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Former House speaker challenging Coffman in 6th District
By Peter Jones
As Congress wrangled for months in the face of the sweeping spending cuts known as sequestration, Andrew Romanoff says it has not been not difficult to find reasons to seek office in the 6th Congressional District.
“I took a look at Congress and I figured we can do better,” he said. “The folks I know in the 6th District want the two parties to work together to solve the problems that affect us and that’s not happening in Washington. I don’t mean to set such a low bar when I say we can do better, but I think people in this district want a leader who can bridge the political divide.”
During his four years as speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, Romanoff was known as a consensus builder respected by his colleagues on both sides of the House chamber. His leadership earned national recognition, including Governing magazine’s Public Official of the Year award.
Romanoff’s announcement last month that he would seek to challenge three-term incumbent Rep. U.S. Mike Coffman has been greeted excitedly by his party. Other 6th District Democrats who had considered a run for the nomination – state Sen. Linda Newell and former state Rep. Karen Middleton – have backed Romanoff instead.
Even so, the candidate, who waged a bitter primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010, says he is not banking on a free ride to the nomination.
“We’ve gotten support from every Democratic legislator in the district, but it’s a long time between now and June when the primary election takes place and even longer between now and November 2014,” Romanoff said.
A purple district
The 6th District has become increasingly targeted by both parties since recent redistricting transformed the once Republican-safe area into one of the most highly competitive political districts in Colorado. It now boasts a three-way split among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters.
Last November, Coffman defeated lesser-known state Rep. Joe Miklosi by about 2 percentage points, the best showing by a 6th District Democrat since 1982 when the district was created. Since then, Democrats and Republicans have said a higher-profile Democrat, such as Romanoff, may have won.
Not surprisingly, Romanoff’s campaign is emphasizing such pocketbook issues as education, health care and perhaps most prominently, creation of jobs.
“If you do that, a lot of other problems take care of themselves,” he said.
The candidate, who recently moved from Denver to the 6th District’s Aurora, says he would push for further health care reform, especially in areas that arguably reward doctors that order more medical tests than necessary.
“The Affordable Healthcare Act put in some measures that will begin to hold down the increases in health care costs, but Congress didn’t go far enough,” he said.
When it comes to the much-debated federal deficit, Romanoff points to his own experience as state House speaker.
“In Colorado, balancing the budget is not just a good idea. It’s the law,” he said. “It’s not a political proposition. It’s just a mathematical problem.”
Ivy League pedigree
Romanoff, 46, an attorney, has a long history in government and public service.
Raised in Columbus, Ohio, he earned his bachelor’s degree at Yale University and a master’s in Public Policy at Harvard. He is currently a senior advisor for Colorado-based IDE, a nonprofit corporation that produces agricultural technology and training for small-scale farmers and businesses.
While in his 20s, Romanoff worked for the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center as a researcher for the civil-rights organization’s Klanwatch Project.
“It was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had,” he said. “I think my mom was worried about that particular trip. One of the reasons is I’m Jewish and she thought I’d have the bull’s eye on me. What we were researching was pretty harrowing, but the personal experience was not.”
Romanoff’s worldview was further developed when he taught English at rural high schools in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
“A student described a job he hoped to have – if he grew up – because he wasn’t certain he would live to adulthood. It really shook me up. What kind of world leaves a kid in doubt about whether he’ll grow up?” the candidate said.
Finding his way to Colorado, Romanoff earned his law degree at the University of Denver. He worked for Democratic Gov. Roy Romer before being elected in 2000 to the statehouse, where he served four terms – two of them as House speaker. At 38, he was the second youngest speaker in Colorado history and the first Democrat to hold the gavel since 1975.
“I spent a lot of time trying to find common ground,” Romanoff said. “Politics does not reward modesty, so I’ll tell you – my leadership got recognized by colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I earned recognition as the most effective legislative leader in America because I was able to forge agreements between the two political parties. This is not a new experience for me.”
In 2005, Romanoff authored the hotly debated Referendum C, a voter-approved ballot initiative that temporarily overrode some government-spending limitations contained in Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights.
Battle with Bennet
Romanoff briefly toyed with a run for the governor’s office before waging a bitter primary challenge against Sen. Bennet, who had been appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter to replace Ken Salazar after he was tapped as secretary of the interior.
It became one of the most fiercely contested primary races of 2010 when President Obama endorsed Bennet and former President Clinton campaigned for Romanoff.
The expensive race culminated in the “carrot” of a possible federal government job if Romanoff bowed out of the race, and the “stick” of the candidate having to sell his own house to fund his beleaguered campaign.
“It was a very, very humbling experience,” Romanoff said.
The Democrat, who does not accept money from political-action committees, is anticipating another expensive campaign if he is nominated to challenge Coffman.
Romanoff declined to directly criticize the Republican, but instead emphasized his strategy for convincing voters he would be the best candidate for the job.
“I like Mike. I respect him. We’re going to have 20 months to detail the differences between us,” Romanoff said. “I’m looking for a way to spend more time knocking on doors and meeting people and not just dialing for dollars. That kind of retail politics is the best way to run, the best way to win and the best way to serve and govern.”
By Rep. Mike Coffman
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman
When Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing what he thought was the greatest threat to the national security of the United States, he didn’t say that it was Iran, North Korea or even al Qaeda. The admiral, without hesitation, said that the greatest threat to our country is our debt. Since 2009, our deficits have been more than $1 trillion each year and our debt has climbed from $10.6 trillion to $16.6 trillion.
In response to demands for action to curb our debt crisis, in July 2011 the Congress passed and President Obama signed the Budget Control Act (BCA), which required a cap on yearly spending and future deficit reduction. This reduction was supposed to come from the so-called “Super Committee,” but if they failed to pass a plan (and they did) the back-up plan was across-the-board cuts of $1.2 trillion. These cuts are to be spread over a 10-year period, equally divided between defense and non-defense spending.
The cuts equal only 2 percent of total federal spending but they have a disproportionate impact: they mostly fall on what is called “discretionary” spending and that represents only about a third of the budget. The other two-thirds of the federal budget is either interest payments on our debt or what is called “mandatory” spending and is primarily driven by entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. These are mostly exempt from sequester – so while defense spending is about 19 percent of total spending it is taking half of the spending cuts.
The major flaw in the Sequester is that it is across-the-board. All programs subject to it are cut equally, regardless of their value. This is particularly damaging in defense spending, where no strategic considerations can be used to program the cuts. We will cut items critical to our front line troops the same as we cut military bands, or administrative positions.
I introduced legislation (HR 804) to cancel the across-the-board cuts to defense spending and instead replace them with smarter, more targeted cuts. I tried to focus on reducing headquarters and support functions, and to avoid limiting our strategic flexibility to counter emerging threats to our national security. But just like in defense spending, this need to be smarter in where we cut is true for non-defense spending as well. Instead of a sequester, we need to prioritize spending in order to protect our military, our veterans, our seniors, and families from being negatively impacted.
The Sequester was intended to be a place holder to give Congress the time to come up with an alternative plan before it would be automatically implemented in 2013. That is why I voted for it. And yet, nothing happened, and there has been no agreement.
I believe that the only way to resolve the problem is through a grand bargain whereby Democrats yield on entitlement reform to slow the growth of spending and so protect the future of these programs, and Republicans put revenue on the table through closing credits and deductions for corporations and individuals. Until this happens we are hurting our seniors and threatening our nation’s financial solvency. Social Security and Medicare, and thus our federal budget, are not sustainable without reforms. We cannot solve our problem only through raising new revenues, and scare-mongering on entitlement reforms means that the real structural problems in federal spending are being ignored.
I will continue to work in a bipartisan manner towards developing a fiscally responsible plan.
Mike Coffman is the U.S. Representative for the 6th District and has a combined 21 years of military experience between the U.S. Army, the Army Reserve, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the Marine Corps Reserve.
Sen. David Balmer, R-Centennial (right), with his Boots to Suits mentee Josh Diller (left). Diller, who served as a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, is participating in Colorado University’s Boots to Suits program that matches military personnel with mentors. Diller is pursuing his masters of Public Policy at CU-Denver. As a Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserve, Sen. Balmer served in deployments to Afghanistan and Bosnia. Photo courtesy of Sen .Balmer
Scott Schneider, left, one of the recipients of the Greenwood Village Good Samaritan award, listens to the proclamation by Mayor Ron Rakowsky and City Council member Jerry Presley.
City councilman conducts experiment in ethical choices
By Jan Wondra
Walking down the street, at the light rail station, or near a store entrance, you look down. On the ground, you spot something; a business card clipped to a $20 bill. Picking it up, you notice a note on the back that reads, “Chris, use this to buy a nice toy, Happy Birthday, Uncle Jerry.” What do you do?
Four citizens, Rick Martinez, Scott Schneider and John and Lana Proffitt, answered that question by calling the phone number on a business card to tell Greenwood Village businessman and City Councilmember Jerry Presley the gift had been found. Those citzens were recognized as “Good Samaritans” at the Feb. 5 council meeting.
It was part of an experiment in ethical choices dreamed up by Presley.
In honoring the citizens, Mayor Ron Rakowsky said their actions demonstrated, “an act of kindness that reflects the highest standard of honesty and integrity. These individuals returned the $20 bills they found. One of these individuals, Rick Martinez, returned the money even though he was unemployed.”
Scott Schneider, who attended the council meeting, was born and raised in Centennial. An industrial engineer, he’s a new dad and a vice president in the commercial banking division of Wells Fargo. The self-effacing John and Lana Proffitt, who found the bill and card dropped in the Cherry Creek area, chose not to attend. Saying, “It’s just not us,” they sent their good wishes to Martinez that “something good will happen for him.”
In recognition of his character in the face of financial challenges, Martinez was also awarded the Bill Daniels Neighborhood Hero Award and a $1,000 check from the Daniels Fund by Fund CEO Linda Childears.
“Although he had not worked in over a year, Mr. Martinez returned the money,” said Childears. “I know Bill would have been delighted by the honesty represented by this individual. It restores our faith in humankind. We need to be able to count on each other to do the right thing.”
Martinez, who grew up in southern Colorado, was unable to attend the presentation because he had gone to the Western Slope for a job interview. He received his award later that week at a presentation at the Daniels Fund.
“In that moment I thought of my mother. What would she have wanted me to do? I knew the answer. I was the youngest of nine kids and we didn’t have any extra money. One day someone stole a battery off our front porch and you know what she said? She said, ‘Well I hope they needed it more than we do.’ So I thought, this is a gift for a child. To a child, that $20 can make a big difference,” Martinez said.
The experiment began as a discussion between Presley and his daughter Carley during the Christmas holidays; would people be honest enough to return the money? Curious, they set up the experiment; five $20 bills, each clipped to a business card with a note written on the back, dropped in five south metro locations. Presley thought all would be returned. His daughter thought four of five would be.
“When I heard the message from Rick Martinez, I found out he was unemployed. I mean, that got me to thinking. I called him back and told him I wanted to help him find a job. What he did shows a core value of honesty and I know there is an employer out there looking for an honest person with his skill set,” Presley said.
Is Presley disappointed that all were not returned?
“Well, I was hoping they would be,” he said. “It didn’t quite fulfill that hope. But I still have faith that when given the choice, people will do the right thing.”
Most of the time people don’t get credit for doing something good. This time, they did. But there are still two drops out there somewhere.
The drop: a $20 bill, clipped to a business card with a note to a child scrawled on the back.
Submitted by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette
Over the past year, our nation has had to come together too often in sorrow in the aftermath of extraordinary gun violence – whether in our own backyard in Aurora, or in a small town in Connecticut. Again and again, we mourn the losses, and call for action after a massacre. But this time – in the wake of Sandy Hook – something seems different.
The slaughter of 20 children in their classrooms forced our society to confront that we have not done enough to protect our children from the increasing incidence of gun violence. We are finally engaging in a larger and more productive conversation about our views on violence, our views on guns, and our views on how we respond to mentally ill individuals in our communities. As this conversation has evolved, I am hopeful we can come to consensus around reasonable solutions that keep killing machines out of the hands of disturbed individuals, while respecting the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners.
In Sandy Hook, the gunman shot most of his victims with an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon, using multiple magazines containing 30 bullets each. He was able to kill 26 individuals, including 20 children, in less than 10 minutes. In last summer’s horrific theatre massacre in Aurora, the shooter also used an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon, with a 100-bullet magazine to shoot 71 people in only a couple of minutes.
We will never be able to stop every disturbed individual from going into a school or a movie theater or a shopping mall and shooting people, but we can slow them down and give the people in their sights a fighting chance. That is why since my time in the Colorado state legislature 20 years ago, I’ve worked to pass reasonable gun legislation to keep our families safe. I’ve repeatedly introduced legislation to ban high-capacity assault magazines, and in fact, on the very first day of this session of Congress, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and I introduced that bill again.
Last month, I joined President Obama at the White House as he outlined his plan for common-sense solutions to keep our children and our families safe, and prevent gun violence throughout the nation. The President immediately implemented 23 executive actions including: strengthening the system for background checks, making sure mental health professionals know their options for reporting threats of violence, and helping police departments hire school resource officers.
President Obama then called on Congress to take swift action on larger proposals to prevent gun violence and keep our children safe, including: instituting universal background checks for gun purchasers; and restoring the ban on military-style assault weapons, as well as a ban on high-capacity assault magazines, similar to my bill.
As elected officials try to tackle this critical issue, poll after poll demonstrates increasing public support for these types of common-sense solutions. According to the Washington Post, the majority of Americans, 52 percent, support more comprehensive laws that will keep Americans safe from gun violence, including 59 percent who support a ban on assault weapons. A Gallup poll found that 62 percent of Americans favor a ban on high-capacity magazines. The Pew Research Center found that 85 percent of Americans favor stronger background checks, and a CBS News poll said 92 percent favor universal background checks.
Each of these polls is certainly encouraging. But in order to ensure these reasonable ideas can be enacted, the support reflected in these polls must translate into a demand for action by American citizens to our nation’s elected leaders. While those of you in Colorado can be assured that I will stand with the President and fight for these common sense measures to limit gun violence, I urge you to encourage your friends and family members across the country to contact their elected officials as well.
I believe in the Second Amendment, and as a fourth-generation Coloradan, I know that gun ownership is a part of our great state’s history and culture. The common-sense reforms proposed by the president, myself, and many of my colleagues, would respect those rights, while working to prevent the horrific massacres that take the lives of too many of our citizens and too many of our children. I encourage my fellow Americans to join me in the call for responsible solutions that respect our Second Amendment rights, while taking action to prevent tragedies like the massacres in Sandy Hook and Aurora.
The Leadership Program of the Rockies will present the second annual Legacy Award to The Honorable Bill Armstrong at LPR’s Annual Retreat Dinner on Feb. 22 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.
The Legacy Award is a Lifetime Achievement Award given in recognition of a distinguished individual who makes profound and long-term contributions to the Leadership Program of the Rockies. The individual leads an exemplary life by living the conservative ideals espoused by the program.
“Under Sen. Armstrong’s insightful guidance, the Leadership Program of the Rockies continues to flourish and create leaders in Colorado and beyond,” said LPR President Shari Williams. “Sen. Armstrong’s spirit of entrepreneurship and principled leadership sets a shining example for our alumni, who influence decisions at every level of government.”
Armstrong’s successes span both business and politics. He served six years in the House of Representatives and 12 as a U.S. Senator. Armstrong started or purchased four mortgage banking firms and was formerly chairman of Cherry Creek Mortgage Company, which grew 4,000 percent under his guidance. Previous positions include being the director of six public companies, chairman/owner/operator of 13 private companies and serving on the board of Campus Crusade for Christ for 17 years. Currently, Armstrong is the President of Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, the chairman of software developer Blueberry Systems and director of oil and gas drilling contractor Helmerich & Payne.
LPR’s 2012 Legacy Award recipient was LPR founder Terry Considine, chair of the Bradley Foundation and CEO of AIMCO, one of the largest apartment associations. The Legacy Award is presented to a single recipient each year at the LPR Retreat.
Leadership Program of the Rockies is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization designed to identify, recruit and train Colorado’s future leaders. The purpose of LPR is to discuss the principles of our founding fathers and encourage a discussion of public policy issues. LPR’s Annual Retreat is the conservative event of the year in Colorado, bringing over 700 people together. For more information about the LPR Annual Retreat, please visit www.leadershipprogram.org.
Senate Democrats struck down a seemingly bipartisan bill sponsored by Senator David Balmer (R-Centennial) that would have prevented any K-12 education funding from being used to fund the expansion of Medicaid.
“Governing is about choices and we need to make sure K-12 education funding always come first,” Balmer said. “This bill would have assured that K-12 education remains our top priority.”
The bill, which was developed after meetings with parents and teachers, is titled the No Reduction in K-12 Education to Expand Medicaid. It would prohibit reducing funding to public and charter schools to finance the Governor’s decision to expand Medicaid to a newly eligible class of Coloradoans beginning in fiscal year 2014. Whenever the General Assembly expends state moneys that reduce the state’s share of total program funding for schools, funding for the newly announced Medicaid expansion would be prohibited.
“This bill would have protected our education dollars and made sure not one dime is taken from K-12 to fund the new expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare,” Balmer said. “Making sure that we adequately fund kindergarten through twelfth grade public education is critical to our children and Colorado’s quality of life.”
The Colorado Democratic Party will recognize six individuals for their contributions to successful campaigns and progressive policies at the party’s March 2 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.
“We had an incredibly successful 2012 because of the work of so many people,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio. “When we gather as a party in a few weeks, we will recognize several people whose contributions have been truly outstanding, and because last year was so exceptional, we will recognize three individuals for their work volunteering for candidates and campaigns.”
Democrat of the Year: Sen. Lucia Guzman, Denver
Volunteer of the Year: Ellis McFadden, Denver; Liz Geisleman, Jefferson; Rick Baer, Mesa
Lifetime Achievement: Wellington E. Webb, Denver
Rising Star: Rep. Leroy Garcia, Pueblo
Chair’s Award For Service: The Honorable Ken Salazar
Swing county favored president by 9 points
By Peter Jones –
Arapahoe County – a swing county in a swing state – played an important part in President Barack Obama winning Colorado last week.
The county, a former Republican stronghold that now boasts a majority of independent voters, went for Obama by 9 percentage points – results that were more decisive than the 5-point lead the president took in the state overall.
Obama won in Colorado’s other swing counties too, but by lesser margins. The president took Jefferson and Larimer by 4 and 5 points, respectively.
Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder Nancy Doty, a Republican who oversees the county’s elections, says she had expected the “swing county” to swing in a different direction this time, and like many observers, she thinks turnout was vital.
“It seems to me there were more supporters for Obama out there than Romney supporters. The Democrats got a lot of people out there this year. I think that made the difference,” she said.
Even so, many of Arapahoe County’s Republican candidates took easy wins in their own local elections – including Doty, herself, who resoundingly won an open seat on the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners.
With an eye toward forging routes to Colorado’s nine electoral votes, both parties had focused on Arapahoe County as winnable for their presidential candidates. For several election cycles, Arapahoe has been noted for its politically “purple” makeup. Although Republicans once dominated, Democrats now have about a 13,000-voter edge over the GOP. Unaffiliated voters outnumber Democrats by almost 2,000 voters.
Last month, Fox News included Arapahoe in its pre-election series, “Counties That Count,” which focused on about 30 “purple” jurisdictions around the country that were expected to help decide the 2012 election.
In recent elections, the county has favored Democrats for president, a prospect that would have seemed unlikely a decade ago. Obama’s 2008 registration push marked the first time Arapahoe had boasted more registered Democrats than Republicans.
When the county favored Obama over Sen. John McCain by 13 percentage points four years ago, it was the first time since 1964 that Arapahoe had gone Democratic in a presidential election.
Many observers agree that changing demographics have played an important role in the increased number of Democratic registrations. A growing Hispanic population and the party’s increased popularity among middle-income voters have also been cited as contributing factors in Arapahoe County.
According to Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli, the most crucial demographic variable was so gradual — and inevitable, given the nature of urban sprawl — that neither Republicans nor Democrats paid much attention to it.
“The suburbs got old,” Ciruli said of Arapahoe County. “They now have the same problems that old cities have. It’s not just low taxes and the issues that have been the main staples of Republican rhetoric for so long. Politicians have had to adapt.”
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