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Hillary Clinton’s significant enthusiasm deficit could have negative ramifications for those who have hitched their wagons to her star. One of the top targeted U.S. Senate seats to flip could be the one currently held by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado). Bennet’s campaign will be closely tied to Clinton’s presidential bid, and the blowout victory Bernie Sanders experienced in Colorado on caucus night should make Team Bennet very nervous.
. . . more at 9News.com
The Durango Herald
DENVER – Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton on Tuesday visited Colorado, where she sought to inspire Democrats to stump for her.
Facing an impressive primary challenge from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton must convince Colorado Democrats to support her at March 1 grass-roots caucus gatherings.
While the swing state of Colorado represents only a handful of delegate votes, the state is important to securing the Democratic Party’s nod to compete against Republicans next year. Colorado will be even more critical to Democrats in holding the White House.
“I think it’s important for us to understand what’s really at stake in this election,” Clinton addressed about 900 people at the Boulder Theater in Boulder during remarks that lasted about 45 minutes. She later offered similar comments at Manual High School in Denver.
“When you compare the different sides and our Republican candidates, there is a really big choice ahead for America,” Clinton continued.
While the event was described as an “organizing meeting,” it had the feel of a campaign rally, with high-profile Colorado politicos introducing Clinton and urging support, including former U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
Right-leaning Colorado groups were quick to criticize the former secretary of state’s visit, suggesting that Clinton has an uphill image battle to win.
“Hillary Clinton is here using populist rhetoric about her ‘organizing meetings’ in a thinly veiled attempt to portray herself as an everywoman,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. “If there’s one thing that doesn’t work out here in places like Colorado, it’s attempting to pretend you’re something or someone you’re not.”
For some in attendance at the events, the decision to support Clinton was not an easy one. Olivia Storz, a University of Denver student, said Clinton better represents her interests as a woman.
“I really, really like Bernie. But I think a lot of it is just that (Clinton) has been a political model for me my whole life,” Storz said. “I always looked up to her as a role model, and I think she would be a great president.”
Clinton was not shy about highlighting the possibility of becoming the first woman president, stating: “The Republicans often say, ‘Well, there she goes playing the gender card.’ Well ... if equal pay ... is playing the gender card, deal me in.”
Denver Business Journal
Fewer than a third of Colorado voters believe U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet deserves re-election next year, a new set of survey results shows.
With the election a year away, the Quinnipiac University poll asked 1,262 Colorado voters whether the Colorado Democrat deserves another term.
Thirty percent said yes, while 41 percent said no and 29 percent were undecided or didn't answer.
The Quinnipiac poll did not offer the names of any potential opponents for Bennet, a former Denver Public Schools superintendent.
State Democrats pushed back hard on the poll results, released Thursday.
"Quinnipiac in Colorado might have the worst track record of any pollster working today," Colorado Democratic Party spokesman Andrew Zucker said.
"This far out we expect polls to go up and down, but with Republicans still scrambling to find a credible opponent in this race, Michael will win because he works with anyone from either party to get things done for Colorado, challenges the status quo in Washington and fights for more opportunities for middle-class families," Zucker said.
The Bennet camp noted that in the weeks leading up to the 2014 election, several Quinnipiac polls showed Republican Bob Beauprez leading Democrat John Hickenlooper in the gubernatorial election, which Hickenlooper wound up winning by better than 3 percentage points.
But Bennet's foes crowed about the results.
"If I were Michael Bennet, these numbers would deeply concern me," said Kelly Maher, executive director of the conservative-leaning group Compass Colorado. "Republicans haven't yet coalesced around an opponent, so there's not even a well-publicized alternative option yet, and still less than a third of Coloradans believe he deserves to keep his job."
Republicans have had their own challenge in the Senate race: Finding a widely known candidate after U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and Aurora theater shooting prosecutor George Brauchler declined to run.
Among Republicans who hope to unseat Bennet, or have expressed some interest in the race, are former Aurora City Councilman and TV commentator Ryan Frazier, businessman Robert Blaha, El Paso County commissioners Darryl Glenn and Peg Littleton, former state Small Business Association chief Greg Lopez, and state Sen. Tim Neville.
In the new Quinnipiac poll, surveyed Republicans oppose Bennet's re-election by a 57-15 percent margin, Quinnipiac said, while Democrats support him by a 52-19 percent spread. Among independents, 31 percent said Bennet deserves re-election while 41 percent said he doesn't and 28 percent are undecided.
When voters were asked if they approve or disapprove of the way Bennet is handling his job as senator, 37 percent said they approve, 35 percent disapprove, and 28 percent don't know or had no answer.
The poll also asked Colorado voters whether they approve or disapprove of the way various other elected officials are handling their job. Key results:
The Durango Herald
DENVER – An adviser to Colorado House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst quickly left the Capitol on Thursday after it was revealed that she violated House rules.
Jenise May, a Democrat and former state lawmaker who currently serves as a special adviser to Hullinghorst, has been holding the staff position while she had simultaneously filed with the state to run for a Senate seat.
House employee rules state that employees must terminate employment if they plan to run for a legislative seat.
May filed her candidacy with the Secretary of State’s office for Senate District 25 on Jan. 2, according to campaign filings. While she filed before the legislative session began Jan. 7, an announcement that she would take the position appeared in a story by Denver Post political reporter Lynn Bartels on Dec. 11. May also filed a recent campaign-finance report April 16.
After The Durango Herald asked about the violation, May said she was leaving the Capitol and would not continue working there until she closed her campaign. She clarified that she would not be seeking the office in the near future.
“I’m just going to go home,” May said, as she was walking to her car to leave the Capitol. “I’m just going to close my candidacy. What else can I do? It’s a policy. I didn’t even know. I just found out. ... All I can do is say I left, what more?”
The violation was revealed by right-leaning Compass Colorado, which often targets Democrats running for office. The group is calling for May to resign and refund her salary of about $50,000 per year.
“Jenise May is one of the top advisers in the Colorado House, so she can’t feign ignorance of the clear House employee rules,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado.
May lost her re-election bid for a House seat last year in an upset in Adams County. During her time at the Legislature, she served on the powerful Joint Budget Committee and was instrumental this year in passing the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
“Speaker Hullinghorst hired May after she lost re-election to keep her afloat for her next political bid,” Maher said. “She should either terminate her House employment immediately and refund her salary from the session to the taxpayers who have been footing the bill or she should withdraw from the race for Senate; the rules are written so you can’t have it both ways.”
Hullinghorst said the situation was being addressed “immediately” but was unable to offer details on potential retroactive action.
“It was a mistake,” Hullinghorst said. “It was a complete surprise, I think, to both of us.”
Pagosa Daily Post
By Kelly Maher
Yesterday afternoon, the Colorado Senate Committee on Business, Labor and Technology rightly allowed Colorado’s Pay Equity Commission to sunset. This action came after hours of testimony from both small and large business-owning women, who called on Senators to not allow for the renewal of the Commission. Proponents of the sunset even included the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry.
Disturbing revelations in testimony came from two former members of the Pay Equity Commission, Patti Kurgan and Kathie Barstnar, who testified they were regularly bullied and even silenced in meetings. Ms. Kurgan said she was prevented from asking questions about premises and voicing a dissenting opinion from the majority of union and trial lawyer sympathetic commissioners. Testimony from former members and attendees also exposed the rampant anti-business sentiment perpetuated by the Commission.
The environment of the Pay Equity Commission was so toxic at times that Ms. Kurgan and the NFIB sent a letter to Ellen Golombek, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, outlining the abusive behavior of the Commission.
We applaud the Republicans on the Senate Committee on Business, Labor and Technology for allowing the Pay Equity Commission to sunset. We heard today about the systemic silencing and bullying of dissenters in Commission meetings, and that’s not a group that should be allowed to operate under the banner of the State of Colorado. Senate Republicans stood with the numerous businesswomen who testified there are better approaches to addressing concerns than through intimidation and the unnecessary vilification of business.
A Republican-led state Senate committee Wednesday voted to end the work of a commission whose task was to deal with issues of pay equity, prompting an angry response from labor groups.
In a party-line 5-4 vote, the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee chose to end the commission's work.
Colorado's Pay Equity Commission was created in 2010 as an arm of the state Department of Labor and Employment. Its charge was to increase awareness of pay inequity and develop ways to overcome it.
It was formed after a 2007 study of issues surrounding pay inequity.
The 11-member commission was up for sunset review, and the state had recommended to continue it.
"Pay inequities are unfair and hurt Colorado families," Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, a member of the Senate business committee, said in a statement. "I thought everyone understood that, but that proved not to be the case today."
Erin Bennett, Colorado Director of 9to5, echoed that position: "The current and continuing pay inequity in the state of Colorado proves that the work of the Pay Equity Commission is not complete. Without a permanent commission, there will be no oversight of the progress being made on the vital issue of equal pay in Colorado."
In supporting its demise, some pointed to the commission's ineffectiveness.
"There is not a single person who wants any group or gender to be paid less for equal work," said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. "The Pay Equity Commission, however, not only didn't meet its statutory obligations, it perpetuates misnomers about equal pay in Colorado and unnecessarily vilifies Colorado's businesses."
The state Department of Regulatory Agencies, which supported reapproval, said in an October report that the commission "has made some, though minimal progress on its assigned tasks. As such, the work ... remains unfinished and it should be continued."
Sunset reviews are periodic assessments of state boards to determine whether they should be continued.
Although part of the commission's task was to make recommendations to the state labor director about possible legislation, it never made any in the 21 meetings it held, the DORA report shows. However, it was instrumental in a number of education campaigns designed to enlighten businesses about issues of pay inequity based on race and gender.
"Given that the PEC was provided no resources to conduct its work, its accomplishments are somewhat remarkable," the DORA report said. "Inadequate administrative support and poor recordkeeping are not, necessarily, grounds to repeal the PEC if the work of the PEC is deemed important."
DENVER — Senate Republicans again reminded their Democratic colleagues what it’s like being in the minority as they voted Wednesday afternoon to do away with the Pay Equity Commission, arguing that it’s a feckless body that hasn’t accomplished much.
Democrats, while ostensibly angry about the 5-4 party-line vote by the GOP-controlled Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee, are already returning to their oft-used narrative that the GOP is hostile to women by scrapping a body charged with rooting out gender discrimination in the workplace.
“Hard working women across Colorado deserve better than they got from the Republican Colorado Senate majority today,” said Amy Runyon-Harms, director of Progress Now. “We call on the General Assembly to immediately take up a new bill to continue the vital work of Pay Equity Commission to its conclusion. There is too much at stake for this short-sightedness.”
“The commission was charged with researching the ongoing problem of pay inequity in Colorado and developing best practices both for private industry and the state of Colorado to ensure women and men receive equal pay for equal work. Republicans disregarded the opinion of witness after witness, the mountain of studies proving that pay inequity remains a problem, and even the state’s own experts to come to this terrible decision.”
Colorado labor leaders also sounded off.
“It is unconscionable that, in these modern times, women do not have the same rights as men or that we need a commission to oversee that they do,” said Mike Cerbo, executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO.
“Senate Republicans and members on this committee speak about creating a stronger economy. This vote shows that those same members do not support the basic principles of economic fairness which in itself leads to a stronger economy.”
While Democrats who wanted to maintain the commission argued that it’s vital in forcing businesses to follow anti-discrimination laws, conservative opponents pointed to a report from the Colorado Dept. of Regulatory Agencies that concluded the panel had made “minimal progress” toward its end goals.
“There is not a single person who wants any group or gender to be paid less for equal work,” said Kelly Maher, Executive Director of Compass Colorado. “The Pay Equity Commission, however, not only didn’t meet its statutory obligations, it perpetuates misnomers about equal pay in Colorado, and unnecessarily vilifies Colorado’s businesses.”
By Eli Stokols
DENVER — For all the obsessive punditry about the drop-off in voter turnout during mid-term elections, consider that Colorado saw a major uptick in the number of young voters casting ballots in 2014 compared to 2010 — something Democrats spent millions of dollars to engineer that, ultimately, wasn’t enough to save Sen. Mark Udall’s job.
Perhaps that’s because the 70,000 voters between 18 and 36 casting ballots in 2014 after not voting in 2010 were cancelled out — and then some — by a six-figure increase in the number of new voters over the age of 65.
It’s also largely because younger voters aren’t as loyal to Democrats — or any political party — as many presume them to be.
“Largely they’re focused on issues, and not beholden to one party or another,” said Compass Colorado’s Kelly Maher during a Sunday morning conversation on FOX31 Denver’s #COpolitics: From The Source. “So we really have to do a good job of making the case that we’re better, but we have to do that based on issues.”
Stratgey 360’s Courtney Law agrees that younger voters are focused on issues and not party loyalty, but said the issues they care about — gay marriage, climate change, marijuana legalization — tend to skew progressive.
“The millennial generation is roughly a third of the electorate, but they tend to lead progressive,” Law said. “Social issues mean a lot for them.”
But in Colorado, gay marriage and recreational marijuana are now settled policy.
“The fact that those are becoming less of issues is actually the true legacy of those voters,” said Steve Fenberg, the executive director of New Era Colorado, a group that works to register new voters and signed up roughly 30,000 of them ahead of the 2014 midterms.
“The legacy of younger people participating in the process isn’t that it gets one party or the other elected, it’s that the issues they care about are more present.”
With gay marriage and marijuana now legal in Colorado, the onus is on Democrats to broaden the party’s message beyond those issues.
“As those issues become non-issues, millennials are facing the same issues as other Americans,” said Dustin Zvonek, the Colorado director of Americans For Prosperity. “They want good-paying jobs. They don’t want to live in their parents’ basements. And that’s why you’re seeing millennials more and more support conservative candidates.”
Zvonek points to exit polls from this month’s elections showing that just more than half of younger voters supported Democrats in 2014, a big drop off from 2012 when seven in 10 millennials cast ballots for President Obama.
“The vast majority of [newly registered young voters] are registering as unaffiliated,” Fenberg said. “They’re not loyal to either party, necessarily. Young people are going to crowd around a candidate who stands for something, not just attacking the other guy; that’s why they’re attracted to candidates like Barack Obama or Ron Paul.”
In Colorado’s competitive U.S. Senate race, Udall’s campaign focused most of its messaging on social issues, relentlessly attacking Republican Senator-elect Cory Gardner for his past votes and positions on abortion-related bills and personhood initiatives.
“It seems like there was an almost infantilization of these young people by only talking to them about certain issues,” Maher said.
While Democrats insist that that message moved voters and may be why Gardner’s margin of victory (2.1 percent) was nearly the smallest by any Republican candidate in the country, Gardner’s inroads with women, Hispanics and younger voters — key constituencies for Democratic candidates — helped him unseat an incumbent Colorado senator for the first time in 36 years.
“I think young people want to be spoken to in an authentic way,” Law said.
The Denver Post
September 10, 2014
Congressman Cory Gardner and Sen. Mark Udall face separate complaints filed against them this week as Colorado’s U.S. Senate race heats up.
Both sides said the complaints — filed by members of the opposite party — were political.
Udall, a Democrat running for a second term, is accused of violating campaign finance laws in connection with a fundraiser for a state House candidate. The complaint was filed with the secretary of state by Kelly Maher, director of the conservative group Compass Colorado.
Gardener, a Republican trying to unseat Udall, is accused of using taxpayer-funded resources, such as linking to official press releases, in political campaign materials. The complaint was filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics and the House Committee on Ethics by the Colorado Democratic Party.
The Gardner complaint:
“Today’s complaint filed by Democratic party operatives is nothing more than a political publicity stunt designed to distract voters from Sen. Udall’s flawed record,” said Gardner’s campaign spokesman, Alex Siciliano.
Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party, said the complaint is legitimate.
“Ethics rules play a critical role in ensuring taxpayer dollars aren't inappropriately used to aid the self-serving political aims of members of both parties,” Palacio said. “Congressman Cory Gardner owes Coloradans an explanation for blatantly ignoring House ethics rules to aid his campaign. He showed us long ago that he’d do anything to get elected, but I never expected him to go this far.”
I never expected him to go this far?
“Everyone makes mistakes, but 16 times is no mistake,” Palacio said, when asked about that seemingly over the top sentence.
Udall’s senatorial campaign committed a similar boo boo in his first Senate run. His campaign linked to a video of Udall’s speech on the floor of the U.S. House concerning troop surges in Iraq. The video was yanked after I inquired about it.
“We weren't aware that it violated the rules,” Mike Melanson, Udall’s campaign manager in the 2008 election, said at the time. “It was an inadvertent mistake.”
The Udall complaint:
A complaint also was filed against Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, saying she violated the constitution by taking in-kind corporation donations at her fundraiser. The Denver Post then pointed out to Maher that the Post’s invitation read that the fundraiser benefited Duran’s campaign and PAC, which is allowed to take corporate contributions. Maher said other invitations from Duran did not include that disclaimer.
At the same party, Udall took to the stage and urged the crowed to donate to Duran.
“She’s a 30-something and you multiply by three. That means that every one of you should have written at least a hundred-dollar check, is that right? ‘Cuz we need to send her back to the state House and we need to keep the state House in the majority,” Udall said, according to footage obtained by a tracker.
Maher said Federal Election Commission rules allow for federal candidates and officials to attend non-federal events, but prohibit the solicitation of non-federal dollars.
“It’s ironic that the same Sen. Udall who is trying to pass new laws about campaign finance can’t seem to follow the law currently on the books,” Maher said.
Udall spokesman Chris Harris said the complaint is unfounded. “They’re misinterpreting the FEC rules,” he said. “The FEC explicitly allows Mark to do what he did.”
August 14, 2014
Compass Colorado — a non-profit government watchdog group — responded to The Gazette's investigation into tax incentives for the Gaylord Rockies hotel calling the deal "cronyism at its worst."
"The fact that an out-of-state developer can vote for the existence of a new tax district, with only a single person voting, then funnel those revenues straight back to that developer, is an egregious abuse of the voting and tax systems," said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. "Coloradans should all hold on to our wallets if this is allowed to stand, because the precedent will spread across our state."
The Gazette unveiled details of a multi-million dollar incentive package the City of Aurora offered to the hotel and conference center developer three years ago. The deal called for the creation of two special taxing districts, included property tax revenue for a nearby housing development and used a state incentive tool intended for urban renewal on land zoned agricultural.
Maher said as a taxpayer advocate she was appalled by the deal.
"It's like something out of Chicago," Maher said. "It's not something that you would believe would happen here in Colorado."
The City of Aurora stands behind the incentives as a necessary tool to attract a major economic driver not only to the city but to benefit the entire region. City council members who voted on the deal emphasize that unless the hotel and conference center are constructed, the developer will not receive any of the taxpayer money. Also, all of the taxpayer money tied up in the deal would be new revenue generated by the project so it wouldn't take away from existing city revenue.
The City of Aurora is scheduled to give an update Thursday to the state's Economic Development Commission about the status of the project. The update will focus on $81.4 million in state incentives given to the developer through the Regional Tourism Act - a tool that enables unique and significant projects to capture a portion of state sales tax revenue to help finance development.