Tag: elections

Mesa County Tea Partiers Continue to Battle “Old Guard” GOP Machine

AnneLandmanBlog has obtained video of western slope conservatives meeting at a local restaurant December 20, 2013 to pressure former Palisade Police Chief Carrol Quarles to run against State Senator Steve King for Mesa County Sheriff.*  King is the candidate the Mesa County Republican Party has selected to run for Sheriff in the upcoming 2014 election. Quarles was fired from his position as police chief by the town of Palisade in October, 2012.

Mesa County GOP Gets Slapped at the Ballot Box

District 51 GOP school board candidate Mike Lowenstein: ""The people have voted and they'll get what they deserve."

“They’ll get what they deserve…,” said Mesa County GOP school board candidate Mike Lowenstein about voters, after finding out he lost the race. (Photo credit: Mike Lowenstein for School Board, http://mikelowensteinfor51d.com/)

All three District 51 School Board candidates endorsed by the Mesa County Republican Party — Mike Lowenstein, Patrick Kanda and John Sluder — lost in yesterday’s election, the same three who had also taken financial support from C. Edward McVaney, a front range billionaire and private religious school supporter. The defeat of the GOP/Tea Party slate of candidates in Mesa County was remarkable since historically the area votes overwhelmingly Republican and off-year elections tend to favor Republican candidates. But none of these factors combined were enough to help the local GOP pull off even one win in the race. The Daily Sentinel reported that at an election-night gathering of GOP candidates at the Blue Moon Bar and Grill in downtown Grand Junction, Mike Lowenstein, one of the GOP’s candidates, said simply, “The people have voted and they’ll get what they deserve,” and walked out of the restaurant. The GOP’s big local loss came on the heels of the multi-week federal government shutdown, largely attributed nationally to tea party Republicans’ intransigence over the new Affordable Care Act. By endorsing candidates in a school board race, the Mesa County GOP also tread onto new ground, turning a historically nonpartisan race into a partisan challenge. It is no coincidence that the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce has also become political at the same time the GOP has started weighing in on traditionally nonpartisan races, since there is significant overlap between local GOP leaders and the Chamber, and the two entities often appear to be working together politically. Chambers of commerce in smaller Colorado towns typically remain apolitical to avoid offending any citizens and business owners who may not agree with their views. But the GOP and Chamber’s strategy of weighing in on traditionally non-partisan races seems to be backfiring big time. In addition to the local GOP’s stunning losses in the school board race, the Grand Junction Chamber has faced significant backlash from area citizens and business owners who feel the group has far overstepped its boundaries by becoming highly political.

Mesa County GOP in Takeover Mode, Now Seeks Control of School Board

Linda Gregory (Photo Credit: YouTube)

Linda Gregory (Photo Credit: YouTube)

On October 16, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported that front range billionaire C. Edward McVaney had donated substantial funds to the three local “tea party” candidates in the District 51 School Board race: Patrick Kanda, John Sluder and John Lowenstein. The candidates admitted they didn’t even know who McVaney is, but took the money anyway. Soon after that report, the Sentinel revealed in a follow-up article that McVaney’s money came with strings attached:  the candidates were told to spend the funds on the campaign consulting services of Mark Baisley, who also lives and works on the front range. So who is Baisley?  He is vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party, and a Republican strategist and PR guy. A post on Baisley’s Facebook page reveals he believes that politics boils down to God versus Democrats, for one thing.  But even more interesting to locals should be a post on his page dated September 22, which appears to have been written by Linda Gregory, Chair of the Mesa County Republican Women (McRw).

Colin Powell Outs “Voter ID” as Voter Suppression, Says Laws will Backfire

General Colin Powell

General Colin Powell

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican, said on Face the Nation that Republican claims that “Voter ID” laws are necessary to prevent abuse of the voting process are specious. Gen. Powell said there is “nothing documented” to indicate voter fraud is a problem and that “nothing substantiates” the existence of widespread voter fraud or abuse. Gen. Powell said these laws were created to “slow the process down” and make it harder for Hispanics and AFrican-Americans to vote. He said he wanted to give Republicans the benefit of the doubt when they say they want to improve the voting system, “but when they start to say, ‘let’s restrict the number of voting hours or make it harder for students to vote,’ then I have to get a little bit suspicious of it.” Former Secretary Powell had a message for his fellow Republicans: “The country is becoming more diverse. Asian-American, Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans are going to constitute a majority of the population in another generation. You say you want to reach out, you say you want to have a new message, you say you want to see if you can bring some of these voters to the Republican side. This is not the way to do it. The way to do it is to make it easier for them to vote,” Powell said. “…And then give them something to vote for that they can believe in. It’s not enough just to say, we have to have a new message. We have to have a new substance to that new message.”  Powell further remarked that the new Republican laws that make it harder for minorities, young people and seniors to vote are “going to backfire” on the party.

Source: CBS News, August 25, 2013

Grand Junction Citizens Unveil New Anti-Chamber Website

DumpTheChamberMembers of Grand Junction, Colorado’s “Rein in the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce” Facebook group have unveiled a new website to educate business owners and the public about citizens’ grievances against the Chamber. The site, GJChamber.info, asserts that many of the G.J. Chamber’s actions have hurt local citizens and businesses, and are contrary to citizens’ interests. The site’s pages have titles like “What’s Wrong with the Chamber?,” “Misguided Priorities,” “Bigotry and Intimidation,” “Overbearing Political Involvement,” “The Brainard Debacle” and “Chambermades.” The site provides links to published articles and other references to substantiate information on the site. The group created the site as one-stop shopping, a single place that local business owners can go to find out exactly why the Chamber has drawn the wrath of so many people and businesses in town. They hope that after perusing the site, Chamber member businesses will better understand the issues and consider leaving the Chamber, and that people who have less knowledge of the controversies surrounding the Chamber will be better informed. The group will also promote the site to new business owners so they can get up to speed on the political furor surrounding the Chamber before deciding to join. The site also contains a directory of non-Chamber businesses, to make it easier for people to choose where they want to shop. There are already over 100 businesses on the list. If non-chamber businesses want to be listed on the new site, or if a current Chamber member quits and wants to be listed, they can contact the group through the website and ask that their business be added to the list.

Citizens Picket Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce

Grand Junction citizens protested in front of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce yesterday morning. The group, Rein in The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, represents citizens who are angry about the Chamber’s controlling involvement in City politics. In 2012 the G.J. Chamber, under its president, Diane Schwenke, seized control of council after it formed a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization that raked in donations from deep-pocketed business owners and spent historically huge amounts of money to get Chamber-selected candidates elected to city council.  Prior to the Chamber’s direct involvement in local politics, no city council candidate had ever spent more than about $3,400 on an election. This year, Chamber-backed candidates spent an average of $11,000 each. A recent feature article in the local paper, the Daily Sentinel, revealed that the G.J. Chamber is spending huge amounts on lobbying compared to similarly-sized chambers around the state, and that at $133,930, G.J. Chamber President Schwenke’s compensation package far exceeds the compensation her peers earn at similar-sized chambers around the state.

Photo credit: Christopher Tomlinson/Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Photo credit: Christopher Tomlinson/Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Rick Brainard Resigns, Disses Almost Everyone on the Way Out the Door

Grand Junctin City Councilman Rick Brainard

Grand Junctin City Councilman Rick Brainard

Grand Junction citizens breathed a huge sigh of relief yesterday morning after hearing the news that convicted criminal Rick Brainard had formally resigned from the City Council, effective immediately. In his official one-page resignation letter, Brainard said he felt unappreciated, that he is not a violent person, that he became disillusioned with City Council in part because an unnamed Council member had passed an angry note to him filled with underlining and exclamation points, that expressed irritation at how he had voted. Brainard said he has “reconnected” with his former live-in girlfriend, Cindy Franzen, the woman to whom he had given a black eye, that he has “reorganized his priorities around her,” and he speculated that “maybe its time for some new scenery.” TV news cameras showed a large RV parked in the driveway of his home, apparently being loaded up. But Brainard wasn’t done after sending that letter. He also sent a much longer version of his resignation letter to the Grand Junction City Manager, who in turn passed it on to Council. Brainard really spilled his guts in that letter. He named yet another Chamber of Commerce-backed Councilman Marty Chazen as the angry note-writer, and told Mayor Sam Susuras that “Your behavior upset me  so much that I am writing this letter today.” Brainard also castigated the press and media over their coverage of his assault and his subsequent events, which he said “lacked integrity,” and then he wrote the following to the citizens organizing to recall him, a group that, incredibly, he referred to as the “Re-Elect Rick Brainard Crowd”:

(To) The Re-Elect Rick Brainard Crowd: You are welcome. But be perfectly clear on this, my
stepping away has NOTHING to do with you. My comments here should be taken to
heart and you should seriously reflect on them as you move forward. You may want to
consider getting some counseling of your own. I have learned a lot about a topic from my
councilors that I knew nothing about previously, I think my counselors Dr. Saul
Tompkins and Patrick Mills for their advice and direction. You guys are wonderful. But
for this group that couches their behavior in the support of Domestic Violence victims.
Yet, when they produce a web site two thing ring very true. First, there is not a single
reference or link to a domestic violence resource. Does that seem odd? It does to me. It
suggests that you have gotten so caught up in being the bully that you forgot your
mission. Second, clearly you have become the bully, just flip through the pages and you
will see that. Again, I suggest you take a little of your own medicine and learn about your
own behaviors and how to best deal with them. Patrick Mills can certainly help if you
need a resource, he is amazing. The bottom line is this, I have reached out to you using
every means I know to do so engaging you to talk to me, actually get to know me and
learn that I agree with your Domestic Violence mission and wanted to use my position on
City Council to be your advocate. But you were not interested, because it diminished the
fun of being the bully. I’m sorry, but the best way for me to take the wind out of your
now poorly directed sails is to take myself away from you and point out to everybody
else how you have lost your way.

It is unclear what Brainard will do next.

Sentinel Exposes G.J. Chamber of Commerce’s Hubris

Chart from the Daily Sentinel showing GJ Chamber President Diane Schwenke's compensation far outstrips the compensation earned by other comparable chamber presidents around the region

Chart from the Daily Sentinel showing GJ Chamber President Diane Schwenke’s compensation far outstrips the compensation earned by comparable chamber presidents around the region. The same goes for the G.J. Chamber’s lobbying expense.

The Grand Junction, Colorado Daily Sentinel on July 21 published a scathing expose’ of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce’s recent activities that have citizens in an uproar.  The Chamber, once seen locally as a respected and helpful institution, in recent years has started engaging in hard-core political activity, and spending plenty on it. In 2011, the G.J. Chamber spent a whopping $74,000 of members’ money on lobbying expense. The next closest comparable Colorado Chamber of Commerce that spent anything at all on lobbying was the Montrose Chamber, which spent just $2,000. The Sentinel also revealed that G.J. Chamber president Diane Schwenke’s compensation far exceeds that of her counterparts at comparable Colorado chambers. In 2011, Schwenke made $133,930 in salary and benefits. Her next closest counterpart made just $112,477. Most of the other presidents of comparable chambers made well under $100,000/year in combined salary and benefits. The G.J. Chamber’s headlong dive into hyper-political activity has led to a backlash among citizens, who have started boycotting Chamber-member businesses. In many citizens’ eyes, the G.J. Chamber stepped out of bounds after it formed a secretive political group, the Western Colorado Business Alliance, that takes in unlimited money and spends unlimited funds to get Chamber-backed candidates elected to local office. The Chamber did exactly that in the last City-wide election, only to have one of their winning candidates, Rick Brainard, get thrown in jail four days after the election for beating up a woman. Brainard pled guilty to assault on May 17.  Throughout his legal travails, Brainard has refused pressure from citizens to resign from Council, and will soon cost City taxpayers $50,000 for a recall effort. Making matters worse, the Chamber continues to back Brainard, making Grand Junction the first city in Colorado to allow a freshly-convicted criminal sit on its Council. Former G.J. Chamber member Harry Griff of the law firm Griff, Larson Laiche & Wright, told the Sentinel he quit the Chamber after being a member for 25 years, calling it “a very, very exclusionary group.” Another business owner, Marilyn Charlesworth, also quit the Chamber over it’s unwelcome political activity, calling it a “little boy’s club.” Other businesses to quit include the CandyTime Shoppe, Pablo’s Pizza and the Hot Tomato in Fruita. New businesses in town are also opting not to join the Chamber due to the firestorm of controversy surrounding the organization. Citizens who are outraged at Chamber activities are boycotting Chamber-member businesses and using Facebook to organize, share strategies and share names of businesses that belong to the Chamber and those that do not, or to name who recently dropped their membership. For its part, the Chamber’s leadership remains completely unapologetic. In response to a question Sentinel reporter Charles Ashby posed about whether the local backlash is having any impact on the Chamber’s decision to get more political in the future, Chamber president Diane Schwenke responded that yes, it’s had an impact, but only to the extent that it will make the Chamber try to become even more effective at its political involvement in the future.

Source: Grand Junction, CO Daily Sentinel, Politics and Business, by Charles Ashby, July 21, 2013 (NOT behind a paywall!)

The Man Rick Brainard Beat

Former Grand Junction Mayor Bill Pitts

Former Grand Junction Mayor Bill Pitts (Photo Credit: KREX TV)

By any measure, former Grand Junction Mayor Bill Pitts is a stalwart of the community. A licensed private pilot and resident of Grand Junction for over 50 years, Pitts turned down several lucrative promotions offered to him by his former employer, a big security firm that sold safes, in order to move to and stay in Grand Junction. His company offered him a position supervising sales over the entire west coast, and he turned it down. Later he turned down another big opportunity to manage sales over the entire U.S. midwest region from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. “This is the best place in the world to live,” Pitts says. “I’ve been in every state and over 21 countries, and there isn’t any place better than Grand Junction.” Married for over 50 years and a true booster of the community, by his own calculation Mayor Pitts put in 3.2 days per week into doing City business for the paltry sum of $700 a month, and he did every last duty his mayoral position called on him to do, no matter how small. “Anytime someone asked me to do something extra, give a graduation speech or whatever, I did it, no matter what,” Pitts says. Pitts is also a creative guy, having invented six different useful items that are currently on the international market. One is commonly used locally here in western Colorado: those plastic covers with magnetic edges that you slap over swamp cooler vents inside the house in winter to keep out the drafts. Pitts is also an accomplished businessman who began several local businesses from the ground up and sold them off. One is Security Alarm Company, which he sold to former City Councilor Bruce Hill. Pitts also started the campground and RV park at 22 and H Roads. As a realtor and developer, he started the Fountainhead subdivision at G Road at 25 Road. Pitts was also an active dues-paying member of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce for over 44 years. He helped start Dinosaur Days, was active in Chamber Rangers and other Chamber programs. Mr. Pitts is also a lifelong Republican, and in addition to regularly paying membership dues to the Chamber, he also was a regular donor to the Mesa County GOP.

Bill Pitts is the quintessential, dyed-in-the-wool, patriotic, community-loving Republican Grand Junction resident. But at the May 1, 2013 City Council meeting he announced that after 44 years, he was withdrawing his membership in the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. He also has stopped giving money to the Mesa County GOP.

Why?

Diane Schwenke Talks Nonsense to Mesa County GOP

Diane Schwenke speaks to Mesa County Republicans May 7 (Photo Credit: YouTube)

Diane Schwenke speaks to Mesa County Republicans May 7 (Photo Credit: YouTube)

Two days after Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke made her May 5 Facebook post insulting atheists, a YouTube video shows her speaking at a May 7 Mesa County Republican Women’s luncheon with life-sized cardboard cutout of Ronald Reagan beside her. About 8 1/2 minutes into the 22 minute video, Ms. Schwenke starts to talk about the City of Grand Junction’s withdrawal of it’s $6,000 annual membership in the Chamber. (Recall that the City withdrew its membership in the Chamber after the April election saying the Chamber had become too deeply involved in influencing local politics. The City pronounced it a conflict of interest to fund a group that is dedicated to influencing City politics.) The crowd tittered as Ms. Schwenke trivialized the $6,000 loss, saying since her budget is over $600,000, and the City’s membership represented a mere “one percent or less” of her overall operating budget.  Schwenke discussed how the story of the City yanking its Chamber funding had made her a star. “KKCO managed to get the story on the AP wire and the story made the Columbus, Indiana television station,” Schwenke said. “I had one of my peers in California ask me if I would do a presentation about what it’s like to stand up to the city and have your funding cut. We aren’t funded by the government,” she emphasized, yet in the same talk she thanked Mayor Sam Susuras and Council member Marty Chazen — both backed by the Chamber — for restoring her $6,000 in City funds immediately after they were sworn in. And despite the Chamber’s disastrous backing of Rick Brainard for Council — even after he was arrested just days after getting elected for assaulting his girlfriend badly enough to give her a black eye — Schwenke said, “We have elevated the need for qualified candidates …and I think that in and of itself is good for the community at large.”

Saga Drags On as Brainard Assumes Seat on Council

Two views of citizens  turning their backs on Brainard at his swearing in ceremony May 6, 2013.

Two views of citizens turning their backs on Brainard at his swearing in ceremony May 6, 2013. Ruth Ehlers is seen in the hot pink jacket in the top photo. (Photo Credit: Demand Rick Brainard Resign Grand Junction Facebook page)

Rick Brainard was elevated to Grand Junction City Council this week amid an unprecedented citizen protest at his swearing in ceremony. As City Clerk Stephanie Tuin read Mr. Brainard his oath of office, 60 percent of the audience stood and turned their backs on him in silent protest — a remarkable showing for a municipal ceremony on a weekday morning in this small, conservative town. Brainard claimed to the media that he was unaware of the protest, but was sweating after the ceremony. In response to a question about the protest from a KKCO Channel 11 news reporter, Brainard responded “You know, it is what it is …My supporters have been steadfast, and I’m grateful for that.” An unidentified Brainard supporter was overheard saying, “All they did was turn their backs. They have a right to do that. I thought they were very civil. Not nearly as obnoxious as I thought they were going to be.”

Brainard Episode Exposes Chamber Plot to Seize Political Control of Grand Junction

Grand Junction citizens protest in front of the Chamber of Commerce. The blue sign says "GJ Chamber endorses violence."

Grand Junction citizens protest outside the Chamber of Commerce. The blue sign says “GJ Chamber endorses violence.”

Rick Brainard’s election to the Grand Junction City Council and subsequent arrest for assault and harassment have appalled and galvanized City residents, but it’s also raised awareness of a sea change happening in Grand Junction politics right now that would otherwise have gone little-noticed. City Councilman Tom Kenyon alluded to it when he told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel the day after the election that “This election was very different” from others. “It was very organized,” Kenyon said, “It felt like they were out to get you. They raised a lot of money.”

Kenyon was right. This election was very different from previous local elections. That’s because, thanks to the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, a new group has appeared in town that has vowed to take a “proactive role” in setting local public policy. Translation? That group has vowed to take control of the City of Grand Junction. That group is the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce’s newly-created 501(c)4 political arm, the Western Colorado Business Alliance (WCBA), which exerted its muscle in the last election to seize control of Grand Junction’s City Council.

Citizens Flood City Hall with Calls of Outrage Over Brainard Issue

Grand Junction City Councilman-Elect Rick Brainard (Photo Credit: GJ Police Department)

Grand Junction City Councilman-Elect Rick Brainard (Photo Credit: GJ Police Department)

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel has published audio of telephone calls made by outraged citizens to City Hall about councilman-elect Rick Brainard’s intent to assume office on May 6.  Mr. Brainard was arrested April 6 for assaulting his girlfriend — just four days after he was elected to the Grand Junction City Council. In his police affidavit, Mr. Brainard admitting grabbing and pushing his girlfriend, pulling her hair and hitting her “on the left side of her neck/cheek area,” hard enough to cause a black eye. Mr. Brainard’s arrest affidavit (pdf) states, “Rick stated that he slapped Cindy because she ‘needed to shut her mouth.’ ” Citizens have been calling City Hall to express outrage at Mr. Brainard’s intent to take his seat, and asking the City to do something stop him. One caller was angry at Mr. Brainard’s request to Mesa County Court Judge Craig Henderson avoid all of his court appearances. Another caller complained he cannot get a job because he has the same charge on his record, and yet Mr. Brainard will be allowed to serve on City Council. Following are some excerpts from the calls:

 

“My husband and I voted for this lowlife that is in jail right now. I wish you would ask for his resignation…”

“…Just letting you know that if you keep Mr. Brainard on board, all you are doing is letting the people of Grand Junction know that it’s ok to be a wife beater…”

“The fact that I can’t get a job with the same record, …I’m just curious how it is a man can stay on…I can’t get a job as a CNA or get a CNA license or anything with the same record…”

“If you people keep Rick Brainard on City Council you have everything coming to you that happens. This is only the beginning. I know this guy.”

“I’m calling to express my outrage at Rick Brainard being able to keep his seat after being arrested for domestic violence…”

“I’d just like to register my utter outrage that RB is going to be allowed to still sit on City Council after admitting to the police that he struck a woman for something she said, and I cannot believe the message this sends to the female members of our community…”

“This is not the type of individual I want as part of my City Council. I find it embarrassing…”

 

Citizens are planning to protest Mr. Brainard at his swearing in on Monday, May 6. Mr. Brainard’s first court date coincidentally is that same morning, just two hours before he is scheduled to be sworn onto City Council.

G.J. Chamber of Commerce Finds Its Fortunes Sinking with Brainard’s

Grand Junction citizens march and protest outside the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce

Grand Junction citizens march and protest outside the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce

The fortunes of the Grand Junction Colorado Area Chamber of Commerce are sinking this week alongside those of embattled councilman-elect Rick Brainard, an executive at West Star Aviation in Grand Junction, who faces criminal charges for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend during a domestic altercation April 6. Grand Junction Police arrested and charged Mr. Brainard just four days after he won election to the Grand Junction City Council. Appalled citizens have been marching, chanting, holding rallies and organizing phone banks to protest Mr. Brainard assuming his seat on Council. This week outraged citizens picketed the G.J. Chamber, which continues to stand steadfastly behind Mr. Brainard. Just days ago, Mr. Brainard resigned from the Chamber’s board, but the Chamber still backs him. Adding to the Chamber’s woes, this week, the City of Grand Junction voted to yank its $6,000 membership in the Chamber, saying the Chamber has changed from an economic development organization into an overtly political group. As if losing the City’s lucrative membership and being targeted with loud protests by Grand Junction citizens wasn’t enough, this week thieves targeted the Chamber stealing a number of copper backflow devices said to be valued at thousands of dollars. To top it all off, an alternative Chamber of Commerce announced its debut this week in town: the Western Colorado Latino Chamber of Commerce, with dues that are a fraction of the GJ Chamber’s dues, making the Latino Chamber far more accessible to smaller businesses.

Additional coverage: The Daily Sentinel publishes audio of calls from citizens to City  Council over the Brainard issue

Grand Junction Citizens Continue to Pressure Brainard to Resign

Photo credit: KREX-TV, Grand Junction

Photo credit: KREX-TV, Grand Junction

The saga of embattled city councilman-elect Rick Brainard continues to unfold in Grand Junction, Colorado as citizens continue to pressure Brainard to resign his seat on City Council. Brainard, 51, won election to the Grand Junction City Council on April 2, but on April 6 was arrested on charges of third degree assault and harassment after admitting to hitting his live-in girlfriend in the face in a domestic dispute. Brainard said in a police affidavit that he struck his girlfriend because she “needed to shut her mouth.” His remarks have drawn the ire of the community. Most of the sitting city council members signed a resolution calling on Mr. Brainard to resign his seat. The local paper, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, endorsed Brainard prior to his election, but rescinded its endorsement and published an editorial calling on him to reject his seat on Council. The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce also endorsed Brainard for office, but has so far refused to pull their support for him, saying he is “entitled to due process.” Brainard served on the Chamber’s board. Mr. Brainard so far has vowed to take his seat on Council despite the furor.  He is scheduled to be sworn into office on May 6, coincidentally the same day that he is supposed to make his first court appearance in his assault case.

Republicans’ REDMAP Strategy to Skew Future Elections in Their Favor

Voter ID wasn't enough; Republicans still tinkering with election processes to disadvantage voters on the other side

Voter ID wasn’t enough; Republicans still tinkering with election processes to disadvantage voters on the other side

Republicans, finding themselves less able to win elections on the merits of their candidates and policy positions, are continuing to tinker with election processes at the state level to disadvantage voters who disagree with their policies and dislike their candidates.  In 2010 and 2011, Republicans worked frenetically in state legislatures to pass so-called “voter ID” laws, which, just prior to the election, were officially outed as a strategy to make voting harder for the people most likely to vote against their candidates: African Americans, the elderly, the poor, students and those with disabilities. As voter ID laws were increasingly discredited and blocked by the courts, Republicans started working on a new strategy: REDMAP, short for “Redistricting Majority Project,” an effort to skew the redistricting process to assure Republicans maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives even though more Democrats than Republicans are now casting ballots across the country. The GOP’s REDMAP strategy involves a plan to win control of state legislatures. Once they achieve that, they initiate an aggressive gerrymandering campaign to redraw the states’ electoral maps and create districts that are completely safe for Republicans. But beyond eliminating competitive elections in Congressional races, a new part of the GOP’s strategy is to change the rules about how the states apportion their electoral college votes. The new strategy will magnify the effect of Republican votes in the Electoral College in future elections. The GOP wants to change the current winner-take-all rule for apportioning electoral college votes to instead apportioning electoral votes based on the winner in each individual Congressional district within the state. The change would hand beleaguered Republicans a huge process advantage over Democrats. As an example, if the GOP’s hoped-for rule had been in place in Pennsylvania in the November, 2012 election, for example, Mitt Romney would have won 13 of that state’s 20 electoral college votes, even though Obama won the state with 52 percent of the popular vote.

Main Source: Huffington Post, January 17, 2012

Former GOP Officials Admit Use of “Voter ID” to Suppress Democratic Turnout

The Palm Beach Post ran a blockbuster story November 25 in which several former high-up GOP officials admitted that “Voter ID” laws and a law cutting back early voting were GOP tactics aimed at suppressing the Democratic vote in Florida. Former Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist and Jim Greer, former chair of the Florida Republican Party, both admitted that the GOP’s push to enact “Voter ID” laws out of a purported concern for voter fraud was really a ruse to block Democratic voters from the polls. Greer told the Palm Beach Post, “The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates…It’s done for one reason and one reason only.” Greer said Republican staffers and consultants told him ,”We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us.” Wayne Bertsch, who coordinated campaigns for GOP candidates for local offices, also admitted the reasons GOP officials gave for advancing voter ID laws were bogus. Crist said while he was in office as Florida’s governor, Republican Party leaders contacted him to discuss curtailing early voting hours as a way to suppress turnout among Democratic voters. Crist has since left the GOP and is now an Independent.  Greer has been indicted for using a phony campaign fundraising operation to pocket $200,000. But the Post also found another GOP-affiliated consultant, who asked not to be named who confirmed that the true purpose behind enacting voter ID and a law to cut back on early voting in Florida were meant to suppress Democratic turnout in the general election.

Source: Palm Beach Post, November 25, 2012

 

Karl Rove Rendered Useless to Republicans

Karl Rove

Karl Rove, whom Vanity Fair called “one of the most powerful unelected officials in the United States,” is facing criticism and derision after his two well-funded super pacs, American Crossroads and the more secretive Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (“Crossroads GPS”), proved surprisingly ineffective after Democrats largely emerged victorious in the 2012 general election. Rove, a Republican political strategist who famously once dreamed of creating a “permanent Republican majority” in U.S. government, helped create the two groups which together sucked in over $300 million in the last election cycle, mostly from billionaires hoping to influence the election’s outcome. Crossroads GPS, which refused to make public the names of it’s super-wealthy donors, blanketed the U.S. with attack ads against Democratic candidates in which the group made notably false and misleading claims against candidates. Despite spending vast amounts of money, however, Rove’s groups were ultimately unable to influence the outcomes of the November 6 elections.  Rove has spent the last week defending his super PACs and scrambling to devise a new strategy for boosting Republicans’ fortunes in elections nationwide. Rove served as former president George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff. Since leaving the government, he has worked as a political strategist, consultant and a paid speaker. Rove’s normal speaker’s fee in 2010 was $60,000, but he has had his appearances canceled on several occasions due to protests.