The El Paso County Democratic Party made peace with Gov. Jared Polis on Sunday when the county party’s chair walked back a request for a town hall with the governor on police conduct and gun violence.
The Democratic governor had declined, saying he didn’t want to politicize the shooting and investigation into the death of 19-year-old De’Von Bailey. Bailey was killed as he ran away from officers in Colorado Springs on Aug. 3. Polis had already asked for an independent investigation.
Electra Johnson, the chair of the El Paso County Democratic Party, retracted the news release about the request Sunday.
Johnson had been listed as one of the contacts for the media when it was released Thursday. On Sunday, she said it “wrongfully represented” the position of the executive officers of the county party.
“This letter serves as a retraction of that press release,” Johnson wrote to reporters on Sunday. “The original press release was made without the consent or approval of the officers to whom the statement was attributed. This misstep by one of our officers is deeply regretful. It has, however, provided an opportunity for the party to articulate a fully inclusive position on a highly sensitive matter which demands honesty, integrity and transparency. ”
Polis called for an independent investigation into the Bailey shooting in August. The FBI also is currently reviewing the case.
Members of the local party made the request to Polis by releasing a copy of a Sept. 15 letter to state party chair Morgan Carroll asking her to intervene with Polis to set up a town hall, based on the case.
The governor’s spokesman, Conor Cahill, told Colorado Politics on Thursday, “The governor has already shared his feelings that Colorado Springs residents would be best served by an independent review of the events surrounding De’Von Bailey’s death. To that end, he believes this conversation has no place in partisan politics.”
Polis publicly turning down a town hall requested by fellow Democrats is awkward for his state party.
Though Democrats pushed through a red-flag gun law last session, they have yet to take on the stickier political issues of banning assault-style rifles or other measures opposed by conservatives and gun rights groups to curb mass shootings.
When Colorado Democrats passed gun laws in 2013, including a ban on high-capacity magazines, Democrats paid dearly at the ballot box. The sitting Senate president from Colorado Springs and a high-profile senator from Pueblo were recalled, and a senator from Arvada resigned as recall forces were aligning against her.
More recently, however, Colorado Democrats have campaigned with gusto against Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner for his unwillingness to schedule traditional town hall events.
During the August recess, as Gardner held dozens of public events for invited press and guests, he dodged opposing party activists and media spectacles.
In response, Democratic activists staged as statewide “Cardboard Cory” tour of town halls with a cardboard cutout of Gardner.
Opposing activists in both parties tend to hijack such events, shouting down candidates in front of reporters. As a result, fewer candidates in either party put themselves in such a position these days.
The last town hall Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet to which Colorado Politics was notified a about was August 2018.