DENVER DAILY NEWS
Colorado is at the epicenter of the uncertain political times in which we live.
All eyes are on the Centennial State as tea party-backed candidates claim they will sweep to victory this fall, while Democrats cling to the notion that Americans believe “change” is already in the works with more to come.
The pundits and talking heads will be locked onto Colorado tonight, watching to see if incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet can soar past the definition of “appointed” and onto his first position as a truly elected official, or whether Republican Ken Buck will shatter his challenger’s hopes and dreams. The state’s U.S. Senate race has already garnered more “outside” cash than any other race in the nation, netting more than $30 million as of the end of last week. Polls place the race in a statistical dead heat.
The nation also will be watching Colorado’s gubernatorial race. Will third-party controversial and outspoken conservative candidate Tom Tancredo, running as an American Constitution Party candidate, defeat Denver Democratic Mayor John Hickenlooper, who only a few months ago was considered a shoo-in to serve as the state’s chief executive? Will embattled Republican challenger Dan Maes earn the 10 percent of votes needed to keep his party in the majority, or will the Republican Party in Colorado sink to minority status, a seemingly unfathomable possibility, but a sobering reality for the party. Polls have Tancredo trailing Hickenlooper by only two to four points.
We know more Colorado Republicans have voted early than Democrats, perhaps suggesting that the GOP will claim victory this midterm election. But will we have answers for you by tomorrow? The secretary of state is already preparing for recounts in what is sure to be tightly contested races.
Colorado voters will not only get to decide candidates this fall, voters also will have a shot at multiple controversial issues. Everything from slashing government spending to prohibiting abortion is on the ballot this general election. Democrats are pleading with voters to vote “no” on the numbers, but conservatives are hopeful that Coloradans will make conservative choices, like repealing major portions of federal health care reform.
Denver voters have an especially “out-of-this-world” issue to vote on this election, deciding whether to form a committee to study research and data related to a possible extraterrestrial encounter.
With so much to consider this election, check out the Denver Daily News’ Denver ballot voter guide to help educate you on the issues so that when it comes time to voting today, you’re fully prepared for the ballot:
» Ken Buck (Republican): The race for Weld County District Attorney Buck has been anything but smooth. Buck has found himself defending perceived misogynistic comments, explaining why he didn’t prosecute a rape case because he thought the jury might view the situation as “buyer’s remorse,” agreeing global warming is a “hoax,” and disagreeing “strongly” with the concept of separation of church and state. Still, Buck has stayed on his conservative message, holding a slight lead over his opponent, incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet. With the help of the tea party, Buck is winning the Republican vote by vowing to cut back on government spending, creating jobs, reforming Social Security, blocking tax increases, protecting gun rights, racking down on illegal immigration, and shrinking government in general.
» Michael F. Bennet (Democratic): The incumbent U.S. Senator was appointed by Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter after President Obama took office and appointed then-U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar to act as the nation’s secretary of the interior. Bennet filled Salazar’s vacant seat. Since January 2009 when he took office, Bennet has focused on education, continuing his work reforming education as he did serving Denver as the superintendent of Denver Public Schools. Bennet is fighting for his first position as an elected official. He is running on the platform of reforming Wall Street, advancing a clean energy economy, continuing efforts to provide affordable health care to all Americans, bringing accountability to the lobbying process in Washington, clearing up arcane and Senate floor procedures that block the legislative process, and turning the economy around by creating jobs.
» Other candidates running: Bob Kinsey (Green), Maclyn “Mac” Stringer (Libertarian), Charley Miller (Unaffiliated), J. Moromisato (Unaffiliated), and Jason Napolitano (Independent Reform).
Representative to Congress — District 1
» Mike Fallon (Republican): Fallon is a doctor who believes in reforming the nation’s health care system, but disagrees with federal health care reform backed by the Democratic-controlled Congress this year. He encourages competition between health insurance companies as a means to make health reform more affordable. He opposes government bailouts and any additional stimulus plans. Fallon supports tax cuts and eliminating tax breaks for special interest groups. Dr. Fallon would also crack down on illegal immigration but also provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants while also making them “get in the back of the line.” Fallon also supports expanding oil and gas exploration.
» Diana DeGette (Democratic): Incumbent U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette has made expanding stem cell research a focal point of her tenure in Congress. She is a strong supporter and advocate for women’s rights and women’s choice issues, having fought this year to protect pro-choice rights in federal health care reform legislation. She also serves as the co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. DeGette has served for 13 years in Congress, making her way up the ranks to a chief deputy majority whip. Health reform and increasing access for children to receive health care remains priorities for her.
» Other candidates running: Gary Swing (Green), Chris Styskal (American Constitution), and Clint Jones (Libertarian).
» John Hickenlooper/Joseph Garcia (Democratic): Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper has served as the mayor of Denver since 2003, during which time he has enjoyed widespread popularity. The quirky mayor has been running a “clean” campaign, vowing not to attack his opponents, despite attacks in his direction. Hickenlooper has campaigned as a man of the people, pointing out that he himself was laid off as a geologist in the 1980s, only to start a successful brewpub and restaurant business. He believes in economic development for the state by engaging the business community and developing public-private partnerships.
» Dan Maes/Tambor Williams (Republican): While Dan Maes is the Republican nominee, he is not necessarily the Republican choice for Colorado. Maes earned the nomination after primary challenger Scott McInnis became entangled in a plagiarism controversy. Following the primary, Maes became entangled in controversy of his own, being accused of lying about how he was fired as a Kansas police officer. He has since plummeted in the polls, but has vowed to stick out the race, despite cries from his own party to drop out. Maes says his first priority would be “undoing so much of the liberal agenda.” He would remove the state employee union, discontinue funding for Planned Parenthood, and focus less on renewable energy standards.
» Tom Tancredo/Pat Miller (American Constitution Party): When former Congressman Tom Tancredo entered the gubernatorial race, Republicans feared he would split the party, handing victory to the Democrats. He has since proven that he is able to rally support from the conservative base in Colorado, earning endorsements from the state’s top Republicans, despite his running as a third-party candidate. He is an outspoken critic of illegal immigration, vowing to enact Arizona-like immigration enforcement in Colorado, requiring local police to investigate the residential status of all suspected undocumented immigrants. He is a proponent of legalizing marijuana. In addition to immigration enforcement, Tancredo would also focus on reforming the Colorado Public Employee Retirement Administration, restoring tax breaks for the business community, and significantly limit state spending.
» Other candidates running: Jaimes Brown/Ken Wyble (Libertarian), Jason R. Clark/Victoria A. Adams (Unaffiliated), and Paul Noel Fiorino/Heather A. McKibbin (Unaffiliated).
Secretary of State:
» Scott Gessler (Republican): Supports requirement that voters show photo identification; opposes allowing voters to register to vote on election day; believes Colorado should comply with federal law and send paper ballots to all overseas military voters at least 45 days before a general election; supports requiring new registrants to show proof that they are U.S. citizens, residents of Colorado, and 18 years or older; opposes mandatory mail-in ballots; and opposes the “national popular vote” initiative.
» Bernie Buescher (Democratic): Buescher is the incumbent secretary of state. “The overarching goal and responsibility of the Secretary of State office is to promote transparency and efficiency for the integrity of elections, public records and state commerce in a non-partisan manner,” states Buescher. He says he would focus on preserving the integrity of elections and expanding access to public records.
» Amanda Campbell is also running as the American Constitution Party candidate.
» Walker Stapleton (Republican): Limited government, accountability and transparency, manage the state’s finances as a fiscal conservative, fight for long-term changes to PERA, and cutting back on “wasteful spending,” is a summary of Stapleton’s platform.
» Cary Kennedy (Democratic): As the incumbent state treasurer, Kennedy says she has “managed the state’s investment portfolio well, and protected the people’s money from exposure to risky investments that plagued other governments.” She believes in transparency and has worked on reforming PERA.
» Stan Garnett (Democratic): Garnett has made headlines by advocating for the fair regulation of medical marijuana centers, without over-regulating the industry. As the Boulder district attorney, Garnett believes he has the experience to focus on prosecuting abusive business practices such as predatory lending, ensuring public safety by aggressively pursuing violent crimes, protecting the most vulnerable, with a focus on seniors, battered women and abused children, fighting for the environment, eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicaid system, and streamlining the AG’s budget.
» John Suthers (Republican): Unlike his Democratic opponent, Suthers is not a fan of the medical marijuana center model, and as the incumbent attorney general has expressed concerns about the burgeoning industry. He says he has worked to combat mortgage and foreclosure fraud, to successfully resolve Colorado’s largest hazardous waste site litigations and to protect “every drop” of water possible for the residents of Colorado.
State Senate Districts 31-34:
» There are four Republicans running. Doug Smith is running in District 31, Tyler Kolden is running in District 32 (votekolden.com), Lisa Ringle is running in District 33, and Derec C. Shuler is running in District 34 (www.derecshuler.com).
» There are four Democrats running. M. Patrick Steadman is running in District 31 (www.patsteadman.com), Chris Romer is running in District 32 (chrisromer.org), Mike Johnston is running in District 33 (www.mikejohnston.org), and Lucia Guzman is running in District 34 (www.luciaguzman4colorado.com).
State Representative Districts 1-9
» There are nine Republicans running. Danny E. Stroud is running in District 1 (www.dannystroudforcolorado.com), Doc Miller is running in District 2 (electdocmiller.com), Christine Mastin is running in District 3 (www.christinemastin.com), Rick D. Nevin is running in District 4, Ronnie Nelson is running in District 5 (ronnienelsonhd5.com), Joshua Sharf is running in District 6 (www.sharfcolorado.com), Pauline Olvera is running in District 7 (www.pauline4house7.com), Therese-Marie O’Sullivan is running in District 8, and Robert J. “Bob” Lane is running in District 9 (www.laneforcolorado.com).
» There are nine Democrats running. Incumbent Jeanne Labuda is running in District 1 (www.jeannelabuda.com), incumbent Mark Ferrandino is running in District 2 (www.markferrandino.com), incumbent Daniel Kagan is running in District 3 (www.dankagan.com), Dan Pabon is running in District 4 (www.danpabon.com), Crisanta Duran is running in District 5 (www.duranforcolorado.com), incumbent Lois Court is running in District 6 (loiscourt.com), Angela Williams is running in District 7 (www.angela4colo.com), incumbent Beth McCann is running in District 8 (www.bethmccann.org), and incumbent Joe Miklosi is running in District 9 (www.joemiklosi.com).
Ballot Questions (‘Yes’ or ‘No’)
State issues according to the official Colorado Voter Information Guide (Blue Book)
Amends the state constitution to do two things:
» Transfer the licensing of games of chance, such as bingo and raffles, from the Department of State to the Department of Revenue with the intention of streamlining operations, and;
» Allow the state Legislature to change the department of oversight and the requirement that an organization exist for five years with a dues-paying membership to qualify for a license.
Amends the state constitution to establish a process for moving the state seat of government to a temporary location during a declared disaster emergency. It currently takes a two-thirds vote of the people to move state government out of Denver. The amendment would simply allow for a temporary relocation in the event of a disaster or attack.
Amends the state constitution to eliminate property taxes for individuals or businesses that use government-owned property for a private benefit worth $6,000 or less in market value, which equates to a maximum tax payment of $120 annually, depending on local tax rates. The idea is to assist cattle ranchers who hold grazing leases with government.
Amendments 60 and 61:
Two controversial ballot questions (part of a package of three ballot questions) that would amend the state constitution to limit government spending and shrink the size of state government. Critics say the proposals would cripple government, while proponents say the proposals only keep government under control and avoid higher taxes during down economic times.
» Amendment 60 would reverse a measure that froze property tax mill levies in local school districts.
» Amendment 61 would prohibit government from incurring any debt without voter approval, and then reduce tax rates after borrowing is fully repaid.
Proposition 101 is the third ballot question in the package of three anti-tax proposals that aim to limit government spending and shrink the size of state government. Unlike Amendments 60 and 61, Proposition 101 is statutory. The ballot question comes with the same concerns and support as Amendments 60 and 61, listed above.
Proposition 101 would reduce vehicle ownership taxes over four years; end taxes on vehicle rentals and leases; phase in over four years a $10,000 vehicle sales price tax exemption; set total yearly registration, license and title fees at $10 per vehicle; lower the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.5 percent, then phase in a further reduction to 3.5 percent; and end taxes on telecommunication services, except for 9-1-1.
The so-called “personhood” amendment would amend the state constitution to define a “person” as being “from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.” Proponents are not shy about acknowledging that their intentions are to ban abortion in the State of Colorado. Proponents argue that abortion is murder, and by changing the definition of a “person” to begin at biological development, they are giving constitutional rights to fertilized eggs with the goal of banning abortion.
Critics, however, say the measure could halt in-vitro fertilization and other family planning medical options. The use of stem cell research to seek cures for spinal cord injuries, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease could also be halted, say critics. Concerns have also been raised that the proposal could turn doctors into criminals by making it illegal to perform in-vitro fertilization procedures, prescribing birth control pills, or even conducting emergency procedures on pregnant women, such as if a fertilized egg becomes lodged in a woman’s fallopian tubes. Another concern is that the proposal could have unintended legal consequences by redefining the term “person,” which is the basis for countless laws in the State of Colorado.
A similar ballot question failed in 2008 when it received only 27 percent of the vote.
Another controversial ballot question, Amendment 63 would repeal major portions of federal health care reform backed by the Democratic-controlled Congress this year. Spearheaded by libertarian think tank chief Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, the ballot question asks voters to exempt Colorado from the requirement that citizens and business owners carry health insurance or pay a penalty. The so-called “Right To Health Care Choice” initiative would also add health care choice as a constitutional right, and restrict the state from limiting a person’s ability to make or receive direct payments for lawful health care services.
Proponents say Coloradans shouldn’t be “forced” into buying health care. They say the “free market” should dictate how people acquire health insurance, arguing that a better solution would be to increase competition between providers as a means to lower premiums and increase accessibility for the uninsured.
Critics, however, say Americans still have a choice over what plans they choose and what doctors they see. The ballot question would tear apart the reform effort, impacting how seniors pay for prescription drugs, how children receive care, how students receive insurance, and how people with pre-existing medical conditions find insurance, say critics.
If Amendment 63 is backed by voters, it will likely face court challenges because a state amendment cannot overturn federal law.
The controversial initiative would not allow defendants accused of a serious felony or violent crime to be released to a pretrial services program on a bond of personal recognizance — meaning they promise to appear in court but don’t put up any money. Under the initiative, defendants would be required to appear before a judge who could then decide whether they could be released on a secured bond, their own personal recognizance, or must go to jail.
Proponents claim the initiative would secure the community by adding an extra level of protection by requiring a secured bond from suspects to ensure that they appear in court.
Critics point out that the initiative is largely supported by the bail bond industry, and argue that a pretrial services program makes the community safer because it provides a level of supervision that isn’t there when a defendant is released on a private bond. Opponents also point out that violent offenders are already required to appear before a judge. The majority of prosecutors and law enforcement officers oppose the initiative.
Denver Ballot Question
Initiated Ordinance 300
Viewed as the most intriguing issue on the ballot, proponents are asking Denver voters to approve establishing a seven-member panel to collect data and analyze research to prepare citizens for a possible alien visit.
Proponents argue that the initiative would “ensure the health, safety, and cultural awareness” of Denver residents and visitors. They say the commission would be funded through grants, gifts and donations.
Critics say the commission would not be fully funded. Opponents argue that there are “hidden costs” that will come at a price to Denver taxpayers. Opposition has come from an unlikely source as well — the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society — that believes sponsors are making a “mockery” of the topic.