What did Mike Coffman get for Christmas? Political contributions! Coffman raised a solid $7,765 dollars in December 2004 for his gubernatorial run, leaving him $18,252.50 on hand at the end of 2004 (these are contributions to his committee that he initially formed for his State Treasurer campaign).
What is he spending his money on? Invitations, presumably to a fundraising party, and $975 to advertise in the Intermountain Jewish News.
We hadn't been hearing much from Coffman, but it looks like he is making some early moves after all - maybe Mini-Marc (Holtzman) could have a fight on his hands. Holtzman didn't report any contributions through the end of 2004 for his Holtzman for Governor Exploratory Committee, but he did give $1,867.42 to some knighted political operative named Sir Speedy.
That's the only potential governor fundraising news of note. Rutt Bridges doesn't need to file yet because he can just throw in his own money whenever he decides to run (nor does John Hickenlooper, for the same reason). Bill Ritter isn't raising money yet, for reasons that escape us here at Colorado Pols. Mark Udall may be able to transfer his campaign war chest over to a state race once new legislation allowing that move is worked out. Jane Norton has not yet filed.
Colorado Republican Party Chair Ted Halaby has decided to step down, according to the Associated Press. The news should come as no surprise - anytime a political party loses to the degree that the state GOP did in 2004, heads start rolling - but what struck us as interesting is the extent to which Halaby went to blame campaign finance reform on his 2004 failures. The fact is, Republicans knew the rules (sort of) as early as the Democrats did - they just didn't raise and spend the money as effectively.
Overall, Colorado donations have a decidedly Republican bent. Bush's re-election effort has garnered about $1.8 million, compared with just under $500,000 for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's campaign. The Republican National Committee has cashed about $1.4 million in Colorado checks during that time. The Democratic National Party, $284,000. The national Republican Congressional Committee took in more than $800,000. Its Democratic counterpart, $122,000. That doesn't surprise analysts. "It's a Republican state at its core," said analyst Eric Sondermann.
In addition, Democrats in Colorado haven't had a top officeholder to lead fund-raising efforts since former Gov. Roy Romer left for California, he said. "There is no Democratic governor, no Democratic U.S. senator, no one who can shake that tree," Sondermann said.
The money was certainly there for the Republicans. While it is true that Democrats benefitted from big donations from four individuals: Jared Polis, Rutt Bridges, Tim Gill, and Pat Stryker, Republicans had even deeper coffers to dip into. They also didn't spend the money as effectively, which had more to do with their problems than anything. Bob Shaffer, for example, led a 527 Education Committee that spent money against Republican State House member Ramey Johnson because of her refusal to support vouchers. Johnson was subsequently beaten by a handful of votes by Democrat Gwyn Green. They cannibalized themselves over one issue in that case and lost a race because of it.
The simple truth is that the Colorado Republican Party was undisciplined in 2004, and that starts with Halaby and Governor Bill Owens. Halaby has lost his position because of it, and Owens is also paying the price for it now. This is a pivotal two years for the Republicans, because who they pick for Chair could play a large part in whether they gain some seats back in 2006 or see their 2004 problems snowball.
For those of you who may not have seen it this morning, the Rocky Mountain News has a great story about a Denver Police Officer who threatened to arrest a woman whose car had an anti-Bush bumpersticker containing profanity on it.
Nice job by the Rocky to track down Ted Halaby for a comment. We're sure he was thrilled to be commenting on this type of story during his final days as Chairman of the Party.
Ken Salazar took the floor of the U.S. Senate today to make a speech in favor of Condeleezza Rice's nomination to be Secretary of State. We will post a link to the speech once the on-line version of the Congressional Record is updated.
While the five-minute speech may not have come across as a momentous event in Colorado politics, as far as we can tell, it was Ken Salazar's first speech on the floor of the Senate. While he used the occasion to discuss where he felt the Administration has made mistakes in Iraq and foreign policy, that he chose announcing he would vote for Rice as his first floor speech follows a very deliberate pattern Salazar seems to be setting for himself in the Senate.
Certain segments of the Democratic Party are going to howl over this one, but we think Senator Salazar is making some pretty smart strategic moves in what issues he's being public on his first month in office. A mixture of taking stands in favor of controversial-yet-going-to-be-approved-Bush-nominees and being out front on the VA/Fitzsimons flap mirror the image Salazar presented in his campaign: a centrist who will work for Colorado interests.
The Mark Udall watch desk has been slacking off the last few days. Guess we're suffering from inexplicable indecision. We're pretty certain some other Democrats watching and waiting are suffering from this affliction as well.
As we posted earlier, Senator Wayne Allard today introduced his proposed Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages. Since the time we wrote on this topic off today's Rocky Mountain News story, things have turned a bit more sour for the Veterinarian-turned-Senator than this morning's press indicated the day would go. While we told you the proposal was dead on arrival, we didn't expect it to happen this quickly and this publicly
This morning, Senator Allard expressed hopes that the gay marriage ban would be listed as the top legislative priority of the Republican controlled Senate. Yet, when Republican leaders congregated to unveil their agenda of top ten priorities for the next two years, a gay marriage ban was not on the list.
And, as the words buried in the AP write-up on Senator Allard's legislation indicate, the White House is not just backing away, they are running away from it. It's no mistake that Karl Rove's name appears in the AP story surrounded by paragraphs talking about the White House's reluctance to pursue this matter. Read between the lines, kiddies, the mastermind political operative from Texas has already killed Senator Allard's proposal.
Finally, we have to ask, on a day when the gay marriage ban is getting a lot of attention, where's Marilyn? A local AP version of the story only references her spokesman saying she'd re-introduce the legislation in the House. It's a bit odd that on a high-profile day like this, last year's poster-child for banning gay marriages is hiding behind her spokesman.
Word comes this morning that later today Senator Wayne Allard will re-introduce his Marriage Protection Amendment to ban same-sex unions. The proposed Constitutional amendment will be similar to last year's legislation which, under the Senate rules, did not receive enough votes to get to final approval. According to the Rocky Mountain News, Allard is hopeful his proposal will receive the bill number Concurrent Resolution 1, which would be a symbolic of the legislation's importance to the current Senate leadership.
So, the great debate over gay marriage begins again in Congress. Yes, things have changed since last year when Allard's plan fell 12 votes short of approval for a final vote. Yes, things are different than last year as same-sex marriage played a big part in the culture debate which many point to as an explanation of Bush's re-election and Republican gains at the federal level. Yes, as the Rocky points out, things are different in the Senate as Republican punching bag Tom Daschle is no longer there to play obstructionist on issues of such vital import.
Finally, and this is the big change many of the proposal's supporters are counting, Bush stood behind this Constitutional amendment and he won the election fair and square. So, does Wayne Allard's proposal (and we assume Marilyn Musgrave's bill in the House) sail through Congress and then head out to the states for approval?
Nope. And there's nothing SpongeDob is going to be able to do about it.
When all else fails in politics, look at the numbers. This proposal is D.O.A. in the Senate and the numbers back that up. First off, Allard will need 60 votes just to break a filibuster on the bill (remember, any Senator can put a hold on any bill for any reason, and then you need 60 votes to even get the bill considered). Conservatives made gains in the Senate, but November 2, 2004 did not produce the 60 votes needed to break any sort of filibuster against this bill. Secondly, if the bill can't get 60 votes, it's not getting the 67 needed for passage as proposed amendments to the constitution need a two-thirds vote for approval.
The key ingredient in making this call is how Bush now plays the issue. He did support the Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage last year and during his re-election effort. But, his recent comment to the Washington Post that as long as the Defense of Marriage Act is in place, Senators have indicated that a Constitutional Amendment won't happen. Not only is that a pretty serious retreat on the issue, he's throwing the whole thing back on the Senate.
Looks like Republicans in Congress and the social conservatives who supported Bush's re-election are going to be left at the alter big-time on this issue. Bush and his team know the numbers aren't there to support a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. And, that includes votes in Congress and poll numbers across the country. Bush is in legacy mode and gay marriage ain't part of it.
Wayne Allard, especially, might want to reconsider this whole affair, especially since he's losing a Presidential safety net. While he may be taking on the fight out of loyalty to the SpongeDob crowd in Colorado Springs, this last election indicated they may not have as much juice in Colorado as was previously believed. If Allard lets the SpongeDob crew lead him around, and then define his as the anti-gay Senator, money is going to be pouring into the state in 2008 to help defeat him.
We thought it a bit strange that last year a work-horse senator like Allard who focused on local matters would take on such a social hot button issue like gay marriage. Now that Allard is sitting on Appropriations, and has an opportunity to increase his effectiveness in working on issues that matter to Colorado (like bringing home the bacon), you would think he'd see that as his path to re-election. Apparently, that's not quite the case.
"Indecision may or may not be my problem." - Jimmy Buffet
The Governor Line has been updated, though there isn't a whole lot to report. Marc Holtzman continues to move upward, but only because he is the only candidate actively doing anything that might get him elected in 2006. Scott McInnis has moved a little bit; we hear that his new bosses at his law firm job may not be thrilled with his work, so McInnis may need something else to do (as casual as that sounds, it really may play a role). Bob Beauprez continues to drop, because we think he'd only run if the Republican Party looked like it really needed him, and right now it doesn't.
Holtzman recently spoke to the House Minority Caucus, and as we have reported first here at Colorado Pols, he has already been raising money, polling, and doing focus group research on himself and his message. There is still plenty of time left in this race, but Mike Coffman and Jane Norton will need to start moving soon or face being steamrolled by a Republican opponent who is learning and growing every week.
This brings us to a point that is something we feel has plagued politicians in Colorado, and particularly Democrats, for years: inexplicable indecision.
There has long been a school of thought in politics here that it is good practice to wait things out and see how the field develops, but mini-Marc Holtzman (he's about 5-5" in shoes, for those of you who haven't ever seen him) is proving our point that this is the wrong move in today's politics. Many Democrats are waiting around hoping to be tapped on the shoulder and given the red carpet treatment, much like what happened for Ken Salazar last summer, as though it's just going to happen again.
But the primary reason Salazar emerged in the Democratic field is because he was bold, strong and aggressive. He decided to run last March and didn't look back, and as a result the field cleared out for him (with the exception of Mike Miles, who couldn't raise enough money to even be competitive).
Now, Mark Udall, Rutt Bridges, and Bill Ritter (and to a lesser extent, John Hickenlooper) are standing around playing chicken with each other waiting to see who will make the first move - except that they are all chickens. The first person to publicly announce a decision - or even to start running full steam ahead privately - will make the decision to run harder on the other three. Look what Holtzman is doing; the longer Norton and Coffman wait to actively run, the harder it will be for them to catch up, and the more doubts creep into their heads in the meantime.
Take Bill Ritter, for example. Ritter really wants to run for Governor, and he just finished up his term as Denver District Attorney so he has some time on his hands. But instead of making the rounds and the calls he needs to make, he's reportedly just "taking a break" and waiting to start his new job with the law firm of Hogan & Hartson (the same firm where Scott McInnis got a job). But why? Ritter could be raising money and gathering support without having to compete with other Democrats who haven't decided to run, but instead he's sitting around watching the days pass him by. The real crime in this is that Ritter is not the frontrunner, even though he might think he is, and if he has to jump in the race after Bridges, Udall, or Hickenlooper, he will have a hard time being anything other than the other candidate. If he started running now, the other, albeit stronger candidates, would still have to play catch up.
MarkUdall has become the poster child for indecision in Colorado. He could have had the U.S. Senate nomination last year, but he backed out not once, but twice (after initially declining to run against Nighthorse Campbell months before he announced that he would retire). Udall could have the Democratic nomination to himself for Governor right now, but he can't make a decision to run. There are only so many variables to consider, and most of them aren't going to change much with time. What is he waiting for? You only get so many opportunities to clear the field in a statewide race, and Udall is on the verge of blowing it TWICE.
Samuel Johnson once said: "Courage is the greatest of all the virtues. Because if you haven't courage, you may not have an opportunity to use any of the others."
Where the Governor candidates are concerned, he couldn't be more right.