Monday, September 30, 2019

Support for Impeachment Inquiry Increases, Country Now Closely Divided

New polls from Politico since the whistleblower revelations and Democrats calling for an impeachment inquiry show that the public has shifted from 36 percent in favor to 49 percent against impeachment, to a tie of 43 percent in favor and 43 percent against. Much of the movement in favor is among Democrats, who are now 77 percent in favor of an impeachment inquiry compared to 66 percent in a poll before the latest developments (only 10% of Republicans and 39% of independents support impeachment). A new NPR/PBS/Marist poll confirms the Politico survey, but suggests more movement toward an inquiry is likely.

Up until the latest revelations, impeachment had been unpopular (see Quinnipiac and Monmouth surveys). And, although support has increased the last few days for an inquiry, it’s too early to judge a shift in sentiment toward indictment or conviction.

Proposition DD: Dealing With Colorado’s Mixed Views on Gaming, Water Funding and State Taxes

Colorado voters have had an ambivalent relationship with gaming, limited experience with tax funding water projects and are decidedly hostile to statewide tax increases.

State Taxes
Elections since the early 2000s reinforce voters’ lack of trust and support for state tax increases, for example, with “no” votes for education funding in 2005 and a deluge of “no” votes in the high turnout, generally liberal, electorate of 2018, defeating tax increases for schools and roads.

The only water proposal using bonds to fund water projects was crushed in 2003 (Amendment A).

After years of effort, a limited gaming proposal was approved in 1990, legalizing casinos in three small mountain communities, with final approval in 1992. Since then, efforts to increase gaming to other locations, such as a host of small counties and cities outside the Front Range and at race tracks, have been defeated. Only a proposal to expand hours and betting limits in the three casino cities passed (2008) since the original authorization.

In the last two decades. Gaming expansion beyond the current footprint has been defeated by super majorities (81% in 2003 and 70% in 2014). In both cases, the gaming industry mounted well-funded opposition campaigns. In 2003, the proposal expanding gaming to video lottery, to horse and dog racing tacks, and again in 2014, the goal was to provide economically-struggling race tracks with off-site betting – the answer was no.

Legislative and industry proponents of Proposition DD, the 2019 gaming sports proposal, have tried to carefully tread this difficult history. Their proposal offers the following:
  • Limit expansion to benefit current casinos. Get existing industry to support.
  • Protect from tax revenue shifts from current beneficiaries, such as the Historical Society and local governments.
  • Attract as much of the political establishment as possible, but at least avoid the animosity of the governor. Previous governors, especially Roy Romer and Bill Owens, were decidedly anti-gaming expansion.
  • The beneficiaries of the gaming revenue have seldom been much help. Economic development for small communities, tourism and K-12 education have not especially attracted voters to overcome the determined opposition of the current casino industry. But, water funding has its own problems – witness the 2003 debacle. Using the well-regarded, but little known State Water Plan, was an effort to reduce the usual arguments related to East and West Slopes and conservation vs. storage. The small amount of money (possibly $20 million) also reduces the arguments since it is obviously a program modest in size and scope.
  • Finally, due to TABOR, the ballot language highlights the state tax increase. Hence, the proposal will need to emphasize the tax is modest and only on the gaming users. The proceeds are for regulation enforcement and the principle beneficiaries.
The campaign will start in earnest in early October and mail-back voting shortly begins after October 14.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Anna Staver: Colorado Voters Have an Ambivalent Relationship to Gaming, Denver Post

In a front page, top-of-the-field story, Denver Post reporter, Anna Staver, captures Colorado voters’ ambivalence toward gaming. After having authorized casino gaming in 1990 and 1992 in three historic mountain towns, they have decisively said “no” to expansions off those footprints. She points out that at least some of the resistance is based on the mixed results in the three communities, especially in terms of historic preservations as key original purpose.

I related some history of gaming elections:

Ciruli has asked voters about several gambling ballot measures over the last two decades. The only successful campaign was in 2008, when Colorado voters gave the existing casino towns permission to raise bet limits, add games and stay open round-the-clock. It passed, he said, because it didn’t expand gambling to other parts of the state — giving it critical support from the gaming industry.

“Once we passed gaming, what is very clear is the voters of Colorado do not want to expand it,” he said. “It is where it is, and we don’t want to see it anyplace else.”

She quoted Governor Roy Romer’s opposition in 1990, and I pointed out that proposals in a host of smaller towns and counties were defeated (Pueblo, Manitou Springs and Trinidad, and numerous small cities and counties, mostly in southeast and southwest Colorado).

“Some were quite sympathetic,” Ciruli said. “But we’ve just never been able to get off those campuses.”

My polling (Adams County likely 2019 voters) suggests the vote is close, with nearly a fifth of voters unaware of the issue. But, an effective “yes” campaign should get a “yes” vote.

Longtime Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli told The Denver Post the limited polling so far suggests a coin toss when it comes to the proposition’s chances in November, but he’s still betting on the “yes” campaign convincing enough voters to put DD over the top. If passed, taxes raised from it would go toward the state’s water plan.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Jerd Smith: Proposition DD Off to Slow Start

Jerd Smith, as part of her Water Education Colorado beat, reported that with six weeks until the November 5 election, the public has a low-level of awareness of Proposition DD, legalizing sports gaming to fund the State Water Plan.

Supporters have a major media campaign planned and no funded opposition. But, they still have a lot of voters to convince.

Smith reported on my Adams County voter poll that showed nearly a fifth of voters undecided (18%) and support below opposition as the campaign began. Also, men (47%) are much more supportive than women (32%).

But, I argue:

With campaign coffers full, DD could get a yes from Coloradans, Ciruli said.

“The public, over the years, has demonstrated that water is very valued and the water plan itself was popular,” Ciruli said. “Right now, beyond extreme environmental interests, [DD] isn’t generating much opposition. It could be a good sell.”

Monday, September 23, 2019

Frank Evans’ Legacy: Payment in Lieu of Taxes

Frank Evans
It was just announced that Colorado will receive $40 million out of $514.7 million distributed by the Department of the Interior because of the 1976 passed statute, Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT).

Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet and, of course, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced the awards to local communities, mostly smaller rural countries where a large federal footprint deprives local governments of tax revenue. Recently, the funding battle has been to fully fund the distribution.

PILT was one of the most significant legislative accomplishments of Congressman Frank Evans of Pueblo (3rd CD, 1964-1978). Passed in 1976, it took years of work with the National Association of Counties (NACo) to convince easterners that small counties with large federal institutions and land holdings are deprived of essential tax revenue for schools, roads and local services.

Frank, always supported by his partner and wife, Eleanor, worked tirelessly from his perch on the Appropriations Committee (he had seniority and many friends) to pass PILT, which has provided more than $9 billion for local government since its passage.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

DU Panel on 2020 Election: Presidential and Senate Primaries, October 8, 2019

On March 3, 2020, Colorado will hold its first presidential primary in twenty years. It will join fifteen others states on Super Tuesday to help sort out the race. What will the field look like? Who will win Colorado and who’s likely to be the frontrunner on March 4?

Also, Colorado has one of the U.S. Senate races that could decide which party controls the chamber. Will John Hickenlooper maintain his frontrunner status into the June 30, 2020 primary? Does Cory Gardner have a path to victory?

On October 8, 2019, the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the Korbel School at the University of Denver will assemble a bipartisan panel of political experts to examine and debate the political environment.

Panel Discussion: Colorado 2020 Presidential and Senate Primaries: 

Moderator: Floyd Ciruli, Director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research

Steve Welchert – Democratic consultant, campaign manager, congressional candidates, ballot issues
Sheila MacDonald – Democratic consultant, campaign manager, ballot issues
Kelly Maher – Republican consultant, 9KUSA commentator
Dick Wadhams – Republican consultant, campaign manager and former State Chair

Tuesday, October 8, 2019
5:30 pm to 8:00 pm
University of Denver Campus
Anna and John J. Sie International Relations Complex
Room 1150
2201 S. Gaylord St., Denver, CO

RSVP to:

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Photo Op Diplomacy

John Bolton | Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Although there is near universal relief from American allies and adversaries with the departure of John Bolton, at least one of his positions that aroused the ire of Donald Trump was welcomed in foreign policy circles – criticism of photo op diplomacy.

Photo op diplomacy, like handshakes in Singapore, walks across the DMZ, smiles in Helsinki, and proposed Taliban meetings at Camp David and at the UN with Iranian leaders, all devoid of any planning, strategy or follow-up. Of course, Bolton’s opposition was to negotiating at all with the countries and leaders.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un cross the DMZ in Panmunjom,
South Korea, June 30, 2019 | Dong-A Ilbo/Getty Images

Hill and Ciruli: Countdown to the 2020 Election: What’s at Stake for the U.S. and the World?

Ambassador Christopher Hill and Pollster and Professor, Floyd Ciruli, have tracked the Trump administration from Election Night in November 2016 through its first 100 days, to its one- and two-year anniversaries with commentary and analyses. Now, as the administration approaches its re-election effort, Hill and Ciruli will preview the 2020 election, one year out. The presentation will include the Democratic presidential primary and Colorado senate race, review of the main issues and the impact the election could have on the U.S. in world affairs.

Join Ambassador Hill and Professor Ciruli in a night of political and public policy discussion on November 7, 2019, hosted by the Office of Global Engagement at the University of Denver and the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the Korbel School. Save the date. More details later.

November 7, 2019
Maglione Hall
Josef Korbel School of International Studies
Anna and John J. Sie International Relations Complex

University of Denver
2201 S. Gaylord St., 5th Floor
Denver, CO 80208

Monday, September 16, 2019

Denver Metro Area Continues to Prosper

Recent cautious state and private financial projections of 2020 Colorado tax revenue are incorporating the many factors that appear to be slowing down the U.S. and world economies. But, the Denver metro area continues to show considerable prosperity.

The year-to-date increase in sales tax in the metro area for July is 5.7 percent, a significant increase showing consumer and business activity in the area and a reflection of continued growth in the economy and population. The 2019 rate has held steadily at about 4 percent and not declined yet.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Castro Crosses a Line, Helps Biden

Julián Castro attacked Joe Biden on his age. The audience booed and his fellow debaters criticized it. Biden was helped, not hurt. He gained sympathy; Castro, from his one percent position, looked desperate. He tried to bail out in later interviews, but damaged his already negligible chance to move up.

Joe Biden at Sept. 12, 2019 debate | Win McNamee/Getty Images
Julian Castro at Sept. 12, 2019 debate | Getty Images
The exchange provided two main observations. Ageism is a dangerous strategy when the top three nominees are over 70. Secondly, the media establishment and Democratic-leaning commentariat are beginning to move toward Biden due to 1) his survival after three months of debate attacks, 2) the contrast his image and demeanor provide to Trump (highlighting Trump’s main weakness), and 3) polls that seem to confirm electability (the top nomination criteria).

Hickenlooper’s Position Strengthening

The most serious candidates running for senate in terms of fundraising and experience are dropping out and endorsing John Hickenlooper. Mike Johnston, John Walsh and Dan Baer have begun the consolidation behind Hickenlooper, which is reflected in the polls of the Democratic rank and file. As I blogged yesterday, Democrats want to beat Cory Gardner and Mitch McConnell, not engage in an intraparty fight.

John Hickenlooper, along with other contenders for the Democratic primary
 runoff,  at the Durango Public Library, Sept. 7, 2019 | Jerry McBride/Durango

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Hickenlooper in Trouble?

The mostly unknown group of U.S. Senate candidates is hoping that the Colorado Democratic Party is as divided between progressives and moderates as the national party appears.

Some local political observers seem to agree, but that viewpoint is countered repeatedly by polls. A just released poll makes it clear that John Hickenlooper is a 60-percentage point favorite for the nomination (PPP, 8-28, 30, 2019), and in a host of polls, he’s the ten-point leader over incumbent Republican Cory Gardner.

Even among very liberal Denver Democrats, Hickenlooper receives nearly half the primary vote. Why isn’t the progressive/moderate divide helping the arguably farther left candidates, especially Andrew Romanoff?

Answer: Because the overwhelming interest of Democrats isn’t the right-left contrast, but defeating Cory Gardner, who they consider far-right. In this calculation, Romanoff’s handicap is that he’s lost two high-profile races. He has little credibility that he can win statewide. The other candidates are mostly unknown and untested in the critical criteria of defeating a strong campaigner like Gardner, who will have millions of dollars available for negative advertising. A two-term gubernatorial track record is a huge advantage for Hickenlooper over lesser known candidates without similar political experiences.

Hickenlooper was a bust in the presidential race, but he’s going to be hard to beat for the senate nomination.

John Hickenlooper, along with other contenders for the Democratic
primary runoff, at a forum at the Durango Public Library,
Sept. 7, 2019 | Jerry McBride/Durango

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Crow Gets a Challenger

Steve House, former State Republican Chairman and recent party CEO, has just announced a challenge against freshman Congressman Jason Crow. In an interview with April Zesbaugh and Ed Green, the question was why since Crow just won a huge victory over seemingly indestructible Republican Michael Coffman, mostly attributed to an outpouring of opposition to Donald Trump, and Trump will be on the ballot in 2020.

The Republican Party recognizes that without winning back, or at least making inroads, in a key county like Arapahoe, they can’t win back the U.S. House or hold the Senate.

Their calculation includes the following:
  1. Freshman congresspersons historically are most vulnerable in their first re-elections. That is less true with Crow given the high visibility race to win and the deep polarization in U.S. politics.
  2. To win back the House, the suburban Sixth District has to be on the list. Hence, House should be able to expect funding if any early polling shows his candidacy has some traction. Mid- to late summer will likely decide his support from D.C.
  3. A good ground game and active party operation in Arapahoe will be critical to Cory Gardner’s turnout statewide.
  4. Finding a message that will appeal to unaffiliated voters is a key to winning Arapahoe County. The party needs to step up its effort more beyond the base to be competitive in the metro area. Can House help do that? 
  5. Finally, can the Colorado Republican Party separate votes for and against Trump and its state and local candidates? In 2018, sending a message produced a 10-point plus Democratic advantage. It’s a difficult task.
Crow is obviously moving away from a less partisan and moderate image. On July 31, he endorsed initiating an impeachment inquiry against Trump. In May, he did not join his liberal colleagues, Diana DeGette and Joe Neguse, to start an impeachment inquiry. Most voters do not support impeachment. So, many Democratic House members from swing districts, including a cautious House leadership, remain opposed to a formal inquiry starting. Crow must feel confident the 6th District is leaning very blue, especially with Donald Trump leading the Republican ticket.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Dick Kirk

Richard A. Kirk
Dick Kirk was one of the civic leaders who helped guide Denver into its global ascent. As the chairman of Wells Fargo, he was responsible for Denver’s most distinct modern building – the “cash register.” Although Kirk made major contributions to most of Denver’s big projects – DIA, Convention Center, stadiums and light rail – it was flora and fauna, the Denver Botanic Gardens, that got special attention.

From various leadership positions at the Denver Chamber and DDI, Kirk put his expertise, networks and support to the city’s major investments. He was a part of the group of business leaders who realized that only by working together with local government, nonprofits and civic associations would anything substantial get done.

Dick’s second wife, Susan, was as committed to her causes as he. Together they were a fun, dynamic couple.

Thank you, Dick. Generations will be living on the legacy.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Sports Betting Coming to Colorado?

Online sports betting is moving rapidly into the states since the Supreme Court 2015 ruling it was allowed. Some states, like New Jersey, allow wide-open online sports gaming. Eighty percent of all New Jersey legal wager games are now online, with betting tied with Nevada. Other states, like Colorado, are considering legalization, but limiting it to casinos. Twelve states currently allow sports betting, and four of them limit betting to physical locations, which is the approach Colorado voters will decide on November 5, 2019.

Colorado’s Proposition DD starts with little public awareness, but a good chance of passage if strongly promoted. However, as a tax increase, even if a sin tax, TABOR language applies, so as opposed to the happy talk language of the TABOR override (Proposition CC), the sports betting initiative opens with: “Shall state taxes be increased by $29 million annually…”

Proposition DD: Authorize and tax sports betting

A recent poll among Adams County likely November voters showed support and opposition both well under 50 percent and about tied with a significant, but not surprising, 18 percent undecided (40% favor, 42% oppose).

But with funds going to valued Colorado water programs and support but no opposition from the gaming community, the proposition should be able to overcome initial concern about giving more tax dollars to the ill-trusted state government. One hostile group is the most adamant anti-water management environmentalists. They are trying to rally their constituents in opposition.

A well-funded campaign has already started public relations with endorsements from agricultural organizations. It is also endorsed by the water provider community and business community.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Mike Johnston. The First Casualty of Hickenlooper’s Shift: KOA Interview, Jerry Bell

Mike Johnston, possibly the strongest candidate in the Democratic senate field, just quit the race. The $2.6 million he raised since the first of the year was more than John Hickenlooper collected in his failed presidential bid. But, with Hickenlooper’s entry into the race, winning the primary would require an all-out intraparty war, which was very much a longshot and likely to be broadly criticized by Democrats as self-destructive to the effort to defeat Cory Gardner. Johnston is likely to be the first of several candidates who make a similar calculation.

Hickenlooper is a very lucky politician. While he won’t be president, his senate nomination is looking more like his gubernatorial nomination in 2010 – a near appointment to the job.
Mike Johnston drops out of senate race | Andy Cross/Denver Post

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

John Ensslin’s Last Beat

John Ensslin loved politics. In his final election, the long-time Rocky Mountain News reporter and recent Colorado Politics scribe threw himself into the Denver’s mayor’s race. He moderated a major debate, conducted a podcast, and reported on the ups and downs of the fast-moving race. A contribution to the city he knew and loved.

Read The Buzz:
Ensslin and Westergaard: Dedicated to Fact-Based News
Colorado Politics and John Ensslin on Watching the Denver Mayor Returns

Charlie Brown and Lynn Bartels opine on the Denver
city election | John C. Ensslin/Colorado Politics
John Ensslin addresses Denver mayoral candidates for One
Colorado's mayoral forum at the EXDO Event Center
in Denver, April 4, 2019 | Andy Colwell/Colorado Politics

Sloppers Eating Contest at Fair: Winner Downed 28 in 8 Minutes

The Colorado State Fair’s Labor Day weekend had an eating contest featuring Pueblo’s famous and unique slopper, an open-faced cheeseburger smothered with Pueblo green chile, cheese and onions.

The event attracted national professional eaters. The winner was from Virginia and consumed 28 of the sloppy burgers.

The slopper and the local sausage sandwich (grinder) are Pueblo traditions. The Gradose family provided the green chile and Pagano’s Pass Key has the grinders.

Read Pueblo Chieftain: Colorado State Fair: Virginian gets crown after 28 sloppers
First-ever Slopper Eating Contest at the
Colorado State Fair in Pueblo, Aug. 31, 2019 | KRDO