Archive for the Elections Category

Top Six Reasons I’m Glad the Recall Pushed Evie Hudak to Resign

The three successful recall efforts in Colorado politics this year are unprecedented. On September 10, voters recalled Democratic state senators John Morse and Angela Giron and replaced them with Republicans. On November 27, the third target of a recall election—my state senator Evie Hudak—resigned rather than face the voters and risk the Democrats’ advantage in the state senate. (With Hudak’s resignation, a vacancy committee will replace Hudak with another Democrat, maintaining the party’s 18-17 member advantage.)

In an article for Complete Colorado, I point out the absurdity of Hudak’s supporters claiming that the recallers—the very people engaged in democratic action to gather signatures and seek a recall vote—are somehow undemocratic. I note, “Although lawful, Hudak’s decision to resign replaces a democratic recall election with a profoundly anti-democratic decision by party elite.” Read the entire article.

There is more to say, however, about why it’s a wonderful thing that Hudak is no longer my state senator—even though she has denied me a voice in choosing her replacement. Here are my top six reasons.

1. Hudak supported the rights-violating, badly drafted anti-gun legislation heavily promoted in the state by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Obama administration.

2. Hudak heartlessly insulted a rape victim on the floor of the state senate—while invoking bogus statistics to browbeat the poor lady.

3. Hudak suggested that another legislator should “flip a coin” to decide a vote. State Senator Owen Hill asked Hudak, “How can I vote on it if we can’t have a little bit more discussion?” She replied, “Take your best shot… Here’s a coin you can flip.” Hill sensibly responded, “I didn’t knock on 20,000 doors so I could flip a coin.”

4. Hudak supported the Amendment 66 tax-hike proposal, a measure that voters thankfully rejected by wide margins.

5. During important legislative hearings, Hudak spent her time on social media.

6. Hudak’s supporters distributed a nasty, misleading flyer in an attempt to suppress the democratic recall effort, and, to my knowledge, Hudak did not condemn the flyer or those responsible for it.

Hudak was arguably the least competent legislator in Colorado. I for one rejoice that she’s out of office.

Democrats Versus Democratic Recalls: My Complete Colorado Article

On September 10, voters in Colorado recalled two state senators, John Morse and Angela Giron. The next day, I Tweeted, “The reason Dems hate Constitutional recalls in CO: Recalls favor those with deep convictions over those with shallow, transitory opinions.” My suggestion was met a quick rebuke from someone I know and respect, who called my claim “intellectually dishonest” and “vapid.” But, as I replied at the time, “Clearly recalls favor the most committed voters.” And even various Democrats admit as much.

I wrote up a much longer version of my argument, and Complete Colorado published the resulting article on September 18. I argue that Democrats didn’t criticize the recalls merely as a matter of partisan cheerleading or because recalls are somehow an “abuse of the political process.” Instead, I argue,

The reason Democrats dislike recall elections—particularly when they involve a clash over guns—is that fewer people tend to vote in them. Thus, recall elections tend to favor voters with deeply held beliefs and strong political commitments—the type of voters who will go out of their way to participate in an election on an unusual day involving a single race.

Along the way, I show that the recalls involved no “voter suppression.” (I had also Tweeted that, to today’s Democrats, “voter suppression” seems to mean “That nefarious force always and everywhere at work whenever Democrats lose.”)

Read the entire article.

Did Colorado Senator John Morse Claim that Gun Owners Have a “Sickness” In Their “Souls” that Needs to Be “Cleansed”?

In my latest Complete Colorado op-ed, I argue:

In context, [State Senator John] Morse does seem to imply that gun owners—at least those who robustly campaign for gun rights—have sick souls. If he meant something different from that—if he is prepared to say that rights-respecting people who own their guns of choice and who campaign for gun rights are perfectly moral to do so—now would be a great time for Morse to clarify his remarks.

I quote extensively from his March 8 comments in that article. If you still wonder about the complete context or the tone of his remarks, I have now put his entire speech on YouTube.

August 1 Update: Complete Colorado has published my follow-up article about Morse’s remarks. Morse did offer additional comments about his March 8 “sickness” speech with a March 13 release of the video of that speech. I summarize: “Although these additional remarks clarify that Morse was not claiming that all gun owners have a sickness in their souls, they do not retract Morse’s insinuation that many gun owners—namely, those who own the types of guns and gun magazines of which Morse disapproves and who campaigned against the Democrats’ anti-gun legislation—do have a sickness in their souls, in Morse’s view.” Read the complete follow-up for details.

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Colorado’s “Personhood” Candidates Take a Beating

In the previous two election cycles, Colorado voters defeated so-called “personhood” measures—intended to outlaw all abortion from the moment of conception and also restrict birth control and in vitro fertility treatments—by overwhelming margins. In 2010 the measure went down 71-29; in 2008 it lost 73-27. If failed to make the ballot this year, but it was still very much a live issue in the 2012 elections. Democrats used the issue effectively to push its allegations that the GOP wages a “war on women.”

Paul Ryan took continual heat for his support for “personhood”; for but one example see an article by Colorado Pols. And Democrats hammered down-ticket Republicans relentlessly on the issue.

Joe Coors, who challenged incumbent Democrat Ed Perlmutter, got badly beat, 53-41 percent. Now, I don’t think Coors would have won even had the “personhood” issue not been on the table, and elsewhere Mike Coffman won despite his support for “personhood.” Nevertheless, the Democratic Party distributed the following mailer knowing it would move votes:

In my state house district, the Democratic challenger trounced the incumbent, Robert Ramirez, 51-43 percent. The left hit Ramirez with a relentless onslaught of mailers hammering him for supporting “personhood,” of which the following, distributed by an outfit called Fight Back Colorado, is an example:

There is no doubt that “personhood” shifted votes to Democrats up and down the ticket in Colorado, though of course it’s hard to say if that one issue made the difference in any given race.

Democrats honed this campaign strategy in 2010, when it defeated Ken Buck in the U.S. Senate race by attacking his abortion-banning stance.

As I’ve been pointing out for some time, Colorado demographically tends to be the type of place where people want government out of our wallets and out of our bedrooms. Unfortunately, the Republican Party in this state is dominated by a religious right that wants to outlaw all abortion and discriminate against gays—and that explains to a large degree why Democrats now control the entire state government, again.

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Congressional Challenger Kevin Lundberg Discusses Political Activism

Months ago I interviewed Congressman Jared Polis about activism related to congressional politics. Although he replied promptly, I delayed in publishing his answers until yesterday. (Sorry!) Because Polis now faces a challenger for his seat, Kevin Lundberg, I thought it was appropriate to ask Lundberg a comparable set of questions. His answers follow.

Disclaimer: Those I interview do not necessarily endorse any of my views or writings. (Nor does this interview imply I agree with Lundberg’s positions.)

Please see my “activism” category for additional interviews and discussions about political activism.

Ari: In general, how much do members of Congress tend to bow to party politics, and how much to they tend to make up their own minds based on their independent research and ideological convictions? How do you intent to deal with party pressures should you win the seat?

Kevin: My experience is at the state legislative level, and that is enough to know that the normal trend is for legislators to go with most of the flow. I have spent ten years resisting that trend. It is not a good idea to be a lone ranger, for all legislative issues require a lot of group effort, but one must find likeminded people to help withstand the pressures of establishment politics. In Colorado I helped found and run the Republican Study Committee of Colorado to provide a viable alternative to the establishment trends that inevitably grow more government. In Washington I intend on joining the Republican Study Committee, and similar alliances. I also have learned that it is essential to know what is negotiable, and what are non-negotiable principles, and stick with those principles.

Ari: By the time somebody gets to Congress, many of his or her views and commitments are already set. To what degree is it worthwhile for somebody trying to advocate a set of ideas and policies to interact with members of Congress? Should they instead focus on educating other activists, the general electorate, and lower-level candidates still formulating their worldviews? Obviously you have expressed strong convictions on various matters. How to do plan to weigh the views and advice of constituents in light of your established views?

Kevin: It is always a balance between one’s personal ideals and the district’s overall needs and opinions.

The best way to influence elected officials is before the election. I am honest and forthright with the voters before and after the election, but that is not always the case for every candidate. Before this election is over I trust careful voters will examine my principles for good government and weigh it against the values of my opponent. Remember, now is the time for this conversation.

After the election I will not change my tune. I intend to listen as carefully as I can and then cast my votes according to that information I have gathered and the principles of good government I have clearly outlined during the campaign season.

Ari: How do you plan to interact with constituents?

Kevin: Even as I have tried to do in Larimer county with my state legislative duties, I need to spend as much time here in the district and not in D.C.. I also will make constituent services a high priority for my staff.

Ari: What are the best forums for somebody to interact with a member of Congress? Town halls? Letters? Phone calls? Fundraising events? What are the best ways to interact with you now and should you win the seat?

Kevin: Town halls, and other public meetings are the most effective, but letters, calls, and to a lesser extent, emails all have an impact. I have attended a Monday morning breakfast in Larimer county just about every week of the year for all of my legislative career. It was the event Congressman Bob Schaffer started when he ran for Congress. He attended most weeks while in Congress. I hope to continue that tradition. In addition, I know I must conduct town halls all around the district, and keep an open door policy, even as I have as a state representative and state senator.

Ari: What approaches and arguments work best with a member of Congress? Which ones prove ineffective?

Kevin: For me the most effective arguments are: Is it constitutional? Will it really be in the best interest of the people in the district? Will it reduce government and enhance liberty? Telling me that some big contributor wants something is about the last thing I want to hear and has little effect on my opinion.

Ari: “Public Choice” economics talks about the problem of “concentrated benefits, dispersed costs.” How will you distinguish between special-interest appeals (at the cost of everyone else) and policies truly in the best interests of the country as a whole? How do you hope other members of Congress do that? Or is the problem intractable?

Kevin: From my vantage point I cannot judge other members of Congress, but, as I answered in question five, special-interest appeals do not hold much weight with me. Ask any full-time lobbyist in Denver, they can confirm that I do not bend to accommodate some special interest if it is not first, and foremost, the best choice for the people in my district.

Congressman Jared Polis Discusses Political Activism

Last year I asked Congressman Jared Polis to answer some questions about politics and activism, and he was kind enough to reply. Unfortunately, I got behind on my projects and kept delaying the publication of the interview. I am pleased to make it available now. Obviously, I am aware of the fact that Polis is now locked into his next reelection campaign, so, I will pursue the possibility of asking Polis’s opponent, Kevin Lundberg, a comparable set of questions. (Incidentally, with the recent redistricting, I was drawn out of Polis’s district and into that of Ed Perlmutter.)

Over the next few days I’ll release several other interviews about activism. I have already published an interview with Melissa Clouthier about Twitter activism. Please see my “activism” category for more.

Disclaimer: Those I interview do not necessarily endorse any of my views or writings. (Nor does this interview imply I agree with Polis’s positions.)

Ari: While you’re a “Boulder Democrat,” you also show an independent streak, in that you criticized the auto bailout, you’ve attended free-market events, and you’ve suggested liberty-oriented solutions to immigration and drug policy. But obviously there’s a lot of pressure to conform to the party line in DC. In general, how much do members of Congress tend to bow to party politics, and how much to they tend to make up their own minds based on their independent research and ideological convictions?

Jared: Currently, all members of Congress are nominated by parties in their districts. In most districts, selection by the majority party is tantamount to election due to the gerrymandering. In more competitive seats, the champions of both parties battle it out in a general election.

Most behavior I see is less about towing the “party line” than it is about the fact that members of Congress are products of the districts that elect them. Members are a product of the communities they hail from, and have similar values to most members of those communities.

With resources like the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, my staff and I have access to a significant amount of independent research to help us inform decisions, but we are also avid consumers of media, as well as students of public opinion.

Ari: By the time somebody gets to Congress, many of his or her views and commitments are already set. To what degree is it worthwhile for somebody trying to advocate a set of ideas and policies to interact with members of Congress? Should they instead focus on educating other activists, the general electorate, and lower-level candidates still formulating their worldviews?

Jared: We are far from experts on every topic, so most likely if a constituent approaches us about a policy or idea it will be one worth considering. I sign onto bills frequently that are brought to my attention by constituents and that I might not know about otherwise. Obviously a visit with a member of Congress will not likely result in them changing their value system, but try to pitch the policy based on their existing value system. For instance, if the member is extremely religious, theological arguments may be most effective. If the member makes decisions based on science, use science and data in your presentation. It always helps to show how an issue directly affects a member’s constituents.

On most issues, politicians are followers of the general electorate so surely moving the general electorate is the most effective way to move elected officials.

Ari: How many letters do you receive on average during a month? How many of those does a typical member of Congress actually personally read?

Jared: I have received anywhere from 100 (slow month) to over 1,000 (in the midst of health care debate) per month. A summary of what the letters are about is prepared including a tally on each issue and presented to me weekly (including phone calls to the office and emails from constituents). If the letter has a new legislative idea or relates to something important in the district, I generally see it.

Ari: What are the best forums for somebody to interact with a member of Congress? Town halls? Letters? Phone calls? Fundraising events?

Jared: All of the above. Activists shouldn’t limit themselves. Most members will schedule a meeting with constituents who are visiting DC. Showing up at town halls and other public events can also be effective but not as much if the same person shows up at five town halls. For it to look like a movement it has got to involve different faces and voices.

Ari: What approaches and arguments work best with a member of Congress? Which ones prove ineffective?

Jared: It is best to research the member of Congress you are approaching so you understand their values and decision-making process. The wrong approach can backfire and move the member in the opposite direction.

Ari: “Public Choice” economics talks about the problem of “concentrated benefits, dispersed costs.” How do you and other members of Congress distinguish between special-interest appeals (at the cost of everyone else) and policies truly in the best interests of the country as a whole? Or is the problem intractable?

Jared: Let me know if you figure this out! One example is tax reform. The vision is that a revenue neutral reform that eliminates loopholes and limits deductions could bring would create a substantially lower, flatter and simpler income tax rate for individuals and corporations. The difficulty in getting there is that, while most people would appreciate a lower rate and not having their decisions centrally incentivized out of Washington, each one of those loopholes and deductions has its own constituency that tries to preserve it. Thus the only likely approach is all or none, once some exceptions are made for tax expenditures then it is harder to make excuses about why others are not included. Tax reform was successfully accomplished in 1986 but the tax code has grown by leaps and bounds since then.

The challenge to free market conservatives is to attack tax expenditures—the loopholes and deductions—as vociferously as they do traditional spending. Whether you’re giving someone a special benefit through the tax code or through a direct flow of cash, they’re both spending. They both come with a cost to the Treasury. Yet many conservatives insist that there’s a distinction.

Races for Governor, U.S. Senate Getting Heated

The following article originally was published March 5 by Grand Junction’sFree Press.

Races for governor, U.S. Senate getting heated

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

While most of us celebrated Valentine’s Day last month, the motto in Colorado’s political races seemed to be “make war, not love.” With the general election still eight months away, campaign season is already in full swing, complete with bitter attack ads.

The big news in the governor’s race involves the net tax increases signed by Bill Ritter. Tim Hoover of the Denver Post summarizes the measures at http://tinyurl.com/rittertax.

We are particularly concerned about the tax hikes on industrial energy, software, and internet sales. While the economy is showing some signs of recovery, it remains a mess, and this is an especially lousy time to punish businesses. Democrats are all but begging certain businesses and entrepreneurs to fire people, flee the state, or refrain from moving here.

While Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (the Democrat trying to replace Ritter) sat on his hands, Republican Scott McInnis admirably fought against the tax insanity. He said in a media release, “By signing these bills, Governor Ritter is essentially signing the pink slips of thousands of Colorado workers.” The Democrats have handed their challengers plenty of ammunition heading into November.

Taxes have also become a big issue in the U.S. Senate race. While Jane Norton remains the clear Republican frontrunner, her opponents have stepped up criticism. Challenger Tom Wiens ran a radio ad stating, “Right here in Colorado, some Republican leaders backed Referendum C, the biggest tax increase in our state’s history. I opposed it.” Norton was among those “Republican leaders.”

Yet at least Referendum C asked for voter approval, unlike Ritter’s hikes, as Norton has countered. (Check out ClearTheBenchColorado.com, which is urging non-retention of four Supreme Court justices in part because of their betrayal of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Last month we were also blessed by a visit from His Chosenness Barack Obama. The reason for his visit is apparent: Democratic Senator Michael “The Pretender” Bennet is in deep trouble. (Perhaps Obama will provide the same benefit to Bennet that he gave to Martha Coakley out in Massachusetts.

To review, back in 2004 Ken Salazar trounced Pete Coors in the U.S. Senate race. In 2008, Obama asked Salazar to become Secretary of the Interior. It fell to Governor Ritter to fill the vacancy. Ritter stupidly snubbed experienced legislator Andrew Romanoff and instead picked Bennet. So, presumably, Obama feels partly responsible for turning a solidly Democratic Senate seat into a likely GOP victory.

Bennet, while a good fundraiser, is otherwise a terrible candidate. Democratic leaders who want a shot at winning had better hope that Romanoff wins the primary. Not only has Romanoff beat Bennet in the polls, but he has picked up major endorsements from state legislators and various unions. (Bennet has also been touting his union support, which is a good indication of why Democrats risk losing the seat.)

On the Republican side, Wiens’s ad may actually help Norton. We had always thought of Norton’s strongest challenger as Ken Buck, but he has not run a very exciting campaign, and he has some baggage as Weld County’s District Attorney for raiding a business on a records fishing expedition and for invoking “hate crime” laws, which remain unpopular with Republicans.

By running relatively strong campaigns, Wiens and Cleve Tidwell may split the opposition to Norton, leaving her an even stronger frontrunner.

When Obama came to Colorado, Norton made headlines by running a television ad in which she said, “Mr. President, you should pledge to balance the budget, or else decline to seek reelection. That’d be change we can believe in.”

However, when discussing the ad on Fox, Norton also said the recent Congressional jobs bill ”was too small.” Norton’s spokesperson Nate Strauch said that what Norton meant was that “the impact was too small, not the price-tag was too small,” but that leaves us wondering what sort of bill she thinks would have a bigger impact. Strauch mentioned the possibility of “suspending the payroll tax for small businesses,” but absent spending cuts we don’t see what good that would do.

At least Tidwell answered our survey at http://tinyurl.com/cosurvey10. On the plus side, he opposes so-called “stimulus” spending and corporate welfare. He calls for “dramatically lower” federal spending. He wants to reduce the jobs-killing minimum wage, and he said the anti-business Sarbanes-Oxley law should be repealed. He also wants to repeal campaign censorship laws and rescind FTC blogger controls.

We worry about some of Tidwell’s views. He wants to restrict legal immigration as a protectionist measure. On matters of abortion, he punted to state control. We worry about that, because we believe the federal government has a legitimate role to play in protecting the individual rights of citizens, such as a woman’s right to take the birth control pill even though it may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

We respect Tidwell’s efforts to articulate his views, and we hope voters will press every candidate to answer the tough questions in this pivotal election year.

The Whole Story On Norton’s Jobs-Bill Comments

As much as it humors me to be quoted by Colorado Pols and the Colorado Independent, those leftist publications are failing to tell the whole story behind Jane Norton’s comments on the jobs bill. They are trying to score political points rather than get to the truth. While I seek to hold politicians from all parties accountable for their statements and votes, Colorado Pols and the Independent are beating up Republicans while giving Democrats a free ride.

On February 24, in the course of a Fox interview discussing her television ad attacking President Obama over the budget, U.S. Senate candidate Jane Norton said the Congressional jobs bill “was too small.”

I wasn’t sure what she meant by this, because the jobs bill contains two major elements. The Associated Press explains:

First, it would exempt businesses hiring the unemployed from the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax through December and give them an additional $1,000 credit if new workers stay on the job a full year.

Second, it would extend highway and mass transit programs through the end of the year and pump $20 billion into them in time for the spring construction season. The money would make up for lower-than-expected gasoline tax revenues.

The “jobs” bill, then, is part tax break and part “stimulus” spending. Which part of it did Norton think was too small? To find out, I called up her office and asked to speak to Cinamon Watson, Norton’s Deputy Campaign Manager. The reason I asked for her is that my dad and I have communicated with her previously about Norton’s campaign and the Armstrong Survey at http://tinyurl.com/cosurvey10. Watson said I should instead talk to Nate Strauch, Norton’s Press Secretary, who called me back later in the day. (This all took place on February 25.) I didn’t ask to speak to Norton directly, because I figured I’d never get through to her, and I figured I could get the relevant information out of her staff.

Here’s what I wrote about my conversation with Strauch:

Nate Strauch, Norton’s Press Secretary, said that what Norton meant was that “the impact was too small, not the price-tag was too small.”

But that implies that she did favor some sort of jobs bill, just one with a larger impact, does it not?

Strauch said “she supported a number of different measures,” such as “suspending the payroll tax for small businesses.” So Norton wants to cut taxes without touching spending levels? That’s not much of a policy.

Norton’s comments about the jobs bill were brief and off hand. Strauch’s clarification of her remarks fits perfectly with the nature of the bill. I’m satisfied that I now know Norton’s basic position on the bill. (I don’t think it’s a very good position, as I indicated, because tax breaks without corresponding spending cuts don’t help.)

Enter the Independent. In his article today, John Tomasic said, “Colorado GOP frontrunner for the U.S. Senate, Jane Norton doesn’t talk to the press–not even to the conservative bloggers at People’s Press Collective.”

Tomasic’s characterization is wrong for several reasons.

First, I’m not a “conservative blogger.” I advocate individual rights. I advocate gay rights, legal abortion, free speech, and an end to the drug war. How is that “conservative?” I do not seek to “conserve” the status quo, I seek the significant social and political changes necessary to fully protect individual rights.

Second, I am not “at People’s Press Collective” (PPC) in the sense that Tomasic seems to intend. By mutual consent, PPC republishes some of my articles. I recognize that PPC tends to lean more conservative and Republican friendly, but I am neither a conservative nor a Republican. (I am registered unaffiliated, and I voted for Democrats Bill Ritter and Mark Udall, among others. I have not yet decided how I will vote this year for governor and U.S. Senate.) I am not a writer for PPC in the same sense that Tomasic is a writer for the Independent; it’s just not that sort of relationship.

Third, Tomasic wrongly implies that I asked to speak directly with Norton; I did not. I was fine speaking with Strauch.

Tomasic adds that I supposedly “joined the chorus of writers mocking Norton’s commitment to communication with the people she aims to represent.” Yes, there was some definite mocking going on when I pointed out that Norton has yet to reply to the Armstrong survey. However, I will note, as Tomasic should also note, that neither Michael Bennet nor Andrew Romanoff has replied to that survey. Indeed, getting through to Bennet’s office was like pulling teeth, and one receptionist I spoke with was exceedingly rude and dismissive, though another representative was helpful. By comparison, Norton’s office has been a joy to contact.

If Tomasic wishes to act like a real journalist, rather than a partisan hack, he will join me in asking Bennet, Romanoff, AND Norton to respond to the Armstrong Survey and other tough questions, and he will report the views of all candidates fairly. Until he does so, he should be dismissed as nothing more than a Democratic lap dog.

Tomasic’s claim that Strauch’s clarification of Norton’s brief comment on the jobs bill somehow differs from Norton’s intended meaning is unwarranted. (That said, I would very much like to hear more of Norton’s views about “stimulus” spending and tax breaks absent spending cuts.) Colorado Pols’s similar criticisms are likewise misplaced.

Look, there is not a single person in the state of Colorado, who, in the rough and tumble of an extemporaneous interview, will always state every point with perfect clarity and precision. I certainly could not always meet that standard. If we are to remain intellectually honest, we must put a speaker’s comments in context and allow room for reasonable clarifications.

Is our goal to figure out what Norton’s true views are or to play partisan “gotcha” games? It is the left that most vociferously complains about big money in politics, yet the only alternative is honest debate. I ask Colorado Pols, I ask John Tomasic, I ask the writers for the Colorado Independentand the People’s Press Collective to join me in pursuing intellectually honest evaluation of the candidates, regardless of their party affiliation.

I’m sure there will be plenty of substantives points on which to criticize Jane Norton (for me, including her support for Referendum C) without Making Stuff Up about the meaning of the phrase “too small.” We’re bigger than that.