Jimmy’s Colorado Politics Column | Dems all around — but no leaders

Written by on January 26, 2021

For four years, we heard constant, confident claims from many quarters that the Republican Party was the exemplar of failed leadership.  It’s certainly debatable, but the drumbeat was incessant for years.

Now, as Democrats solidify control both here in Colorado and in Washington, D.C., we must all assess whether the party in power offers the needed source of real leadership for our tense time.

The answer, unfortunately, is no. To explain, let’s examine five Colorado Democrats: Gov. Jared Polis, Secretary of State Jena Griswold, U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper, 6th Congressional District U.S. Rep. Jason Crow and state House and Senate leadership.

First, Polis’ handling of the deadly coronavirus pandemic has been erratic and overbearing.  Beginning almost a year ago, he assumed unilateral authority by declaring COVID-19 an “emergency.”  Since then, businesses, schools, churches, families and individuals have suffered massive business and job losses, poor educational outcomes, trampling of First Amendment liberties and serious mental health burdens.  When Coloradans were looking for real direction and explanation amid ever-changing rules and metrics, Polis did not — and still does not — provide it.

Polis’ decision-making process has sorely lacked consistency, his policies sowed confusion and frustration and he botched his vaccine rollout. He even wasted upwards of $100 million in taxpayer money on unused hospital overflow facilities such as the Convention Center that are only now being shut down because “hospital capacity is expected to meet the needs of COVID-19.” I’m struggling to find gubernatorial leadership.

Griswold has leadership failures of a different sort.  As I exposed last week at The Denver Gazette, the Secretary of State’s Office has endured historic turnover in the past two years alone. For example, from 1999 to 2019, Colorado had only two deputy secretaries of state: Bill Hobbs (1999-2012) and Suzanne Staiert (2012-2018).  Griswold has already burned through two – Jenny Flanagan and Ian Rayder – and is now searching for Deputy #3.

Griswold is on her fifth chief of staff, her third legislative liaison and her second communications director.  To quote her second legislative liaison, Reese Edwards, from a public LinkedIn post, “[T]his office has over 200% turnover within its executive team in less than two years under current leadership” and there are “other options (than my old position) better suited for talented individuals looking to make an impact in Colorado.”

What about Crow? Just days after being sworn in for a second term, he was photographed on one knee as the Capitol was under siege.  It is a stirring image, yet in his response, he went overboard. In a letter to all chief law enforcement officers in CD6, Crow denounced the “terrorists that breached the Capitol” and noted that some law enforcement officers from across the country were among the rioters.

I have repeatedly condemned the siege. I will not defend it in the slightest. However, what Crow requested of “all police and sheriff departments” in CD6 was that they “conduct urgent personnel reviews to identify individuals in their departments that participated in the acts of insurrection.”  In other words, treat all officers and deputies as guilty until proven innocent.

As a Georgia cop friend put it, “Bring me your probable cause and I’ll pick up the investigation based on good faith. If you don’t have probable cause someone did something wrong, or at least reasonable suspicion, get outta here.”  If law enforcement officers are found to have participated, they should be disciplined.  But this “request” by Crow is not leadership. It is antithetical to the American ideal.

As our new U.S. senator, it would be nice to view Hickenlooper as a trustworthy leader. Unfortunately, he’s the first Colorado governor to be found in violation of state constitutional ethics rules by the Independent Ethics Commission. The statute of limitations prevented review of all the allegations, but his leadership failure is more evidenced by his refusal to show up than by his guilt. 

Even after the IEC subpoenaed Hickenlooper, he still felt himself above the law and only testified after he was held in contempt. Is this man equipped to be a leader for Coloradans?

Finally, consider the Democratic leaders in the General Assembly. They’ve refused to exert their rightful authority to check the governor on multiple occasions: The 2020 legislative session, the 2020 special session and now the 2021 annual session.

Two weeks ago, the legislature gaveled in for this year’s session. After just three days, they were already out for at least a month – even as Coloradans continue to struggle and suffer with COVID-19 and Polis’s centralized public health orders. Where is leadership from the legislative branch when it’s most needed?

To be clear, my point here is not to say Republicans have shown great leadership. But Democrats have taken over both statewide and nationally. The burden of leadership now falls upon their shoulders. Sadly, they don’t seem up to the task.

Click here to read the rest of Jimmy’s January 26 column at Colorado Politics, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.

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