That’s the word from the AP via FOX 31–there will be no attempt to repeal Senate Bill 19-181 this year, the landmark legislation granting more local control over oil and gas drilling and reforming the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to refocus its mission on public health and safety:
Opponents planned to ask voters this November to repeal and replace the law, but last week the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office rejected four versions of their proposed ballot initiative.
Officials said the proposals violated a law requiring initiatives to address only one subject.
Opponents of the oil and gas law say they’ll wait to see how the new rules take shape before deciding whether to ask voters to overturn it. [Pols emphasis]
Although their ballot initiative drafts were rejected by the Secretary of State’s office, the industry of course had both the time and resources to try again. The fact that they are choosing not to do so, instead waiting for the process of implementing the new law before deciding whether to commit to the costly process of a statewide ballot measure, only demonstrates again what proponents of SB-181 have maintained from the beginning: despite the shrill warnings that this legislation would “destroy oil and gas in Colorado,” nothing even remotely close to that is going to happen.
There will be more deference to local authority and a greater focus on public health and safety by the COGCC, but the fossil fuel industry will continue to play a major role in the state’s economy–subject to market forces that already act for and against fossil fuel production every day. Much like with the 2013 recall elections over gun safety laws, there’s a rush right now to do as much retaliatory political damage to majority Democrats as possible before it becomes clear that the overblown allegations that motivated backlash were not accurate. This is most evident in the recall campaign against Rep. Rochelle Galindo, where wild predictions of devastation for the oil and gas industry are the primary deflection from that campaign’s less savory motivations.
But the enormous expense of a statewide ballot campaign does not lend itself easily to a political bluff, and the smart money is moving on. This could be a watershed moment, the first sign of months of bellicose rhetoric meeting the wall of a far less controversial reality.
That would be good for the blood pressure of both sides of the aisle.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is the least popular Republican with his home base, with 49 percent approving and 28 percent disapproving. But the man viewed widely as the most vulnerable incumbent seeking re-election next year has faced no talk of a serious primary challenger, as several Democrats are lining up for their party’s nod to compete for the seat. [Pols emphasis]
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) – America’s least popular senator – experienced a similar, 11-point slide in his net approval among Kentucky Republicans as he looks to his re-election campaign, but his approval with his home base is 58 percent.
Gardner has thus far avoided a Republican Primary challenge for two reasons: 1) He and his campaign have actively worked to head off any potential opponents, and 2) There is no obvious Republican name waiting in the wings. But as Morning Consult notes, holding off a Primary challenge means that Gardner will need to both improve his favorability as well as the impression that he is actually paying attention to Colorado:
Nathan Gonzales, who edits and publishes the nonpartisan website Inside Elections, reiterated the difficulty in toppling incumbents via primaries, regardless of their popularity.
“The senators who lost or came close to losing — Dick Lugar, Thad Cochran, Pat Roberts — were hurt more by the lack of time spent in the state rather than a lack of popularity,” he said in an email. “Matt Bevin challenged Mitch McConnell on more ideological grounds in 2014 and lost by 25 points.”
Gardner does show up in Colorado from time to time, but his visits are like a fart in the wind — you only know he’s been there after he’s gone. It wouldn’t be particularly difficult for a Republican such as State Sen. Owen Hill or House Minority Leader Patrick Neville to make a case that they are both more accessible and less-despised than Gardner. It’s not like either Republican is any less likely to win a Republican Senate nomination than, say, Darryl Glenn.
This far out, there’s no public polling showing how Gardner would do against potential Democratic opponents, but a January poll found Gardner trailing a generic Democrat 38 percent to 46 percent. And if recent history is any judge, having to run as a Republican in a Democratic-leaning state at the same time that a presidential race is happening at the top of the ballot will be challenging for Gardner: Every state that had a Senate race in 2016 voted for the same party in both the presidential and Senate election, a first.
Gardner’s fealty to Trump has cost him significantly in Colorado — for just one example, the Denver Postpublished a stunning UN-dorsement of Gardner in March after his ridiculous flip-flop in support of President Trump’s emergency declaration for wall building money — and these latest polling numbers prove that his Trump love hasn’t done much to help him with Republican voters, either.
There is no obvious potential Republican challenger to Gardner at the moment, but can that really hold true for another year? Sooner or later somebody is going to realize that Republicans may have a better chance of holding this seat without Gardner.
The Denver Post’sJustin Wingerter has a good write-up today on the views of Colorado Democrats on impeaching President Donald Trump following the release of a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report–a report that is considerably worse for Trump after digestion than Attorney General William Barr led the nation to believe.
Despite this, most of the delegation agrees that the moment is not yet ripe to commence impeachment proceedings:
“The Mueller report details many instances in which President Trump actively attempted to interfere with the investigation into his campaign’s potentially treasonous ties with Russia,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat. “The president’s actions are clearly beneath the high personal, ethical and legal standards our founders envisioned in the executive branch, and, as such, constitute a prima facie case to trigger an impeachment investigation.”
…When asked if there is enough evidence in the redacted Mueller report to justify impeachment, Rep. Ed Perlmutter paused for seven seconds and sighed before answering. “My guess is, if we could see what’s been redacted, that there would be enough. [Pols emphasis] But I don’t know that because it’s been redacted,” he said, adding that there is “pretty damning” evidence Trump obstructed justice.
Perlmutter, a former critic of [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi, largely agrees with her on the next steps for House Democrats: Further investigate alleged instances of wrongdoing by Trump and his campaign, such as a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, and only act on impeachment if new details come to light that warrant impeachment.
Politically, there are a number of competing factors in play. Democratic grassroots desire to strike a blow against the President via an impeachment proceeding is extremely strong, to the point of harshly condemning Democrats like Speaker Nancy Pelosi who have expressed caution about plunging headlong into impeachment.
At the same time, the threshold of wrongdoing that would be required to induce the GOP-controlled Senate to actually vote to convict the President is simply unknowable. We’re pretty sure it’s not as high as Trump thinks–if he shot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue, we’re inclined to think the Senate would vote to remove him from office. But the GOP’s collective tolerance for Trump’s malfeasance, particularly with regard to this issue, makes the chances of getting even 50 votes–let alone the supermajority needed to remove Trump from office–very unlikely.
If impeachment is unlikely to succeed, the next question for Democrats to resolve is whether proceeding with the attempt has political value ahead of the 2020 elections. There’s a good argument that a failed impeachment attempt will do more to shore up Trump’s base of support than erode it, much like Barr’s initial four-page spin of the Mueller report gave many Republicans the pretext they needed to ignore everything that came out afterward. And the closer we get to the 2020 election cycle, the more straightforward remedy of simply voting Trump out arguably makes impeachment talk a distraction.
For Democrats who are old enough to remember when Republicans impeached Bill Clinton for lying about a blow job, having the patience to forego returning the favor over Trump’s infinitely more serious offenses is a lot to ask.
But in the long run, much like Colorado Republicans wasting time and money on recalls instead of preparing for the next general election, keeping Democratic eyes on the 2020 prize could well be the smart play.
9NEWS reported Tuesday night about a series of billboards going up in Weld County paid for out of pocket by a Boulder woman, attorney Lindasue Smollen, who has had enough of the misinformation that permeates any debate over gun policy in America today:
The new signs are in direct response to [Weld County Sheriff Steve] Reams saying he would risk going to jail before seizing anyone’s guns under the red flag law.
“It’s distasteful to me that he would not enforce a law that could prevent suicides,” she told 9NEWS.
Governor Jared Polis signed the law earlier this month, but Reams has been a vocal opponent since lawmakers introduced it. When the law goes into effect in 2020, a judge could order law enforcement to temporarily seize someone’s guns if that person is considered a risk.
Reams said he is doing what he believes is right by the Constitution and that she has the right to share the signs because of her 1st Amendment rights.
Smollen cites both Politifact and Snopes for validation of her contention in the billboard you can see above that more Americans have died from gun violence here at home in the last few decades than in all of the nation’s wars throughout history. Even though the figure includes suicides, which some gun rights supporters would like to see separately categorized from acts of violence committed against other people, it’s a sobering and verified statistic.
In response, as the Greeley Tribune’sJoe Moylanreports…something rather less “verified.”
2nd Amendment advocates also are opening up their wallets for a similar cause. In the almost two days since The Post story, 20 people have donated $665 to Lesley Hollywood’s GoFundMe campaign to pay for gun rights billboards in Colorado.
Hollywood, of Johnstown, created the campaign in November with a goal to raise $15,000 for three billboards. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, the campaign had raised $5,230.
Here’s a mockup of the billboard pro-gun activists plan to put up, since it doesn’t actually exist yet:
Do you see the difference between the billboards paid for by Lindasue Smollen versus this “response” proposed by far-right activist Lesley Hollywood? It’s a very basic difference. In the former case, you have a contention backed up by factual evidence. In the latter, you have a claim without even an attempt at a factual basis.
The claim is in fact so sweeping that we’re left struggling to understand how it’s even irrationally supportable. Is it that the red flag law might be used against women, meaning a court would have to determine that the woman is a significant risk to herself or others if she possesses a gun for 14 days? Is it some kind of “slippery slope” argument where first they come for the guns of the mentally ill in crisis, and then everybody else’s?
Whatever the justification is, it’s not based in any reality we can identify.
And that makes these “dueling billboards” a metaphor for the entire gun debate, which is dependent on deliberate misinformation and irrational sweeping statements from the gun lobby to gin up outrage over proposals that in reality enjoy overwhelming public support.
In a perfect world, facts would always win out over fiction.
But in the battle for eyeballs, billboards compete equally.
A long-form Politico story out today gives us some of the first detailed answers from Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado about the now-concluded investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections–an investigation that, despite a vigorous attempt by the White House to spin the final report’s conclusions, revealed deeply troubling and quite possibly criminal actions by the Trump administration up to and including President Donald Trump himself.
But where Sen. Mitt Romney in neighboring Utah declared himself “sickened” by the report’s recounting of the administration’s conduct, Cory Gardner remains…if not unshaken, without a doubt still firmly onboard the “Trump Train” despite it all:
“Look, it’s clear there were no merit badges earned at the White House for behavior,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) in an interview downtown here. [Pols emphasis] “You have to focus on the heart of this conclusion, which is there is no collusion, no cooperation. That’s where the focus ought to be and how we prepare for the next elections to protect us from Russian intrusion and interference.”
…[B]eyond conceding there are some embarrassing details, Republicans don’t feel the need to create any new space between them and the president. The desire to stay in Trump’s good graces and keep his supporters appears to override any interest in using the episode to appeal to swing voters.
There’s a good argument that the die was cast for Gardner when he endorsed Trump’s re-election in late January, well ahead of the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation. It’s possible that Gardner had some foreknowledge that the report would not recommend an indictment of the President–a decent bet even without inside knowledge given Mueller’s deference to the Justice Department on that question, and the controversially expansive views of then-AG nominee William Barr on presidential power.
As long as the report wasn’t too bad, or was at least properly spun/redacted to minimize the immediate political damage, Gardner made the calculated decision to ride out of aftermath and in so doing retain his GOP base of support. Politically this was still a risky course, since
Democrats believe Gardner is perhaps the most endangered incumbent senator given Democrats’ sweeping wins in Colorado in 2018, Trump’s loss here in 2016 and Gardner’s own narrow victory in 2014, a GOP wave year. But Gardner is showing no signs of distress over having Trump at the top of the ticket…
The story concludes by observing what could be the undoing of Gardner’s delicately balanced position: the massive contradiction between Gardner’s steadfast support for Trump and his equally vociferous complaints about Russian interference in the 2016 election–which Gardner says is “hell-bent on the demise of the West.”
“What we have to move on to is to make sure we are protecting this country’s elections. We have a country [Russia] that is hell-bent on the demise of the West. And we can’t stand for that,” Gardner said. “Some are going to push for impeachment and do everything they can to strike that revenge; we need to protect people in this country.” [Pols emphasis]
Here we have Sen. Gardner conceding again that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 elections, and that interference was not intended to benefit the United States–what Gardner meant with the “demise of the West” stuff. But by characterizing the “push for impeachment” as “revenge” for the Russian interference Gardner claims to decry, he is establishing the crucial link between the Russian operation against the 2016 elections and the purpose of that operation: electing Donald Trump President of the United States.
Folks, how do you reconcile that contradiction? How do you decry the interference of a foreign government in an American election, yet celebrate the result of that interference? How do you declare that Russia is “hell-bent on the demise of the West” but support the Russian choice to be President of the United States?
The most logical answer is that you can’t. And this is going to backfire mightily.
► As the Washington Post reports, President Trump is trying to play an Ace of Spades in a game of “Uno:”
President Trump suggested Wednesday that he would ask the Supreme Court to intervene if Democrats move to impeach him — a notion that legal experts said showed a misunderstanding of the Constitution.
It was unclear how Trump would legally justify such a move, since the Constitution delegates impeachment proceedings to Congress, not the courts. Trump mentioned the idea briefly in morning tweets in which he lashed out at Democrats who are continuing to investigate him after the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report…
…The notion was ridiculed by several legal experts, including Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor, who accused Trump of “idiocy.”
“Not even a SCOTUS filled with Trump appointees would get in the way of the House or Senate,” Tribe wrote on Twitter, adding that Trump apparently thinks his recent court appointments would give him a “ ‘get out of jail free’ card.”
The Mueller Report, despite being written by Angry Democrats and Trump Haters, and with unlimited money behind it ($35,000,000), didn’t lay a glove on me. I DID NOTHING WRONG. If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court. Not only……
Greg Sargent of the Washington Post wonders if Trump might be inadvertently making a stronger case for his own impeachment. This story in Politico reaches a similar conclusion.
► As the New York Times reports, White House staffers are discouraged from discussing anything about potential Russian election interference because it makes President Trump very sad:
But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.”
Even though the Department of Homeland Security has primary responsibility for civilian cyberdefense, Ms. Nielsen eventually gave up on her effort to organize a White House meeting of cabinet secretaries to coordinate a strategy to protect next year’s elections.
As a result, the issue did not gain the urgency or widespread attention that a president can command. And it meant that many Americans remain unaware of the latest versions of Russian interference.
► The School Finance Act has advanced through State Senate; the legislation would increase funding for rural schools and for special education needs.
► Colorado’s Congressional delegation is not overly enthusiastic about pushing for impeachment proceedings against President Trump.
Hot from Sen. Cory Gardner’s tour yesterday of EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel in Pueblo, another nonpublic scripted appearance for Gardner in lieu of the public town halls he’s avoided since 2017, comes this fabulously captionable image:
And the next logical question: who wore it better? You decide.
Another Gardner ad asks, “Do you want to protect the Senate from a radical far-Left [sic] takeover in 2020?”
The advertisements are among a Facebook series of six ads, sponsored by Cory Gardner for Senate, that appear to be his first ads for his 2020 re-election campaign.
In a message atop the “What’s Really on Your Mind” ad, Gardner states, “I’m asking my fellow Coloradans like you: Which issues do think [sic] Cory Gardner should prioritize in 2019?”
The ad flashes a photo of a smiling Gardner and then states, “SHARE YOUR 2019 PRIORITIES,” which is followed by icons representing six issues: “Agriculture, healthcare, energy and environment, Second Amendment, education, taxes and spending, transportation and infrastructure.”
“TAKE THE CENTENNIAL STATE PRIORITIES SURVEY TODAY,” the ad then states.
If you click through to the survey, on VictoryAction.com, you’re told to, “Choose your response,” and then you must pick one of the same six issues featured in the ad itself.
You can’t choose two priorities, but you can write in your own issue, like, perhaps, abortion or Trump, neither of which was a standard option.
Then you’re asked to submit your name and contact information–and to donate.
Another ad states, “Attention Coloradans: Do you want to protect the Senate from a radical far-Left [sic] takeover in 2020? Share your thoughts now.”
(Honey Badger wants YOU – Promoted by Colorado Pols)
Former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler never shied from the spotlight while in office, but he’s kept a lower profile since returning to private practice. He recently made the news for his work on behalf of the long shot campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO).
It turns out he’s also been working on another project- an under-the-radar effort to mobilize grassroots conservatives called The Colorado Alliance. Its stated goal: “build an army to defend our state.” So what does he have to show for it?
Gessler’s been using this group to sporadically communicate with (and raise money from) conservative Coloradans for the two plus years since it was founded a week after Trump’s election.
He’s using it to support another statewide effort to overturn a vote- repealing the bill passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor that will would add Colorado to those states awarding their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.
Gessler, a Republican, didn’t found the Colorado Alliance by himself. He listed a partner on his federal filing documents: Ben Engen.
Engen, who also runs Constellation Political Consulting, made news this week for comments he made during a recall training in Buena Vista. Video of his instructions to strategically schedule a recall election to “blindside” voters, hopefully lowering turnout as much as possible, was posted on Facebook by those he was training.
According to the Colorado Alliance website, its mission is:
“holding liberal officeholders accountable, mobilizing voters and activists, and helping restore common sense policies to our state. We are building an army to defend our state and invite you to join the movement.”
So far, however, the “army” appears to be little more than a website, email list and a bank account.
Who is it gonna be? It’s time again that we asked Colorado Pols readers to predict the name of the eventual 2020 Democratic nominee for President. When last we asked, you were still rolling with California Sen. Kamala Harris as the most likely nominee.
Mike Harden of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman is pretty excited about the fact that former Gov. John Hickenlooper may have moved from 1% to 2% in national polling. Of course, the Monmouth University Poll that sparked his enthusiasm has a margin of error of +/-5.4%, so it’s possible that Hick is actually polling in the high sevens. The leader in the Monmouth poll is still former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to officially enter the race.
As always, we want to know what you think will happen here — not what you want to happen or who you personally might support. If you had to place a bet on the outcome TODAY, who do you predict will be the Democratic nominee for President in 2020?
And since there are still a bagillion candidates and we don’t want to take up the entire screen with this one poll, you’ll have to cast your vote after the jump…
The President of the Official Polis Recall campaign thinks the “worst of it,” when it comes to the transgressions justifying Polis’ removal from office, is a proposed comprehensive sex ed law working its way through the Colorado legislature.
In a KNUS radio conversation replete with misinformation, Juli-Andra Fuentes, the group’s president, called Colorado’s proposed sex ed law “horrifying” because “you must include the experiences” of LGBTQ students, and “abstinence will not be taught”
And no “religious connotation” can be included, said Karen Murray, a co-chair of the Official Recall Polis site, who was also on the show.
Boyles said on air that the “truth always knocks these suckers down,” but his own inflaming comment about the third grader, the condom, and the Banana is not true. The legislation states that the information in sex-ed classes should be age appropriate. Boyles said later in the interview that teaching sex ed to older LGBTQ kids would be “fine.”
Fuentes’ comments reflect her Recall Polis group’s website, which lists the sex-ed bill, described as “Radical Sexual Education Overhaul in Our Schools,” among the top reasons to recall the governor–which is widely seen as an extreme long shot to succeed.
The Recall Colorado website backed by Colorado House Republican leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock lists the proposed law as a top reason that three legislators should be removed from office, describing the comprehensive sex-ed bill as “State Sexuality Indoctrination: A state indoctrination plan to undermine parental rights to educate their children about sexuality.”
So far, only one of three state lawmakers listed on the Recall Colorado website is facing an actual petition drive that, if successful, would trigger a recall vote.
That’s State Rep. Rochelle Galindo, a Democrat from Greeley.
A Greeley leader of the recall campaign called Galindo, who is gay, a “homosexual pervert,” and said he’d told Galindo to vote against “this homosexual sex education bill,” according to Colorado Politics.
Yesterday, the newly-minted “sole finalist” for the position of President of the University of Colorado, former GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy of Minnesota, began his tour of the CU system’s four campuses–a crucial opportunity for Kennedy to ingratiate himself with students and faculty, and address the many questions about Kennedy’s anti-LGBT, anti-reproductive choice record in Congress that have resulted in angry protests over his selection to lead Colorado’s flagship public university.
“Mark Kennedy as a leader is problematic, and he’s unqualified,” said CU Law Student Perdeep Singh-Badhesha. “I think this is going to be the easiest of all the forums he goes to. These were softball questions, and I think he still did a very poor job.”
Singh-Badhesha says he’s concerned with Kennedy’s political views, at a school system known for welcoming and promoting LGBTQ rights…
Kennedy fielded numerous questions from the crowd, saying his political past won’t have an impact on how he handles businesses as president.
“None of those votes are going to come into play, they’re just not going to come into play. [Pols emphasis] The real question is, how good are you at running a university? That’s the question we really ought to be focusing on.”
“None of the beliefs that have caused much of the controversy are going to have any impact,” [Pols emphasis] said Kennedy, whose votes against gay marriage and in favor of abortion restrictions as a Minnesota congressman in the early 2000s have drawn protest in some quarters.
“And (those beliefs) are largely irrelevant to what the president does. … I would hope I could gain your trust, respect and support and have that strong working relationship because faculty are the heart of any university.”
Here’s the deal: if you do not think the President of the University of Colorado’s voting record in Congress against LGBT and abortion rights is relevant to his duties, you are probably not a member of those two classes of people. If you are an LGBT student, staff, or faculty member, having a President of your university who has proven himself inimical to your rights is a huge problem. It’s worse than the present example of Bruce Benson, who although certainly a conservative Republican does not have a voting record as a lawmaker openly hostile to LGBT rights.
Kennedy says he doesn’t think it’s fair for people to keep asking him about his congressional record. “I’m not running for congress.”
To us, this statement perfectly captures the disconnect between a man who cast his lot long ago, and present ambitions that simply don’t fit with his record. Mark Kennedy may not be “running for Congress,” but it’s absurd to suggest that his record in Congress is not germane to the decision of whether he is appropriate to serve as President of the University of Colorado. Perhaps most damning, there’s no evidence of contrition over these votes against the rights of large portions of the CU community at all, only the insistence that “the beliefs”–meaning Kennedy’s beliefs–are “largely irrelevant to what the President does.”
In short, everyone who imagined this guy would make a good President of the University of Colorado, including his partisan Republican supporters on the Board of Regents, made a mistake that invites fundamental questions about their own competence. Not only is it time to start over with the search for a new CU President, but the next candidate(s) need first and foremost to not insult the CU community’s intelligence like Mark Kennedy did.
Still, that clearly won’t thwart Republican efforts to regain power. But instead of moderating and trying to win over independents, the state GOP, which recently inducted Eagle County Republican Party Chairwoman Kaye Ferry into its hall of fame (despite that record of just one elected party member), is going the recall route…
…Extremism and recalls taking precedence over moderation and reaching out to the state’s growing electorate of registered independents. That’s the modern Colorado GOP approach. How’s that working?
“People are going to be traveling for Christmas. They’re not going to care. They’re not going to know that there is an election happening because they probably just turned a ballot back in a month earlier.”
This may seem like a cynical view of Republican politics in Colorado, but it is not merely an opinion. Behind closed doors, Republican operatives are completely open about the real reason for trying to recall Democrats across the state.
The video below was posted to Facebook by someone who attended a recall election training seminar on April 11 in Buena Vista, Colorado. The “recall training” is conducted by Ben Engen of Constellation Political Consulting, a Republican political consulting firm with clients that include the Colorado Republican Party and the GOP-led Senate Majority Fund. This is the full version of a video that was later redacted by Engen over concerns about what might happen if regular folks happened to get a glimpse behind the curtain. The frank discussion that takes place is almost unbelievable.
You can watch the entire 90-minute training session at your leisure, but let’s start by jumping ahead to the 37:30 mark where Engen explains why recall elections are the best chance for Republicans to steal a few seats while most Colorado voters aren’t paying attention:
ENGEN: Recalls are uniquely powerful because they change the dynamic of the electorate. You know, people are generally aware of midterm elections. They’re very aware of Presidential elections – everyone shows up and votes in those. They aren’t as aware, you know, of a special election like a recall that just comes out of nowhere and blindsides them. [Pols emphasis] That was one of the things that really helped us in 2013. We aren’t going to be able to count on all of those advantages again, so we have to be extra cognizant of the timing and executing things in a way that will preserve that power.
Opening screenshot from recall campaign training conducted by Constellation Political Consulting
Engen references a pie chart on a screen at the front of the room showing the voter makeup in Senate District 11 (Sen. John Morse) during the 2013 recall effort:
So, what you’re looking at here is the difference between the electoral mix in a midterm and in a recall. So this is Senate District 11. In a typical midterm for a Republican, to win Senate District 11, they would have to get 65% of the Unaffiliateds to break their way. I mean, that’s huge. Republicans in the Metro area are never going to be able to do that. [Pols emphasis]
But in the recall, in 2013, a Republican would have only had to get 46.3% of the Unaffiliateds to break their way. That is supremely doable. That’s, like, right on the cusp of what Republicans do in the Metro areas without really trying. So, the fact that people weren’t really as aware of this election – there was a differential in the motivation [that] made a big difference…
This next section is particularly damning:
…So, it’s changing this makeup of the electorate that allows us to be successful in recalls, and for Republicans to carry seats that traditionally would not break our way. Or, in the case of, you know, these seats in 2013, we’ve NEVER been able to hold. So, as you’re moving through this, that’s the thing you want to keep in mind. What you’re really trying to achieve is this re-weighting of the electorate, and there are some more points here about timing to make that happen. [Pols emphasis]
A few minutes later, Engen walks the audience through forming official committees in order to start raising money for their recall efforts. Take a look at how Engen responds to a question about whether these committees can accept donations from businesses:
Yeah, so this just happened up in Weld – that Weld recall that just started. The whole reason they kicked off right now is because they had a business cut a $100,000 check to get them started.
“What you’re really trying to achieve is this re-weighting of the electorate.”
Engen is likely referencing Steve Wells, the businessman/rancher who donated $100,000 to one of the Galindo recall efforts. Engen then explains the importance of creating a website for your recall effort — or, rather, that the only reason to have a website is so that you can collect donations. Engen even recommends a specific platform for fundraising and wonders openly about the cost of other recall fundraising efforts (such as those directed by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute):
What you want to use is a platform called Anedot to raise your money. It’s just a wee bit more expensive than using something like PayPal, but it’s a lot less expensive than whatever the Polis [recall] guys are using for some reason. [Pols emphasis]
At the 44-minute mark, Engen gets a question about how to differentiate between different recall groups. His response is telling:
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I find it hard to differentiate between which ones are real and which ones are not. There’s a ‘Recall Polis’ and there’s a ‘Resist Polis.’
ENGEN: You and me both. I don’t know how to help you with that (room erupts in laughter)…
…You want to make sure that the committee that you’re giving to is the committee that’s approved for that [purpose]. There are already three separate committees up in House District 50 trying to do this recall. Only one of them has any money. Only one of them actually has petitions. But now these other guys are just sowing confusion. So, for the love of God, people, work together… [Pols emphasis]
…Try not to get yourself in that trap that they are [caught] up in Weld. Granted, they’re well-funded already, so they’ll probably still be successful, but it’s going to hurt them because people are giving money now to other organizations that aren’t going to do anything with it. You know…who knows, it’s just up in the wind. [Pols emphasis]
At the 45:50 mark, Engen gets a question about involvement from the State Republican Party:
This question has come up a lot, kind of amongst the Republicans, about how involved the Republican Party can be or should be. At the state level, the way that this used to work – the state party would get involved after petitions were accepted. So, like in 2013, that’s when the State Party really got involved. They contributed money and resources to help get that done.
But the reality is, there is an infinite number of candidates that can be recalled, and the Republican Party doesn’t have the resources to be going around handing out money to recall every single person under the sun. [Pols emphasis] And it’s too tough to call which ones are going to take off and which ones aren’t, so generally the state and in most cases the county parties just avoid that whole thing. Even if they aren’t formally engaged in it, there’s a couple of things they can do to help you. Like, they’ll have access to the voter file and they can give you access to that. The state party does have a “walk app” that they can probably let you use.
As Engen next tells the audience, they are more likely to get help from the State GOP in Senate District 5, which is represented by Democratic Sen. Kerry Donovan:
Now, if your petitions are successful and you do initiate a recall, the state party will almost always find money to support you – and especially if it’s against Kerry Donovan.
Engen goes on to emphasize the importance of finding an actual Republican candidate to run against a lawmaker targeted for recall, at which point another audience member says this:
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Our biggest challenge will be Eagle County. That’s our biggest problem with Kerry Donovan, because Eagle County is a really blue county, and that’s where the majority of the population is. So, if that county just decides to vote for her in the recall, then she might stay on.
It is indeed quite a challenge to initiate this here recall when you consider that voters in SD-5 actually want Donovan as their State Senator. Donovan was just re-elected to another 4-year term in November 2018 BY A 20-POINT MARGIN.
Before we get to the Q&A section at the end of the discussion, Engen returns to emphasize that the key to winning a recall election is basically to fool the majority of registered voters in a given area:
This is the most important consideration: Do not go out half-cocked. The reason we succeeded in 2013 is because those elections could not be conducted as mail [ballot] elections. So we can’t bank on that this go-round. But we can choose when the election happens. [Pols emphasis]
So you need to think this through and count backwards in time. Once you turn in your petitions, you have 60 days. Once you turn them in for validation, they have 15 days to approve them. After that, the Governor has 30 to 60 days to set the election. So you need to think about that: When is the worst time possible for Kerry Donovan to be dealing with this? Do you want to wait and start this in September so that the [legislative] session is back in and its harder for her to defend maybe? Do you want to try to do this during the holidays, when people are distracted and only your supporters are going to turn in their petitions. Like, start in August and the thing will have to happen in December.
People are going to be traveling for Christmas. They’re not going to care. They’re not going to know that there is an election happening because they probably just turned a ballot back in a month earlier. [Pols emphasis]
Think this through. Don’t run out of the room here and go pull petitions. Give this some thought to when you want the election to happen, because this (timing) is what ultimately determines your success. You can go out and get your petitions validated and approved, initiate the recall, and then get crushed so easily if you don’t have a favorable electoral mix. So, this is the thing, more than anything, that will determine your success – is choosing when you want to have the election and have it happen on your terms. [Pols emphasis]
Colorado voters keep electing Democrats in election after election, so Republicans are focusing their efforts on recall campaigns as a way to get around this pesky problem of Democracy. This isn’t our take on the situation — this is what Republicans are saying to each other. You can see it for yourself.
Click below for more references regarding the recall training and Constellation Political Consulting.