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Ernest LuningErnest LuningOctober 27, 201711min16130

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday told a ballroom full of Republicans in Greenwood Village that a unified GOP will fulfill a key campaign pledge of President Donald Trump by enacting tax reform legislation. “I’m going to make a prediction tonight: We’re going to pass the largest tax cut in American history, and we’re going to pass it this year,” Pence told about 300 donors at a fundraiser for the Colorado Republican Party at the Denver Marriott Tech Center.


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningOctober 25, 201712min57961

Although he hasn't launched a campaign yet, Tom Tancredo holds a wide lead in Colorado's crowded Republican gubernatorial primary field and is in a statistical tie with leading Democratic candidate Jared Polis, according to a survey conducted by the pollster who set up the polling and data operations for Donald Trump's  presidential campaign.


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningSeptember 1, 20174min3100

If former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo decides to jump into Colorado's Republican gubernatorial primary, there's one step he won't have to take. Tancredo changed his registration from unaffiliated to Republican two weeks ago "just in case," he told Colorado Politics, although he said he's still weighing whether to get in the race.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 28, 20174min91
The Colorado Department of Corrections wasn’t saying much Sunday about the death of Benjamin Davis, founder of the white supremacist gang authorities believe ordered death of prisons chief Tom Clements in 2013. Davis’ death is being investigated as a suicide, but no other details were released to the Colorado Springs Gazette, including which prison Davis […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 6, 20178min6060

My pal Mark Matthews of the Denver Post broke the story this week that non-gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton has a big non-campaign fundraiser on Aug. 21 at a rich executive’s house in Cherry Hills Village.

Mark got his hands on an invitation that is officially a fundraiser for the Republican-back Better Colorado Now independent expenditure committee, which put Stapleton’s name on the invitation in big cursive letters as a “special guest.”

How special? Very special. Stapleton hasn’t even officially announced he’s running.

Look, folks, let’s talk like political adults. Focusing on money in politics is like marveling at the existence of pirates while they’re coming ashore. That ship has sailed. Thinking there’s anything odd about a super PAC is akin to thinking bake sales and little old ladies writing $5 checks get politics done.

In 2014, days before the election, incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper had raised about $5.4 million to Republican Bob Beauprez’s $1.7 million. Beauprez loaned his campaign $844,000 and still couldn’t get to half the Democratic war chest. The governor held on by 3 points on Election Day.

But neither of those totals include the help of independent expenditure committees, those supporters who can give more as a group but don’t theoretically (or legally) work with the campaigns.

“This host committee represents job creators from all parts of Colorado’s economy, big businesses to small, oil and gas to technology,” political strategist Andy George, the director of Better Colorado Now, told Colorado Politics. “These leaders are coming together because they understand the importance of 2018 and are committed to beating Jared Polis and his mountains of cash.”

The real story is how major a player Stapleton appears to be based on the turnout of supporters to his non-campaign.

There’s been some question about where the Republican money is sitting. Democratic gubernatorial fund-raising promises to be robust with Jared Polis in the race. The tech millionaire from Boulder is the second-richest member of Congress, and he has rich liberal friends who helped turn red-state Colorado purple a decade and a half ago. That’s a Democratic money bomb waiting to drop.

In the most recent fundraising quarter, the top three Democrats raised close to $1 million combined, and Polis accounted for a misleadingly modest $274,000. The top three Republicans barely cracked $400,000.

Stapleton’s Aug. 21 party represents a big pile of money from conservative Colorado supporters who have it, as well as wield influence beyond their own checkbooks in the donor class.

There’s more.

Better Colorado Now has retained Jeff Roe and his firm Axiom Strategies, campaign manager for Ted Cruz’s presidential run last year. Cruz was the last man standing to Trump, and received all of Colorado’s delegates to the Republican National Convention last year — where the delegation walked out on Trump.

Matthews reported that Better Colorado Now had collected about $123,000 as of June 30, with $25,000 from August Busch III, former CEO of the Anheuser-Busch.

The Post also noted the support of Lanny Martin, who raised money for Cynthia Coffman when she ran for attorney general in 2014. Coffman is said to be considering the governor’s race, as well, so Martin in Stapleton’s camp could throw doubts or hurdles in Coffman’s path.

Maffei and Mizel were co-chairs for Mitt Romney’s presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. A third co-chair was Doug Robinson, Romney’s nephew who is an announced candidate for governor.

If this is Stapleton’s pack, he has some big dogs with bite.

The list of hosts and co-hosts represents the largest, single collection of money and power we’ve seen behind any (non-)candidate this early in a primary in some time, including the current governor.

Stapleton’s financial debutante ball is at the home of Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei in Cherry Hills Village.

The Denver Post reported last year Maffei earned $29.3 million, but a far tumble from the $124.2 million he made in 2014. Still, one doubts the Stapleton fundraiser will serve cocktail sausages and hand out red cups for a keg.

But if Maffei goes in that direction, Marilyn and Pete Coors can bring the suds, but don’t put them too close to John Elway’s backyard cornhole game.

The named attendees include Denver real estate emperor and philanthropist Larry Mizel, as well as Tracksuit Wedding singer Libby Anschutz and her husband, Comcast executive Jeff Allen.

Another big, bold-faced host is Jim Nicholson, now a senior counsel in Washington, D.C., for Denver-based Brownstein Hyatt Farber Shreck, but a major player in national Republican politics. He is the former secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs knighted in 2003 for his work on human rights by Pope John Paul II.

Stapleton, after all, is a cousin to the presidential Bush family.

Other hosts are Mark Falcone; Ann and Tad Herz; Margie and Dave Hunter; Teresa and Michael Leede; Gretchen and Kent McAlister; Shelly and Rick Sapkin; Jenna and Joe Slavik; Greg Stevinson; Alicia and John Tlapek; Betsy and Terry Considine; Ann and Joe Ellis; Molly and Gregg Engles; Lolly and David Garcia; Sarah and Chris Hunt; Holly and Jeremy Kinney; Sharon and Lanny Martin; David McReynolds; Anne and Mathew Osborn; Brooke and Luke Simpson; George Solich; Patty and Mike Starzer; and Roxanne and Fred Vierra.

The other co-hosts are Caryn and Brian Deevy; Amy and Scott Fisher; Maureen and John Kechriotis; Dave Keyte; Christine and Andrew Light; Eileen and Tate McCoy; Shereen and Michael Pollak; Dean Dowson; Christine and Andy Fedorowicz; Arlene and Barry Hirschfeld; Walt Kellogg
Alysa and Ron Levine; Tanya and Scott Maierhofer; Randi and Barclay Miller; and Joe Smith.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 22, 20173min93
Despite what the culture the media lead the public to believe, conservation starts with conservatives, and farmers and ranchers are our nation’s vital environmentalists. That was the message Saturday from former Colorado Congressman Bob Beauprez, the son of a dairy farmer and a rancher. He took the stage at the Western Conservative Summit Saturday as […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 18, 201711min980

Colorado Springs Republican Andy McElhany spent 14 years in Colorado’s General Assembly, from 1994 to 2008. He served in both chambers and as a member of the minority as well as the majority, ending his tenure in elected office as state Senate minority leader. His lengthy legislative record ranged from a bill repealing the “marriage penalty tax” to legislation enforcing child-support laws. Along the way, he was honored as an outstanding legislator by the Associated Press, the Colorado Union of Taxpayers, the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, and United Veterans of Colorado. He developed a reputation as a budget hawk and advocate of tax limitation. (A more dubious distinction: He also was my boss during my long-ago stint as a legislative staffer.) Although McElhany logged his last sine die nearly a decade ago, the 77-year-old retired real estate broker has hardly retired from politics.

Colorado Politics: You have been engaged in a range of political and public policy endeavors since leaving the legislature; please catch us up on some of the details. Do you find it hard to resist involvement in politics after all of your years in elective office?

Andy McElhany: I cannot imagine a time I would not be interested in public policy and those who are elected to make decisions.  The year I left the legislature the enlightened Board of El Paso County Commissioners decided the Great Recession would be a grand time to raise the sales tax.  I chaired and managed a campaign against the tax. It was easily defeated. The next year, the (Colorado Springs) City Council decided they liked the idea so much they put a massive property tax on the ballot.  I managed a campaign against that tax, and it was easily defeated.  I co-chaired a campaign to change the management structure of the city of Colorado Springs from a city manager to an executive mayor, which passed overwhelmingly. Then I co-chaired a campaign to elect Steve Bach the first mayor under the new system.  He won with 57 percent of the vote.  I worked hard in the effort to get the city to divest itself from Memorial Hospital, which was long term leased to the University of Colorado Hospital system.  A couple of years ago I recorded a radio ad for now Rep. Terri Carver to let the voters know her opponent was a past supporter of a tax hike. Last year I recorded a radio ad for Rep. Mark Waller running for county commissioner to let voters know that his opponent was also a supporter of a tax hike.  He was easily elected.  Other than that, not much!

CP: In your time as a Republican in the legislature, you served in both the majority and the minority, including as Senate minority leader. And since then, the balance of power in both chambers has shifted yet again. Is control of the General Assembly — a lawmaking body once reliably in Republican hands — destined to swing back and forth for the foreseeable future in our purple state?

AM: Yes, you must think the majority will swing back and forth in the very closely held chambers we have now.  Much depends on reapportionment, which is totally in the hands of the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.  Who the chief justice is depends on who the governor picks to sit on the court.  Which, again speaks to the importance of who is elected governor.

CP: Why has your party had such a tough time finding a winning gubernatorial candidate in the past several elections? Would you care to name any current GOP prospects you think have a good shot at the job in 2018?

AM: History shows that the party that chews itself up the most in a primary election will lose the general election. That was certainly the case in 2010, when the Republicans swept all the statewide offices on the ballot except the governor’s race and the U.S. Senate race over a badly split GOP.  And, even at that, Hick barely got 51 percent of the vote.  In 2014 Hick’s incumbency was too strong for a quality candidate, but the primary damaged Bob Beauprez. You will remember that was the year Cory Gardner won, when party leaders were able to clear the field and prevent a primary election. Both parties are looking at a primary in 2018. Maybe the Green Party candidate will win!

CP: Do you believe Gov. John Hickenlooper really will seek the Democratic presidential in 2020?

AM: I cannot imagine the governor will run for president.  He certainly does not have a record of leadership on the many Colorado issues he will be leaving to others to solve after he is gone.  He does not seem organized enough to take that on, nor does he have national sponsorship.  Running for president takes a lot more than jumping out of an airplane.  He also suffered a major disappointment in not having a Hillary Clinton cabinet to go to.  A major disappointment can take a lot of wind out of your sails.

CP: While the PIkes Peak region continues be dominated by the GOP, Colorado as a whole is growing and undergoing a demographic shift — one that, among other things, appears to be swelling the ranks of unaffiliated voters. How should your party respond to that challenge?

AM: An overwhelming majority of voters, including the unaffiliated, agree with my party on fiscal issues, that the government taxes too much and spends too much and spends on too many of the wrong things.  The social issues that have plagued my party are being resolved. The gay marriage issue has been resolved, like it or not, and is not going to be changed. Abortion is not the issue it once was; just ask Mark Udall! If a Republican states in a primary campaign he is opposed to abortion in all circumstances he will never win any statewide election. About the only remaining social issue is some bad gun legislation from the past that needs some adjustment.  Now, if only my party’s candidates will learn that if they beat each other up on social issues in primary elections, they are not going to get elected to anything, then we will start to win a lot of elections

CP: Of which of your legislative accomplishments are you most proud? Any regrets from your years in public office — whether it was a vote you cast; a policy you supported or opposed; a big decision you made, etc.?

AM: I feel pretty good about my legislative experience.  I passed some meaningful legislation, but in reality it would have occurred anyway.  Some of my biggest accomplishments never surfaced publicly — bad things that were killed; problem members of my caucus who were handled quietly, and forcing compromise in legislation that badly needed it. My only regret was not being a better leader for my party. I would have loved to have left office giving my party a majority in the Senate. It didn’t happen.

AM: Have you evolved at all — in your stands on the issues or your view of politics in general?

CP: If anything, I have not evolved but devolved. I feel about my party like Churchill felt about democracy — that it is awful except for the alternatives. Both major parties have a number of big problems and a number of members who are wackos, but overall my party has the best positions on the issues that most concern me.  Some of those issues are expanding government and the higher taxes it always requires; the government takeover of health care; illegal immigration, and our failing infrastructure.  I look at some of our big cities that have been run by Democrats for over 100 years that have high crime, bad schools, failing infrastructure and at the same time a huge, crushing tax burden, and I know I am right where I should be.

I must add I am disturbed by the current tone of political debate.  I understand we as a country and a state are polarized, but I do not understand why political debate has become so nasty. One thing the legislative experience teaches is that it is possible to have intense political discussions without becoming personal or nasty.  Unfortunately, it does not look like it will get better anytime soon.