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Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper have finished their four debates, and in stark contrast to the recent presidential and vice presidential debates, they actually told us a lot about what the candidates believe.
The great thing about a debate is that there’s nowhere to hide, and so two men who are not always easy to pin down — Gardner, in particular, is mostly inaccessible to the press — were made to answer a whole slew of questions on which they had not recently or ever been on record. We’ve got much more info on what we learned in four debate recaps, which you can read here, here, here and here.
But there is one crucial area in which we didn’t really learn too much: the Supreme Court. There were big, outstanding questions for each candidate on this one heading into the debates, and those questions remain unanswered.
Related: Check out our voter guide for information to help you fill out your ballot.
Let’s start with Gardner. In four debates, Gardner did not acknowledge that his (very likely) decision to support the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett contradicts his own position from 2016, when he and other Senate Republicans refused to even hold a hearing for Merrick Garland.
He gave a number of long answers about how the Senate GOP is simply following “precedent” — a claim that is plainly untrue. Four years ago, Gardner said it was too close to an election to consider Garland’s nomination, but this year, with Barrett, we’re far closer to Election Day and he’s suddenly OK with the nomination.
Marshall Zelinger of 9NEWS, who co-moderated Tuesday’s debate, framed his question to Gardner on this as: “Why should anyone trust that you’ll stand by anything you’re telling us tonight?”
The question for Democrats about the impending confirmation of Barrett is, in so many words, “What are you gonna do about it?”
And we have not gotten a straight answer from Hickenlooper on that one. In the Post’s debate, he refused to even entertain the possibility that the Senate will confirm Barrett, even though confirmation appears to be a near-certainty at this point. He said, “I don’t think Amy Coney Barrett is going to be approved.” We’ll see how that prediction ages.
Hickenlooper has offered this prediction as a way to deflect questions about whether Democrats should seek to expand the size of the court, or take some other form of retaliatory measure. When I asked Hickenlooper last month about adding seats to the court, he straight-up said, “I’m not going to answer your question.”
He promised to be more transparent on this topic if and when the Senate confirmation process ends. Even if he makes good on that promise, by the time Barrett is confirmed, many Colorado voters will already have cast their ballots having never heard Hickenlooper explain his latest thinking on “court-packing” at any length.
Scroll down for more on the Senate race from Justin Wingerter. Also in this week’s Spot, Saja Hindi writes on the proposed 22-week abortion ban and Conrad Swanson writes on how this year’s Denver election is personal for the mayor.
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More than 300,000 Colorado voters have already returned their ballots for the Nov. 3 election, the Secretary of State’s Office reported Thursday — a staggering display of enthusiasm in a state that sends all voters a ballot by mail. Of those who’ve already voted, 46% are Democrats.
Capitol Diary • By Saja Hindi
Abortion measure gaining attention
A Colorado ballot measure that wasn’t receiving much attention at the beginning of the election cycle is now significantly more prominent three weeks ahead of the November election.
Advocacy groups fighting a proposed 22-week abortion ban have kicked up campaigning in the final weeks as signs point to a close race.
Polling released by 9News and Colorado Politics last week suggests that Colorado voters are split on Proposition 115, a measure that initially struggled to make it onto the ballot and Democrats thought didn’t have much of a chance because of how Coloradans have voted on abortion previously. But voters seem more sympathetic to restrictions later in pregnancy.
As reported by The Denver Post, the opposition to the abortion ban has raised and spent more money than other ballot measure. The filing due next week is expected to continue that trend. The issue committee has raised money from across the country to fight the ban, with contributions from individuals as well as nonprofits and advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood branches throughout the United States. Religious groups have gotten in on both sides of the fight, with the Catholic Church supporting the measure and others such as the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado backing the opposition.
The high spending is in large part because abortion rights activists fear the potential end of Roe v. Wade with a new Supreme Court justice, but it’s also the result of having to reach more voters virtually.
“We’re in unprecedented times as we navigate new ways to campaign and communicate in the time of COVID,” Stefanie Clarke of the “No on 115” campaign said.
Proponents are unfazed by their lower fundraising numbers: “There has been a movement towards life and towards reasonable policy positions,” said Nicole Hunt of the Coalition to Help Moms and Save Babies.
More Colorado political news
- It will be up to voters whether Colorado joins an effort to elect future presidents by popular vote.
- Colorado is the third most politically engaged state, according to a WalletHub study.
- Colorado’s House minority leader won’t seek re-election to leadership.
- Supporters contribute to a Colorado lawmaker after a transphobic attack ad.
#COSen 2020 • By Justin Wingerter
Gardner attorney fights attack ad
Sen. Cory Gardner’s campaign attorney sent at least one Colorado TV station a letter last week requesting that it stop broadcasting an ad the attorney calls “tasteless fear-mongering.”
The ad, from Rocky Mountain Values, states that if Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, “the court will approve Trump’s lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act” and “strip away protections for people with pre-existing conditions” during a pandemic.
Jessica Furst Johnson, Gardner’s campaign attorney, wrote a letter Oct. 7, asking at least one station manager – and likely several – to take the ad down. Her complaint was that the ad treats the overturning of the ACA as a foregone conclusion when in fact that is far from certain.
An attorney for Rocky Mountain Values, which is spending $1.2 million to broadcast the commercial, responded in a letter to several Colorado station managers the following day.
“Notwithstanding the heated rhetoric of Ms. Furst Johnson’s letter, there is nothing ‘wildly speculative’ about the ad and it is flatly wrong to say that the prediction that a Justice Barrett would vote to strike down the ACA is based ‘on a mountain of assumptions and a chain of causation,’” Lawrence Norton said.
Norton’s argument seems to have won out. The ad remains in circulation, according to a spokesperson for Rocky Mountain Values.
More federal election news
- Gardner and Hickenlooper were in Fort Collins on Tuesday for their final debate.
- This is where Gardner and Hickenlooper stand on the biggest issues.
- Hickenlooper released a new ad Tuesday featuring Gov. Jared Polis. An anti-Hickenlooper ad was also released Tuesday by a dark money GOP group.
- Fourth District congressional candidates Ike McCorkle and Rep. Ken Buck will debate Friday night in Elizabeth, starting at 6 p.m. (Look for The Post’s coverage afterward.)
Mile High Politics • By Conrad Swanson
Hancock at odds with council on ballot measures
In addition to appearing in ad spots for Joe Biden and calling out President Donald Trump’s pandemic response as an “absolute failure” on CNN, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is also entering the election fray on two local ballot measures.
Both measures — 2E and 2G — would check Hancock’s power as mayor, handing a bit more of that power to the City Council. And, unsurprisingly, Hancock opposes both.
First up, 2E would give the council approval power over mayoral appointees including the chief of police, sheriff, fire chief, city attorney, public health director, parks director, aviation director, and the planning and development manager. Then, 2G would allow the council to change the city’s budget mid-year (with some restrictions) rather than just during the budget development process.
“One measure gives City Council the ability to circumvent the budget process mid-year, the other gives City Council D.C.-style confirmation power over Charter Mayoral appointees,” Hancock said on Twitter.
“These measures aren’t about oversight — they’re solutions in search of problems we don’t have, and worse, they could erode our ability, and that of future mayors, to appropriately manage city agencies and funding.”
Hancock’s quick to tout his bonafides as Denver’s only mayor to have also served on the City Council. But clearly he’s at odds with a majority of council members on these measures, much as he has been since the start of his third term.
They have complained about an increasing lack of transparency from the mayor, dysfunction among his appointees and a disagreement over spending priorities, to say the least. They’ve sought to check his powers from council chambers, but with little luck. So they’ve turned to the polls.
On the budgetary issue, it appears some within the city’s finance department also are concerned that too many people with the ability to tweak the budget could tangle Denver’s finances further. As a safeguard, however, the measure would require the City Council to consult with the city’s chief financial officer before initiating any changes.
But on council approval over mayoral appointees, it’s unclear why the measure would introduce dysfunction into city government, as Hancock says. It would just give council a chance to vet the candidates and form a relationship with them, sponsoring Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer has said. The appointees would still be selected by the mayor and report directly to him.
“2E and 2G are simple accountability measures that the majority of cities like Houston and LA already do. Even Colorado Springs (that bastion of liberalism ;)) does this! What’s the mayor so afraid of?” Sawyer wrote.
Other comments on Twitter were mixed, some supportive of Hancock’s message and others skeptical.
“How dare the Legislative (council) branch of gov be given any ability to hold the Executive (mayor) branch accountable?!” Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca chimed in sarcastically. “When the Mayor throws a Trump-tweet-fit you gotta wonder. Council referred 2C, 2D, 2E, 2G, 2H, 2I, 2J because equal branches of gov IS democracy.”
We’ll see in November just how city residents feel about the power struggle between the mayor and Council.
More Denver and suburban political news
- Denver officials urge voters not to delay in filling out and returning their ballots because they’re lengthy.
- That ballot contains 12 local measures from tax proposals to a possible repeal of the city’s pit bull ban.
- Aurora immigration court shuts down hearings after major COVID outbreak.
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