Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Historic, High-Profile Win Seals Pelosi’s Legacy

Nancy Pelosi, having moved through the ranks of numerous historic firsts, most famously, the first woman speaker of the House (2007), is now securing her position in the pantheon of the greatest speakers. The start of the Joe Biden presidency has produced an extraordinary year of legislating, especially given the narrow majorities, with the American Rescue Plan (COVID-19 relief, passed House on Feb. 11, 2021), the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (bipartisan, passed House Nov. 5, 2021) and now the slightly less than $2 trillion Build Back Better Act (passed 220 to 213, Nov. 19, 2021). Also, this year she managed the impeachment of ex-President Donald Trump (his second). 

This year adds to two decades of work in the leadership. In her first speakership, she had the primary congressional responsibility for passing Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (219 to 212, March 21, 2010). After Democrats lost their majority in 2011 and went into opposition, Pelosi fought to keep her job in a second stint as minority leader. She helped position Democrats for their 2018 comeback. With the restoration of the Democratic majority, Pelosi stopped much of Trump’s legislative agenda and managed his first impeachment.

It’s been an incredible run and there’s still more than a year to go. Completing 35 years, will she retire after 2022?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi celebrates with her caucus after House
approval of Build Back Better bill, Nov. 19, 2021 | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Read Associated Press: As Biden’s big bill advances, so does Pelosi’s big legacy

Congratulations to New U.S. Attorney for Colorado, Cole Finegan

A 1986 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, Cole Finegan was just confirmed by the Senate as the U.S. Attorney for Colorado. 

Finegan has served in an incredible run of important political positions in Colorado. His appointment to U.S. Attorney represents his step from managing partner in a worldwide law firm and as a political advisor, chief of staff and top attorney for elected or aspiring politicians for 30 plus years to being nominated for a U.S. Senate confirmed position. He has also volunteered for a myriad of civic causes. For example, working with former DA Mitch Morrissey and his wife, Maggie, to establish a domestic violence victim center.

Congratulations Cole.

Cole Finegan | Photo: Andy Cross/Denver Post

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

City Commits Another $700 Million to Airport

Hopefully, the next phase of the airport project will be better managed than the last several. Fortunately for the previous manager, the problems were somewhat less visible due to the pandemic compared to the electric baggage fiasco in the early 1990s.

Denver International Airport’s CEO Kim Day; Larry Naum, federal security
director for the Transportation Security Administration in Colorado; and
Cristal Torres-DeHerrera, chief of staff, pull out a life-size rendering of the
new security checkpoints that will be built in the Great Hall
improvements, phase two | Dennis Huspeni/The Denver Gazette

Read Denver Gazette: Committee Oks $700 million in bonds for Denver International Airport capital improvements

Monday, November 22, 2021

Denver in Decline or on a Boom?

The dominant image of Denver since 2020 has been a city in decline, with references to violent demonstrations, homelessness, COVID lockdowns, project timelines missed and disputes among city officials. But neither Denver voters nor its civic leaders have stopped investing in the city’s future.

Bond Projects

Denver voters approved $260 million in new bonds for projects of housing, mobility, parks and recreation, and culture and education, including libraries, The Denver Botanic Gardens, The Denver Center, the Zoo and Nature and Science Museum. Although the new Stock Show arena was rejected, the project still has millions in construction money and likely the City will find a way to build the arena.

The new Sie Welcome Center at Denver Art Museum,
Oct. 7, 2021 | Rebecca Slezak/The Denver Post
Denver Art Museum

A $175 million renovation was completed and received rave architectural critics’ reviews and community excitement.

Denver Water and Gross Reservoir

Denver Water, after more than 20 years of planning and permitting, reached agreement with Boulder County to build a half billion dollar expansion of Gross Reservoir to provide water for its 1.5 million Denver and suburban customers.

Cherry Creek West

Cherry Creek Shopping Center
Photo: Hyoung Chang/Denver Post

A new long-term project to develop the west side of the Cherry Creek mall area was announced, incorporating residential, office, open space and the creek.

All projects will drive Denver in a positive direction in 2022 and beyond.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Democrats in Trouble in Colorado Congressional Races

The Colorado Democratic Party is on the defense in even holding its current four congressional seats, much less win the new competitive 8th District. Democrats everywhere are facing a harsh political climate and most national pundits are predicting a Republican takeover of Congress. Because of redistricting, Colorado Democrats could go from a 4 to 3 Democratic congressional delegation to a 4 to 4, or even 3 to 5 favoring Republicans.

The Democrats challenge:

  • The average loss of U.S. House seats for the incumbent president’s first midterm is 26. Republicans take control if they win only 5 seats.
  • President Biden’s approval rating continues to decline. The average is 41 percent, but several new polls show it in the “30s.”
  • The generic ballot test, which is a good indicator of congressional seat swings, is now negative for Democrats for the first time this year. Republicans are up 4 points on average. Because of apportionment, Democrats historically need a positive rating with a few extra points.
  • Early redistricting reports indicate Republicans will pick up seats nationally. In Colorado, an independent process greatly benefitted Republicans by helping their most targeted incumbent, Lauren Boebert (3rd CD), and making more vulnerable a longtime Democratic incumbent, Ed Perlmutter (7th CD). Republicans have already targeted Perlmutter and are spending hundreds of thousands on attack advertisements.
  • Most importantly, the new 8th District was made very competitive, and the highest profile early declared candidate, former Weld County Commissioner and current State Senator Republican Barbara Kirkland, is likely now the frontrunner.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Abortion: The Supreme Court and Public Opinion

The U.S. Supreme Court may strike down Roe v. Wade this term as it considers abortion cases on appeal. Although the American public is divided about the moral dimension of abortion, a strong majority support Roe v. Wade and its legal protections, which conservative-dominated legislatures continue to restrict. The Washington Post reports in a Nov. 7-10, 2021 national poll (1,001 U.S. adults) that 60 percent of the public support the upholding the 1973 ruling whereas only 27 percent would overrule it.

Democrats overwhelmingly support it (82%), but interestingly, Republicans are divided with 42 percent favoring maintaining it to 45 percent supporting overturning the ruling. The assertive anti-Roe v. Wade Republican officeholders are representing a very divided party and an opposed general public on the issue.

Read The Buzz: Roe v. Wade at Risk

Democratic Party Moves to Its Left – Out of Alignment With Its Narrow Majority and Greater Publics

Joe Biden’s challenge is to be leading a party with a new liberal majority in its ideological preference, but with only the slimmest majority in Congress.

Over the last two decades, the Democratic Party has shifted 23 percentage points to the left, from 28 percent liberal in 2000 to 51 percent self-identified liberal in 2020. A party that was a quarter conservative in 2000 cut that in half the last 20 years, down to 12 percent conservative today, and self-identified moderates dropped 7 points down to 35 percent. So, the party’s ideological makeup is 51 percent liberal and 47 percent moderate-conservative, but all the momentum is with liberals.

Hence, President Biden, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer must craft legislation with the tiniest majority for a very liberal party, including many members of the congressional delegation. Their success passing covid relief and bipartisan infrastructure within their own ranks has been a major achievement.

As the table shows, independents are more conservative (29%) than liberal (20%), but primarily label themselves as moderate (48%). Republicans have been overwhelmingly conservative for several decades (75% today), with few liberals (4%) and moderates declining 11 points to 20 percent during the last two decades.

Besides leading a party that has shifted dramatically to the left in recent years, Democratic leaders’ other problem is that the public is still moderately conservative in its identified bent. Gallup reports that the ideology of the U.S. is today only a quarter liberal (25%) with most people claiming to be conservative (36%) or moderate (35%).

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Steve Bannon Theater: He Goes Full Sonny Corleone in a Homeless Outfit

Steve Bannon, always the performer, currently marketing right-wing revolution, showed up for the first of no doubt many cameo appearances in D.C. court using his best angry, threatening tone.

He had some well-scripted lines as he vowed to topple the Biden “regime” and threatened the attorney general with making the charge against him a “misdemeanor from Hell” as he exclaimed loudly: “I’m never going to back down. They took on the wrong guy this time.”

He wore his unshaven, unkept outfit and yelled his defiance to the circus-like audience and the media scrum, some of whom are friends and all of whom have become enablers of his show.

Steve Bannon speaks to reporters after leaving federal court,
Washington, Nov. 15, 2021 | Alex Brandon/AP

As Xi Gets Another Five years, China’s Woes Mount

Xi Jinping was just defied using the Imperial Rome term as leader of China with the status of Mao and Deng. The irony is that in his decade-long push for power, capstoned by his ascension in the country’s updated history and a new five-year term, China’s woes have mounted to a point that if there was any alternative or independent authority, it would surely be heard. Many of China’s problems are a direct reflection of Xi’s strategy and actions.

Xi’s Decade of Problems

  • Still dealing with COVID-19 lockdowns, major public relations disaster
  • Economic growth stalls, inequity grows
  • Uyghurs in re-education camps
  • Hong Kong freedom suppressed
  • Taiwan regularly threatened with force
  • Faux Islands in South China Sea
  • Conflicts with India (border) and Japan (islands)
  • U.S. begins aggressive effort to counter, including trade, alliances and military capability
  • Free and open Indo-Pacific becomes a cause for most Pacific countries

Chinese President Xi Jinping at opening of Parliament
Photo: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Read The Buzz: Peak China – Xi Defense

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Infrastructure Bill Was Historic: Both Process and Result

President Joe Biden’s tireless advocacy of a bipartisan infrastructure bill succeeded in the face of endless cynicism from Democrats and opposition from Trump-leaning Republicans.

The legislation passed the Senate with 18 Republican votes and the House with 12.

Presidents have promised major infrastructure spending for decades. The more than $1 trillion will provide funding for new and old projects long sought. It is also a down payment on Biden’s effort to show foreign allies and adversaries that American democracy can work.

President Joe Biden speaks about infrastructure negotiations
outside White House, June 24, 2021 | Evan Vucci/AP


President Joe Biden signed into law a $1 trillion infrastructure
bill at a White House ceremony, Nov. 15, 2021 | Reuters 

Barbara Kirkmeyer Has Democrats Worried

State Senator Barbara Kirkmeyer’s announcement she is running for the new 8th Congressional District has national Democrats already concerned. They immediately attacked her as too conservative.

Kirkmeyer, a longtime Weld County Commissioner, is the best-known and most likely the most electable person in a race that is expected to be highly competitive and very expensive.

Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer works at her desk before a session of the
Colorado Senate om Colorado Springs, CO, Feb. 16, 2021
Photo: Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP

Read The Colorado Sun: Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer launches campaign for Colorado’s 8th Congressional District seat

Thursday, November 11, 2021

The New Norm Among Autocrats: Stay in Power Until You Die

Daniel Ortega just secured his 4th term as president of Nicaragua by removing the last remnants of democracy. He now just arrests anyone who dares to run against him.

Xi Jinping has puppet congress approve new version of history where he joins pantheons of Mao and Deng and secures his 3rd five-year term as president. The Communist Party makes no pretense of democracy and exclaims the wonders of autocracy.

Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega | Getty Images


Communist Party officials are expected to decide this week whether
Xi Jinping (L) will be placed among the country’s era-defining leaders
Photo: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Recovery From Pandemic. Dow Above 36000.

The year started with a 30606 Dow Jones average, and in 10 months, added nearly 6000 points, the sixth 1000 milestone for the year (albeit earlier to do with a Dow above 30000).

The powerful bull market continues in spite of supply chain disruptions, inflation above 2 percent mark and threat of rising rates next year.

Earning have been the strongest driver this fall and the Fed continues to signal their belief that inflation will moderate and the tightening will be slow (scale back the taper over 7 months). The federal government continues to provide a promise – trillions in new stimulus.

Read The Buzz:

Monday, November 8, 2021

Four Takeaways From Denver Election

There were few surprises in the Denver off-year election. Possibly the most remarkable thing was that a record of 13 ballot initiatives barely attracted 165,000 voters in a city with 500,000 registered and with nearly 400,000 voters in presidential years.

Four Takeaways

  1. National Western Complex | Photo: Hans Watson
    The Denver Stock Show development area on Brighton Boulevard has been a major beneficiary of Denver tax generosity. It appears to be at an end. The arena’s price tag was too large for the rest of the package. Voters said enough already.
  2. The Republican label is a non-starter in Denver. The political establishment – mostly Democratic, but includes Republican business and non-profit interests – went to war over the three initiatives and crushed them by 60 percent or better. Only homelessness, a major aggravation for voters, got slightly closer (only lost by 56%).
  3. Open space is a first for love for Denver voters. Even projects from credible developers with interested neighborhoods are not able to overcome the preferences. Voters said “yes” to open space (Park Hill golf course) – 63 percent, “no” to development – 63 percent.
  4. Denver voters still give the city mayor support in its investment plans – $260 million more for infrastructure. It’s considerably more than other Colorado jurisdictions invest and a lot quicker than the U.S. Congress.

Read:

Can Colorado Republicans Ride the Red Tide?

In 2021, there is a Red Tide from the East. Republicans showed that there’s a path for success, even with Donald Trump hovering. The Virginia and New Jersey results affirmed the old rule that off-year elections are a problem for the presidential party. Augmenting the problem is the President’s low approval; the still dangerous COVID variant with all the controversial mandates and protocols; the signs of long-term inflation; Democrats’ chaotic delivery of a legislative product; and the party’s inept handling of domestic social issues of crime, policing and education.

If Colorado Republicans can follow the model, could they get back some of the positions lost since the 2018 midterm? As described below, they certainly have some targets of opportunity, and a supportive national environment.

  • The just approved congressional redistricting map makes two seats appear very competitive – the new 8th CD from the north Denver suburbs to Greeley and Ed Perlmutter’s new extended into the south-central Colorado 7th CD.
  • Michael Bennet does not have a well-established image nationally or in Colorado. He will be burdened by the drag of the President and national party. But Bennet is a strong campaigner and will be well-financed. It will require a Youngkin-type Republican candidate to make it a race.
  • Statewide, Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s high-profile partisanship and Treasurer Dave Young low profile make them the two most vulnerable statewide Democratic officials.
  • Local races, especially for county offices, should be winnable and it would restore some of the positions lost in 2018 and 2020. Of course, there will be a few legislative seats to target, especially in the Senate, but a majority in either House will still be a reach.

It could be a very productive year for Republicans, or like recent elections, a bust. It will depend on organization, message, and candidate selection.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Low Turnout Election Says “No” to Statewide Initiatives

Voter turnout appears to be just above the modest turnout in 2019 of 1.5 million. The count was 1,565,994 as of Wednesday, November 3. I predicted 1.5 million on the Monday before Election Day (see KOA blog). Presidential elections in Colorado now can reach a turnout of 3.2 million voters (2020) and the last midterm saw 2.5 million voters (2018).

Voters said “no” across-the-board to statewide ballot measures. They defeated an increased marijuana tax for educational programming (54% no), a property tax assessment decrease (57% no) and a requirement that all state spending (e.g., federal funds) must go through the state legislative process (56% no). The three measures lacked much attention and the general mood of the few voters wasn’t supportive of Republican-driven statewide initiatives (Colorado Rising) or an ill-defined new tax initiative on marijuana for education. Although it had some bipartisan support and funding, and Governors Bill Owens and Bill Ritter and Mayors Wellington Webb and Federico Pena supported it, the Democratic Party called it a back-door voucher program.

In the few off-year elections held in Colorado, turnout tends to be low. In 2019, Colorado voters said “no” to a TABOR override, which had bipartisan support and a well-financed campaign.

Congratulations to Denver Water for Boulder County Settlement on Gross Reservoir Expansion

Boulder County commissioners accepted with considerable regret and bad humor the weakness of their legal position and that Denver Water’s offer of $10 million for mitigation was all they were going to get (Denver later added $2.5 million). It was unfortunate that all the time and funding for studies and lawyers was expended, but Boulder would not have approved the construction permit and were just using the process to stall. Denver Water has been working to get the project underway for more than a decade while the cost of construction increased and the shortage of water grew. Fortunately for the metro area’s critical water infrastructure, the federal planning process and the courts simply made it impossible to continue delay.

Denver Water, their board, management and lawyers showed considerable patience, resilience and strategic insight in arriving at a conclusion. Well done, and good news for the metro area.

Gross Reservoir

Denver Says “No” to Arena and to Republican Proposals on Taxes and Homelessness

A low, but overwhelmingly Democratic voter turnout supported four of five city bond initiatives, but said “no” to the $190 million National Western arena – a loss that many predicted.

While the controversial arena proposal lost, the City did receive approval for four other bonds for a total of $260 million benefiting transportation projects, libraries, cultural facilities, housing and parks projects. They each received about 60 percent voter support. But on the fifth item, a third of those voters shifted sides and said “no” to the arena (58% voted no).

With 89,000 Democratic voters to 19,000 Republican, being a Republican-labeled initiative was a fatal burden. The cap on taxes was crushed and the camping ban lost, although by smaller a percentage.

2021 Looks Like 2009 and Obama’s First Year Elections. Will the Midterms Be the Same?

Ten months into Barack Obama’s first term, the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections were a confirmation of his steady decline in the polls (from a much higher level of approval than Biden) and the Tea Party grassroots turmoil seen for months. Republicans Bob McDonnell won in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey. The major observation was that they won the independent vote Obama had carried so handily in 2008.

The elections were the prelude to a disastrous 2010 midterm election, which began with Democrats losing Ted Kennedy’s vacant Massachusetts senate seat in the January replacement election due to his death. In November, their newly won (2006) House majority and Speaker Nancy Pelosi lost 64 seats in the 2010 Obama midterm. What’s the guess on the Democratic loss in 2022? If it’s more than 4 seats, they lose their majority.

See blog: Midterms are Ugly for Incumbent President’s Party

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

State Supreme Court Starts the 2022 Congressional Races

Supreme Court Justice Monica Márquez just delivered a unanimous court approval of the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission plan for congressional redistricting. The decision will start the 2022 congressional races for seven seats with incumbents and one new competitive seat in the North Denver to Greeley area.

Márquez responded to complaints and appeals with approval of the Commission and its process. She dismissed the objections raised by Democrats and Latino groups arguing the Commission acted within its authority to enforce state constitutional requirements and didn’t abuse its discretion. Her praise of the overall process was fulsome:

“This year has marked a watershed for congressional redistricting in Colorado. For the first time, the state’s congressional district map is not the product of politics or litigation; it is instead the product of public input, transparent deliberation, and compromise among twelve ordinary voters representing the diversity of our state.”

All seven incumbents have a partisan advantage. Republicans did much better than expected and could end up with a 4-4 delegation. Lauren Boebert, who is the Democrats’ main target, was given a better district than she currently serves. Her most serious opponents’ home isn’t in the district. Republicans are at least competitive in Ed Perlmutter’s newly designed 7th CD and they start in a strong position in the new very competitive 8th district.

Given President Biden and the Democrats poor positions nationally, Republicans could be running with a tailwind in 2022.

Japan Votes to Maintain Steady Consensus

Japanese voters in their national parliamentary election continued their support for the long dominating Liberal Democratic Party giving them 261 seats in a 465-seat lower house of the Diet. Although it is down by 15 seats, it’s well over the 233 seats needed for a majority (an allied party, Komeito, won 32 seats).

The new Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, can begin what is usually a four-year term. Kishida has made clear he intends to continue the basic outline of policies from Shinzo Abe, who served from 2012 to 2020.

  • Continue commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and dealing with the rising tensions with China.
  • Strengthen Japan’s military capacity and increase funding. Taiwan’s independence and North Korea’s missile threat are top issues.
  • Maintain the alliance with the U.S. As a former foreign minister for Abe, he knows the history, participants and the relationships.
  • Build trade relationship with Pacific partners through a remodeled Trans-Pacific Partnership.

He left shortly after the election results to Glasgow, Scotland for the climate conference. Japan has committed billions for financing for developing countries.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (C) puts rosettes by successful candidate
names at his party’s headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, Oct. 31, 2021 | AFP

Read: Japan’s Party Bosses Pick Fumio Kishida Over Taro Kono. Consensus over Reform

G20 – Biden has a Good Moment

Joe Biden’s brief moment in Rome was a respite from the endless bad news that began late summer from COVID-19 and Afghanistan to getting on Air Force One last Friday leaving behind the pained infrastructure legislation impasse.

His meeting with Pope Francis was stunning, and even the politicians at the G20 seemed in a good mood, with Biden and President Macron shaking hands and a general agreement to a minimum tax.

President Joe Biden sits across from Pope Francis, 
Oct. 29, 2021 | Vatican News via YouTube


G20 leaders toss coins during a visit to the Trevi Fountain in Rome, 
Oct. 31, 2021 | Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Denver and Colorado Elections – 2021 KOA Interview

April Zesbaugh, Floyd Ciruli, Marty Lenz
Will the expected low turnout election make a difference in the outcome? Where are the major fights? In a Monday morning conversation with KOA’s April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz, the November 2 election highlights were reviewed.

Turnout will likely be about 1.5 million statewide, half the amount during a presidential election, which in 2020 was 3.2 million in Colorado. Only 600,000 had voted as of last Friday (10-29).

In off-year elections, such as 2019, Colorado voters appear to be more conservative, defeating a TABOR override in 2019. Denver in that same election voted 83 percent against an initiative to expand homeless camping rights. This year, Denver will vote to enforce a very strict anti-camping ban. During the conversation, Marty announced a Denver judge had just ruled the ban’s enforcement mechanism infringed on the city authority to carry out “administrative functions.” I was not certain of the effect of the ruling. Many voters had already been told of questionable legality of the initiative and they are simply angry the homeless problem appears to be getting worse, not better, after numerous programs and spending.

Education will be one of the biggest topics in the election, with school boards around the state facing expensive fights over board seats. The traditional battles between teacher unions and reformers, who prefer charter schools and performance measures, have been augmented by national issues, such as masks, vaccinations, mandates and quarantines.

Statewide Initiative 119 would raise marijuana taxes for enhanced education programming for public secondary schoolchildren. It would raise the marijuana tax by 5 percent. Although it has bipartisan support, some educators have opposed it saying the benefits are too ill-defined. Education tends to be a popular item and Colorado municipal voters have been supporting marijuana taxes frequently in recent years.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Lower Turnout in Off-Year Races

People jump as community members give comments 
against mask  mandates during a Douglas County Board
of Education meeting in Castle Rock, Aug. 24, 2021
Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Po
st 
Colorado’s November 2nd mail-back voting finally crossed a half a million (552,807) on Thursday (10-28-21). The modest turnout is typical of off-year elections. In 2019, when two statewide initiatives were voted on in a split decision – “no” to a TABOR override and a bare “yes” to sports gaming for water funding – only 1,550,000 voted versus a presidential turnout of more than 3 million in 2020.

But even this lower interest election is being pulled into the rather bitter national political debates. Colorado’s polarized school board races of the past few years have heated up this year with vaccine mandates, masks and critical race theory arguments. Douglas County is in the forefront, but reflecting races in other counties. Denver’s and Aurora’s expensive school board battles are mostly around traditional union versus non-union and left versus less left candidates.

Tents line Pearl Street and 16th Avenue in Denver,
Dec. 1, 2020 | Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Also, several municipal elections are all-out fights over homelessness (Denver) and the new young socialist-type candidates running for office versus newly assertive moderate business and Republican groups running candidates (Aurora).

Denver’s turnout in 2019 was 162,000, a little more than 10 percent of the state total. As of Friday, 45,000 had voted, only 7 percent of the state total, but Denver tends to vote late. In its last off-year elections, it took its usual liberal position and voted in favor of both initiatives, the TABOR override and sports gaming.