Ken ToltzKen ToltzAugust 13, 20187min511

On a very hot sunny Saturday afternoon this month, I attended yet another gun violence prevention protest rally on the west steps of Denver’s Colorado State Capitol. This one was a local version of the national March on the NRA, a student-activist led movement of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student survivors of the Valentine’s Day 2018 school shooting.


Ken ToltzKen ToltzAugust 17, 20174min644
Ken Toltz
Ken Toltz

The grand experiment in Colorado elections, set for next summer, is becoming a divisive Republican Party topic. In the past, only voters registered as Democrat or Republican could legally vote in the primary, which chooses the party’s general election nominee for federal and state elected offices. Thanks to last November’s passage of Prop. 108, 2018’s primary will be the first Colorado election under the new “open primary” rules, with unknown effect.

Colorado’s June 26 2018 primary elections will be the live test to see if allowing unaffiliated voters to choose a favorite primary candidate will indeed increase voter participation.  Former Colorado GOP Chair Dick Wadhams felt compelled to defend Republican Party participation in the new open primary in a recent Denver Post editorial, “State GOP shouldn’t cancel ’18 primary” – Aug. 13, 2017.

Responding to a petition calling for a Republican Party central committee vote to opt out of the open primary, Wadhams wrote, “Let there be no mistake about it: If the primary is cancelled and nominations are left to few thousand activists…Republicans will pay politically.”

In addition to increasing voter participation, Prop. 108 proponents suggested their open primary scheme would impact candidates’ platforms and campaigns. Will candidates indeed appeal to a broader range of voters, not just the most active and ideologically committed of their party?  That is one of the theories to be tested.

The implementation however, is also a grand experiment.  According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, the state legislature through bipartisan passage of SB 305 created the implementation guidelines which are being finalized now.  All unaffiliated voters will be mailed two full primary ballots comprised of each party’s primary candidates.  However, here’s the catch: Voters who choose to vote for either a Republican or Democrat candidate for governor may only vote down-ballot for that same party’s primary candidates for other offices, say U.S. House or state legislature.

In effect, the top-line gubernatorial race will have an inordinate impact on unaffiliated voter participation in down-ballot primary races.  For example, if an unaffiliated voter wants to vote for a Republican gubernatorial candidate, they are barred from voting for a Democratic congressional primary candidate. As a prospective congressional primary candidate in CD2, that aspect concerns me.

Why should the congressional or state legislative primary be impacted by the governor’s race?  Won’t independent voters want to vote independently?  Isn’t it likely that unaffiliated voters will be confused and spoil their ballots by picking and choosing various candidates in each race, regardless of party affiliation?

Or perhaps, unaffiliated voters will simply opt out since being forced to choose from only one party’s candidates goes against the very reason they’re not registered with one political party to begin with.  One wonders if unaffiliated voters were consulted and included as Prop. 108 and the SB305 implementation rules were created.


Ken ToltzKen ToltzFebruary 17, 20165min402

My friend Laura Chapin wrote recently of her support as a progressive for changing Colorado’s law to allow the sale of full-strength beer and wine in grocery stores. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the least bit progressive in allowing some of America’s largest companies, including Walmart, Safeway and Kroger, to stock wine and beer after several failed tries at getting this through Colorado’s Legislature.


Ken ToltzKen ToltzJune 24, 20155min493
Nearly everyone would agree that convicted, violent criminals should not be able to purchase guns. Everyone, that is, except for first-term U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, who is now advancing NRA-supported legislation to reinstate a federal “guns for felons” program that has been shut down for decades. Congressman Buck, a former Weld County district attorney, recently […]

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Ken ToltzKen ToltzSeptember 20, 20135min289

What will Coloradans do now? On this appropriately gray, rainy day political leaders and public safety citizen activists are pondering what to do in the wake of last week’s recalls of two Democratic state senators, solely due to their votes to make Colorado safer from gun violence. Will bullies with guns intimidate us into acquiescence or silence? Will Democratic state legislators back away from the gun safety bills they passed just a few months ago? These are the political questions, but public safety and lives are at stake with the answers.

How quickly people put aside the feelings of horror and revulsion after tragedy strikes. In Colorado, close to home, violent deaths and injuries have typically been caused by people, formerly “law-abiding” people, armed with a gun. In Colorado Springs as the recall votes were taking place, a man was arrested for killing his estranged pregnant wife with a handgun. Also that day, near Boulder a young man was in jail for killing his girlfriend by firing his gun through a closet door because he suspected she was a burglar.

Sadly, these are nearly daily occurrences that don’t merit the media coverage that mass shootings receive. They don’t merit the visits by Presidents or Vice Presidents, public rallies or demonstrations or blue ribbon panels to make public safety recommendations.

However, thousands of average Colorado citizens became determined and committed to public safety of schoolchildren after the 1999 gun deaths at Littleton’s Columbine High School. We came together, Republicans and Democrats to pass Amendment 22, with 70 percent of the statewide vote, to mandate background checks for all purchasers at gun shows.

This year, a number of state legislators introduced and championed gun safety legislation, again in the wake of gun deaths, caused by a previously “law abiding” citizen at Aurora’s Century movie theater. New grassroots activists took to Facebook and found each other, determined that horrific gun deaths should not be visited upon more Colorado families in the months and years to come. They beseeched our state legislators to do more in addressing murderous gun violence.

Yet a small, vocal, determined minority of people who seem to love guns more than they value the lives and safety of their neighbors, descended upon the State Capitol wielding aggression, intimidation and even threats, now realized, to remove legislators who wouldn’t submit or roll over. Now they’ve succeeded in removing two state senators and proudly tout the “wave of fear” their recall efforts will engender in politicians in Colorado and beyond.

By the way, this is not a Constitutional question or issue. This is a life or death issue. The intimidation tactics are fear-based and divisive. Those who practice these tactics seek to allow more guns to be wielded by more people in more places. Church, schools, Starbucks are all places for weapons to proliferate if the fringe ideological minority has their way. And of course, no amount of deadly firepower is too much, AK47s with 100 round magazines? Why not? Concealed weapons in college dorms and classrooms? Why not?

As a 3rd generation Coloradan, I’m pretty sure this is neither the vision nor the image of Colorado the vast majority carry in their hearts. However, the question now is; what are we willing to do about it?

We can stand by, wring our hands or hide our heads in the sand and hope for the best. But as a very smart man once said, “Hope is not a strategy.” Addressing gun violence also means addressing the practitioners of political division and fear. The only way to do that is via our political process. Colorado, what will you do now?

Ken Toltz is a Colorado businessman and longtime political activist. He is a former candidate for Congress in the 6th Congressional District. He is the founder of Safe Campus Colorado.