Haven't voted yet? Today's your last chance to do so — and in our election archives, you'll find a wealth of information about statewide ballot measures and races specific to Denver,
Below, for your convenience, we've rounded up some of each to help you make the choice that's right for you.
Included are excerpts from our interviews with Beth McCann and Helen Morgan, who are running for Denver district attorney; Q&As offering positive and negative sides of ballot issue 4B to renew the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District; differing takes on Initiative 300, concerning the social use of marijuana; and conversations with 6th District congressional hopeful Morgan Carroll and U.S. Senate race competitors Darryl Glenn and Michael Bennet.
Get a taste of the posts below and click the links for much, much more. Then get out there and vote.
Candidate for Denver District Attorney
Westword: Why did you decide to run for district attorney?
Beth McCann: A couple of reasons. I think we can be doing things a little bit differently in Denver in criminal justice. I obviously believe strongly that people who are dangerous and commit violent crimes need to be put in prison, where they're not in the community. But I also think we could be doing more to address the causes of crime and preventing crime in order to keep our community safer. By that I mean particularly working with young people and the subject of mental health and substance abuse, addictions. There's national criminal-justice reform going on, and I'd really like to see Denver be a leader in that area.
That's kind of the substantive area. And secondly, my background gives me a unique set of qualifications for this race. It fits my background really well. I was a prosecutor here in Denver for many years, but I've also served as Manager of Safety of Denver and also supervised lawyers in the attorney general's office. And now I'm making the laws, writing the laws, as a legislator. So I bring a unique set of qualifications that I think will really help me lead Denver forward to some new thoughts about criminal justice and how we can get smarter about it....
I've been a lawyer for many years. I did not only do criminal law, but I also did private practice in litigation and supervising litigators at the attorney general's office more recently. So I've got that trial-work/strategy/evidence background. But I feel that to be the manager of the office, you really need a broader and deeper experience level. The management part is really important, because a lot of heading up an office involves management skills: personnel issues, performance reviews, budgets, those kinds of things. I have a lot of experience in those areas. But then the legislature has really broadened my view of what people expect from the criminal-justice system and how the laws get written and how many different points of view there are. It's just given me a much broader understanding of criminal justice as a whole....
Candidate for Denver District Attorney
Westword: Why did you decide to run for district attorney?
Helen Morgan: Because Denver deserves, in this time of criminal-justice reform, someone with my experience, vision and leadership.
What do you see as your most important qualifications?
I've been at the DA's office for 22 years. I started on February 22 of 1994. And as I've progressed through the DA's office, it's been fascinating to watch how we've started to look at what we do differently. Certainly in the aspects of drug addiction, alcoholism and mental illness. So we have responded to a national movement — it started with Bill Ritter in the late '90s — to say, "Drug addiction is a health issue, it should not be a criminal issue, and we should give people the treatment they deserve, the tools they deserve, to help them be productive citizens." Because jailing a drug addict is just expensive and nothing else.
I have had the opportunity to respond to those challenges. For example, in 2007, I helped reestablish and reconfigure Denver's drug court. So I know how to effectuate change. As you know, working in government can sometimes make glaciers look speedy. You have the police department and you have the defense bar and you have the courts and you have probation. You have all these players, all of whom have a stake in the outcome, all of whom have limited resources, all of whom have the same goal but come at it from a different angle. And so to actually get something done takes much more than saying, "I would like to start a drug court," for example.
I came into the planning process of drug court in the fall of 2006, when the group had been going for about a year. We got money from the Denver Crime Prevention and Control Commission. When [then-Denver mayor John] Hickenlooper was asking for bond money for the jail, he committed to money for jail-diversion programs. He said, "I want to give a bunch of money and I want to form this commission," which was a fabulous idea, "and I want you to look at how to keep people out of jail." One of the things I said is, "We need to reestablish drug court.... Okay, what's our protocol? How are we selecting people? Where's our memorandum of understanding?" And there was a two-page document that sort of sketched out an idea of what we were going to do — and that was it.
We had a lot of work to do. Now, because I had been in drug court in the late '90s and seen some of the mistakes we'd made, as well as some of the things we did well, and because I knew everybody at the table, I was able to say, "Okay, let's look differently at how we do intake," because we don't want every offender in our system — because sometimes drug offenders also have guns and kilos of cocaine. Those are not the kind of people who are going to get a community sentence, and if they do, they're not going to get a community sentence within a drug court sentence. They're just not appropriate. So I said, "Let's take all those people out." And everybody was like, "Okay, that sounds good." Now, at the time, Charley Garcia, who went on to become Manager of Safety, he was part of the discussion group. He and I talked about eligibility criteria and about whether we should accept everybody who would already be eligible for community corrections, since that was a standard we already had. And everybody said, "Okay, that makes sense. Let's get that done." And it's those kinds of processes that are intricate and difficult and sometimes painful for agencies, since it means rethinking the way we've done things and admitting that the way we've done things isn't working....
Among the institutions that would benefit from a vote in favor of 4B is the Denver Zoo.
"The measure seeks to reauthorize the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, which funds organizations devoted to culture and the arts by way of a 0.1 percent sales tax that's been in place throughout the seven-county Denver metro area for 28 years. Without voters' approval, the tax will expire on June 30, 2018."
Westword: Why should people vote in favor of 4B?
Michele Ames, Yes on 4B spokeswoman: I think the simplest way to think about it is that the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, which is represented by 4B, turns out to be the little tax that could. We're at almost thirty years, and with just one penny on every $10 of sales tax that folks pay here in the Denver metro area, we get an amazing array of cultural activities, arts activities, facilities that are world-class by anyone's measure, as well as small, intimate theaters and music settings all over the seven-county metro area. To me, this is exactly what we should be getting when we pay our taxes and do this kind of communal effort.
How do you feel the tax has succeeded over the thirty years it's been in place?
These aren't my measures; these are external measures. But the National Endowment for the Arts did a study that came out recently in which Denver did very well. And by any measure, we have a very robust cultural arts and scientific community here in the seven-county metro area. And while certainly the SCFD shouldn't claim credit for every single bit of it, I think having that base level of funding and that base level of support from the community for those fledgling cultural efforts, as well as more established regional efforts, speaks volumes about who we are and shows our commitment in a way that's tangible. And I think it encourages more involvement. We saw it in the NEA survey, which said that 64 percent of adults here participate in some sort of activity that they define as art or a creative activity.
Again, no one's trying to claim credit for the whole thing, but I do think that having this bedrock of financial support and this bedrock of obvious community support is important. Assuming the vote goes forward, this will be the third time that voters will have renewed the district and the fourth time overall they've voted in favor of it....
The Independence Institute's Jon Caldara.
The Independence Institute's Jon Caldra isn't actively campaigning against 4B, but he opposes the measure.
Westword: Why are you an opponent of 4B?
Jon Caldara: For a whole host of reasons. Let's start off with the larger question: Is this a core function of government? And the answer is overwhelmingly no. This type of activity, whether it's keeping cultural institutions going or throwing money at feel-good community theater groups out in the hinterlands of the metro area, that's not what government was created for. But there's a larger issue in the long term. The more that government takes over the role of arts-and-culture funder, the more that arts and culture become a property of the state. And over time, I think that's a dangerous thing.
One of the beautiful things about free speech is that it's free — it's not state-sponsored. And once you start having state-sponsored art, the line between art and propaganda begins to blur.
There's another reason, too. I'm someone who loves art and made his living doing art: I used to be a stage-lighting designer, I used to do a lot of stagecraft work. So I understand the value that art has. But when government becomes the sponsor of that, then artists, cultural institutions, start playing toward their customer, which is government. And we also start training those people who used to invest and donate to art and culture that their investments are not needed because it's a state function now.
You've seen what's happened over the last seventy years when it comes to welfare. Welfare used to be done by civic groups and religious groups and different organizations. But once it turned into an entitlement by government, people started giving less and less to it, because they felt they were being forced to give to it through their taxes. There's even more of a disconnect there....
Continue for more about Initiative 300, congressional candidate Morgan Carroll, senatorial challenger Darryl Glenn and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.
Kayvan Khalatbari, second from right, and other proponents of the Neighborhood Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program at the Denver Elections Division.
"Originally known as the Neighborhood Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program, Initiative 300 would allow the social use of marijuana at participating businesses in Denver."
[Advocate] Kayvan Khalatbari says he and his team crafted a proposal that would "treat marijuana more like alcohol," in that it would create opportunities for people to use cannabis in restaurants and bars under certain conditions. He notes that because of the Colorado Clean Indoor Act, "combustion can only happen outdoors," and such smoking would be limited to areas where "it can't be seen from the public right of way or from where children congregate. And indoors, business owners who want to participate would be able to do it in ways that won't interfere with people who don't want to be around this."
Also important to Khalatbari was getting neighborhoods involved in the process — and to give them a major role in determining how it moves forward. Hence the pilot program, which he says is a way of "putting the training wheels on and taking this for a test drive. It gives participating neighborhood associations a way of saying, 'This didn't work. Next time, let's try this'"....
YouTube file photo
"Denver NORML backed a competing social-use ballot measure that advocated a marijuana club model, but it failed to qualify for the ballot. The organization is officially neutral on Initiative 300, but attorney Judd Golden is critical of numerous provisions."
"After all the interaction we had with neighborhoods and the research and background we did dealing with the city, the strongest feedback we got was in favor of the club model," Golden says. "And it's the one that would serve the most consumers."
He also notes that the Denver Responsible Use Initiative would have allowed for the actual smoking of marijuana, whereas Initiative 300 focuses on vaporizing in order not to violate the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act. He considers the vaping mandate to be a major weakness of the measure.
"Since 90 percent or so of people prefer to enjoy marijuana by smoking, the 300 model would not serve a significant enough number of marijuana consumers — people who are now tempted to break the law" by smoking in public, Golden believes. "Our view is that this regulatory approach would, at best, limit the use of marijuana to some non-smoking way of consumption, vaporizing being one option — and that's not how consumers prefer to enjoy marijuana"....
Morgan Carroll, right.
Democratic state senator Morgan Carroll is challenging Mike Coffman in the 6th Congressional District. Political analyst Eric Sondermann considers their race to be the closest congressional contest in Colorado. (Note: Mike Coffman didn't respond to multiple requests for an interview.)
Westword: For those voters who are unfamiliar with your background, how would you introduce yourself to them?
Morgan Carroll: I have long ties to Colorado; I've lived and grown up in Colorado my whole life. And I have been doing advocacy work for years — long before I got into elected office. For me, I've been focusing on dealing with disability advocacy issues, but also individual rights, consumer rights.
I did not go to college right away; I basically moved out when I was eighteen. My dad had very serious health issues, and I worked two to three jobs, many of which were minimum-wage, both before and during school in order to go to college. And like a lot of folks, I graduated with a lot of debt: I graduated with $70,000 in student debt. I say that to show that I've been passionate about doing advocacy work for other people my whole life. But I know what it is to like to work for minimum wage, I know what it is like to work without health benefits, I know what it is like to have to work during school and still be graduating with serious student debt — and I'm still paying on those student loans.
How long ago was it that you graduated?
Sixteen years ago, and it's still not all paid off — and there are a lot of young people now who are under even more debt and difficult circumstances. So economic opportunity is a top priority for me. It's not only a question of household incomes and individuals. It's essential for rebuilding the middle class. I've lived it, and I've promised myself to never forget what I've needed to do in order to get by. And I'm not about to forget folks who are still working multiple jobs, who are trying to get by on minimum wage or low wages, and who are not in a position where they have good, affordable access to health care or any options on paid sick leave.
I also would say, as far as economic opportunity, that my mom just retired. She's 74 and she wasn't able to retire until she was 72. The number-one thing I would hear her say over and over again was, "I can't afford to retire." This is someone who'd worked hard and saved her whole life, and she couldn't afford to retire. My dad worked hard and saved his whole life, and he lost his entire retirement savings due to out-of-pocket medical expenses. So those are lived experiences — like with my brother, who's trying to do daycare with four kids he was raising. The cost of housing, the cost of insurance up against flat or stagnant wages: It's a reality that not only my family has seen. Many, many, many people in the 6th Congressional District are living that reality, too....
Darryl Glenn, an El Paso County commissioner, is the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Michael Bennet.
Westword: You're just introducing yourself to many Colorado voters. How would you describe yourself to folks who may not be familiar with you yet?
Darryl Glenn: I'm somebody who has a military background, grew up in Colorado Springs and has been a Colorado resident basically since I was two and a half. I have a servant's heart, been involved in politics since 2003. I'm currently a county commissioner, and I've won major elections by decisive margins, and my style is really to get out and talk to people and become their advocate regardless of their party affiliation.
What in your view are the centerpiece issues of your campaign? And what would be your first priority if elected?
I have had the privilege of driving around and talking to people. And people are legitimately concerned and scared about the security within the country and externally. There are threats that are out there that, if you think back eight years ago, people didn't even have to think about. So people are concerned. They want to make sure that we have a plan on how to address that, and if we have to use the military, that our military is properly trained and equipped to do the job.
People are also concerned about some of the policy decisions and the impact they've had on their ability to provide for their family. We start talking about the Affordable Care Act. I've talked to so many people — I've just wrapped up a western swing, but about two weeks ago, I was out in the eastern portion of the state — and overwhelmingly, they're concerned about their inability to be able to afford these potential premium increases and the lack of options because of the health insurance that is mandated to us. And if you factor that in on top of job losses.... When you're looking at Delta County losing 1,200 jobs and that having a devastating impact on that particular community and the ripple effects that support that industry, the mining industry. When you're looking at job losses on top of insurance increases on top of wages being flat, people are really concerned about their ability to survive. And I'm out there trying to reassure them that as their representative, I'm going to take their voice back to Washington, D.C., so they can be sure they have a representative who's going to stand up and fight for them....
Michael Bennet during a campaign appearance at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Photo by Michael Roberts
Michael Bennet is the incumbent U.S. senator being challenged by Darryl Glenn.
Regarding his GOP rival, Bennet said, "I suppose we're fortunate here in Colorado, because we have a Senate race where the gap between his policy views and my policy views, and his suggested approach to the work and my approach to the work, I think may be bigger than any gap in the United States of America. And probably, from my point of view, that's defined by my bipartisan record."
Glenn, in contrast, has repeatedly stated that "the problem with Washington is that the Republicans have been too cooperative, too collaborative, and that he wouldn't support Mitch McConnell to be majority leader or minority leader, because McConnell had conspired somehow with President Obama," Bennet continued. "That's just not the way most people from Colorado think about this. What they want is principled bipartisanship. What they're getting is unprincipled partisanship. The people of Colorado know what they want, and I don't think his arguments are going to hold up very well."
During an interview with Westword, Glenn rejected such bipartisanship claims, stating that Bennet voted with the Obama administration 98 percent of the time. This percentage has been disputed in many quarters, as Bennet noted. "I was in the debate the other night, and somebody said, 'You've got a 90 percent voting record [with Obama].' Then Darryl Glenn said, 'You've got a 97 percent voting record.' And now it's 98 percent. These are all kind of Washington math games. I have a record of bipartisanship that I would put up against literally anybody else in the Senate at this time of rank partisanship, and I feel very comfortable defending that record in this election"....
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Read more in Michael Bennet at Metro: Selfies and the Senate Race