Colorado Capitol Report

Senator Bernie Sanders Opens the Money Spigot for Representative Joe Salazar

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State Policy News

Senator Bernie Sanders Opens the Money Spigot for Representative Joe Salazar

One of the most closely watched Colorado House races this election season is the contest in District 31 between incumbent, two-term Democrat Representative Joe Salazar (Thornton) and his Republican challenger, Jessica Sandgren (Thornton), a political newcomer.

During his four legislative sessions (2013-2016), Representative Salazar has earned the reputation of being perhaps the most out-spoken, contentious, anti-business member of the progressive/liberal faction of the majority House Democratic caucus.

House Republicans need only pick up two seats to take control of the House from the Democrats.  Democrats currently control the House 34 to 31.

CACI has endorsed Sandgren and will give her a $400 contribution.

In addition, CACI urges its members to personally give to Sandgren, given the importance to the business community of this race.  A corporation or a non-corporate business entity cannot give money directly to a candidate.  An individual can give a legislative candidate up to $400.  CACI members can personally support Sandgren by sending a contribution to:

Sandgren for Colorado
P.O. Box 651
Eastlake CO 80614

Representative Salazar has become the sole Colorado beneficiary of the amazing national fund-raising machine of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (R-Vt.), who unsuccessfully sought the Democrat presidential nomination.

A reporter for The Colorado Independent, Marianne Goodland, wrote that Representative Salazar’s committee received more than $50,000 from more than a thousand contributors because of Senator Sanders’ help.

From May 12th to May 25th, the $60,763.44 received by Representative Salazar’s campaign committee represented 65.2 percent of the total contributions received by June 22nd, according to the committee’s June 27th filing.  The next filing deadline is Monday, August 1st.

During the 2016 legislative session, Representative Salazar drew considerable attention when he announced in March his strong support for Senator Sanders.  Here’s what the Senator Sander’s news media release said about Representative Salazar:

Joe Salazar is a state representative in Colorado who is a tireless advocate for stopping fracking, protecting civil rights and advancing criminal justice reform. He won his last election by just 221 votes.

Politico reported on May 24th that Senator Sander’s campaign committee had sent an email to the Senator’s supporters urging them to contribute to support Representative Salazar and seven other progressive state legislative candidates around the country.

Senator Sander’s campaign release also stated:

“Bernie believes that the path toward bold change requires leaders to take back control of state capitols around the country and ensure fair redistricting in 2020,” said Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager. “The leaders we’re raising money for today are the members of Congress, senators and presidential candidates of tomorrow.”

Representative Salazar’s campaign committee, “Friends of Joe Salazar,” has filed contribution reports that list many individuals from around the nation contributing small amounts, ranging from $1 and upwards. Here are the recent amounts raised and the filing dates:

  • $6,573.85, June 27th, for the period June 9th to June 22nd.
  • $11,600.90, June 13th, for the period May 26th to June 8th.
  • $60,763.44, May 31st, for the period May 12th to May 25th.
  • No contributions, May 16th, for the period April 28th to May 11th.

The specific mechanism by which Senator Sander’s campaign organization has helped Representative Salazar happens to be a powerful, progressive Democrat fundraising, political-action committee called ActBlue.

ActBlue is a 12-year-old, grass-roots, political-action committee based in Somerset, Mass., which allows Democrat candidates to raise money via the Internet.  The ActBlue Web site states that it has raised more than $1.2 billion since 2004 for federal and state candidate committees and progressive organizations.

Other Contributors to Representative Salazar

In addition to the help of Senator Sanders’ campaign organization and ActBlue, Representative Salazar has tapped more traditional sources of support in Colorado for his campaign.  Here are some noteworthy contributors:

Private Citizens:

  • $400, Pat Stryker, Fort Collins, the well-known progressive Democrat and philanthropist
  • $50, Polly Baca, former state representative and senator
  • $50, Judy Solano, former state representative


  • $250, Duran for Colorado Leadership Fund, which is controlled by House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran (D-Denver), who is widely expected to be elected House Speaker after the election if the Democrats continue to control the House.
  • $200, Rosenthal Majority Fund, which is controlled by Representative Paul Rosenthal (D-Longmont)
  • $400, Dickey Lee Hullinghorst Leadership Fund, which is controlled by term-limited Speaker Hullinghorst (D-Boulder).
  • $250, Senator Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora), who is running against incumbent U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R) for the 6th Congressional District seat.
  • $200, Guzman Green Fund for a Better Colorado, which is controlled by Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman (D-Denver)
  • $200, Jenise May Leadership Fund, which is controlled by Representative Jenise May (D-Aurora), who is running for the Senate District 25 seat
  • $100, Representative Mike Foote (D-Lafayette)

Political Committees, which can give up to $400 per two-year election cycle:

  • $400, Nurses for Political Action in Colorado

A small donor committee is allowed to contribute up to $4,850 to a legislative candidate during this two-year election cycle.  These three have contributed to Representative Salazar’s campaign:

  • $2,000, Colorado Conservation Action Fund
  • $2,500, Colorado Professional Fire Fighters Small Donor Fund
  • $2,000, Colorado Trial Lawyers Association Small Donor Committee

Representative Salazar’s Past Elections

In 2014, Representative Salazar squeaked out a 221-vote majority in his first re-election campaign, 50.5 percent compared to the 49.5 percent of his Republican opponent, Carol “Jody” Beckler.  Of the district’s then-registered 47,988 voters, 22,781, or 50.73 percent, voted in this race.

That year was, of course, the year of the Republican electoral tsunami in Colorado and across the nation.  Then-Congressman Cory Gardner, a Republican, was elected to the U.S. Senate, besting incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator Mark Udall.  Meanwhile Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper narrowly held on to his office.  Republicans swept the other three statewide races: Secretary of State, Treasurer and Attorney General.  And Republicans took control of the State Senate by one vote.

In 2012, in his first campaign, Salazar bested Republican Beth Martinez Humenik by a resounding 60 percent to 40 percent margin.  (Martinez Humenik was elected to the Senate in 2014 to represent Senate District 24.)

In 2012, President Barack Obama carried the district by a 68 percent to 29 percent margin over Republican Mitt Romney.  Voter turnout was 70 percent.

House District 31

As of July 1st, the district’s registered 39,437 voters were 36.8 percent Democrat, 25.6 percent Republican and 36.1 percent unaffiliated.  The district is 40 percent Latino, according to Goodland of The Colorado Independent.

Campaign War-Chests

Sandgren’s candidate committee reported $18,903 received, according to the June 27th filing.  The next filing deadline is August 1st.  The filing showed that “cash-on-hand” was $12,900.

Meanwhile, Representative Salazar’s candidate committee reported receiving $96,000 and cash-on-hand was $72,000.

In other words, Representative Salazar has raised five times as much money as has Sandgren.

The 2015 Session

Representative Salazar vigorously advocated the following, anti-business bills that CACI and its business allies worked hard to successfully defeat:

HB-1342, sponsored by Representative Salazar, would have given workers and former workers unfettered access to their personnel files, which would have allowed employment plaintiff attorneys to go on “fishing expeditions.”  HB-1342 would have not only allowed workers to access their personnel files but then they could have added add any information that they wanted.  Other workers may submit valuable information to management about a worker’s performance and behavior, but they will be less likely to do so if they know that the worker can access that information.

HB-1264, sponsored by Representative Salazar, would have created the “Homeless Bill of Rights.”

HB-1331 would have required employers to pay overtime to workers earning up to three times the minimum wage, which would have greatly expanded the categories of workers to whom employers would have to pay overtime.

Here’s what veteran statehouse reporter Ed Sealover of The Denver Business Journal wrote about Representative Salazar after the 2015 session ended:

State Rep. Joe Salazar, the Thornton Democrat who sponsored the personnel-file and extended-leave bills, characterized complaints from business leaders about bills that tried to help workers as “garbage.”

“When they object to these kinds of bills, it tells me there’s nefarious conduct out there,” said Salazar, who runs a small law practice. “These business groups think they’ve got the lock-down on what it takes to run a business. I’ve been a business owner for over a decade. We treat our workers well.”

Later in the article, Sealover returned to the topic of Representative Salazar:

Salazar said he plans to bring his efforts back again in 2016, whether or not groups like CACI and NFIB have any interest in working with him.

“I find that oftentimes business organizations are bad actors and they don’t want to find a middle ground,” he said.

Fall 2015

Representative Salazar made news last fall when House Speaker Dicky Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder) removed him from the House State, Government and Military Affairs Committee, popularly known under the Gold Dome as the Speaker’s “kill committee,” which is where she sent bills to their demise.  (It’s also the committee to which the Speaker sent bills that she wanted to pass and be sent to the House Floor.)

At that time, Sealover wrote:

Salazar often spars with business leaders, having sponsored bills last year such as a measure that would allow workers to see their personnel files and co-sponsored another proposal that would have created a statewide extended-leave system — both efforts that business groups fought hard to kill.

As a general rule of thumb, majority-party members of the kill committee are from safe districts so that their controversial votes don’t endanger their chances of re-election.

Sealover reported that, although the Speaker did not give a reason for Representative Salazar’s removal, one factor probably was because he almost voted for the Senate’s main construction-defect reform bill, which the Speaker wanted killed.

SB-177 was publicly opposed by the Speaker.  The bill would have required a majority vote of the owners in an HOA—not just the HOA board—and binding arbitration.  The Speaker, however, wanted to address the much broader issue of affordable housing.  Her political ally, Representative Max Tyler (D-Lakewood), introduced several bills aimed at providing more affordable housing, but they died in the Senate.

“But several Capitol observers said that Hullinghorst was concerned about Salazar voting on the large number of controversial bills expected to come before the committee while he is seeking re-election. Salazar eked out a tight victory over a lightly funded Republican opponent in 2014 and is expected to face increased opposition in 2016,” wrote Sealover.

The 2016 Session

During the session, Representative Salazar only served on one “committee of reference,” the House Judiciary Committee.  Excepting those who served in leadership positions, most rank-and-file House Democrats served on two to three committees of reference.

Not surprisingly, CACI’s legislative agenda and Representative Salazar’s positions were far apart during the session on most bills.  In fact, his voting record when compared with CACI’s priority legislative agenda for 35 key votes for both the 2015 and 2016 sessions was a dismal 17.1 percent.

Most notably, during heated Second Reading debate on HB-1275, the so-called “tax haven” bill, he said that he was “tired of corporate welfare” and that corporations “get to skirt their fair share” of paying taxes by allegedly sheltering their income off-shore in the tax havens.  The House-approved bill later died in a Senate committee.

Jessica Sandgren

Here are excerpts from how Goodland of The Colorado Independent described Sandgren:

She has a rags-to-riches story, although it’s about academic empowerment, not business. Sandgren, who has lived in Colorado for more than 40 years, was an at-risk student throughout school. “I didn’t like school, I didn’t fit in and felt like an outsider,” she told The Colorado Independent. “I kind of rebelled.” Sandgren was sent to an alternative high school but then dropped out because she didn’t find it challenging.

She later pursued a GED and went into the workforce for a short time, with a good job where she could advance. But she quickly realized it wasn’t the path she wanted to take, and several months later, she headed back to school – to Front Range Community College – where she met a biology teacher who changed her life. That teacher helped her realize her academic potential.

Sandgren kept going, pursuing a degree in biology from Metro State and headed into teaching at charter schools in Adams County and Broomfield. She now substitute teaches in Adams County public schools.

But the same problems she experienced as a student are apparent to her as a teacher, and that’s why she decided last year to run for the state House. She thinks there have been too many changes in state standards and no real communication about them. “No one ever asks if the standards are working for us,” she said. No one is really talking for the teachers, she added. “I’m tired of waiting for someone to be the voice for teachers and kids and decided to do it myself.”

Sandgren also discussed some of the issues that have faced lawmakers in the past couple of years. She’s on record as refusing to sign the pledge to protect TABOR, a pledge devised by Americans for Prosperity as a way of keeping Republican lawmakers from adopting a change to the state’s hospital provider fee.

The fee is levied on hospital overnight patient stays as well as outpatient visits. That money is then matched with federal dollars and redistributed to hospitals to cover uninsured patients and to expand Medicaid. Democrats and a small handful of Republicans want to see the fee removed from the state’s revenue limits, as established under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. The fee would then be reclassified to be exempt from TABOR restrictions and revenues would be spent on uninsured patients and Medicaid expansion.

“I support TABOR 100 percent,” she said, but she is hesitant to sign a pledge on an issue that she still wants to learn more about.

# # # # #

On the issue of equal pay for equal work, Sandgren pointed out that there’s already a federal law that requires women to be paid the same as men. “If someone is violating that, it should be looked at,” she explained. More laws are not the answer, she said.

# # # # #

But her focus, should she be elected in November, is on education, especially accountability. “We’re frustrated with the lack of accountability” and how much money is spent without knowing whether those dollars are making a difference, she said. She points out that in her 10 years in the classroom, state standards changed every three years without any data showing whether the changes would be beneficial. “We need to listen to teachers and parents and make sure the money we’re spending is beneficial to the kids.”

For news media coverage of Representative Salazar and his race against Jessica Sandgren, read:

The Maverick and the Reformer: Sandgren v. Salazar,” by Marianne Goodland, The Colorado Independent, June 27th.

Key Democrat at center of construction-defects fight is pulled from legislative ‘kill committee,’” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, October 1, 2015.

Making ‘statements’ at the Colorado statehouse,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, May 8, 2015.

Construction-defects reform bill dies in Colorado legislature,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, April 28, 2015.

CO Dept of Personnel Seeks Input From CACI Members/Employers on State Procurement Process

The Colorado Department of Personnel & Administration will be holding a town hall to discuss the State’s procurement laws/processes and to hold an open dialogue on opportunities for the State to make improvements in the procurement process.  We encourage CACI members that do business with the State and have questions, concerns or an interest in understanding the state’s bidding process to attend this town hall.

Town Hall Details:

Date:  Monday, August 15

Time:  1:30 – 4:00 pm

Location:  CO Dept of Transportation offices, 4201 E. Arkansas Ave., Auditorium (2nd Floor), Denver

Registration for Town Hall:

Space is limited, so if you are interested in attending this town hall, please register at:


During the 2016 legislative session, the General Assembly passed legislation directing the Department of Personnel & Administration to study ways to improve the State’s Procurement Code and solicit input from a variety of groups, including businesses, business organizations, nonprofits, labor organizations, taxpayer advocates, and legal professionals.  CACI members/employers are invited to participate in this process and help develop recommendations for the General Assembly to consider during the 2017 legislative session.

If you are unable to attend this event, there will be other opportunities for you to participate and provide input. To learn more about this effort, please visit:

If you should have additional questions regarding this matter please contact Loren Furman at [email protected] or at 303-866-9642.