Thursday, January 20, 2022

Small Town Politics in 2021


Watching the latest small-scale municipal election unfold here in my hometown of Longmont, Colorado, I'm struck by how things have changed in a relatively short time, effectively, the last two years.

Our town is very blue (Democrat). It was once a Republican stronghold, but no more. Much of liberal Boulder has moved to lower cost and more family-friendly Longmont over the last few years making it as, or more, liberal than the famously liberal "People's Republic of Boulder" town twelve miles to the Southwest.

But you wouldn't think that looking at our latest City Council race and School Board elections.

We had nine candidates for City Council this year. Three for mayor, and six for two open at-large seats.

Of these nine candidates, five were, effectively, Republicans. We're supposed to have non-partisan races, but, it's clear, there's a left and right in Longmont and they're organized. But one is more organized and coordinated, than the other.

Of the six City Council candidates, four were GOP funded and supported. They attended meetings together and strategized with their local GOP supporters at various get-togethers. They even endorsed each other, openly, in debates. The GOP mayoral candidate in our town called out the four GOP-supported candidates running for council in a recent debate, calling for the city to elect them, along with himself, 'to bring balance' back to the City Council.

How do I know the GOP was so organized and funded? Mostly by one obvious example and a few hints. The obvious one is the candidate for mayor in our town is a local handyman. Nice guy. Quite likable, but, he had a 'handler' that's with him at all times. The handler is a lawyer from New York. This handler was writing his scripts and his debate answers as well as coaching him through interviews and video productions. Several of the candidates have also talked about 'a meeting on Sunday (and many other days)' with names of all the conservative candidates, only. It's coordinated.

The Democrats, by contrast, were eating their own in a scene that's eerily similar to the Democrats at a national level in 2021. There are center-left and progressive Democrats running for office here, and they dislike each other more than they, it seems, dislike their GOP opponents.

As noted above, it also is interesting to see the contrast of how well organized and funded, the conservative GOP-supported candidates are in comparison. They meet regularly with each other and their handlers/funders. They're focused, energized, and on message.

They also used tried and true ratf*cker methodology, a GOP-developed strategy for winning that can be mild (as it is in our case) to extreme (mostly used at a national level and exhibited by people like Roger Stone, Lauren Boebert, and, of course, trump).

Our local example has one of the GOP candidates who was allegedly unvaccinated and refused to wear masks in Boulder County, where mask mandates are in place for all indoor activities, running a largely single-issue campaign focused on a 'hyperloop' transportation system that is, at best, 50 years out. It's one of those things that everyone thinks is cool and likes, but, is used primarily as a diversionary topic to keep people off of her position on issues this particular candidate doesn't want to talk about. What are her positions here? No idea, although hints of a Lauren Boebert like mindset did appear. Whenever asked about specifics this candidate would divert back to the 'hyperloop'. That's the point of the strategy. 

Although to be fair, the other side may not be immune to this kind of behavior. I heard from an, at the time, sitting council person, that they had 'suggested he run' to the GOP Mayoral candidate. Apparently, he was this person's handyman. They seemed slightly surprised he actually ran though. Did they really encourage him to run? Was it with the intent to counter the 'not liberal enough' liberal candidate? It's hard to tell. If true, that's a 'clever' way to take out an opponent. As our city's recent ex-mayor likes to say: "Politics in Longmont is a bloodsport", so who knows.

Another big sign was this year's School Board race. The fact that there even was a race is really unusual. There is almost never an election in this town for a school board seat. They have a hard time finding people to run and there's almost always just one person for each seat on the ballot.

Not this year. Several seats were contested, and the 'new' folks are all GOP-controlled conservatives.

The aftermath of the elections was predictable. The conservatives lost, however, they had an effect. 

The Center-left mayoral candidate, who was a likely shoo-in for the job, lost to the more progressive left-wing candidate because of the GOP candidate. How? The GOP candidate took 20% of the vote, including the centrists and slightly center-right folks that would have voted for a center-left candidate over a farther to the left candidate.

The City Council candidates that won were the incumbent everyone already knew and the first black women to ever be elected to a Longmont City Council seat. Both are on the left side of the spectrum. The left-leaning candidate also won the School Board election.

The GOP, this time, actually created a more liberal government by coming out in force to try and take the City Council and School Board over. I'm sure that wasn't the intent, but, that was the end result.

Did they learn from this? I'm very sure they did. 

Boulder County is 80%+ blue so the GOP losing isn't a surprise. However, if we were a 55% or 60% blue county, which it was not that long ago, the results may well have been very different.

There is a national, coordinated, and well-funded effort on the part of the Republican Party to take over local governments. Grinding it out. Learning the lessons. Year after year after year. 

Election Commissioners, County Commissioners. City Councils. School Boards. Municipal Boards and Commissions. 

All of it.

Everywhere.

I've seen it up close and personal right here at home. You might want to take a look at what's going on in your town, too. If you don't like what you see, get involved. And for gods sake, vote! 

Everyone, please, vote.


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