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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusSeptember 1, 201712min1110
Peter Marcus
Peter Marcus in the Colorado Politics office in happier times. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

That’s what I told my team at Colorado Politics before I officially announced that I was leaving more than a decade of journalism for a career in the “Big Marijuana” industry. And that’s the same message that I have for you.

It’s been the hardest breakup of my life. And I’m accustomed to those.

Colorado Politics offered me an outlet to spread my wings and fly. I’m not overstating this when I say it has been the most stable job in Colorado political journalism that I ever had. The new popular online outlet offered me a medium to grow within the career that I have called my identity and closest relationship for years.

To leave your identity as a journalist is not unlike trading in your civil service badge for a career in private security. You might still wear a uniform, but your identity and authority is lost. And in choosing to leave Colorado Politics for a job as the communications director for Terrapin Care Station, I traded my credentials and my identity in journalism for a career in what we call “The Dark Side.”

Terrapin Care Station is a rapidly growing national cannabis company that was cultivated in Colorado, but which is giving birth across the nation. It was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. And like any relationship, at some point you have to decide what’s best and most comfortable for you. Sometimes you have to move on. And recent personal developments made me want to try something new.

To become a flack seems incomprehensible from the world that we as journalists know. Journalism runs in your blood. It’s a calling, not a choice. It’s such a separatist faction of society that when we lose one of our own, we state, “They went to The Dark Side.”

Countless journalists have done it before me. And more and more by the day. I survived as a (borderline) millennial in a field that saw its glory days at least 20 years before me. But I made it.

And yet as I become a has-been, I’ve found myself sentimentally recalling the army of journalists and editors before me who helped to thrust me to the top of the state-based political journalism food chain.

I remember sitting in the Longmont Times-Call offices in Longmont, Colo. about two weeks into my internship in 2005. I had some fluff assignment to cover a new business that catered to children through a laser-light experience. Somehow it was going on the front page of the weekend business section. I couldn’t have been more excited.

I remember filing the story in an intranet system that sadly resembled the systems we still use in journalism today. Yes, the profession has not progressed rapidly.

I was sitting next to my editor, Eric Frankowski, who I thought was going to be so pleased with the copy I had just presented to him. Man, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Frankowski, to his credit, patiently tore my story apart. It was total crap. But on the last day of my internship, which I left early for a job at the Denver Daily News, Frankowski took me out to lunch with the newsroom and wished me the best. He saw something in me, and I hope I didn’t let him down.

The Washington Post has since twice named me one of the nation’s top state-based political and legislative reporters. I’ve won more than a dozen awards from the Colorado Press Association. And I’ve since continued to grow within the profession.

I recently had a colleague ask me, “What are your highlights?” I couldn’t even begin to recount my career in journalism. Every day as a journalist you throw a dart at the wall and become an expert in whatever you report on. I couldn’t even begin to recall all the subjects I’ve crossed.

In my early days with the Denver Daily News, a now-defunct publication that was distributed for free, I was proud to call the city of Denver out for a flawed ban on pit bulls that only led to an increase in dog bites from other breeds.

As I progressed into politics, I reported on the 2011 Denver School Board race, in which Colorado saw one of its first shots across the bow from the education reform movement. The movement is now an effort backed by interests from both the far left and the far right. It is an issue that will play into the current gubernatorial race seven years later. That reporting was done for the Colorado Statesman, a weekly political “trade” publication now owned by Colorado Politics. My journalism career nearly came full circle.

When the Durango Herald hired me in 2014, the job description mostly revolved around the statehouse. To my surprise, I was in Durango visiting the “mothership” when the Gold King Mine spill occurred in August 2015. Let’s just say there was no reason to immediately return home after that. The eyes of the world were on little Durango, Colo. for this epic Environmental Protection Agency screwup.

Somewhere along the way I caught Gov. John Hickenlooper in a skirmish with the EPA over the quality of the water in the Animas River. Later, we made the governor drink from the Animas to prove that the water was safe. Don’t worry, he survived.

We held the EPA accountable every day after that, proving that the catastrophe was the agency’s error. And when I got word that new EPA Director Scott Pruitt was visiting Durango in early August of this year, I was so happy to break that news. It was a story that I felt like I had a duty to continue to report on, even though I had moved on from The Herald.

Speaking of Gov. Hickenlooper, he is the most closely-watched politician I have covered in Colorado. I was at a press conference in 2006 when we in the local media declared that his “honeymoon” as mayor of Denver was over following a Christmas blizzard.

Hickenlooper went on to become the governor of Colorado, and he is now being encouraged to run for president. Sometimes we get things wrong. Hickenlooper is an elected official that I will always respect and admire. And I will deeply miss getting to know politicians such as him personally while reporting on them at the same time.

A skill of journalism that has been lost over the years is the notion that there is a balance between becoming friends with your subject while still reporting accurately on them and in the full spirit of transparency.

The best way to tell the truth is to get to know your subjects personally. Too many reporters have based their careers around some movie in which journalists are portrayed as always having an adversarial relationship with their subjects. The best way to get an honest answer is for your subject to know that while you’re just doing your job, you respect them as a human and as a public servant.

In just my nine months at Colorado Politics I learned so much more about the sacred relationship between a journalist and their source. Sourcing is the most important aspect of journalism, and I pray the next generation of journalists after me will grasp the significance. It was my sourcing that allowed me to be the first to report some of the most critical political developments of our state.

But much more than that, it was competition, namely with the Denver Post, which has a team of talented journalists that are woefully mistreated and pressured to succeed with few resources.

In the last year, Colorado Politics has forced a renaissance of political journalism in Colorado. It has spread a spirit that hasn’t been seen in the state since the Rocky Mountain News sadly closed in 2009. Competition breeds better journalism, and I thank the Denver Post for keeping me hungry for so long.

As I walk away from this thing called journalism for a paycheck in the marijuana industry, I know a part of me will always crave the work of the Fourth Estate.

But as I head into the annual Labor Day Phish weekend at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, all I can think is that I’ve been “waiting for the time when I can finally say that this has all been wonderful but now I’m on my way.”

It’s not you, it’s me.


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 31, 20177min320

Lawmakers say many of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s plans to address the oil and gas industry in the aftermath of a tragic explosion in Firestone are already in the works.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat and former geologist, ordered a review of existing oil and gas operations in the aftermath of the April incident, in which two men died in a home explosion. The incident was caused by natural gas leaking from an old pipeline, according to an initial investigation.

On Tuesday, the governor announced the state’s response, which includes asking the oil and gas industry to take greater responsibility.

One issue the governor is looking at is abandoned wells, which have been estimated as high as 800 in the state. He proposed creating a nonprofit to plug abandoned wells and provide refunds for in-home methane monitors, something which the oil and gas industry could be responsible for.

But Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, says bipartisan legislation he was working on last year would have addressed abandoned wells. A controversial bill that would have extended funding for the Colorado Energy Office was killed on the last day of the session after Republicans and Democrats hit an impasse.

A portion of the initial bill would have required the state to put a stakeholder group together to identify voluntary methods to address funding shortfalls associated with the long-term management of abandoned oil and gas facilities.

“Within that bill we had the orphan well situation in there, we had the mapping, and the Democrats stripped the bill… They need to own that a little bit instead of coming out now and saying the governor is a genius,” Scott said.

He added that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has a fund for abandoned wells, which it could draw from without the oil and gas industry paying additional money for plugging orphan wells.

“That agency has the money to do exactly what needs to be done and they should have been doing it for the last multiple years,” Scott said. “To make an issue today… it’s nonsensical.”

Hickenlooper’s plan would go further than simply identifying voluntary methods to address the long-term management of abandoned wells by actively plugging the wells through a nonprofit, despite Scott’s contention that it could be done without a new program.

Another plan raised by the governor would enhance efforts around protecting underground infrastructure and promoting excavator and public safety education. But Scott said he was working on bipartisan legislation this year with Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, which would have also addressed the issue.

“There’s nothing magical about what he said,” Scott said of Hickenlooper’s plan.

The bill Scott worked on with Donovan last year would have required engineering plans involving excavation to include specific information about the location of underground facilities. Plans would have had to be given to the person conducting the excavation. The bill died in committee.

“The Firestone incident took place and it all became political,” Scott said. “I actually sat down with Sen. Donovan and said, ‘You and I can pass this bill in committee if we just utter the word ‘Firestone.’’ We agreed that was the wrong thing to do.”

He said he has been working on the bill over the summer, which Scott hopes to resurrect in next year’s legislative session. A meeting is scheduled for the end of the month with engineers and architects involved with excavation.

“Had that (policy) been in place, Firestone may have never happened,” Scott said.

“It’s not genuine on his (Hickenlooper’s) part to take things that are already being worked on and try to come out and say, ‘I have a new idea,’” Scott continued.

Meanwhile, some Democrats say plans should go further than what the governor proposed. A handful of lawmakers this year proposed regulating residential development near operations, something that the governor does not mention in his Tuesday announcement. That discussion could resume again in the legislature next year.

“This plan isn’t protective enough,” Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, said of the governor’s announcement.

“Colorado should be prioritizing people’s health and safety, and not big corporations’ profits. Oil and gas operations have no business being near people’s homes, playgrounds, or schools, and the public has a right to know exactly where existing flowlines are. It is downright baffling to me that within all these steps and proposals, there is not a single suggestion to include the voices of and receive input from homeowners, who are the most impacted by oil and gas operations. Those families are the ones who are in fear of breathing carcinogenic gas or being blown up – why aren’t they being included in the decision-making process?

“I’m going to keep working to keep these dangerous operations away from people and to protect people’s property rights…” Jones continued. “The governor pledged to ‘take any necessary action to ensure this doesn’t happen again,’ and I hope he joins me in that effort.”

Other plans announced by the governor include strengthening regulations around existing gas lines; prohibiting homeowners from tapping into industry gas lines; creating a workgroup to improve safety training; requesting a review of some state rules; and exploring a methane leak detection pilot program.

House Democratic Leader KC Becker of Boulder said the plans are “good steps but certainly not the end of the conversation.”

“Public health and safety should be our No. 1 concern,” Becker said. “I hope we can make progress in that regard in the 2018 legislative session.”


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 31, 20174min66
U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined a panel of high-profile Colorado women on Wednesday to advocate for engagement in the era of Donald Trump. “Understand that this is about your patriotism, taking responsibility, and how you go forward in improving the daily lives of women, but also making our country even better in that […]

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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 30, 20173min56
The Colorado chapter of an organization dedicated to supporting women running for elected office will host U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday in Denver. The roundtable will feature issues facing women in Colorado, according to Emerge Colorado, which is hosting the event along with the Colorado Democratic Party and the the Democratic National […]

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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 30, 20175min620

State Republicans are concerned with a plan floated by Xcel Energy on Tuesday that would retire two coal-fired generation units in Pueblo, while adding renewable energy.

Xcel filed a request supported by 14 groups asking the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to approve a plan that would lead to $2.5 billion in clean energy investments in rural Colorado, according to a news release announcing the proposal.

The so-called “Colorado Energy Plan” would promote a “widely supported electricity generating portfolio” to augment Xcel’s current plans.

The utility promised not to increase the cost of energy to its customers. In the last four years, the average electric bill for Xcel Energy’s Colorado residential customers decreased by 6 percent. The proposal would keep Colorado electricity costs for consumers “low and predictable,” Xcel said in the news release.

Xcel plans a request for proposal targeting a mix of utility and independent power producers, with the utility having a targeted investment of 50 percent of the renewable generation.

Portfolio estimates are up to 1,000 megawatts of wind, up to 700 megawatts of solar, and up to 700 megawatts of natural gas.

The utility would file a recommended portfolio with the Public Utilities Commission in the first quarter of 2018; a final decision on the recommended portfolio is expected in the summer of 2018.

“We have a responsibility to meet our customers’ energy needs. Our customers expect us to provide low-cost power and increase the use of cleaner energy,” said David Eves, president of Xcel Energy in Colorado. “As the state’s largest utility, it is important to us that we also support rural areas in Colorado, and this proposal’s investment will accomplish this goal.”

Eves said the proposal could increase renewable energy to 55 percent by 2026, while saving customers money and reducing pollution. Carbon emission could be reduced by up to 60 percent by 2026 over 2005 levels, Xcel said.

Xcel’s contribution of renewables currently stands at around 29 percent.

Colorado has a renewable energy standard of 30 percent by 2020, which Xcel has repeatedly said it is on track to surpass. At least two Democratic gubernatorial candidates have proposed a 100 percent renewable energy standard of 100 percent by 2040.

The two coal-fired generation units that would be retired are located at the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo.

State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, reminded Xcel that Republicans rejected a similar proposal in the legislature.

“Renewable energy providers in Colorado already profit from a wide variety of special preferences and handouts, including some of the highest renewable energy mandates in the country, but apparently that’s not enough for one utility, which is pulling a bit of a fast one by going to the PUC for something it couldn’t get passed through the legislature last session,” Sonnenberg said in a statement.

“This proposal didn’t fly at the statehouse because Republicans don’t believe it’s in the interest of Colorado energy consumers to shut down our most affordable and dependable power plants, while subsidizing expansion of unreliable, not-ready-for-primetime alternatives. We keep hearing that renewable energy has finally come of age and can compete with traditional power providers on a level playing field, yet when push comes to shove, they’re always coming back for more handouts and special preferences, which come at ratepayer or taxpayer expense.”

Xcel was joined by a diverse coalition in announcing the proposal, including pro-renewable energy groups.

“Today’s filing starts a conversation about how Colorado will transition to the clean energy economy of tomorrow,” said Erin Overturf, chief energy counsel for Western Resource Advocates, a Boulder-based conservation group dedicated to clean energy.

Supporters called the proposal an “historic opportunity to take advantage of renewable-generated electricity… at historically low prices, while investing in good-paying jobs and cleaner air.”

“If approved, the commission will have an opportunity to evaluate transitioning our power production away from coal and toward less expensive clean renewable resources,” Overturf said. “Taking advantage of these low cost options now would reduce customers’ bills, while improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change.”


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 29, 20173min1730

Democrats could be facing a primary to replace Senate Democratic Leader Lucia Guzman in north and west Denver.

Rep. Dan Pabon says he is likely to make an official announcement in the fall, and immigrant rights leader Julie Gonzales is also seriously considering a run.

Some have wondered why Pabon has yet to announce his candidacy, as many assumed that he would be the likely successor to the traditionally Hispanic seat. Pabon said he wanted to give voters some time away from politics in Senate District 34.

“I’d like to give folks a little break as they take their kids back to school,” Pabon told Colorado Politics. “I think in the fall we make a go for it.”

Pabon, chairman of the House Finance Committee, said he is “99 percent there.”

The slower timing of his announcement has caused some in the district to wonder whether Pabon would run for the seat. Several in the community approached Gonzales, asking her to jump into the race, she said.

Gonzales said she began to seriously consider the opportunity.

“I’ve lived in this district for a decade, and I’ve organized in this district for over a decade, and there’s lots of different issues that are facing this community and Colorado at large,” Gonzales said, who serves as policy director for the Denver-based Meyer Law Office, which specializes in immigration law.

“It’s a really fascinating conversation and that’s humbling to even be thinking about,” Gonzales continued. “I welcome the opportunity to have a conversation with voters about who is best suited to listen, serve, and fight for the interests of the constituents of the district.”

Guzman is term limited after next year.

Already filed to run in the race is a relatively unknown candidate, Alan Kennedy-Shaffer.

Pabon, who served five years in House leadership – including roles as speaker pro tempore and assistant majority leader – said he believes he would emerge as the strongest candidate.

“I’ve lived in this district my whole life and now I’m raising my family there,” Pabon said. “It’s the greatest place in the world to live and it deserves the strongest representation possible.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated to fix an error in the headline that identified Sen. Lucia Guzman as the majority leader. She is the minority leader. 


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 29, 20173min98
Colorado’s U.S. senators are supporting a plan to relocate the Bureau of Land Management to Colorado. A recent report suggests that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke plans to relocate the BLM headquarters from Washington, D.C. to Denver, though that report could not be verified with a spokeswoman for the Interior Department. U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a […]

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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 28, 20175min1490

Libertarian Todd Mitchem will announce a campaign to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, pointing to his background in the marijuana industry.

Mitchem and his wife, Diana, operate a government affairs and community outreach firm, TMC Partners, which develops strategies for cannabis businesses. He serves as senior government and community affairs liaison for The Green Solution, one of the state’s largest dispensary chains.

Mitchem said he became more heavily involved in the marijuana industry after watching his mother’s battles with cancer, which she beat on two occasions. Mitchem’s mother turned to cannabis and survived, he said.

“I, like millions of Americans, have always believed that the men and women we elect to office have a responsibility to fix the broken parts of our government in a way that helps all Americans,” Mitchem said in a statement. “But after being nearly financially devastated and almost losing my business to rising healthcare premiums and hefty tax burdens, I started to become frustrated by the status quo… I became so fed up that I said, ‘It’s time for me to get in the game.’”

Mitchem acknowledges that he is the “underdog” in the 2nd Congressional District Race, where Democrat Joe Neguse, the former executive director of the state Department of Regulatory Agencies and a former CU regent, has emerged as the front-runner.

Loveland resident Howard Dotson has also filed to run on the Democratic ticket.

Polis, a Democrat, has said that he is not seeking re-election next year, as he mounts a campaign for governor.

Mitchem pointed to dissatisfaction with the current political system, highlighting a 2015 Gallup poll which found that 42 percent of voters identify as independents or Libertarians, compared with 29 percent who identify as a Democrat, and 26 percent who identify as a Republican.

“I am not a career politician who wants more of the same; I am a hard-working father and a husband who’s been focused on making ends meet while also questioning why our government is not working together,” Mitchem said. “It’s time to come up with solutions to the problems that plague our daily lives and finally take action. It’s time for collaboration, leadership skill, and a renewed focus on the real issues that are eroding our freedom while downgrading the American dream down to a mere fleeting fantasy.”

Mitchem said his campaign is planning town hall events and tours of businesses in Congressional District 2. Noting that he is also an author, Mitchem said he will be giving away copies of his book, “You, Disrupted,” at the events.

Mitchem will need to reach a large swath of voters from varying backgrounds in the sprawling district, which includes all or part of Boulder, Larimer, Broomfield, Jefferson, Clear Creek, Eagle, Gilpin, Grand, Summit and Park counties.

Republicans have not yet announced plans for a formidable candidate in the left-leaning district. The Boulder-centric district has been represented by Democrats — Mark Udall, David Skaggs and Tim Wirth, before Polis — for more than 40 years. It includes many of Colorado’s most well known ski areas on the I-70 corridor.

“I understand that being a Libertarian/independent-minded thinker makes me an outsider to the two-party system in Washington, but I think it’s time for a new leader to emerge who listens to independent, centrist and Libertarian voters, as well as those Republicans and Democrats who are also fed up,” Mitchem said.

“Over the course of this race, I will get the word out to Washington that we in America are tired of being ignored. I will be the unifying voice for those people who have none. I think people are done with the inaction in Washington and they are starting to demand their government get to work, regardless of obstacles or the president. Excuse time is over.”


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 25, 20173min43
Democrat Joe Neguse, who is seeking to replace U.S. Rep. Jared Polis in Boulder, received the support of two former congressional candidates. State Rep. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood and Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City announced their endorsements of Neguse on Friday. Moreno and Pettersen recently dropped out of the 7th Congressional District race after […]

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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 24, 20172min286
Colorado Springs entrepreneur Barry Farah is considering a run for governor on the Republican ticket, Colorado Politics has learned. Farah would join an already crowded field, which is still developing. Some top names already in the race include Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, entrepreneur and former state Rep. Victor Mitchell and investment banker Doug […]

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