Joey BunchJoey BunchNovember 9, 20172min200
The race to succeed Rep. Pete Lee in House District 18 in Colorado Springs next year got a little more crowded when former Manitou Springs Mayor Marc Snyder signed up for the race last week. Lee is running in Senate District 11 to succeed Mike Merrifield, a former Manitou Springs city councilman who is retiring […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchNovember 6, 20173min269
The way justice is meted out in Colorado could change, giving judges more say in habitual offender and sex offender cases, through bills bound for the legislature. The Sentencing in the Criminal Justice System Interim Study Committee is proposing bills to allow judges more leeway in sentencing to make sure the punishment fits the crime. The […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 23, 20173min2420

The new director of Colorado Office of Behavioral Health has another new title: Friend of Children.

Robert Werthwein received the award from Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA.

Werthwein was recognized for his work with the Colorado Department of Human Service’s Office of Children, Youth and Families from March 2015 to September 2017, before DHS promoted him last month.

For 24 years, CASA has given the Friend of Children Award “to those who personify the values of humanitarian outreach and volunteerism with children, families and the community,” DHS said.

The award typically goes to judges, law enforcement, doctors, legislators or individuals who work to make life better for kids.

“At CDHS, we’re charged with ensuring every child in our care knows that they can rely on us, that we’re going to work to equip them with the tools they need to succeed and when the burden is too much, we’ll be there to help lighten the load,” Werthwein said in a statement. “Our kids are our future, and we’re going to keep showing up for them every day to help put more Colorado youth on a path to success.”

Since earning his doctorate in clinical psychology, Werthwein has worked to strengthen child-welfare programs and improve treatment for at-risk children. At the Office of Children, Youth and Families, Werthwein focused on juvenile justice, child welfare, human trafficking and other complex issues.

DHS referenced his work on House Bill 1207, the legislation sponsored by Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, that removes incarceration as an option for children younger than 12.

The rule already applied to children 10 and younger. The bill signed into law by the governor in May.

“Dr. Werthwein worked tirelessly to advocate for 10-12 year olds in the juvenile justice system, keeping those youths with low-level offenses from mandatory detention facilities,” DHS said.


Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 8, 20173min343
Jillian Likness, a Republican political activist and strategist, is in the race to succeed Rep. Pete Lee in House District 18 in Colorado Springs next year. Lee, a Democrat, is term-limited in the House and said last weekend he plans to run for Senate District 11. The incumbent there, Democrat Mike Merrifield, said he’s stepping […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 5, 20173min72
The news came as a surprise Saturday night when Rep. Pete Lee told a gathering of Democrats at Colorado College he planned to run for Sen. Mike Merrifield’s District 11 seat. Merrifield could run for another term, before term limits force him out in 2022. He beat Republican Bernie Herpin in 2014, after Herpin unseated […]

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Ernest LuningErnest LuningSeptember 3, 20175min3000

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 BunchJune 5, 20175min1962
USS Colorado
The USS Colorado under construction in Connecticut. (Photo courtesy of the USS Colorado Christening Committee.)


Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill Monday afternoon that spends $100,000 from the state budget to support a new Navy submarine called the USS Colorado.

Lawmakers threw heavy support behind Senate Bill 183 to chip in on the cost of last December’s christening ceremony, to promote the fact Colorado has a submarine named after it within the state and to do stuff for the 134-member crew.

The 370-foot fast-attack submarine was christened in Connecticut with champagne from a Denver vintner chilled in water from the Colorado River.

You can watch the christening here.

Work began in 2012 to build the $2.7 billion vessel, called Virginia-class for its design and nuclear power. It’s alternatively designated SSN 788.

Senate Bill 283 was sponsored by two Colorado Springs lawmakers, Sen. Bob Gardner, a Republican, and Rep. Pete Lee, a Democrat. The legislation passed the House 55-10 and the Senate 29-6.

“It’s imperative we as a state support and celebrate the officers and crew of the USS Colorado,” Gardner told the Senate committee he introduced his bill to in February. “It’s a big deal to have a Navy submarine named after your state and carry that name forever.”

Gardner and Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, attended the christening ceremony.

Ret. Capt. John Mackin of Lafayette chairs the state’s USS Colorado Christening Committee. He served in the Navy for 26 years, including as a nuclear submarine officer. He’s lived 22 years in Colorado since he retired, he said.

“I’m extremely excited and proud to have a submarine named Colorado,” Mackin said. “It is indeed a great honor to the state and all the citizens of Colorado to have such a great ship with the name of our state.”

The money has helped bring 25 sailors from the Colorado to Colorado on seven trips, a few at a time, so far. They have made appearances at 10 schools, visited the capitol and several towns, as well as visiting most of Denver’s professional teams.

“We want the sailors of SSN 788 to understand what a great state the represent,” Mackin said. “But more than that we want Coloradans to meet these young sailors. It’s great to see the interaction between them.”

The committee held a contest to design the sub’s crest. There were more than 140 entries in 2015. Mackin said he was at first disappointed to see the winner was from New York and not Colorado, but then delighted to find out winner Michael Nielson was a Navy ensign from Arvada training in New York. Today Nielson is assigned to the USS Colorado.

This is the Navy’s fourth USS Colorado.

The first was named for the Colorado River, a three-masted frigate commissioned in 1858 that served in the blockade of the Confederacy in the Civil War, Mackin said.

The second was an armored cruiser commissioned in 1905. It  supported troop expeditions in Nicaragua and patrolled off Mexico. She was renamed the USS Pueblo in 1915 as the Navy began work on a battleship named for the state.

That ship battleship was commissioned in 1923 and was an all-star in World War II, earning seven battle stars, enduring two Kamikaze attacks and other Japanese assaults. She had 77 casualties and and 388 wounded. When Japan handed over documents of surrender aboard the USS Missouri, the USS Colorado was tied along side her.