Caption This Photo: When Corys Collide

Here’s the scene forwarded to us from a short while ago today at the Pueblo State Fair Parade–a parade which witnessed the first-ever joint appearance by Sen. Cory Gardner and “Cardboard Cory,” a two-dimensional doppelganger who has served as a stand-in for Democrats and liberal activists calling out Gardner’s years-long lack of authentic public appearances in his home state.

In the movie Back To The Future Part II, there was some concern that such a meeting could result in, to quote the eminent Dr. Emmett Brown:

The encounter could create a time paradox, the result of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe! Granted, that’s worst-case scenario. The destruction might in fact be very localized, limited to merely our own galaxy.

We’re all still here, so fortunately Doc Brown was wrong.

Weekend Open Thread

“Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and repeat to yourself, the most comforting words of all; this, too, shall pass.”

–Ann Landers

Colorado Week in Review: 8/23/19

Your deliberately oversimplified glance at what happened in Colorado this week.

Hickenlooper Walked Through an Open Door

John Hickenlooper

The decision by former Gov. John Hickenlooper to enter the race for U.S. Senate has stirred up some recognizable complaints about outside forces conspiring to foist a preferred candidate upon the masses in Colorado. Many of these are familiar arguments from familiar faces, but are they accurate?

As Chase Woodruff wrote recently for Westword, any number of Democratic candidates could potentially defeat incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020. We’re not convinced this is true, but regardless, it is an incomplete argument because none of these candidates are equally likely to succeed. You may be able to make a case that former State Senator Mike Johnston and former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff could each defeat Gardner in 2020, but you’d be a fool to imply that Trish Zornio has similarly favorable odds.

If you can allow that Johnston or Romanoff are better candidates than Zornio, then you must also be prepared to acknowledge that there are better potential candidates than any of the current bunch of hopefuls. That’s what is happening with Hickenlooper’s candidacy. Nothing more.

The reality is this: If there was even one candidate already in the race that had demonstrated strong fundraising ability and unmistakable support among a broad group of Democratic voters, then Hickenlooper wouldn’t be running. Period. The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC), for example, is charged with trying to win control of the Senate Majority in 2020. It doesn’t serve their purpose to stoke a competitive Primary race if they already felt comfortable with the current field of candidates. The DSCC wants to win, and they think Hick has the best chance to do that in Colorado. It’s not more complicated than this.

Johnston, Romanoff, and all of the other Democratic candidates have had months and months to show that they were indisputably the best of the bunch. None of them could do it. That’s not to say that some of these candidates would not have been able to eventually rise to the top of the pack, but how long are you supposed to wait for them? The first person to file campaign paperwork isn’t entitled to a 12-month head start.

We don’t blame supporters of any candidate for being upset when a recognizable name enters a race they hoped to win — but that’s politics. If you leave a door open, eventually someone else is going to walk inside.

Trump “Orders” Americans to Stop Doing Business with China

UPDATE: [Sigh] From CNN:

Stocks finished a volatile trading day sharply in the red Friday, after a selloff driven by President Donald Trump’s response to new retaliatory tariffs from China and Fed policy.


“The Chosen One”

Fans of the classic movie, “The Princess Bride,” are well aware of the warning that you should “never get involved in a land war in Asia.” Getting involved in a trade war with China might be the applicable modern version.

President Trump famously claimed in March 2018 that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.” But as the Washington Post reports today:

The trade war between the U.S. and China worsened Friday as Beijing imposed retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion in American goods and President Trump took the extraordinary step of calling on U.S. companies to stop doing business with China.

The new tariffs, which included reinstated levies on auto products, delivered a strategically timed blow as recession warning signs cast doubt on the strength of the U.S. economy.

Trump initially directed his ire at Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell in Friday tweets, painting the Fed’s lack of monetary easing as a greater threat to American workers and businesses. But moments later, he said he would be responding to China’s tariffs later Friday and demanded American companies cut ties with China. [Pols emphasis]

That’s not a misprint. President Trump announced via Twitter today that American companies are “hereby ordered” to stop doing business with China. This is as absurd as it is unenforceable. As Brian Riedl of the conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute tells the Post:

“I have no idea how the president thinks he can order companies to stop working with China. I’m baffled.”

Earlier this week Trump said triumphantly that he is “The Chosen One” who was, uh, chosen to fight this great trade war with China. Or maybe it was Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell — who was appointed to that post by Trump himself — who is the real “Chosen One”:

Though he’ll never admit fault, President Trump has been slowly coming around to the reality that “winning” a trade war with China — a fight, remember, that Trump picked himself — could mean a whole lot of losing for the average American and may even drive the United States into a recession. As the Huffington Post explains:

On Tuesday, Trump seemed to acknowledge the turmoil on Wall Street, even as he argued the U.S. has “no choice but to” impose tariffs on goods made in China.

“My trade deals aren’t causing a problem. This is something that had to be done,” he said. “I could be sitting here right now with a stock market that would be up 10,000 points higher if I didn’t want to do it.”

In another tacit admission, Trump said his administration may offer some form of aid to U.S. companies like Apple that are struggling as a result of the trade war.

“If I didn’t help them, they would ― I mean, they would be ― they would have a big problem,” he added, without offering details about the form of assistance.

President Trump himself says he didn’t have to start this trade war with China that is literally killing American farmers and weakening an export-heavy economy here in Colorado. But he did, and now we’re all paying the price.

To quote Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma): “The President is going to continue to do what the President is going to continue to do.”

Colorado’s David Bernhardt: As Bad As Everybody Thought

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt (left).

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, who grew up in Rifle on Colorado’s Western Slope and worked at the powerful Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck law firm while swinging in and out the revolving door at the Interior Department between Republican presidencies, was confirmed over the dire warning from many who had worked with Bernhardt over the years that he would be a walking, talking conflict of interest as Interior Secretary–totally beholden to his former employers and clients, to the extent that it would simply be impossible for him to ethically do his job.

Well folks, as The Guardian reports this week, that’s exactly what he’s turned out to be!

The US interior secretary, David Bernhardt, is promoting a fossil fuel project for which his former employer, a lobbying firm, is a paid advocate, e-mails obtained by the Guardian suggest.

Experts say Bernhardt is probably violating ethics guidelines issued by the Trump administration with the stated goal of “draining the swamp”. Based on these rules, Bernhardt should be recused from specific issues involving a former client for at least two years.

The Jordan Cove Energy Project was proposed by the Canadian energy giant Pembina to transport fracked natural gas through Oregon to the international port at Coos Bay in the state. It would include a new 232-mile pipeline that passes through several dozen miles of interior department land.

Several county commissioners from Colorado, where much of the gas is fracked, met with Bernhardt in Washington DC to boost the project in March. They included Mike Samson, Bernhardt’s former high school teacher.

As the Guardian reports, an email from GOP Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson, who we didn’t know but aren’t surprised to learn was Bernhardt’s high school teacher (it’s a small world on the Western Slope), appears to have spilled the beans on Bernhardt’s inappropriate promotion of the controversial Jordan Cove LNG terminal, a project he was supposed to be hands off from as Interior Secretary to avoid a crystal-clear conflict of interest:

That’s an email from Commissioner Samson to Ray Bucheger, a lobbyist working on the Jordan Cove project–conveying information no doubt great news to him, but a smoking gun in terms of Bernhardt violating his confirmation hearing promises and even the Trump administration’s own rules. Readers may recall that Garfield County’s Republican commissioners including Samson made embarrassing footnotes of themselves with a half-baked attempt to hamstring local funds to Planned Parenthood, which resulted in that organization raising far more money from the publicity than they ever got from Garfield County.

It appears that they’ve gotten no smarter on the GarCo board of commissioners. This time it could do lasting damage.

Recall Organizer Agrees that Garcia Isn’t Doing Anything Unexpected As Pueblo’s Senator

A leader of the effort to recall a Pueblo Democrat, who’s the leader of the Colorado Senate, got some simple but tough questions from KOA radio hosts Aug. 21.

Appearing on the station’s Good Morning Colorado show, recall organizer Susan Carr said Colorado State Sen. Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) isn’t representing his district, in part because he voted for tightening safety and environmental regulations on the oil and gas industry.

But under questioning, Carr admitted that Garcia is doing what you’d expect a Democrat in his position to do, once elected to office.

KOA HOST MARTY LENZ: Susan, did you vote for Leroy Garcia?

CARR: No, I didn’t.

LENZ: Okay. And this is why I ask this question, because, to me, from [the perspective of] a recall effort, I can understand if you and other people on this petition voted for him, and you’re like, “Wait a second! We voted for this guy, and he’s not doing what we asked him to do.” But the fact that you didn’t vote for him, and he’s doing things that are opposite or counter to what you believe, to me, the recall effort is like, well, elections have consequences, right? So if you don’t like him, you vote him out of office instead of trying to do a recall.

CARR: Sure, and I would understand that. It’s just that the people here in Senate District 3 simply don’t think that he’s up there in Denver doing what he was elected to do.

LENZ: But he won with a pretty overwhelming majority, in that area.

CARR: Yes, he did.

CO-HOST APRIL ZESBAUGH: And he’s doing what a Democrat would probably do in that office, right?

CARR: Yes, he is.

Trump Gives Hickenlooper The Best Welcome Gift He Has

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

CBS4 Denver reports:

President Donald Trump reacted on Thursday to John Hickenlooper’s announced bid for U.S. Senate. Hickenlooper made the announcement early Thursday morning.

Trump tweeted his support for Sen. Cory Gardner, the Republican incumbent, saying that he “has done a fantastic job representing the people of Colorado.” And that “He really knows how to win.”

President Donald Trump considers his Twitter account to be his greatest public relations asset, and has used the platform to break major news in addition to offending just about everyone on the planet possibly excepting Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. There’s no question that Tweeting another glowing endorsement of Sen. Cory Gardner seems like a good idea to Trump–but in a state trending strongly away from the GOP brand in the Trump era, fresh off a landslide victory in Colorado for Democrats in 2018 broadly considered a referendum on Trump’s chaotic presidency, there’s a solid argument that this helps John Hickenlooper vastly more.

With the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) now single-mindedly blasting away at Hickenlooper, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) throwing their weight behind Hickenlooper today, and Trump broadcasting who Republicans fear most in this race, Hick can only say thanks to friend and foe alike.

Friday Open Thread

“There are all kinds of stupid people that annoy me but what annoys me most is a lazy argument.”

–Christopher Hitchens

El Paso County Republicans Get Their Fleece On

Former Rep. Mark Waller (R).

A Facebook post a couple of days ago from ex-Rep. Mark Waller of Colorado Springs, now a candidate for El Paso County DA, shines another unwelcome light into the fundraising tactics utilized by state and local Republican Party organizations:

The practice of the local Party raising money on the backs of candidates isn’t new, but it’s achieved a new low. I got a call from the local Republican Party yesterday with an offer I just can’t refuse! For the low, low price of a $1500 “donation,” I can speak at a reception prior to the Lincoln Day Dinner. But I need to act fast, because the same offer was made to my Republican primary opponent. [Pols emphasis]

Our mission should be getting Republicans elected, not pitting primary opponents against each other for Party gain.

Readers will recall an attempt this year by another Colorado Springs-area politician, Rep. Dave Williams, to pass legislation restricting so-called “badge fees” charged by the state Republican Party in order to serve as delegates in their state assembly process–fees that aren’t charged by the Democratic Party. That legislation quietly died after Williams had received a great deal of internal pressure to quit rocking the boat–and eventually receiving unspecified assurances that the party would figure out a less exploitative way to pay its bills.

Well folks, the El Paso County GOP found one! A lack of scruples always saves the day.

Pueblo’s EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel Not Involved In Garcia Recall Attempt

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo

UPDATE: EVRAZ emphasizes its work with President Garcia in a tweet sharing this story:


Despite being cited by name in an official document filed by those trying to remove State Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo), EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel is not involved and is taking no position on the recall effort. The company is the largest private employer in Pueblo.

Reached for comment via email, EVRAZ spokesperson Patrick Waldron wrote:

EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel was not aware of [the recall] before published reports, nor are we involved in the petition.

Waldron declined to give a position on the recall itself as the company does not make endorsements in political campaigns.

The latest recall campaign is the fifth so far this year, all targeting Democratic state legislators. It’s the first, however, to cite a private business by name.


Coffman and Gardner Don’t Like Red Flag Laws, But Don’t Rule Out Backing One Anyway

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner (left) and ex-Rep. Mike Coffman.

Former Congressman Mike Coffman, who’s now running to be mayor of Aurora, and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) sound like they are opposed to a red flag law, but if you listen carefully, you’ll hear that neither is shutting the door completely on the policy, which would allow judges to order the confiscation of guns from dangerous people. 

Both don’t like Colorado’s red-flag law, in particular, with Coffman saying it’s, “wide open to abuse.”

Speaking on conservative radio this month, Coffman went on to “question the constitutionality of a federal mandate on a red flag law,” stating that if it were “constitutional under the Commerce Clause, then I think it would be horribly done. I mean, it would be done by federal law enforcement, federal courts  — the last thing we want.”

Still, Coffman left the door open for an acceptable red flag bill.

“The Cato Institute has done great work in terms of what due process ought to look like, in terms of making sure that you protect the rights of the individual, protect the Second Amendment,” said Coffman on air. “I think it can be done.”


Senate or Student Council? Measuring the Gardner Pablum

We’ve remarked on many occasions about the ability of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) to use a lot of words to say absolutely nothing whatsoever. Gardner’s ability to string together gibberish sentences in response to any serious question is, frankly, quite remarkable.

Gardner is a true pablum professional, and he is really upping his game as he prepares for a daunting re-election campaign in 2020. There is a fantastic example of the Gardner pablum in an interview with 5280 magazine that was recently published online. Rather than just point to his answers directly, we came up with a helpful way to gauge the idiocy of Gardner’s comments. The idea is simple: Would Gardner’s words about the U.S. Senate translate to a student council race with a few minor adjustments?

We thought this was a good idea anyway, but we were admittedly surprised at how well it actually works in practice. You can see our substitutions below in ALL CAPS, followed by a screenshot of Gardner’s actual responses to 5280 magazine.


Give me your 30-second elevator pitch: Why are you RUNNING FOR STUDENT COUNCIL?
I’m fighting for every corner of THIS SCHOOL, whether you’re from Hotchkiss or Holly, or Kersey or Kim. I’m going to fight for every single person in THIS SCHOOL. The EAST WING OF THE SCHOOL and the WEST WING OF THE SCHOOL deserve a voice. WE deserve economic opportunity, WE deserve wage growth, WE deserve affordable housing and I’m fighting every single moment so that everyone in THIS SCHOOL can have the future that THIS SCHOOL deserves. Why? Because I believe in THIS SCHOOL.

What is your top policy priority?
It’s THIS SCHOOL. It always has been and it always will be. I’m focused on energy at THIS SCHOOL, jobs AT THIS SCHOOL, security AT THIS SCHOOL, and opportunity AT THIS SCHOOL. I’m about effective solutions, not just partisan grandstanding.

How do you ensure THIS SCHOOL’S interests are met in THIS SCHOOL DISTRICT?
I think people get frustrated with THIS SCHOOL DISTRICT because it oftentimes feels too remote and too distant. That’s why I’m doing everything I can to put more of THIS SCHOOL in THE SCHOOL DISTRICT and less of THE SCHOOL DISTRICT in THIS SCHOOL….[In July], we announced the Bureau of Land Management [headquarters is] moving to THIS SCHOOL. We will now be able to say that we are the true gateway to public lands, with the largest land management agency in THIS SCHOOL. I think, for THIS TOWN, that means better decision-making for ranchers, environmentalists, and energy advocates. They’re going to have the policy makers in their backyard instead of thousands of miles away.

How do you work with an increasingly divided STUDENT COUNCIL?
I think I practice what I preach. That’s why I’ve been named the fifth most bipartisan member of the STUDENT COUNCIL. I think that’s why the Bipartisan [Policy] Center gave me their Legislative Action Award last SEMESTER. When I look at legislation, I don’t do it with the purpose of being partisan; I do it with an effort to get it signed into law. When you look at the most significant RECESS policy in decades, it was led by myself and Ed Markey—a Democrat from ANOTHER CLASSROOM. I look at bipartisanship as a way to show leadership and that’s why I bring that to the table every time.

Aside from his comments about the BLM, there isn’t much that Gardner says about the U.S. Senate that would be out of place if applied to a contest for student council. If you like your Senator to be a mindless talking point robot who is keen on saying the word “Colorado,” then Cory Gardner is definitely your man in 2020.

Fearful NRSC Driving Primary Wedges: Don’t Take The Bait

A dogpile.

With this morning’s official entry by former Gov. John Hickenlooper into the Democratic U.S. Senate primary to challenge American’s Most Vulnerable Senator™ Cory Gardner, a full-court-press campaign by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) hoping to persuade Hickenlooper to stay out of the race via insider surrogates and ulterior motive-laden pundit hot takes has failed. We have been certain of Hick’s entry into the race for some weeks now, of course, but this last-ditch effort from people with clear ties back to Gardner and Colorado Republicans was interesting to watch–primarily because of the fear on the part of Republicans it broadcast clearly between the lines.

Now that Hickenlooper is in the race, the NRSC has switched gears: to amplifying every dissenting voice against Hickenlooper within the Democratic party they can find. And with a large field of lesser-known Democrats indicating that at least for now their campaigns will continue, Republicans aren’t hurting for content to boost:

Here you can see Matt Whitlock of the NRSC retweeting the comms director of the Colorado Senate Democrats, and (surprise!) Republicans don’t make any distinction between “personal” Twitter accounts and one’s official position like Keith Barnish was clearly hoping. The realization that he had just become a tool of the NRSC appears to have shook up Mr. Barnish enough to issue this “clarification.”

Herein lies a crucial lesson for Democrats to take to heart, no matter who you’re backing in the Democratic primary at this moment. Republicans have made it crystal clear in recent weeks that they consider Hickenlooper to be the most formidable opponent to Cory Gardner–a contention backed up by polling and reinforced by the punditocracy’s attempts to keep him out of the race. That means every Democrat with public visibility or even a decent social media following needs to be diligent about not letting their frustration become a Republican talking point against someone who may well be the eventual nominee. It’s true in every primary, but more so given the desperation of the GOP to land a blow on Hickenlooper any way they can.

This isn’t about “falling in line.” It’s about not being a tool of your opposition. If ranking Colorado Democrats consolidate their support behind Hickenlooper, which appears increasingly likely, the NRSC’s window to exploit such dissent is probably going to be short. When we look back in the fall of 2020 at this long campaign trail, let’s all be proud of our every word.

Cory Gardner Met Corey Seulean, the “No-Pants Pastor” At Invite-Only Haley Event

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Cory Gardner & Corey Seulean speak at private GOP event

Former Trump U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley joined Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) at a private campaign event on Monday. The invite-only Republican audience was reported to be “mostly women.”

The men in attendance included Pastor Corey Seulean of Longmont, candidate for Colorado House District 63. Seulean recently made national headlines following the Times Recorder’s reporting on his belief that women shouldn’t wear pants, but rather skirts or “modest culottes.”