This has led to the nomination of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper to fill Bill Ritter's shoes. The Mayor is a local businessman and brewpub owner. He is what you would expect from a Mountain State Democrat, not as liberal as we would like but not the bat-crap insane tax cutter, immigrant basher, social conservative that is usually the alternate choice.
The thing that caught my eyes and ears recently is the amount of effort an out of state group is putting into try to define Mayor Hickenlooper. The Republican Governors Association has been running ads on local radio and all over the internet (you can see the website here) trying to tie Mayor Hickenlooper to Governor Ritter and painting both as fiends out to wreck the economy by raising taxes.
While it is a pretty standard claim that Democrats will raise taxes this effort requires a little unpacking. The ads claim that 100,000 plus jobs were lost in Colorado due to Gov. Ritters policies and that 39,000 were lost in Denver. My first thought on this was how can both be to blame? If we are talking about the state wide job losses, then you can't lay the blame for nearly 40% of them at the feet of Mayor Hickenlooper. Likewise if was his policies that lost the 40K jobs, shouldn't that number be subtracted from the Governors' total? Since it is Republican bashing obviously it doesn't have to make a lot of sense.
The other problem with all of this is that it completely ignores the fact that in the state of Colorado you can not raise taxes without a vote of the people. We have the so-called Tax Payers Bill of Rights or TABOR amendment which does not allow the state to increase tax revenue without the say so of the voters.
At the Denver level it is pretty much the same. The tax increases that the Republican Governors rail against were mostly school funding increases. While they were supported by the Mayor it was not him or even the City Council who had the final say, but the people of the city.
There are a couple of other glaring logical errors that the Republican Governors don't mention in their ads or on their website (which is essentially the text of the ads). First off the state has had to cut over $1.8 billion from its budget since 2008. There is another projected 1.5 billion that will need to be cut. These cuts have been brutal in terms of state services and education, but given our requirement for a balanced budget and an inability to raise taxes without a vote of the people it has to be done. Gov. Ritter did allow some tax exemptions to expire as part of balancing the budget, but that is not the same thing as raising taxes.
Mayor Hickenlooper had to cut $120 million this last year and the city of Denver is still going to run a deficit. Colorado ranks 34th in school spending; we also have a crisis in graduation rates for children in our largest cities. The school tax increase is an important factor if we are going to attact high tech jobs that will be the well paying future for our state. To hammer the Mayor for doing the right thing in a time of budget crisis is so typically Republican. Focus on the taxes and the hell with what really matters.
Then there is the logical fallacy that it was the Mayors or Governor's fault that the state lost jobs in the worst recession in generations. Colorado's unemployment rate is at 8%. It is below the national average, but it has gone up from 6% prior to the economic melt down. I am a personal victim of this recession. I can tell you that the lay off of 30% of the work force at my old company had nothing to do with taxes and everything to do with the collapse of the housing market and commodity prices.
All in all this smear campaign from the Republican Governors Association is the typical BS from a party that only cares about the wealthy and reducing taxes. They know that which ever of the far right candidates they nominate will need a compelling reason for the voters to put them in office. Since we are the home of insane anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce, the thing that is going to get them spun up is the perception that Democrats have been raising taxes left and right.
This is the first time I have seen ads in a state race from the Republican Governors Association. The likely reason is that they are flush with cash right now as donors who can't stand to give their money to the RNC run by the hapless Michael Steele have found other places to give. Will it make a difference? It is hard to say. There is no real middle here in Colorado. There is the Right and the Left. We do have a lot of unaffiliated voters, but they are mostly people who have left either the Republican or Democratic parties and still mostly vote for their old parties candidates.
Republicans are going to believe this BS about Mayor Hickenlooper no matter what, Democrats are going to probably see is as BS. If that is the case I am a happy guy, it means the RGA spent a bunch of money for no good reason.
Still to have them hammering that airwaves this early either means that they believe they can frame the mayor of Denver with this meme or that they think any Republican candidate will need a lot of help to take a state that has been trending Democratic for the last six years.
So now that we have shown that their claims are the usual Republican half-truths, hopefully it can get out there and start to make this early smear campaign less effective. How about you, gentle readers, have you seen similar ads in your states?
The floor is yours.