Forget the rabbit hole, Coffman is opposed to a path to citizenship for immigrants

October 20th, 2016

9News anchor Kyle Clark did an excellent job interviewing U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman Tuesday, and his Democratic challenger Morgan Carroll Monday, pressing them on a range of issues.

On immigration, Clark asked Coffman what he’d propose for adult undocumented immigrants:

Coffman: “As long as they haven’t violated criminal laws to give them a legalized status that would allow them to work here without fear of deportation.

Clark: “Not citizenship but legal status?”

Coffman: “Legal status.”

Clark: “Any path to citizenship for those people?”

Coffman: “No. No.”

But without skipping a beat, Coffman kind of contradicted himself, with the camera rolling, saying he could possibly support a path to citizenship.

Coffman: “I don’t want to box myself in. If we get into negotiations, and there’s everything that I like, and it would be a very long path, and very selective. You know, I don’t want to totally back myself—but ideally I would say no.”

If you’re a journalist, what do you do with Coffman’s qualifier? Do you say he’s opposed to a citizenship path? Against it, unless he’s for it?

In a news segment yesterday based on the interview, Clark contrasted Coffman’s stance against a path to citizenship with Carroll’s position in favor of it. He didn’t mention Coffman’s qualifying comments.

In an email, I asked Clark why he apparently concluded that Coffman is against a path to citizenship.

Clark: “I took Representative Coffman’s answer to mean that he is not in favor of a path to citizenship but stopped short of saying he’d never support it,” wrote Clark.

Clark could have gone down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out, specifically, what Coffman means by theoretically favoring a citizenship path if negotiations produce “everything that I like.”

But it’s a rabbit hole other reporters have tried to go down without coming up with specifics on what Coffman wants for citizenship. And besides, Coffman’s statement, especially with “ideally no” tacked on, is clear enough as it is.

So Clark was right to conclude Coffman opposes a path to citizenship.

Plus, it’s consistent with Coffman’s stance historically. When a specific proposal for a path to citizenship was on the table, and negotiations were possible, as part of the bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill that passed the U.S. Senate in 2013, Coffman opposed the bill.

But Coffman said at the time he might support comprehensive reform, piece-by-piece, some other time. But, over three years, we’ve seen no specifics from Coffman on a citizenship path for adults.

As Lizeth Chacon wrote in an Aurora Sentinel op-ed yesterday:

For Republicans grappling with immigration in 2013, opposing the Senate’s Gang of Eight plan was more than just splitting hairs on the particulars of a bill – or advocating a “slower” approach, as the Post characterized it.  Rather it was a decision that doomed reform in an attempt to appease anti-immigrant hardliners in the conservative base.

For Mike Coffman, it also meant that this so-called “leader” on immigration reform placed himself squarely to the right of Republicans like John McCain and Marco Rubio, senators who actually took a position and passed legislation.

Coffman has since tried to cover up for his opposition by saying he believes comprehensive reform can be done in pieces. What the media in general has failed to understand, however, is that this procedural talking point represents Coffman’s biggest and most craven reversal on the issue.

Congress usually passes landmark pieces of legislation by clearing the deck of all sticky issues at once and including give-and-take compromises designed to attract enough supporters from both parties to ensure passage. That’s why the word “comprehensive” in immigration reform is so important.

The good news is, thanks to the intersection of an election and journalism, we can now definitively conclude, after years of equivocation, Coffman is against a path to citizenship.

After saying she’d vote for Trump, Doty now tells Aurora Sentinel her vote is a “private decision”

October 19th, 2016

While some Republicans who once supported Trump are now backing off, Colorado state senate candidate Nancy Doty, who previously said she’d vote for the GOP presidential nominee, is now refusing to reveal whom she will vote for, saying she considers “everyone’s vote to be a private decision.”

Doty’s latest position was reported by Brandon Johansson at the Aurora Sentinel, which published Doty’s answer to the question, “Will you vote for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or someone else?”

Doty’s response: Yes. I consider my vote private and everyone’s vote to be a private decision.

In June, Doty was out-of-the-closet with her voting preferences, as reported by Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Independent:

On her presidential preference, Doty said she will support the Republican nominee, although Donald Trump was not her first choice. She initially backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Then, in July, she said Sarah Palin’s Denver speech, in which Palin raved about Trump, was “spot on,” confirming that Doty herself still planned to vote for Trump.

So why the sudden silence on her prez pick? Both the Aurora Sentinel and the Colorado Independent should call her and find out what’s up–and set the record straight for their readers. (Doty did not return my call seeking an explanation, and she’s ignored queries from others on other issues.)

What led Doty, who faces Democratic Rep. Daniel Kagan in hotly contested SD 26, to first be open about her voting preference and then settle on the belief that “everyone’s vote” should be a “private decision?”

Who knows? Maybe Trump’s antics have something to do with it, but the inconsistency deserves to be exposed and explained.

Talk radio host shows how badly we need journalists to focus on key state senate race

October 18th, 2016

With Colorado’s largest media outlets (TV and print) mostly AWOL when it comes to covering the most important race in the state this election season, we’re left to talk radio hosts, bloggers, and other shoe-string entities to offer voters the basic information they need to vote and understand what’s at stake Nov. 8.

So, how’s that working out? Not well.

Case in point, Republican State Sen. Laura Woods’ appearance this morning on KHOW 630-AM’s Ross Kaminsky show.

Kaminsky is smart enough to know that the Woods’ Arvada race against Democrat Rachel Zenzinger is probably the most important election contest in Colorado, with control of state government likely riding on the outcome. Yet, he sits silent or cheerleads as she makes outrageous statements, without offering context or fact-checking.

At one point, for example, Woods made the off-the-moon claim that her opponents who criticize her for forgiving Donald Trump for lewd comments are attacking Woods’ religious freedom. Woods is a longstanding Trump supporter.

“I’m being called out because I’ve chosen to forgive Donald Trump’s comments [about sexually assaulting women] and support him continually,” Woods told a loving Kaminsky. “So, that’s an attack on religious freedom.”

How’s that work? If you’re against Trump and his offensive bravado, you’re against religious freedom?

Kaminsky, who talked at length about attacks on Woods and spending on the Arvada race without mentioning Woods’ record on public lands or her moneyed backers, asked Woods what would happen if she lost her seat.

Woods said, under Democrats, “oil and gas and mining in our state shut down, those people put out of work.”  Shut down!

“[Democrats] are going to tell parents, you know, they have to vaccinate all of their children,” Woods continued on air.

How could Kaminsky have let this fly into his ears without words of horror coming out of his mouth?

Woods is known to be against basic public health protections when it comes to vaccinations. She wants to make it easier for parents to forgo vaccinating their kids—putting public health at risk. Voters need to know about where she stands.

Woods bragged about helping a couple get Medicaid health-care benefits, and Kaminsky failed to ask Woods how Woods’ story squares with her efforts to cut Medicaid health-care for the poor in Colorado.

Woods concluded the interview by calling Bill Clinton “a rapist,” to which Kaminsky responded not by pointing out the falsehood but instead with, “pretty courageous of you to say so, as someone running for office.”

“I wish you all the best,” concluded Kaminsky, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment. “And happy to have you back on the show anytime. Thanks again for everything you do for us in the state senate.”

Debate-watch panels at Regis University will address media coverage of presidential race

October 17th, 2016

Public affairs TV host Aaron Harber will moderate two debate-watch panels at Regis University Wed., discussing media coverage of the presidential campaign and the Oct. 19 presidential debate.

The panelists are former Denver news anchor Tamara Banks, Editor of The Denver Post, Lee Ann Colacioppo, KNUS Radio Host Krista Kafer, and yours truly.

A 6 p.m. panel, in the Mountain View Room of Peter Claver Hall at Regis, will address media coverage of the presidential race to date, as well as what can be expected going forward. An 8:30 p.m. panel will discuss the debate itself, which will be shown at 7 p.m. on a large screen with live tweeting.

The event is free, and questions from the audience will be encouraged. Doors open and 5:30.

A livestream of both panels will be carried by Regis and made available to members of the Colorado Broadcasters Association.

A news release about the event quoted CBA President Justin Sasso: “We’re very pleased to work with Aaron and his team as well as Regis University to bring this nonpartisan public affairs educational opportunity to Colorado television and radio stations across the state right at such a crucial juncture in the election cycle when citizens are receiving their ballots.”

The release also quoted Colorado Press Association CEO Jerry Raehal: “Given the prominent print journalists on the panels and the fact many Colorado publications have Websites which can offer the live-streaming of the event, this is a great public service for everyone in Colorado.  Colorado publications exist to serve their communities so we’re delighted to partner with Aaron, a CPA member, to bring these discussions to our members’ readers across the entire State.”

John Hickey, Regis University Associate Dean and Chair of the Communications Department, stated via a news release: “This is a wonderful opportunity for Colorado citizens to hear from and interact with some of the best-known and most insightful journalists in our state. We are especially grateful to have someone of Aaron’s caliber — who is known for his balanced and effective moderating skills in challenging debate situations — leading this effort.”

Moderator Aaron Harber stated, “We’re delighted to work with Dean Hickey and everyone at Regis University to bring this opportunity to as many people as possible.  By live-streaming the event, Regis is making this as accessible as possible to millions of Coloradans. I’m also honored by the incredible line-up of journalists that we have on our two panels.”

Harbor is moderating a in-depth series, called Your Decision 2016, on aspects of Colorado’s upcoming election.


Woods forgives Trump for comments about sexually assaulting women

October 17th, 2016

State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada) has forgiven Trump for his comments about sexually assaulting women, according to an Associated Press story today, raising more questions for local media about the impact of Trump’s candidacy on Woods’ state senate race that will likely determine whether Democrats flip Colorado’s legislature in November.

Woods has made no secret of her longstanding support for Trump, calling him the “people’s candidate,” but her comments to the AP go further in explaining why she’s sticking with Trump: She does not believe she’ll win her district unless Trump carries it.

Here’s what Woods told the AP’s David A. Lieb:

Republicans currently hold a precarious single-seat advantage over Democrats in the Colorado Senate, while Democrats hold just a three-seat lead in the House. One of the most pivotal races is in Denver’s western suburbs, where Republican Sen. Laura Woods faces a rematch against Democrat Rachel Zenzinger, who held the seat in 2014.

Woods says a Democratic-backed political group has targeted her in automated phone calls linking her to Trump. But Woods, a self-described Christian conservative, says she has forgiven Trump for his sexual comments and will not abandon him.

“I think if Donald Trump wins my district, I’m likely to,” Wood said. “And if Hillary Clinton wins my district, my opponent is likely to win.”

The comments could explain why Woods turned to Twitter to defend Trump after the Hollywood Access Video was released, retweeting a Breitbart story headlined, “Criminal Aliens Sexually Assault 70,000 American Women — But Paul Ryan Targets Trump.”

Woods unusual public effort to downplay the seriousness of Trump’s comments can be seen as an attempt to shore up Trump support in her own district, which she sees the key to her defeating Democrat Rachel Zenzinger next month.

Woods’ decision to openly forgive Trump, at least for his comments and possibly for his actual alleged sexual assaults, contrasts with other Colorado Republicans who openly declared after the release of the video that they will not vote for the mogul.

It makes for yet another interesting angle on Woods’ all-important state senate 19 race, which has yet to attract the attention it deserves from legacy media outlets.


Major media outlets should fill information void, when candidates like Doty go into hiding

October 14th, 2016

It’s getting late in the election season, and major media outlets are still mostly overlooking the most important races in the state—in the swing senate districts that will determine whether Democrats gain control of the state senate and with it the reins of Colorado government.

When the major media bow out, the public is left to rely on campaign information, questionnaires, and small publications to fill the candidate-information void.

The problem is, some candidates easily and quietly blow off information requests, leaving the public with no idea where they stand.

For example, Out Front just came out with a story on the positions of key state senate candidates on LGBT issues.

One focus of the piece was the swing Senate District 26 race between Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Doty, a Republican, and Democratic State Rep. Daniel Kagan.

Kagan answered questions from Out Front, and returned a questionnaire from One Colorado on LGBTQ issues.

Doty, however, did not.

“I reached out to [Doty] by email and gave her a few phone calls as well, which she never returned,” said Ryan Howe, Digital Content Director for Out Front.

Howe told me he didn’t report Doty’s refusal to respond, in part, because Doty also refused to return a questionnaire from One Colorado, a LGBTIQ rights group. And Howe’s story referenced One Colorado’s endorsement of Kagan, Howe pointed out.

One Colorado Political Director Laura “Pinky” Reinsch told me Doty did not respond to three email requests to return her organization’s questionnaire.

Major media would obviously have a better shot at getting Doty’s attention.  But with no coverage, voters are forced to grasp at shards of information and infer a candidate’s stance, in this case on LGBT issues.

While Kagan’s LGBT views are clear in his responses, one thing we know about Doty is she once gave money to Rick Santorum, who’s aggressively opposed to same-sex marriage, saying it’s unnatural, among other awful things.

“For me, when you say the states have the right to define marriage, it’s like saying, well, the states have the right to redefine the chemical equation for water, it can be H3O instead of H2O,” said Santorum earlier this year.

The point is, the down-ballot state senate races are really important, and we need the major media outlets to make sure the basic information is on the table for voters.

No Democrats eligible to vote for Woods are found on “Democrats for Senator Laura Woods” Facebook page

October 14th, 2016

woods-image-of-group-of-alleged-democrats-for-senator-laura-woodsArvada State Sen. Laura Woods is known to be on the far-right fringe of Colorado’s Republican Party, aligning herself, as documented by the Denver Post, with the most conservative lawmakers in the state.

She’s wants to ban abortion, even for rape. She’s opposed to criminal background checks before gun purchases, and she wants to slash health care funding for the poor, among other positions rub most Democrats the wrong way.

What’s more, she likes Trump so much she calls him the “people’s candidate.”

So it was surprising to hear Woods on the radio claiming “a lot” of Democrats will be voting for her.

Woods: “I’ve met a lot of Democrats who have said they‘re going to vote not only for Trump but for me as well. So, there’s even a Facebook page, Democrats for Senator Laura Woods. Wow.”

Wow, it’s true, there is such a group on Facebook, but the page does not support Woods’ statement that Democrats are going to vote for her. Not even close.

For starters, Clifford Battista, one of just eight people pictured as Democrats on the page, was a registered Republican until I asked him about his voter registration earlier this week, at which time he switched and became a Democrat, saying his Republican registration was a mistake. In any case, he doesn’t live in Woods’ district.

Neither does Robin Austin, another man pictured as a Democrat on the Facebook page. He’s actually a Democrat, but registered in Boone, North Carolina, where he owns a home, though he visits here frequently and it’s “conceivable” he will move to Colorado, he told me.

Three women who appear in photos carrying “Democrats 4 Laura” signs on the Facebook page also do not live in Woods’ district, where she’s battling Democrat Rachel Zenzinger in a race that will likely determine which party controls Colorado’s senate.

They are Luanne Fleming and her daughter, Leah Fleming, both Democrats, who reside in Aurora, and Athena Roe, an El Paso County Democrat.

I was unable to identify one man and two women among the eight people presented as Democrats on the Facebook page.

Asked if any of “Democrats for Senator Laura Woods” pictured on the Facebook page can actually vote for Woods, Luanne Fleming, who told me she posts on the page, said she doesn’t think any of them live in Woods’ district.

“There is one in her district, and he’s not on there, and he supports her,” said Fleming. “And his name is Marty. I haven’t gone over to get his picture or to put anything up there about him. I’m just so busy. So there is one who is from the district.”

“They are mostly the probate families that are helping her,” said Fleming, referring F.A.C.E.U.S., a group that, with Woods’ help in the legislature, has been pushing for reforms in the probate court system. “She’s one of the very few people who came to our aid.”

Austin, the North Carolina voter, was drawn to “Democrats for Senator Laura Woods” for the same probate-related reason, because she’s fighting the “corrupt judiciary,” he told me.

Asked how he felt about Woods relying on a Democrat from North Carolina to show she has Democrats voting for her, Austin said, “I don’t think it’s her choice who she is relying on. I think it’s my choice. Who I support.  And I support her.”

Battista, who was mistakenly registered as a Republican until I called him this week, was also drawn to Woods for her position on the court system, which has overriding importance to him. He told me he’d noticed some problems with his primary ballots, but he’s been too busy to check on his voter registration in recent years. He meant to separate from the Republican Party in about 2011, he said. He’s an active union member, and he worked for Athena Roe, who was a Democratic candidate in El Paso County, he said.

It’s unclear whether Woods, who does not return my calls, has other evidence to back up her claim of Democratic support in her Arvada district.

But Facebook posts touting Democratic support should be viewed with a skeptical eye by reporters and others.

“I want to thank all of my supporters from the Democrat party who showed up to walk with us in the parade today,” wrote Woods in a Facebook post Sept. 12, referring to members of “Democrats for Senator Laura Woods” who posted photos of the parade on their Facebook page.

“You are very welcome,” commented “Democrats for Senator Laura Woods, District 19” on Facebook.

But it appears that “Democrats for Senator Laura Woods” won’t be thanking the Arvada lawmaker with their votes, despite what you might think from looking at their Facebook page and listening to Woods on the radio.


The above photo is a group pictured on the Democrats for Semator Laura Woods Facebook page. They are, from left to right, 1) Robin Austin, the Democrat from North Carolina, 2) Luanne Fleming, a Democrat from Aurora, 3) unknown man, 4) in back, unknown woman, 5) Charles Battista of Denver 6) Athena Roe, a Democrat from El Paso County.

On KNUS 710-AM Sept. 17, Woods discusses her alleged voters from the Democratic Party, as evidenced by the Facebook page “Democrats for Senator Laura Woods.”

Below, Leah Fleming, a Democrat from Aurora, is pictured with Laura Woods on the “Democrats for Senator Laura Woods” Facebook page.











Correction: This blog post initially stated that Woods represents a district in northwest Denver. It’s not in Denver.

Ousted Jeffco school board member Julie Williams promotes Trump, Woods

October 13th, 2016

williams-on-trump-50-shades-10-16If you’ve been tracking ousted Jeffco school board member Julie Williams, you know she’s been keeping her hand in politics with occasional salvos on Facebook.

One of her Facebook causes has been to promote Republican state senate candidate Laura Woods of Arvada, urging people to vote not only for Woods but for Trump and others.

Now Williams is back on Facebook defending Trump’s ugly comments about sexually assaulting women. She shared a Facebook meme, popular among Trump supporters, that somehow equates 50 Shades of Grey to Trump’s comments.


There’s no logic in equating the book with Trump’s comments, and Williams isn’t on the ballot.

But how could her tenure on the school board and her continued craziness not be an under-the-media-radar factor in the upcoming election. I wish we’d see more coverage of this dynamic there.

It’s hard to imagine that Trump, Woods, or any candidate will gain much by Williams’ Facebook crusading. Exactly the opposite.


No pushback from radio host when anti-choice lawmaker insists it’s Dems who want to tell you how to “run your families”

October 12th, 2016

You’d assume a news reporter like Fox 31 Denver’s Julie Hayden would challenge someone like State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada) when Woods tells Hayden something like this during Hayden’s radio show on KNUS 710-AM:

Hayden (at 2:45 here): Why is it so important that you get back up there to the state legislature?

Woods: The Democrats desparately want to control everything about our lives. And so they need to control the senate, in order to control your life and mine and every business in this state… If we want to have any liberty, any say in how we run our families, in say in how we run our privately held small businesses, we need to keep the senate in Republican hands.

If you thought Hayden would push back on this, even an itsy bit, you would be wrong. Nothing but nodding acquiescence from her–even though Woods is locked in a tough re-election battle against Democrat Rachel Zenzinger to represent senate district 19.

So I put this out there for Hayden to read on her KNUS show.

Dear KNUS Listeners–

State Sen. Laura Woods of Arvada appeared on our KNUS Show last month and claimed Democrats “desparately want to take control of everything about our lives.”

In fact, in at least one important way, it’s Woods who wants to do this.

She wants to ban all abortion, even for women who’ve been raped or are victims of incest. Woods’ anti-choice stance has been a focus of her political career. She sponsored personhood anti-abortion legislation. She backed a bill requiring doctors to offer women an ultrasound before an abortion.

Woods wants to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding, forcing the womens’ health organization to turn away about 1,000 low-income patients at an Arvada clinic in Woods’ own district.

So, my dear KNUS audience, next time Woods appears on the radio and says Democrats want to tell you how to “run your families,” I’ll tell her to turn off the microphone, go to the bathroom, and look in the mirror.

Thank you.

I’ll be listening to Hayden on KNUS this Saturday to see if she takes me up on my suggestion to read this.

Radio host shows Gardner’s vote for Pence won’t count, but fails to find out if Gardner will still vote for him

October 12th, 2016

“Unhappy with Trump? Want to Write In Pence? It Doesn’t Work That Way.”

That’s the title of a story by Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner, who did a nice job fact checking U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner Monday, reporting that if Gardner writes in the name of Mike Pence as his pick for president, as he promised Sunday, his presidential vote won’t be counted at all.

Warner interiewed Suzanne Staiert, Colorado’s deputy Secretary of State, who said on air that as long as Trump is on the ballot, Gardner’s vote for Pence wouldn’t matter.

Warner : And if someone says they’re going to write-in Mike Pence?

Stairt: “They won’t be counted. It’ll just count as an undervote essentially unless the Republican Party makes some sort of change.”

During the interview, Staiert said “a write-in candidate would need to file an affidavit 15 days before the election for votes to count.”

But the CPR piece was later corrected to state, “In fact, the affidavit would have to have been filed at least 110 days before the election.”

So Gardner has settled on Pence waaaay too late. Or maybe not. Maybe he wants to cast a vote that won’t count?

Omitted from the CPR piece was the question on many listeners’ minds: “So who is Gardner going to vote for?”

Warner should bring Gardner on the show to address that question.