New election commission to study possible fixes to Colorado laws, constitution

Martha Tierney, attorney for the Colorado Democratic Party, and Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, serve on a new Bipartisan Election Advisory Commission formed by Secretary of State Wayne Williams. (SOS photo)
Martha Tierney, attorney for the Colorado Democratic Party, and Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, serve on a new Bipartisan Election Advisory Commission formed by Secretary of State Wayne Williams. (SOS photo)

Two proposed ballot measures dealing with primary elections and a presidential primary will drive up costs for counties to run elections.

Language concerning recall elections added to Colorado’s constitution in 1913 conflicts with current federal and state law.

And what about signature verification for candidate and initiative petitions?

Those topics were discussed Friday during the inaugural meeting of the Bipartisan Election Advisory Commission created by Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with support from legislators and others concerned with elections.

“We had a great first meeting, discussing ways we can make the election process better in Colorado, and I appreciate the time and input from the state’s leaders who joined us,” Williams said.

He sought input from Gov. John Hickenlooper, legislative leaders from both parties and others about who should serve on the commission. The goal is to come up with solutions to fix election problems identified by Williams, his staff and others.

Read moreNew election commission to study possible fixes to Colorado laws, constitution

Howard Gelt, 1943-2016: The go-to guy, the unsung force

Howard Gelt, in this family photo, circa 1988, died Friday after decades of making his mark on Denver and Colorado.
Howard Gelt, in this family photo, circa 1988, died Friday after decades of making a difference in Denver.

Howard Gelt, the kid who got kicked out of military school and continued a rebellious streak for years, left his mark on Colorado in a number of ways, from politics to transportation to the arts.

A pioneer for women’s rights, he helped found the Colorado NARAL chapter.

At 6-foot-5, he appeared like a giant when he crashed an IOC meeting in Japan in 1972 to let members know Colorado wasn’t that excited about hosting the Olympics.

He once faked a southern drawl to get an environmental bill through the North Carolina legislature.

Gelt died Friday after battling with esophageal cancer. Gelt was 73, although he always let out his trademark big grin when people commented he looked younger.

“He had such a will to live. He had so much grit,” his son, 35-year-old Ben Gelt, said Saturday. “He was a character and just a great guy.”

The family is holding a private funeral Wednesday, but will later announce a public memorial service for Gelt, who was chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party in the early 1990s. Before that, he was key to Dick Lamm and Roy Roy Romer’s elections for governor.

Gelt and his wife, Sandy Vanghagen Gelt, had just celebrated their 16th wedding anniversary on June 1.

His death comes the same week as Republican Bill Armstrong, a former U.S. senator from Colorado. “An era is coming to an end,” said Mary Alice Mandarich, a lobbyist who visited Gelt in the hospital last week.

The thing about Gelt, she said, is he had an enormous impact on Colorado but in a behind-the-scenes, give-someone-else-the-credit way.

That sentiment was echoed by Gelt’s former wife, Susan Barnes-Gelt, who served on the Denver City Council.

“Howard’s impact on the civic and political life of this city was as big as the great outdoors,” she said. “It was entirely unsung, but he was such a force.”

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A wave of emotions as immigrants become Americans: “All the hard work pays off”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams participates Thursday in a naturalization ceremony for 31 citizenship candidates from 21 countries. (Carol Lawrence, The Gazette/Special to the SOS)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams participates Thursday in a naturalization ceremony for 31 citizenship candidates from 21 countries. (Carol Lawrence, The Gazette/Special to the SOS)

Children waved tiny American flags and smiled while some adults couldn’t hold back tears Thursday during a naturalization ceremony in Colorado Springs where 31 immigrants became U.S. citizens.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who regularly participates in naturalization ceremonies, urged the new Americans to register to vote.

“You can be a part of whatever your American dream may be,” he also said.

Thursday’s event at a Colorado Springs library was covered by KOAA TV, which outlined the requirements to become a citizen.

The Gazette’s story features a must-see online display of photos from the ceremony.

Read moreA wave of emotions as immigrants become Americans: “All the hard work pays off”

Former Sen. Bill Armstrong: The guy who went from saying “no” to saying “maybe”

U.S. Rep. Jack Kemp of New York and and U.S. Bill Armstrong of Colorado in 1984. (Armstrong family photo)
U.S. Rep. Jack Kemp of New York and and U.S. Bill Armstrong of Colorado in 1984. (Armstrong family photo)

As Congress was fighting the debt ceiling in 2013, Dick Wadhams, Colorado’s political historian, passed on a New York Times story he knew I would enjoy: a 1983 feature on U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong and his brand of conservatism.

“In one sense the Senator is a missionary, preaching the gospel of fiscal rectitude to the heathens on Capitol Hill. But, in another sense, he is a pragmatist who knows how to count votes and when to accept a deal,” the newspaper wrote.

“I’m relatively inflexible on principles,” the Colorado senator told the Times, “but I’m flexible on the details.”

I reprinted the articled in the Denver Post’s award-winning political blog, The Spot, and it’s worth rereading. Armstrong died Tuesday at the age of 79.

“Have I changed in my inner self?” he said in the 1983 Times article.

“The answer is yes. Some. I’m very comfortable now with people whose political views are very different from my own, and that was hard for me 10 years ago. Until you’ve had some of the rough edges knocked off, it’s awfully easy to be brash, and feel like you’ve got all the answers. But as you gain more experience, you realize nobody has all the answers, and that fosters a degree of intellectual humility.”

Read moreFormer Sen. Bill Armstrong: The guy who went from saying “no” to saying “maybe”

Armenians interested in Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ take on presidential politics

Colorado Secretary of State met with a group of international visitors from Armenia Thursday in his office in Denver. (SOS photo)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams met with a group of international visitors from Armenia Thursday in his office in Denver. He is holding a gift he received. (SOS photo)

By Julia Sunny and Lynn Bartels

A group of Armenian officials who met with Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams Thursday were interested in a variety of topics, including overseas Americans participating in elections back home to the upcoming presidential contest.

Williams explained Colorado is a “swing” state that sometimes votes Republican and sometimes Democrat for president. He stunned the delegation when he told them that Hillary Clinton spoke in Denver on Tuesday and Donald Trump would be here  Friday.

“Seriously? Here?” one Armenian asked.

One visitor said he if were able to vote in the election he would choose Bernie Sanders.

The Armenians’ visit is part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. Williams has met with other IVLP visitors before, including a group from the Middle East in March. Those visitors asked about marijuana and the “messy” precinct caucuses they had just observed.

The six-member Armenian delegation is traveling across the country. It will meet with the Cleveland Council on World Affairs in Ohio next week.

The presidential election is being closely observed overseas, and Williams was asked his thoughts.

Read moreArmenians interested in Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ take on presidential politics