“The ballot initiatives were heading down an unknown path and we were far from guaranteed to succeed.” Jared Polis, Denver Post, 8-9-14Calling off Colorado’s fracking wars made national press, both due to the state being ground zero in a
growing national energy fight and because the issue had become a threat to the Democrats’ November election prospects.
The drama was primarily created by Congressman Jared Polis bankrolling a host of ballot initiatives to limit fracking. Polis has a history of using his money to promote his career and ballot issues often against the preferences of the state political establishment, including fellow Democrats.
Polis, who fancies himself as an independent, libertarian-type of politician, has also been one of the financers of the Democrats’ takeover of Colorado. Unfortunately, in early August 2014, he found that money was not going to save him from what was a series of bad political decisions. A new experience for him, but one that may pay dividends in his next career move.
Factors that caused Polis to bail out:
- The assumption had become universal that the ballot fight would hurt Colorado Democrats in the fall. The pressure to withdraw the initiatives became overwhelming. The loss of a senate seat was especially ominous and generated considerable unflattering press for Polis in national media.
Washington Post, Reid Wilson, 8-5-14
But the big winners may be the candidates who stay on the ballot, particularly the Democrats. Hickenlooper, Sen. Mark Udall (D) and other Democrats would have been put in the difficult position of choosing between environmentalists, who are becoming an increasingly important source of campaign funds for Democratic candidates, and oil and gas industries that could spend big bucks against them.
“The Democrats have really dominated the state for close to a decade, and one reason is they weren’t divided on anything,” said Floyd Ciruli, an independent pollster based in Denver. “It would have been a very high profile argument in which the Democrats were going to be on the defensive.
“They’re very pleased that it’s become a committee of 18 that will take this off the front page,” Ciruli added.
- The initiatives’ opponents made it clear that Polis was going to be a high-profile target of their attacks. In a preview, a full-page advertisement was placed that showed in 64-point type:
“Congressman Jared Polis is Putting Colorado Families and Communities at Risk” (Colorado Statesman, 8-1-14)Polis initially believed he would be seen as a hero to the environmental community and the leading advocate of the environmental issue in the state, which could benefit the Democratic Party in turnout. But, he was never able to secure the trust of environmental purists and the business community, gas and oil industry, and especially the Democratic Party establishment were full in opposition, including contributing millions to defeat the initiatives.
- Besides becoming a pariah to Colorado’s establishment, Polis was in danger of disrupting his next career move. He has been testing the waters to become part of the House Democratic leadership as the old guard represented by Nancy Pelosi transition out of the scene.
The Hill, Laura Barron-Lopez and Cameron Joseph, 8-4-14
Polis has been praised as rising Democratic star, with talk that he's in the running to be the next chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“You allegedly have this ambitious individual who wants to be a part of Democratic leadership,” Floyd Ciruli, a nonpartisan Colorado pollster said of Polis in an interview last month.
Ciruli added that the ballot initiatives weren’t helping Polis in that regard, instead putting him at odds with the party. His decision to bury the hatchet with Hickenlooper might help show he's willing to be a team player.
- Although environmental activities and the state’s business and political class was engaged on the issues, it is far less clear the public was. One local anti-fracking initiative simply couldn’t find the volunteers to conduct a signature campaign (Amendment 75). Polis, even paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for signature gatherers, barely got a 100,000 per initiative on August 4, a low amount for capturing 86,000 valid signatures.
Complete Colorado, Valerie Richardson, 8-5-14Also see:
This was at least partially a ‘Save Polis’ activity since, number one, he may not have had the signatures, and number two, he was going to lose even if he won,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “His career was going to come to an end right here.”
Washington Examiner: Here’s the winner of Colorado’s dead fracking ballot initiatives
Alaska Dispatch News: Is Dems’ endangered U.S. Senate seat in Colorado safer now?