Three journalists discussed Colorado’s status as a red/blue/purple state, the condition of their industry and how it impacts political coverage, and the upcoming election during a forum hosted by the Foothills Republicans.
Chuck Plunkett, the editorial page editor of The Denver Post, CBS Denver’s Shaun Boyd and Joey Bunch with the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Colorado Politics fielded questions last Thursday from the audience and the moderator, former GOP chairman Dick Wadhams.
Before the start of the forum, Foothills President Rick Enstrom invited elected officials and candidates to introduce themselves, but it was Wadhams who got the biggest applause, when adding his 2 cents during a question about money in politics.
“Do away with every stupid finance law that exists,” he said. “Allow any amount of money from any entity at any time but with full and immediate disclosure and let the people decide if (the candidates) are bought off or not.”
Bunch got the biggest laughs with his homespun colloquialisms, including. “You know when a fact becomes a fact? When it gets a lobbyist.”
Wadhams asked whether Colorado’s status goes from purple to blue if Republicans once again fail to win the governor’s race in November.
“I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to say we would be,” Plunkett said.
“The incredible energy of newcomers to Colorado, we’ll just have to see where it falls. Here in Denver the feeling I get is many of them are Democrats and not just Democrats but progressives. The demographics are changing.”
Boyd said other races, such as for treasurer and attorney general, will also be used to gauge where Colorado lands on the color spectrum after November. She said the mood this year reminds her of 2010 “in a way” when the Tea Party pulled Colorado right after President Obama’s election in 2008. If the left is just as active, Boyd said, “I think you will see a Democratic wave.”
Bunch echoed what Wadhams had said for years, that Colorado is neither a red state or a blue state but a state that swings between the two.
“The Bible says a couple of things about this. It says, ‘This too shall pass.’ It also says, ‘Jesus wept,'” Bunch said, to laughter.
He pointed out that after the 2012 election, Democrats controlled the governor’s seat and both chambers of the legislature. They made such “a mess of it,” Bunch said, that Gov. John Hickenlooper almost lost his re-election bid in 2014. He noted that when one party gains total control, there’s a chance for overreach.
The panelists also discussed the impact of social media, particularly Twitter.
“This isn’t in the Bible but it ought to be: ‘Twitter is a river of B.S.,'” Plunkett said.
“Exodus,” Bunch added.
But Plunkett said Twitter and Facebook can be useful, such as when followers point out errors or an expert in the field comments.
Boyd admitted she’s not a fan of Twitter, preferring to tell stories with camera footage that shows emotion and has a personal angle.
Bunch believes after a while people are going to be tired of the snarky, angry fake news on social media, and he wishes Americans would seek out more news sources than the ones that tell them what they want to hear.
“Abraham Lincoln said, ‘You can fool all the people on Twitter any time you want — ” Bunch said, and then was drowned out by laughter.
“Some people think the mass shootings are hoaxes and I happen to know first hand they are not,” said Bunch, whose assignments include the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. “Our president can get up and say, ‘I didn’t say it,’ when there’s a video of him saying it.”
This year a number of Democrats and Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination in the open governor’s race — Hickenlooper is term limited. Plunkett said for the first time The Denver Post will endorse in the primary.
But talked about how few people now work on the opinion page compared to the Post’s heyday, and the financial factors that are impacting newspapers.
Boyd said that she’s solo on most of the political coverage, which means the races she considers among the most important, for the state House and Senate, won’t get the scrutiny they deserve.
“The state races are far more important to our everyday lives than any of the congressional races and, yet, we don’t cover them because it’s just me and we have limited air time,” she said. “Those are the races people ought to be watching because that’s where things get done and bills get passed.”