Home » World News » The Spot: Colorado R’s mostly quiet on Trump’s power move, and state Senate leader speaks up
The Spot: Colorado R’s mostly quiet on Trump’s power move, and state Senate leader speaks up
June 5, 2020
For people, policy and Colorado politics
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In a year of bizarre moments, the strangest yet may have occurred late Monday afternoon, when the president of the United States raised his voice over the sound of distant flash bangs to announce the military would be deployed “to dominate the streets” — the streets of this country.
Minutes later, members of the U.S. military did dominate the streets of Washington, D.C., forcing out protesters and allowing Trump to walk to historic St. John’s Church for a photo opportunity. Condemnations from Colorado Democrats came swift and strong, led by a military veteran.
“I saw real battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Rep. Jason Crow, an Aurora Democrat. “I saw what happens when the military is used against protesters. And I’ve never wanted to see either of those things at home. These are not the actions of a rational, fit, democratic president. They are the actions of a man who doesn’t respect the core values of our nation.”
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said the president’s order “is illegal, an abuse of power,” and threatened a lawsuit to stop it. Gov. Jared Polis compared it to something that would occur in communist China, at Tiananmen Square.
Colorado Republicans in Congress have been less willing to criticize the president’s directive.
“Incredibly powerful moment as @realDonaldTrump walked to St. John’s Church, where every past president since Madison has prayed for the wellbeing of our country,” Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs tweeted. We must come together as a country, and I thank @POTUS for leading the effort to protect law and order.”
Rep. Ken Buck, a Windsor Republican and self-described civil libertarian, did not respond to a request for comment this week. Neither did Rep. Scott Tipton, a Cortez Republican.
Sen. Cory Gardner’s spokeswoman, when asked if Gardner supports using the military to quell protests, emailed remarks the senator made to Capitol Hill reporters in which he called for “real change” in race relations but did not directly answer the question about military force.
“We have to stop the violence and the violence needs to end,” Gardner said of riots. “Mayors, governors and the president all need to work together on this.”
Wednesday, Sen. Michael Bennet, a Denver Democrat, sent a letter to the defense secretary to ask if troops will be deployed on American streets and urge that they not be: “The military should never be weaponized by the president to limit these expressions for liberty and justice.” Later that morning, the defense secretary said he opposes using the military to quell protests.
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While protesters have demonstrated against the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in recent days, Colorado lawmakers inside the building have been assembling a broad package of coronavirus relief legislation. The bills include rent and mortgage assistance, expanded unemployment benefits, and small business loans and grants.
Capitol Diary • By Alex Burness
Leroy Garcia’s anti-racist stand
Leroy Garcia, the Colorado Senate president from Pueblo, is having a moment of real clarity, it would seem.
He’s a fairly passive figure at the Capitol, despite his position of substantial power. I wrote last session about his reluctance to throw his weight around, and how some view him as almost invisible.
Garcia has been anything but silent since last Thursday, when protests, still ongoing, broke out at the Capitol. Garcia was stuck inside the building as demonstrators and riot police flooded the area. His pickup truck was smashed, probably beyond repair. He had to be escorted out of the building by State Patrol officers.
But he showed no bitterness about his car. He quickly came out with a statement that included the line, “Trucks can be replaced, but human lives can’t.”
That statement alone was fairly radical, in comparison to how some other Colorado politicians were talking. Both Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis expressed dismay last week about property damage and violence from rallygoers, and both supported bringing in the National Guard to assist Denver law enforcement with dispersing protesters.
Garcia, who served in the Marines, followed up by warning against the “militarization” of Colorado. He did this the night after SWAT trucks and riot cops gassed the streets around the Capitol, firing projectiles at protesters and, yes, journalists.
“There’s a reason I put out a statement,” Garcia told me afterward by phone. He was trying to send a clear message to the mayor and governor that violence was not the answer.
He evidently had a point. After four nights of overwhelming force from police, the last three have been almost entirely peaceful, with cops passively watching demonstrations from afar and using relatively little weaponry. That approach has coincided with a lack of unrest from protesters. It’s been days since I’ve seen a rock thrown or anyone wielding a can of spray paint.
Garcia announced Wednesday night that he’s taking $250 he received in 2018 from the state’s largest police union and donating it to a bail fund. That, too, is a fairly radical move; I can tell you with absolute certainty, having covered these issues at the Capitol for a while now, that many politicians fear the police unions.
The Senate president also is a prime sponsor of a major police reform bill that debuts this afternoon at the committee level. Hancock has talked about “getting to work” on race and criminal justice issues. Garcia and state Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver are rolling up their sleeves.
More Colorado political news
What we know so far about Colorado’s police reform bill.
It won’t be easy, but Colorado is going to pass a balanced and very skinny budget.
Can the LGBTQ+ “panic defense” bill come back from the dead?
John Bermingham, former state senator, dies at 96.
#COSen 2020 • By Justin Wingerter
Ballots for the June 30 primary will be mailed in four days and the airwaves are slowly filling with ads from congressional candidates.
On Wednesday, U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff released his first ad. The day before, Sen. Cory Gardner dropped his second. Two days before that, John Hickenlooper debuted one.
One Nation, a dark money group that boosts Senate Republicans, announced Tuesday it will soon spend $2.6 million on TV and radio ads in Colorado. The National Republican Senatorial Committee says it will be on-air here by July, and you can expect the NRSC to go negative.
There are three federal contests to watch June 30. While the Senate contest nabs most headlines, both Democrats and Republicans must choose a candidate in the massive 3rd congressional district of western and southern Colorado.
Lauren Boebert, a Republican challenging GOP Rep. Scott Tipton, released a radio ad Monday. In the 60-second spot, she calls herself a fighter and suggests Tipton is anything but. She followed that up with an attacking TV ad Wednesday.
On the Democratic side, businessman and first-time candidate James Iacino released his first TV ad last week, introducing himself to voters and discussing his business experience. Iacino will compete against Diane Mitsch Bush, who will hit TV airwaves Saturday.
One race that no one is watching is in the 4th District, where Republican Rep. Ken Buck should have no problem winning re-election. (He did so by 21 points in 2018.) His Democratic opponent, Ike McCorkle, released a TV ad Monday. Neither candidate has a June 30 primary challenger.
Endorsements: Romanoff was endorsed Tuesday by Ady Barkan, the influential progressive activist.
Iacino was endorsed this week by Dan Baer, a former Obama-era ambassador and former U.S. Senate candidate.
More federal politics
9News will host a debate between Hickenlooper and Romanoff on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The next night, CBS4 and the Colorado Sun will host a debate between the two. Look for an announcement soon on a debate involving The Denver Post.
E&E looks at the politics of Gardner’s Great American Outdoors Act, and what it means for his re-election.
The Bureau of Land Management is struggling to fill top positions after relocating its headquarters to Colorado, according to an analysis by The Hill.
Former Senate candidate Trish Zornio talked to Colorado Politics about her decision to endorse Hickenlooper and the odds she runs for office again.
Mile High Politics • By Conrad Swanson
Pushback on the police, city edition
One way or the other, the role of police in Denver — if not the rest of the state — appears likely for a hard turn.
Denver City Council members and other city officials have watched in the past week as cops arrested hundreds of protesters and used tear gas, pepper balls and foam bullets on them.
Now some city officials — like statehouse Democrats — are looking to limit police use of force and hold officers more accountable for the damage they’ve caused. One mayoral appointee flat-out promised at Wednesday night’s protest that cops will be fired.
Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca tweeted her support for a Seattle councilwoman’s proposal to ban police use of chemical weapons like tear gas and pepper spray, rubber bullets and other projectiles, water cannons and more. That proposal would also ban the purchase of those weapons.
CdeBaca said in her tweet that she’ll propose similar legislation in Denver. But the specifics for her proposal are awhle off, and it’s unclear if the rest of the council will support the move.
She’s got a chance, though. Several of her colleagues already support her call for an investigation into the Denver Police Department after officers injured bystanders, protesters and journalists. They’ve also called for Police Chief Paul Pazen and Public Safety Director Murphy Robinson to speak to recent practices before the council’s Safety Committee.
In addition, Councilman Chris Hinds and CdeBaca said they support a sweeping bill introduced by state legislators Wednesday.
Others called for more immediate and drastic changes. Kwon Atlas, an aide to Mayor Michael Hancock, told a crowd of protesters Wednesday that “cops are going to start getting fired.”
While the comments were well received by the crowd, some on social media anticipated that Atlas’ job could be in jeopardy.
The city’s public safety director publicly rebuked Atlas, tweeting: “It is not the job of the mayor’s aides nor do they have the authority to decide who gets disciplined in the department of public safety.”
Indeed, officers have the protection of unions and a right of repeal if fired or otherwise disciplined. The firing of a police officer is a much more involved process than, say, the firing of a mayoral appointee.
Atlas remained employed Thursday, a city spokesperson said.
More Denver and suburban political news
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s office sought to pull back his comments made last week during a television interview that Denver police officers had murdered three people, saying he misspoke.
Denver City Council members are calling for an investigation into the city’s police department after officers injured bystanders, protesters and journalists in recent days as thousands gathered to call for racial justice and systemic changes in policing throughout the country.
Around Denver, other owners of food businesses are supporting the city’s protests, Black Lives Matter and many more organizing efforts.
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