Election 2018News

Dems gather in Broomfield for Colo. state assembly

Author: Marianne Goodland - April 14, 2018 - Updated: April 14, 2018

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The crowd gathered at the 1STBANK Center Saturday for the Colorado Democrats’ state assembly. (Photo by Andy Colwell for Colorado Politics)

The Colorado Democratic Party is meeting Saturday at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield for a full day of nominations and speeches for governor, treasurer, attorney general and secretary of state.

The assembly started at 10 a.m. with brief remarks from state party Chair Morgan Carroll, who called on delegates to be positive. She exhorted them “to take back our country, build our blue wave and put progress into action.”

“Here’s the beautiful thing about being a Democrat: We have different preferences for candidates and remain respectful to all candidates and their supporters,” she said.

More than 3,000 delegates have so far been checked in to participate in the assembly.

Lesley Smith was the sole nominee for regent-at-large for the University of Colorado. She was nominated by former regent and Congressional District 2 candidate Joe Neguse of Boulder and former Democratic state party chair Pat Waak.

Democratic Rep. Dave Young of Greeley, one of three nominees for treasurer, brought delegates to their feet when he said the “job that engaged me to the core of my soul: being a teacher for 24 years” and that he would protect the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA). He also took aim at Wells Fargo and current treasurer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton for investing state money into Wells Fargo.

That also was a theme from nominee Bernard Douthit. TR Reid, a former Washington Post reporter who now works on healthcare issues, called Wells Fargo the “most corrupt banking institution in the United States,” and noted Stapleton had put $1 billion of state money into the banking giant. He said Douthit plans to start up a public bank that would allow the marijuana industry to do legal banking.

Charles Scheibe, the third candidate for treasurer, has worked in treasurer’s office for 12 years. He told delegates he also would work to solve TABOR and PERA and even took a quick shot at Douthit, stating the treasurer cannot start up a public bank.

Jena Griswold, who has won endorsements from Kennedy and from fellow gubernatorial nominee and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder, drew rousing support as one of the two nominees for secretary of state. She blasted current Secretary of State Wayne Williams for sending voter data to a elections taskforce set up by President Donald Trump, stating it caused thousands of voters to cancel their registrations.

Attorney general nominee Amy Padden told delegates she would vow to protect the environment and make communities safer from gun violence. Her commitment to public service grew after her first husband, Sean Mays, an Adams County district attorney, was gunned down in 2008.

“No way I will let George Brauchler, who is in the pocket of the NRA and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners,” become the next attorney general, Padden said.

Civil rights was the theme for Rep. Joe Salazar’s nomination, although he briefly spoke about the NRA as well. “It’s time to have a real street-fighter standing up for Colorado” with a progressive record of fighting for the homeless and disabled communities, he said.

Salazar said he had a 7 percent rating from the NRA.

“How the hell did I get 7 percent?” he said to cheers.

Phil Weiser, the third nominee for attorney general, also had strong support from delegates. “Our democracy is at stake. This is the year we fight for it,” he said.

Weiser worked for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and President Obama, calling it the leadership experience he will use to lead the office of attorney general. Dreamers are being protected “because other state attorneys general, not ours,” are protecting them, he said.

The main event — nominations for governor — started off with Cary Kennedy, and this was her audience.

She began by pointing to her success as state treasurer and promised to make public education the state’s number one priority.

“Education is about so much more than a test,” Kennedy said.

She promised to pass permanent TABOR reform in order to fund public education and pay teachers as professionals.

Kennedy drew her biggest applause when she spoke against the president and his education secretary Betsy DeVos, pledging to make sure they aren’t able to privatize public education. She also spoke in favor of a public health care option, a ban on assault weapons, and support for reproductive rights, public lands, and climate change.

While voting went on in the main hall, Kennedy told Colorado Politics that it was exciting to see the support from all over the state. “This campaign builds momentum every day.”

Kennedy said she will reach out to Democrats who voted for Trump in 2016. Those voters will look for the candidate “who lays out a vision to address the challenges we face. Our [economic]  progress isn’t reaching everyone,” she said, including Pueblo and rural Colorado, both which backed Trump.

Kennedy also spoke about support for public education. “We need to make sure every student has the ability to go to a great school. Choice doesn’t mean anything if your neighborhood school isn’t a great choice,” she explained. Kennedy would seek to improve public education so that curriculum addresses the individual needs and learning styles of every student, and that teachers receive the support they need to meet those students’ needs. “We can’t build a system where the success of some schools comes at the expense of others and the success of some kids comes at the expense of others.”

Polis’ supporters held up signs with his name on one side and “Take that, Mike Pence!” on the other.

“We should be proud that we are a party that looks like America, today and tomorrow,” Polis told delegates, including young, old, veterans, disabled, LGBTQ and Dreamers. His biggest applause came when he said he had cast a vote to impeach Trump.

“I will be ready to go toe-to-toe with Donald Trump,” he pledged. “I will be proud to be the first openly gay governor in the United States. Take that, Mike Pence!”

He pledged to take on special interests such as the NRA on gun safety, and the insurance industry on universal single-payer health care. Polis’ signature issue, climate, also got a nod, with his pledge to create well paying green jobs and 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 or sooner. He also spoke in favor of secure retirements and a strong union movement.

“We will win for our values, our children, our planet and our future.”

Polis also spoke with Colorado Politics during voting. “Any opportunity to get our message out about how Colorado can push back against Trump and lead the way for a bold, progressive future.” That includes full-day preschool and kindergarten, how to make the economy work for everyone and a renewable energy future.

He said his plan for universal health care includes building a broad coalition with the business community and to work with other states. He also would make sure that coalition includes those who favor reproductive rights, a major flaw with the 2016 universal health plan initiative that led Democrats to bail en masse and to its overwhelming defeat at the ballot box. Universal health care should cost less than the current system, Polis said.

Polis also backs changes to TABOR that will allow more support for transportation and public education, stating people will support such a change when they know how it will benefit them. “Voters…know we need to fund infrastructure, we need better roads and mass transportation,” he said. “When you’re stuck in traffic, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican or independent. You want a governor who will lead the way to do something about it.”

The final candidate, Erik Underwood, asked for 1,300 votes that will get him on the ballot. He shared some of his personal history: being raised by a grandmother and on food stamps and Medicaid.

“I’m not running on movements,” he said. “I’m running on vision.”

“This is what progress looks like in our country,” he added: a gay Congressman, an accomplished woman and a business owner who grew up in the projects. He noted he has a four-step plan to repeal TABOR and the Gallagher amendment, to pay teachers better, and to provide free tuition and trade school education. Underwood also has a plan to support industrial hemp and wants to set up a department of rural affairs.

But he also was booed when he went after Polis for being a superdelegate in 2016 that denied Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders the presidential nomination in Colorado.

“Is the fix in today?” he asked, raising concerns that the gubernatorial contest has become only a popularity contest.

The day’s early business included remarks from senior U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Denver and Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Democrats “need a majority in the Senate in Washington, D.C. to check the president and to preserve the rule of law,” Bennet told the assembly. He also called for increased teacher pay and support for the Parkland students.

Hickenlooper received a few boos when he took the stage; chants of “no more war” interrupted his remarks.

“We can’t just sit here and root for Donald Trump to fail,” he said. “We have to make sure government can succeed. We believe in facts and honesty and will be on the right side of history.”

To the chanters, he said, “we’re all on board. Got it!”

Results are not expected until later in the day. 

This story will be updated as the day progresses.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.