Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bob Schaffer Still "Undecided" On 2008 Senate Run

ColoradoPols claims the scoop on Schaffer's expected run, but Schaffer himself says "there's plenty of time" for a decision:
Fort Collins resident Bob Schaffer flew to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to meet with politicos but said he hasn't decided whether to run for Senate in 2008.

Reached on his cell phone as he changed planes, Schaffer, a Republican, said he planned to have dinner with senators and meet with "political folks" during his trip.

The political blog Colorado Pols reported Tuesday that Schaffer had decided to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Loveland Republican Sen. Wayne Allard, who earlier this month said he wouldn't seek a third term because of a pledge he made to voters to serve only two terms. Schaffer said he hadn't yet made the call.

"There's not a campaign yet, and I don't know if there will be," Schaffer told the Coloradoan. "I'm just doing a lot of assessing right now."

After Allard's announcement, Schaffer told the Coloradoan he was inundated with calls but that he wouldn't rush to a decision.

"There's plenty of time," Schaffer said Tuesday.
ColoradoPols would be better served if it revealed at least some evidence for the claim other than speculation and the rather obvious fact that a Schaffer run, while not set in stone, is widely expected. Hardly a scoop of any earth-shattering significance.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Update on Ritter's Critters

"Ritter's Critters" What do you think? I'm not sure I like it. Whatever it may or may not gain in alliterative value, it loses in . . . what? level of discourse? I'm not sure I want to sink to their level, you know? Anyway . . .

This is an update on the goings-on down at the state house, now that the Democrats are in control of both chanbers of the legislature and the Governor's Mansion. Of particular interest will be whether Bill Ritter manages to keep his promise to govern "all Coloradans" from the center, whether he will be a check on the "cockamamie schemes" (as the Rocky Mountain News put it), or whether he will payoff his big donors and be who we all thought he would be during the mock campaign.

Let's see . . . .where to begin.

How about House Bill 1072? This is a law that would repeal Colorado's Labor Peace Act, which basically guarantees a Labor "open house" in the state. It is one of the reasons that Colorado's business climate has been among the strongest in the region and the country in the last ten years.

How bad is this bill? It cleared the state House of Representatives on a straight party-line vote. Every--EVERY--Republican state senator and representative has signed a letter to the governor urging him to veto this bill. The Rocky Mountain News has editorialized against this bill in fairly mocking terms. Even the Denver Post has "encouraged" the Governor to sit on this bill, though it's objections are more procedural than substantive. The Chamber of Commerce hates this bill, and is ready to give itself the "Sucker of the Year" Award.

So . . . . will Governor Ritter keep his campaign promises? Not likely, according to certain indications he's given.

Ben has a pretty good read on this one.

What else?

Oh, this goes prominently under the heading "Cockamamie Schemes."

Senate Bill 46 would put Colorado in an interstate agreement to elect the president by popular vote, instead of the electoral system currently in place.

Never mind that the voters of this state rejected this idea in the last election; never mind that it would completely neuter Colorado's influence in the elections, and hand it over to the large coastal cities; and never mind that . . . oh, never mind. This one sucks. And it passed.

And, what else?

Oh, yes. There's this lovely act of Incumbent Protection.

The bill aims to strengthen state fundraising disclosure for 527s, named for the Internal Revenue Service code that defines them, to help identify the corporations, unions and wealthy individuals who fund them.

Currently, 527s are only required to file six financial reports with the IRS in election years. This provides a critical window just before elections when 527s can unleash a barrage of negative ads, without identifying who gave money and how it was spent until after the election.

I hate to say "I told you so," but . . . I told you so.

Now that they've got power, they're going to move to protect their flank.

All in all, a pretty good week for the Democrats.

By the way, GOP, watch this very carefully. THIS is how a party in power acts. As much as I hate the results, you gotta admire the ruthless efficiency with which the Dems act. And, in their defense, it's not like any of their actions are--or should be--a surprise to anybody.

Now, let's just sit back and see if they overplay their hand.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Colorado Not Turning Purple?

You mean there isn't a Democrat "surge" in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West? Our state isn't turning purple? Sshh, Stuart Rothenburg. You're supposed to let our Democrats continue to operate under the delusion that they're on the verge of a major political realignment, rather than the beneficiary of a confluence of fortunate events in the past couple elections.

With Ritter, Romanoff, and the Democrats already overplaying their hand, the pendulum has started swinging back where it belongs. In the meantime, let's hope the damage is minimal.

Cross posted at Mount Virtus

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dems: Shilling for Union Bosses, Busting Colorado's Economy

A topic not broached on Colorado's left-of-center blogs (for obvious reasons) is the great Democrat payback of "narrow interest" groups - read labor unions - who helped to buy them their majorities (measuring in the millions of dollars). First case in point: House Bill 1072 on a fast track through the state legislature. What does HB 1072 do? It takes away workers' rights.

Yes, some - the House Republicans and their Golden Anvil Award & the Chamber of Commerce - have also pointed out the likely negative effect it will have on the state's business climate. But the more fundamental problem, as highlighted by the editors of the Rocky Mountain News, is that HB 1072 is a "blow to liberty."

Republicans and other pro-business and/or pro-liberty types who bought Bill Ritter's line during last year's election must be ready to rip out their hair at the Governor's repeated indications that he plans to sign the legislation.

In the interests of the people of Colorado? In the interests of union bosses who believe that coercion is the only way to compensate for declining membership, perhaps, but not the workers whose rights are being stepped on.

You know that Ritter isn't governing in a way "that serves all the people" when the Denver Post is screaming to kill HB 1072 because it's moving too quickly through the process.

I'm guessing in the end enough Democrats will come to their political senses to put this bad bill to bed, judging by the threats from the state's shocked and angered business interests:

Should Ritter sign the measure, some business leaders are discussing putting a right-to-work amendment on the November ballot that essentially erases the gains unions might achieve.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: union coercion & economic counter-development are what you get when the Democrats hold all the reins of government. I can't wait to hear about the inevitable tax increase.

Cross posted at Mount Virtus

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Early Musings on the Now Open Senate Seat

I will follow up my fellows in throwing some thoughts out about the 2008 Senate race in Colorado.

First of all, I am sad to see Sen. Allard go. I think, though he hardly manged to "tower over Colorado electoral politics," Sen. Allard proved to be a hardy candidate who seemed to remain truly humble in office. And humility is a trait the Senate is sorely lacking these days-on BOTH sides of the all.

As to the front runners . . .first from the Left. And when I say left, I mean WAAAY Left. Mark Udall is the announced candidate of the Democrats, and if ever there was a candidate who truly represents the People's Republic of Boulder, it is Udall. Inasmuch as Boulder is a punchline for the rest of the state, Udall should be easy to mark as hard Left.

Unfortunately, Udall has three irrefutable advantages going forward. One, he is likely to be unopposed in a primary, which both saves him money and gives him an empty stage with which to define himself for the rest of the state. Two, he is a seasoned, political professional--he is unlikely to make the sort of mistakes and gaffes that derailed the GOP's last two statewide candidates. And C, he is likely to have a LARGE warchest. Early estimates are that this race could cost in the range of $5-10 million; I suspect that that figure is only candidate's money. My guess is that, once you factor in Tim Gill and Pat Stryker, the figure a GOP candidate is going to have to counter is closer to $20 million.

Of course, once you factor in the right-leaning 527s, that number probably drops to . . oh, say . . . $19.6 million.

Given those factors, I'm going to lay out what I think are the primary characteristics of the best candidate the GOP can put forward in 2008.

1. It needs to be somebody known, liked, and trusted within the state GOP. That, by no means, would lessen the likelihood of a primary challenge; but it is likely that such a person may be able to control the dabate, at least to some degree, and prevent it from becoming a gift to the Udall campaign (see "Both Ways Bob" for an example of such a gift).

2. He/She needs to be a seasoned media or political player. Somebody charismatic, somebody who can deliver a message with punch and, hopefully, humor, and somebody who is good on their feet in front of a camera. Look, the odds are the media is going to be . . . ha ha ha, I almost got that "odds are" line out with a straight face . . . the media is going to be openly hostile to the Republican candidate; he or she MUST know how to handle themselves and shut down the sharks. Again, hopefully, with humor.

3. He/She needs to be an unparalleled fundraiser. But, let's be realistic: in Colorado, we'll never compete with the Left in straight-out fundraising. Honestly, the best thing that could happen is to have a candidate [and I HATE to say this] who is willing to sink millions of their own dollars in to this race.

That list leaves very few viable candidates. Bob Schaffer? I question his ability to win the money primary. Bob Beauprez? I like Bob a lot--I've worked for him on two campaigns--but he fails on the second count. Bill Owens? I consider that unlikely at this time--nor does he meet the third criteria. John Suthers? Mmmmm . ..maybe. AG to Senator has worked before; unfortunately, I'm not sure he meets the third criteria, either. Dan Caplis? Unproven--as either a candidate or a fundraiser, though he is likely to be the best possibility as far as good on his feet. Mike Coffman? HUGE possible upsides, given his military service, but I don't know how well he plays on TV or as a fundraiser. Scott McInnis? I don't know about his fundraising acumen, and the long knives are already out for him. Tom Tancredo? Don't make me laugh. Oh, wait, he already did that by announcing for President.

Who does that leave?

John Elway. Who has never been a candidate for political office, and whose honeymoon with half of Colorado will likely end as soon as he announces he's a Republican.

But we know he's good on TV, and we know he has the money to fund a good run--he's also pretty funny naturally. But things change when the prize is political office, and if you don't think his marital problems are going to be brought up early and often, you're kidding yourself.

Basically, . . . color me pessimistic about this Senate seat.

If the tide of politics across the country turns back around by 2008, there are a lot of GOP candidates who would be viable in this race, though tey're going to need a lot of money to do it; if the tide looks at all like does right now, or like it did last November, kiss this one good-bye.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On Colorado's Senate Seat--Quashing John Elway Rumors, Tom Tancredo's Presidential Aspirations, And Other Musings

According to a spokeswoman, John Elway has no intention of running for the open seat held by Sen. Wayne Allard, but some are talking about a shot at the governor's mansion in 2010 against incumbent Bill Ritter. These rumors are fueled by the perception of Elway's "god-like" status in the state. Elway earned that reputation on the football field, and though some Colorado GOPers yearn for a shoo-in, he is unlikely to jump in and soil his image.

Tom Tancredo has set his sights on the highest office in the land, and has backed former Rep. Scott McInnis. The attacks on Tancredo's presidential run have already commenced.

Speaking of McInnis, the left has already begun the mudslinging by trying to attach the "lawyer-lobbyist" moniker to him (and "McLobbyist") due to his employment at Hogan and Hartson, where failed 1996 and 2002 Senate candidate Tom Strickland now manages. Others also note the rap on McInnis who bypassed a potential 2004 run because of the fancy financial offer of the noted firm.

First backed by former Governor Bill Owens in 2004's Senate race before he switched his support to Pete Coors, former Rep. Bob Schaffer still garners much conservative backing. Though he has not commented publicly on a run, lingering sentiments that he was (wrongly) passed over in favor of the beer magnate (and subsequently defeated acrimoniously in the primary) could energize a more successful run this time around.

Other Republicans--former Gov. Bill Owens, Attorney General John Suthers, Secretary of State Mike Coffman, former Rep. Bob Beauprez, and radio talk-show host Dan Caplis have also been mentioned as potential runners. Each one has his own drawbacks, including lack of personal interest and desire to make money (Owens), recent landslide electoral defeat (Beauprez), or at this point name recognition and fundraising ability (Caplis). Both Suthers and Coffman have been recently elected to state-wide office and could run, but should Schaffer and McInnis choose to duke it out, fundraising and support for these second-tier candidates will likely disappear quickly.

First take on the Democratic field--
Rep. Mark Udall has vowed to run in 2008 whether or not Allard ran for reelection or retired, and with a large warchest would be the Democrat's front-runner. As a member of a noted political dynasty Udall will certainly garner a good deal of national attention, and would get a boost from the 2008 Democratic National Convention held here in Denver.

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper--having endured a rough recent stretch with election woes and weather-related issues--will not run if Udall does.

Final Initial Analysis--
The Democrats hold an advantage in that their front-runner is unlikely to face primary opposition. This gave Gov. Bill Ritter a large advantage in 2006, as the Republican primary saddled eventual candidate Bob Beauprez with the inescapable "Both-Ways-Bob" moniker. Udall, however, does not have the same middle-of-the-road credibility that Sen. Ken Salazar and Ritter were able to use in pitching themselves to Colorado's middle--the unaffiliated independents and swing voters. Republicans will trot out his liberal voting record; Udall narrowly defeated Bob Greenlee in 1998 for the seat (less than 6,000 votes) opened by the departure of incumbent David Skaggs. Though DailyKos has Udall wrapping up this seat, but it remains to be seen how a true liberal plays state-wide.

Republicans could face an uphill battle if there is a primary characterized by the acrimony that plagued the Schaffer-Coors Senate primary in 2004 and Beauprez-Holtzman this past year. Schaffer and McInnis both have voting records to be scrutinized, though at this point Schaffer could be accurately deemed the more "conservative" of the two. Like Udall, none of these potential candidates have faced state-wide scrutiny.

For both parties the key will be fundraising; before Allard announced he would retire the seat had already garnered a reputation as the most competitive Senate seat in 2008. Estimates of $5-10 million necessary for each candidate will likely reach the higher end now that the incumbent is out. This will prove to be the most expensive Senate race in Colorado history, as the Republicans battle to retain Allard's seat with Democrats absolutely ravenous at the thought of yet another Senate pick-up.

Also posted at Slapstick Politics.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Let the Handicapping Begin

It's official: Colorado Republicans will have an open seat to defend in '08. With Tancredo apparently thinking that a White House run offers a better chance to bang the illegal immigration drum, the Republican side is wide open.

Those of us worried about a Bill Owens resurrection bid can take comfort in the fact that Colorado's former governors have a history of losing such efforts - in the primary.

So We Have A New Governor

I've only just today been able to get around to reading Gov. Bill Ritter's State of the State Speech. I was, naturally, curious to see if he enumerated a list of priorities reflecting his promise to govern from the middle.

No. Really.

First, the basics. Paragraph 4: Let me also take a minute to thank the previous legislature, former Gov. Owens and former Lt. Gov. Norton for their significant accomplishments. I hope we can keep moving forward.

A bit cursory and perfunctory, but, you know . . . whatever. Let's just say he's not exactly reachinng out.

Paragraph 26: As I approach this job, I start with a simple promise to all of you: I will always listen. I will always seek your cooperation and a thoughtful commitment to meaningful solutions. We won't always see eye to eye. But from me you will always get responsible debate, not partisan rhetoric. I ask you for the same, regardless of whether there's a D or an R after your name.

He goes on in the course of the speech to list eight legislators who have proposed ideas he likes. Seven of the eight are Democrats.

I guess that means he's only 3/4 of the way towards the far left. I guess that's his idea of governing from the center.

Anyway . . .

as to those priorities.

1. The New Energy Economy. His solution: an Executive Order adopting a resolution calling for a 20 percent improvement in the efficiency of electricity use, doubling the renewable energy requirements of Amendment 37, and a Colorado Clean Energy Fund.

2. Health Insurance. His solution: the Colorado Health Plan, a multi-state drug purchasing pool, and significant investment of tobacco settlement dollars (which, by the way, are diminishing faster than expected).

3. Transportation. Solution: A Transportation Summit, to come up with more ideas like FasTracks. I guess he didn't see the same report that showed up on the front page of the Rocky todayRTD is falling behind on key studies required for FasTracks and also is trying to figure out whether the rapid transit system can be built the way it was advertised and for the cost that was promised.

4. Economic Development. Solution: devote 25% of his time to improving economic opportunities in Colorado (though, I suppose, cutting taxes and improving the business climate might fall outside of that 25%).

5. Education. Goals: cut the dropout rate in half within ten years, and cut the "achievement gap" in half in ten years. How? "We're going to listen to our teachers" READ: we're going to let the unions write legislation. Also, there's this line:We need one system that provides meaningful data in a timely fashion so we can improve student learning.READ: we're going to get rid of the CSAP test. Just wait.For a better, more thorough discussion of the education portion of the speech, check in with Ben.

6. Public Safety. Solution: develop programs to cut recidivism. Of course, those already exist, but they're religion-based, so we can't do those.

Six main priorities. Do you notice that there's exactly ONE solution to all of them?


There is, of course, no way that government can provide for all of the things the Governor wants to do with it. Especially in light of TABOR.

So expect a year-two attempt to eliminate or significantly weaken TABOR.

This speech reads to me like one given by a person comfortable and confident in the power he wields. If you thought the GOP rode herd in its better days, wait until you see how the Democrats respond to control. This could be a scary couple of years.

Sen. Wayne Allard Retires

A true man of his word, Sen. Wayne Allard honored his self-imposed two-term pledge. Unlike senate lifers, blowhards (they enjoy the sound of their own voices), and presidential aspirants, Allard carved out a quiet record as a citizen-legislator, unfazed by the glitz and power-politics of DC. The Rocky Mountain News offered this generous recap of Allard's legislative career:
Sen. Wayne Allard said today he will honor his term-limits pledge and leave at the end of 2008, creating a replacement fight that should turn Colorado into one of the country’s biggest electoral battlegrounds.

"I just didn't think I could back away from the (term limits) commitment. It is a matter of integrity and keeping your commitments. I have never wavered on that," Allard told the Rocky Mountain News.

Appearing with his wife, Joan, at a press conference at the state Capitol, Allard said, "The people of Colorado placed their trust in me based on a promise I made to them and I am honoring that promise. In an age when promises are cast away as quickly as yesterday’s newspaper, I believe a promise made should be a promise kept."
. . .
Allard has been more folksy than flashy during his 24 years in elective office, starting with eight years in the state Senate, six years in the U.S. House of Representatives and so far 10 years in the U.S. Senate.

"Senator Allard’s great political strength was that Coloradans could look at him and say, ‘He is like me. He works hard every day.’
And I think there’s a commonality between Coloradans and Sen. Allard that we haven’t seen many times in elected officials," said Republican consultant Dick Wadhams, who managed Allard’s Senate campaigns in 1996 and 2002.

Allard has been a champion of fiscal discipline and traditional social values. That included two unsuccessful bids to pass a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

In recent years, Allard often cast predictable, party-line votes with fellow Republicans, and he was known as one of the more reliable allies of President Bush’s White House.

Allies liked to say Allard has been a "work horse" rather than a "show horse" in Congress. Still, Time magazine in 2005 dubbed him "The Invisible Man" and one of the five "worst" U.S. Senators.

Longtime Allard chief of staff Sean Conway dismissed the ranking as "laughable," citing the senator’s accomplishments, including cutting years off the schedule for cleaning the former nuclear weapons plant at Rocky Flats; defending the state’s military installations from base closings and spearheading the investigation into sexual assaults at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Allard was the only one from the nine-member state delegation to sit on an Appropriations Committee, a strategic place for securing federal funds for the state. First-term Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Denver, already has expressed an interest in an appropriations seat, although the positions are hard to come by.

But Allard might be remembered just as much for his down-home appeal and affable manner than his legislative record.
Allard played up his roots as a veterinarian and small businessman. He bragged about being a member of the two-person Senate Veterinarian Caucus, and he sometimes examined colleagues dogs in his Senate office.
CBS4 has video of Allard's retirement speech.

Reactions to Allard's retirement--
NRSC chairman John Ensign:
“Senator Allard has served his constituents honorably over the past 15 years and has continually shown his commitment to the people of Colorado by bringing improved services and commonsense solutions to the country. He has been one of the Senate’s most dedicated legislators and will be remembered as such. I respect his decision to honor the promise he made to serve two terms in the U.S. Senate and I know that he will continue to serve the people of Colorado long after his retirement.”

“Republicans will retain the seat currently held by Sen. Allard and the NRSC will do everything in its power to ensure the principles of fiscal responsibility and limited effective government returns to the people of Colorado in November 2008. The voters of Colorado supported Pres. Bush over Al Gore in 2000 and again over Senator John Kerry in 2004 and Republican statewide registration is 36% compared to 30% for Democrats - ensuring Republicans a strong advantage in 2008. Retention of this seat is now a top priority for the NRSC.”
Senate Republicans are weeping today.
. . .
Colorado was already the Democrats' top pickup opportunity, with Allard winning his two terms with razor-thin margins and a Blue wave sweeping the Rocky Mountain state.
. . .
This will be a Democratic pickup in 2008.
The Club For Growth notes his conservative record:
Allard, who was re-elected with Club member support in 2002, will be leaving a big hole for fiscal conservatives in the Senate, having compiled a great voting record over the last 10 years. He received a 98% on the Club's 2005 scorecard, while getting eight "A's" and only one "B" on NTU's scorecard.
Cross posted at Slapstick Politics

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Twin Rocky Columns: Things Looking Up for GOP

Put together, two columns in this Saturday's Rocky Mountain News for Colorado political junkies, both signaling that having reached its nadir the center-right political movement in this state is on the rebound. In one, Peter Blake assures us that indeed Dick Wadhams is serious about taking the helm of the state Republican Party and committing to see it through the next election cycle:

So why did he agree when Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany asked him to consider the job? "It looked like a challenge that would be a lot of fun and I'm just dumb enough to think that there's a great opportunity here too."

And, of course, we know that there's a lot more behind the decision than what Wadhams is generating for the press. Keep your chin up, GOP.

The other piece - David Kopel's media review column - highlights how the liberal Denver media establishment is still busy trying to exaggerate and perpetuate divisions within the state Republican party (a close look at the background of the picture included with the article features a prominent local conservative blogger):

According to The Denver Post, former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer is "still seething" at former Gov. Bill Owens. This claim was made without a proper factual basis and, to make matters worse, the Post refuses to publish a correction or clarification.

We shouldn't be surprised to see the Post try to bait Schaffer into saying something derogatory about the outgoing Republican governor. But Owens is out of the political picture now, and the party is focusing on the future (witness the Blake column). We have no laurels on which to rest, so there's hardly room for complacency, but we don't have to commit ourselves to despair, either.

Cross posted at Mount Virtus

Friday, January 12, 2007

Colorado Dems Repaying Favors to Union Bosses?

The newly expanded Democrat power base in Denver stands poised to repay the union bosses who joined ultraliberal benefactors Tim Gill and Pat Stryker in helping to buy their recent elections. Introduced this week in the Colorado state legislature is House Bill 1072 by Democrat Rep. Michael Garcia, which would eliminate the requirement that a majority of workers has to cast a ballot to approve a union agreement to create a closed shop and collect agency fees.

That's right: in other words, union bosses and their Democrat allies just want to assume the financial support of the average working man without even holding an honest election first. Of course, federal law as it stands now would supersede the state legislation, keeping the majority vote requirement in place. But Senator Ted Kennedy has attempted before to change federal law with "card-check" legislation, and can be fully expected to try it again.

"Card-check" legislation eliminates the secret ballot requirement for workers to accept union representation, and instead enables union organizers to employ subtle, coercive - and often deceitful - tactics to use workers' signatures to their advantage. Workers may be pressured into signing a card supporting union representation, often misled into believing a signature merely calls for a secret ballot election.

Union bosses can use the arrangement to cajole employers into setting up a closed shop agreement requiring all workers on site to pay fees - including political contributions - to the union. Unfortunately, it often happens that the employer and the union boss cut a back-room deal at the expense of the working stiffs.

As jurisprudence stands now, workers can go through a lengthy, often arduous, and bureaucratic process to ask for the political money back from the union (and sometimes, even get it). Prior Supreme Court decisions (such as Abood and Beck) require that as a minimum protection. A favorable ruling from the 9 Justices in the Washington Education Association case might give dissenters some more hope, but such a ruling cannot be counted on to solve the problem.

Unions in Colorado are looking to solidify and expand their power headed into 2008 and beyond. The approval of House Bill 1072 in the state legislature (can Governor Ritter really be counted on to veto a bill that would line the pockets of some of his biggest contributors?), along with Ted Kennedy-style "card-check" legislation enacted through Congress, would spell trouble for the freedom of many individual workers in our great state.

If it happens, it's called paying the price for giving the Democrats the reins of government.

Ritter's State of the State: Education

In yesterday's State of the State address, newly-minted Governor Bill Ritter's remarks came with little suspense and offered no surprises. But supporters of freedom and parental choice may demand answers yet. Congratulations are to be given for the positive tone and the ambitious goals, such as cutting the dropout rate in half. But the general outline for how to get Colorado there is where some problems are going to arise.

First, what did he say? "We're going to align our educational programs with today's competitive global marketplace. We're going to prepare our students for 21st century industries - 21st century opportunities - like renewable energy, aerospace and biomedicine." Sounds like the preface to this new national report, which Speaker Romanoff has already said he will convene a task force to implement.

The question remains as to how this alignment is supposed to take place, for the issue of local school board control still remains. If 21st century skills are what our kids need - and I tend to believe that it is a lot of what they do need - why do you suppose the current system has done so little to effect change? A state fiat or mandate is not going to bring this about. Leave it to the power of the consumer and the marketplace to make the education system deliver its best quality at its greatest efficiency.

Ritter also said: "
Colorado has made great progress in the area of accountability. But now we need to strengthen and streamline our different accountability programs. We need one system that provides meaningful data in a timely fashion so we can improve student learning. I look forward to working with the state Board of Education on this issue." All in all, this is a good and commonsense idea. Let's use a single consistent standard to rate the performance of our students, teachers, and schools. But let's also make the performance ratings be measurements of things that matter, and let's give them fair and reasonable consequences, too.

He continued: "
Our overall education efforts must start at the pre-school level and continue through college. Coloradans want to see more slots opened up for pre-school programs. And so do I. I look forward to working with Speaker Romanoff to decide exactly how we do that." A targeted, voluntary preschool program for kids who start their schooling with the greatest disadvantages makes sense. And it also makes sense to let the market serve these families' needs, empowering them with vouchers that will ensure better service. A one-size-fits-all, universal, state-mandated program would be little more than a union boondoggle. The long term value of preschool is highly overrated by its proponents - let the research be your guide here.

Moving on: "
I want our colleges and universities to double the production of technical certificates and college degrees over the next 10 years. To do that, we need our higher ed systems pulling in the same direction, not competing against each other." This is a dubious analysis. I would much rather our colleges and universities were competing to excel and to attract the best students. Again, how do you plan to get all postsecondary institutions to follow along in lockstep?

Most importantly from the education portion of Ritter's address is what was left unsaid. The state's relatively progressive advances in the area of public school choice - open enrollment, charter schools, online schools, contract schools, etc. - nary even an allusion was made to them. The national report that seems to have guided some of his remarks also called for greater parental choice, more equitable student funding, and teacher pay reform. No bold initiatives in any of these areas.

Instead, he said: "
We're going to realize these opportunities by partnering with teachers, school boards, parents and students. We're going to listen to our teachers. We're going to give them the tools they need to succeed. We're going to put their good ideas to work creating rigorous and relevant study programs." That's all well and good as far as it goes (though it would be nice to hear a plug for educational programs being rooted in solid research, too). Unless, of course, he was using code words for his team of partners being the union (CEA), school board association (CASB), and PTA. That iron triangle of educational lobbying power has been brought dragging along with what reforms have been passed in this state and has wielded its clout to obstruct others.

So color me skeptical of how serious Governor Ritter is about reaching his ambitious educational goals. He passed up the opportunity to promote many promising and innovative ideas, so I'm not expecting too much from his administration. In this case, less truly will be more.
So apparently, Senator Salazar, coming as he does from the hog farming part of the state, is a fan of pork. The Senator joined Senator Majority Leader Harry "Oooooh, that land deal" Reid and most of the rest of his caucus in voting against Sen. Jim DeMint's tougher definition of earmarks:

The measure, an amendment to an ethics and lobbying bill, would have adopted a wider definition of "earmarks," specific projects inserted in bills, to include Corps of Engineer water projects, Pentagon weapon systems and items from other federal entities.

The language favored by Reid would require disclosure of only targeted funds directed to nonfederal entities such as city parks, state universities and private contractors. Reid crafted the ethics bill with Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., but McConnell supported Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., the sponsor of the legislation, on the earmarks issue.

"If we're going to go through all this process, if we're going to change the laws and try to tell the American people that now you can see what we're doing, let's don't try to pull the wool over their eyes," DeMint said.

Makes sense to me, but apparently not to our junior senator.

Amusingly, the AP continues its run of innumeracy. The article states that 7 Republicans voted against DeMint, when in fact, only 5 did so. The 46 votes against came from 49 Democrats, minus the 9 defectors, plus 5 Republicans and 1 Indpendent, Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The AP writer probably did the arithmetic in his head, trying to back out the number of Republicans, rather than actually looking at the roll call tally as he did for the Democrats. I don't suppose there's bias in the difference between 5 and 7 Republican defectors, just laziness.

Political Avalanche--Not Just Another Conservative Political Blog For Colorado

Welcome to Political Avalanche, Colorado's newest conservative political blog.

Why, you ask, do we need another blog?

Well, some may have noticed Colorado's recent shift into the "purple" state category--Democratic wins in '04 (Ken and John Salazar, against major GOP victories around the country) and '06 (which garnered the Dems the governorship, a 4-3 Congressional delegation, and retained control of both houses of the state legislature) have left the once vigorous state GOP foundering and conservatives of all stripes struggling to figure out what went wrong.

Colorado, like other Western States, has always exhibited political independence, exercising its will beyond party confinement. GOP moderates, right-wingers, and libertarians created a majority that in big-tent style appealed to the state's large numbers of "independent" and "unaffiliated" voting bloc. Indeed, both registered GOP voters and independents have consistently outnumbered Democrats for years. What gives?

Colorado's GOP collapse represents a failure of the party to hold constant to both its inclusive appeal but also its conservative principals. Election '06 national sentiments aside, Colorado's GOP became complacent while in power and a dearth of appealing candidates combined with neglect of principles has allowed "moderate" Democrats like Ken Salazar and Bill Ritter--much to their savvy political credit--to capture the hearts and minds of a majority of Colorado voters and bring Democrats to office.

While a more detailed vision and mission statement will follow in the following days, the ostensible purpose of Political Avalanche--a group blog featuring some of Colorado's best conservative bloggers--is at least four-fold:

1. Help rebuild the fractured state GOP by identifying and promoting new GOP leaders and candidates.
--Though conservatives come in all shapes and sizes and are likely not to see eye-to-eye on many issues, the GOP continues to provide the only vehicle for providing a satisfactory solution for a majority of those who believe in strong conservative principles. Libertarians might protest, but the only party with potential electoral viability to support small-government, personal responsibility, free-market, and individual freedoms is and will remain to be the Republican Party.

2. Watchdog the Democrats
--As has been repeated ad nauseam in the local media, the Democrats control Colorado's political future by possessing both houses of the state legislature and the governor's mansion for the first time since the early '60s. This is true for at least the next two years, and in that time conservatives are obligated to hold these elected officials accountable, by identifying partisan politics and revealing shortcomings that threaten Coloradans' freedoms. This is not to say that the blog will strictly engage in the sort of demagoguery of attack-dog sites; we vow to remain the loyal, if warranted, and dedicated opposition. We may not hold the veto pen, but we sure can cause a stir!

3. Highlight key issues and races for 2008
--What are those key issues and races? While it is only January of 2007, those electoral issues and key races will emerge steadily over time, and without a doubt, the contributors to Political Avalanche will have strong but varying opinions on all of them. PA is not simply intended to be a GOP rubber-stamp. If conscience dictates, the bloggers are committed to going against the grain. Promoting strong conservative principles will guide the editorial decisions here, not the ever-changing flow of the political winds. Criticism will be of the constructive sort; too many blogs today offer disagreement and disapproval without proposing a plan of their own. This does a disservice to the reader, even if the criticism in insightful and warranted. Promotion will be independent. Contributors will of course have their own affiliations with the party, and transparency will be upheld. PA is not a covert, secretly funded GOP blog with "connections". However, if you can hook us up, shoot us an e-mail. (sarcasm!)

4. Promoting conservative principles
--Free market solutions. Individual freedom and responsibility. Preventing the creep of the nanny-state. Liberals, including Democrats, believe that increasing government handouts, raising taxes, and legislation a mile high is the panacea for all that ails Colorado. "Look what we can do for you." Conservatives and the Republicans who espouse these principles believe that everyone should look to themselves first. When people encounter difficulty, they should get a hand-up, not a hand-out. The left believes that (other people's) money can solve everything. Colorado's future depends on the citizens of the state, not the government. Articulating various views on the nature of conservative principles, PA intends to be inclusive--libertarians, social conservatives, and the multitude of other self-identified conservatives and Republicans should feel welcome. PA's contributors are by no means of one mind, and the diversity of ideas (the only true diversity) should be this blog's strength.

To achieve these objectives, Political Avalanche has gathered six of the state's conservative blogs:
Best Destiny

Clay Calhoun

Mount Virtus

View From a Height

Slapstick Politics

Mile High Delphi

By concentrating their efforts and avoiding the unnecessary duplication of efforts so endemic in the blogosphere, Political Avalanche promises to provide comprehensive conservative commentary on Colorado politics in a single location.

Liberals have ColoradoPols and Colorado Confidential.

Conservatives now have Political Avalanche.