Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJuly 13, 20173min698

The commotion surrounding a request for Colorado voter information from the Donald Trump administration’s election commission may have roused hundreds of Denver residents to take pre-emptive action through their county clerk’s office this month.

Andrew Kinney over at Denverite reported earlier this week that some 400 Denver voters withdrew their registration in a week — far above the typical traffic — in the days following the announcement of the White House’s Presidential Commission on Election Integrity:

There was a “2,150% increase” in the number of voters withdrawing their registrations in the week of July 3, according to the Denver Elections Division, compared to the week before.

Just a handful of people cancel their registrations on a typical day, but the numbers began spiking on July 5, nearing 100 people per day.

Kinney also notes that some voters requested so-called “confidential voter” status, in an attempt to seal their information.

President Donald Trump created the election commission in May, appointing Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to “review ways to strengthen the integrity of elections in order to protect and preserve the principle of one person, one vote because the integrity of the vote is the foundation of our democracy.” Meanwhile, critics have questioned the commission’s motives.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams has said he will only provide the White House voter information that is already public, while withholding other details protected by state law like social security numbers. Unaware the information is widely available, many voters have contacted the Secretary of State’s office to lodge complaints and concerns.

On Tuesday, the election commission told Colorado officials to hold off on sending them voter information until a lawsuit challenging the White House’s request is resolved.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJuly 6, 20175min573
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner hands his cell phone — with Vice President Mike Pence on the line — to Clifton farmer Blaine Diffendaffer. Jaime Gardner, the senator’s wife, looks on in the background. (Photo courtesy of Gardner’s office.)

… well, no, they don’t walk into a bar. But they do share a cell phone, taking turns talking to one another. And when it comes time for the farmer to talk to the man who serves just a heartbeat away from the presidency, they talk about — what else? — tomatoes.

It’s no joke. It’s pretty much how things went down Wednesday at Blaine’s Tomatoes & Farm, east of Grand Junction and just outside Clifton, in Colorado’s fruit belt. Proprietor and farmer Blaine Diffendaffer was minding his own business, literally, when not one but two major national political figures dropped by. Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, in person, and Vice President Mike Pence, unexpectedly by phone.

Gardner had stopped in for a tour of Diffendaffer’s operation; the visit was arranged by the Mesa County Farm Bureau, of which Diffendaffer is VP. He raises greenhouse tomatoes along with salad greens, cukes and some other goodies and was happy to give the senator a look around.

As Gardner — who hails from the eastern plains farm town of Yuma — and Diffendaffer were chatting about ag issues, Gardner got a call.

Colorado Farmer Blaine Diffendaffer speaks with Vice President Mike Pence.

“He apologized and said, ‘I have to take it. It’s the vice president,’ ” Diffendaffer said.

Diffendaffer struck up a conversation with Gardner’s aides (wife Jaime and children also were in tow) for a few minutes while Gardner left the room to take the call.

“(Gardner) came back in and said, ‘Would you like to speak to the vice president,’ ” Diffendaffer said. “And I was just like, ‘Yeah.’ I was shocked.”

“It was a very casual conversation, and it was kind of cool,” he said. “(The vice president) asked about what I do. So many times, when you hear politicians talk, it’s like, ‘I did this bill,’ or ‘I did that.’ But he asked me about what I did. There was no politics involved. It was actually just normal people talking.”

Diffendaffer added, “He said, ‘In my home state we don’t raise a lot of tomatoes. It’s mostly row crops.’ And that’s as political as it got.”

Diffendaffer is a native of the area who grew up on the land he now farms. (Be sure to check out his website’s “about” page for more background on him and the farm.)

His politics? Republican, “…but I’m kind of in between on a lot of things,” he said.

Speaking of politics, the folks at ProgressNow Colorado are of course going to love this anecdote. Meaning, something closer to hate.

“A warm-and-fuzzy for Gardner,” they’ll grouse. After all, their liberal group has been working overtime dogging the conservative senator about the much-debated GOP health-care proposal now pending in the Senate in Washington.

OK, fine, but this isn’t about all that. This is just about a coincidental conversation between a West Slope farmer and the vice-leader of the free world. Not politics, but tomatoes.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 29, 20175min441

Overheard in line at a Denver supermarket: “Yeah, I’m seeing them all the time on the TV news — the ladies dressed like Little Red Riding Hood.”

They are indeed becoming a staple of Colorado news coverage — on TV, in print, online — though, of course, they’re not going for Little Red Riding Hood. They are depicting characters from the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which later was made into a movie, an opera and most recently, a critically acclaimed TV series on Hulu. One part futuristic dystopian drama, one part cautionary tale, the story involves a male-dominated theocracy that has overthrown the government and subjugated women.

And now, it has become the visual meme of the moment in American politics, as well, with women in the requisite red robes turning up at assorted events across Middle America to register their solemn, silent protest. It was only a matter of time, really, given what liberal critics of the Trump administration and the GOP Congress see as eery similarities between the Atwood storyline and the Republican right’s reputed war on women.

Which is why they were on hand in Colorado Springs last week to greet Vice President Mike Pence when he stopped by to visit the Springs-based, influential conservative ministry, Focus on the Family. And this week, the handmaids were back in Colorado’s second city protesting the pending GOP rewrite of Obamacare outside the Colorado Springs office of Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. Now that’s a gimmick with staying power.

It’s a maxim of politics: If a message seems to work, use it early and often.

But where did it all start? We rummaged around the Web and found a recent Boston Globe story that shed some light; it turns out the phenomenon’s origin was a promotional event rather than a political one:

It started in Austin, Texas, in March, when women costumed as handmaids gathered ominously near the South by Southwest festival, as a publicity stunt for the upcoming series launch.

“Please tell me they’re going to walk around inside the Capitol,” Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, joked on her Facebook page, where she posted a photo of the handmaids Hulu recruited for its guerrilla marketing effort. “It would be such a missed opportunity if they don’t. Related: Who wants to make a bunch of handmaid costumes for use this session?”

Thus, a movement was born.

The Globe recounts the movement’s first steps:

At first, the Texas activists rented costumes. Then, they began stitching — as others had months earlier, crafting pink “pussy hats” for the Women’s March on Washington. (Emily) Morgan — the executive director of Action Together New Hampshire, a political group that was formed after the November election — began networking with chapters from other states. Recently, she created a private Facebook page, called the Handmaid Coalition, to share patterns for stitching and strategies for protest with women across the country.

… In most states, women are using the costumes to protest individual bills on reproductive rights — creating a funhouse mirror image of what women’s lives might look like if their rights were stripped away.

If art imitates life, politics sometimes imitates art. Over and over again, as needed.