| AspenTimes.com

Trump has no sympathy for Colorado GOP candidate Mike Coffman

DENVER — Five-term Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman blamed his defeat in Colorado on resentment toward President Donald Trump — but Trump is offering no sympathy and accepting no responsibility.

“Too bad, Mike,” Trump said at a news conference Wednesday.

Coffman had held the suburban Denver district for a decade, holding off a series of Democratic challengers as the district turned more liberal and diverse. But dislike of Trump and mistrust of the GOP’s immigration policies proved too much this election, Coffman said after losing to first-time Democratic candidate Jason Crow on Tuesday.

“In this congressional district, in this race, it was a referendum on the president,” Coffman said. “In the end, the waves were too big for this ship to stay afloat.”

Trump on Wednesday listed Coffman and seven other Republicans who lost after distancing themselves from the president — refusing what Trump called “the embrace.”

“They did very poorly,” Trump said. “I’m not sure that I should be happy or sad, but I feel just fine about it.”

In his concession speech, Coffman remarked on the shifting demographics of his district, where one in five residents was born outside the United States. He said spending time with diverse communities made him a better congressman and a better person.

Coffman softened his position on immigration but said he could not overcome immigrants’ mistrust of his party.

“They believe that Republicans aren’t simply against illegal immigration but they are against immigrants,” he said.

Three other incumbent Republican congressmen won re-election in Colorado, but the rest of the state was trending blue. Democrats held on to the congressional district now represented by Jared Polis, who was elected governor, keeping the office in Democratic hands.

Democrats won the secretary of state and state treasurer’s offices and were leading in the race for attorney general. All three offices are now held by Republicans. Democrats also were on track to take over the state Senate from Republicans and expand their majority in the state House.

Coffman’s seat was one of more than two dozen that Democrats took from Republicans on Tuesday as the GOP lost control of the U.S. House. The telegenic Crow, an attorney, was the choice of national Democratic leaders to challenge the incumbent.

Both candidates are veterans: Crow is a former Army Ranger who served in Iran and Afghanistan, and Coffman is an Army and Marine veteran who served twice in Iraq.

Crow campaigned on his differences with Coffman on gun control, health care and immigration.

The Democrat called for expanded background checks on gun purchases and restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines, proposals that resonated in a district where a gunman opened fire in a movie theater in 2012, killing 12 people. The district also abuts Columbine High School, where two students killed 13 people in 1999.

Coffman opposed blanket gun restrictions but advocated for mental health and school safety measures.

Crow assailed Coffman for voting for the GOP tax measure that revoked tax penalties for those who don’t buy health insurance. It was a key provision of former President Barack Obama’s health care law, which Crow defended as a first step toward his goal of universal health care.

Coffman was booed at town halls last year for insisting that the health law be repealed, though he eventually voted against the GOP effort. He insisted that any replacement legislation guarantee coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Coffman cited his longtime advocacy for veterans, his military service and his occasional bucking of the GOP to try to persuade voters to keep him.

Crow depicted him as someone no longer able to act as a check on Trump and the Republican Party.

Voter Darnell Driskell said Trump was a big factor in his decision to support Crow.

“I don’t like the hate, you know what I’m saying?” Driskell said. “I don’t like the discomfort, I don’t like what he stands for and what he does, what he represents.”

Jeff Johnson, who voted for Coffman, said Trump didn’t figure into his choice. Johnson said he considers himself a conservative, not a Republican, and he votes for candidates who support his values.

About Trump, Johnson said, “He’s egotistical and he runs his mouth off, but look at the economy. The economy is a hell of a lot better than it was two years ago.”

Coffman also lost the crucial fundraising battle. With the support of gun control groups, Crow raised more than $5 million, while Coffman collected $3.4 million. Big Republican donor groups pulled out of Coffman’s campaign to focus on races they saw as more winnable, and he was outspent 3-to-1 on the airwaves.

Crow made scant mention of Trump in his victory speech but noted “the dark and uncertain political moment we find ourselves in.”

“You sent a message that democracy is alive and well in America and that you will not be silenced,” he told supporters.

Crow was more conciliatory than jubilant, praising Coffman as a hard worker who served his country with honor.

“Mike Coffman and his supporters are not our enemies. This is politics, not war, and I will never stop trying to find common ground wherever I can,” he said.

Julie McCluskie declares victory in House District 61 race to replace Hamner

Democrat and Dillon resident Julie McCluskie declared victory Tuesday night in her race to become the next state representative for Colorado House District 61.

Holding a commanding lead over her Republican challenger Mike Mason with 31,466 votes counted, McCluskie said she was "proud and honored" to be the next representative and serve the district she calls home.

"Together, we are going to work hard to make a difference for all the hard-working families in this district," McCluskie said in a victory speech at the Democratic election party taking place at HighSide Brewery in Frisco. "I am going to work to give our kids the best public education possible, to fix our broken healthcare system, and protect the beautiful environment we call home."

The district — which covers Summit, Lake and Pitkin counties and portions of Delta and Gunnison counties — has been represented by Democrat Millie Hamner since 2012. Hamner is vacating the seat due to term limits.

Colorado Ballot Questions: Voters reject oil and gas setbacks

Seeking to establish new setback restrictions between oil and gas operations and homes, Proposition 112 was shot down by Colorado voters on Tuesday as oil and gas facility statewide setbacks will remain 500 feet from residences.

While the proposal received both widespread criticism and support from officials throughout Colorado, just being on the ballot, which required nearly 100,000 signatures from Colorado residents, may open the door for future setback rules discussion in Colorado, supporters said.

The current setback rules, established by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in 2013, set a 500-foot statewide setback from residences, as well as a 1,000-foot setback from high occupancy buildings such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals.

As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, the measure was failing in the statewide vote with 57 percent opposed.

Prop 112 sought to push that setback to at least 2,500 feet from occupied buildings and other vulnerable areas.

Prop 109 38.7% For, 61.4% Against

Prop 110 40.33% For, 59.67% Against

As of 10 p.m., both propositions 109 and 110, which would both provide funding for transportation initiatives, appeared headed toward failure.

Proposition 109, otherwise known as "Fix Our Damn Roads," was losing by a margin of over 300,000 votes. Proposition 110, better known as "Let's Go Colorado," was losing by more than 340,000 votes.

Proposition 109 would have authorized $3.5 billion in bonds to fund statewide road projects — primarily bridge expansion, construction, maintenance and repairs. Proposition 110 would have raised the state's sales tax rate by 0.62 percent for 20 years to fund transportation projects.

Amendment Y 71.26% For, 28.74% Against

Amendment Z 70.87% For, 29.13% Against

The proposal to establish a new process for congressional and state legislative redistricting has earned the overwhelming support of Colorado voters.

The amendments were passed by a three-to-one margin with roughly 71 percent of statewide voters casting their ballots in favor of Y and Z, which garnered wide bipartisan support.

Amendments Y and Z will create a commission made up of four Republicans, four Democrats and four unaffiliated members, with half chosen by lottery and half chosen by a panel of retired judges.

Amendment 73 44.29% For, 55.71% Against

For the third time in eight years, Colorado voters turned down additional state funding for education Tuesday as Amendment 73 was defeated.

As of 10 p.m., the amendment held 43.29 percent of votes tallied; the amendment needed a 55 percent super-majority in favor to pass. Amendment 73 would have generated $1.6 billion through an increased tax scale on the state's flat tax (which is 4.63 percent) for those individuals and companies making between $150,000 and $500,000.

Amendment A 65% For, 35% Against

Slavery is officially prohibited under all circumstances in Colorado after voters approved a ballot measure to remove the exception to allow slavery or indentured servitude in the case of punishment for a crime.

The majority of voters, 65 percent, voted to remove the exemption from the Colorado Constitution.

Supporters said it was important to remove the exception for moral and ethical reasons. Though the measure would not have a direct impact on prison reform, proponents believe the change reflects the state's values of freedom and equality and the vote is important symbolically.

Amendment V 34.8% For, 65.2% Against

Colorado voters decided not to lower the age limit to serve as a representative or senator from 25 to 21 years old. More than 65 percent of votes were cast against lowering the age requirements for state office, as of 10 p.m.

Amendment W 53.24% For, 46.76% Against

As of press time, it was unclear whether citizens of Colorado will find a different format for judge retention questions in future elections.

Amendment W, a 2018 ballot measure that seeks to change the format of judge retention questions in future elections. As of 10 p.m. with 1.7 million ballots counted, the amendment had about 53 percent of the vote. The amendment needs a 55 percent super-majority to go into effect.

Amendment X 60.71% For, 39.29% Against

More than 60 percent of statewide Colorado voters favored the change of the state's official definition of industrial hemp, as of 10 p.m. The basis of the ballot measure comes from Colorado's Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana in the state when the voters approved it in 2012. Amendment 64 created a constitutional definition for "industrial hemp."

Amendment 74 46.5% For, 53.5% Against

This measure would have allowed property owners to file a takings claim against the government when a government action or regulation reduces their property's value. It was turned down by voters by a 53.5-percent to 46.5-percent margin with more than 1.7 million votes counted at 10 p.m. Tuesday night.

It needed 55 percent of the vote to pass.

Amendment 75 33.86% For, 66,14% Against

State voters appeared to overwhelmingly reject a constitutional amendment that could help those running against wealthy candidates. In statewide results as of 10 p.m. Tuesday, Amendment 75 was being soundly defeated by a 66 percent to 34 percent margin.

The amendment was an attempt to cut the campaign spending advantage held by wealthy candidates.

Prop 111 76.67% For, 23.33% Against

Proposition 111 places interest rate limits on payday loan service, and as of 10 p.m. nearly 77 percent of voters supported the proposition.

The proposition will do away with the current fee structure and instead implement a maximum annual percentage rate of 36 percent on the payday loan industry.

Colorado State Races: Griswold wins Secretary of State race

Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams lost his bid for a second four-year term to Democratic challenger Jena Griswold on Tuesday.

Williams had 47.4 percent and Griswold had 50.3 percent at 9:38 p.m. Tuesday, with an estimated 73 percent of the vote counted, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Williams conceded to Griswold, saying it's like "John Elway leaving the Broncos after winning a couple of Super Bowls."

"I just really look forward to serving the people of Colorado in this position," Griswold said. "We saw a path to victory. We worked hard."

Griswold, a voter rights attorney for then-President Barack Obama, pitched policies that focused on more transparency in campaign finance and making voting more accessible. She also was a Washington, D.C., liaison for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's administration.

Secretary of State: Jena Griswold (D) 50.3% vs. Wayne Williams (R) 47.4%

Treasurer: Dave Young (D) 50.5% vs Brian Waton (R) 46.9%

Democrat Dave Young will be Colorado's next treasurer.

With more than 1.79 million votes recorded, Young held a 50.5 percent to 46.9 percent advantage over Republican Brian Watson at 10 p.m. Tuesday, the Colorado Secretary of State's Office reported. He earned 906,836 votes to Watson's 842,569.

Young told The Denver Post Tuesday night that he had a conversation with Watson who conceded.

"We're thrilled to have won and are ready to start working," Young said.

As the state's top bookkeeper, the treasurer's responsibilities include investing state tax dollars and serving on the Public Employee Retirement Association board, which oversees the state pension system for government employees.

Young has represented Greeley-based District 50 in the Colorado House since 2011. He has vowed to treat the office as a full-time job and use effective management to fully fund state pensions.

AG: Phil Weiser (D) 49.2% vs. George Brauchler (R) 48.1%

Democratic candidate Phil Weiser pulled ahead of Republican George Brauchler in a close attorney general's race Tuesday night after a tight battle focused on experience and the role the office should play in setting policy.

Weiser was slightly ahead with 49.2 percent percent of the vote, according to partial results at 8:55 p.m. with 70 percent of the vote in. Republican candidate George Brauchler had 48.1 percent of the vote.

The lead was tight enough for Brauchler to hold out hope that he can still pull out a win with voters from the state's conservative corners.

"I feel optimistically cautious," he said shortly before 9 p.m. "There's a ton of ballots still out there in the rural parts of the state."

Weiser, noting that there were still ballots to be counted from Denver and Boulder County, said he's very optimistic.

"I am not afraid of close races," he said. "This one looks like the effort we put in is going to pay off."

Scott Tipton defeats Diane Mitsch Bush in 3rd Congressional District race

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Incumbent U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, held a 10-point lead over former State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, with the majority of precincts reporting in his bid for a fifth term representing Colorado's sprawling 3rd Congressional District, and that was enough for the Associated Press to call the race.

As of 7:45 a.m. Wednesday, with 100% of the counties reporting, Tipton earned 52 percent of the vote, out-polling Mitsch Bush by more than 26,000 votes — 159,878 to 133,345.

Tipton first wrested the 3rd District seat from incumbent Democrat John Salazar in 2012.

During the 2018 campaign Tipton emphasized his support for the tax reforms passed by the U.S. House of Representatives during his most recent term.

"To further grow the economy and create opportunities for families to prosper, we passed into law the most significant tax reform legislation in a generation," Tipton wrote on his website. "This legislation eliminates loopholes and creates a fairer and simpler tax code, as well as amounts to about a $2,000 annual tax cut for the average family of four in the 3rd District."

Reached at her election night headquarters in Grand Junction, Mitsch Bush said her campaign emphasized economic growth through public works projects.

"I have been focusing a lot on the economy — with investments in transportation and broadband infrastructure, water supply and the electric grid, there will be lots of good paying jobs."

Voters in Colorado's 3rd Congressional District have elected three Republicans and three Democrats since 1980. And for at least the next two years Republican Scott Tipton will continue to occupy the seat. 

Looking back at a long campaign, Mitsch Bush said her interactions with voters in one of the geographically largest congressional districts was rewarding.

"The thing that has struck me those most, is how people say people in America don't care anymore … it's hate and negativity,” Mitsch Bush said. “I've found just the opposite from meeting people in all 29 counties.

"People everywhere in our district work very hard, not just for their families, and they are looking to the future," Mitsch Bush said. "That's one of the most wonderful things about this campaign."

Incumbent Kerry Donovan has comfortable lead in race for State Senate District 5

Going into the Tuesday election, State Sen. Kerry Donovan said she was confident of re-election but quickly added, "Anything can happen in this district."

Just past 10 p.m. Tuesday, Donovan led Republican challenger Olen Lund by about 11,000 votes, 34,930 to 23,942. The 58,872 ballots already counted exceeded the vote total from Donovan's 2014 race for the state senate.

State Senate District 5 is composed of some of the state's most liberal and conservative enclaves in Eagle, Pitkin, Delta, Gunnison, Chaffee, Hinsdale and Lake counties. The district also includes some of the state's most wealthy zip codes and some of its poorest.

In the 2014 election, running for what was then an open seat, Donovan, an Eagle County Democrat who is a Vail native, trailed election night, but eventually eked out a victory over Don Suppes, a Republican from Delta County.

This year, Donovan ran as an incumbent. She was challenged by Lund of Paonia, a former two-term Delta County commissioner and, like Donovan, a lifelong resident of his home county.

Both candidates drove thousands of miles across the district while they were campaigning. By Lund's reckoning, he'd driven more than 17,000 miles by early October. Donovan also drove thousands of miles through the district.

Speaking by phone Tuesday evening, Donovan, a former Vail Town Council member, called her re-election an "honor" and pledged to take to Denver many of the issues she'd heard about while talking with district residents. The top item on Donovan's to-do list is reducing health care costs in the individual market, she said.

Once the disposition of the Colorado Senate is determined — Republicans held a one-seat majority going into Tuesday's election, but Democrats were poised to retake the chamber — Donovan said she'd begin working on how to address health care, transportation and other issues.

On Tuesday, Donovan said her hope was to work with both Governor-elect Jared Polis and a state Legislature with Democratic majorities in both houses.

"When I think about the number of bills the Republican Senate has killed, I would be excited to work in a Democratic Senate to get those bills passed," Donovan said.

That work will start quickly, she said.

"We'll figure out the team, and those conversations will start in the next 48 to 72 hours," she said. "I can't wait to continue this work."

Democrat Jared Polis is Colorado’s next governor, defeats Republican Walker Stapleton in historic win

DENVER — Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis on Tuesday defeated Republican state Treasurer Walker Stapleton in the Colorado governor’s race, keeping the seat in Democratic hands.

Polis will succeed the term-limited John Hickenlooper to become Colorado’s first openly gay governor. The 43-year-old is a five-term congressman and technology entrepreneur who promised to fight for universal health care, renewable energy standards and publicly funded preschool and kindergarten. He vowed to stand up to President Donald Trump’s efforts to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Stapleton is a two-term state treasurer who campaigned on defending Colorado’s constitutional restrictions on taxing and spending. The 44-year-old Stapleton insisted Polis’ ideas for funding K-12 education, roads and energy would bankrupt the state.

Colorado has not had a Republican governor since 2007. The state has one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates and highest rates of economic growth, largely fueled by the tech, aerospace and oil and gas industries.

Polis banked on defending Obama’s health care law and riding a wave of anti-Trump sentiment in a state that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and saw overwhelming Democratic turnout in June’s party primaries.

Stapleton sought to court unaffiliated voters, Colorado’s largest voting bloc, by insisting that Polis would jeopardize economic growth with costly and ill-defined proposals to fund schools and roads and expand health care.

Stapleton portrayed himself as a defender of conservative fiscal policies that underlie that growth. Polis repeatedly promised to build bipartisan coalitions to invest in underfunded roads and public schools — suggesting the time has come to ask Colorado residents to loosen their strict constitutional limits on taxes and spending.

Health care was a top issue in the race. Many Colorado rural and mountain towns pay some of the nation’s highest insurance premiums — and have only one provider — under the Affordable Care Act.

Polis, endorsed by single-payer health care proponent and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, unapologetically called for universal health care coverage as a long-term goal and suggested a first step might be to create a regional market with neighboring states.

Stapleton praised Trump’s elimination of tax penalties for those without health insurance but said he would defend an expanded Medicaid program that covers one in four Colorado residents.

Trump endorsed Stapleton, who embraced the administration’s antipathy toward so-called sanctuary cities that don’t closely cooperate with federal immigration authorities. But Stapleton sought to distance himself from Trump in the campaign’s final weeks, arguing that Trump’s scornful tweets about immigrants, women and minorities had no bearing on policy in the governor’s race.

“I’m not going to sit here and defend President Trump’s personality,” Stapleton said in one debate.

Citing the threat of climate change to Colorado’s outdoors industry, Polis proposed a 100 percent renewable energy standard for Colorado by 2040. Stapleton attacked the goal, saying it would harm Colorado’s $31 billion oil and gas industry. Polis, who raised the ire of the fossil fuels industry by once supporting limits on drilling, insisted the green standard was a goal, not a mandate.

On abortion, Polis insisted he would guarantee women’s right to choose if a conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a nationwide right to abortion. Stapleton said he would be a “pro-life governor” who would respect Roe as “the law of the land” but didn’t say what he would do if the decision were overturned.

As Stapleton trailed in the polls, he tried to argue that his opponent acted aggressively toward a woman in a 1999 workplace incident in which Polis, then 24, tried to stop a female employee from stealing documents from a company he ran. Police and prosecutors concluded Polis was the victim of theft and did nothing wrong.

How to handle questions about retaining judges on your Colorado ballot

The ballot that's been sitting on your kitchen counter, glaring at you, is due today. Let us help you get over one of the hurdles: the crush of judicial retention questions, which determine the fate of state and local judges who are likely unfamiliar.

Some voters simply skip these questions, but there's easy help available in advance of the Nov. 6 election. Here are answers to questions you might have about the judicial retention races.

What help is there?

Nonpartisan commissions that evaluate judges put out simple recommendations about each judge who is up for retention, providing even more information if you're willing to study up.

But it's rare for a judge to get booted from the bench. In 2016, voters rejected just one of the two who received "do not retain" recommendation.

How do I sort through so many?

If you want to take the easy route, simply go to the website for the Colorado Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation, select your county and look for any judges with a "Does Not Meet Performance Standards" evaluation. That's rare — only two received that designation this year: Judge Phillip L. Douglass of the 18th Judicial District, which covers Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties, and El Paso County Court Judge Christopher Edward Acker.

But if you're interested in knowing more, the website and the state's Blue Book, which gets mailed to every voter, provide full evaluations for each justice or judge.

Read the full story from The Denver Post.

Races for governor, US House top Colorado ballot

DENVER — The Colorado governor’s race between Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and Republican treasurer Walker Stapleton tops a Tuesday ballot whose results could change the GOP-leaning makeup of the state’s U.S. House delegation.

Colorado residents voted in seven congressional races, including a tight contest pitting five-term Republican Rep. Mike Coffman against first-time Democratic candidate Jason Crow, who mounted a well-funded challenge in a suburban Denver district. It could determine a shift in Colorado Republicans’ 4-3 edge in the U.S. House.

Voters also weighed in on ballot issues ranging from where fracking can occur to multibillion-dollar plans to fund roads and public schools.

The vote for governor was a referendum on health care, Colorado’s limits on taxes, its energy future, its ability to address congested roadways, high housing costs and underfunded schools — plus President Donald Trump.

Polis, who would be Colorado’s first openly gay governor if elected, invested a record $22 million and counting of his own wealth in his bid to succeed Democrat John Hickenlooper, who is term-limited. He has represented Boulder, Fort Collins and north-central Colorado in Congress since 2009.

Stapleton emerged from a hotly contested Republican primary to vie for a seat that has eluded Republicans since Gov. Bill Owens left office in 2007.

Polis called for a universal health care system that could include neighboring states under former President Barack Obama’s health care law. He opposed bonding for roads, supported publicly funded pre-kindergarten and kindergarten and pledged a 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2040.

Stapleton embraced Trump’s tax cuts, moves to open federal lands to energy exploration and pledges to punish sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

He insisted on a market-based health care system, supported bonding for roads and argued that trimming a bloated schools bureaucracy could deliver the funding that classrooms need. He warned that Polis, who has supported local control over fracking, would jeopardize Colorado’s booming oil and natural gas industry.

In congressional races, Coffman is fighting for political survival in a district that’s trended steadily leftward. Crow, a former Army Ranger, branded the Republican as an enabler of Trump and attacked him on health care and gun violence in a district that saw the 2012 movie theater shooting that killed 12 people.

Coffman opposed blanket gun restrictions but advocated for mental health and school safety measures. He cited his longtime advocacy for veterans, service in both Iraq wars, his self-described moderate stance on immigration and his occasional bucking of the GOP to try to persuade voters to keep him.

Democrat Joe Neguse faces Republican Peter Yu to succeed Polis, while incumbent Democrats Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter and Republicans Scott Tipton, Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn were expected to win.

The top statewide ballot issue asked voters to severely limit fracking. A counterproposal backed by the energy industry would allow Colorado residents to sue over any government action affecting an ill-defined “fair market value” of their property.

Other proposed statewide law changes and constitutional amendments included raising taxes for schools; competing proposals to raise taxes and issue bonds for transportation; creating nonpartisan legislative and congressional redistricting to eliminate partisan gerrymandering; and clarifying archaic language in the state Constitution to ban slavery and involuntary servitude under all circumstances.

Unaffiliated voters casting ballots in record numbers in Colorado election

More than 1.5 million Coloradans have cast ballots already in this election, according to data released Monday by the Colorado Secretary of State's office.

That's not quite half of the state's active registered voters.

Statewide, Democratic voters have a nearly 5,000-vote lead over Republican voters.  But unaffiliated voters will play a key role in determining the election: 461,154 unaffiliated voters have already voted this cycle. That's 30.4 percent of all ballots cast.

Unaffiliated voters have participated at a rate not observed before in a Colorado mid-term election, according to an written analysis by Ryan Winger, a consultant with Magellan Strategies, a political research firm.

Read the full story from The Denver Post.