Jimmy’s Colorado Politics Column | Rising stars’ smoke and mirrors

Written by on June 24, 2021

Last week, two prominent Colorado Democrats yet again proved themselves insincere political actors first and public servants last. I’m talking about embattled Denver Public Schools board member Tay Anderson and hyper-partisan Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

Let’s start with Anderson. On Sunday, May 30, he announced he was “stepping back from everyday board functions until the completion of the independent investigation” into serious sexual assault allegations against him. He also denied the allegations. 

Shockingly, that same night, the cowardly school board revealed just how hollow his recusal really was. They clarified in a statement that Anderson “will continue to vote on necessary matters before the Board including the hiring of a new superintendent.” 

On Thursday, June 3, Anderson indeed voted to confirm the new superintendent, Alex Marrero, joining the 6-1 majority.  The day before, Anderson promised the vote for superintendent “will be my last vote until the next school board year begins in August, if the investigation has concluded.  Once that’s concluded, and I am cleared, I will return to doing the job I was elected to.” 

But this pledge to wait until at least August to come back was mere political smoke and mirrors, as revealed in emails obtained via a CORA. On June 16, Anderson’s attorney, Christopher Decker, emailed DPS General Counsel Michelle Berge and incoming outside counsel Kristin C. Edgar, of Caplan & Earnest. The email expressly contradicts Anderson’s pledge to hold off until August to participate in board matters again.

“Director Anderson and I are requesting to be provided with all zoom links for any meetings, work sessions, and retreats for the remainder of the month,” Decker wrote. “He will determine at a later date, and with his counsel, if he will begin attending these meetings.”

So, maybe not August anymore?

This raises some questions.  Why would Anderson publicly promise not to return to business until August but privately, through his attorney, request details and links for board meetings and more as though it’s almost business as usual? 

What gives Anderson such confidence to arrogantly and prematurely return to duty? Is he privy to inside information on the investigation, or does he want the inside scoop from DPS’ vantagepoint?

Anderson said on June 2 that his goal was “to put kids first.”  With DPS students deeply concerned about Anderson, how is it putting “kids first” to rush back in as though everything is normal? In fact, if the school board member were genuinely interested in prioritizing kids, he would put their comfort and well-being first and resign outright.

Tay Anderson is playing political games with his recusal, but he’s not the only one doing that.  Last week, Jena Griswold played some political games based on election conspiracies.

“My office just issued rules prohibiting sham election audits in the State of Colorado,” she proudly tweeted June 17.  “We will not risk the state’s election security nor perpetuate The Big Lie. Fraudits have no place in Colorado.”

Griswold banned county clerks from “allowing access to voting machines unless that person has passed a background check and is performing a task with authorization from either the county clerk or Griswold’s office.” 

Sorry, but existing statute already prohibits third parties from examining voting machines and voter signatures.  Ballots, though, are public record and can be reviewed to verify an electoral outcome. Moreover, there appear to be no Colorado audit requests currently pending.  Anywhere.  Griswold merely restated what’s already law, spun as a narrative complete with cries about something that isn’t even happening. Griswold is standing up against “The Big Lie,” you see.

Some Republicans ate up the bait, attacking Griswold for “hiding something.” The result? An easy Griswold message, summed up: “I’m being attacked by Republicans for thwarting The Big Lie!  I’m the one saving clerks from death threats and taking on those awful Trumpsters!” It’s all a fundraising gimmick.

Don’t believe me? Check out her campaign’s cringe-worthy Facebook ad. “Jena is running for re-election as Colorado’s Secretary of State to protect voting rights and elevate the voices of the people,” it says. The post accompanies an image of Griswold with large text: “Re-elect the Dr. Fauci of vote-by-mail!”

Plus, this isn’t the first time Griswold has put out a partisan press release. In May 2019 — months after taking office — her office distributed one claiming she was forbidding employee travel to Alabama over an abortion law. Her boycott had absolutely nothing to do with elections. Even more, there were NO plans to go to Alabama. (P.S. Planned Parenthood edited her release.)

Let’s be real: Griswold’s “Fraudits” statement is a pathetic partisan gesture and yet another unethical way of getting attention and raising campaign cash.  No wonder she can’t keep her staff and is now a “Final Decision Maker” on campaign finance claims.  

Both Griswold and Anderson were back-to-back Colorado Democratic Party Rising Stars in 2019 and 2020, respectively. If they keep trying to get away with deception like this, maybe it’s time we start calling them falling stars.

Click here to read the rest of Jimmy’s June 24 column at Colorado Politics, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.

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