Friday, June 28, 2019

Democratic Party Won the First Debate

Democrats were well served by the first debate. It was civil, no nicknames, no insults, mostly policy and little mention of Trump. It was a useful contrast for Democrats to the first Republican debate four years ago (Megyn Kelly Against free-for-all). He was almost never mentioned except in a well-received reference to him being the country’s main national security threat. There was also no Clinton. Four years ago, she dominated the nomination process. Wednesday night, she was never mentioned.

American democracy needs a reset, and the first debate gave it a start.

Socialism on Defense

Elizabeth Warren, from her center position and receiving the first question, set the agenda on the economy and dominated the progressive wing, but not without pushback. Amy Klobuchar, in particular, but not alone, took on Warren’s single-payer/government run health care.

The debate tone made clear the progressive agenda in its most extreme form will not go unchallenged. Warren and Bernie Sanders can expect a running battle from the middle of the party.

Time to Thin the Herd Approaches

For a few on the stage, they will make only one more debate. Although Congresspersons Tim Ryan and John Delaney got in a few appreciated comments about how the party has left the working class behind, it’s hard to see either of them finding sufficient support for improved polling and financing. Several one-percenters will not make the third debate when two-percent becomes the threshold.

Debates Can Make and Break

As the Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke exchange demonstrated, a brief exchange can provide a launch for a candidate and it can cause major damage. Castro had been mostly ignored and needed something to highlight his assets in the Democratic base; that is, Hispanic heritage and immigration position. He got his chance taking on O’Rourke in a fiery exchange on immigration. For O’Rourke, it just reinforced the narrative that his campaign was stalled and that down was his mostly likely direction in the polls.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, Castro’s position, which amounts to open borders, was immediately identified by a Trump tweet as a highly controversial and a vulnerable position.

Presidential hopefuls take to the stage in the first Democratic primary
debate, June 26, 2019 | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Image

Time is Short

In a debate format for 10 participants, time is short – generally 5 to 14 minutes, in about 10 to 14 exchanges. Although authenticity (i.e., storytelling) and passion are praised, sound bites are expected and endless interruptions distracting.

All in all, a good launch for the Democrats.

Second Debate

Hickenlooper and Bennet got moments, but both were overshadowed by the big four – Biden, Sanders, Harris and Buttigieg – especially the takedown of Biden by Harris.

More on the impact of the two Colorado candidates to follow.

Presidential hopefuls take to the stage in the Democratic
primary debate, June 27, 2019 | Mike Segar/Reuters

KOA Interview: Debate Prospects for Hickenlooper and Bennet

Thursday morning after the Democratic first debate, April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz discussed the strategies and prospects for Colorado’s John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet.

My analysis:

The good news for candidates on the edge of the stage, like Hickenlooper and Bennet, is that in the Wednesday night first debate, several showed well. Amy Klobuchar (1%) was strong as the Midwestern moderate; Julián Castro (1%) had a breakout moment with his taking on of Beto O’Rourke on immigration; and Mayor Bill de Blasio (1%), a new candidate in the field, effectively interrupted and made the point it may take a little “New York” swagger to take on Donald Trump.

Hickenlooper would like to talk about his Colorado success on health care, reproductive rights and gun control, but his only break-out moment so far was taking on socialism in front of California Democrats. He’s likely to have an opportunity with Bernie Sanders on the stage to declare his view that extreme positions will not pass and will be highly vulnerable to Republican attack.

Bennet has argued for months and his new book present the view Washington is dysfunctional and must be fixed. Describing effectively how he would pass the key parts of the Democratic agenda in spite of a Republican controlled senate would be welcomed by Democrats.

Does position count? The center of the stage helped Elizabeth Warren Wednesday. Will Hickenlooper, being between two of the least probable candidates – spiritual advisor Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang, dot.com venture capitalist – help or hurt him? Distract or enhance? It’s one of the myriad of unpredictable factors in a ten-person debate.

John Hickenlooper (L) and Michael Bennet at the Democratic debate,
June 27, 2019 | Credit: Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS, Getty Images and VOA

TABOR Override in Trouble

Colorado’s controversial tax limitation initiative is on the defensive. The Democratic Party and elements of the business community and local government have been long opposed to the TABOR Amendment passed in 1992, during an era of Republican ascendance and strong anti-tax sentiment. Several restrictions included in it have been limited by courts, and now the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled the entire multi-topic amendment can be overturned by one counter amendment if its opponents want to take it on.

But, before there is a full-blown TABOR challenge, the newly installed Democratic legislature, with the forbearance of the new governor, propose a permanent time out of the tax revenue give back requirements, or what’s commonly called and often approved by voters at the local level as a TABOR override. Unfortunately for proponents, they have run into considerable opposition from a newly engaged Republican establishment, with former Governor Bill Owens, former Senator Hank Brown and many current officeholders, such as Arapahoe District Attorney George Brauchler, opposing the time out, especially its permanent aspects. As the 2018 election highlighted, Colorado voters tend to be sympathetic to many local tax proposals, including TABOR overrides from schools, counties, municipalities and others, but are very skeptical of state tax increases. A statewide permanent time out is likely to suffer from the same voter distrust of state government. In a confusing editorial, even the Denver Post, no friend of TABOR, did not endorse a frontal assault on TABOR or a permanent time out. It pointed out how hard it will be to organize for retaining tax dollars when the state is awash in tax revenue.

Recently conducted focus groups in Adams County heard voters’ lack of understanding of the TABOR issue:

When asked about a TABOR override, while there was a lack of understanding on what exactly this ballot question would do, no one in the group supported such an effort: “Coloradans are tired of change;” we are going too far too fast;” “[Colorado] is turning into California.”

Will Governor Polis support the proposition? He tends to be risk adverse related to statewide ballot issues, and this is shaping up to be a battle.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Bruce Benson Leaves on Top

As CU President, Bruce regularly tells graduates at commencement to be prepared to take opportunities that come your way in spite of life plans or expectations. The CU presidency turned out to be a surprising, but perfect fit for his skill set and his indefatigable work ethic. His long passion for education (Metro Board, now MSU Denver, and Denver Public Schools Foundation) was melded into his passion for CU and his sense that it provided him an invaluable life foundation. He, with his life partner, became extraordinary advocates for the institution, enriching it in many ways, including adding billions to its buildings and programs.

Bruce’s and Marcy’s friends celebrated his CU run and retirement last week in Denver. I asked him what’s next, and Marcy interjected that some rest was in order. But, he pointed out there was still some transition work and that he has a few ideas for what’s next. It’s unlikely to be a quiet retirement, and Denver and Colorado are likely to benefit.

Great job Bruce and Marcy.

CU President Bruce and Marcy Benson receive the 2016 Outstanding
Philanthropist Award | Photo: Elizabeth Collins/University of Colorado

Dr. Richard Parker Retires

One of Denver’s best cardiovascular surgeons has just retired after more than 40 years serving patients. Richard Parker is an exceptional surgeon and many lives were extended due to his bypass work and other skills. For most of this career, he worked with Dr. Nampalli Vijay, another cardiologist of great skill, who is internationally recognized for his research, lecturing and training.

Denver is fortunate to have such dedicated physicians.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Eli Stokols and Chris Hill in the LA Times

As we appear to slip toward violence in Iran (The Buzz: Trump’s Going to Need a Bigger Boat), former Denver TV reporter Eli Stokols quotes DU’s Ambassador Christopher Hill in a front page Los Angeles Times story on Trump’s off and on strategy (order retaliation/cancel).

Trump’s “weapon of choice is this economic cudgel,” said Christopher R. Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to four countries. “That’s how he wants to look tough, and it’s been popular with his base. He’s not interested at all in war. He’s interested in economic warfare.”

After Denver, Stokols did a stint with Politico and the Wall Street Journal in D.C. You often see him and Hill on MSNBC. The LA Times has been building up its national and international political coverage.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Warren on the Move; Harris in Trouble

The latest national and key in-state polls show Elizabeth Warren and her “plan a day” strategy is gathering strength in the still much divided Democratic presidential primary field. In the two latest national polls reported (Economist/YouGov and Monmouth University) in RealClearPolitics, Warren is now ahead of Bernie Sanders by a combined 5 points. Even more impressive, she’s beginning to close in on Sanders in Iowa and California. Bernie Sanders’ status as the frontrunner of the left wing of the Democratic Party appears over.

It is the California poll that should most concern Kamala Harris. Her campaign failed to take off after the impressive announcement and she has languished in fourth and fifth places, tied most recently with Pete Buttigieg. But, to have any shot at the nomination, she must dominate her home state of California. Unfortunately for her credibility in the race, the latest poll by the LA Times conducted by veteran pollster, Mark DiCamillo, at Berkeley, she is in fourth, behind Joe Biden, Warren and Sanders, with Buttigieg a close fifth.

Harris still has much potential. She needs to bring her talent in the congressional hearing setting to her performance in the debates. Also, a week before Super Tuesday, the South Carolina primary gives her a powerful constituency of African American women who could put her on the top of the field. And, even a fourth or fifth position should keep someone in the race through Super Tuesday. Nonetheless, not dominating California is a disappointment.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Trump Launches Campaign in Blizzard of Bad Polls

A series of recent polls reported Donald Trump in deep trouble as he launched his re-election campaign in Orlando, Florida. At the four-year anniversary of his famous Trump Tower escalator start in June 2015, polls showed him losing to most of the Democratic frontrunners in what has to be an anybody but Trump reaction to his pending re-election.

His campaign knows the polls have been bad news. It fired three of its Republican pollsters for alleged media leaks of in-house bad polling numbers. Trump hates bad news, and tends to deny it exists. But, it will frame the coverage surrounding his campaign start-up.

Polling roundups:

Four years ago, Trump had the element of surprise and used his shockingly incorrect announcement to capture the center spot in the first debate (Megyn Kelly debate), with the support of 25 percent of Republicans.
  • Escalator Announcement – June 15, 2015
  • Megyn Kelly First Debate – August 7, 2015
But now, Trump is commanding the Republican Party and has a worldwide audience of his announcement in front of 20,000 admiring fans and for most of his international activities and high drama domestic political actions. Hence, it is especially disconcerting to Trump to be behind in key states and tied in some must-wins.

For many of his campaign advisors and much of the Republican establishment, the weak polls are not surprising. Trump is committed to a scorched earth, base reinforcing campaign. Many in the Trump campaign would like to expand the base, and also believe the President’s strategy is responsible for the current polling malaise. It attracted 63 million votes in 2016, located in just the right states, but it will be short of what’s needed in the higher turnout 2020 election.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Trump’s Going to Need a Bigger Boat

President Trump and his Mideast team – Mike Pompeo, John Bolton and Jared Kushner – should be careful starting a war with Iran. Not only is the country’s forces formidable (they are not Iraq in 2003), but American allies in this cause will be thin. In fact, except for Israel, which isn’t near the battlefield, the help is mostly unimpressive American dependencies. Europe, the UN, China, Russia, India, Turkey and others are more likely to oppose than support any action. And, of course, impact on the world economy will be immediate and significant.

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln | Eric Power/US Navy

The Iranian confrontation is especially dangerous due to a host of special conditions beyond our isolation on the issue:
  • The enmity is deep and long-term. The chant, “Death to America” (and the 1979 hostage crisis), are manifestations of deep hostility that is part of the core legitimacy of the regime. Opposing the U.S. throughout the Mideast is the top propaganda point for their external relations.
  • The Persian Gulf has massive armaments in very close proximity.
  • Iran has proxies and allies in the Middle East with agendas and resources that can cause incidents, like rockets in the Green Zone and commercial shipping attacks, that the two powers must then manage.
  • Regular communication helps avoid missteps and miscues, but we have none with their diplomats or military.
President Trump’s usual strategy of maximum pressure and over-the-top threats will have difficulty working with Iran. It does not constitute negotiation, and regime survival will require the U.S. to appear to back down and lower the demands and threats – actions not really available in the Trump playbook.

Why Hickenlooper Isn’t Running for Senate

Recently, Washington Post columnist, Eugene Robinson, and MSNBC host, Rachel Maddow, have argued for John Hickenlooper to shift from his presidential race to run for the Colorado Senate seat held by Cory Gardner. They point out that it’s eminently winnable and Hickenlooper has won two statewide elections for governor. He has said “no” so far, and explains that he’s an executive and solving problems from a management position is his forte and passion.

Seth McLaughlin in the Washington Times also wrote on the topic as to why a host of popular state politicians choose a longshot presidential run over local senate races, citing the dimmed stature of the senate as a place where problems are solved, especially from a minority position, which Democrats would likely be in after 2020.

Unfortunately for Hickenlooper, there is already a field of Democratic candidates, several with considerable experience of organizing and running for statewide offices. It is unlikely Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer could clear the field the way the Republican Party did for Cory Gardner to take on Mark Udall in 2014. Hickenlooper would have to run in a primary, something he has no real experience in and would be in considerable risk of losing. – witness his difficulty finding a constituency in the race for president.

His only multi-candidate race was his first for mayor in 2003. He mostly snuck up on the field of better known Denver politicians, with money, a creative campaign and considerable good luck. He’s now a known quantity after 17 years in office, and the activists in the Democratic Party are not his natural base. He gets support from moderate Democrats and Republicans, but the very liberal 2020 Colorado Democratic Party will be a very tough sell. Don’t expect Hickenlooper in the field regardless of his presidential fate.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper shares his ideas and accomplishments
with Iowa voters in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 27, 2019 | Joe Amon/Denver Post

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Hickenlooper and Bennet Make It – The One Percenters

Congratulations to both John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet who made the first Democratic debate on June 26 and 27, broadcasted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.

By reaching one percent in the polls, they also qualify for the second debate at the end of July. But, they haven’t registered in the fundraising goal of $65,000 from online sources, and at one percent, they join a dozen other candidates barely in the race. Qualifying for the August debate is tougher with a two percent threshold for polling. The one percenters don’t have much time to spare.

After a random draw, both Coloradans are in the second debate on June 27 with frontrunners Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris. When you examine the Real Clear Politics polling average, Bennet records at one percent as of June 14, whereas Hickenlooper’s average shows only 0.4 percent. Out of the 20 finalists for the debate, 13, or 65 percent, are at one percent or below. They are the candidates that need a moment in the debate to be special for TV and online audiences. The media and pundit class would like to describe one or more hidden talents in the pack that they could predict as possible breakout candidates.

Neither Bennet nor Hickenlooper have reputations for superior debating skills. Bennet has done well in interviews on MSNBC and the weekend political talk shows while touting his book. His internet high point was his Senate floor speech taking on Ted Cruz.

Hickenlooper has moments of interviewing strength, but sometimes misses the mark. Recently, his policy positions have been well received on foreign policy and climate change. And, he did have a breakout moment labeled, “Hickenlooper booed” on the internet when he said “socialism is not the answer” to a Democratic convention full of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren supporters.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Trump is Dominating Digital Campaigning

Two major articles on President Trump’s digital campaign point out its power and sophistication. He and his campaign believe it will be the key to a close race in a handful of states.

In 2016, Trump won by a handful of votes in Michigan (11,000), Pennsylvania (46,000) and Wisconsin (23,000). These states are still Trump targets as witnessed by rallies, which are events that feed data to the digital platforms. But, other states are on the list – Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, Arizona and even Colorado (Trump lost by 4.9%).

Trump’s digital mastermind, Brad Parscale, is now in charge of the entire campaign. Trump received 63 million votes in 2016 and already has collected the names and emails of 33 million voters. Their goal is to double that number before next November.

The Democrats haven’t really started an effort, with individual campaigns, like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, doing the best job, but they have collected less than 10 million contacts thus far.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Two Pandas Summit: Autocrats Gather; Economies and Military Ties Strengthened

Vladimir Putin welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping and 1,000 Chinese officials and businesspeople for a state visit and to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Russia looks to skirt western sanctions, attract Chinese investments and strengthen its alliance with the U.S. and Western democracies other leading antagonist, China. And, of course, China is looking for allies in its trade dispute with the U.S. Xi brought two pandas for good will and called Putin, who was celebrating a birthday, his best friend.

President Putin spent considerable time criticizing the U.S.’s geopolitical and trade positions as un-unilateralism and hegemony. And, the joint discussions made clear that – concerning Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, the use of Huawei and the Arctic – the two countries are in agreement on viewpoints and promoting joint positions and ventures.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Russian President
Vladimir Putin, June 7, 2019 | Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

While the West’s alliance relationships, such as the EU and NATO, are on the defense, Russia and China are building theirs. Last September, President Putin and President Xi shared blintzes as their militaries maneuvered together.

Vladimir Putin invited Xi Jinping to a Russian pancake cooking class in Siberia while Chinese troops joined Russians in a large five-day military exercise that U.S. Defense officials described as: “…moving beyond symbolic displays of force to coordinate weapons systems and command structures. Washington says the two countries have developed capabilities that could test U.S. military dominance in times of crisis.” (The Buzz, Sept. 28, 2018)

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping make
pancakes during a visit to the Far East Street exhibition on the sidelines of the
Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, Sept. 11, 2018 | Reuters

The Polls

The American people have no illusion about their views concerning Putin or Xi. A CNN poll of 2017 asked a favorability question of world leaders, and President Putin had a 12 percent favorable rating and 71 percent unfavorable. President Xi had a 10 percent favorable, a 36 percent unfavorable, and 53 percent not having heard of him or with no opinion.

Do Democrats Want a Candidate Who Shares Their Values or Can Beat Trump? They are Split

In an analysis of the latest national poll from PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist shows Democrats nearly evenly divided between wanting a presidential nominee they agree with on the issues (47%) and who was electable (46%).

I argued candidates have to blend them both.

Independent pollster Floyd Ciruli said the candidates are under pressure to identify with voters on the issues and come across as electable. 

“You have to blend them both,” he said.

The article was published on PBS NewsHour site by digital producer, Gretchen Frazee.

The poll also pointed out that, although the President hasn’t improved his job performance approval for months (41%), his disapproval has declined from 55 percent in February to 49 percent in the June poll. Also, the number of people who said they would definitely vote against the President went down from 57 percent in January to 51 percent in this poll.

I argued that, given the number of controversies the President is involved in. it shows that he’s not being swamped by them. Democrats must be mindful that this is likely to be a tough race and issues, like the Mueller report, are not a silver bullet.

“That reinforces the fact that during this incredibly tumultuous period, there is no huge bump up in strong disapproval” of Trump, Ciruli said.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Denver Voters State Their Views: No Camping, No Olympics, But Yes on Mushrooms

In the latest Denver elections, less than half of Denver’s registered voters have made a series of important decisions for the city and its political leadership. In a nearly unanimous voice, they said any solution to the growing homeless problem will not include camping on city streets, in parks or public spaces. Eighty-one percent of voters defeated a homeless advocate initiative to legalize public camping.

On the same May 7 ballot, voters approved by a mere 2,000 votes, decriminalizing the use of psilocybin, commonly referenced as Magic Mushrooms – cementing Colorado’s and especially Denver’s image as a national drug capital.

Although the likelihood Denver will ever get a Winter Olympics is highly remote, opponents, including former Governor Dick Lamm, captain of the 1972 statewide voter rejection (by 60%) of the ‘76 Olympics, won another bar to a future Olympics by requiring a vote that would have to take place for even a preliminary study of the issue if it involved any government funds. Olympics, forget Denver.

In Public-Funding-for-Local News Debate, What About the SCFD Model?

In a newsletter by Corey Hutchins, Colorado Local News & Media, Hutchins wrote:

Following last week's news in this newsletter that Longmont voters won't be asked to consider new taxes for a library district with a potential local news component, political analyst and pollster Floyd Ciruli reached out with a similar idea to consider.

"One possible model to examine is the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), which provides money for major and smaller cultural organizations with no influence on their selection of programs, exhibits or their missions in general," he said. "But the Board still provides transparency and accountability over the tax dollars." The benefit over a library district," he said, is that the SCFD model can use a sales tax, "and the operational rules and board composition can be designed as appropriate."

Ciruli, who helped start SCFD decades ago when major institutions in Colorado were in financial trouble, says he believes looking at them as an idea for potentially helping fund local news sources should be examined. “It’s the kind of thing that ought to be polled,” he said.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Change is Coming to Denver

Although Michael Hancock’s substantial victory Tuesday night secures his final term as mayor, he will deal with a city council full of new community activists, much more skeptical of the growth than the incumbents they replaced. All three incumbents forced into the May 7 runoff lost and their replacements were strongly hostile to the developer culture that they believe controls City Hall.

Denver is a strong mayoral system of government, with control over appointments, the budget and a high threshold of votes needed for a veto. But, councilpersons with agendas and constituencies can have considerable influence. The Mayor’s lobbyist and the business and development community will play more defense then they have had to for the last several years.

No doubt, the Mayor and his allies will adapt, but change is coming. As I said in a Denver Post article to John Aguilar:

“From the swearing-in on, there’s going to be a new tone with these members,” political analyst Floyd Ciruli said.

Read The Buzz: Denver Council Incumbents Dealing With Growth in Runoff

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Denver Runoff Election Has Lower Turnout

The final ballot total hasn’t been reported by the Denver Clerk yet, but the June 5 posting at 2:00 pm shows 165,337 votes, or approximately 19,000 less than the May 7 runoff.

The percentage of turnout among independent voters fell off a couple of points and Democrats went up. But in general, turnout was down across-the-board among partisan groups. Overall turnout was 41 percent of 407,140 registered voters. Runoffs often attract more voters, but not always. Turnout was down in Wellington Webb’s and John Hickenlooper’s first runoffs.

As usual, most ballots were turned in the last weekend and on Election Day, June 4. On the final day, 80,000 ballots were recorded, or 48 percent of the vote. Similarly, during the runoff, 80,000 ballots were received on Election Day, or 43 percent (out of 184,000 cast).

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Trump’s Tariffs Take a Toll: Dow Ended May Below 25000

The Dow and other major investment indexes had their worst month since the collapse of major indexes last December. The Dow lost 355 points on Friday, the last day of May, after President Trump’s tariff announcement on Mexican goods.

Although the Dow remains up 6 percent for the year, the preceding six weeks of losses is the longest losing streak since 2011, near the start of the current recovery. Along with concern about the longevity of the nearly decade-long recovery (started in 2009) and bull market, investors are beginning to fear Trump’s application of emergency trade power for his wildly oscillating tariff policy. Earlier in the month, Trump lifted tariffs on steel and aluminum (while threatening new tariffs on autos), then raised tariffs on China as trade talks failed, and now is calling for escalating tariffs on Mexico (via Twitter and against advise of trade experts and legislative allies).

Trump and his immigration hardliners, such as Mick Mulvaney (Freedom Caucus leader and White House Chief of Staff) and immigration staffer, Steve Miller, have encouraged the crackdown on the Mexico/U.S. border, most recently with complete shutdown. Arguably, tariffs are somewhat less disruptive, but for many investors they reinforce the cross-purposes and volatility of the President’s foreign and economic policies. Tariffs are a tax on Americans and wildly disruptive of trade relationships. Economic observers not associated with the White House believe Trump’s policies will hurt earnings, inhibit business investments, raise consumer prices and slow growth.

The Dow closed on Friday, May 31 at 24815, down 1841 points since the 2019 high on April 23. The market’s volatility has increased since early 2018. It was in January 2018 when the Dow hit 26616, yet ended 2018 at 23327, or more than 3000 points lower.

Most observers expect the volatility to continue due to geopolitical factors, both in the U.S., but also abroad. The President’s use of sanctions and tariffs is a new factor for world markets to digest.

Jesse Paul, Colorado Sun: Mayor’s Race Very Negative, Very Personal

Jesse Paul, formerly with the Denver Post, has a long concluding story in the Colorado Sun on the Denver mayor’s race becoming a “fiery personality clash” (May 31, 2019).

He quoted The Buzz of May 30, “Denver Votes Trickling In; Hancock Vulnerable by Late Stumble”:

“If Jamie Giellis derailed the beginning of her campaign with the NAACP memory lapse, Michael Hancock is even more damaged by his late clumsy effort to reframe his sexual harassment controversy in a final debate one week out before Election Day,” he posted on his blog.

The election has a lot of money, a lot of social media, many new voters, and a lot at stake for the development community and city interest groups. You can expect it to get personal and negative, especially in the anti-establishment, change era that is challenging the status quo.

Jamie Giellis (L) and Mayor Michael Hancock | Jesse Paul/The Colorado Sun

Will Millennials Make a Difference in Denver City Elections? Mary Winter, Colorado Independent

A third of the vote in the May 7 Denver general election was provided by unaffiliated voters, many new registrants and Millennials. Will they vote on June 4 and will they vote for change?

As of late Monday, June 3, 95,000 votes had been counted, a little ahead of the May 7 general election returns. But, on Election Day, May 7, more than 80,000 Denver voters delivered ballots – mostly in person – to the Denver Clerk, leading to the long count Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Will Millennial and more independent voters surge again or will the runoff have a lower turnout than the 185,000 record on May 7?

Reporter Mary Winter analyzed registration and precinct data in a June 3 Colorado Independent story. She describes Millennials as a substantial bloc of Denver voters. I contributed to the story’s background on the city election.

Winter writes:

They helped boost turnout in Denver’s May 7 municipal election to 39.6%, a fairly high showing by historical standards, according to the Denver Elections Division. Veteran Denver political pollster Floyd Ciruli predicts millennials will show up in big numbers again for Tuesday’s runoff, which will also determine five city council seats and the city clerk and recorder, and whether voters should get to decide if public money should be spent to host future Olympics.

Ciruli won’t venture a guess as to which candidate millennials will favor. “We know they are not party loyal. And that’s what’s exciting, interesting. Millennials could be a deciding factor” in this race, he said.
. . .
Ciruli says there are a few universal concerns in this election. “Polls I have conducted in the past three to four years indicate growth is the No. 1 issue. There’s consistently a cluster around affordable housing, transportation, congestion, homelessness and gentrification and, in the most sensitive communities, the preservation of community,” he said. 
. . .
No matter what their age, Denver voters will be delivering a referendum on the city’s management over the past eight years, says pollster Ciruli.

“Hancock and the council recognized they had a development problem,” but they didn’t put the brakes on big development fast enough, Ciruli says.  “The public didn’t see enough ‘no’ – nothing dramatic enough. It’s development and growth – the issue is really framed by this election.”

“Millennials changed the environment 100%, and we’ve had a hard time catching up to the growth.”

Winter’s precinct analysis shows Mayor Hancock had considerable strength throughout Denver, winning close to his 39 percent average in most areas, and more in northeast Denver’s historic higher concentration of African American neighborhoods.


Read The Buzz:
Mayor’s Race: Final Week, KOA With Marty and Ed
Denver Votes Trickling In; Hancock Vulnerable by Late Stumble
Runoff Returns Slow as Usual

Monday, June 3, 2019

KOA: Final Denver Mayor’s Race Interview With April and Marty

Denver’s mayoral runoff campaign has gotten very negative and very personal. The race started about growth, development, homelessness and affordable housing, and now it’s about race and diversity and gender and harassment – very personal.

April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz questioned the impact of negative campaigning on turnout and who’s helped by low and high turnouts.

As of Sunday night, the Denver Clerk reported 85,000 votes turned in. If the 185,000 voter turnout of the May 7 election is to be reached, 100,000 votes need to be cast and counted today and Election Day. That’s about what happened last time, with the huge 80,000 final votes on Election Day.

Voters are in an angry mood today, and politicians are convinced that staying on the offensive and going negative will boost turnout among their supporters. The Mayor, for example, wants to maximize minority turnout, and Jamie Giellis wants women to turnout strongly to her.

Who the level of turnout – high or low – helps or hurts depends, of course, on who turns out – the Mayor’s home area on the eastside or voters angry about traffic and congestion favoring Giellis. Generally, low turnout helps the incumbent, the status quo. Giellis needs passion behind her campaign.

Mayor Michael Hancock (L) and Jamie Giellis during a Denver Post mayoral debate
at the Denver Press Club, May 28, 2019 | Photo: Daniel Petty/Denver Press Club