Colorado progressives are in the early stages of creating the infrastructure necessary to fight any number of legislative recalls that could pop up this summer.
So far, just one Democratic lawmaker, first-term state Rep. Rochelle Galindo of Greeley, faces a serious recall effort. More than $102,000 has been raised – most from a single donor – to end Galindo’s legislative career. However, conservatives have suggested there could be several more – including a campaign to boot Gov. Jared Polis out of office.
Organizers this week established Democracy First Colorado with the Secretary of State’s Office. It’s a new committee that will work to protect targeted state lawmakers by raising money, developing messaging and engaging with voters.
Two important hires have already been made: John Salsbury of Mountaintop Strategies has been tapped as campaign manager, while Curtis Hubbard of OnSight will be running communications.
“Democracy First Colorado is prepared to defend our elections and Democrats in the General Assembly who face sham recalls like the one special interests are trying to foist on voters in” Greeley, Hubbard told The Denver Post.
Salsbury and Mountaintop were part of Democrats’ successful effort to retake the state Senate last year by working for the Coloradans for Fairness independent committee.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Democratic Party is building up its own apparatus. The branches of the party responsible for getting Democrats elected to the statehouse – The House Majority Project and the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund – have created a joint committee, Our Colorado Way of Life.
The project’s Matt McGovern and the fund’s Michael Whitehorn, along with a new field director will run the committee.
The state Democratic Party said it will work to direct voters and supporters to the committees.
“I find (the recalls) a very cynical move that is just a power grab to redo the election we just had,” said Morgan Carroll, the party’s chairwoman. “It’s offensive and ridiculous.”
What’s more, the political nonprofits that played a large role in voter turnout during the 2018 election are discussing how they can be helpful.
Nicole Melaku, the executive director of CIRC Action Fund, which fights for immigrant rights, said her organization and others will be there for the targeted lawmakers.
“We have to put our boots on the ground to back up and support legislators who have been there for us,” she said. “I think everyone in their capacity is trying to understand what resources they have on hand that will be helpful.”
Welcome to The Spot, The Denver Post’s weekly political newsletter. I’m Nic Garcia, a Post political reporter. Keep the conversation going by joining our Facebook group today! Forward this newsletter to your colleagues and encourage them to subscribe. And please support the journalism that matters to you and become a Denver Post subscriber here. Send tips, comments and questions to ngarc firstname.lastname@example.org.
15 days until the legislature adjourns; 19 days until Denver votes; 291 days until the Iowa caucuses
Your political digest
- Online Denver election guide includes candidate Q&As and much more voter information. Denver Post
- New Colorado bill would end higher summer electricity rates. Denver Post
- Colorado bill making vaccination exemptions harder gets OK in committee. Denver Post
- Colorado legislature moves closer to creating a public health insurance option. Denver Post
- Sol Pais manhunt prompts politicians to trade accusations over guns and schools. Denver Post
- The clock is ticking for lawmakers to act on harassment policy. CPR
- Colorado could be the next state to let its employees collectively bargain. CPR
- U.S. Senate race in Colorado off to an expensive and out-of-state start. Denver Post
- Republicans are rejecting Democratic attempts to tighten vaccine laws across the country. Politico
- U.S. measles outbreaks are the “new normal.” Buzzfeed
- Abraham Lincoln, Joe Biden and the politics of touch. The Conversation
Bills on the move: Mental health edition
The Colorado House approved two pieces of legislation this week that supporters say will increase access to mental health services for high-risk families and other Coloradans.
One bill, sponsored by state Reps. Lisa Cutter and Tom Sullivan, updates behavioral health insurance coverage laws to align with federal law and close loopholes to increase access to mental health services for Coloradans, according to a release by House Democrats. The bill strengthens prevention and aims to shifts the current system from late-stage treatment to early prevention, among other changes.
The second bill, which unanimously passed, would provide behavioral health support for high-risk families by expanding existing programs that provide pregnant and parenting women access to substance use disorder treatment. This bill creates a child care pilot program for parenting women engaged in substance use disorder treatment.
“We need to stop criminalizing people who are just trying to get help,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Leslie Herod. “This bill will give families the support they need to break their addictions, get healthy and get back on the right track.”
The rules at the statehouse are about to change
As we approach the final two weeks of the General Assembly’s regular session, things are going to move really quickly. In an effort to help speed up the process, Democrats are expected to suspend the rules around committee hearings.
It’s not clear what that means this year, but when Republicans controlled the Senate they funneled all remaining bills through just three committees, including State Affairs and Appropriations.
What’s more, committee meetings could happen on a chamber’s floor with little notice and without any public testimony.
Both chambers acknowledged this week that they expect to change the rules, but discussions about the specifics are ongoing.
Tweet of the week
There’s no doubt that one of the most fun trends of the season has been the proliferation of dogs at the Capitol. But it appears there’s a new head dog in charge, per this tweet from House Majority Leader Alec Garnett.
Mile High Politics
Here’s who is spending what in the mayor’s race
If you got all your news from television ads, you might think there’s one candidate in Denver.
Mayor Michael Hancock is the only one of 52 local candidates to buy television ads in the runup to the May 7 election, according to FCC filings. One of his competitors, Penfield Tate, started the campaign with a TV ad last fall but hasn’t been on the airwaves since.
It highlights the stark fundraising differences in the race. Hancock has raised $1.75 million since his re-election in 2015. That’s twice as much as all of his competitors combined. Jamie Giellis reported $440,000 in fundraising at the end of March, followed by Penfield Tate with $241,000 and Lisa Calderón with $87,000.
The challengers have focused their advertising on mailers and print and, for at least Giellis, robocalls.
“So sorry I missed speaking to you, but I hope you’ve seen my yard signs, my bus-tour postcards, my videos, and my brochures and letters which we’ve been mailing out,” she said, promising to end “runaway development.” Calderón also has a robocall in the field.
On the initiatives side, there’s only one issues group with an ad: Together Denver, which is trying to keep the city’s urban camping ban in place. – Andy Kenney
Denveright plans set for a Monday vote
Urban planning is less than exciting for most people. (Not for me, but let’s be honest.)
However, with the Denver election looming in May, the city’s sprawling 20-year-plans have become one of the hottest political issues. The Denver City Council is set to hold a public hearing and vote on two major elements of the Denveright plan – the long-term guiding policies that the administration has proposed for the city – on Monday.
Predictably, it has become a whole thing. Multiple mayoral and council challengers are calling for a delay, saying that the decisions should wait for the city’s next leaders. There’s no sign of that happening.
The plans don’t set anything in stone, but their hundreds of pages set some broad visions for the city. Top priorities include transit construction along major boulevards and stimulating the construction of “missing middle” housing. – Andy Kenney
The #COSen week that was
It has been a wild seven or eight days in Colorado’s U.S. Senate race. Dan Baer, John Walsh and Ellen Burnes joined, first-quarter fundraising numbers were released, Sen. Cory Gardner hosted a controversial fundraiser. What does it all mean? Let’s break it down:
Baer and Walsh remind Democrats of the Obama days. They were both Obama appointees – for a diplomatic post and U.S. attorney, respectively – and are already touting the support of former Obama folks. Their party has moved to the left of President Obama in some ways, but you can still expect those institutional ties to the former president will help.
Among those who were in the race before this week, Mike Johnston made clear he’s a top contender. His $1.8 million fundraising haul nearly matched Gardner’s $2 million. There will always be criticisms of Johnston’s out-of-state money, but money from anywhere is helpful.
There’s still plenty of speculation in Democratic circles about Rep. Joe Neguse’s interest in the Senate race. He’s seen by many as a rising star who would mount a strong challenge to Gardner and become the youngest senator. But it would be a gamble, of course, to give up a safe congressional seat so soon.
For what it’s worth, I asked Neguse late last week whether he’s considering a Senate run. His answer: “You know, uh – I decline to comment. [Laughs] I will say, I’m focused on my work and doing the three town halls we have coming up here in the next two weeks and, yeah, continuing to do what we can at the federal level to solve some of these really big challenges. So, yeah.” – Justin Wingerter
Colorado Dems staff up to take on Gardner
Colorado’s Democratic Party isn’t waiting for the selection of its own U.S. Senate nominee to begin challenging the incumbent. The party announced Wednesday it has brought on a new team member “to hold Senator Cory Gardner accountable going into 2020.”
Alyssa Roberts, a Colorado native and former aide to U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, has been hired as a communication adviser and will lead the party’s rapid response team.
“Sen. Gardner said he would shake things up in Washington, but he’s proven to be nothing more than another partisan lackey for Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell,” Roberts said in a statement. “From voting to take away our access to health care to refusing to fight for our public lands, Coloradans can’t trust Cory Gardner to stand up for our communities. Control of the U.S. Senate runs through Colorado, and I’m eager to get to work.”
Reading between the lines: Democrats plan to tie Gardner to President Trump every chance they get.