Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Lamborn sought chairmanship of veterans committee

Posted By on Wed, Dec 28, 2016 at 10:59 AM

Lamborn: Wants to lead Committee on Veterans Affairs. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Lamborn: Wants to lead Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, who just won his sixth term in Congress, apparently wanted to capture a leadership position.

"Cong. Lamborn is vying for the chance to become the Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee," Stephannie Finley wrote in an email to various local officials on Oct. 23.

The message surfaced amid an Independent records request on another matter. Finley is executive director of university advocacy and partnerships for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and works on federal issues.

But, alas, he didn't get the slot.

From his communications director Jarred Rego, via email:
Congressman Lamborn was a finalist for the position of Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. The House Steering Committee selected Representative Phil Roe of Tennessee to serve as the HVAC Chair. Rep. Roe's background as a physician and Army veteran makes him well-positioned to lead the Committee in the next Congress.

While Lamborn has never chaired a U.S. House committee, he served as chair of the Colorado State Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee years ago.

Lamborn, who has no military experience, was a member of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee in 2014 when news broke that clinics were not providing timely treatment and falsified records to avoid accountability for long delays.

The scandal included similar allegations at the Floyd K. Lindstrom Outpatient Clinic in Colorado Springs.

Facing a serious primary challenge from retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Bentley Rayburn, Lamborn was chided for his poor attendance at VA committee hearings. His general election opponent, another Air Force Maj. General Irv Halter, also blasted Lamborn for missing 19 Veterans Affairs Committee meetings. Lamborn countered through a spokesman, according to media reports, that he had other important meetings to attend during those times.

Here are Lamborn's committee assignments.

According to the congressman's U.S. House website:
Doug was then elected to the US House of Representatives in 2006 to represent Colorado’s Fifth District. Colorado’s Fifth District, based in Colorado Springs, is one of our nation’s most military-intensive congressional districts and the proud home to more than 100,000 veterans who have served our country with distinction and honor. Because of the district's military and veterans concentration, Doug serves as a high-ranking member on both the House Armed Services Committee and the House Veterans Affairs Committee. In these roles, he has protected important national defense funding, programs, and missions and has fought hard for the right of veterans to receive the healthcare they have earned. Additionally, the Congressman has worked since his first full day in office to bring about a dignified and fitting National Veterans Cemetery to the Pikes Peak Region, and he is well on the way to achieving that goal, with construction slated to begin in the near future.

Recently, Doug was named the Vice Chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. The Strategic Forces Subcommittee oversees our nation’s strategic weapons, ballistic missile defense, space programs, and Department of Energy national security programs (excluding nonproliferation programs). It makes sure our nation is properly prepared for any missile or nuclear attacks.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Judge: Electors must cast votes for Clinton or face the consequences

Posted By on Wed, Dec 14, 2016 at 4:29 PM

Editor's note: This story first appeared in The Colorado Independent.

DENVER — An attorney representing the state grilled two members of Colorado’s Electoral College in a downtown Denver courtroom Tuesday, asking whether they intend to violate a state law that says they must cast their ballots for the presidential candidate who won the state.

Since Election Day, electors Polly Baca of Denver and Bob Nemanich of Colorado Springs have been part of a Hail Mary effort to block Donald Trump from the White House by voting for someone else — and persuading their fellow electors to do the same. Because more national electors are Republicans, the alternative likely would have to be a Republican.

But as a Monday deadline for the national electoral vote looms, these electors have begun to look like martyrs for what they see as the true function of the Electoral College: The right to vote their consciences.
Hamilton electors are trying to keep Trump out the White House. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • Hamilton electors are trying to keep Trump out the White House.

Citing the writings of Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, Baca and Nemanich say just because the Electoral College has never had to break the glass in case of emergency doesn’t mean the glass is shatterproof.

And so twice this week, the two Colorado electors found themselves in court.

Yesterday, a federal judge threw out a legal filing by the two electors requesting a hold on enforcement of state law so they could vote their consciences. A federal lawsuit seeking to find the state law unconstitutional, though, is still pending.

Today’s court hearing was in Denver District County court where Secretary of State Wayne Williams asked Judge Elizabeth Starrs to clarify what sanctions the state could impose on the electors should they defy state law. What, state officials asked, could they do with electors who go rogue, something that has never happened in Colorado.

“It’s possible a crime could be committed next week,” Chris Jackson, a lawyer representing the state, told the judge.

An attorney for the electors, Jesse Witt, argued the state was asking the judiciary to put on a lawmaker’s hat, draft legislation, and then sign it into law like a governor.

“This is a clear case of legislating from the bench,” he said. The electors should have the right to vote their consciences without the threat of criminal punishment. That was how the Founding Fathers envisioned the Electoral College, he said.

“This is not a rubber stamp, this is not a ministerial act,” he said. “This is an important part of our democratic republican government.”

Witt said if the act of casting a vote for whoever won the state involved no deliberation among electors then what was the purpose of the state’s Electoral College members? Why even have humans involved?

“If it was a ministerial duty we could just do this by computer,” he said.

After three hours of testimony from both sides, including the state hauling the electors up on the witness stand, the judge ruled against the electors. They must vote for the winners of the popular vote in the state — Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine — or, the judge said, “there will be repercussions.”

She did not say, however, what those repercussions would be beyond removing them as electors.

The setback was the second in an unprecedented series of events that have played out in Colorado over the past few weeks. The defiant stand of the Hamilton electors has drawn the interest of C-SPAN, which might broadcast live from Monday’s vote-casting ceremony, and it has brought heightened public attention to how the Electoral College works. It even drew the attention of Trump himself who intervened in yesterday’s federal hearing.

The federal judge on Monday said he believed the attempt by a handful of national electors to try and deny Trump the presidency was a “political stunt.”

Tuesday’s courtroom action added to the week’s drama.

Approaching the electors as if they were on trial, Jackson peppered them with questions about how many other electors they had spoken to about their effort to dump Trump by way of their positions in the Electoral College.

“Sitting here today do you intend to vote for Hillary Clinton for president and Tim Kaine for vice president?” Jackson asked Baca, a former state senator and longtime Democratic Party activist.

“I don’t know,” she replied.

Jackson asked if she spoke to other electors about a “plan” to violate state law. Baca hedged, saying she did not know if such a “plan” exists.

Later, speaking to The Colorado Independent, Baca characterized her outreach to other electors as an “effort” or a “strategy,” but not a plan. They have been talking about their options, she said. But at this point any real movement hasn’t gelled.

So far, only 10 out of the 538 electors are on record saying they want to vote their conscience in order to stop Trump. Four are from Colorado, including Baca and Nemanich. They hope to get around 270 to agree. They call themselves Hamilton Electors in honor of Alexander Hamilton who viewed the Electoral College as a deliberative and investigative body created as a fail-safe against an unqualified president.

“Mr. Nemanich you’re next in the hot seat,” the judge said as Baca stepped down from the witness stand.
Bob Nemanich called himself an "average schmuck" in an interview before his Dec. 12 court date. - ALLEN TIAN
  • Allen Tian
  • Bob Nemanich called himself an "average schmuck" in an interview before his Dec. 12 court date.
Nemanich is a math teacher from Colorado Springs and was an early supporter of Bernie Sanders. He and Baca were subpoenaed to show up in court because they were the ones who filed the federal suit, and they had made statements to media indicating they might violate state law at noon on Monday when they have to cast their official votes.

Like Baca, Nemanich told the state’s lawyer he didn’t know how he would vote Monday.

Jackson asked how many other electors he has spoken with since the election.

“Probably 10,” he said.

There are only nine electors in Colorado, all Democrats.

Under oath, Nemanich said he intends to follow all the laws faithfully, but that anything could happen before then. Who knows how his appeals in his federal lawsuit will shake out, he said.
“My mind,” he said, “is still considering what the situation is.”

Later, during a break in the hearing, Nemanich told The Colorado Independent he had no plans of going to jail. During the same break, Republican Secretary of State Williams approached Nemanich and the two made pleasant small talk about where Nemanich teaches high school.

The in-person encounter was starkly different from the uncharacteristically harsh response Williams had for Nemanich and Baca in response to their federal lawsuit. He called their strategy “arrogant,” “evil,” “odious,” and part of an “illegal conspiracy.”

Toward the end of the hearing, Judge Starrs said she wished she had a couple weeks to rule — but doesn’t.

In six days Colorado’s nine electors will travel to the state Capitol where they will swear an oath and then sign two pieces of paper, which go into the record books for the official Electoral College tally of the 2016 presidential election.

Ben Schler, who handles the Electoral College administration for the Secretary of State’s office, said Clinton and Kaine’s names already will be printed on the paperwork for the electors to sign in public view. He said it is unclear exactly how an elector would go about voting for another choice. That never happened before. Asked what might happen if an elector chose to just sit there and do nothing, he smiled, shook his head, and shrugged. All new territory.

Following the ruling, Williams noted that district attorneys and the attorney general make the decisions on whether to prosecute someone.

“I think clearly if you take an oath that says you’re going to follow the law and immediately within minutes break that oath, I think that’s of severe consequence, but I think the electors will think about that,” he said.

Outside, in the marbled hallway of the courthouse, Witt put on a brave face, saying the nationwide Hamilton Elector effort has turned a floodlight on how the Electoral College should really work in a time when it is needed most.

“I think this has always been about more than just Colorado,” he said.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Want to make marijuana policy? City seeks volunteers for working group

Posted By on Tue, Dec 13, 2016 at 1:00 AM


Seats need a-fillin' on the city's Medical Marijuana Working Group created early this year to "study, review, evaluate and develop recommendations related to the regulation of marijuana within the City of Colorado Springs." They're the seats once occupied by Charles Houghton, a local marijuana attorney who stepped down because of scheduling conflicts, and Rebecca Lockwood, a caregiver to sick children on medical marijuana oils who gave up her seat so she can sue the city over residential growing limits. That lawsuit will be filed soon, she says, once her son's paperwork is in order.

As we've reported in CannaBiz, there've been concerns about the lack of actual patients and their advocates in this group which has produced some policies — like the plant count limit and moratorium renewal — that rub the cannabis community the wrong way. So, here's the chance to live up to the old adage "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"

From the city's press release on the matter: "Current vacancies include positions representing the medical marijuana industry and medical marijuana caregivers, and City Council is also interested in applicants with experience as medical marijuana patients and as experienced professionals in areas relating to medical marijuana, i.e. attorneys, medical professionals, or educators."

Obligations include meeting once-a-month for two hours, listening to presentations on various marijuana-related topics and discussing possible changes to city code. Interested parties should send a letter of interest and resume outlining relevant experience to Eileen Gonzalez either by email to egonzalez@springsgov.com or by snail mail to City Council; P.O. Box 1575; Colorado Springs, CO 80901. Questions? Call 719-385-5452.

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Trump's pick for Interior no friend of America's parks, nonprofits say

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 11:16 AM

  • U.S. Forest Service
Environmental groups are up in arms over the nomination by President-elect Trump of Cathy McMorris Rodgers, an oil and gas friendly congresswoman, to lead the Interior Department.

The Center for Western Priorities writes:
DENVER—In response to reports that President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers to lead the Department of the Interior, the Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:

“This week, President-elect Trump told America he wants to follow in Teddy Roosevelt’s footsteps by conserving America’s parks and public lands. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, unfortunately, has shown little interest in the issues she would encounter on a daily basis as Secretary of the Interior.

“Before the Senate considers her nomination, the American people deserve to know where McMorris Rodgers stands on the issues facing our public lands today, particularly at a time when members of her party are encouraging the President-elect to take the unprecedented step of erasing national monuments from the map and selling off public lands.

“If Cathy McMorris Rodgers is confirmed, we hope she takes her new boss’s words seriously and follows in the conservation tradition of Teddy Roosevelt, not the robber barons who would have drilled, mined, and clear-cut their way across the West a century ago.”
In 2011, Cathy McMorris Rodgers was a co-sponsor of HR 1126, which would have sold off more than 3 million acres of public lands to private interests. This year, McMorris Rodgers voted against an amendment that would have prevented efforts to dispose of public lands outside of the established planning process. These positions should raise a red flag for anyone who values keeping our public lands public.

President-elect Trump this week promised to honor “the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, believe it or not, one of our great environmentalists.” When asked by a reporter earlier this year about proposals to “transfer” American public lands to states, Trump said, “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do. I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold. We have to be great stewards of this land.”

President-elect Trump’s statements are contradicted by the crusade by some members of Congress to dispose of public lands into state and private hands.
The Western Values Project also issued a statement, saying:
President-elect Donald Trump's nomination of Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, who has pushed for the sell off of public lands owned by all Americans, is drawing a stark contrast with his previously stated desire to honor “the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt” — the iconic President that led a massive expansion of America’s Parks System.

A longtime member of the political establishment in Washington, D.C., Congresswoman McMorris-Rogers has frequently opposed the expansion of national public lands, while taking a lifetime total of $357,340 from oil and gas companies. That record is a clear sign the next Department of Interior will prioritize resource extraction over the protection of important Western landscapes that drive the outdoor economy.

Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project, issued the following statement in response to the nomination:

“Rep. McMorris-Rodgers traded Washington state’s conservation values for Washington, D.C.'s pay-to-play traditions a long time ago. During her long career in Congress she cozied up to special interests while openly leading the charge to privatize our nation’s public lands. If personnel is policy, then it’s fair to say the incoming administration is setting itself up to erase Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy of expanding and protecting our most valuable landscapes.
“The vast majority of Westerners believe that no one set of special interests should dominate the way our lands are managed. Far from draining the swamp, this pick is a clear sign that the incoming leadership is willing to rig the public lands system in favor of the extraction industry, and at the expense of access to public lands. If that’s the direction this administration goes, Westerners will hold them accountable for turning their backs on a core part of our heritage.

“The incoming administration has plenty of tools at its disposal if it wants to avoid the public lands problems of the past, and we'd be happy to be proved wrong about Congresswomen McMorris Rodgers’ commitment to making public lands work for everyone.”

1995 HEADLINE: “McMorris Seeks Halt to State Land Buys” As far back as 1995, then state representative McMorris Rodgers sponsored a bill to block a state Recreation Agency “from giving grants to buy land for parks, trails and other recreational lands.” She said at the time that “too much land is going off tax rolls and into public ownership.” [Bruce Rushton, “Legislature ’95: GOP Sends ‘Message’ With Bill on Park Lands,” The News Tribune, 02/06/95]

“McMorris said the state owns enough land, and instead of buying more land the state should manage what it owns more carefully.” She also said, “‘At a time when there's not enough funding for vital state services, the money saved should be used to fund prison and school construction.’” McMorris also “said when public lands are removed from a county tax base it is much more difficult for counties to maintain needed services.” [Staff, “McMorris Seeks Halt to State Land Buys,” The Wenatchee World, 02/12/95]

McMorris also said, “‘The government owns enough land in Washington state’.” [Michael Paulson, “Wildlife Program Threatened: GOP Wants to Curb State Land Purchases,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 02/23/95]

At a hearing on the proposal in March of 1995, McMorris “said ‘more public lands are not needed.’” [Michael Paulson, “Lobbying for State Land Buys Conservations Don’t Want a Bank,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 03/04/95]

“Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said changes are needed to limit funding for federal land acquisitions.” According to the Spokesman Review, “Federal land acquisitions are often poorly managed and inaccessible to the public, McMorris Rodgers said recently in a statement. If changes are made, it’s likely the fund could be back soon, she added. ‘As we look to reauthorization, we must bring the LWCF into the 21st Century,’ the Spokane Republican said. ‘I want to look at ways to strengthen our state and local parks and limit the practice of bureaucrats in (Division of Conservation Services) buying up large swaths of farmland and rangeland.’” [Kevin Graeler, “Republicans seek land funding change,” The Spokesman-Review, 10/04/15]

2012: McMorris opposes “removing lands from private ownership” in speech to logging industry At her 2012 keynote speech at the Society of American Foresters National Convention, McMorris Rodgers said “It is no coincidence that many of the counties with the highest unemployment rates in the country are those which are surrounded by federal forests.” McMorris’s speech advocated for return of national forests to local, private ownership saying “By removing lands from private ownership – and thus, from the local municipal tax rolls – the government stifles locally-driven development and makes rural communities more dependent on Washington, DC.”

2011: Cathy McMorris Rodgers co-sponsored “The Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act” The bill would compel the Secretary of the Interior to sell federal lands throughout the West “previously identified as suitable for disposal.” [H.R. 1126, the Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2011]

Since 2004, Cathy McMorris Rodgers has raked in $357,340 from the oil and gas industry. [Center for Responsive Politics - Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers Industries, accessed 12/08/16]
But not everyone is critical of the selection of McMorris Rodgers. The Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association says this in a release:
It is being reported that Donald Trump will nominate Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican representative for Washington State’s 5th Congressional District and Chair of the House Republican Caucus, to be the next Secretary of the Interior.

“As the outdoor industry well knows, the U.S. Department of the Interior is one of the most important cabinet offices for our issues,” said OIA Executive Director Amy Roberts. “We believe we will have a productive and collaborative relationship with Representative McMorris Rodgers like the ones we enjoyed with Secretaries Jewell, Salazar, and Kempthorne before her.”

McMorris Rodgers currently represents several outdoor industry businesses in her district, understands that public lands and waters are the foundation of the massive $646 billion outdoor recreation economy, and was an original cosponsor of the Outdoor REC Act that was just signed into law.

When discussing the outdoor recreation economy, McMorris Rodgers said: “Here in the Northwest, spending time outdoors in nature is a way of life. For many, it’s a big part of the reason we choose to live here, and it also is an economic driver. In the West, there are 640 million acres of federal land. This land belongs to the people, and I believe it should be open to many types of activities — providing enjoyment and economic opportunity for local communities.”

OIA has an excellent relationship with McMorris Rodgers and her staff, and we would look forward to working with her to continue the investment in and protection of outdoor recreation on America's public lands.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Legal weed is here to stay in Pueblo County, museum coming

Posted By on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 at 3:15 PM

Pueblo Starbuds manager Peter Mutty shows off some of his star buds. - BROOKE WARREN / HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
  • Brooke Warren / High Country News
  • Pueblo Starbuds manager Peter Mutty shows off some of his star buds.

The marijuana legalization movement forged decisively ahead this election, though under a new shadow of doubt cast by Donald Trump’s victory.

See next week’s CannaBiz for more on what changes at the federal level could mean for the legal cannabis industry. (Spoiler: we really don’t know yet.) Today, however, find solace in the news that our neighbors to the south rejected efforts to roll back retail marijuana sales in both the city and county of Pueblo.

Election Day dragged into the next day, thanks to an overloaded server that caused long lines at polling places and long delays in reporting the results. While the results aren't final, over 70,000 people appear to have cast their votes on Proposition 200 — the Pueblo County measure that would’ve shut down over 160 retail marijuana businesses — according to unofficial results posted on the county clerk’s website. Of those, 57 percent voted "no" — a larger margin than initially passed retail marijuana it four years ago.

Voters also rejected Proposition 300, the city’s equivalent of Prop 200.

The results further validate arguments made by opponents of the measure during campaign season that Pueblo voters have already demonstrated they’re cool with recreational marijuana, despite insistence on the other side that they’re having second thoughts. Spokesman for the pro-pot campaign, Growing Pueblo’s Future, and owner of Mesa Organics, Jim Parco called the vote a clear message.

“[Citizens] have seen the positive impacts that the regulated, retail marijuana industry has had in Pueblo County,” he said of the results. “We were the first [state] to legalize, regulate and tax adult-use retail marijuana, and now, the first [county] to decisively defeat prohibitionists in a do-over vote.”

In celebrating the victory, Parco also announced plans to create the first ever National Marijuana Museum in Pueblo. Owner of Legacy Homes in Pueblo Branson Haney will chair the community-based steering committee.

“With now more than 30 states having legalized marijuana, we have entered a new era where society is finally acknowledging that the benefits of legalized cannabis far outweigh the costs,” he said on election night. “With Pueblo County as the leader in the national legalization effort, it is now time to lead the effort on improving education and knowledge of marijuana’s rich history — scientifically, socially and culturally. And we’re going to do it right here in Pueblo, Colorado.”

To stay up-to-the-minute with the museum’s progress, follow their Facebook page for updates.

And from here on out, Pueblo citizens who prize their freedom to buy legal weed and all the economic benefit it brings can rest easy that it may well be here to stay. Unless, of course, the Department of Justice under the incoming Trump administration decides to bring down the ax…

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Local students protest Trump

Posted By on Wed, Nov 9, 2016 at 2:11 PM

  • Nat Stein

A large group of protesters marched from Colorado College to Palmer High School to Acacia Park and finally City Hall today.

Reporter Nat Stein was on the scene and says the protest against Donald Trump's election win was planned by a former Bernie Sanders organizer and appeared to be a mix of high school and college students.  The students, many carrying signs, chanted "radical love will rise above," "you are loved," "not my president," and "shut it down."

Hecklers were heard yelling back, "get a job" and "why don't you leave, then?"

  • Nat Stein
  • Nat Stein

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

GOP surge reflects in local returns

Posted By on Tue, Nov 8, 2016 at 7:16 PM

Updated at 8:50 p.m.

The election drama made for a long night in many places around the country, but not so much in Colorado Springs.

As soon as the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office released its first results Tuesday night from ballots returned early, virtually every local and state outcome was clear.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet jumped to a lead over Republican challenger Darryl Glenn at the state leve and eventually secured a second term, despite Glenn easily carrying El Paso County. Meanwhile, Rep. Doug Lamborn instantly wrapped up a sixth term in the U.S. House with a one-sided lead over Democrat Misty Plowright.

Likewise, most contested local races were clearly decided from the first returns, released minutes after the polling places closed at 7 p.m.

State Rep. Pete Lee won a fourth and final term in the Colorado House, while Democrat Tony Exum regained the seat he held from 2012-14 in his race against GOP incumbent Kit Roupe.
At the downtown multi-party celebration at The Antlers hotel, Exum talked about going door to door and being inspired by many he encountered, including a young child who recognized him from a campaign mailer.

Roupe insisted that "I will be back," and jokingly referred to HD 17 being able "to change parties every two years."

Republicans won all other seats in the region, as well as Stan VanderWerf and Longinos Gonzalez in the two contested county commissioner races against Democrats Electra Johnson and Liz Rosenbaum.

"I will work with anybody, seriously anybody, who wants to help solve community problems," VanderWerf said after winning his first attempt at public office. "I will enjoy working with everyone and I hope to make it fun."

Johnson, who hoped to become the first Democratic county commissioner in El Paso County since 1970, was buoyant. "I didn't put any expectations into this," she said. "Could we pull off magic? Who knows? But we made it hurt for the Republicans. I want to make it hurt for every single race from now on. We [Dems] haven't run a campaign in a really long time. ... I'm not done yet."

Gonzalez said, "I did work hard for both the primary and general election," admitted he was exhausted from the campaign and said he didn't want to talk further. Rosenbaum said she was satisfied with her first run for office and promised to try again in the future.

"The only thing I'm really sad about," she said, "is that I'm afraid the water issues will be dropped."

In the presidential race, despite underperforming nationally, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton carried Colorado, though her total of 33 percent in El Paso County fell short of President Barack Obama's support levels of 39 percent in 2008 and 37 percent in 2012.

As for the statewide ballot measures, the ColoradoCare single-payer health insurance plan (Amendment 69) was headed to an obvious defeat, trailing by 170,000-plus in El Paso County alone and by as much as 80-20 percent statewide.

But Amendment 71 (making it harder to change the Colorado Constitution) was approved and carried El Paso County. Also, Amendment 70 (raising the minimum wage) passed despite losing here. And the three state propositions also passed: 106, allowing assistance in dying for the terminally ill; 107 and 108, open primaries including a presidential primary for Colorado.

J. Adrian Stanley contributed reporting to this story.
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Friday, October 28, 2016

Senate candidates report donations

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at 3:07 PM

  • TV ad
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn reported contributions and spending for the latest quarter, showing he raised some $3 million total, and spent $1.2 million through Sept. 30.

Most donors aren't local, but there are some. Among them are developers Ralph Braden, $600; Leroy Landhuis, $2,600; and Doug Stimple, $1,000.

Glenn also go $15,000 from the Senate Conservative Fund, $4,000 from the Black America's PAC, and $5,000 from the Sarah PAC.

He spent about $94,000 with WickedThink Marketing, run by Republican operative Kyle Fisk.

That report wouldn't include donations received since Sept. 30, and any spending since then. So there's no accounting in his report for the television blitz we've seen with Glenn in his gym clothes.

Go here to see who's given to Glenn. Just plug in his name.

Meantime, incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, who's running substantially ahead of Glenn in the polls, reports raising nearly $14.4 million and spending about $12 million.
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Tony Exum endorsed by Obama

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at 12:18 PM

Tony Exum - FILE PHOTO
  • Tony Exum
The President of the United States doesn't often endorse candidates in state house district races. Apparently, President Barack Obama must think Tony Exum is pretty special.

Exum's campaign sent out a release today saying that the HD-17 candidate — who won the seat in 2012 only to lose it to Republican Kit Roupe in 2014 — had scored an endorsement from the leader of the free world in his 2016 bid to take the seat back.

HD-17 tends to swing back and forth between Democrats and Republicans every two years — going to the Democrat in higher turn-out presidential election years. Although, given the strange politics of 2016, it's possible this year could be different. 

Apparently, Obama has endorsed a select group of state legislative candidates this year in addition to Exum. 

Support Underscores Crucial Nature of This Race

WASHINGTON —Today President Barack Obama endorsed Tony Exum in his race for Colorado’s State House of Representatives. Exum is among a select group of state legislative candidates from around the country to be endorsed by the President. HD-17 encompasses the southeast end of Colorado Springs.

This contest has caught national attention due to Exum’s lifetime of public service as a firefighter, and the successes of his previous term in office, such as providing breakfast for low-income schoolchildren and providing tax credits for childcare expenses.

“We are thrilled that President Obama is endorsing our candidates in some of the most competitive races across the country,” said Jessica Post, Executive Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. “His endorsement highlights how crucial state legislative elections are to building on the progress the President has achieved and to continuing to move our nation forward.”

“I was honored today to receive an endorsement from President Obama in support of my candidacy here in Colorado Springs,” Exum said. The candidate, who has a wide base of support in the district where he has lived for 59 years, continued: “I am humbled, hopeful, and extremely thankful that the President of the United States believes that my contribution will be meaningful to our state and local government, and that he sincerely cares about what is going on with the citizens of Colorado Springs.”

Exum has also received the endorsements of Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Dianna Degette, in addition to every major labor union in the state. 

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How will you vote on judges?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2016 at 11:19 AM

In all the hubbub surrounding presidential politics and the U.S. Senate race in Colorado, it's likely voters haven't given a second thought to the fact that many judges are up for retention.

To find out more about how the judges were rated by attorneys and non-attorneys, go to this link.

Here's an explanation of the process used to rate judges:
The judicial appointment and retention process in Colorado is one of the best merit based systems in the country, and it has been around for 50 years. Many states have direct elections of judges, opening the judicial system to all the corruption and influence of big money in politics we see in legislative, congressional and presidential elections. In these states judicial decisions can essentially be bought and sold.

Colorado county, district and appellate judges are appointed by the Governor based on bi-partisan nominating commissions, which use a merit based process to recommend three names for each open judgeship, from which the Governor makes an appointment. Periodically, judges are required to stand for retention elections. Voters decide whether each judge should stay on the bench or be removed.

To help Colorado voters make informed decisions, the state Judicial Performance Commission and local JPCs in every judicial district, conduct a thorough evaluation process of judges facing retention elections. This evaluation involves extensive surveying of attorneys, jurors, court staff, other judges, civil litigants and others who can provide direct input on a judge's performance; court room observations; review of authored opinions; an interview by the JPC of each judge and other input from the public about a judge’s performance.

A report is then generated for each retention judge and provided to voters online by the Colorado Judicial Performance Commission and the Colorado Legislative Council's "Blue Book" which is mailed to voters and available online. This report identifies each judge's strengths and weaknesses and makes a recommendation to voters to either retain (keep a judge on the bench) or not retain that judge so Colorado voters have direct, informed decision making authority on our judges.
To access those reports, go to the link provided above.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

State lawmaker files suit over ballot selfies

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 4:21 PM

For the life of me, I don't know why anyone would want to take a selfie of their ballot. I mean, must everything be shared via social media?

Hill: Asserts that sharing a picture of your ballot is a freedom of speech issue. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Hill: Asserts that sharing a picture of your ballot is a freedom of speech issue.
Apparently so, some think, so this has become an urgent enough issue that Republican State Sen. Owen Hill filed a lawsuit today to try to undo that prohibition.
Today, State Senator Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) took the initiative to file a lawsuit against an outdated regulation that makes taking a picture of your ballot and sharing it on social media illegal in Colorado.

The law has drawn increasing statewide attention this election cycle, especially on social media networks where new and young voters in particular are sharing who they voted for and encouraging their friends to do the same.

Hill has witnessed a myriad of Colorado voters, friends, and constituents alike excitedly sharing their choice of candidates and initiatives on social media.

“And while exercising free speech, they now have to be worried about being prosecuted for participating in the political process or for encouraging discussion on the important civic choices facing our State,” Hill said. “We need to stand alongside all Colorado voters by fighting for this reform.”

“My generation, millennials, are sometimes known as the ‘selfie generation.’ That last thing we need is a law on the books that discourages voter participation and makes people afraid to share in political discourse in Colorado,” Hill pointed out.

Hill believes the lawsuit is an important step to protect voters’ free speech rights while still continuing to safeguard privacy and other necessary voter protections. There is also an opportunity to address this issue in the upcoming 2017 legislative session.

Michael Fransisco of MRD Law, the attorney who filed the documents this morning, is confident the case is both needed and straightforward:

“Everyone in Colorado should have the right to speak about their voting decisions, including the ubiquitous use of cell phone pictures to express a point,” Fransisco noted. “The First Amendment protects this valuable form of political discourse.”

“Courts across the country are recognizing that broad laws prohibiting ballot pictures are unconstitutional and we look forward to adding Colorado to the list of states where free speech about a voted ballot can be shared without fear of criminal prosecution,” Fransisco concluded.

The lawsuit explains that: “Speech about how one votes in an election rests at the core of political speech protected by the First Amendment. One particularly vivid way to speak about a decision to vote or not vote is to later share a picture of a marked ballot that has been turned in. Taking a picture of a voted ballot is increasingly popular.”

Unfortunately, Colorado has an outmoded statute making it a crime to “show” a ballot to “any person” in such a way “as to reveal its contents.”

“In a classic case of an overbroad law that restricts vast swaths of legal, protected speech in the name of preventing discrete bad acts, Colorado has chilled the Plaintiffs and countless other voters from being permitted to engage in the simple act of posting a photo of a ballot as a political expression,” the filing argues.

Senator Hill is joined by another plaintiff, Scott Romano, on the lawsuit. Romano is an 18-year-old University of Denver student who is voting for the first time in this election - he is also a registered Democrat.

“I believe this is a key way for common sense to prevail in Colorado politics. This isn’t a partisan issue - it’s about upholding our constitutional rights and advocating for the full participation of every registered Colorado voter,” Romano said.

“I’m grateful for Senator Hill’s lead on this important issue and I’m happy to join him as a co-plaintiff in the case.”

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Political activist asked to resign for not endorsing GOP candidate

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 12:51 PM

Kanda Calef, a longtime loyal Republican, is being chastised for choosing someone other than GOP nominee in the U.S. Senate race, Darryl Glenn, and telling people about it. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Kanda Calef, a longtime loyal Republican, is being chastised for choosing someone other than GOP nominee in the U.S. Senate race, Darryl Glenn, and telling people about it.
A squabble has arisen within the El Paso County Republican Party due to an endorsement of a non-Republican.

As first reported by the Colorado Independent, Kanda Calef got taken to the woodshed by party chairman Jeff Hays after she announced she'll support Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate Lily Tang Williams rather than Republican nominee Darryl Glenn, an El Paso County commissioner.

Here's the message she received from Hays on Oct. 13:

Although as a private citizen you may obviously express your opinion as you wish, as a precinct leader there are restrictions within our bylaws, Article VIII, paragraph G.4, that expressly forbid your endorsing non-Republican candidates in an election where there is a Republican candidate running.

Your Facebook post and included press release endorsing Lily Tang Williams for US Senate clearly stated that you were a precinct leader and a member of our executive committee, so it appears you have violated that section of our county bylaws.

I hope you will publicly reconsider your position; if not, I hope you will please submit a letter of resignation as precinct leader in lieu of going through the process of being removed described in the subsequent section of the bylaws.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Jeff Hays
Chairman, El Paso County Republican Central Committee

Calef, a party activist, says she won't resign, because the party is run by "a bunch of hypocrites" who themselves have violated the endorsement rule. Besides Hays and others openly endorsing Tom Tancredo who switched to the American Constitution Party to run for governor in 2010.

Calef also points to the 2013 City Council race in which then-GOP party executive Bill Roy and Hays gave the impression they had endorsed Angela Dougan over Joel Miller. ("Joel Miller cries foul over non-endorsement endorsement," March 20, 2013.) Both are Republicans, and the party's bylaws bar endorsements in contests in which Republicans vie with one another, such as primaries. It's worth noting that City Council elections are considered non-partisan. Miller won the seat.

Here's Calef's statement:
A longtime Republican, committed to cleaning up the corruption inside the Republican Party, I have become another target of the establishment of the Republican Party. After endorsing Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate Lily Tang Williams due to Darryl Glenn’s hypocrisy of expecting Republicans to vote for him, while he stated that he would not support the Republican Presidential candidate, I have been sent the email below from the El Paso County Chair, Jeff Hays, threatening to kick me out as a Republican precinct leader. Darryl Glenn is also a precinct leader, so I will be interested to find out if he is also being asked to resign his position, since his non-support of Trump is an implied endorsement for a candidate who is not Republican.

I have my doubts that they will do anything to Glenn, since the rules for the elites in the Republican Party are not the same as the rules for the average citizen who chooses to participate in the political process.

It should be noted that when Tom Tancredo ran for Governor as an American Constitutional Party candidate in 2010, a huge number of Republican elected officials, executive committee members, and precinct leaders endorsed him against the Republican candidate, Dan Maes. To my knowledge, nobody was asked to give up their positions and my understanding was that the bylaws were the same in 2010 regarding this situation as they are now. To my recollection, Jeff Hays, the current El Paso County Chairman who is requesting my resignation, was a sitting precinct leader and Executive Committee Member who was openly a Tom Tancredo supporter. Selective prosecution seems to be the standard.

While Darryl Glenn has followed the path of the other establishment Republicans like John McCain and Paul Ryan and rejected the Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, he is still being promoted by the El Paso County Republican Party and the other elites from around the state. Yet, when a low-level precinct leader, like me, takes a stand against the hypocrisy of the establishment, I am threatened. Like the special treatment given to Hillary Clinton when she broke the law, it appears that the requirements for the nobility are not the same as those for the serfs.

The Chairman of the El Paso County GOP should spend more time helping to make sure Colorado’s electoral college votes do not go to Hillary Clinton and not waste his time fighting one of Colorado’s most outspoken conservatives.
Glenn has since reversed gears and says he's supporting Trump. Calef, too, says she supports Trump.
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Friday, October 14, 2016

Glenn pumps iron in campaign ad

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 4:50 PM

Glenn demonstrating his never-give-up attitude. - TV AD
  • TV ad
  • Glenn demonstrating his never-give-up attitude.
Darryl Glenn's campaign for U.S. Senate announces he's raked in $2.8 million in donations in the third quarter, just after the campaign also announced this week he's plowing hundreds of thousands of dollars into TV advertising.

One ad, which runs three minutes and 31 seconds, features Glenn in work-out clothes, climbing a rope, lifting weights and jogging.

Glenn, an El Paso County Commissioner and training coach, tells viewers, "All of my life I've been told no, that I was too poor, too short, too black. Go ahead, tell me I can't win this Senate race. I love being the under dog."

In a news release, his campaign notes the fundraising total and says he has $1.9 million in cash on hand. From the release:
“Everyone has underestimated Darryl Glenn this election, but these numbers— which show him outraising a sitting U.S. Senator— prove he’s not one to back down from a challenge. Darryl’s supporters are investing in a bold, conservative outsider who will bring reform and accountability to D.C., rather than a Washington insider like Michael Bennet, who’s content with the status quo​," said Katey Price on behalf of the campaign.​
As of 4:15 p.m. Friday, Bennet had not filed his new report, but his campaign reported $6 million cash on hand in the last report, filed in July.

The Democrat, who's been airing TV ads for months, had raised about $12.2 million as of his last report.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Clinton urges working together during Pueblo stop

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 3:13 PM

Clinton spoke to a packed house on Wednesday, seen here from live streaming by KOAA.
  • Clinton spoke to a packed house on Wednesday, seen here from live streaming by KOAA.
Hillary Clinton told a crowd Wednesday at the State Fairgrounds in Pueblo that "nobody makes it alone" and promised to work with others to make life better for all Americans.

Clinton was introduced by former U.S. Senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who opened by quoting his father, in Spanish, who used to tell him, "Tell me who you walk with, and I'll tell you who you are."

"Today, Hillary Clinton could have been anywhere in Colorado or America, but she chose to come to southern Colorado and Pueblo and walk with us," he said. "Our job is to walk with her, and mark our ballots and vote ... so we can call her madam president on the evening of Nov. 8."

Clinton's visit comes just over a week after Republican nominee Donald Trump showed up in Pueblo, a hotbed for Democrats. 

There wasn't anything new in Clinton's speech. She reiterated her plan to make college more affordable, enable students to refinance college debt, provide higher tax credits for parents, and strive for equal pay for equal work for women.
Clinton is met on stage by former Sen. Ken Salazar. - KOAA LIVE STREAMING
  • KOAA live streaming
  • Clinton is met on stage by former Sen. Ken Salazar.
She noted she's been accused of playing the "woman card," and said if fighting for equal pay, and paid family leave and more affordable child care is playing the woman card, "then deal me in."

She spent quite a bit of time reminding voters of Trump's negative comments about women, Muslims, Hispanics and others, and his failed business enterprises.

"We need to make sure the rich pay their fair share," she said. "Trump hasn’t paid a penny in federal income tax for years. This is allegedly, because he won’t release his income tax returns.
Think about it, it means he’s contributed zero for our military, zero for veterans, zero for education and health care, and he has the gall and go around disrespecting the military. He calls the U.S. military a disaster. The only disaster is somebody who can get away with paying no taxes and run for president and criticize the rest of us who have done our part for America."

To end her speech, Clinton recounted her mother's tough upbringing. At the age of 8, she and her 3-year-old sister were put on a train for California where they were to meet their grandparents. But they weren't interested in raising them either, she said, forcing her mom to take a job working as a maid and babysitter at age 14.

But despite her plight, her mother was thankful for those who helped her. Her employer allowed her to go to high school. Her first grade teacher brought an extra lunch because the teacher knew she had none.

"My mother always cared about other people, and she taught me that nobody is better than anybody else," Clinton said. "We need to show each other more kindness and support, and the last thing we need in our country are more bullies making people feel bad about themselves."

"The American dream is premised on people coming together to lift each other up," she said. "Nobody makes it alone. Everybody has somebody who helps them along the way."

After the speech, she was joined on stage briefly by Salazar and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

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Get tickets to see Newt Gingrich on Friday

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 11:03 AM

  • Courtesy Colorado College
  • Newt Gingrich
After watching the Presidential Town Hall Debate, Americans are itching for more political events.

Errr, OK, so maybe that's not exactly true. But surely there are some folks in Colorado Springs who wouldn't mind seeing former Speaker of the House and Republican Party legend Newt Gingrich speak. While Gingrich doesn't wield the influence he once did, he's still in the game. Most recently, he warned his fellow Republicans to think twice about abandoning Donald Trump

Anyway, Gingrich will be speaking at Colorado College on Nov. 2. While the tickets are free, you do need tickets, and they're likely to go quickly. You can get your tickets starting Friday. Here are the details per CC:

Congressman Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, is on campus next month as part of the Sondermann Presidential Symposium. Tickets are free but required, and will be available beginning Friday, Oct. 14, at 8 a.m. at the Worner Desk in the Worner Campus Center, 902 N. Cascade Ave. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis for the event which will be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 2, in the Kathryn Mohrman Theatre. One ticket per person please.

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