Ernest LuningErnest LuningSeptember 3, 20175min1251

State Rep. Pete Lee, a term-limited Colorado Springs Democrat, announced Saturday night that he’s running for the Senate District 11 seat held by state Sen. Mike Merrifield in next year’s election.

Lee was among several candidates for Congress, the Colorado Legislature and statewide offices at a three-hour forum sponsored by the El Paso County Democratic Party and the Colorado College Democrats at the college’s Armstrong Hall. Roughly 100 students and community members showed up to hear the candidates describe their platforms and answer questions.

Merrifield didn’t respond to an email inquiry from Colorado Politics, but according to Lee, Merrifield does not plan to seek a second term.

Two of the four declared Democratic gubernatorial candidates — former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy and businessman Noel Ginsburg — also appeared at the forum. The other two, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and former state Sen. Michael Johnston, sent representatives to a mixer beforehand but didn’t participate in the discussion. (Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne is exploring a run but hasn’t made her candidacy official.)

Kennedy and Ginsburg were in agreement that the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which limits government spending, needs to be revised, saying the 1992 constitutional amendment doesn’t allow funding for education to keep pace with Colorado’s growth.

“If we don’t take on TABOR,” Ginsburg said, “we can’t solve our education problems.” He said he’d work to pass “TABOR 2.0,” which would retain the right of voters to approve tax increases but strip its ratcheting effects that suppress spending after economic downturns.

Blaming TABOR for starving schools for decades, Kennedy lamented that Colorado ranks 42nd in state funding for K-12 education, despite having a booming economy. She noted that she wrote Amendment 23, the only measure to increase state funding for education approved by voters in the past three decades.

“We can’t let our state become the next California. We need to keep Colorado affordable, we need to protect our state’s open spaces and public lands,” Kennedy said.

She also took aim at the Trump administration. “We are going to fight the nonsense we see in Washington,” she said. “We will fight (President) Donald Trump in the courthouse and in the statehouse. We are not going to let him take this state backwards.”

Ginsburg pointed to his role helping found the Colorado I Have A Dream Foundation, which shepherds classes of third-graders through college — “turning a 90-percent dropout rate into a 90-percent graduation rate” — and said it typified the approach he would take to governing the state.

“My form of leadership is to take on difficult problems, to build coalitions and make difficult things happen for the state of Colorado,” he said.

Merrifield, a Colorado Springs Democrat, is serving his first term representing one of the few districts in the Colorado Springs area in which Democrats have an advantage. The Senate district includes downtown Colorado Springs and surrounding neighborhoods, stretching south to Stratmoor and west to Manitou Springs. At the end of August, 33 percent of its active, registered voters were Democrats, 25 percent were Republican, and 39 percent were unaffiliated.

Legislative candidates in attendance included state Rep. Tony Exum, who is seeking reelection to House District 17; Terry Martinez and Graham Anderson, who are running in a primary for Lee’s House District 18 seat; and Liz Rosenbaum, running in House District 21.

The Democrats running in the 5th Congressional District included Betty Field and Stephany Rose Spaulding, and newly announced candidate Marcus Murphy, a civil rights attorney who introduced himself as a Bernie Sanders supporter.

Also participating were secretary of state candidates Jena Griswold and Gabriel McArthur; state Rep. Steve Lesock, a Thornton Democrat running for state treasurer; and attorney general candidates Michael Dougherty, Brad Levin and Phil Weiser, who were joined on stage by a surrogate representing state Rep. Joe Salazar, a Thornton Democrat.


Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 30, 20172min525

Colorado College Democrats are offering an early opportunity for the party’s candidates in next year’s elections to speak to younger voters, older ones, too, Saturday night in Colorado Springs.

A long list of candidates for state and local offices are expected to take questions from students and the public from 5:30 to 10 p.m. in Armstrong Hall, which is located at 14 East Cache La Poudre St.

“We are excited to welcome CC students and Colorado Springs community members to discuss important issues that will shape the future of Colorado with state and local political candidates,” Sophia Brown, who is co-chairing the event with fellow Colorado College student Steven Ortega, told Colorado Politics.

“This event is an amazing opportunity for our community to come together through thoughtful and educational political discourse.”

The students have prepared questions that cover such topics as public lands, gas extraction, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, education, affordable housing, rural economic development and renewable energy,  Brown said.

The Colorado College Democrats’ leadership team includes Kadin Mangalik, Nikki Mills, Shane Brown, Gabe Fine, Alan Pnakovitch and Clara Houghteling.

The candidates who had confirmed they would attend or send a surrogate as of Tuesday were:

For governor:

  • Noel Ginsburg
  • Mike Johnston (by proxy)
  • Cary Kennedy
  • Jared Polis (by proxy)

For attorney general:

  • Brad Levin
  • Michael Doughterty
  • Joe Salazar (by proxy)
  • Phil Weiser

For secretary of state:

  • Jena Griswold
  • Gabriel McArthur

For state treasurer:

  • Steve Lebsock

For Congressional District 5:

  • Betty Field
  • Stephany Rose Spaulding

For House District 17: Tony Exum
For House District 18: Graham Anderson, Terry Martinez
For House District 21: Liz Rosenbaum


Ernest LuningErnest LuningJune 28, 20175min633

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Wednesday rolled out the red carpet to welcome Democrat Levi Tillemann into an already crowded primary race for the chance to challenge GOP incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado's 6th Congressional District. Sounding positively gleeful, NRCC regional spokesman Jack Pandol used the occasion to invoke tried-and-true GOP bogeyman Nancy Pelosi — five times in 10 sentences — and mock early Democratic frontrunner Jason Crow, even throwing in the still-tender rift between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters for good measure.