Welcome back to The Spot, where The Denver Post’s politics team captures what’s happening this week — from the Colorado legislature to Denver city hall, with a stop through the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C. Each Thursday, our reporters and editors will break down what we’ve covered and what to watch for in the days ahead. This is our sixth (!!) issue of this newsletter (you can read last week’s here).
There was a ton of news in Colorado politics over the past week, and I’m already out of breath, so let’s get right to it.
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We found out that Cambridge Analytica worked in Colorado to help Republicans a few years back, there is a new candidate in the governor’s race and a now-former candidate and there’s even more unrest over alleged harassment at the state Capitol.
We’ve got updates on the sexual harassment allegations against Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and news about a land battle and proposed housing project for the homeless in the burbs. The gun debate, meanwhile, rages on.
Oh, and we wrote about a submarine.
BREAKING: Colorado Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, announced she was stepping down from her post on Thursday morning, citing the sexual harassment scandal embroiling the statehouse as one of her reasons.
The Virginia class fast attack submarine USS Colorado passes the shore of Groton as it travels down the Thames River toward Long Island Sound on Jan. 9, 2018.
COLORADO: THE STATEHOUSE & BEYOND
Fresh this morning:
Democrats reached a compromise with the GOP in the Colorado Senate late Wednesday on how to pay for billions of dollars in needed road repairs. The Joint Budget Committee on Wednesday agreed to set aside $825 million in next year’s budget to address the three biggest financial issues of the 2018 legislative session.
There’s more drama at the statehouse after Republicans in the Senate accused a Democrat of frequenting a women’s restroom. He says it was a one-time, honest mistake that’s being overblown, but a formal complaint has been filed. The sexual harassment scandal gripping the Colorado Capitol has officially infiltrated policy debate. Also on the harassment front, a Democrat in the Colorado House of Representatives accused a fellow member of his caucus of harassment and bullying. State Rep. Donald Valdez, D-La Jara, went as far as to suggest he could try to expel the lawmaker. Democrats rejected an effort by Republicans to let people carry concealed guns without a permit. The deep partisan divide over the future of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission doesn’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon. Colorado lawmakers took a step toward preventing future mining disasters while acknowledging that contamination of waterways from old mining sites continues each day. The legislation was immediately opposed by the mining industry. Four years ago, Republicans won the state Senate for the first time in a decade, and now we are learning more about their partnership with Cambridge Analytica. And more details are still emerging. Colorado cited this drug rehab center operator 50 times in 3 years, and it’s still in business. Iowa shut it down in two months. A rosy revenue forecast has set the stage for a state budget fight unlike any Colorado has seen since before the Great Recession. Instead of grappling with difficult cuts, lawmakers instead have $500 million more to spend than they expected just 3 months ago.
House Republicans we’re near unanimous today in their calls for changes to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Democrats are set to pass it out of the House, but alterations seem imminent in the GOP-controlled Senate. Question is: Where’s the middle ground? #copolitics pic.twitter.com/tJgGTSg3tw
— Jesse Aaron Paul (@JesseAPaul) March 20, 2018
Election 2018 news
The governor’s race is getting serious. A prominent Democratic candidate dropped out with veiled hits on his rivals. And a new Republican candidate entered the contest, suggesting “there’s no excitement” for any GOP contenders. Oh, and the deadline for candidates to qualify by petition for the ballot has passed. Now the attention turns to the election nerve center in Pueblo, featured in this seriously great story from reporter John Frank.
DENVER & THE SUBURBS
The fallout continues from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s harassment scandal, and this week brought a twist: After the former security detail officer who received texts from him six years ago said she wants a formal investigation, the City Council — which last week was ready to put the matter to rest — took the first steps toward initiating a potential probe. Denver city officials made good this week on a pledge to launch a defense fund that will help immigrants in the country illegally. Even as home prices rise to record levels in the metro area and homelessness becomes an ever more visible issue, a group of neighbors in Lakewood is raising strong objections to a potential 1,000-person housing project for homeless people — the largest of its kind in Colorado — on 59 acres of federal land near 6th Avenue and Union Boulevard. The devastating hailstorm of last May that wreaked havoc on the west metro area, causing the closure of the Colorado Mills mall for half a year, has now spawned a lawsuit against the Lakewood mall for lost business. An unprecedented legal case featuring a condemnation action by Lafayette against Erie took another step forward this week, when the Colorado Court of Appeals heard arguments from both sides. Lafayette wants to lay claim to 22 acres of land in Erie at a busy commercial corner. Erie is crying foul. A ruling is expected next week that could be pivotal to the long-awaited launch of RTD’s G-Line commuter rail service. A lesser-known income stream for Denver International Airport comes from dozens of oil and gas wells. The only problem, as highlighted by the city auditor, is that nearly one-third of them aren’t currently making money. City planning officials in Denver are teaming up with the Metropolitan Football Stadium District and the Denver Broncos to start making plans for redevelopment of 52 acres of parking south of the stadium.
A map provided by Denver shows the potential redevelopment area of about 52 acres surrounding the Broncos’ Mile High Stadium.
D.C. POLITICS FROM A COLORADO PERSPECTIVE
And then there were two. Democrat David Aarestad is out of the primary race to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in a contest that it sure to draw national attention thanks to the GOP’s losses in Alabama and (apparently in) Pennsylvania. More mass shooting survivors are becoming involved in the push for gun control. In Colorado, it’s a trend we’ve seen for years. U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican and big-time critic of marijuana, says he wants pot rescheduled on the federal level to allow for medical research. Speaking of marijuana, a bill making its way through the Colorado Capitol would open the doors for cannabidiol to be prescribed and sold in pharmacies across Colorado.
Another ship photo to help you get through this omnibus newsletter. The second U.S.S. Colorado, June 10, 1913.
Here are some stories from around the state, region and U.S. we think you should check out:
A deep dive into the White House through the lens of ex-Communications Director Hope Hicks. — New York Magazine Three members of Colorado’s congressional delegation are mentioned in this piece about lawmakers with the highest staff turnover in Congress. — Politico Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, plays a big part in this piece about President Donald Trump’s expected role in the GOP’s efforts to keep their congressional majorities. — Politico A group that you might not expect to be heavily impacted by the closing of local newspapers across the U.S.? Epidemiologists. — Stat Aides and interns at the Colorado legislature have played a major role in the Capitol’s sexual harassment scandal. A look at how they are feeling amidst the turmoil. — Colorado Public Radio Here’s what Colorado lawmakers are saying about staffing cuts at The Denver Post. “Hey that means we can do whatever we want,” one joked. — KUNC Anyone in Durango whose trash cans are foraged by bears will be “required to buy automatically-locking garbage cans from the city instead of paying a fine.” — The Durango Herald After a controversy erupted over Denver’s new contract for a jail inmate reentry program, the City Council this week approved the handing of the program to a new contract team after city officials rejected the group that had run the initiative for nearly a decade. — Denverite Three members of Colorado’s congressional delegation are mentioned in this piece about lawmakers with the highest staff turnover in Congress. — Politico
GET IN TOUCH
Questions, comments, feedback about this newsletter? Cool stories? Send them my way.
And thanks for reading!
P.S. The Denver Post has had a really tough past two weeks, as we learned that some 30 staffers will be cut — or roughly one-third of the newsroom — as part of cost-saving reductions. Please support us (you can subscribe here) or journalism wherever you might be. And thanks for your support, whatever it might be.
P.P.S. In case you were wondering why this newsletter is called “The Spot,” it’s in part the reincarnation of our now-defunct political blog (except we’re a newsletter now…). “The Spot” refers to the yellow spot on Colorado’s flag. So, yeah, now ya know!
The Colorado flag hangs from a firetruck in front of the state capitol building in 2016.
Staff writers John Frank, Jon Murray, John Aguilar, Mark K. Matthews and Brian Eason contributed to this newsletter.