Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 6, 20182min2127

Ready Colorado, the conservative champion of school choice that is growing its profile on the state’s political scene, has tapped ride-sharing giant Uber to recruit a new vice president. The education advocacy group announced Monday it has hired Craig Hulse, “a widely respected policy and legislative expert” who most recently was Uber Technologies’ public affairs manager. Hulse led Uber’s legislative efforts for western states and for its autonomous-vehicles initiatives nationwide

Says a Ready Colorado new release:

Prior to Uber, Hulse served as the Chief of Staff for the Nevada Speaker, Director of Government Affairs for the Las Vegas Sands, Director of Government Affairs for the nation’s 50th largest school district, and in leading roles in the charter school movement and StudentsFirst.

During his time as Chief of Staff in the Nevada Assembly, Hulse helped usher in a historic set of education reforms including universal education savings accounts, tax credit scholarships for private schools, creation of an achievement school district, and exempting additional education spending from collective bargaining.

Hulse holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Nevada and a J.D. from Washburn University School of Law.

Republican-leaning Ready Colorado, led by President Luke Ragland, is both a political player and a policy advocate. Spawned a few years ago by political play makers Josh Penry and Tyler Sandberg, it aims to influence policy with an education-reform agenda at the Capitol and statewide while also supporting state and local candidates who advance that agenda. Ready backs school vouchers, charter schools, enhanced accountability measures and other touchstones of the education-reform movement.


Ernest LuningErnest LuningFebruary 13, 201813min2065

When Colorado voters cast ballots in the upcoming primary election, they’ll almost certainly face an unprecedented smorgasbord of candidates spread across an unusually high number of races up and down the ballot. And for the first time, the state’s unaffiliated voters — there are slightly more of them than there are either Democrats or Republicans — will have a say in the outcome.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 12, 20185min1176
Chase Penry, the son of former state Sen. Josh Penry, and David Brophy, the son of former state Sen. Greg Brophy. (Photo courtesy Greg Brophy via Lynn Bartels / Secretary of State’s Office)

… and it’s actually their kids we’re talking about, not the dads; the dads remain birds of a political feather.

Thanks are in order (yet again) to Secretary of State’s Office messenger in chief Lynn Bartels for keeping us apprised of some truly fun tangents off of Colorado politics. Like the fact that the sons of two fellow Republican ex-state legislators, perpetual political animals and longtime allies — Josh Penry and Greg Brophy — are occasional adversaries in Denver-area prep basketball. Penry’s son Chase Penry plays for the Cherry High School’s Bruins; Brophy’s son David is on Arapahoe High School’s Warrior squad.

As Bartels noted on her blog the other day — and as some of us recall firsthand — it wasn’t all that long ago that the two strappin’ teens were wee tykes who at times would accompany their dads to the Capitol:

When they were little boys, they lived across the state from each other but occasionally played together at the state Capitol when their dads brought them to work.

Bartels even posted a couple of great pics of Chase, then 7, and David, then 3, when their dads sparred with Democrats at the Capitol.  Nowadays, the two 6-foot offspring are forces to be reckoned with in their own right.

David plays some serious defense for the Warriors:

…While Chase is perhaps even better known for his skills as a wide receiver on Cherry Creek’s football team:

Cherry Creek’s Chase Penry is wide open and making the most of it in a victory over Arapahoe High School. (9News / jacksactionshots.com)

Or course, both young men have athletic prowess in their genes. Chase’s dad Josh, whose political acumen and accomplishments long have been Wikipedia-worthy, was a standout on the gridiron. He was a star quarterback for the Mesa State (now Colorado Mesa University) Mavericks and was named the National Scholar Athlete of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association and the Burger King Corporation. David’s dad Greg, also Wiki-worthy, went to the Colorado state championships as a wrestler for Wray High School (in his hometown of the same name).

While the elder Penry represented the Grand Junction area during his time in the state House and Senate, and dad Brophy lived in Wray and represented a vast swath of the surrounding Eastern Plains — both men have since relocated their families to the Denver area. That certainly increased the odds their sons would cross paths. As Brophy told Bartels:

“It’s a small world after all … As a parent in sports, it really changes the nature of the game when you know and truly like the opposition kids. You want him to play well, but his team to lose!”


Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 10, 201813min717


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 21, 20178min374

If a 7-year-old sports a T-shirt proclaiming, “My Body, My Choice” or “Don’t Tread On Me,” it’s a fairly safe assumption mom or dad had something to do with it.

But what if 17-year-old “climate warrior” and “hip hop artist” Xiuhtezcatl Martinez proposes a regulation to the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission requiring that drilling permits be denied by the state, “unless the best available science demonstrates, and an independent third party organization confirms, that drilling can occur in a manner that does not cumulatively, with other actions, impair Colorado’s atmosphere, water, wildlife, and land resources, does not adversely impact human health and does not contribute to climate change”?

…  And what if he sues when the commission turns him down?

Well, then you have Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which has received plenty of media coverage (including by ColoradoPolitics.com; read here and here). The case involves a much-debated Colorado Court of Appeals ruling in March that effectively reversed the commission’s decision and could shut down new drilling statewide, leaving the oil and gas industry in a panic. The ruling has divided the state government (surprise!) along party lines, with Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman appealing the ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper downplaying the ruling and saying the state should let it stand.

OK, but back to the question at hand: Is precocious Xiuhtezcatl’s role in all this just a publicity stunt? Silly question? Mainstream-media types who are covering the saga — fully cognizant of the lawyers and environmental groups orchestrating the whole affair from backstage — will smirk, roll their eyes, duly note the teen’s age and make sure they’ve spelled his name right. Then they’ll move on to the legal and political issues that matter.

And then there’s Ross Kaminsky — who tears apart the choreography of the court case in a piece published online today for the arch-conservative American Spectator, “The Environmentalists’ Human Shields.”  Kaminsky — the Denver-area talk radio host, blogger and familiar presence on Colorado’s political right — doesn’t hold back:

The lead human shield in the Colorado case … is a 17-year-old Boulderite named Xiuhtezcatl Martinez who really loves frogs and rivers and stuff. From his handlers running the Earth Guardians website: “His first name is pronounced ‘Shoe-Tez-Caht’ and he’s a 17-year-old indigenous climate activist, hip-hop artist, and powerful voice on the front lines of a global youth-led environmental movement.” Because children are such experts on science and economics.

Naturally, therefore, the group has built a speakers’ bureau for the teenager and his friends. “Xiuhtezcatl — deeply rooted in the Aztec tradition — shares his indigenous wisdom… and how important it will be to return to a sacred way of living on the earth,” says the pitch on the Earth Guardians website.

Kaminsky — who makes no secret of where he stands on the court case itself; he devotes most of the column to it — offers some interesting insights into the art of political stunt-craft, ideology aside:

Xiuhtezcatl has been in the environmentalist human shield business for much of his young life, including making a “What the Frack” music video (which perpetuates the lie that fracking is the cause of methane in water lines leading to “lighting your tap water on fire”) and angering parents at Evergreen (CO) Middle School by performing the cute-but-ignorant brainwashing rap for their still-rational children. He’s given a TEDx talk (“When I turned six I started asking ‘what kind of world is my generation going to be left with?’”) and been trotted out in front of the United Nations. …

Is Kaminsky picking on the kid? Is it hard to resist? Colorado political chess master Josh Penry weighed in via Twitter:

Prompting a snippy, anonymous response:


John TomasicJohn TomasicMarch 7, 20177min925

An effort three years running in Colorado to ban gay conversion therapy moved forward on Tuesday. All 37 state House Democrats and one Republican voted in favor of sending the proposal to the Republican-controlled Senate. Sponsor, Rep. Paul Rosenthal, a Denver Democrat and co-founder of the legislative LGBT caucus, was hopeful that this year’s bill, <a href="http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/HB17-1156" target="_blank">HB-1156</a>, might receive the kind of welcome in the Senate that doesn't spell immediate doom.


John TomasicJohn TomasicMarch 6, 20179min404

Happy halfway mark. On Wednesday, lawmakers will arrive at this year’s legislative session midpoint. Many of the House and Senate minority party bills doomed to die in committee have lived their brief and sometimes newsmaking lives. Now many of the bills doomed to die at the hands of the opposite chamber majority party will meet their own swift ends. Then soon will appear this year’s “long bill” budget proposal. And then, on the long bill’s tale, will come the big compromise proposal on transportation funding… and anything else lawmakers feel pressure or overdue obligation or last gasp whimsy to move on at last. Note as ever that almost everything about the legislative schedule is subject to change, at almost any time.

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 1, 20174min263

We like to use our “Insights” feature to offer what we hope is some helpful perspective on the passing political scene. Not advocacy for a particular partisan or political view but context as to why things are happening the way they do. Today, we could find no insight that better fits that description than a news report published late Tuesday by Nicholas Garcia in Chalkbeat Colorado on the rise of Ready Colorado. Garcia offers an informed look at the Republican-driven, education-reform advocacy group whose agenda is much more nuanced than simply pushing the GOP’s public-ed platform. The report reveals one of the real power players influencing Colorado education policy from behind the scenes.

Garcia depicts an organization that, if anything walks a line between its more conventional adversaries on the traditional left — teachers unions and public-education lobbies resistant to change — and a rear-guard action by the GOP’s own right wing. Fundamentally suspicious of attempts to establish national standards for educating and assessing K-12 kids — think of the endless debate over the Common Core initiative — some elected officials and others on the Republican right have found common cause with the teachers union-backed Democratic left at the Capitol over issues like standardized testing.

As Garcia points out, that face-off was in fact the inspiration for Ready Colorado:

Ready Colorado was born out of the state’s testing debates in 2015. It was founded by Josh Penry, a former Republican state lawmaker who co-sponsored some of the state’s most ambitious education reform laws, and Tyler Sandberg, a former aide to Congressman Mike Coffman.

The two Republicans say they saw the need for Ready Colorado as they watched Republicans retreat from — and in some cases attack — the system of academic standards, tests and accountability measures for schools and teachers GOP lawmakers helped create between 2008 and 2012.

Which makes for a balancing act:

A number of Republicans in the House and the Senate still want to back away from the positions Ready Colorado supports. And because the organization explicitly supports Republican candidates, it’s unclear how it will be able to work with Democrats who support some of the same reforms.

As a result, the formidably funded Ready Colorado has swung left and right in the world of hardball politics. As Garcia recounts, the group has funded independent political committees that have helped elect some Republicans, like newly minted state Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson — while helping pick off others, like former Republican Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt in last year’s GOP primary in state Senate District 12 in Colorado Springs.

The hook for the Chalkbeat report, by the way, was the recent appointment of Luke Ragland, “a well-known figure in Colorado’s education reform community,” to serve as the organization’s first president.

Truly worth a read, not only if you care about public education but also for anyone interested in the inner workings of Colorado politics in general.