Friday, May 31, 2019

Runoff Returns Slow as Usual

Will there be an 80,000 plus final day of returns in the Denver runoff as in the May 7 election, or will returns pick up over the weekend and Monday to reach the 184,000 voter record? Competitive runoffs usually increase turnout, and along with the mayor’s race, there are six other competitive races, including three incumbent city council members.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

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.

Hancock is especially vulnerable in that only 45,000 votes were counted and recorded by the Denver Clerk and Recorder as of Wednesday, May 29. That’s only a quarter of the 185,000 voters that showed up in the May 7 election.

A lot of people are just now making up their minds in an election that most observers believe remains competitive.

Denver Post: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Jamie Giellis swing elbows in debate
The Buzz: Record Denver turnout shows up on last day

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

Mayor’s Race: Final Week, KOA With Marty and Ed

With less than one week left in the Denver mayor and council races, do Denver voters decide to shake up City Hall as they did in the May 7 election when they only gave the incumbent Mayor 39 percent and put three incumbent councilpersons into runoffs, or does the establishment come back offering experienced leaders of a nationally admired city?

Denver is already voting, and if turnout is similar to the first round, most people voted the last week, with more than 80,000 voting the last day. There will be final debates, with lots of attacks before the candidates go to their closing main themes.

If the race is purely decided on the basis of the desire to change and concern about aspects of too much growth, Jamie Giellis is likely to win. But, runoff elections tend to shift to comparisons between the two top candidates that bring forth other factors that often help incumbents, such as knowledge of the city, its operation and its diversity. Michael Hancock has emphasized the success of the city and his accomplishments. But, he also went negative first and early in an effort to try to define his opponent as “anti-immigrant” and later as not qualified. Hancock’s campaign, which is well-funded with years of experience in citywide elections, has also capitalized on Giellis’ errors.
  • She early on endorsed getting rid of the city ban on homeless camping, even after 80 percent of Denver voters supported the ban in the May election. She had to reverse herself and clarify her position the final week.
  • She was distracted by an interview where she failed to correctly identify the acronym, NAACP, and various random tweets that seemed insensitive.
She desperately needs momentum the final week. Giellis, who did get the support of her candidate colleague who came in second, has gone after Hancock for corruption in contracting with the airport and Convention Center, and fostering a City Hall culture of sexual harassment. It’s not clear the issues have gained the traction that the excess of development had in early May.

She was 25,000 votes short of the Mayor’s vote in the first round, and if turnout is 180,000 or more, she needs to double the 44,000 votes she received. A tall order.

Listen to KOA interview here

Denver Still Booming – 9th Largest Population Increase in U.S.

Growth is the prime June 4 election issue, and Denver is still booming. The U.S. Census Bureau just released its latest population estimates. Denver was the 9th largest out of 15 cities in the country, with 11,053 new residents in the 12 months from July 2017 to July 2018.

Six cities were in the rapidly growing West, with Phoenix first (25,288) and San Diego just ahead of Denver with 11,549 new residents. Not surprising, San Diego was the only California city on the top 15 list, but Texas had five cities, including San Antonio, Fort Worth and Austin.

Denver’s rapid growth has upset the city’s politics as dramatically as the surge of Baby Boomers did in the early 1980s.

The Buzz: Denver Post: Construction Cranes Everywhere. Mayor’s Race as Referendum on Growth.
U.S. Census Bureau: Fastest-Growing Cities Primarily in the South and West

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Denver Council Incumbents Dealing With Growth in Runoff

The embattled incumbents in three Denver City Council races are mostly facing attacks related to growth, with arguments over which candidate will best represent the neighbors vs. developers and City Hall.

Mary Beth Susman may be the most endangered. She came in 5 points behind her opponent, Amanda Sawyer, who argues the central-eastside 6th Avenue, Hilltop and Crestmoor area is full and doesn’t need any more development. Susman argues a more nuanced development strategy, which may not appeal to the “change City Hall” voter, but she is hoping for more voters to turn out that like her record of service.

Albus Brooks is in a culture war with one of the most liberal activists in the city – Candi CdeBaca, who he only bested by 2 points on May 7. Brooks has a diverse neighborhood that has seen a lot of development and gentrification. It also has the I-70 freeway improvements, which are very controversial (CdeBaca opposed).

Wayne New represents what many people believe is ground zero in overdevelopment; i.e., Cherry Creek. In his first election, New was the slow growth candidate, but is now playing defense with a Capitol Hill activist who claims New is too conservative to represent the district on a host of issues, including development. New may be the strongest candidate for re-election, but all three races see the split between City Hall – the status quo, and new forces, generally more liberal and less growth-oriented.

Regardless of the result in the mayor’s race, expect a more visible and active Denver City Council.

Democrats Crowd Senate Race

Cory Gardner’s difficult race in Colorado doesn’t appear to improve as President Trump continues to break norms and work for his base, which is a thin layer in Colorado. The most obvious indicator of Gardner’s vulnerability is the mass of Democrats bidding for the job. It nearly looks like the presidential herd.

The top candidates with a comment follow, but notice missing is someone a Chuck Schumer would pick from the Democratic establishment, such as John Hickenlooper or Ed Perlmutter. The point is that the contain and order of the field could change quickly.

There are another half dozen candidates with more considering it.

Andrew Romanoff | Photo: Denver Post
Mike Johnston | Photo: Andy Cross/Denver Post

Friday, May 24, 2019

Nationalism on the Rise

As the global order of the post-World War II era continues to recede, the self-interest of aggressive nationalism is becoming the dominant replacement. The EU elections this week will likely witness a surge of Eurosceptics into the EU’s parliament.

While many of the candidates don’t advocate withdrawal from the EU or breaking it up, they uniformly aim to change it to benefit the perceived interest of their own country. The result is likely to be reduced power in Brussels due to less consensus on overall goals and more decentralization of authority over specific areas. The changes are also likely to be less supportive of democratic structures and norms in member states. It will also provide opportunities for Russia and China to achieve geopolitical and economic goals.
From left, Geert Wilders, leader of Dutch Party for Freedom, Matteo Salvini,
Jörg Meuthen, leader of Alternative For Germany Party, Marine Le Pen, Leader
of the French National Front, Vaselin Marehki leader of Bulgarian 'Volya' party,
Jaak Madison of Estonian Conservative People’s Party, and Tomio Okamura
Leader of Czech far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy, attend a rally
organized by League leader Matteo Salvini, with leaders of other European
nationalist parties, ahead of the May 23-26 European Parliamentary elections,
May 18, 2019 | Photo: Luca Bruno/AP

Is “America First” Headed to Conflict?

The Trump administration’s “America First” policy is now engaged in at least four dangerous regions, any one of which could produce a conflict. President Trump’s personalized foreign policy sets aggressive goals (denuclearization, regime change) and proclaims extreme threats (fire and fury, totally destroy North Korea, official end of Iran), but no conflict, yet.

However, for now, there is very little accomplished. To some extent, his targets are discounting the threats. If his mostly go-it-alone strategy ends in failure, will it lead to a shift to military solutions?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Colorado Ballot Issues Could Pass in Off-Year Election

Historically, the effort to increase taxes for Colorado state government responsibilities, such as K-12 and higher education and roads, has floundered. And, proposals haven’t fared any better in odd-year elections.

But, the Colorado State Legislature just put two proposals on the ballot: Proposition CC, a permanent TABOR override, and Proposition DD, allowing and taxing sports betting, that could pass.

Proposition CC: Retain revenue for education and transportation

Proposition DD: Authorize and tax sports betting

Why the better chance for more revenue in November 2019?
  • A five-year TABOR override barely passed in 2005, but since then, local governments’ TABOR overrides have become commonplace. A recent survey in Arapahoe County showed a TABOR override for the county, one of the few counties in the state without an override, would be approved by 60 percent.
  • Sin taxes remain popular. Marijuana and gaming produce revenue much of the public is willing to allow and anxious to tax. A gaming activity increase (higher table betting limits) was approved handily in 2008 and the tax dollars put into community colleges and gaming towns.
  • Although there will be a defense of TABOR from longtime supporters, they will be countered by a well-oiled advocacy group for TABOR reform, especially override of its “caps.”
  • Without a rival gaming group willing to oppose the sports gaming legalization the public is likely to see as a painless source of tax revenue for a good cause – the well identified need for state water programs and projects.
  • Colorado’s changed political climate appears to offer some additional support for proposals that have a progressive consensus, especially if supported by the legislative leadership and Governor Polis.
Of course, a lower turnout electorate and a long history of mistrust of state government will still have to be overcome, but 2019 may change the direction on giving state government some, if not much, additional tax revenue.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Threat to Overturn Roe v. Wade is Major Blunder of Republicans for 2020 Elections

Republicans have benefitted from extreme rhetoric concerning outlawing abortion. It has activated their evangelical voters without producing a backlash from suburban women and others who might have moral qualms about abortion, but are a part of the two-thirds of Americans who do not approve of reversing Roe v. Wade.

But, near total abortion bans have now passed in a host of southern states and may force the issue into the Supreme Court for a review challenging the fundamental 1973 decision. It will put the issue front and center into the long run-up to the 2020 election.

Democrats will attack the lack of exceptions and the denial of protections afforded for 46 years by Roe v. Wade. Republicans will be divided and forced to play defense. In fact, divisions are already apparent as various Republican leaders claim they support exceptions related to rape and incest. These reservations won’t help if the fundamental law is challenged.

Giellis Stumbles, Loses First Week

Jamie Giellis at the Denver Post's mayoral
debate, April 1, 2019 | Getty Images
In spite of a strong start with important endorsements from colleagues who she beat for second place, Jamie Giellis’ verbal stumble in a podcast of low or no audience became by week’s end, a major distraction and put her on the defensive.

The inability to correctly identify the acronym, NAACP, is a very small deal, but it nicely reinforces a major theme of her opponent – Giellis lacks important government- and political-related knowledge and specifically does not know the city or its diversity. The Mayor and his allies are arguing to go with the experienced hometown candidate, and this reinforces it. Michael Hancock’s base in the minority community demonstrated its usual low interest in the May 7 first round election with low turnout. This strengthens his case to the minority community that something important is at stake in this race.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Democrats Bail on Senate: It has Lost Stature

A host of top ranking Democrats have said no to running for winnable senate seats and yes to long-shot White House bids. John Hickenlooper is one of the most obvious, but newly announced Governor Steve Bullock was a highly recruited Montana senate candidate. In Texas, both Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro were considered top recruits against Senator John Cornyn in a state that Democrats covet for a presidential transition.

Why are top candidates balking on senate races, preferring to join two dozen Democrats in a scrum of hard to distinguish presidential candidates? Seth McLaughlin of the Washington Times runs the list.

My view is that the Senate “has lost stature.”

“The Senate has lost — particularly for Democrats — some of its attraction,” said Floyd Ciruli, a veteran Colorado-based pollster. “There was a time when you were a senator, there was a sort of the majesty of the Senate. It had its rules, it had its prestige, you had recognition and authority even in the minority, but it has a lot less stature now.”
  • In alignment with a diminished Senate, Hickenlooper and others argue that they are executive personalities who want to get things done and not be locked into the slow pace of the Senate and a second-class minority position.
  • Enhancing the attraction of a presidential run is its heightened status in the Trump authoritarian era. Neither opinion leaders nor the public look to Congress, especially the Senate, to solve critical problems. From health care, to immigration, to infrastructure, Congress seems irrelevant at the least and a barrier at worst.
The bottom line result is that Democrats’ chance to take back the Senate declines with each decision.

Do Endorsements Matter? Not in Hancock’s First Election.

Politicians and campaigns spend a lot of time acquiring endorsements, especially from rivals, but it’s not clear it makes much of a difference.

When Mayor Michael Hancock was first elected in 2011, third-place close finisher, James Mejia, endorsed topliner Chris Romer. Yet, in the runoff, Hancock beat Romer by 16 percentage points, or nearly 20,000 votes, a major reversal of the first election position. There was also an increase of 8,000 additional votes in the total.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Colorado Has Two Radically Different Political Parties

On May 13, the leadership of Colorado’s legislature met in a question and answer session with interviews by Shaun Boyd of CBS Channel 4 and the Colorado Sun’s John Frank (an online paper with several Denver Post top reporters). In the University of Denver event, co-sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, the Center on American Politics and the Colorado Sun, more than 500 alumni, faculty, educators and students packed the Davis Auditorium in Sturm Hall.

From legislative recalls, to solutions to school shootings, to the death penalty, there were starkly different viewpoints, with Democratic House Speaker KC Becker offering the most articulate liberal viewpoint on a host of issues and promising more of the same next year. Supported by her Senate colleague, Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, both from Boulder, they made clear that some bills that failed this year will be back, including paid leave and abolition of the death penalty.

The group couldn’t even agree on more school resource officers as the Republican Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert and Patrick Neville in the House were unwilling to go beyond encouragement for the state’s more than 170 separate school districts to take their own action, or in Neville’s view, arming teachers, versus KC Becker fearing the militarization of the classroom.

The two parties strongly disagreed on the use of recalls against legislators, with Neville an active behind-the-scenes encourager and Becker calling it unjustified intimidation and do-overs.

Thanks to the legislators for their time and candor. There is no doubt Colorado voters will have a clear choice in the next round of elections, and in the meantime, Democrats will aggressively pursue their agenda and Republicans continue to play the weak hand dealt them in the 2018 election.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder (R)  and Senate Minority
Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker on stage at the Davis Auditorium in Sturm
Hall at DU, May 13, 2019 | Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun

Read The Colorado Sun: Six big takeaways from The Colorado Sun’s forum with Gov. Jared Polis and top state lawmakers

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Denver Runoff Could be Close, But Hancock Starts Ahead: April and Marty, KOA Interview

A week ago, a record number of Denver voters shook up the system. More than 180,000 turned out, 80,000 on Election Day, May 7. They forced three incumbent councilpersons into runoffs, plus the mayor.

Hancock starts with advantages. He only has to find 11 points from 39 to 50 percent, whereas Jamie Giellis must double her votes. He spent $2 million in the first election and will likely find one or two more for the runoff. And, he will argue that the city is more than just community development and zoning and that he’s experienced in running it – public safety, public works and social services. Politically, he knows how to run a campaign in Denver and has a team in place.

But, Giellis has the benefit of a new enlarged electorate and a desire for change. Sixty percent of the electorate voted for someone besides Hancock. All three city council incumbents pushed into runoffs had major development and gentrification issues in their districts, and Giellis is advocating limits. Finally, an unknown factor is that many people believe it would be nice to have a woman mayor. It relates to some of the City Hall controversies.

Incumbents are hard to beat. In two recent runoffs, Federico Pena and Wellington Webb, who came in second in the first round, went on to win in their runoff. But as the Pena’s and Hickenlooper’s first elections demonstrated, sometimes Denver voters support newcomers with little government executive experience.

Expect an interesting three weeks.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Aldo Svaldi Reports Denver’s Attraction for New Residents

The Denver metro area’s rapid growth reflects thousands of people, mostly younger, moving from other metropolitan areas. Aldo Svaldi, the Denver Post’s business writer on trends, describes the flows from studies by LinkedIn and Redfin.

Lifestyle, job opportunities and cost of living are major factors moving the population. The decade of super growth in Colorado has changed the politics of the state and is now the top issue challenging the establishment in the Denver mayoral and council elections.

Conversation With Governor Polis

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research is co-sponsoring a conversation with Governor Jared Polis on May 13 with DU’s Center on American Politics and the Colorado Sun. The presentation will be followed by a panel of state lawmakers offering their observations of the accomplishments and failures of the legislative session. A reception will follow the 6:00 pm event.

RSVP here

Gov. Jared Polis reads to children in Colorado Springs | Dougal Brownlie/CS Gazette

Friday, May 10, 2019

Denver Voters Force Run-offs, Including Three Incumbents

Three Denver city council incumbents are facing run-offs in a record turnout of voters, shaking up the establishment. The extraordinary final 80,000 Election Day voters tended to lean against incumbents, taking a point or two. It also gave Initiative 301 – decriminalizing mushrooms – its final margin of passage. Incumbents in run-offs are: Mary Beth Susman in Eastside/Hilltop District 5, who came in second; Albus Brooks, who barely top-lined, in District 9, Denver’s oldest areas around City Park, Five Points and Globeville to downtown; and Wayne New in Cherry Creek, Belcaro and Congress Park areas.

The races:

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Denver Highlights its National Image as a Drug Capital – Yes to Psilocybin

The drug legalization movement won its effort to decriminalize “magic mushrooms,” or Psilocybin, as the final votes in a record turnout were counted late Wednesday. The May 7 electorate approved the effort by one point, or about 2,000 votes out of 177,000 cast. This was the big story in the national press.

Record Denver Turnout Shows Up on Last Day

After an initially slow ballot return with only 101,000 counted late Monday, by early Wednesday morning, another 80,000 ballots showed up on Tuesday. It led to a slow count after the first 95,000 reported at 7:00 pm Election Night.

The massive turnout is more than 70,000 above the last competitive mayor’s election in 2011 when Michael Hancock first won an election spot on the run-off ballot. It reflects that 68,000 more voters have been added to Denver’s polls since 2015 in the last city election.

Read The Buzz:
Low Turnout: KOA Interview With April and Marty - Only 101,000 Voted by Late Monday
High or Low Turnout – Denver Mayor’s Election 2019
Denver Municipal Election. Some Things to Watch for Election Night.

Final Unofficial Denver Vote Shows 184,000 Turned in Ballots; More Than 80,000 on Election Day

The final unofficial vote counts from the Denver Clerk’s Office shows 178,000 voted for mayor, forcing a run-off for Michael Hancock with Jamie Giellis. Another 1,000 votes were mailed in and dropped off to vote for/against lifting the camping ban.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Right to Survive Crushed by the Quality of Life

In an election that was primarily framed by the public’s concerns about the costs and excess of growth, it’s hardly surprising that an initiative that would have made policing homeless encampments nearly impossible was crushed. The quality of life in numerous western cities, such as Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, have been well reported as damaged by masses of homeless with minimum regulation due to legalistic approaches that hamstring law enforcement.

Initially, the Right to Survive had the aspirational high ground with Denver’s large liberal community sympathetic to the homeless dilemma of lack of shelters and places to stay. But, the campaign in opposition gathered many homeless advocacy organizations who believed the problem had to be addressed, but a right to camp on public space was the wrong solution. Liberal support collapsed as voters, who were more concerned about public safety and quality of life, overwhelmingly voted no.

Hancock Forced into Run-off with Giellis

As expected, Mayor Michael Hancock was unable to reach 50 percent plus vote to win re-election outright. Jamie Giellis, the second biggest fundraiser, came in second with about a quarter of the vote (27%).

Hancock will start with an advantage if he can replenish his campaign treasury, but Giellis has the 60 percent of the electorate that is unhappy.

See The Buzz: Denver Municipal Election. Some Things to Watch for Election Night.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Low Turnout: KOA Interview With April and Marty - Only 101,000 Voted by Late Monday

On Monday before Election Day, only 101,000 Denver voters had turned in ballots. The highest recent municipal election was in 2011 with 113,000 votes in the first election and 120,000 in run-off.

Read The Buzz:
High or Low Turnout – Denver Mayor’s Election 2019
Denver Municipal Election. Some Things to Watch for Election Night.

Listen to KOA interview with April and Marty here

Colorado Politics and John Ensslin on Watching the Denver Mayor Returns

John Ensslin as part of his Colorado Politics coverage of the Denver municipal election conducted interviews with old election hands – Charlie Brown, Lynn Bartels and me. We opined on the likelihood of a runoff (yes), major challengers (Giellis), turnout (low), and areas to watch have competitive city council races, such as Westside (open seat) and Hilltop.

Finally, it was felt Initiative 300 and rights of the homeless would drive out property owners, especially south of 6th Avenue.

Charlie Brown and Lynn Bartels opine on the Denver
city election | John C. Ensslin/Colorado Politics

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Biden, Master of Retail Politics, But Can He Do Online Wholesale?

Joe Biden, the 20th candidate to enter the Democratic primary field, is said to be a first-rate retail candidate, which has advantages in meet and greet type campaigns, such as in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. But as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump demonstrated in 2016, whoever is high-profile online and on cable and broadcast media has the advantage.

Biden’s team recognizes the issue and launched the campaign with an inspiring, well-produced and well-received video. But, Biden’s challenge has been to separate his in-the-moment personal campaign skill from the more important mass communication skills that require message discipline and media phrasing; i.e., brief, to the point and making a point.

Biden starts as the Democratic frontrunner, ahead of second place Bernie Sanders and a field of about ten in a third place position in a single-digit tier. A couple of early polls show Biden jumping 20 points or more after his announcement. With Biden’s entry, the field is likely full, although Senator Michael Bennet will make it twenty-one! The candidates have already started nonstop events, town halls, and on June 26, they will participate in the first debate. There will be considerable movement within the third place tier before the Iowa caucus.

Denver Municipal Election. Some Things to Watch for Election Night.

Modern Denver political history leaves analyses of the May 7 municipal race with a dearth of data. The only recent third-term election was Wellington Webb in 1999, and he was mostly unopposed. Mayors Federico Peña and Webb had competitive second-term races, which they both won after very hard-fought first elections. Peña’s runoff was also close.

Mayor Michael Hancock will have to be very lucky to avoid a runoff, given the number of strong opponents, the aggravation about overdevelopment and the general anti-establishment sentiment of voters. The incumbent also faces an electorate that has grown by more than 50,000 since the last time he faced a competitive contest (2011). They tend to be younger and Anglo and turned out in droves in the November 2018 midterm.

As The Buzz pointed out (April 24 – High or Low Turnout – Denver Mayor’s Election 2019), Denver city election turnout tends to be modest, even in the highly contested elections. Voter turnout will be one of many items to watch in the election. Other factors are:
  1. Denver mayoral election turnout tends to be low. That’s the way municipal leaders desire it by scheduling the election in early May, away from higher turnout November elections. Low turnout often helps the status quo, but in 2019, there are some issues rallying the electorate.
  2. The top issue – development – could produce a wave of anti-establishment voting. If so, the mayor will have a run-off and Denver politics will have a turbulent May.
  3. Proposition 300 is producing passion. It is likely to drive some turnout. It is also likely to lose by a big margin. Nor does Magic Mushrooms appear to have support.
  4. Jamie Giellis is the frontrunner among the challengers based on money, yard signs and friends of the Mayor targeting her in attack ads. There appears to be a lot of campaigning north of 6th Avenue, but how will south of 6th Avenue vote?