of a now-ousted conservative school board (McMinimee was curiously the sole finalist for the job in 2014). When a new board majority was elected last November, McMinimee was given a chance to prove his mettle under a different regime. In September of this year, the board finalized an evaluation related to $40,000 worth of bonuses in McMinimee’s contract, determining that he qualified for only about half that amount:

McMinimee received the lowest scores of partially effective on three out of the 12 goals including one related to creating a new charter school application process, and for mixed results increasing the number of third-graders meeting or exceeding expectations in reading.

Based on the review, McMinimee received $20,000 in performance pay.

After that evaluation, the board started the work of setting the superintendent goals for next year. McMinimee presented a draft of his suggested goals at a meeting two weeks ago.

During that discussion, board members pushed back on the draft, suggesting that some of the goals McMinimee had set should be expectations of his job, not additional goals for bonuses. They asked for more goals that can be tied to reliable data. [Pols emphasis]

Given his fairly lackluster performance and $220,000 salary, it was pretty balsy of McMinimee to push for more money in “performance pay” for, you know, doing your job.

McMinimee’s contract expires on June 30, 2017.

Jeffco’s Ken Witt Stumps For Donald Trump: Yes, Really

jeffco-recalled-boe_1446610908934_26204529_ver1-0_640_480We took note a few weeks ago of the gobsmacking announcement by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign that Ken Witt, the recalled ex-president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, has been selected as an “education co-chair.” Less than a year ago, as everyone with any knowledge of Colorado politics is well aware, Witt and his two fellow conservative activists comprising a majority were thrown off the Jeffco school board by an overwhelming majority of voters. The Jeffco school board recall was a national story over the course of months in mid-to-late 2015, and the crushing defeat for these three conservative “reformers” has been interpreted as a major setback for the larger right-wing “Separation of School and State” education agenda.

Politically, Trump taking on the baggage of this recall by elevating Witt goes beyond whether or not it makes political sense, which is of course does not. It invites very basic questions about the wisdom of the Trump campaign–at least in Colorado. Jefferson County is considered a bellwether for the state as a whole, with a large politically diverse suburban middle-class population that often proves decisive in statewide elections. In is not an exaggeration to state that the Trump campaign has chosen one of the most demonstrably unpopular political figures in recent Colorado political history, certainly in Jeffco history, to front for them with the voters.

Donald Trump (R-IDGAF).

Donald Trump (R-IDGAF).

Witt is the Trump campaign’s official surrogate in a guest op-ed in the Denver Post today:

I was encouraged to hear Donald Trump unveil his school choice policy earlier this month, because school choice made made such a difference for my family. Trump committed to provide $20 billion in existing federal spending to states in the form of block grants, so more at-risk families can find the best educational fit for each student, allowing every child to realize their full academic potential…

I am hopeful to once again have a president in office who understands that one size does not fit all, and that our students best succeed when they can each find their own best academic setting in which to thrive.

Witt’s forgettable anecdotes about school choice helping his family, an issue which hasn’t really come up on either side as a campaign issue, won’t distract Jeffco voters from the fact that Ken Witt is the author of the pro-Trump op-ed in today’s Denver Post head-to-head. The pro-Hillary Clinton side was represented by former Colorado Governor and Los Angeles Public Schools superintendent Roy Romer, whose relative credentials to speak about education policy…for pity’s sake, do we even need to say it? This “matchup” is an insult to Gov. Romer, and your intelligence too. And politically, it’s so incredibly foolish it leaves us at a loss for words.

In a perfect world, Witt re-emerging from his disastrous recall as Trump’s education spokesman would be nationally lampooned–at least earning the attention that last year’s recall of Witt and the right-wing school board majority itself did. At the very least, it’s an incredible mistake to make in Colorado’s most-watched suburban battleground, and it will cost the Trump campaign dearly with voters in Jefferson County.

And to whoever thought this was a good idea…seriously, get your head examined.

Will Former Jeffco School Board Member Williams Help Sink Woods?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Recalled Jeffco school board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Recalled Jeffco school board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Last year’s recall of Jefferson County school board member Julie Williams is widely considered a huge factor in this year’s Arvada/Westminster state senate race that will likely determine whether Republicans retain control of the state senate.

Jefferson Country voters threw out Tea Party conservatives on their school board, with special ire directed at Williams, who was denounced by both sides. Even Dave Kopel, a researcher at the conservative Independence Institute, said Williams had a lot of “foolish” ideas.

The Jeffco vote was overwhelming, with 60 percent favoring the recall, and analysts believe the voters’ anger may carry over to Jeffco candidates aligned with Williams.

Sen. Laura Woods (R).

Sen. Laura Woods (R).

Williams has ties to Republican State Senator Laura Woods, who’s defending the Arvada/Westminster Senate District 19 seat against Democratic challenger Rachel Zenzinger.

State Sen. Tim Neville is Williams’ brother-in-law, and Neville is connected to Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which heavily backed Woods’ upset victory in 2014. Woods backed Neville’s failed U.S. Senate bide earlier this year. And Woods and Neville have overlapping connections to other Republican operatives.

Williams makes no secret of her support for Woods, and Woods, who doesn’t return my calls, has apparently accepted Williams’ backing, which makes sense since Woods and Williams align in their support for Trump and guns, among other links.

Here’s Williams’ Sept. 17 Facebook post, obtained from a source, endorsing Woods:

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Donald Trump and the recalled Jeffco school board: you won’t believe this

In 2015, I was proud to join my Jefferson County neighbors as we reclaimed our school board from far-right radicals who took control two years before. We literally made #JeffcoSchoolBoardHistory. After watching the school board attack the teachers and schools that make Jeffco one of the best places to raise a family in America, by an overwhelming 65% margin, we ended the ability of Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams to play ideological games with Colorado’s finest public schools–recalling them and replacing them with a clean slate that restored dignity and community respect to the Jeffco school board.

Unfortunately, Ken Witt, president of the recalled board, isn’t finished trying to harm public education in Colorado just yet. Last week, Donald Trump announced that Witt is the Trump campaign’s state “education coalition co-chair.”

Sign our petition: tell Trump to dump Ken Witt right now.

If there was anyone left in Jefferson County undecided about Donald Trump, choosing Ken Witt as his education co-chair in Colorado should settle the question. Trump couldn’t pick a more divisive figure of his campaign for our state if he tried. Witt’s disastrous tenure as president of the Jefferson County school board was beset with allegations of bullying students, hostility to teachers, breaking promises to voters on spending tax dollars, and dubious “reviews” of history curriculum to ensure what’s taught in the classroom doesn’t offend conservatives.

Tell Donald Trump to cut ties with Ken Witt for the sake of every child in Colorado.

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Trump Campaign’s Colorado Education Co-Chair…Wait, What?!

Recalled Jefferson County School Board President Ken Witt.

Recalled Jefferson County School Board President Ken Witt.

Denver7’s Deb Stanley reports, get ready for a spit take:

The Trump-Pence Colorado campaign is creating numerous coalitions in Colorado to target various group of voters.

The coalitions include African Americans for Trump, Women for Trump, the Education/School choice coalition, the Sportsmen coalition, the Agricultural coalition and the Faith coalition…

“These leaders are contributing valuable time and energy in order to advance Mr. Trump’s conservative message to a range of important groups and organizations throughout the state,” said Colorado State Director Patrick Davis. “With their help, Coloradans will reject the third Obama term that Hillary Clinton represents and will vote for change in November.”

Plenty of B-List names you’ll nonetheless recognize if you’re familiar with Republican politics on this list, including Jerry Natividad and and Derrick Wilburn representing Hispanics for Trump and African-Americans for Trump respectively. Former state Rep. B.J. Nikkel is heading up Women for Trump along with RNC member Lilly Nunez.

But the aforementioned spit take will come when you get to the choice of Trump’s education co-chair:

The Education/School choice coalition will be led by Dr. Jim Geddes, Colorado’s 6th Congressional District on the CU Board of Regents and businessman and consultant Ken Witt. [Pols emphasis]

Note how Ken Witt’s biggest qualification to serve as the campaign’s education “expert,” being elected to the Jefferson County, Colorado Board of Education, isn’t listed? That’s probably because Ken Witt, along with his fellow right-wing board members Julie Williams and John Newkirk, were recalled last year by a lopsided 65% of the vote. “WNW” were recalled after spending two years outraging Jeffco students and parents with their open hostility to teachers and bizarre ideological flights of fancy–such as the proposal to “review” the district’s AP history course for politically objectionable content, and Williams calling on Jeffco parents to keep their kids out of school on a day when bullying against LGBT students was being protested.

[NOTE: As Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Independent points out in the comments below, Jim Geddes hasn’t been a CU Regent since 2004 and is currently a member of the Douglas County School Board.]

We can’t claim to be shocked by much that comes out of the Trump campaign at this point, but the selection of Witt as Trump’s education co-chair in Colorado is really shockingly tone-deaf. To the extent that voters in Jefferson County ever learn that Witt is affiliated with Trump’s campaign, it’s going to motivate them even more to turn out against Trump on Election Day. Jefferson County is widely considered a bellwether for the entire state, and we would be hard pressed to imagine a more self-injurious pick for winning over Jeffco voters.

If anything, this baffling choice might keep alive the persistent rumors that Trump is trying to lose.

Woods’ Anti-Buckpedal Dance Deserves Media Scrutiny

Woods shares video opposing abortion for incest

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

State Sen. Laura Woods continues to differentiate herself from Colorado Republicans, like U.S. Senator Cory Gardner and Rep. Mike Coffman, who’ve tried to disavow their extreme anti-choice records–or dodge questions about abortion.

Woods, on the other hand, has embraced a personhood abortion ban, with no exceptions for rape and incestthroughout her political career, starting in the 2014 primary and general election and continuing at the Capitol, where she not only sponsored a abortion-ban legislation but also a bill requiring women to be offered an ultrasound prior to having an abortion (and also to wait 24 hours before having the procedure).

Today, as in July 21, 2016, the stakes are higher than ever. Woods’ district will likely determine control of Colorado state government, and Woods isn’t doing the Buckpedal–or whatever you want to call the dance senatorial candidate Ken Buck, Gardner and Coffman have performed as they tried to distance themselves from right-wing positions they’d taken during their careers.

Woods, a Republican from Westminster/Arvada, isn’t trying to hide her opposition to all abortion, even for incest, even though political observers say it will hurt her in November.

Take, for example, the video Woods shared on Facebook this week from LiveAction, a anti-choice group.

It shows a woman who’s asked the question, “Do you support aborting the child if it was a case of incest?” (at 2:55 here)

“Yeah,” she replies.

Then the woman is pictured watching a video of an abortion, which convinces her that abortion should not be allowed in cases of incest.

Woods does not return my calls, so I can’t talk to her about the video or whether she thinks her no-compromise stance against abortion, even for incest, will help her hold back a challenge from pro-choice Democrat Rachel Zenzinger in November.

But, judging from other interviews, it appears that Woods thinks she need not take middle-of-the-road positions to win in her swingiest of swing districts, where she won by 650 votes in the Republican wave year of 2014. She’s vowed to stand by her conservative principles.

Woods’ anti-Buckpedal dance, which you could call a form of political chest thumping, deserves more media scrutiny than it’s getting.

Pants on Fire: Politifact Shreds GOP SD-19 Mailer

chinagirlA new fact-check from Politifact Colorado’s Alan Gathright posted at Denver7 is most unkind to new mailers hitting in the pivotal SD-19 race in Arvada and Westminster, where an old and already proven false allegation against Democrat Rachel Zenzinger has apparently been recycled for the current election cycle:

For the second straight election, a conservative group has attacked a Democratic Colorado state Senate candidate with the same claim: “Rachel Zenzinger voted to use tax dollars to take a taxpayer-funded junket to China.”

In late June, political mailers started arriving at homes in the northwest Denver suburbs of Senate District 19. They featured a photoshopped image of a smiling Zenzinger wearing sunglasses with dollar signs on the lenses and an ornamental Asian bridge in the background…

The same group attacked Zenzinger for a taxpayer-backed junket to China in 2014. But just as before, there are key problems with these attacks.

“I’ve never been to China,” Zenzinger told PolitiFact. “I was joking to friends, believe me if I had been to China, I would have had so many pictures on Facebook they wouldn’t have to Photoshop my picture in the ads.” [Pols emphasis]

politifact%2Fphotos%2Ftom_ruling_pof_6Even better, and again this is all well-reported common knowledge after fact-checkers tore the claim apart in 2014:

Also, while on the Arvada City Council in 2013, Zenzinger made — and then voted for — a successful motion explicitly prohibiting use of taxpayer funds for a proposed sister-city delegation to China.

In short, not only is there zero truth to the allegation that Zenzinger “voted to use taxpayer funds to visit China,” everyone knew there was no truth to it two years ago. To reuse this debunked story in new attack mailers against Zenzinger strongly points to a conscious disregard for the truth in the state’s most important legislative race. It’s one thing to make stuff up, it’s another to keep using made-up stuff after it has been debunked.

That takes an additional degree of chutzpah.

It’s against the law in Colorado to make false statements in political communications, but the statute has proven notoriously difficult as a means of bringing actual charges–mostly because prosecutors are reluctant to criminalize such speech-related “political questions.” With that said, it’s pretty hard to argue that this lie was not knowing and deliberate, because it’s not a new lie. We’ll be interested in seeing if that makes a difference.

Ethics or Karma Catch up to Kevin McCasky

Former Jeffco Commissioner Kevin McCasky "resigns" from Jeffco EDC.

Former Jeffco Commissioner Kevin McCasky “resigns” from Jeffco EDC.

You might remember former Jefferson County Commissioner Kevin McCasky, who resigned midway through his second term in the Commissioner’s office in order to take a high-paying job with the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

McCasky had an ethically-questionable tenure in Jefferson County government. His departure from the Board of Commissioners was quintessential McCasky: On the way out the door, he left Jefferson County with (another) ethics complaint over his role in convincing the county to write a big check to the organization that he was leaving to direct (that ethics complaint was ultimately confirmed several years later).

As the Columbine Courier reports, McCasky’s shady past may have finally caught up to him:

An executive board member of the Jeffco Economic Development Corp. said simultaneous resignations of three high-level staffers were part of a restructuring.

Rob Osborn, a past chair of the EDC’s board of directors, said the departures of president and CEO Kevin McCasky, executive vice president Doug Bene and investor relations manager Lilly Daniels mark the first step in a downsizing of the Golden-based organization.

There’s another story here — the one you can easily read between the lines:

When asked whether funding partners were concerned about the changes, Osborn said most wanted to know how the EDC will move forward.

“Folks just understood that this was the best decision for Kevin (McCasky) at this time,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

The Jeffco EDC, a nonprofit that formerly was called the Jefferson Economic Council, received $300,000 in funding from Jefferson County in 2015, and a $5,000 membership fee from Jeffco Public Schools, according to the school district’s accountability website. It also receives funds from municipal governments in the county….

…McCasky resigned from Jeffco’s county commission in January 2011 to accept the top job at the EDC. The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission later ruled that McCasky violated state ethics laws by voting to approve $400,000 in county funding for the EDC while he was a candidate to become its president.

McCasky did not return calls for comment on this story.

Well, at least Jefferson County was able to continue to pay McCasky’s salary long after he left the government offices. That was nice.

“Tea Party” Tim Leonard Wins HD-25 Seat

That’s the word from Jefferson County’s Taj Majal this afternoon, where the political machine of U.S. Senate candidate and GOP grassroots leader Tim Neville has succeeding in winning the Colorado House seat of retiring Rep. Jon Keyser–Keyser, of course, resigning to take on Neville in the 2016 GOP U.S. Senate primary.

The appointment of Tim Leonard to succeed Jon Keyser, overwhelmingly and in the first round of balloting, is a huge win for the Jefferson County Neville political coalition. Leonard, a co-founder of the whackjob-friendly American Constitution Party willingly hijacked by Tom Tancredo in 2010, was far enough to the right to lose in SD-16 to Democrat Jeanne Nicholson in the Tea Party year that year but the party’s recent shift rightward under Neville’s influence has, if you will, brought Republicans to him.

In addition to Rep. Leonard making the Colorado General Assembly a very colorful place in the coming months, something Democrats will be happy to record for posterity, this win shows how the Neville machine is in full control of the party in the state’s most important suburban battleground.

And that is a story much bigger than Colorado House District 25.

Williams lashes out at ‘Liars and Cheats’ in Jeffco

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Recalled Jeffco School Board member Julie Williams lashed out at Jeffco voters and others last month, writing on Facebook:

Williams: “Liars and Cheats and the majority of the people believed the rhetoric.”

Williams’ sour-grapes comment came after state data was released on the amount of money spent by state groups to recall Williams and other conservative school board members from office, prompting Williams to write, “Infuriating that being exposed does not mean anything.”

The data did not include figures for how much was spent by organizations that are exempt from disclosure and campaigned indirectly to try to keep Williams in office, despite her repeated gaffes and substantive flaws that even infuriated fellow conservatives.

Correction: This post initially stated that Americans for Prosperity did not disclose campaign spending. Some spending was disclosed.

Scrubbing Jeffco Schools Clean of Partisan Turd-Shiners

millerAs the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reported yesterday, two of the more controversial expenditures approved by the outgoing right-wing majority on the Jefferson County school board are swiftly going the way of the dodo following this month’s blowout recall election:

Brad Miller, the attorney hired by the conservative majority that was ousted in this month’s recall election, resigned this morning.

Miller was hired by the Jeffco board just a month after the November, 2013 election, a hiring that some have claimed violated the state’s open meetings law.

In his resignation email to board liaison Helen Neal, Miller cited the incoming school board’s desire to use the district’s legal counsel and statements by new board members that they would not need a private attorney…

As our readers will recall, the hiring of attorney Brad Miller by Jeffco Schools was hotly controversial, both due to his shady, very possibly illegal approval process, and his known-quantity status as an insider advocate for charter schools. According to the Denver Post’s report today, Miller’s contract stipulated $7,500 monthly for “services not to exceed 30 hours per month.” Nice work if you can get it!

Novitas' Michelle Balch Lyng (left), with former Jeffco comms director Lisa Pinto.

Novitas’ Michelle Balch Lyng (left), with former Jeffco comms director Lisa Pinto.

As Goodland continues at the Independent, Miller isn’t the only line-item from the old board’s tenure being shown the door:

Saturday, the school district posted a job opening for a chief communications officer. Those duties have been handled lately by Novitas Communications and Michelle Balch Lyng.

Novitas, a public-relations firm, was brought in last February, under a $50,000 five-month contract, to handle “supplemental communications duties.”

Novitas was hired by Lisa Pinto, who served as communications chief for less than six months. Pinto, an attorney with no background in public education communications, was deemed unqualified by the district search committee. Hired by Superintendent Dan McMinimee, she was frequently criticized for unprofessional behavior. After Pinto resigned, Lyng became the district’s chief spokesperson…

In retrospect, Novitas Communications’ service to Jefferson County Public Schools was an unqualified disaster. A solidly GOP-aligned public relations outfit staffed by local Republican usual suspects, Novitas was brought in to “supplement” the work of another longtime Republican Party communications flack, Lisa Pinto. Pinto’s lack of qualifications and by-all-accounts horrible interpersonal skills necessitated Novitas’ “help”–which ironically even more pointedly demonstrated Pinto’s uselessness, and hastened her departure a short while later under a considerable cloud.

But in the end, as is now a matter of history, Novitas couldn’t save the board majority that hired them.

Observers expect that the new Jeffco school board majority will work toward re-establishing the status quo ante in the district’s public relations office, using qualified district employees instead of high-priced contractors. Likewise with the board’s need for legal counsel. We haven’t heard if that future will include ex-Novitas GOP media operative Devan Crean, but we could certainly see how it might not.

The moral of the story: when your agenda for your organization is constructive instead of malicious, there’s less need for all that, you know, “outside help.”

Dems Take Aim At Laura Woods on Veterans Day

A press release from the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund on a new ad (above) playing on cable in Senate District 19, the ultra-swing Jefferson County district held by hard-right Sen. Laura Waters Woods expected to play a central role in the Democratic strategy to retake the Colorado Senate in 2016:

The Democratic Senate Campaign Fund (DSCF), an initiative of the Colorado Democratic Party, launched an ad today highlighting State Senator Laura Woods’ hypocrisy on veteran’s issues. The ad was spurred by a recent Woods Facebook post about Veterans Day writing she supports veterans – “I am reminded I owe each veteran a debt I can never repay.” Woods can never repay because she repeatedly votes against veterans.

“Laura Woods does not get to call herself a patriot just because she posts a flag on Facebook or carries a sign in a parade. She’s playing politics with our veterans and it makes me sick to my stomach,” said Korean Era Veteran Dennis Larsen. Larsen explained, “I’m a veteran in Laura Woods’ district, and I want answers. Why has Laura voted against those of us who have put their lives on the line for our country?”

Beginning with Woods’ statement that she refers to herself as a, “liberty-minded patriot,” the ad outlines some of Woods’ harmful votes against veterans. This includes her vote against tax breaks for veterans (HB 15-1181), against in-state tuition for dependents of active duty military members who have attended school in Colorado (HB 15-1215), and her “no” vote on establishing employment services for veterans (HB 15-1030) seeking job training. The ad ends, “Laura Woods. What a hypocrite.”

“Laura needs to explain her record. Why did she vote against the majority of her party and against veterans? What would drive someone to vote for not taxing soft drinks (SB 15-274), but then vote to tax active duty service men and women (HB 15-1181),” said Andrew Short, Executive Director of the DSCF.

It’s a good ad that makes a number of hard-hitting points in rapid succession, and ends with a simple message: “what a hypocrite.” Taking advantage of the seasonal lull in political ads just after the election, it’s actually a very good time to plant messages on low-name ID downballot candidates like Sen. Laura Waters Woods–whose negatives Democrats hope will become her story ahead of 2016’s hottest state senate race.

As just these few votes demonstrate, they’ve got plenty to work with.

Why do Colorado Senate Republicans think it’s a good idea to attack Jeffco voters?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

Control of the Colorado Senate swings in the balance next year, with the Democrats hoping to pick up one itsy bitsy state Senate seat and the Republicans clinging to a majority of one itsy bitsy Senate seat. And that seat is most likely in Jefferson County.

With this in mind, after last night’s uprising against conservatives in said Jefferson County, you’d think the Republicans’ official Senate Facebook page would speak in a humble tone, with an eye on the not-so-far-away-longer-term.

Instead, the Colorado Senate GOP lashed out at the Jeffco electorate, which, did I mention, will be voting again in just 12 months (or, about 364 days).

Here’s what the Colorado Senate GOP Facebook page had to say, in a statement that deserved wide coverage:

Parents not willing to support school reform get what they vote for — reform-resistant status quo schools run according to union shop rules. If that’s good enough for their kids, so be it. It’s the students, not the parents, who will live with the consequences.

Do Colorado Senate Republicans hope to hold their Jeffco swing districts with this attack line? Do they think attacking the Jeffco parents is a winning strategy for 2016?  It’s a legitimate question for reporters to put to Senate Republicans, given what they said today on Facebook.

Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee: Please Don’t Fire Me

THURSDAY UPDATE: As the Denver Post’s John Aguilar reports today, Jeffco school board victors are showing considerable magnanimity to Superintendent Dan McMinimee, at least for now and perhaps in part due to a hefty “golden parachute” worked into his contract signed with the outgoing board:

With the dust clearing on a tumultuous recall election in Jefferson County and a significant turnover on the Douglas County school board, newly elected leaders in both school districts spent Wednesday mapping out the future.

That included the future of Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee, whose compensation package was fuel for Tuesday’s successful recall effort. But the leader of the state’s second-largest school district won’t be shown the door anytime soon.

“If he’s willing to take direction from the board and is capable of implementing its policy, I don’t think he has anything to worry about,” said Brad Rupert, an Arvada attorney who will take over the seat of ousted board member Julie Williams.

All we can say is, that’s pretty big of them.

—–

Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

At 7:15PM last night, just after the election returns dumped in from Jefferson County showing victory for the recall campaign against the Jeffco school board majority, Superintendent Dan McMinimee, the highly controversial hire from conservative Douglas County that helped drive the recall campaign, sent out this contrite little message to school district employees:

With the polls now closed and the campaigns for our School Board concluded, I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts with you.

I want to begin by thanking you all for keeping student growth, both academically as well as socially and emotionally, the focus of your daily efforts. Having visited over 70 schools so far this school year, I can assure our various communities that our school leaders, teachers, and staff are all working diligently to improve our practices that support student learning. I want to especially thank our school leaders for ensuring that we maintained a neutral position on the election and campaigns during the past few months. I know that you were often challenged by well-meaning stakeholders wanting to use our schools and communication channels for their particular campaign issues. I appreciate your efforts to make our community members feel respected while educating them on our need, as a system, to remain neutral.

It is important for all of us, as Jeffco employees, to recognize that elections, by their nature, have winners and losers. Our school communities often have both sides of an election represented in their schools and classrooms. It is vital that we acknowledge this reality and continue to maintain a neutral position on the outcome of the election… [Pols emphasis]

While we are of course not aware of any decision that has yet been made about McMinimee’s future as Jeffco Schools superintendent, the circumstances of his controversial hire–as well as his conduct as superintendent, working in what was by all accounts close concert with the right-wing board majority that was recalled from office yesterday–make it a fairly safe bet that McMinimee will not be in his $280,000 job for very much longer. The simple fact is that this was not a close election, and McMinimee’s position as superintendent was one of the chief points of contention in the recall campaign.

Maybe if he hadn’t embarrassed the district by chumping the governor of Colorado? Maybe if he hadn’t hired that totally incompetent political hack communications director? Maybe if he hadn’t threatened teachers with retaliation if they didn’t stop their meddling protests? Maybe if he had tried, at least tried, to stand up against the bullying of students in school board meetings?

Time to polish up that resumé, Dan. We’d say it’s back to P.E. class for you.

Earth-Shaking Jeffco Recall Victory Confounds Local Media

Jeffco recall supporters celebrate last night.

Jeffco recall supporters celebrate last night.

To kick off our recap of 2015’s biggest election in Colorado, last night’s landslide recall of the right-wing majority on the Jefferson County school board, we’re skipping our feckless local media and going straight to the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss:

Voters in the Denver suburb of Jefferson County on Tuesday tossed out three conservative members in a recall vote that was marked by some $1 million in spending, including support for the incumbents from a Koch-backed organization. The school board earned national attention when the members in 2014 said the Advanced Placement U.S. History course was not patriotic enough and needed to be changed…

In Jefferson County, Julie Williams, Ken Witt and John Newkirk have been in office for two years. They won seats in 2013 on the five-member board and moved quickly to institute controversial school reforms, including a merit pay system for teachers and an educator evaluation system that used student test scores.

Public school activists charged that the three were part of a reform movement trying to privatize public education and started a recall effort that attracted national attention, including money from outside the state from partisans on both sides. Americans for Prosperity, the national organization founded by Charles and David Koch, contributed to the reformers, while unions supported their opponents. Some $1 million was believed to have been spent in the race, one of a few local elections around the country in which outside money played a role.

Jon Caldara.

Jon Caldara.

In the days leading up to the election in Jefferson County, conservative opponents of the recall led by activist firebrand Jon Caldara’s Independence Institute and national “astroturf” organizing group Americans for Prosperity pulled out all the proverbial stops in an attempt to re-energize the “Tea Party” electorate that had put this school board majority in power in 2013.

But it wasn’t just conservative groups: the local media showed distressing bias against the recall effort, both in editorial and “hard news” coverage. This bias was most evident in the continuous dismissal of the recall campaign as a “union effort” in supposedly objective news reports. High-visibility events like the “Boots on the Boulevard” protests along Wadsworth were ignored with no explanation. Then, just before Tuesday’s election, Denver’s highest-rated television news station 9NEWS apologized for a “Truth Test” of an anti-recall ad that conservative recall opponents didn’t like. The abject, debasing apology offered by Kyle Clark for that “Truth Test” simply doesn’t make sense given the difference of interpretation over Superintendent Dan McMinimee’s salary their supposed “error” boiled down to.

Because 9NEWS has a reputation for not being anyone’s squish, we’re quite curious to know who was able to ring their proverbial bell this way. It was out of character to say the least.

Today, there’s plenty of blame to go around for this lopsided defeat that the local press didn’t see coming: Caldara’s shameless exploitation of the children of school board members in campaign ads, including Julie Williams’ special-needs son, should be remembered as a ugly low point in our state’s political history that rightfully backfired. Overall, Caldara’s brash style of emotional manipulation and unapologetically devious tactics was powerfully repudiated in yesterday’s elections. AFP’s vaunted field operations came up totally empty. “Independent” local pundits the press relies on like Floyd Ciruli and Eric Sondermann revealed themselves as fundamentally clueless about the electorate on which they were pontificating.

As our state’s foremost bellwether suburban population center, what happened last night in Jefferson County is hugely prophetic for the direction of Colorado politics. Democrats have finally broken the curse of off-year elections going famously badly for them, and established critical momentum going into next year’s general election in a county whose voters can swing the entire state. Without a doubt, Democratic campaigns at every level of American politics are looking at these results and thinking big.

As for our local media? They can either tell the story of this new reality, or be left behind by it.

Election Night Open Thread

You may begin…

Jefferson County Election Results

♦ Colorado Election Results (via Secretary of State’s Office)

♦ Denver Post results page

—–
UPDATE #3: After getting off to a scary start, Proposition BB (Marijuana taxes) has rebounded:

Proposition BB
YES: 510,953 (66.51%)
NO: 257,264 (33.49%)

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UPDATE #2: The closest race of the night might be in Lakewood, where the race for the next Mayor is neck-and-neck:

Adam Paul: 17,217 (50.09%)
Ramey Johnson: 17,153 (49.91%)

—–
UPDATE #1: First batch of numbers are out in Jefferson County, and the recall is well on its way to becoming a runaway winner…

Jefferson County School District Open Seats:

District 3
Ali Lasell: 74,749 (57.95%)
Kim Johnson: 54,245 (42.05%)

District 4
Amanda Stevens: 85,037 (67%)
Tori Merritts: 42,324 (33%)

 

Recall Election
District 1 (Julie Williams)
YES: 96,160 (64.4%)
NO: 53,178 (35.6%)

District 2 (John Newkirk)
YES: 94,871 (63.8%)
NO: 53,841 (36.2%)

District 5 (Ken Witt)
YES: 95,509 (64.38%)
NO: 52,848 (35.6%)