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The top story in Colorado politics in 2020 — and what to expect in 2021 – The Colorado Sun

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If you enjoy politics, 2020 didn’t disappoint. And if you don’t, it probably left your head spinning.

The year started with talk about the impeachment of President Donald Trump, the Democratic presidential primary and the battle for a U.S. Senate seat in Colorado. Then, the pandemic quickly upended the political landscape — and the conversation.

The politics of public health soon came to dominate the discussion in top-of-the-ticket races and at the state Capitol, where Gov. Jared Polis and other Democratic leaders found themselves confronting a once-in-a-generation challenge a year after assuming complete control in Colorado.

To look back on the big political stories in 2020, The Colorado Sun reached out to experts and readers for their thoughts on the year in politics — and what to expect in the new year. More than three dozen answered the annual survey. Here’s a look at the results.

The top story in Colorado politics in 2020

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis delivers an address from the governor’s mansion in Denver on April 6, 2020. Polis said then that the state of Colorado would extend a statewide stay-at-home order from April 11 through April 26 due to coronavirus. (Pool photo by AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

The state’s response to COVID-19 emerged as the top story in Colorado politics — but it had stiff competition.

Colorado’s governor made himself the face of the state’s response to the pandemic, and it didn’t take long for the public health crisis to become a political one.

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • LIVE BLOG: The latest on closures, restrictions and other major updates.
  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTING: Here’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • STORY: Coloradans have been giving generously during coronavirus. But some nonprofits worry it won’t be enough.

>> FULL COVERAGE

Polis won early praise for his response, but big questions and criticism from Republicans began to mount. His delayed — and politically difficult — decisions to issue a lockdown order and mask mandate marked big moments, as did his presidential-style statewide address at the start.

Polis became the chief promoter of social distancing and masks, even appearing in television commercials, but COVID-19 became all too real for him at the end of the year when he and his partner contracted the virus. His partner, Marlon Reis, experienced complications that led the governor to drive him to the hospital in early December.

Democratic challenger and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper participate in the final debate with Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in the 2020 race for Colorado’s U.S. Senate seat at Colorado State University in Fort Collins on Oct. 13, 2020. (Bethany Baker, The Coloradoan/Pool photo)

The runner-up: John Hickenlooper’s win in the U.S. Senate race. 

All the attention on COVID-19 didn’t distract from Hickenlooper’s big win over U.S. Sen Cory Gardner, who was once hailed as the future of the Republican Party. The political winds in Colorado foreshadowed the former Democratic governor’s victory, and at the end, the race wasn’t even close.

The other big storylines included Republican Lauren Boebert’s upset win over U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in the party primary and her victory in November over Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush. The presidential election consumed all the attention at the national level, but finished more distant in the minds of Colorado political watchers.

MORE: How the Cardboard Cory protest in Colorado helped Democrats defeat Gardner in the U.S. Senate race

The predictions for biggest political story in 2021

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs the state’s budget into law on June 23, 2020, while surrounded by Democratic members of the Joint Budget Committee. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Looking ahead to 2021, the coronavirus remains front of mind for political observers. But the survey found the top story to watch in the new year is the state budget.

Each year, Colorado lawmakers wrestle with a series of competing priorities when it comes to spending the roughly $11 billion in discretionary money available. But it’s even more difficult now amid the pandemic and dire needs across the state.

MORE: Colorado’s fiscal future looks brighter. Now lawmakers must decide how to spend the unexpected windfall.

Sara Chatfield, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Denver, put it succinctly. She says the challenges include “how to balance the budget given what will likely be limited federal support.”

Right now, the fiscal picture doesn’t look too dismal. But tough decisions loom as the lawmakers crafting the annual budget decide how to allocate money to three key areas:

  • Restoring money to programs that took deep cuts in the current fiscal year
  • Accommodating growth in demand for state services amid an uncertain outlook
  • Demands for major government spending to stimulate the local economy

The governor is pushing for the later. He put forward a $1.3 billion stimulus package he says will create 10,000 to 15,000 jobs.

The sign at the movie theater in downtown Greeley on April 24, 2020, which closed amid the coronavirus outbreak. (John Frank, The Colorado Sun)

The runner-up: The state’s recovery from the pandemic. 

The coronavirus won’t disappear overnight, and the state has months to go when it comes to addressing the crisis, not to mention a years-long recovery. So how the Polis administration manages the pandemic response in the next year is something many are watching.

MORE: Colorado isn’t changing its vaccine priority plan for now, despite new federal recommendations

The other topics expected to make big headlines in the new year include the rollout of the vaccine in Colorado, the debut of the state’s new redistricting commissions and the battle for the soul of the Republican Party, which elects a new chairman after suffering major losses in the prior two elections.

The name to watch in Colorado politics in 2021

Lauren Boebert, right, won Colorado’s 3rd District election in November 2020. Ahead of the election, she attended a rally and took a selfie with Mike Pinnt in Grand Junction on Nov. 2, 2020. (Barton Glasser, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Lauren Boebert is quickly becoming the face of the Republican Party in Colorado, and she’s the one that political observers are watching in 2021.

The first-time candidate and gun-slinging restaurant owner managed to defeat a decade-long incumbent in the GOP primary by running as a more Trumpian conservative. In the general election, she fended off national Democratic attacks and major questions about her prior remarks about the Qanon conspiracy theory to win the 3rd Congressional District seat.

MORE: 3 numbers that explain Republican Lauren Boebert’s victory in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District

Democrats are even speculating about whether she will run for U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet. “She’s shown that she has strong support from the base and would be a frontrunner to win the Republican primary if she wants it,” says Dan Baer, a former Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.

Even as a newcomer, she is now the most notable Republican in the state party and her allegiance to Trump and brand of bomb-throwing politics are sure to set the tone for the next year.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, left, makes a few remarks to the media as he watches Gina Harper, clinical coordinator with pharmacy, reconstitute a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before it is administered to the first patients in Colorado at UC Health Poudre Valley Hospital on Dec. 14, 2020 in Fort Collins. (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post, Pool)

The runner-up: Jared Polis

The Democratic governor will confront two challenges simultaneously starting in 2021 — the continued fallout from the coronavirus and his 2022 reelection bid. The twin pressures will keep his name in the headlines and the critics vocal

The other organizations and names to watch include the Democratic-led legislature as it navigates policy amid the pandemic and Hickenlooper, who will need to define his approach as an incoming U.S. senator.

Rising Sun

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Green Party in turmoil, leader resists calls to step down

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Canada‘s Green Party was increasingly mired in an internal dispute over its position on Israel on Tuesday, and a news report said the bloc would hold a vote next month on whether to oust its leader, Annamie Paul, who was elected just eight months ago.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) reported that the Greens had triggered a process that could remove Paul, the first black person to head a mainstream Canadian party, beginning with a vote next month.

A Green Party spokesperson declined to comment on the report, but said the party’s “federal council” would meet later on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, Paul, 48, rejected calls from the Quebec wing of the party for her to resign after a member of parliament left the Greens due to the Israel controversy.

“I believe that I have been given a strong mandate. I believe that I have been given the instructions to work on behalf of Canadians for a green recovery,” Paul said at a news conference in Ottawa.

Paul herself is not a member of parliament. The Greens – who champion the environment and the fight against climate change – had only three legislators in the 338-seat House of Commons and one, Jenica Atwin, abandoned the party last week to join the governing Liberals.

Atwin has said that her exit was in large part due to a dispute over the party’s stance on Israel. Atwin on Twitter has criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, while a senior adviser to Paul, Noah Zatzman, has posted on Facebook that some unspecified Green members of parliament are anti-Semitic.

The party’s executive committee voted last week not to renew Zatzman’s contract, local media reported. Paul converted to Judaism some two decades ago after she married a Jewish man.

While the Greens are the smallest faction in parliament, they perform well in British Colombia and hold two seats there. The current turmoil may favor their rivals ahead of a national election that senior Liberals say could be just a few months away.

The Greens would win about 6.7% of the vote nationally if a vote were held now, according to an average of recent polls aggregated by the CBC.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer and Julie Gordon; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Hope, anger and defiance greet birth of Israel’s new government

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Following are reactions to the new government in Israel, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER

“We’ll be back, soon.”

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

“On behalf of the American people, I congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the members of the new Israeli cabinet. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations.”

NABIL ABU RUDEINEH, SPOKESMAN FOR PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS

“This is an internal Israeli affair. Our position has always been clear, what we want is a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.”

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER VIA TWITTER

“On behalf of the UK, I offer my congratulations to

@naftalibennett and @yairlapid on forming a new government in Israel. As we emerge from COVID-19, this is an exciting time for the UK and Israel to continue working together to advance peace and prosperity for all.”

TOR WENNESLAND, U.N. MIDDLE EAST PEACE ENVOY VIA TWITTER

“I look forward to working with the Government to advance the ultimate goal of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

CHARLES MICHEL, EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT VIA TWITTER

“Congratulations to Prime Minister @naftalibennett and to Alternate PM & MFA @yairlapid for the swearing in of the new Israeli government. Looking forward to strengthen the partnership for common prosperity and towards lasting regional peace & stability.”

FAWZI BARHOUM, HAMAS SPOKESMAN

“Regardless of the shape of the government in Israel, it will not alter the way we look at the Zionist entity. It is an occupation and a colonial entity, which we should resist by force to get our rights back.”

BENNY GANTZ, ISRAELI DEFENCE MINISTER

“With all due respect, Israel is not a widower. Israel’s security was never dependent on one man. And it will never be dependent on one man.”

CHUCK SCHUMER, U.S. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER

“So, there’s a new Administration in Israel. And we are hopeful that we can now begin serious negotiations for a two-state solution. I am urging the Biden Administration to do all it can to bring the parties together and help achieve a two-state solution where each side can live side by side in peace.”

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA

“Congratulations on the formation of a new Israeli government, Prime Minister @NaftaliBennett and Alternate Prime Minister @YairLapid. Together, let’s explore ways to further strengthen the relationship between Canada and Israel.”

MANSOUR ABBAS, ARAB MEMBER OF NEW ISRAELI GOVERNMENT

“We are aware that this step has a lot of risks and hardships that we cannot deny, but the opportunity for us is also big: to change the equation and the balance of power in the Knesset and in the upcoming government.”

DAPHNA KILION, ISRAELI IN JERUSALEM

“I think it’s very exciting for Israel to have a new beginning and I’m hopeful that the new government will take them in the right direction.”

EREZ GOLDMAN, ISRAELI IN JERUSALEM

“It’s a sad day today, it’s not a legitimate government. It’s pretty sad that almost 86 (out of 120 seats) in the parliament, the Knesset, belong to the right-wing and they sold their soul and ideology and their beliefs to the extreme left-wing just for one purpose – hatred of Netanyahu and to become a prime minister.”

SEBASTIAN KURZ, CHANCELLOR OF AUSTRIA, VIA TWITTER

“Congratulations to PM @naftalibennett and alternate PM @yairlapid for forming a government. I look forward to working with you. Austria is committed to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and will continue to stand by Israel’s side.”

(Reporting by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Daniel Wallis and Lisa Shumaker)

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Boris Johnson hails Biden as ‘a big breath of fresh air’

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday as “a big breath of fresh air”, and praised his determination to work with allies on important global issues ranging from climate change and COVID-19 to security.

Johnson did not draw an explicit parallel between Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump after talks with the Democratic president in the English seaside resort of Carbis Bay on the eve of a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies.

But his comments made clear Biden had taken a much more multilateral approach to talks than Trump, whose vision of the world at times shocked, angered and bewildered many of Washington’s European allies.

“It’s a big breath of fresh air,” Johnson said of a meeting that lasted about an hour and 20 minutes.

“It was a long, long, good session. We covered a huge range of subjects,” he said. “It’s new, it’s interesting and we’re working very hard together.”

The two leaders appeared relaxed as they admired the view across the Atlantic alongside their wives, with Jill Biden wearing a jacket embroidered with the word “LOVE”.

“It’s a beautiful beginning,” she said.

Though Johnson said the talks were “great”, Biden brought grave concerns about a row between Britain and the European Union which he said could threaten peace in the British region of Northern Ireland, which following Britain’s departure from the EU is on the United Kingdom’s frontier with the bloc as it borders EU member state Ireland.

The two leaders did not have a joint briefing after the meeting: Johnson spoke to British media while Biden made a speech about a U.S. plan to donate half a billion vaccines to poorer countries.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, was keen to prevent difficult negotiations between Brussels and London undermining a 1998 U.S.-brokered peace deal known as the Good Friday Agreement that ended three decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Britain that Biden had a “rock-solid belief” in the peace deal and that any steps that imperilled the accord would not be welcomed.

Yael Lempert, the top U.S. diplomat in Britain, issued London with a demarche – a formal diplomatic reprimand – for “inflaming” tensions, the Times newspaper reported.

Johnson sought to play down the differences with Washington.

“There’s complete harmony on the need to keep going, find solutions, and make sure we uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” said Johnson, one of the leaders of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU.

Asked if Biden had made his alarm about the situation in Northern Ireland very clear, he said: “No he didn’t.

“America, the United States, Washington, the UK, plus the European Union have one thing we absolutely all want to do,” Johnson said. “And that is to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, and make sure we keep the balance of the peace process going. That is absolutely common ground.”

The 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to the “Troubles” – three decades of conflict between Irish Catholic nationalist militants and pro-British Protestant “loyalist” paramilitaries in which 3,600 people were killed.

Britain’s exit from the EU has strained the peace in Northern Ireland. The 27-nation bloc wants to protect its markets but a border in the Irish Sea cuts off the British province from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Although Britain formally left the EU in 2020, the two sides are still trading threats over the Brexit deal after London unilaterally delayed the implementation of the Northern Irish clauses of the deal.

Johnson’s Downing Street office said he and Biden agreed that both Britain and the EU “had a responsibility to work together and to find pragmatic solutions to allow unencumbered trade” between Northern Ireland, Britain and Ireland.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Andrea Shalal, Padraic Halpin, John Chalmers; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Giles Elgood, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Mark Potter and Timothy Heritage)

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