Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Does Democratic Legislative Agenda Threaten Governor?

Is the aggressive liberal agenda of the Democrats, which roared through the first half of the legislative session, endangering party moderates, especially Gov. Hickenlooper?

Colorado Democrats have become national leaders in passing gun control and civil union legislation. Also on their agenda is in-state tuition for the children of undocumented parents, recreational marijuana regulations, abolition of the death penalty, restrictions on fracking and new taxes for education. Party liberals and Democratic interest groups are enthusiastic about moving the full legislative agenda by the May end of session.

The Democratic Party now securely holds the state’s top positions and strong majorities in both houses of the Legislature. But that dominance has been a reflection of the party not appearing extreme or in disarray. The startling success of the Colorado Democratic Party since the election of Ken Salazar to the U.S. Senate in 2004 has, at least partially, reflected its selection of candidates, who by track records and campaigns presented themselves as moderates.

The statewide team of Salazar, Udall, Bennet and Hickenlooper has benefitted the party by their measured images. At least in business issues and in general temperament, John Hickenlooper may be the most centrist politician of the group and it’s clear he’s becoming concerned about the speed and volume of liberal proposals.

Hickenlooper is up in 2014 and is not convinced the state is as safely blue as the legislative leadership and its allies believe or at least are acting. Hence, his comments that he may veto the death penalty bill. He’s trying to slow down the game and warn his left to pause.  And pause they did.

In spite of statements of near certainty by Democratic bill sponsors that they had the votes to pass the death penalty repeal, the House Judiciary Committee killed it with two Democratic votes.

It appears the party’s left wing, which is already unhappy with him about his support for fracking, has momentarily backed off. Boulder’s liberal, anti-death penalty DA Stan Garnett, who covets the attorney general nomination, was quick to attack the governor’s position as shameful and complain about the alleged political risk he faced in testifying for the death penalty repeal. Frankly, in Boulder, being in favor of the death penalty is riskier.

The next issue is fracking. That will produce another more difficult test between the liberal wing and the pragmatists.

See Denver Post: House committee rejects death penalty repeal bill Tuesday

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