GOP Challenger Touts Health While Opponent Recovers from Back Surgery

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

An Otero County Republican candidate forum got personal last week when primary challenger Don Bendell touted his health and pain tolerance at an event incumbent State Rep. Judy Reyher (R-Swink) was forced to miss while recovering from spinal surgery. 

Reyher is recovering from a May 22 spinal surgery for severe disc disintegration and was unable to attend. She sent a long letter explaining her absence, listing her legislative accomplishments and offering her priorities for her the upcoming year. It started with an extensive explanation of her recent surgery and the challenges that prevented her from attending the debate.

“When [the surgeons] got in there it was worse than they thought with the actual membrane surrounding the nerve being impaired.  I believed I could just drive La Junta for the forum today and and drive back tomorrow for my first post-op visit. My body put a full halt to that notion this morning as I was getting ready to make the trip. My body just has a lot of healing to do.”

Her opponent, Don Bendell, began his remarks by asking for prayers for Reyher’s recovery.

“I came here to debate. I really feel bad for my opponent, I’m sorry she couldn’t be here and I ask for you to join me in prayer for her quick recovery. I certainly can sympathize, since I started running I’ve had two 9mm kidney stones… It’s not fun dealing with pain but I’ve dealt with it my entire life. I had a broken back too, in 2011 and my prayers certainly go out to my opponent. I’m not here to say anything bad about my opponent but I am here to talk about her record.”

He then launched into a stump speech before taking questions from the audience. The first question was, “What do you have to offer Otero County?”

Here was his answer:



Who Will Be the Republican Nominee for Governor?

The Primary Election is less than two weeks away, so it’s time for our very wise readers to start prognosticating.

As always, we want to know who you think will be the winner in this race — not who you support or who you would prefer to see emerge victorious. The point of this exercise is to gauge the current perception of this race through the eyes (and mouse clicks) of politically-astute observers like you, so we’re more interested in your gut feeling than anything else. Vote away!

Who Will Be the Republican Nominee for Governor?
Walker Stapleton
Victor Mitchell
The Nephew of Mitt Romney
Greg Lopez
View Result

Who Will Be the Democratic Nominee for Governor?

The Primary Election is less than two weeks away, so it’s time for our very wise readers to start prognosticating.

As always, we want to know who you think will be the winner in this race — not who you support or who you would prefer to see emerge victorious. The point of this exercise is to gauge the current perception of this race through the eyes (and mouse clicks) of politically-astute observers like you, so we’re more interested in your gut feeling than anything else. Vote away!

Who Will be the Democratic Nominee for Governor?
Jared Polis
Cary Kennedy
Mike Johnston
Donna Lynne
View Result

You Call This a “Nasty Primary?” Puh-leeze

Oh noes! Candidates…campaigning!

9NEWS reports that outgoing Gov. John Hickenlooper is terribly upset about the “negative campaigning” in the Democratic gubernatorial primary to succeed him–this being the second such admonishment from Hickenlooper, after a PAC supporting Cary Kennedy “went negative” attacking two of her opponents for their stands on education:

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) says allies of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis went “below the belt” by using his image in an attack ad against fellow Democrat Cary Kennedy.

“Seeing my face used in a negative ad after I had pretty clearly stated what I thought about it, I thought that was hitting below the belt,” Hickenlooper said in a Wednesday news conference at the state Capitol. “I didn’t think it was fair.”

9NEWS asked him about an ad from an outside spending group called “Bold Colorado,” which accurately quoted Gov. Hickenlooper as saying he was “disappointed” by a previous attack made by a similar spending group intending to help Kennedy.

Early on in the governor’s race, all Democratic candidates signed a voluntary pledge to avoid “unnecessary personal and negative attacks” against one another. The “violations” of this pledge have so far, and this is an important point, generally not been carried out by the candidates themselves–rather by “independent” message groups that are legally prohibited from coordinating with the candidate they support. That makes these calls for candidates to “put a stop” to ads being run by independent groups either disingenuous or a tacit admission that there is no real separation between PACs and candidates.

The latter seems to be the case for Republican candidate Walker Stapleton, whose SuperPAC was openly supported and pitched by the candidate before he was technically in the race. Democratic candidates should keep this in mind as it could be an important issue in the general election–and avoid opening themselves to charges of hypocrisy if it does.

Which leads us to the most important point: the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary, in any objective sense, isn’t all that “negative.” The Clean Campaign Pledge signed by Democratic candidates obliges them to refrain from “unnecessary personal and negative attacks.” But is an ad outlining the candidates’ records on a key issue like education really “unnecessary?” We’d say that’s exactly what campaign ads should be about. Debating education policy isn’t something you would call “personal,” not in the manner of (for example) GOP gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell’s acrimonious attacks on Stapleton’s Bush family lineage.

In the end, there’s more hand-wringing going on about the notion of “going negative” in this race than there is, well, anyone actually going negative. Tame issue-based exchanges like what we’re seeing between the Democratic candidates on education do not a “smear campaign” make. Not even close. And even if it was, it isn’t the candidates doing it.

This is why we’ve been here since 2004, folks. To help keep this perennial silliness in perspective.

Is This What “Maximum Pressure” Looks Like?

In the words of Sen. Cory Gardner, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy:

“The Trump Administration, under Congressional direction, deserves praise for abandoning the failed policy of strategic patience and pursuing a maximum pressure campaign that has resulted in unprecedented sanctions against this heinous regime,” said Senator Gardner.

In this case, “maximum pressure” is a firm handshake! We don’t know the details about the North Korean general President Donald Trump bobbled his salute to–but hopefully he hasn’t killed too many of his own people, you know, personally. Because that wouldn’t be the kind of man our President should be saluting.

And sure, we could invoke the times Republicans came unglued on President Barack Obama for saluting American soldiers too “casually.” But that would be stupid, because this is so much worse.

Isn’t it? Or does nothing matter anymore?

Thursday Open Thread

“Chaos in the midst of chaos isn’t funny, but chaos in the midst of order is.”

–Steve Martin

S360: Polis 34%, Kennedy 23%, Both Beat Stapleton

Cary Kennedy, Jared Polis.

Ernest Luning of the former Colorado Statesman reports on a new poll from Strategies 360 on behalf of the Service Employees International Union’s small-donor committee–showing Jared Polis cruising to victory in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, but both Polis and principal Democratic challenger Cary Kennedy both ahead of Republican presumed frontrunner Walker Stapleton:

Jared Polis holds a lead over Cary Kennedy atop the four-way Democratic primary to be Colorado’s next governor, but both would defeat Republican frontrunner Walker Stapleton by the same margin, according to a new survey…

The poll of likely Democratic primary voters and likely general election voters also shows that nearly half of respondents consider themselves to be either just getting by or struggling economically — despite the state’s booming economy — and a good share of them haven’t decided how to vote for governor, either in this month’s primary or the November election.

Those voters, the pollsters added, appear to be receptive to candidates who are up front about supporting workers.

Here’s the full memo on today’s poll.

An interesting detail in this poll, obviously germane to the SEIU’s political platform, is the difference in the results between respondents who describe themselves as struggling economically versus those who self-identify as financially comfortable. Among primary voters who are struggling, the race between Polis and Kennedy is substantially tighter with Polis’ lead shrinking to four points. It’s worth noting that the head-to-head matchups against Stapleton are similarly closer among economically struggling voters, which means the question runs deeper than the mere wealth of the candidates.

All told this poll is good news for Polis, good for Democrats in general, and a clear indicator of where the swing votes will be both in the primary election and in November. Colorado’s economy is booming, but not everyone is seeing the benefits. The candidate who succeeds in winning voters who have yet to feel the recovery with a positive vision for their personal futures will have the decisive edge in the race to be the next governor.

Love him or hate him, this is a truth that John Hickenlooper won two terms by never forgetting.

Stapleton Condemns Racism but Some Say He Should Go Further in Addressing His Great-Grandfather’s KKK Ties

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Walker Stapleton.

Swirling on the fringe of Republican Walker Stapleton’s run for governor is the question of how, and if, he should address the fact that his great-grandfather, former Denver mayor Benjamin F. Stapleton, was a leader of the Klu Klux Klan in Colorado in the 1920s.

Benjamin Stapleton’s KKK ties have led community groups and associations to remove “Stapleton” from their names. It’s led one of Stapleton’s GOP opponents to accuse Walker Stapleton of using his family’s vast wealth to try to cleanse his name in the community.

In a vote earlier this year, after a prolonged debate, residents of the Stapleton United Neighbors neighborhood association came seven percentage points shy of the required 60 percent necessary to change their neighborhood’s name to “Central Park United Neighbors.”

Stapleton has mostly avoided comment on the debate about his great grandfather, but last month he told the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins that he’d “leave it to others to opine on what happened in Colorado 100 years ago.”

“I absolutely condemn racism and I’ll leave it to others to opine on what happened in Colorado 100 years ago,” Stapleton told the Independent, a left-leaning publication.

“I think that whoever lives in that community, whoever has a business in that community, whoever is involved in economic development in that community, whoever is involved in nonprofits in that community— that community should decide,” he added.

In this comment, which appears to be his only response to the KKK controversies involving his family, Stapleton stops short of specifically condemning his great-grandfather’s actions or apologizing for them, leading some to question whether his response goes far enough.


Levi Tillemann’s Macestravaganza: Don’t Try It For Reals

The story of second-tier Democratic congressional candidate Levi Tillemann’s freakshow campaign video macing himself and graphically depicting the aftereffects has gone national, with news outlets from The Hill to Deadspin urging their readers to drop what they’re doing and gawk in horror at a person willingly subjecting himself to laughably extreme pain and indignity. The spectacle of Tillemann’s self-incapacitation by pepper spray hasn’t inspired support so much as bemusement–at the over-the-top lengths longshot political candidates will go to to put themselves on the radar.

But once you stop laughing/staring blankly in horror/whatever your first blush reaction to this video may have been, at some point the next logical question must present itself, presumably as Tillemann intended–would giving teachers pepper spray actually work?

FOX 31 did a Truth Check on the question last night, and the answer appears to be no:

Exact quote in ad: “Empower schools and teachers with non-lethal self defense tools like this can of pepper spray […] trust me this will stop anyone in their tracks.”

Verdict: Not exactly.

Reason: It is true that pepper spray has previously stopped school shootings. In 2014, a shooter at Seattle Pacific University was disarmed because a student had access to pepper spray.

However according to some law enforcement experts — the tactic would not “stop anyone in their tracks.”

“Absolutely one of the dumbest plans I have ever heard in my life,” Grant Whitus, a retired Jefferson County SWAT team member, told the Truth Check.

“To even use it effectively law enforcement is taught to take it out and shake it and then spray it and you get an effective range of 12-15 feet. How do you get 12-15 feet in front of a mass shooter and not get shot?” Whitus added.

Much like a well-timed kick to the groin or a handy baseball bat, there’s certainly a chance that pepper spray could be effectively employed against a school shooter in certain scenarios. But practically speaking, it’s not a reliable solution for school shootings given the easy countermeasures a shooter could employ to protect himself, and the highly unequal terms on which a pepper-spray armed teacher would confront someone carrying a gun.

So to summarize, an idea that Tillemann thought was such a groundbreaking contribution to the debate over gun violence in schools that he felt compelled to graphically demonstrate it on himself…isn’t even a good idea.

That’s something you should be 100% sure about before you mace yourself.

“Media Is Afraid” GOP Will Retain Control of U.S. Senate, And They “Want Us to Fail,” Says Gardner

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Senator Cory Gardner (R).

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said last week that he’s not planning to run again for his current U.S. Senate leadership position, in which he’s charged with electing Republicans to the U.S. Senate.

His reason for stepping away: “I am going to be focused on 2020,” he told The Hill, a Washington DC publication.

Translation: He’s going to work on his own re-election campaign in Colorado, where he’s even more unpopular than Trump–and that’s in a state that voted for Hillary Clinton by five points.

Gardner, who doesn’t return my calls, likely sees the obstacles to his own re-election in 2020 as similar to those facing Republicans this year.

A big problem is the media, according to Gardner. The media is making the November election look really lousy for Republicans.

Telling fellow conservatives at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver Friday that Republicans will be able to confirm scores of judges if they can retain control of the U.S. Senate in November, Gardner said the “media is afraid of this,” and they “want us to fail.”

Gardner (at 57 min 45 secs here): There is only one body that confirms judges and that is the United States Senate. We have the potential to confirm scores more of these constitutional judges, but we have to keep the senate.

The media knows this. The media is afraid of this. And that is why they want us to fail. They are already writing their stories. You can see it in the news. They don’t want us to think we are just going to lose the house and the senate, but sometimes I get the feeling they are cheering it on. This past election was a rebuke of their narrative that our movement is on the outs.

This is not the first time Gardner has claimed the media is aligned against Republicans. Back in 2012, Gardner blamed Mitt Romney’s loss in part on the media.

He once told a right-wing talk radio host that the media is biased against “people like us.”

In focusing on the media as a big Republican problem in November, Gardner is skirting discussion of the GOP legislative collapses on healthcare, immigration, and trade, or the mood swings of President Trump, or the tax bill’s failure to deliver promised wage increases for middle-class voters.

Cory Gardner Screws Up on North Korea

UPDATE #3: A spokesperson for Vice President Mike Pence calls out Gardner directly:


UPDATE #2: Vice President Mike Pence continues to refute Gardner’s claims. Welcome to Thunderdome!


UPDATE: A spokesperson for Vice President Mike Pence adamantly denies the story that Gardner is peddling:

Pence’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, said otherwise, and that the vice president said no such thing during the policy lunch.



North Korea policy experts Dennis Rodman (left) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has worked hard in recent years to position himself next to former professional basketball player Dennis Rodman as one of this country’s foremost experts on North Korea. It’s never been clear that President Trump actually listens to Gardner on this topic, but that hasn’t stopped Colorado’s junior Senator from backtracking on prior statements on North Korea in order to attempt to fit into Trump’s inner circle.

Gardner is spending much of today cheerleading for President Trump’s “summit” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, and he seems to be getting carried away with his Trump translations. Gardner was a guest on the “Business for Breakfast” show on KNUS radio this morning, where he tried (and failed) to parse Trump’s words on ending military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea. Here’s what Gardner told host Jimmy Sengenberger just this morning:

I’ve talked to the President numerous times, including just a few days ago before he left for Singapore. [I] spoke this morning with a staffer who is in Singapore from the National Security Council to make sure I get an accurate — receive an accurate readout of both the meeting — internal meeting — as well as the press stand up after the summit. So, I feel like I have a good — a good grasp on what took place there, but certainly need more information as the days come forward.

You know, look, there is going to be a lot of people talking about — and analyzing — whether this is a good move or a bad move. Bottom line is this he talked about war games. That probably means bomber overflights. Does that mean all exercises? Doubtful. Does it mean that we stop working with South Korea? No. And does that mean — and did the President qualify it with good faith efforts and progress toward denuclearization? Yes he did. So, you know, I think there’s room to move on this, as long as we have those good faith efforts and progress being made toward denuclearization. The President didn’t say we’re going to stop the exercises or joint training. He didn’t say that. [Pols emphasis]

Um, yes, he did. As CNN and every other media outlet on earth has reported, Trump was very explicit in this declaration. While Gardner tries to intimate that Trump meant something other than what he actually said, U.S. military leaders are under no such illusion. As the Military Times explains:

The Pentagon is now working to implement President Donald Trump’s direction that it cancel joint exercises with the Republic of Korea following Trump’s historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. [Pols emphasis]

“Under the circumstances, we are negotiating a comprehensive and complete deal [on denuclearization]. It is inappropriate to have war games,” Trump said in a press conference following the summit in Singapore. “Number one, we save money. A lot. Number two, it is really something they very much appreciated.”

In that press conference in Singapore, Trump also said that he would like to withdraw the thousands of U.S. forces stationed on the Korean peninsula, but would start with cancellation of military exercises.

Gardner appears to be getting some flak for “mansplaining” Trump’s comments, so he reacted this afternoon by throwing Vice President Mike Pence under the bus:

But…but…that’s not what mom said!

We’re not really going out on much of a limb when we say that President Trump’s decisions probably supersede whatever Vice President Mike Pence tells Gardner separately. Have fun explaining this one, Cory!

Stapleton’s Bogus Ad: Liars Prosper, Cheaters Win

Reporters Kyle Clark and Brandon Rittiman at 9NEWS have seized in the last few days on a false claim originally exposed by this blog in an ad for GOP gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton. The false statement itself is unremarkable, with Walker claiming to have been the “only” Treasurer in America to support the Trump tax cut bill.

But what has 9NEWS upset enough to run repeated evening news segments blasting Stapleton with the nuclear-option words “lie” and “liar” is not that the ad is false, so much as Stapleton’s obstinate refusal to correct the ad or, failing that, stop showing it. Despite being debunked by every local TV station that runs “Truth Tests” or their own brand of fact checking, this false ad continues to run–and Stapleton defended it to the point of sheer absurdity in the most recent 9NEWS debate.

Last night, Clark voiced his frustration once again as the ad continued to run on his station, explaining to views that the station is prohibited from removing a candidate’s ad from broadcast–and that Stapleton knows he has the upper hand:

I know that more people are gonna see Stapleton’s false claim than will see our fact check. Stapleton knows that too. It’s probably why he doesn’t care he being called a liar. [Pols emphasis]

It’s tough to imagine how he could spell it out any clearer.

During the 2016 elections, a Republican campaign group bombarded the Arvada state senate district now represented by Sen. Rachel Zenzinger with a blatantly false attack regarding a “trip to China on taxpayer money” that never occurred. Denver7’s Marshall Zelinger (now at 9NEWS) exposed the GOP’s refusal to correct the record, including their using copy from fact-checks denouncing the ads in subsequent ads–and the “China Girl” attacks on Zenzinger backfired.

Unfortunately, the story of the failed “China Girl” campaign against Zenzinger is the exception in modern politics, not the rule. Kyle Clark’s observation above that more people will see the lie than will ever see the fact-checking is exactly right, and this allows unethical campaigns to turn lying into a calculated risk with favorable odds. It’s no longer necessary to tel the truth; all you have to do is broadcast your lies more times than they can be mathematically refuted.

The only thing working against this disheartening reality is the occasional fed-up reporter who decides they’re not going to put up with the bullshit anymore–like Zelinger did in 2016, and what Kyle Clark seems to be doing today. In the 2016 general election, there were both more and more diverse voters to listen. In a Republican primary in 2018?

It’s quite possible that all Clark will succeed in doing here is spelling Walker Stapleton’s name right–but it’s worth the effort nevertheless.

This is All Very Silly

Esteban Hernandez of Denverite sums up the incredibly-wispy rumors of a “poll” in the Democratic race for Governor that nobody seems to have actually seen:

From “Denverite” (6/12/18)

Well, this is awkward. People are citing a recent “poll” on the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, but nobody seems to have pretty critical information about it.

Last week, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Cary Kennedy and Mike Johnston sent out fundraising emails referencing a poll showing Kennedy leading the Democratic field and Johnston making progress. The email includes numbers showing Kennedy in first, with U.S. Rep. Jared Polis in second, Johnston in third and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne in last place.

The results are exactly the same as those from a brief blog post dated June 6, which under the headline “New Poll Puts Kennedy Ahead in Democratic Race” were published by independent pollster and political analyst Floyd Ciruli…

…For one thing, Ciruli starts his post with a disclaimer in his post by saying that this “new poll” is rumored but not released — that is, not only do we not know the methodology or who was asked, but Ciruli may not either (and he hasn’t returned our calls about it). The numbers are all also multiples of five, and he notes they’re “likely rounded” — in other words, he apparently doesn’t know what the actual numbers are.

Ciruli says in the blog post that it’s the poll “referenced by Governor John Hickenlooper.” What Ciruli is referring to here is what Hickenlooper said to the media on May 30, when he said he was disappointed in Kennedy for running a negative ad since “most polls” he’d seen seemed to show she was going to win.

It’s hard to decide who should feel more embarrassed about all of this, but if forced to make a choice, we’d go with Floyd Ciruli.

The Orange Man and the Rocket Man

Front page of “The Daily Beast,” 6/12/18

President Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore today (well, sort of “today,” since it’s closer to Wednesday in Singapore now). Anyway, the early reviews from this historic summit are rolling in, and they are not good; if “Singapore” were a blockbuster summer movie, it would have a “Rotten Tomatoes” score in the single digits.

Here’s James Hohmann with the Washington Post:

President Trump expressed a bewilderingly high degree of confidence after meeting with Kim Jong Un that the North Korean leader is personally committed to giving up the nuclear weapons that ensure his grip on power.

“I think he might want to do this as much or maybe even more than me,” the president said during a 65-minute news conference on Tuesday, after spending four hours with Kim in Singapore…

…Eager to cement what he’s calling “a very special bond” with Kim, Trump is giving someone the benefit of the doubt who has done little or nothing to earn it.

When a reporter at the news conference asked how he’ll ensure Kim follows through, Trump was dismissive: “Can you ensure anything? Can I ensure you are going to be able to sit down properly when you sit down?”

If the Washington Post isn’t your thing, how about White House TV Fox News:

“This is a slave state with 25 million prisoners and a gulag system hundreds of thousands of people wide,” Ben Shapiro said on “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday. “The president’s praise for the dictator of North Korea was disquieting.”…

…”We didn’t have the do this. The guy’s a tin-pot dictator, and treating him as though he’s an equal world leader seems to me counterproductive,” Shapiro said.

ICYMI, “Fox & Friends” host Abby Huntsman had to apologize after calling the Singapore summit a meeting of “two dictators.”

Now, back to our news. From David Sanger at the New York Times:

On paper, there is nothing President Trump extracted from North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in their summit meeting that Mr. Kim’s father and grandfather had not already given to past American presidents.

In fact, he got less, at least for now. But as Mr. Trump made clear in a lengthy but vaguely worded reconstruction of their five hours of talks, none of that really matters to him. [Pols emphasis]

Instead, he is betting everything on the “terrific relationship” and “very special bond” that he said he developed with the 34-year-old dictator, and Mr. Trump’s seeming certainty that they now view the future elimination of North Korea’s arsenal of atomic weapons the same way. He swatted away suggestions that the phrase “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” means something different in Pyongyang than it does in Washington.

Trump also blindsided both South Koreans and U.S. military leaders with his statement about ending “war games” and military exercises in the region.

“It sure looks as if President Trump was hoodwinked in Singapore.”

— Nicholas Kristof, New York Times (6/12/18)

Here’s David Axe with The Daily Beast:

Despite Trump telling reporters that his meeting with Kim went “better than anybody could have expected,” only one man truly had any reason to celebrate.

Kim walked away from the brief summit at a Singapore hotel on June 12 with all the legitimacy that a meeting with the world’s most powerful person confers—and without giving up very much in return. In addition, Trump said the U.S. would end war games with South Korea, which the president later described to ABC News as “very, very expensive” and “provocative.”

The New York Times reported the announcement stunned South Korea’s leadership—and left surprised Pentagon officials scrambling.

“Kim achieves a huge goal of his father and grandfather in exchange for… agreeing to acknowledge progress,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told The Daily Beast. [Pols emphasis]

And here’s Dave Boyer of the Washington Times:

The president sounded at times like the developer who built a real-estate empire, pointing out the opportunities for development in North Korea.

“It’s going to be up to the people what they want,” he said. “As an example, they have great beaches. You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean, right? I said, ‘Boy, look at that place, wouldn’t that make a great condo?’ And I explained it, I said, ‘Instead of doing that, you could have the best hotels in the world right there.’ “ [Pols emphasis]

As they say in the real-estate business: location, location, location.

We’ll let former professional basketball player Dennis Rodman get the last four minutes-worth of words here, because nothing else makes sense: