The results of the 2020 election are all tabulated and mostly certified. So it’s time to talk about how things ended up in Colorado. Overall it was a mixed bag and shows how bipolar the Colorado electorate can be. Maybe we get it from the weather. Lots of positive movement, but there are definitely some head-scratchers, at least from my perspective.

Some folks say that the government is not the answer to our problems, so it should be hampered. But there is a reverse implication here. If we hamper the government because we believe it’s not the answer to our problems, then it seems that we believe the government is the cause of our problems.

Neither one of these approaches is 100% true. The government is not the cause of our problems. Nor is it the answer to our problems. Our government is a necessity to maintain our society.

I don’t think that it would surprise anyone to hear that I believe in strong federal, state, and local governments to take care of certain things for us so that we can enjoy the pursuit of happiness.

Our government, a democratic republic, is a beautiful thing. It gives us the opportunity to shape our government through our free and fair elections.

In Plato’s Republic, he says, “The heaviest penalty for declining to rule is to be ruled by someone inferior to yourself.” We rule by electing our representatives, giving them the tools they need to govern, and holding them accountable for their actions and inactions.

The federal part of the 2020 election consisted of our vote for president, senator, and the house of representatives. A republic works best when we have principled and intelligent leaders that take their job seriously and are held accountable for what they do or don’t do.

For the Presidential Election, Joe Biden got a little over 55% of the Colorado Vote. It appears that Colorado is still the bluest state in the west (I don’t count the Pacific coast states as the west, though I’m certain folks would disagree with me.)

Our closest contender is Nevada, but Joe Biden only got 50% of the vote there. A lot of those votes came in from Denver metro including Fort Collins and Boulder. But there were also a lot of democratic counties in the western slope so Biden’s victory can also thank Steamboat Springs, Telluride, Durango, and Pueblo.

Colorado Springs and El Paso County, where I live, stayed noticeably red. Around 364,000 voted this year and around 287,000 people voted in 2016 so there was a 25% increase in turnout. Drumpf took 62% of the vote in 2016 but only 56% this time. So even though he won with a gain of 20,000 votes, it was with less overall level of support than in 2016.

The GSA has given official word that the transition process can start. We’re less than 60 days away from inauguration with a global pandemic raging, so it’s about time. Unfounded claims of shenanigans litter our social media feeds. But enough states have certified that we know Biden is coming, whether you like it or not.

Here’s where I remind my conservative friends: Biden is a big win for anyone that believes in the power of a centrist, neoliberal, pro-capitalist US government. He was not my first choice, but I think he can do a lot of good for our country. I am moving from the left. So I hope you can come from the right to join me in the center. Then we can start to bridge the great divide. I actually think there are five key reasons conservatives should be excited about a Biden Presidency:

#1 Biden is NOT a socialist or progressive, he is first and foremost a centrist. He believes politicians need to look for common ground. Joe finds points of agreement from both sides and then work out from there.

#2 Biden is not an environmentalist. He will not ban fracking. He does not support the green new deal. Joe supports the Biden plan for climate change. His plan centers on infrastructure updates with the main goal being to create jobs for Americans.

#3 Biden is actually religious. He’s a devout Catholic and says his rosary every day. He believes in a higher power and does not use his religion as a political prop.

#4 Biden will not defund the police. Biden’s plan for criminal justice reform includes providing more federal money to local police departments. He wants them to return to community policing.

#5 Biden understands profound loss. When he was a young senator, his first wife and baby daughter died in a tragic car accident. His son Beau died of incurable brain cancer in the prime of his life. COVID-19 represents our country’s deepest sustained loss of life within our own borders since the civil war. The losses Joe’s personally suffered and talked about openly, make him uniquely positioned to lead our country.

It’s going to take a lot of grace, both in victory and in defeat, for our country to heal our divide. Biden just might be the right person to help us do that.

The legislative branch of the federal government has become the least effective and most power-hungry group of representatives.

In Colorado’s vote for the Senate, Hickenlooper beat Gardner with 53.5% of the vote. Democrats expected and needed this flip as one step to gain control of the senate. Hick is definitely an improvement over Gardner in my book. That said, Hick responded poorly to his ethics violations investigation and can’t stop his usual foot-in-the-mouth malarkey. But he’s very much a Colorado democrat and this repeats much of his past behavior. I hope he rises to the challenge of the senate and becomes an asset for the party on the national level.

We’ll see what Georgia brings us in their run-off whether democrats will control both houses of Congress when Joe Biden gets sworn in. I think we have a strong shot and it will be a nail-biter.

Colorado is sending the 4 incumbent democrats and 3 republicans to the House of Representatives. 2 of our republicans are incumbents Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn. The third republican is newcomer Lauren Boebert who upset incumbent Scott Tipton in the state primaries last summer.

We’re in for a wild ride with Ken Buck, who invited Beto ORourke and other democrats to come and take his American Flag AR15 from his Washington DC Office and this summer tried to convince the district 10 republican party official to falsify the results of the GOP primary. Lauren Boebert has shown support for Q Anon and her first concern after she got elected was whether she would be able to carry a Glock in Washington DC. She has defied COVID restrictions in Colorado a few times, this week she held a funeral for a Turkey so she could have 30 people at a Thanksgiving party. I’m not a fan of representatives who defy the law, hint at insurrection, and support conspiracy theories, but I don’t live in Buck or Boebert’s district, so it’s really none of my business.

Doug Lamborn, however, is my representative in congress and I think he needs to go. He has shown time and time again that party lines are what’s most important to him. Lamborn consistently ranks as one of the most conservative members of congress, which he takes as a mark of pride. Of course, because I’m on the left I’m not happy to have a conservative representative, but Doug Lamborn is a complete hypocrite and I don’t think he can be trusted to keep his word.

There are plenty of examples of how Lamborn only cares about beating the liberals. But the most blatant hypocrisy comes from his statements on Merrick Garland and Amy Coney Barret.

March 16, 2016 Press Release

Congressman Doug Lamborn has issued a statement following President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

“It is not possible for President Obama to nominate a person who will hold the Constitution with the same reverence and original intent mindset that Justice Scalia had. For this reason, I applaud the firm stance being taken by my colleagues in the Senate. The fundamental ideological make-up of the Supreme Court is at stake and the American people deserve to be involved in this decision through their vote for the next President.”

– Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-05)

October 26, 2020

Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, the United States Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett, President Drumpf’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The vote passed 52 to 48 with the support of Senator Gardner. This is the third Supreme Court Justice confirmed in President Drumpf’s first term.

Congressman Doug Lamborn issued the following statement:

“I am grateful that the Senate confirmed President Drumpf’s extremely qualified nominee. It is fitting and proper that President Drumpf and the Senate fulfilled the constitutional duty for which they were elected by filling this important vacancy. Judge Barrett has an impressive record on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and will serve honorably as our newest Supreme Court Justice. I look forward to her serving on the court for many years to come. I want to thank Senator Gardner for his principled stance and for voting to support a Justice that will uphold the constitution and rule of law.”

Lamborn rejected the idea of Garland serving on the court because he was politically opposite of Justice Scalia. Ruth Bader Ginsberg, though friends with Scalia, was politically his opposite. Amy Coney Barret is pretty close to her opposite. If Lamborn stood by his principles, then he would say, “The fundamental ideological make-up of the Supreme Court is at stake and the American people deserve to be involved in this decision through their vote for the next President.”

However, he doesn’t actually care about the fundamental ideological makeup of the court and what the American people want. He only cares that the liberals lose and the conservatives win. Which is absolutely his right, but the hypocrisy is astounding and disgusting.

Unprincipled leadership is dangerous and unnecessarily divisive. We deserve a representative, republican, democrat, or otherwise, we can trust to stand by their principles. With over 87,000 more votes than the democratic contender, Jilian Freeland, it’s going to be difficult to remove him. Unfortunately, that seems to be fairly standard for congressional districts. Incumbents are notoriously difficult to unseat and nearly impossible to flip. Colorado’s district 5, like hundreds of congressional districts across the country, show the need for voting reform — even more so than the electoral college.

Moving on to state measures, In 1966, Coloradans approved an amendment to stop political elections for judges. Instead, judges get recommended by a judicial nominating commission and appointed by the governor. Then they participate in retention elections at least two years after appointment. And then every 10, 8, 6, or 4 years depending on their appointed court.

A 1988 statute from the Colorado General Assembly created the evaluation procedures for the state’s judges. The goal was to provide fair, responsible, and constructive evaluations of trial and appellate judges and justices which voters could use when voting for judges running for retention. Judges get evaluated in the following categories: integrity, legal knowledge, communication skills, judicial temperament, administrative performance, and service to the legal profession and public.

Before the election, Colorado sends out a blue booklet to explain all of the statewide measures. It also includes evaluations of each judge that is up for retention elections.

Each judge up for retention on my ballot met performance standards. So I voted yes to retain all of them. Coloradans agreed and retained all of the judges this year.

For our legislative branch, the Colorado General Assembly, we had 1 republican flip and 1 democrat flip. This means no net change to democratic control in the state House of Representatives. No flips in the state senate so democrats retain control there, too. So democrats control the Colorado General Assembly but are hamstrung by a tax-averse voting population.

In 1992, Coloradans enacted the Taxpayers Bill of Rights or TABOR. It puts limits on how state and local lawmakers can tax folks. It also keeps revenue above a cap based on inflation and population.

On the surface, it seems reasonable but has led to massive underfunding for schools and transportation and an almost 90% or greater earmark of revenues before they’re collected. This hamstrings our local and state legislators by preventing flexible spending and the implementation of new initiatives. Progress is sent back to voters to approve if there’s any additional taxation.

Unfortunately, the bottom line is that we as taxpayers don’t actually know what it takes to get what we want from the government. So we vote for personal interest as opposed to collective interest and then complain about our shitty roads and schools.

We also had the Gallagher amendment which required a 55/45 split between residential and non-residential property taxes. Residential property value has risen much more dramatically than nonresidential property. The Gallagher amendment put an undue burden on small business owners in places where residential property values were high. In rural areas with less non-residential property, Gallagher made it near impossible for municipalities to collect enough taxes.

This year, Coloradans passed Amendment B and repealed the Gallagher Amendment with 57.25% of the vote. This is a positive step for taxation and will help get funding back to schools and rural municipalities.

We also passed Proposition EE to increase Taxes on Nicotine Products with almost 68% of the vote. This revenue will get more money to expand preschool, k-12 education, rural schools, affordable housing, eviction assistance, tobacco education, and health care.

Amendment 77, Local Voter Approval of Casino Bet Limits and Games in Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek passed with a little over 60% of the vote. It doesn’t make sense to have limits to gaming codified in the Colorado Constitution so this is a net positive for these communities. It will take time to implement, but opens new avenues for additional funds for Community Colleges.

This is a net positive because I consider my community college education instrumental in my personal success. Not only the AAS from Pikes Peak Community College I got after I left the army, but also the dual credit and theatre classes I took at Montgomery College before I joined. Community Colleges are going to need additional financial support, particularly when state budget cuts start to hit next year.

Unfortunately, there were some bad tax moves as well.

58% of Coloradans voted yes on Proposition 116 State income Tax Rate Reduction. The reduction removed $154 million in revenue during a time where we need our government the most. But put less than $3.50 per month back in the pocket of the average Coloradan.

I hope everyone enjoys their $40 this year. Businesses and schools will shut down, our roads will continue to deteriorate, and our healthcare systems will get increasingly pushed to the brink. But enjoy.

52% of Coloradans approved Proposition 117 Voter approval for Certain New State Enterprises. This requires voter approval for the state to create enterprises that would generate over $100 million in revenue. State Enterprises include things like Parks and Wildlife, Colleges and Universities, and Correctional Facilities. This is a way to extend the scope of TABOR without actually extending TABOR. One of the provisions of TABOR is voter approval of new tax measures. TABOR deliberately left out enterprises because enterprises intend to be funded by folks who actually use the service. This proposition forces many existing enterprises to rely on voter approval to keep operating. It punitively “fixes” an area of government operations that works as intended.

Amendment C – Conduct of Charitable Gaming got over 52% of the vote. But it needed 55% to actually pass so it failed. It intended to change the way bingos and raffles are handled for nonprofits. But it opened the door for nefarious actors to take advantage. So I think it’s good this failed.

Amendment 76 – Citizenship Qualification for Voters passed with 63% of the vote and opened a new avenue for voter suppression. It changed a clause in our constitution to say “only a citizen” instead of “every citizen” as a way to undermine the passage of the Colorado Votes act, which allowed for 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they would be 18 by the time of the November election. Amendment 76 removes that possibility.

Proposition 113: Adopt Agreement to Elect US President by National Popular Vote passed with over 52% approval. Colorado is doing its part in fixing a flawed system by joining the interstate compact. Only 74 more electoral votes and it will go into effect.

Proposition 114: Reintroduction and Management of Gray Wolves barely passed with just under 51% of the vote. But with over 225,000 more votes than Donald Drumpf. So a big win. I consider this issue more important than the vote for president and I’m happy it passed.

Because human beings share this planet with other organisms, I believe we have a moral imperative to conserve the natural world as much as we can. Part of this imperative is to restore any damage we’ve done when and where we can.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, human beings almost entirely wiped out Gray Wolves from North America. Without natural predators, deer and elk populations have exploded, causing unintended things to happen, like beaver disappearing.

Beaver are a keystone species because of the way they manipulate their environment. Basically, they naturally create better habitats for fish and other aquatic and semiaquatic animals. This pays dividends up and down the ecosystem and creates a more robust natural environment. They need willows to do this, and guess what? Elk and deer LOVE willows so they eat all of it and then the beaver die and this creates a chain reaction ecologically.

About 25 years ago, researchers reintroduced Gray Wolves to Yellowstone. Since then they have established packs and hunt naturally throughout Yellowstone National Park. We’ve seen the reestablishment of willows and the return of the beaver. Over time and through different initiatives natural wolf packs now exist throughout Canada and in other places in the northwest. There are also packs in certain areas of Mexico and Central America.

Wolves, however, reach a wall in the center of the US. Utah is not the right environment for them and Wyoming is still actively hostile toward them. When Colorado reintroduces the wolves, we will essentially connect the species from Canada to Mexico.

Colorado has an opportunity to re-establish a keystone species in a way that will positively impact all of North America and eventually the entire Western hemisphere. Now we just need to fund the reintroduction at around $1 million per year.

Proposition 115 Prohibit Abortions after 22 Weeks failed with almost 59% of Coloradans rightfully rejecting the measure and keeping the government out of what would certainly be the most difficult decision a woman would have to make in her lifetime.

Proposition 118 Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program passed with just under 58% of the vote. Another great stride for the state.

Lots of weird moves, but overall I think we’ve made some incremental progress.

We repealed Gallagher but instituted voter approval for new state enterprises.

Coloradans knocked out abortion but added in a citizenship requirement to vote.

We added taxes for nicotine products and added measures to allow local voter approval of increased gaming limits, which will bring associated tax revenue. But we also reduced our income taxes.

Three big wins though, approval for Colorado joining the National Popular Vote Compact, added paid family medical leave insurance, and approved the reintroduction of Gray wolves.

Unfortunately, we’ve left our legislature with little option but to put the tax burden on residential property holders and smokers as the only new avenues they have to raise the revenue they need to keep the state running. I’m excited to see how the state budget plays out because this is a totally mixed bag. Good, bad, and ugly.

The only Municipal and District Measures I had to vote on were City of Colorado Springs Questions 2A, 2B, and 2C. I’m not going to talk about 2B and 2C because they’re very specific to Colorado Springs, but I think 2A is similar to a sort of budget initiative anyone could see in their city.

Question 2A asked voters if the city of Colorado Springs could keep $1.9 million in revenue they collected over the TABOR imposed-cap, solely for public safety. It passed.

The fact that this is all ear-marked as “solely for public safety” left a bad taste in my mouth because almost half of our city budget already goes to public safety. And, frankly, the police department public information team misrepresented actions during the Black Lives Matter protests this summer. They categorized the peaceful protests as more violent and destructive than they actually were. At the same time, CSPD downplayed violence and menacing toward protestors, including a group of armed white nationalists that created a sniper nest to provide “overwatch” on the peaceful protests below. All of this in a mostly successful effort to turn public favor away from peaceful protests centered around police brutality and the murders of Devon Bailey, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor.

And don’t get it twisted, I think the police are necessary and I think police officers tend to be some very good, hard-working people. I just think there should have been provisions that acknowledged some of the reform folks would like to see when the city was asking for money for public safety.

All of that said, the Colorado Springs strong mayor charter combined with popular support of the police means there was not a world where CSPD’s budget got cut by $1.9 million, which means those cuts would come from other city services to make up for any shortfall. Our roads already suck enough, we’re just now getting to the point where we’re actively addressing stormwater needs, and last time there was an economic downturn we had to turn off all of the street lights. I’m glad we likely won’t see any of that next year.

It should be noted that this measure is only necessary because of TABOR requirements that, as I have mentioned several times, prevent our duly elected representatives from governing. If this measure had been rejected, the amount refunded back to each tax household would have been around $8 total. So this is another example of how an amount that is mostly insignificant to an individual collectively amounts to an important sum of money our government needs for an important purpose. (I’m looking at you, everyone who voted to lower our state income tax so you could get back $3.50.)

So what’s my takeaway here, who won? I think the ballot did. In most instances, the measures were written like a riddle and we had to pay very close attention to make sure we didn’t lose our way.

Federal elections are important because we’re electing the leaders who will most publicly lead us on the world’s stage and on our TV. They help set the climate for what we can expect to see, and feel, as a nation. I think the most important quality we can have in these types of leaders is principles like honesty, integrity, and humility. We come the closest to that with Biden and I hope we all give him a chance. Hickenlooper needs to prove himself in the senate, but I’m glad he’s there. Lamborn is not going anywhere anytime soon and that makes me particularly sad.

At the state level we’re choosing the climate we live in and most of what comes out of the state legislature and governor’s office is going to have a much, much stronger effect on our day-to-day lives. In Colorado we seem to be making incremental progress but I worry that our tax-averse nature is going to catch up with us as we head into this turndown.

The local level is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where we fund police and emergency services and decide where, specifically, our tax money gets spent. It’s the place that has the most impact on our daily life and the place we pay the least attention to.

We all need to keep paying attention, remember that incremental progress is still progress, and reach for the common ground.

That’s it for this one. We’re now found everywhere podcasts are sold. If you liked this episode, tell a friend. You can sign up for my email list at mattradcliffe.com. That’s Radcliffe with an e on the end, like the Harry Potter kid. I’d love to hear from you, so email me: matt@mattradcliffe.com. Thanks for listening!

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