The Spot: Who is the adult in the Colorado Senate, and the latest Democrat considering a 2020 Senate bid against Cory Gardner

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As an education reporter before joining The Denver Post, I learned quickly that a school superintendent faces no greater decision than calling a snow day. No matter which decision they make, they’re going to get it from all sides.

What does this have to do with Colorado politics?

Well, Leroy Garcia, the Colorado Senate president, found himself in an equally dire situation Wednesday. Despite Gov. Jared Polis closing the state government, despite the state House deciding not to meet, despite every major metro area government shutting down as an unprecedented bomb cyclone hit Colorado, Garcia kept the Senate open.

The decision was met with disbelief from Republicans, lobbyists and journalists alike.

Angry lobbyists messaged me throughout the day. A few who made their way to the Capitol wondered what sort of cost — both political and human safety — was being risked in the name of politics?

To be clear: Garcia’s move was political. While he declined to comment on his decision to The Post, he told 9News he had no choice but to keep the Senate open after Republicans mucked up the calendar with their own shenanigans.

Garcia did have a choice. He could have just as easily told lawmakers they were going to need to meet Saturday to make up for lost time. Now Republicans plan on reminding Garcia — and the voters — about his decision through 2020.

There’s no doubt the temperature is rising on both sides in the Senate. In the lead-up to Garcia’s call, Republicans demanded a benign, 2,000-page bill be read at length Monday to slow progress on bills they oppose; Democrats used computers to get the job done in under a day; and then Republicans sued Garcia over the use of said computers.

After this week, it’s no longer clear who the adult in the Senate is, one lobbyist said. Another observer told me the real losers are the voters. We’ll see you back here next week. — Nic Garcia


Welcome to The Spot, The Denver Post’s weekly political newsletter. Keep the conversation going by joining our Facebook group today! Forward this newsletter to your colleagues and encourage them to subscribe. And please support the journalism that matters to you and become a Denver Post subscriber here. Send tips, comments and questions to ngarcia@denverpost.com.


Countdown

11 days until the budget drops in the Senate; 50 until the General Assembly adjourns; 326 until the Iowa caucus

Your political digest

  • How will Senate President Leroy Garcia vote on this year’s gun control legislation? He isn’t saying. Denver Post
  • Colorado lawmakers want to overhaul the state’s tax code in a major way. Denver Post
  • Colorado paid family leave gets initial approval — with a break for the smallest businesses. Denver Post
  • Colorado Senate gives final approval to oil and gas reform bill. Denver Post
  • KC Becker: Let’s build a better future through climate action, updated oil and gas laws. Daily Camera
  • State Rep. Tom Sullivan discusses this year’s gun control legislation. 1A
  • A group of current and former Republican Colorado state lawmakers say it’s time for a different strategy. CPR
  • Colorado is suing President Donald Trump for public safety money withheld over an immigration policy dispute. Denver Post
  • How John Hickenlooper defied the odds in 2003, and how he might do it again in 2020. Denver Post
  • CNN town hall could be a big opportunity for John Hickenlooper’s presidential hopes. Denver Post
  • John Hickenlooper didn’t mean to forget who you are: How face blindness has affected his political career. CNN
  • Brexit and Trumpism Have Failed Because Conservative Populism Is a Lie. New York Magazine

Capitol diary

Bills on the move

The paid family leave and oil and gas bills weren’t the only ones to win approval during the bomb cyclone. A pair of bills meant to drive down health care costs, especially in rural Colorado, got the thumbs up from the Senate Health and Human Services committee. House Bill 1004 and Senate Bill 4 work to create a state-backed health insurance program and modernize state law to, per a press release, “cooperatives to incorporate consumer protections, such as coverage for preexisting conditions, and encourages consumers to negotiate rates on a collective basis directly with providers.”

Both bills have bipartisan support.

“This is a reset for health care in Colorado,” said state Sen. Kerry Donovan, one of the bill’s sponsors. “No state in the nation has implemented a statewide public option, but Colorado has taken an innovative and responsible approach to do so that will increase competition and deliver affordable, accessible healthcare to Coloradans all across this state.”

Strange bedfellows on college access bill

Americans For Prosperity, the free-market political nonprofit started by the Koch Network, is supporting a bill that is sponsored by two Democrats, state Sen. Robert Rodriguez and Rep. Leslie Herod, and a Republican, Sen. Jack Tate.

Senate Bill 170 would prohibit a state college from asking an applicant about their criminal history or disciplinary history at an elementary, secondary or postsecondary institution school prior to admission. There are some exceptions: A higher education institution may inquire about any pending criminal charges and an applicant’s prior convictions or disciplinary history for stalking, sexual assault and domestic violence.

“No one should be penalized indefinitely for what they did on their worst day,” said AFP-CO State Director Jesse Mallory in a statement. “If people with non-violent convictions who’ve paid their debt to society want to pursue higher education, we should be applauding them, not turning them away. If we can do something to help individuals that want to improve their lives and put their past mistakes behind them — we should.”

Secretary of State Jena Griswold (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Secretary of state to lead public discussion on campaign finance reform

Secretary of State Jena Griswold ran on a platform to get money out of politics. Now, she’s hosting a daylong seminar about possible changes to the state’s campaign finance laws, and you’re invited!

The forum starts at 9:30 a.m. March 22. Discussions will include topics such as disclosing foreign interests, why reform is needed and possible new enforcement rules. You can RSVP here. If you can’t make it in person, the meeting will be broadcast live on the secretary’s website.

Emerge Colorado announces new board members

One of the reasons Colorado’s General Assembly looks the way it does this year — more women, people of color, younger, etc. — is because of Emerge Colorado, the nonprofit that trains Democratic women to run for office.

This week they announced new board members:

  • Jennifer Bacon, Denver Public Schools board member
  • Cate Blackford, outreach director for the Bell Policy Center
  • Mary Bogus, data partnerships aAssociate at the Analyst Institute
  • Kyla Armstrong Romero, Aurora Public Schools board member
  • Leticia Martinez, principal at Mission Control Inc
  • MB McAfee, former nonprofit director and candidate for Montezuma commissioner
  • Nellie Moran, chief of staff for state Sen. Steve Fenberg
  • Sharon Hwang, owner of The Wellness Center

Michal Rosenoer, Emerge’s executive director, said in a statement: “Behind every successful woman there’s another team of incredible women cheering her on. Emerge Colorado has three times the number of alumnae running for office as we did two years ago. We are proud to be growing our leadership team to support them and to continue building an exceptional bench of Democratic women candidates across the state.”

The Stump

First! A quick reminder that municipal elections are just around the corner

Before we get into all the 2020 news we have to share, a quick reminder that local politics > national politics. This week, we’re reminded by the Colorado Municipal League that nine municipal elections are very near.

Per an advisory: “Voters in Colorado Springs, Craig, Durango, Fort Collins, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction and Ward will select their municipal leaders on April 2. Aspen will hold a runoff election the same day to decide between two finalists in the mayoral race, after holding its regular election on March 5. Larkspur will hold a special election two weeks later to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of their previous mayor. Denver residents pick their mayor, council members, and other elected officials including auditor and clerk and recorder in May.”

Hear Denver mayor candidates — and meet Post journalists

Speaking of municipal elections, Post city hall reporter Andrew Kenney is going to moderate a debate the evening of April 1 — no joke — with the top four candidates for Denver mayor: incumbent Michael Hancock and challengers Lisa Calderón, Penfield Tate and Jamie Giellis. The event will also include a cash bar and time to mingle before and after with Post Editor Lee Ann Colacioppo, Opinion Editor Megan Schrader and most of the Post politics team: editor Cindi Andrews and reporters Kenney, Jon Murray, Nic Garcia, Anna Staver and Justin Wingerter.

It’s free to attend, but here’s the catch: We’re only going to have space for 150 people, and Post subscribers are going to get the first shot at RSVPing. If you aren’t a subscriber, sign up today and then send an email to candrews@denverpost.com to make sure we get you on the invite list. Invitations are going out soon!

Romanoff’s gut-punch of a fundraising pitch

There’s a very good chance that your inbox is full of fundraising pitches — daily. But one request from two-time U.S. Senate hopeful Andrew Romanoff sticks out.

Here’s what Team Romanoff emailed earlier this week:

“Are you Jewish?”

The question came from the back of the room, during a community forum in Estes Park. Fifty people gathered at the public library yesterday for an otherwise cordial conversation about the Senate race.

“Yes, I am,” I said.

“That’s all I needed to hear,” came the reply. “We don’t need more Jews in office.”

The email serves as a reminder that hate speech and crimes continue to rise in Colorado and across the nation, and that our politics is not immune.

More names being floated for 2020 Senate run

Another week, another name added to the list of possible 2020 U.S. Senate candidates. As a reminder, last week we reported that former state Rep. Alice Madden is eyeing a run. And U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse is getting pressure to run.

This week we’re hearing state Sen. Angela Williams is looking at a possible bid. The Denver Democrat told us her only priority right now is to see her high-profile bills, including a repeal of the death penalty, signed into law.

And while we’re on the floor of the state Senate, Kerry Donovan, the mountain Democrat, confirmed she’s thinking about a run but told The Denver Post no decision will be made until after the current legislative session is over in early May.

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