Monday, July 29, 2013

Democratic Governors on the Left

The Denver Post picked up the possible political impact on the 2014 election of Governor Hickenlooper leading a runaway legislature, while the national press is putting Hickenlooper in the context of other Democratic governors “steering their party to the left.”

The National Journal positions Hickenlooper with Andrew Cuomo in New York and Martin O’Malley in Maryland as leading their states down a more socially liberal path. Cuomo and O’Malley are rivals to Hillary Clinton (albeit weak), but Hickenlooper is also on the long list of potential presidential or, in Tina Brown’s view, vice presidential candidates.

Hickenlooper’s special challenge is that Colorado, especially in a lower turnout governor’s election year of 2014, is a less certain Democratic state than New York or Maryland. Possibly more important, Hickenlooper has benefited by being seen as not particularly partisan and mostly moderate – an image that took a beating from January to May this year.

The National Journal story (picked up in local conservative website, Colorado Peak Politics) hit the main facts.
Colorado, a perennial presidential battleground, is experiencing a fierce backlash over the state’s adoption of liberal policies. The state is facing its first recall elections for a pair of Democratic lawmakers who backed stricter gun-control laws spurred by the Newtown murders and the slayings of 12 people in an Aurora movie theater one year ago. In northern Colorado, several rural counties are threatening to secede over the new gun restrictions, driving privileges for illegal immigrants, and a renewable-energy mandate.
“The most recent legislative session in Colorado was the most liberal I’ve seen in decades,” said Democrat-turned-independent pollster Floyd Ciruli of Denver. “Colorado is not New York, so of course there is going to be a reaction. I don’t know if the governor is endangered, but he’s dealing with a narrative of a Democratic Party that went too far.”
While Hickenlooper has public opinion on his side on most of these social issues, taken together, they could fuel Republican attacks that the Democratic Party has become too radical and push away moderate voters. Amid declining approval ratings, Hickenlooper has also endorsed a controversial $1 billion tax hike for public schools. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows that 67 percent of voters disagree with his decision to postpone the execution of Nathan Dunlap, convicted of killing four people in a Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant in 1993. 
“Democrats have been talking a lot about Republicans being [pushed] into the extremes, and some Democrats here are anxious about a parallel situation,” Ciruli said.
Note: The Colorado Peak Politics, which is an interesting political site and a good counter to liberal, insists on referring to me when quoting The Buzz as “former Democratic Chairman.”

Indeed, for old timers, I was the Democratic State Party Chair in 1983-85 (Gary Hart ran for 1984 nomination and Walter Mondale, the nominee, won one state), but I’ve been an independent since 1985, and for nearly 30 years have tried to offer balanced, fair and evidence-based analyses of Colorado politics.  The record shows I’m equally complimentary or critical as warranted of Democratic and Republican politics and politicians over those three decades.

Of course, the title, “former Democratic chairman,” provides extra punch when my observations are critical of Hickenlooper and Democrats – that is the Peak’s agenda. However, my purpose is to capture what I believe is the developing political frame for the 2014 election.

Denver Post: Hickenlooper a moderate no more? Critics say governor has crossed over
National Journal: How Democratic governors are steering their part to the left
Colorado Peak Politics: Mojo no mo: Denver Post questions Hick’s moderate creds

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