Monday, April 24, 2023

Denver Mayor Race Starts Slow

Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston at a Feb. 23 forum. Photos: Hyoung Chang/Denver Post Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston at a Feb. 23 forum. Photos: Hyoung Chang/Denver Post

Denver’s two victors in the first round (April 4) now have to keep campaigning seven weeks while holding down the early spending.

The first poll has Mike Johnston up by 5 points similar to his election win over Kelly Brough by 4 points. (Bi-partisan poll from business group A Denver for Us All.)

The order, in the first election, is very often the opposite in the runoff. Peña and Webb were both behind in their first elections and first reelections and yet went on to win. Mayor Hancock came in second in 2011, the most recent open seat mayoral election.

Denver Mayoral Runoff

Two early endorsements summed up the candidates’ strengths. Former Mayor Federico Peña praised Johnston’s detailed plans and his ability to pass Proposition 123 last November helping finance affordable housing.

Former Mayor Wellington Webb and his wife Wilma declared Brough had the experience, could bring people together, and could make history as the first woman mayor after 45 men. For now, that is the distinguishing factor – whether it’s dispositive will be seen.

Denver Election. Money Talks.
Observations of Denver Mayoral Runoff

Anniversary In Phoenix

KK and Floyd celebrate 40th anniversary in warmth of Phoenix
KK and Floyd celebrate 40th anniversary in warmth of Phoenix

Friday, April 21, 2023

Observations of Denver Mayoral Runoff

Mike Johnston and Kelly Brough Mike Johnston and Kelly Brough | Photos by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post

The April 4th Denver election was not Chicago. The most viable progressive came in third. The first Denver Post runoff interview tried to ferret out any differences in the two establishment candidates besides gender. The differences were mostly tactical on the key issues of homelessness. Some early observations:

Left or Right

  • Both candidates must more than double their April 4 vote percentage. Arguably, progressives had at least a quarter of the vote (Calderon 18%, Herod 9%, half of Hansen and Ortega, other scattered progressives). On the right was Rougeot’s 13 percent and other scattered votes for maybe 15-17 percent. The advantage is on the left but a smash-up of left-right could be assembled.


  • With little to distinguish the candidates, money will be spent wildly on persuasion and GOTV. Will the candidates go negative? Yes, reluctantly because of blowback, but if race is close, it will be essential.


  • Turnout will be mediocre due to the lack of an angry anti-establishment candidate. Unless something changes, the two policy wonks debate style will not fire up much of the electorate.


  • A primary concern of many voters is how far left Denver will be pushed by the new city council and general gestalt of the “equity agenda.” Neither mayoral candidate is a favorite of the progressives but both are pragmatists and will deal with the political reality.

City Council

  • Big money will be spent to promote and stop the socialist candidates running for city council. Regardless of the result, the council will be very liberal.


Monday, April 17, 2023

Arapahoe County Divides on Gas & Oil

Arapahoe County Commissioners Commissioners top row: Bill L Holen, Jeff Baker; Commissioners bottom row: Jessica Campbell-Swanson, Carrie Warren-Gully, Leslie Summey

A surprising 3 to 2 vote against a moratorium on gas and oil drilling in Arapahoe County highlighted a board of commissioners with many new members and seldom seen in Arapahoe County’s history - a Democratic majority. The commissioners voted against the moratorium that would have stopped a potential drilling application for 174 wells east of Aurora and the Aurora Reservoir.

Arapahoe County Commissioners 2023 Table

Bill Holen, a moderate Democrat, and Jeff Baker, the only Republican, joined with new commissioner Carrie Warren-Gully to defeat the moratorium. Leslie Summey, who represents the most Democratic district, voted in favor with Jessica Campbell-Swanson, who won Republican Nancy Sharpe’s Greenwood Village seat very handily last fall.

Arapahoe County continues to drift to the political left but has unpredictable variations.

Holen is term limited in 2024 and Baker will likely have a competitive reelection (won by about 200 votes in 2020, had a recount).

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Denver Election. Money Talks.

Election Results and Fundraising Totals

The 2023 Denver mayoral election was more steady hand than bold direction.

  • Money, the campaigns it buys and attention it brings, made the difference for Mike Johnson, who ran a near saturation ad campaign toward the end, and Kelly Brough, who managed a cautious campaign highlighting her experience and life story. Denver’s low turnout election was dominated by older voters who wanted experience and moderation not new faces and hard left or right solutions.
  • In an election that spent more than $10 million, the two winning candidates benefited from 60 percent of the expenditure, more than half of it from independent expenditures “dark money.”
  • This is the second mayoral election Lisa Calderon came in third and out of the runoff. With previous name identification and a progressive anti-establishment message, she outperformed her money. The team of “socialists” running for City Council and Mayor had mixed results. Incumbent councilwoman Candi CdeBaca was forced into a runoff. A “socialist” won the at-large race but others are in runoffs.
  • Ethnic and progressive appeals were divided and didn’t move sufficient voters for Lisa Calderon, Leslie Herod, or Debbie Ortega. Together, it’s a large block of votes that if Calderon had received another 3,500 she would have come in second.
  • Turnout was below 2011 levels where 113,000 turned out, or 49 percent of active voters. This year, 38 percent of voters turned out, or 174,000. The overall campaign lacked fireworks or a breakout personality or theme. The Fair Campaign Fund encouraged a mass of unknown and underwhelming candidates that confused voters.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Israel – Flight Out of Ben Gurion Airport as Netanyahu Loses Control

Protesters in Tel AvivProtesters hold a banner depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the words 'Let my people go' in Tel Aviv [Ilan Rosenberg/Reuters]

Israel’s political polarization is beginning to gridlock the entire country — including the economy, the army, and even the airport. After a ten-day visit, I was on one of the last flights out on Monday, March 27, before the protests against the government and unions shut it down.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is receiving most of the blame for the state of affairs. To build a majority government in a country that had five parliamentary elections in four years, he assembled the most right-wing coalition in its history with a 64-seat majority out of a 120-seat parliament. But the election only reflected a 30,000-vote majority of all the votes cast. He gave high-profile cabinet positions to outspoken political extremists who have made numerous statements that Netanyahu has had to correct or explain.

The genesis of the current crisis was when Netanyahu and his conservative majority rapidly moved a judicial overhaul proposal that would position the Knesset, Israel’s only legislative body, in a more dominant position over the Supreme Court. The plan led to charges of undermining democracy and the most massive protests in the country’s short history. Firing the cabinet defense minister after his opposition to the plan on Sunday, March 26, was the final act that unleashed Monday’s threat of a general strike and closed airport. Netanyahu quickly caved but his right-wing allies are adamant that this is just a short delay in their goal to corral the court.

Delay will ease the immediate crisis but the differences in values are deep. Israel’s conservative religious parties feel the country, and especially the Supreme Court, doesn’t reflect their views and the more secular public and its leaders believe the country is drifting away from a pluralistic democracy.

If Netanyahu survives this crisis, it will be a master class in political skill, but he is the longest serving prime minister in a host of narrow majorities. Regardless of his survival, the last three months have damaged Israel’s reputation in the U.S., in the West, and especially among Israelis.

As the Jerusalem Post published in its editors’ column on Sunday, Israel is increasingly isolated, or as Tom Friedman in the New York Times put it, Netanyahu can’t be trusted.

Plainly, Israel has provoked a populist, grassroots movement fighting in massive numbers to maintain its democratic institutions. This is a new factor that the Prime Minister, his party and the government must deal with.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Southwest Shifts Blue in Presidential Politics

The southwest states of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico have had long periods where Democrats and Republicans have traded off winning the presidential race and senior state level offices, but in the new century Democrats have been winning the presidential contest and most of the other major state races.

In 2000 Republicans won three of four southwest state electoral votes only losing New Mexico to Al Gore by 366 votes. But in 2020 they won none. Also, Republicans controlled four of the governorships in 2000 and 7 of the 8 senators. Today, they have one governor, Nevada, and no representation in the eight senate seats. (See chart below.)

Democratic and Republican Parties in 2000 and 2022 in Southwest

Colorado is the prime example of how rapid and sweeping the change has been from George W. Bush’s two presidential wins at the beginning of the century to Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020 respectively.

While Colorado may be unusual in how thoroughly the Republican Party has collapsed, it should be a cautionary tale of what can happen to a party that is captured by its most extreme elements and fails to adapt to a changing political environment.

See stories on Colorado transformation:

Monday, April 10, 2023

UCLA in Jerusalem

Group Photo UCLA Tour in Jerusalem

A ten-day tour of Israel culminated in Jerusalem at the southern wall of the Temple Mount built as part of the Second Temple. It was Friday, a day of prayers, at the start of Ramadan, near the beginning of Holy Week – the Old City was thronged. The trip was conducted like a graduate seminar about a new country in a very old land. The visual elements of sites were combined with highly informed discussions of the history, architecture, and culture, along with a lot of politics, ancient and current.

The visit ended just as Israel’s struggle to protect its young democracy while reconciling deep social differences reached its climax. The country is as polarized as the U.S. Highlighting the drama of the moment, I flew out the day that Ben Gurion Airport had to close due to political turmoil and just before the Prime Minister paused in his party’s goal of restraining the Supreme Court.

As an important ally to the U.S. and the only functioning democracy in the region, we are hopeful for a peaceful resolution of the political gridlock.

UCLA provides a first-rate tour that leaves you with greater understanding of the politics and deep appreciation of the beauty of the country and people.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Greene & Boebert Espouse Christian Nationalism

Boebert and GreeneRep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., left, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., right, scream "Build the Wall" as President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Washington. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool via AP)

In her weekend 60-minute interview, Marjorie Taylor Greene reaffirmed her belief the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation which she believes the government is not sufficiently espousing. She speaks out for several Christian nationalism’s beliefs such as hostility to all immigration and sympathy for the January 6 violent insurrectionists.

Lauren Boebert is a regular speaker at Christian nationalist events and states she is “tired of this separation of church and state junk.” She calls on Christians to “rise up and take our place in Christ and influence this nation.”

  • 1 in 10 Americans are adherents to Christian nationalism.
  • Another 19% are sympathizers.
  • 66% of sympathizers believe immigrants are “invading our country and replacing our culture and ethnic background.”
  • 16% of Americans believe “things have gotten so far off track true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”
Source: PRRI/Brookings Survey 2023

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Boebert’s Last Term?

Republican Reps. Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor-Greene. Photo: Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images Republican Reps. Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor-Greene.
Photo: Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy should not base his next majority on Lauren Boebert’s vote. Her poor performance in the last election (closest race in the country), the ongoing struggles of the Colorado Republican party, and the Democrats targeting the race with 2022 candidate Adam Frisch back on the campaign trail, ensures it will be one of the nation’s most competitive seats. Also adding to their vulnerability, Boebert hasn’t dampened her high-profile public image away from controversial stances and theatrics.

In a district configured after redistricting to have a 9-point Republican advantage, she won in 2022 with only 546 votes. There were indications of trouble. A low-key Republican state legislator won 34 percent in the June primary. A September poll had her only winning with 2 percent. And election day confirmed the vulnerability. The largest Democratic county, Pueblo, rejected her by 6 points — up substantially from her near tie in 2020.

The State Republican party is unlikely to be of any help in 2024. It is disorganized, divided and underfunded. After being wiped out in the 2018 midterm, Republicans suffered even greater losses in 2022. They are burdened with an anti-abortion position made more salient after the Dodd decision and an extreme image in general, mostly associated with Donald Trump and election denial. As they tried to reorganize this year, it was clear the core party supporters remain focused on Trump and the 2020 election. Trump is likely to be Republican presidential nominee in 2024 or will at least hang as a cloud over the party as he did in the 2022 midterms.

Democrat Adam Frisch, Boebert’s 2022 opponent, is already in the field raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. He is in one of the country’s most targeted congressional races and will receive all the support he needs. The district has already been targeted by the House campaign committee and Democratic dark money funds.

Boebert hasn’t altered her positions or behavior. She maintains a high profile in Washington with the most extreme House elements and she was part of the Freedom Caucus opposition throughout McCarthy’s speakership multiple votes. She is in demand out of state as a speaker to groups due to her advocacy of Christian nationalism and guns.

Boebert is testing her voters’ tolerance for the behavior that nearly cost her the seat in 2022. Next year, she is facing a much more prepared opposition.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Asian Americans - California’s Fastest Growing Minority

California Reps. Michelle Steel (R-48) and Young Kim (R-39)California Reps. Michelle Steel (R-48) and Young Kim (R-39)

Asian Americans now constitute the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in California. They were 11 percent of the population in 2000 and 17 percent in the 2020 census.

In Orange County, South and East Asian groups, Vietnamese and Korean, are the largest, especially in the north county. In the last decade, the Hispanic community went from 33 percent to 34 percent, whereas the Asian community grew from 18 percent to 22 percent today, adding about 200,000 new residents.

asian americans ca poll

Although Asian Americans have been more likely to vote Democratic, they shifted about 10 points Republican in the last decade from the 20 to 30 percent level.

It is noticeable in Orange County, the two most prominent Republic politicians are Korean American, former County Supervisor and now Congressperson Michelle Steele, and her fellow member Young Kim.

Among the diverse Asian American community, polling shows the Vietnamese and Korean voters the least Democratic. The New York Times reports that a shift to a more conservative position, especially witnessed in the last midterm election, was related to education issues, especially access for bright Asian children, crime and anti-Asian incidents of violence. Republican candidate recruiting and community action have also been a factor.

Source: New York Times: “Asian Americans Shifting Right” by David Leonhardt, March 6, 2023