Elections

Friday, May 15, 2020

Hickenlooper, Romanoff share Senate platforms in first forum featuring both

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2020 at 9:32 AM

Andrew Romanoff sought to distinguish his more progressive platform from Hickenlooper's. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Andrew Romanoff sought to distinguish his more progressive platform from Hickenlooper's.

Andrew Romanoff, Colorado's former House speaker, has repeatedly criticized former Gov. John Hickenlooper for skipping forums and debates among candidates for Republican Sen. Cory Gardner's U.S. Senate seat.

On May 14 — one week after the Secretary of State's Office finalized Colorado's June non-presidential primary ballot — Romanoff finally had his way, as Indivisible NOCO, a progressive activist group, staged a Zoom forum where both candidates could share their views in real time.

Romanoff made clear, though, that he would have preferred an actual debate between candidates. The ground rules of the forum dictated that the two men couldn't attack one another's viewpoints, but rather answer questions one at a time, so voters could "hear both candidates out on their positions," as moderator Gordon McLaughlin explained.

It was a somewhat anticlimactic meeting for the two remaining candidates in one of the most closely watched races outside of the presidential election. Both had an opportunity to review the moderator's questions ahead of time, with a few audience questions added at the tail end.

Around 800 people were tuned in to the forum, according to Indivisible NOCO.

Romanoff's answers included some thinly veiled jabs at his opponent for not participating in earlier debates and for his more moderate platform. Romanoff, the former director of nonprofit Mental Health Colorado, has made the Green New Deal and Medicare for All central to his own campaign, which has relied on grassroots support mostly from within the state.

Hickenlooper, meanwhile, appeared to be trying to emphasize his support for clean energy and gun safety, both areas in which his policy while governor has been criticized by progressives.

The candidates' answers to a question on health care policy provided one of the most dramatic moments. In his response to a question asking how he'd implement universal health care, Hickenlooper said he'd start with a public option that "would be a version of ... something like Medicare or Medicare Advantage."

"If it's done well and it's successful, it'll grow," he said. "It'll attract more people, it'll get larger, the costs will come down, the quality will increase...you'll end up with an evolution that allows people ultimately to get to a single-payer system — but it'll be an evolution, not a revolution."


It was Romanoff's turn to answer the question next.

"I support Medicare for All," he said. "I don't believe this is a time for timidity, and telling folks they have to wait for a slow evolution is heartless."

As he has in the past, Hickenlooper frequently mentioned the state's first-in-the-nation move to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas industry during his time in the governor's office. (Critics of Hickenlooper's record on fracking say those methane rules cut down on a fraction of the state's emissions, Westword reported last year.)

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper touted his business experience. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Former Gov. John Hickenlooper touted his business experience.

He also frequently mentioned his desire to transition the country from coal to renewable energy such as wind and solar.

"We've got to be willing to go to Washington and treat climate change like — well, it's an existential threat to the entire planet," he said. 

In his own answers, Hickenlooper didn't appear to be overly focused on differentiating his platform from Romanoff's, instead aiming his rhetoric at beating Gardner and overcoming Republicans in the Senate.

Hickenlooper skirted a question about whether he supported the Green New Deal in favor of expressing support for "innovation" in the energy sector, citing his actions as governor to accommodate electric vehicles.

Romanoff, on the other hand, took advantage of several opportunities to state, or imply, ways in which the Democratic candidates differ.

"Republicans are going to attack us no matter what," he said in closing remarks. "They're not going to reward our timidity, so you can't triangulate your way out of this fight. You need to stand your ground. You need to defend your principles. You need to show up and answer questions."

A crowded field of Democrats running to challenge Gardner, including Romanoff, battled it out for months before Hickenlooper joined the race in August, after dropping his bid for president.

Originally, Hickenlooper had rejected calls to drop out of the presidential race and run for Senate — which he acknowledged during the May 14 forum.

"I spent 20 years in a small business, eight years as mayor, eight years as governor, learning how government should work in Washington," he said, "and you know, I did say [Washington] was a terrible place for someone like me, but I am more passionate about this campaign and about winning this office than anything I've ever done in my life."

Hickenlooper petitioned onto the ballot by collecting voter signatures, after an informal preference poll conducted at Democratic caucuses in early March showed Romanoff with a lead of more than 24 percentage points. (The Colorado Sun reports Hickenlooper's campaign paid a political firm more than $420,000 to collect those signatures.)

No other candidates collected enough signatures to successfully petition on to the ballot.

Romanoff was the sole candidate who qualified for the June primary through the caucus and assembly process, garnering 85.86 percent of delegate votes at the Democratic state assembly. State party rules require candidates to garner at least 30 percent of votes if they choose a path to the ballot through that process.

Stephany Rose Spaulding, chair of the Women's and Ethnic Studies program at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, came in second with 9.02 percent of the votes.

So far, Hickenlooper's campaign has drawn in a great deal of support from outside the state, and he is the candidate favored by the party establishment. He raised more than $4 million in the first quarter of 2020, while Romanoff brought in $420,000 and Gardner $2.4 million.

Before June 30, the non-presidential primary election day, Colorado voters who are registered with a political party will receive that party's ballot. Unaffiliated voters can save paper by visiting GoVoteColorado.com to select their party preference for that election ahead of time.

Otherwise, unaffiliated voters will receive ballots for both major parties, but can only return one ballot. Gardner does not face a primary challenger.
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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Supreme Court hears Colorado's 'faithless electors' case, by phone

Posted By on Wed, May 13, 2020 at 5:02 PM

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser argued in a Supreme Court case. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser argued in a Supreme Court case.

Two sides in a high-profile case surrounding three would-be "faithless electors" from Colorado argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on May 13 — from a distance.

Rather than argue the state's case in Washington, D.C., Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser sat in a Denver conference room with a "nice view of the Capitol," on the eighth floor of the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Building with his wife and son.

Weiser admits he "did not focus so much on the exterior view during the argument," though.

And for good reason: Some scholars have said this case has the potential to completely upend the way the U.S. elects the president.

The case centers on the decision of a so-called "faithless elector," Colorado's Micheal Baca, to cast a vote for presidential candidate John Kasich in the 2016 election rather than Hillary Clinton, who won the state's popular vote. Two other Democratic electors, Polly Baca and Robert Nemanich, had also planned to cast their votes for Kasich but did not do so.

(The aim of all three was to deprive Donald Trump of enough votes to win the presidency as part of a national effort.)

In Colorado (as in most states), members of the Electoral College are required by law to cast their votes for the candidate who wins the popular vote in a given state. So, Baca was replaced by then-Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

The three electors took the case to court — and in August, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor.

In October, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Attorney General Phil Weiser petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case. Their petition was granted in January, and 45 states plus the District of Columbia filed a brief in support of states' rights to impose requirements on electors.

Attorneys for the "faithless electors," on the other hand, argue that electors have autonomy to vote for whomever they choose.

The Supreme Court heard a similar case from Washington state, in which electors were fined for not voting for the winner of that state's popular vote, just before Colorado's case.

Recordings of the oral arguments will be available on the Supreme Court's website by the end of the week.

Until then, here's a recap:

• One of Weiser's central arguments, which was endorsed by Washington state, is that the Constitution allows state lawmakers to enact any limitations they choose for electors, as long as those limitations don't interfere with other constitutional requirements, such as those barring discrimination. (This argument appears to suggest that the National Popular Vote pact, a movement to require electors to vote for the national popular vote winner, would withstand merit.)

"The 14th Amendment quite notably means a state could not remove an elector based on race or religion," Weiser explained to Chief Justice John Roberts. "Also, the qualifications clause [of the Constitution] means you can't remove electors for the purpose of adding qualifications for who can be president."

• Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked a rather philosophical question: "What is the purpose of having electors?"

"When electors are set up in the constitutional design, that allows for states to make a choice," Weiser replied. "Electors can either vote as proxy voters on behalf of the public, as we do here in Colorado, or they can be free agents."

•Meanwhile, Jason Harrow, chief counsel at Equal Citizens, a Massachusetts-based firm that advocates for election reform, argued the opposite: that electors, as individuals, have nearly limitless discretion.

"Once the vote begins, that vote by ballot is the electors," said Harrow. He argued that Colorado's law binding electors to the popular vote allows no leeway, even if a presidential candidate was facing accusations of bribery, for example, or had passed away after the general population cast their votes.

• During a video conference after the oral arguments, Weiser suggested that lawyers for the faithless electors in Washington state's case implied that the chaos that could result from giving electors that ultimate discretion could lead to needed changes with the Electoral College system.

But Weiser told reporters that goes against Colorado's philosophy.

"I personally am not a fan of a chaos theory," he said. "I believe in working hard to make institutions work in a functional and pragmatic way. That's what we're doing here in Colorado."

• One highlight for Weiser? Justice Clarence Thomas' Lord of the Rings reference.

Thomas is famous for rarely speaking during oral arguments, but wasn't shy about grilling Weiser and Harrow during their remote presentations.

"The elector who has promised to vote for the winning candidate could suddenly say, 'I’m going to vote for Frodo Baggins ... I really like Frodo Baggins,'" he posed to Harrow, "and you’re saying under your system you can’t do anything about that."

"I think there is something to be done, because that would be a vote for a non-person," Harrow replied. (Harrow had earlier stated that case law dictates electors cannot vote for someone who is not a human.)

Weiser, a self-described "huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien," looped that reference back in to his closing argument.

"During the course of this entire litigation and this argument today, my friends on the other side have failed to offer any viable theory on how to address the spectacle of a bribed elector, an elector who votes for Frodo Baggins, or one who would perpetrate a bait-and-switch on the people of our state," he said.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision in Colorado and Washington state's cases anytime between now and June.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

National Popular Vote to appear on the ballot this fall

Posted By on Wed, Apr 15, 2020 at 12:51 PM

Protesters hoped the Electoral College would opt against Trump in 2016. - RENA SCHILD / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com
  • Protesters hoped the Electoral College would opt against Trump in 2016.

The two sides in a battle over who gets to elect the president are coming into clearer focus ahead of the 2020 fall election.

The issue: whether the presidency should continue to go to the candidate with the most Electoral College delegates — the system that's been in place since the country's founding — or the person who garners the highest support among individual voters, thereby winning the popular vote.

The College has a total of 538 electors, including nine in Colorado. The number of a state’s electors is equal to its senators (two) plus the number of representatives, which is based on population. Under the current system, those electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who wins the state's popular vote.

The National Popular Vote movement, which started in 2006 but recently gained momentum, asks state legislatures to pass a law pledging their electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the national popular vote. It doesn't go into effect until states that hold a total of 270 electoral votes (enough to win the election) have signed on.

So far, 15 states and the District of Columbia (representing 196 total electoral votes) have passed National Popular Vote laws.

Colorado’s popular vote law, Senate Bill 42, was signed by Gov. Jared Polis on March 15, 2019. But state legislators included a provision that, should someone file to place a referendum on the ballot in 2020, the law would not go into effect until voters had weighed in.

An opposition group — led by Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese and Monument Mayor Don Wilson — did just that, submitting enough petition signatures last August to put the issue on the November 2020 ballot.

On April 14, the Yes on National Popular Vote committee launched a campaign to get Coloradans to approve the law. But it's been raising money for a while now. The committee had raised more than $1.7 million as of Jan. 15, including a $330,000 contribution from Santa Monica, California, resident Josh Jones.

Opponents, including the Protect Colorado's Vote committee, argue that the National Popular Vote reduces the influence of less populous states by making every individual vote equal. (That committee had raised nearly $800,000 as of Jan. 15.)

Outrage over the idea of handing Colorado's electoral votes to New York and California has become a rallying cry against the change.

"Vote Democrat if you want to give your presidential vote to New York and to California," Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, said at a February rally to re-elect President Donald Trump.

One counterargument to that viewpoint: The outsize influence of small states only benefits the residents of those states who are members of the state's majority party.

Under a winner-take-all model, a minority-party vote doesn’t get tabulated toward a total that ultimately decides the presidential race; it essentially disappears. (Colorado voted Democrat in the last presidential election, meaning all of the state's electoral votes were awarded to Hillary Clinton.)

"The National Popular Vote will make sure every voter across the country is relevant," state Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, said during a conference call announcing the Yes on National Popular Vote campaign's launch. "Somebody wanting to vote for a Democratic candidate in a red state will have the same voice as someone wanting to vote for a Republican candidate in that state."

Foote, the National Popular Vote bill sponsor in Colorado, said the committee had grassroots support from communities across the state. Organizations that have endorsed a "yes" vote on the referendum include the League of Women Voters of Colorado; the NAACP Colorado Montana Wyoming State Conference; and Common Cause Colorado.

"Colorado voters have a really great opportunity to show the rest of the country that the National Popular Vote is in fact a good idea and a good idea in our democracy by voting yes this fall," Foote said. "...If it doesn’t pass, then that just means that it’s off the books in Colorado ... but all you need is states with 270 electoral votes to pass the National Popular Vote agreement for it to go into effect."

The campaign hosted the first of several virtual town halls April 14, with more to come.
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Monday, March 2, 2020

Colorado primaries: More than 1 million ballots returned as of March 2

Posted By on Mon, Mar 2, 2020 at 4:48 PM

This graphic shows ballots returned as of 11:30 p.m. March 1. - COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE'S OFFICE
  • Colorado Secretary of State's office
  • This graphic shows ballots returned as of 11:30 p.m. March 1.

Two days before Super Tuesday, the presidential primary election for Colorado and 13 other states, more than 1 million Coloradans had already weighed in on who should be the nominee for each of the two major parties.

The Democratic primary accounted for slightly more than half of returned ballots — about 524,000, according to numbers provided by the Colorado Secretary of State's office. On the Republican side, there were nearly 488,000 ballots returned, with 62,400 ballots still in processing as of 11:30 p.m. March 1.

The Democratic edge makes sense for practical reasons: Incumbent President Donald Trump is really the only viable candidate on the Republican side.

Democrats, on the other hand, must choose between a much larger — though rapidly winnowing — field of candidates. Recent polls predict Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will easily win the state's Democratic primary:
  • A Magellan Strategies poll of 500 likely voters, conducted Feb. 24 and 25, predicted Sanders would take 27 percent of the vote, followed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 15 percent and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, with 12 percent.
  • A poll of 471 likely voters by Data for Progress, conducted Feb. 23 to 25, predicted Sanders would get 34 percent of Colorado's vote, Warren 20 percent and Buttigieg tied with Mike Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, at 14 percent each.
But those polls may not be entirely relevant, as Buttigieg withdrew from the race March 1 —followed March 2 by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who was polling in the single digits in Colorado. Both planned to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination, according to media reports.

If you already voted for Buttigieg, Klobuchar or one of the other Democrats who's already dropped out, it's too late to change your mind.

If, however, you filled out your ballot but haven't dropped it off yet — and have had a change of heart — you can cross out the name of the candidate you voted for originally, and mark the oval next to your preferred candidate, according to Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

Or, stop by any of the county's Voter Service and Polling Centers before 7 p.m. March 3 to request a replacement ballot or vote in person. Visit GoVoteColorado.com to check ballot status, or to find a polling center or ballot drop-off location.

All ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. March 3 to count.

We won't know the winner of Colorado's Democratic primary until a few days after the election, though Colorado Public Radio reports the party plans to start releasing preliminary results March 4.

There's a lot of math involved: Per Colorado Democratic Party rules, 23 of Colorado's delegates will be awarded based on the statewide winner, and 44 will be awarded based on the winner in each congressional district.

So, the Democratic candidate who wins the state's popular vote won't necessarily receive the most delegates. And in order to receive any delegates, a candidate must take at least 15 percent of the vote in a given congressional district or in the statewide race.

Happy voting!
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Monday, February 24, 2020

Trump talks up economy and Cory Gardner, slams 'Mini Mike' Bloomberg and 'Parasite' film

Posted By on Mon, Feb 24, 2020 at 9:50 AM

President Donald Trump speaks Feb. 20 at the Broadmoor World Arena. - ZACH HILLSTROM
  • Zach Hillstrom
  • President Donald Trump speaks Feb. 20 at the Broadmoor World Arena.

Colorado Springs is a familiar stomping ground for President Donald Trump.

Back in 2016, he made three campaign stops here while campaigning for his first term in the White House.

While Hillary Clinton won Colorado's popular vote by nearly 3 percentage points, Trump won El Paso County by a landslide — taking 56.2 percent of the vote, while Clinton got just 33.9 percent.

So, it's not particularly surprising that he drew far more people to The Broadmoor World Arena on Feb. 20 than the 8,500 or so attendees the venue can seat. Some people were camped out for days ahead of the rally, according to media reports. Hundreds of others waited outside the arena for hours in hopes of getting a seat.

At 9:27 a.m. — eight hours before Trump came onstage — the Colorado Springs Police Department announced on Twitter that the arena's parking lot was full.

Hundreds of fans lined up hours before Trump's rally. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Hundreds of fans lined up hours before Trump's rally.

The rally was
a key opportunity for Trump to drum up support for Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, whom Trump declared was "with us 100 percent."

"There's no waver from Cory," Trump said soon after stepping out to his legions of fans, a sea of red "Make America Great Again" hats and patriotic apparel. "We appreciate you. Thank you, Cory."

The race for Gardner's seat is one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country, given Colorado's Democratic lean. Democrats see defeating Gardner as a step to gaining the majority in the Senate, while Republicans know keeping Gardner in Congress is crucial to maintaining their ability to stop Democratic priorities from becoming law.

An August poll by Emerson College Polling showed former Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, beating Gardner by 13 percentage points. The poll was conducted a few days before Hickenlooper officially declared his Senate candidacy — since then, he's come under a barrage of attacks from other candidates labeling themselves as more progressive.
At the rally, the speakers sought to portray the somewhat unpopular Republican senator as completely in step with the president, though the two have had their disagreements over the years.

Gardner votes in line with Trump's positions about 90 percent of the time, according to polling website FiveThirtyEight.

After listing Trump's accomplishments — adding new jobs, funding the military, ordering the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, pushing for more border security, appointing conservative judges — Vice President Mike Pence urged the rally's attendees to support Gardner in November.

"Colorado, you all deserve to know that none of that would have been possible without the strong support of Sen. Cory Gardner," Pence said. "So right after you get done voting to give President Trump four more years, we need Colorado to vote to give six more years to Sen. Cory Gardner."

Cory Gardner speaks ahead of Trump's appearance. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Cory Gardner speaks ahead of Trump's appearance.

Colorado Public Radio reports that a VIP reception planned ahead of the rally cost $2,800 a ticket ($25,000 for people who wanted a photo with Trump). The event was hosted by a joint fundraising committee composed of Trump and Gardner's campaigns along with the Republican National Committee.

"Our economy is roaring because of the policies this president and Congress have delivered for the American people," Gardner said at the rally.

Among the accomplishments Gardner suggested he and Trump deserved credit for: relocating the Bureau of Land Management to Grand Junction; housing the Space Force in Colorado Springs (temporarily, for now); expanding Interstate 25; funding the Arkansas Valley Conduit water pipeline; and securing the federal waiver allowing Colorado to implement a health care reinsurance program (a key priority of Democratic Gov. Jared Polis).

"These things don’t just happen," Gardner said. "The BLM doesn’t just move to Grand Junction. Federal dollars don't just come to Colorado because there are no other priorities. This takes hard work — this takes partnership."
While some pundits anticipated that Trump would announce Colorado Springs as the permanent location of U.S. Space Command, operating from Schriever and Peterson Air Force bases, that news didn't come at the rally.

"I will be making a big decision for the Space Force as to where it's going to be located," Trump demurred. "I'll be making that decision toward the end of the year."

The Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC recently launched a large-scale public relations campaign aimed at keeping U.S. Space Command in Colorado. Their efforts included printing T-shirts branded with the message "#usspaceCOm" for members to wear to Trump's rally, and they're encouraging people to use that same hashtag on social media.

"We know that President Trump and his team can make an informed decision in the best interest of national security when they become more familiar with Colorado’s aerospace and defense assets and robust workforce development activity,” Reggie Ash, chief defense development officer for the Chamber & EDC, said in a Feb. 18 statement announcing the campaign's launch.
During his speech, Trump often returned to familiar talking points that have proved popular with his base, including job growth and low unemployment under his administration.

"The average unemployment rate for my administration is the lowest for any United States president in the history of our country," he said, which is true. The average unemployment rate of 4 percent under Trump's tenure is lower than that of any other president, including Lyndon B. Johnson (4.2 percent), according to The New York Times.

Other speakers cited tax cuts under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which led to income tax reductions for most individual tax brackets and for corporations.

"We're supporting working families by fighting for paid family leave and getting it, reducing the cost of child care and giving 40 million American families an average of $2,200 in their pockets directly thanks to the Republican child tax credit," Trump said, to cheers.

Trump became the first Republican to call for paid family leave legislation in his State of the Union address this year. The bipartisan bill Trump supports for paid leave would allow parents to collect a portion of their child tax credits early and receive a smaller credit for the next 10 to 15 years — legislation that progressives feel doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t provide new funding to cover family-related time off from work.

Trump also recently signed a defense spending bill that authorized paid parental leave for federal employees.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks to Trump fans. - ZACH HILLSTROM
  • Zach Hillstrom
  • Vice President Mike Pence speaks to Trump fans.
Both Pence and Trump praised the replacement of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, with the updated United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, as well as tariffs on Chinese imports.

“We’re reversing decades of calamitous trade policies. America lost one in four manufacturing jobs following the twin disasters of NAFTA and China’s entrance into the WTO [World Trade Organization],” Trump said. (Worth noting: Some economists would place more blame for lost jobs on automation than on global trade agreements.) “But under this administration, all of that is changing. The era of economic surrender is over.”

When he wasn't talking about the strong economy, Trump took every opportunity to taunt Democrats and the "fake news."

"After three years of ridiculous witch hunts and scams and partisan Democrat crusades, the radical left's attempt to ... overturn the last election have totally failed," Trump said.

Among Democratic presidential candidates, much of his ire was focused on former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, whom he nicknamed "Mini Mike."

"Mini Mike didn't do well last night," Trump said, referring to the Democratic debate televised Feb. 19 on MSNBC. "I was going to send him a note saying: 'It's not easy doing what I do, is it?'"

Trump also had thoughts on Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, saying Klobuchar's debate performance was "the end of her campaign, in my book" and referring to Buttigieg as "Alfred E. Neuman," the cartoon kid on the cover of satirical magazine "Mad."

There was a jab at former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and one at 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, Time Magazine's 2019 Person of the Year and a frequent target of conservatives.
"This year I got beaten out by Greta [for Person of the Year]. You know Greta?" Trump said as the crowd booed.

The president took up around 20 minutes criticizing Neil Cavuto, a Fox News personality who had invited A.B. Stoddard, the associate editor of RealClearPolitics, on his show earlier the day of the rally.

Stoddard said Trump had "disastrous debate performances," suggesting that Bloomberg's poor debate performance didn't rule out his presidential chances.

At the rally, Trump repeatedly insulted Cavuto and Stoddard, and he read off a series of random polls that purportedly showed television viewers had, in fact, approved of his performances in the 2016 presidential debates.

He also expressed his disapproval over "Parasite" winning the Academy Award for Best Picture ("What the hell was that about?"), lamenting that it should have been an American film like "Gone With the Wind."

The crowd cheers at Trump's rally Feb. 20. - ZACH HILLSTROM
  • Zach Hillstrom
  • The crowd cheers at Trump's rally Feb. 20.

Digressions aside, the
overarching message to Trump's supporters was clear: Give Trump another four years in the White House and keep Cory Gardner around Washington, too.

"It's up to us to volunteer with our country parties," Colorado Republican Party Chair Ken Buck said to warm up the crowd. "It's up to us to go to the caucuses. It's up to us to volunteer with these campaigns to make sure that we get the vote out, folks."

The speakers also sought to make the Democratic party synonymous with socialism.

Thanks to the "normalization of socialism" by Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Democrats "are running to the left on a socialist platform," Gardner said. "They want to take our guns, they want to take our health care."
Meanwhile, Colorado Democrats released a joint statement denouncing both Gardner and Trump following the rally.

“Colorado saw through Trump's corruption and divisive agenda in 2016, and the fact that Gardner thinks that we would support Trump after all his assaults on our Colorado way of life just shows just how out of touch Gardner is with our state,” Colorado Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll said in the statement. “...Colorado will show Trump and Gardner the door this November."

State Rep. Marc Snyder, a Democrat from Colorado Springs, cautioned that “Trump has a long list of broken promises and bad policies that have hurt working people.”

“I look forward to November when we can vote both Trump and Gardner out of office, and elect a new President and U.S. Senator who will put hardworking Colorado families first," Snyder said in the statement.
U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Boulder, pointed out Trump’s latest proposed cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs.

“Just last week — after handing a $1.5 trillion tax break to the wealthiest in our nation — the president put vital programs on the chopping block that Coloradans rely on,” Neguse said,  referring to tax cuts passed as part of the 2017 tax legislation. Freshman Rep. Neguse took part in House Judiciary Committee questioning during the chamber's impeachment of Trump last year, in an inquiry that centered on the withholding of military funds to Ukraine while Trump associates urged the Ukrainian government to investigate the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Speaking of impeachment, Pence declared the Senate's subsequent acquittal had "cleared our president of all charges" from the U.S. House's vote to impeach Trump based on abuse of power and obstruction of justice.

Neither the impeachment proceedings, nor the acquittal, appeared to significantly affect Trump's approval rating — which has hovered between 40 and 45 percent since October, according to FiveThirtyEight.

"Democrats have spent the last three years trying to run down this president, because they know they can't run against this president," Pence said.
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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Democrat joins race for 5th Congressional District

Posted By on Thu, Jan 23, 2020 at 2:04 PM

Ryan Lucas, seeking the Democratic nomination in CD5. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Ryan Lucas, seeking the Democratic nomination in CD5.
Ryan Lucas has announced his bid for the Democratic nomination in Congressional District 5, a seat now held by Republican Doug Lamborn, who's seeking his eighth term.

Lucas, 35, who's works for MINES & Associates, which provides managed behavioral health care and employee assistance programs, says in a release his campaign will focus on "bringing a bi-partisan approach to unite the residents of Congressional District 5 regardless of a political party, zip code or socioeconomic status."

“The Fifth Congressional District is one of the fastest-growing districts in the region and deserves a leader that will put the people before the party or party bosses,” Lucas says in the release. “Our campaign will be working to harness the collective power of the people to bring about policy and reforms for the benefit of society at large — through common-sense policy reform on the national level. We must focus on the critical issues from the costs of healthcare, common-sense gun reform and preparing for a new tech-based economy.”

Lucas plans to seek access to the June 30 primary ballot through the petitioning process.

Jillian Freeland also is seeking the Democratic nomination.

It will be an uphill battle for any Democrat against Lamborn, who occupies what's considered a safe seat in a largely red district. In the past, Democratic candidates have garnered only about 40 percent of the vote against Lamborn through the years.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

‘Faithless electors’ petition wins support of 22 other states

Posted By on Wed, Nov 27, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Secretary of State Jena Griswold. - COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE
  • Colorado Secretary of State
  • Secretary of State Jena Griswold.
Twenty-two states joined Colorado in formally asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision that, according to Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, “undermines voters and sets a dangerous precedent for our nation.”

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August that three members of the Electoral College should not have been forced to vote for Hillary Clinton after she won Colorado’s popular vote in the 2016 presidential election.
Three Democratic party electors had planned to vote for Republican John Kasich as part of a failed national attempt to deprive Donald Trump of enough votes to win. Only one, Micheal Baca, actually did vote for Kasich, and he was promptly replaced as an elector by the office of then-Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

The appeals court ruled that Baca should not have been replaced.

Griswold and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser first petitioned the Supreme Court to review that decision in October.
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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Manitou Springs arts and cultural tax edges to victory by three votes

Posted By on Thu, Nov 7, 2019 at 4:36 PM

BRYCE CRAWFORD/FILE PHOTO
  • Bryce Crawford/file photo
Natalie Johnson, Manitou Art Center executive director, found out what a difference a couple of days can make, especially with election results.

The day after the election, Nov. 6, early unofficial results showed the Manitou Springs Arts, Culture and Heritage (MACH) sales tax measure had been defeated.

But on Thursday, Nov. 7, El Paso County released the final unofficial results showing the tax, which would raise $400,000 a year, passed by a mere three votes.

"We're feeling very hopeful," Johnson says, noting the county will canvass the vote later this month.

If the vote spread remains tight, within a half a percentage point, an automatic recount will be triggered.

When the results came in on election night, Johnson felt saddened, she says. "You can't help but feel it was a loss for the community. Then there's my personal feelings just knowing I've spent 60 to 80 hours a week working toward these things, and feeling the community didn't think it was important, that all my work didn't matter."

But now, when it looks like the measure was adopted after all, she's eager to show the community why it's a smart move to invest in the Carnegie Building, Miramont Castle, Manitou Art Center, Manitou Springs Heritage Center and Hiawatha Gardens property.

"We're going to have to do our best to make everyone proud and feel it was worth it," she says.

In another reversal, Fran Carrick appeared to have won a Fountain City Council seat on election night by a mere two votes, but the final unofficial results show her losing by 89 votes to Detra Duncan.

Still outstanding, however, are military and overseas ballots that needed to be postmarked by Nov. 5 and received by Nov. 13. So stay tuned.
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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

State measure CC fails, Colorado Springs tax measures get thumbs up

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2019 at 12:32 PM

Pete Lee: Back to the drawing board on state funding. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Pete Lee: Back to the drawing board on state funding.
The results of the Nov. 5 election in Colorado mean the state won't "start fixing things" any time soon, it appears.

That was the tagline used by backers of Proposition CC, which went down in flames — 55 percent to 45 percent — unlike two local spending measures, which were approved by Colorado Springs voters. More on that later. (El Paso County voters defeated CC by a margin of 62-38.)

CC would have allowed the state to keep money collected in excess of caps imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR). That excess, which could reach billions of dollars over years to come, will continue to be refunded to taxpayers, unless the state seeks voter approval again to retain it.

The CC money, if retained, would have been spent on infrastructure such as transportation, education and higher education.

Sen. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, tells the Indy that so far there's not a fallback plan beyond Gov. Jared Polis' proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which was issued recently and does not include money from the CC retention measure.

"There was optimism [Proposition CC] might pass," he says. "We have not developed an alternative plan. The budget was submitted last week, and it was premised on the idea of existing revenues..., so we are proceeding with a budget that does not include the $300 million that CC would have provided."
Colorado's roads won't get an infusion of cash after voters defeated Proposition CC. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Colorado's roads won't get an infusion of cash after voters defeated Proposition CC.
Given the dire condition of the state's transportation system and the rising $9 billion to $10 billion backlog of projects, Lee says an infusion of cash is needed to fix roads.

"The gas tax hasn't gone up since, what, 1992, which is the primary funding mechanism," he says. "We also are constrained by TABOR and other spending limitations."

The failure of CC, he says, sets up a competition among the state's top priorities: health care, transportation and education. Another demand comes from the criminal justice system, on which the state expects to spend $1 billion next year, he says.

"There's only a limited amount of resources," he says, adding that Democrats will be willing to work with Republicans to find ways to fund those priorities, including discussing a massive bond issue. "I think all options are on the table. I don't think we should preclude anything."

The other state measure, Proposition DD, which directed taxes on sports betting to the state's water plan, edged out a win by the slimmest of margins, 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent, according to unofficial results on the Colorado Secretary of State's website. (El Paso County voters defeated it by a 54-46 margin.)

While supporters contended DD would generate about $27 million toward the state's water plan, Coloradans for Climate Justice said that amount is "tiny" and gives citizens a sense of false security that the state's water needs will be met.

The group said in a statement:
The supporters of Prop DD spent about $2.5 million in this election. We spent zero dollars opposing DD. We opposed DD out of the principle that the public taxpayer should not pay for climate damage to our rivers and water supply caused by fossil fuel corporations. The damage caused to our water supply and economy by climate change will likely be in the billions of dollars. Further, the amount of money DD would raise for the Colorado Water Plan is tiny, and it will likely only replace money that was already allotted for the Colorado Water Plan, not add to it. So let the betting begin, but betting against climate change is a bad bet that only a lousy gambler would make.
The Colorado Sun reports only 36 percent of registered voters in the state cast ballots.

El Paso County voter turnout was the same, but unlike statewide, voters were in a generous mood when it came to Colorado Springs. They handed Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers two victories to continue his undefeated record for several tax and fee measures he's proposed since taking office in 2015.
Mayor Suthers: "Thanks, citizens!" - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mayor Suthers: "Thanks, citizens!"

Measure 2C, approved 65-35, continues the special tax to fund street improvements, but lowers the tax to .57 percent from .62 percent enacted by voters in 2015 for five years. The new tax takes effect Jan. 2, 2021.

Measure 2B, which allows the city to keep $7 million in TABOR excess money to spend on parks, passed by a lesser margin — 57-43. City officials have previously said the money would be spent on various projects, including overhauls of three downtown parks: Alamo Park, Antlers Park and Acacia Park.

Suthers issued this statement:
On behalf of the Council and myself I want to express our gratitude for the confidence and trust the citizens of Colorado Springs have placed in our efforts to improve critical public infrastructure. In 2015 we had an infrastructure deficit of $1.5B – primarily, our roads and stormwater system. We could not have solved the problem without the cooperation of our citizens, but we have secured the citizens’ support and we are solving the problems. And as we predicted, the public investment in our city is being matched by massive private investment.

Other local balloting results, all of which can be found here:

Manitou Springs
• Only 24 votes kept a sales tax increase measure from passing in Manitou Springs. The new money would have funded improvements to Manitou Art Center, Manitou Springs Heritage Center and Miramont Castle, among other projects.
• But voters overwhelming approved, by a 76-24 margin, allowing the city to spend $182,000 from the public facilities fund on downtown projects.
• John Graham defeated Alan Delwiche in the mayor's race by a 52-48 margin.

Colorado Springs School District 11 voters elected incumbent Mary Coleman, Darleen Daniels, Jason Jorgenson and Parth Melpakam to the school board.

Fountain
• Voters defeated a 10-year road tax by a 58-42 margin.
• Only two votes separate third and fourth place finishers in the race for two at-large City Council seats. Richard Applegate won a seat handily, but neighborhood activist Fran Carrick edged out Detra Duncan by only two votes for the other seat. 

Teller County
In Crippler Creek, 54.3 percent of voters elected to recall Timothy Braun, the Cripple Creek-Victor School District president. Mary Bielz, the founder of a Cripple Creek nonprofit, will replace him.

The recall followed efforts by a group called Hear Us: For Better Schools to unseat three school board members who it claimed had violated state statutes and district policies. The other two targeted school board members, Treasurer Dennis Jones and Secretary Tonya Martin, resigned in June.

Schools and fire
While three school districts — Lewis-Palmer 38, Miami Yoder JT60 and Calhan RJ1 — saw debt measures defeated, Tri-lakes Monument and Stratmoor Hills fire protection districts won approval of their tax measures. Two other fire districts, serving Peyton and Hanover, saw tax measures defeated.

As for various marijuana issues across the state, the Colorado Municipal League reports:
BAYNARD WOODS
  • Baynard Woods
• Mead voters said no to medical marijuana businesses and retail marijuana establishments. Center and Loveland’s questions allowing cultivation, manufacturing and testing in addition to sales were also defeated. Loveland voters also turned down a tax on marijuana sales.

• Craig voters approved three marijuana questions: to allow retail sales; to allow cultivation, manufacturing, testing and storage; and a tax on marijuana sales.

• An initiated ordinance passed in Alamosa banning the outdoor growing of personal marijuana and overturning outdoor growing regulations previously adopted by the city council.

• Louisville voters opted to permit retail marijuana cultivation facilities within the city’s industrial zones, as well as the corresponding retail marijuana cultivation facility excise tax.

• A retail marijuana sales tax also passed in Las Animas.
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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Efforts to recall Lee, Pettersen fail

Posted By on Wed, Sep 11, 2019 at 11:52 AM

Sen. Pete Lee - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Sen. Pete Lee
The recall efforts against Colorado Sens. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, have ended in failure, after organizers told the Colorado Secretary of State's Office they will not turn in signatures seeking special elections.

Neither senator — each of whom won a 2018 election by a large margin — faced allegations of ethical or legal violations; instead, organizers said they disagreed with their votes on key bills.

Gov. Jared Polis welcomed news that the recalls had failed, saying in a press release:

Coloradans are tired of political games and I am pleased to see these sideshows have failed. Senator Pettersen and Senator Lee are dedicated public servants who work hard every single day for their constituents and their communities. They have served as thoughtful and strong partners in our administration’s efforts to address the opioid crisis and reform our broken criminal justice system. This announcement simply reiterates that Coloradans are not interested in divisive politics and distractions that take away from the pressing needs of our state like improving education, solving traffic problems and saving money on health care. Coloradans want real results and that is what I believe — regardless of political affiliation — we can continue to deliver, together.
Colorado Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll was more cutting in her statement:

Considering that both Senators Lee and Pettersen won their 2018 elections overwhelmingly by double digits, it is hardly surprising the sore losers running these sham recalls are throwing in the towel. As has been the case with the previous failed recalls, this was never about their votes. These were far-right activists who are upset they lost so badly in 2018 and were desperate for a redo through these ridiculous recalls. The people of SD11 and SD22 saw through this sham, which is exactly why they rejected this cynical effort to overthrow their 2018 votes.

The announcements are the latest in a string of failures by conservative activists, some with strong ties to the state's Republican Party, against Democratic officials. Activists failed to collect the 631,266 signatures needed to force a special election recalling Polis by the Sept. 6 deadline. Organizers likewise withdrew earlier efforts to recall state Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, and Rep. Rochelle Galindo, D-Greeley, the latter after she resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations.

The recall effort against Lee needed 11,304 valid signatures by Sept. 10, and Pettersen's needed 18,376 by Sept. 16. Technically, the Pettersen recall effort is still active, but the Secretary of State's Office says recall organizers have said they will not turn in signatures.

Notably, no signatures have been turned in for any recall effort.

Only state Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, still faces a recall effort. Organizers need 13,506 valid signatures by Oct. 18 to force a recall election.
Sen. Brittany Pettersen - BRITTANY PETTERSEN CAMPAIGN
  • Brittany Pettersen Campaign
  • Sen. Brittany Pettersen
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Friday, September 6, 2019

Gov. Polis survives recall attempt

Posted By on Fri, Sep 6, 2019 at 1:09 PM

Gov. Jared Polis says he wants to build a Colordo for all. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Gov. Jared Polis says he wants to build a Colordo for all.
Gov. Jared Polis survived a recall effort on Sept. 6 when those pushing the recall admitted they had  fallen short of the required 631,266 signatures needed to force a recall election, media outlets reported.

The group had 60 days to gather the signatures and brought in more than 300,000, a recall effort spokesperson said, though that was not independently verifiable, as the Colorado Sun reported.

The Democrat, who took office in January and led a progressive effort during the legislative session regarding all-day kindergarten, adoption of a red flag law and a national popular vote law, issued a statement through his campaign saying, "The voters have spoken; no do-overs."

The Independent endorsed Polis in his run for the governorship.

Polis' statement:
At the very beginning of my campaign, I made a straight-forward promise: To build a Colorado for all.

This promise is on my mind every single day I head into work and serve as your Governor. It’s what has driven my administration and our legislature to fight day and night for an agenda that represents everyone — no matter who you are or where you come from. It's what drives me to work hard to represent our entire state: today I’m in Rifle, Last week Durango and Ignacio, next week Trinidad and Lamar. And it’s why, nine months after I was sworn in, we have passed legislation that saves Coloradans money on healthcare and ensures that every child can go to full-day kindergarten free of charge.

I am incredibly proud of everything we’ve accomplished to make the lives of Coloradans easier, and I hope you’re proud too because we couldn’t have gotten this far without you. However, while we fought hard for this progress, we must fight just as hard to protect it.

As you may have heard, a small group of activists has been working to undo the will of the voters and trigger a recall against me and some of our elected Democrats in the state legislature. The good news is that, as of yesterday, they have failed to submit the required number of signatures against me. But the bad news is that they are still trying to recall several state senators and have left a foundation that other groups can use to try to subvert the will of the people again, so we need to stay ready to fight back.
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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Electoral College: Court sides with faithless electors

Posted By on Tue, Aug 27, 2019 at 8:00 PM

Robert Nemanich - COURTESY ALLEN TIAN
  • Courtesy Allen Tian
  • Robert Nemanich
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that three members of the Electoral College should not have been forced to vote for Hillary Clinton after she won Colorado’s popular vote in the 2016 presidential election.

Micheal Baca, Polly Baca and Robert Nemanich, all Democratic party electors, had planned to vote for Republican John Kasich as part of a failed national attempt to deprive Donald Trump of enough votes to gain the presidency. Only Baca actually did vote for Kasich, and he was promptly replaced as an elector by the office of then-Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

The court ruled it was unconstitutional for Baca to be removed.

The ruling is in conflict with a recent Washington state Supreme Court decision which found faithless electors can be fined.
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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Road tax and TABOR question likely to appear on city ballot

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 12:10 AM

Voter-approved sales tax 2C funded removal of a median on North Carefree Circle. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • Voter-approved sales tax 2C funded removal of a median on North Carefree Circle.

City voters will be consulted on two tax measures in the Nov. 5 election.

Referred unanimously by City Council on Aug. 13, one issue seeks extension of the city’s 2015 voter-approved sales tax for roadwork for another five years, at .57 percent — lower than the current .62 percent.

Mayor John Suthers has vowed to tackle residential roads with the tax, if approved. The current tax raises about $50 million per year.

Voters also will be asked to allow the city to keep $7 million in 2018 excess revenue to spend on parks. The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requires revenue collected above a certain cap to be refunded unless voters allow the government to keep it. In this case, the measure’s failure translates to $30 per household refunded on utility bills. Council referred the measure 7-2, with Councilors Andy Pico and Don Knight opposed.
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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Cripple Creek-Victor school board recall election date set, for president only

Posted By on Thu, Aug 15, 2019 at 12:29 PM

Board President Tim Braun. - STACIE GONZALEZ
  • Stacie Gonzalez
  • Board President Tim Braun.
After the Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from the Cripple Creek-Victor School District board president, a recall election is moving forward and slotted for Nov. 5, the same day as the towns' general election.

Hear Us: For Better Schools, the group seeking to overhaul the school board, originally set out to recall School Board President Tim Braun, Treasurer Dennis Jones and Secretary Tonya Martin. But Jones and Martin both resigned in June.

Braun, on the other hand, petitioned the Supreme Court to review an earlier case in 4th Judicial District Court, in which targeted school board members had asked the judge to invalidate the recall election.

According to the Mountain Jackpot News, Braun and Jones had argued in that case that the Teller County Clerk & Recorder's office shouldn't have allowed Hear Us extra time to collect signatures for the recall election, after they initially fell short of having enough valid signatures. Judge Scott Sells ruled against the school board members.

The Supreme Court denied to hear Braun's appeal of that case Aug. 8. As of Aug. 22, the recall election was still moving forward for Nov. 5, with Braun's name alone on the ballot, Teller County Chief Deputy Clerk Stephanie Kees confirmed.

Hear Us, the group behind the recall, claims the targeted school board members violated state statutes and district policies. Braun, Jones and Martin have all denied wrongdoing.
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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

New campaign finance laws take effect in Colorado

Posted By on Tue, Aug 6, 2019 at 10:30 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
Three new campaign finance laws, meant to improve transparency in Colorado’s elections, took effect Aug. 1.

• House Bill 1318 — dubbed “The Clean Campaign Act of 2019” — prohibits foreign governments and corporations, as well as any person who is not an American citizen, from contributing to election campaigns. It also requires “Paid for by” disclosures on campaign communications, and tightens rules related to independent expenditure committees, including so-called super PACs, that raise money for political candidates before they officially declare an intent to run for office.

• House Bill 1007 sets contribution limits for county offices. Individuals can donate $1,250 to a candidate committee for each county primary and general election; small donor committees can contribute up to $12,500; and political parties may donate no more than $22,125 for each.

• Senate Bill 68 requires campaign communications sent to voters between the primary and general elections to also include “Paid for by” disclosures, closing a loophole in transparency law.
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