Welcome to the third annual Colorado Peak Politics legislative awards where we honor the winners, losers and those that neither won nor lost, sometimes maddeningly so. Or, as we have dubbed them in years past — sister kissers.
The session itself was a stone cold loser for the people of Colorado, with gun rights greatly diminished, rural electric rates set to rise and a looming billion dollar tax hike endorsed by every Democrat under the Gold Dome.
It was, in the words of The Durango Herald‘s Joe Hanel, “one of the most liberal ever.”
Without further ado, here are the folks who came out ahead by Sine Die.
Sheriffs: In defeat, their clout grew. The visual of them at the Capitol is the dominant visual from the session. Providing perhaps the clearest argument that gun control would not improve public safety, those on the front lines of gun violence vehemently opposed most of the gun bills put forth this session. Their fight is not over, with a lawsuit pending over the gun bills and potential future political runs for higher office for some of the most visible leaders of the group.
Michael Bloomberg. Move over Tim Gill, there’s another rich schmuck who gets what he wants from the Democrats he bought and paid for. Bloomberg’s lobbyist, Adam “Machine Gun” Eichberg, may have lost his invitation to Brophy’s next watermelon shoot, but Bloomberg won big by shoving through some of the harshest gun control laws in the country.
State Senator Greg Brophy. Owned the session. From the gun fight (#StandWithBrophy) to immigration to Nathan Dunlap’s clemency appeal, Brophy was on the front lines of every battle that mattered, every day. Did the guy sleep? The Wray Republican remains a politician beloved by both the press, for his quotable quips, and the Republican base, for his hard charging nature on the front lines for freedom.
Not only is Brophy a prolific partisan, but he also crafted some of the most common sense pieces of legislation — from “suds for soldiers” to extending daylight hours in the heart of winter.
Frank and Libby. House Speaker Mark Ferrandino’s biggest thorn in his side came in the form of the dynamic duo of Reps. Frank McNulty and Libby Szabo who took a political bat to House Democrats kneecaps over the issue of Jessica’s Law. By refusing to bring the bill that would enact mandatory minimums for child predators up for debate, Ferrandino earned himself the wrath of Bill O’Reilly and plenty of unwanted scrutiny on an issue supported by over 80% of voters. Frank and Libby kept pounding away at the issue, attempting to graft the law onto any bill they could. Thanks to their efforts, ad makers in 2014 will have plenty of grist to grind Democrats with.
Right wing media. Liberals may rule the roost down at the Capitol, but when it comes to online media, it is conservatives in the driver’s seat. From Senator Evie Hudak’s condescending comments to a rape victim to Rep. Joe Salazar’s comment that women may not know when they’re about to be raped, conservative media did some serious damage to legislative Democrats by forcing their comments into the wider media and getting them national play. Salazar and Hudak’s comments even ended up affecting the policy debate, effectively killing the ban on concealed carry on campus.
Conservative media’s influence was also undeniable in the case of convicted Saudi sex trafficker Homaidan al-Turki. After al-Turki got an initial approval to be shipped back to Saudi Arabia, where he would be set free, The Colorado Observer turned up the political heat by tying Governor Hickenlooper to the scandal. Days after The Observer piece dropped, Revealing Politics’ Kelly Maher mentioned the issue on 9News leading to a Denver Post column by Vincent Carroll and days later the rejection of al-Turki’s transfer request. Conservative media 1, Saudi sex traffickers 0.
Death Row Inmates. Sort of. Democrats didn’t succeed in repealing the death penalty, but John Hickenlooper might have repeal on the installment plan. With his top staff hinting at Hick giving clemency to Chuck E. Cheese killer Nathan Dunlap, and Hickenlooper himself non-committal in interviews, the human bile sitting on death row (and those likely to soon) are breathing slightly easier.
Oil and gas/business coalition. Energy whipped the enviros by making drilling about more than drilling. A late crush of support from biz helped catapult energy to a series of big victories. The mandatory minimum fine bill died on the calendar and Hickenlooper helped kill the bill that would have banned oil and gas representatives from having a seat at the table on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). Why did the enviro coalition spend all that money electing Democrats? They sure don’t have much to show for it legislatively.
Pot head lobby. With a bipartisan team, including former Congressman Coffman flack Joe Megyesy, the lobbying efforts of the pro-pot side were a major force down at the Capitol. They successfully killed a last-minute effort at banning legal sales of weed should the tax on pot not pass this fall, as well as helped craft the nation’s first regulations for the legal sale of marijuana for recreational use.
Morgan Carroll. When she wasn’t sleeping on the Senate floor, the upper chamber’s top ginger ran the legislative body from the #2 spot. Her boss, Senate President John Morse, was basically an irrelevant toady. To their credit, Dems didn’t try to hide their bat sh*t crazy agenda. And no one…and we mean no one…was more loony bin nuts than Carroll. She is a major reason the left got all that they did.
Carroll also managed to enrich herself and her new law firm by expanding the ability for workers to sue their employers without having to pay attorney’s fees in cases deemed frivolous. The Ambulance Chaser in Chief accomplished much this session to line her own pockets and the interests of fellow left-wingers.
Owen Hill – The freshman Senator from Colorado Springs may be new to the Capitol but he made big waves in his first session. Whether it was blowing up Evie Hudak over her “flip”pant comments about a billion dollar tax hike or ripping the election reform bill with some choice words, Hill has quickly become a force at the Capitol. While he may need to proofread his mailers a little bit more, the fact that he’s been targeted so often by Colorado Pols shows that he’s on the other side’s radar as well.
J Paul Brown. The HD59 Republican may have barely lost in 2012 thanks to the Obama campaign juggernaut, but his opponent Mike McLachlan made a big mistake by backing gun control, even taking the lead on the 15 round magazine ban language. The anger in rural Southwest Colorado HD59 over Rep. McLachlan’s gun votes is likely to herald the return of Brown, who has already announced a run in 2014 for his old seat.
Evie Hudak – They say no press is bad press. If that is true, Hudak killed it. From insulting a rape victim and earning a rare Denver Post editorial rebuke for a Democrat, to telling Senator Hill he should just “flip a coin” to determine his vote on a bill connected to a billion dollar tax hike, Hudak earned herself plenty of ink for all the wrong reasons. But that makes her a winner in our book – way to go, Evie!