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I’ve covered Gov. Jared Polis closely since the moment he announced his run for governor, and I’ve never seen him overcome by emotion in the way he was yesterday.
By now you’ve probably seen what happened. At a press conference about coronavirus, Charles Ashby of The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel asked Polis the following:
“We’re hearing a lot of reports around here, and I know I’ve seen some stuff going on statewide, about neighbors reporting on other neighbors for not following the orders, seeing a lot of rebellion out here against your orders, which have been called tyrannical, against local health department orders, being equated to Nazism. How do you react to that? What do you say to those people who are clearly getting frustrated with this stay-at-home order?”
Polis, who is Jewish, choked up and said: “As a Jewish American who lost family in the Holocaust, I’m offended by any comparison to Nazism. We act to save lives — the exact opposite of the slaughter of 6 million Jews and many gypsies and Catholics and gays and lesbians and Russians and so many others.”
It was quite a moment. Watch it here to see for yourself.
Evidently, Ashby caught some blowback for his question. He tweeted later: “I cannot believe the people who emailed me criticizing my question to @GovofCO about OTHERS who equated stay-at-home orders to Nazism. I’m sorry he had to answer it, and I regret it saddened him, but it had to be asked. Thanks Jared Polis for your courage to respond.”
Here’s my take: One can debate whether Ashby’s question was sufficiently artful for this particularly sensitive subject matter. If I’d been asking the question, I probably would have identified House Minority Leader Patrick Neville by name, since he’s the one who in March suggested officials implementing stay-home orders have a “Gestapo-like mentality.” Maybe there are others Ashby knows who’ve made the same comparison.
But there’s nothing wrong with asking about it. Neville is one of the most prominent Republican leaders in the state, and while his Gestapo comment was clearly extreme, the general sentiment — that stay-home orders are a form of tyranny and should be lifted or at least partially relaxed, despite the clear science that says such action, taken now, would kill more people — is, at this point, a pretty mainstream opinion among Colorado’s conservative elected officials.
Don’t lose sight of that. The Neville remark was important to highlight, as was the governor’s response to it, but the underlying story is more significant, I’d argue. I think that’s what Ashby was trying to get at, and Polis did regain his composure to speak more broadly to the question. Here’s his full transcribed response.
As a Jew, I’ll also say: I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with drawing parallels between certain modern-day behaviors and Nazism. The problem is that way too often, the comparisons we hear are in no way apt.
We can, and should, debate the pros and cons of the many government mandates handed down here since early March. But let’s be clear: The Nazis killed millions of people. Polis is tasked with trying to keep people alive in a state with a underresourced health care system and limited testing infrastructure.
Moving on …
In this week’s Spot, we’ve got Justin Wingerter writing on the Democratic U.S. Senate primary and Saja Hindi writing on the campaign to defend Colorado’s inclusion in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
And finally, a scheduling note. The Spot is going to take a break next week as several members of our team take furloughs. (We’ll be back April 30.)
Despite incredible reader response to The Denver Post’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on every aspect of our lives, the media industry is one of many that has taken a big financial hit because of it. To support the important journalism we do, you can become a Denver Post subscriber here.
You can send tips, comments and questions to me at email@example.com or to the other Post reporters below.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has resumed staffing guard stations at Chatfield and Cherry Creek state parks during times of high use, four weeks after closing visitors centers and removing personnel from entrance gates in response to the novel coronavirus. Here’s why.
Capitol Diary • By Saja Hindi
One person, one vote for president?
Pandemic or not, Colorado advocates for electing the president of the United States by popular vote believe the idea is, well, popular.
A statewide coalition announced the official launch of its “Yes on National Popular Vote” campaign earlier this week, pointing to support from both sides of the aisle, with even President Donald Trump previously expressing support for the idea.
Last year, lawmakers passed a bill that allows Colorado to join the interstate compact, pledging the state’s Electoral College votes for president to whoever wins the national popular vote. So far, 15 states and the District of Columbia with a combined 196 Electoral College votes have joined the compact. In order for it to go into effect, the compact needs to reach at least 270 votes.
But Colorado opponents of the measure, led by Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese and Monument Mayor Don Wilson, are seeking its repeal — the first time a law has been challenged via ballot since 1932.
Pugliese told The Denver Post that not allowing voters a say in giving away their electoral votes is overstepping the legislature’s authority. A national popular vote would put the selection of president in the hands of the most populous states in the country, she and other opponents say.
On the other hand, supporters “think it’s vital for our democracy to have this one person, one vote concept in presidential campaigns,” said Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette.
The group hopes the compact will have enough votes to count presidential votes this way in 2024.
More state and city politics news
#COSen 2020 • By Justin Wingerter
That old account again
It was Sept. 12, 2016, and Ali Murray was unsure.
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s scheduler was preparing to tell the Colorado State Patrol which of Hickenlooper’s recent flights on a state airplane would be paid for by taxpayers. But, as she wrote to a colleague in the governor’s office that day, there was one flight she was unsure of.
“Governor and First Lady took state plane to Aspen for a dinner with Jane Harman and others. He did not speak at the dinner, but they did request his presence,” Murray wrote in an email, obtained by The Post in a records request. “Not sure how to handle payment on this one?”
The Hickenloopers had used a state plane July 29, 2016, to fly to the Aspen home of Harman, a wealthy former congresswoman, and back to Denver that same night.
Harman was hosting powerful attendees of the Aspen Security Forum — she’s a trustee at the Aspen Institute and hosts an annual dinner for the forum’s speakers — and decided “having the governor appear would be appropriate,” she said in an email to The Post. Contradicting his scheduler, Harman says Hickenlooper made brief remarks at the private dinner.
Hickenlooper’s office paid for the day trip by sending $943 in taxpayer money to the State Patrol. The money came from a federal fund set aside for “essential government services” that Hickenlooper and a predecessor routinely spent on nonessential expenses. The same pool of federal money paid for Hickenlooper’s nearly $6,000 government plane trip to a resort town in Idaho that year, for a finance conference he spoke at.
The federal dollars had been used to buy a state plane in 2003, so Hickenlooper’s office reasoned they should also be used to pay for flights on that plane. Most flights were used to conduct state business, records show.
The Post began researching Hickenlooper’s use of the federal fund late last year, when it became apparent the governor’s office used it to pay for his ethics defense. Through interviews and records requests, details about trips such as this have been revealed in the months since.
Revelations about the use of the federal fund drew bipartisan attention in the General Assembly earlier this year. With budget writers staring down a massive shortfall, this may be the year they stop supplementing the old account, which was meant to help the state’s economy back in 2003.
In 2018, the General Assembly gave the governor’s office an additional $562,240 to cover expenses that are traditionally paid for out of the federal fund, because it believed the fund would run out of money that fiscal year. But it didn’t. In fact, there is currently about $935,000 in the account, according to a Department of Personnel and Administration spokesperson.
Ads: The National Republican Senatorial Committee will spend $6.4 million on TV to boost Sen. Cory Gardner, Politico reports. Ads will begin July 8, a week after Coloradans elect a Democratic candidate.
Endorsements: Senate candidate Lorena Garcia was endorsed Tuesday by the Denver chapter of Democratic Socialists of America. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff was endorsed Wednesday by Arvadans for Progressive Action.
More federal politics news