Colorado Democrats could lose control of the Capitol. Here’s how. – Greeley Tribune

If you’re running for office, Republican Senator Dennis Hisey said, “You have to say you’re going to win” — believe it or not.

“Two years ago I was at some fundraisers and our people stood up and said, ‘We’re going to win!’ And anyone who was paying attention knew that two years ago we weren’t going to win anything,” Hisey said in El Paso County.

“It’s a completely different feeling this year. It really licks its lips and says we can do this, we will do this, there is a plan to do this.

Republicans like Hisey have lost power at a level not seen in Colorado since World War II, and have good reason to feel that way: The unpopularity of first-term Democratic President Joe Biden combined with an elevated Competitiveness resulting from last year’s redistribution process is a clear path for the GOP to regain some power in state politics.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Republicans’ already strong odds in the Colorado statehouse actually improved after the June primary, when a string of vote-defying, far-right GOP candidates lost in Colorado’s top races. Democrats had prepared for months to spend general election campaigning nominating candidates for the House and Senate with since-defeated politicians like Ron Hanks, who rallied in the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and in the US Senate primary lost, and to connect Tina Peters, the accused Mesa County employee who lost in the Secretary of State primary.

It is highly unlikely that Republicans will defeat Democratic Gov. Jared Polis in November. Typically, Coloradans don’t elect Republicans for governor, and Polis has other advantages: tenure, massive personal wealth that ensures it isn’t overstretched, and favorable poll ratings.

Republicans are also unlikely to regain control of the state House of Representatives, where Democrats now have a dominant 41-24 seat advantage. But Republicans need only swap three Senate seats to ensure a split legislature for the next two years, and that success alone would dramatically change state politics.

A split legislature would, among other things, all but kill or at least seriously obstruct most or all Democratic bills on issues such as abortion, guns, renters’ rights, voting rights, and climate protection.

Republican Senator Rob Woodward of Loveland said, “My expectation next spring isn’t just going to see us just pushing the Democratic agenda year after year.”

There are 35 seats in the state Senate, of which Democrats now control 20 to 15, and which Republicans have not filled since 2018. 28 Senate districts are not very mysterious; Between seats not up for election this year and those not considered competitive, Democrats open with an assumed 15-13 advantage. Data from the state’s independent redistribution commissions, which last year redrawn Colorado’s statehouse and congressional maps based on updated census data, shows that the path back to a measure of power for the GOP passes through seven key Senate districts.

Chart showing balance of power in the Colorado General Assembly

The commission calculated competitiveness based on electoral results in each district in eight different statewide contests since 2016. That means the numbers they found to indicate whether a district is leaning left or right are imperfect, since they Strong years for Colorado Democrats coincided with Donald Trump’s presidential bid and only term in office. The numbers don’t include data from 2014, which was a good year for Colorado Republicans, nor do they account for the widespread expectation of a red wave this November that — in theory, at least — boosts a generic GOP candidate by a few points should. or more.

These are the main Senate races:

  • Senate District 3 (Pueblo): This district was held for years by Democrat Leroy Garcia, the former Senate president who resigned this year to take a job in the Biden administration. A vacancy committee nominated Democrat Nick Hinrichsen for the seat, and he now faces Republican Stephen Varela. The data shows an average Democrat lead of about 5 points over the eight elections considered by the Redistribution Commission, but Democrats expect a tough fight this year, with many insiders even favoring Varela.
  • Senate District 8 (Northwest Colorado): This district encompasses a vast strip of northwestern Colorado, from Gilpin and Clear Creek counties in the east to the borders of Utah and Wyoming. Democratic Rep. Dylan Roberts is seeking a promotion to the Senate, and he’ll be up against Matt Solomon to get there. Commission data shows a 6.6-point advantage for Democrats in that district, but like SD3, SD8 is hotly contested and by no means a secure seat for Democrats.
  • Senate District 11 (Colorado Springs): Commission data favors Democrats by 2.4 points, meaning many insiders see it as close to a toss in a year that should be generally good for Republicans. Hisey meets Tony Exum, a Democratic state congressman who, like Roberts, is seeking a seat in the House of Lords.
  • Senate District 15 (Larimer and Boulder counties): It might sound crazy that a vast western portion of Boulder County — a place synonymous with liberalism — could be represented by a Republican, but that’s a perfectly plausible result. This redesigned district is the most competitive in the Senate on paper. In the eight previous elections considered by the commission, there was on average no party advantage. But like other counties, few delude themselves that this is a perfect shot. Republican Sen. Rob Woodward of Loveland is fighting for re-election against Democratic challenger Janice Marchman, also of Loveland. Woodward has raised a huge sum of money compared to Marchman and virtually every other Statehouse nominee.
  • Senate District 20 (Jefferson County): Here another representative of the Democratic state, Lisa Cutter, is seeking a seat in the Senate. She faces Republican Tim Walsh in a district that the commission says is about 7 points leaning toward Democrats since 2016. Jefferson County is formerly a Republican stronghold but, like elsewhere in the Denver Metro, has turned blue in recent years. In the 2020 U.S. Senate race, this district favored Democrat John Hickenlooper by 11 points over Republican Cory Gardner. However, a red wave could make Cutter sweat, if not lose.
  • Senate District 24 (Adams County): If this district is really in the game on Election Day in November, it likely means it’s going to be a very bad night for Democrats in the Colorado State House. The commission’s data shows a Democrat lead of about 9 points since 2016 and an even larger lead since 2018. Kyle Mullica is another Democratic state representative running for the Senate, and he faces Republican challenger Courtney Potter.
  • Senate District 27 (Arapahoe County): The last Democratic state representative to run for Senate is Tom Sullivan, and he starts with a lead of about 5 points in this district. But five isn’t nearly big enough to make Democrats comfortable here, given their party’s poor mid-term prospects. Sullivan meets Republican Tom Kim.

Though so many of those critical districts have tended to favor Democrats in recent years, Mullica said he plans a fight to retain control of the Senate.

“We have an (expletive) lot of work to do. If we don’t try, we don’t stand a chance,” he said.

It speaks to the extent to which politicians are throwing away commission data on competitiveness that Marchman, the Democrat facing Woodward in a district that’s been spot-on on average since 2016, called her race “a shot and a prayer.” She later added that while she didn’t want to sound defeatist and that she appreciates her chances, “there are these huge forces at play.”

She said: “I definitely hope that when we get to the voters, we can put aside all this noise from the outside and get people excited.”

The Colorado House is a different story. Democrats aren’t panicking, but there’s little chance they’ll expand their majority this year, and they’ll be lucky enough to maintain the 17-seat lead they now have. They have enough cushion to endure a string of losses this year and still hold the chamber.

49 of the 65 seats in the House of Representatives have been lost by an average of at least 8.2 points to one party or the other since 2016, according to commission data. Among those seats, the Democrats have a 28-21 lead. That leaves 16 seats that could be competitive this fall, and 13 of those are currently held by Democrats. Therefore, they will play a lot of defense in November.

But Republicans don’t have to turn the House to change the power dynamic in the Capitol. Even if they only reduce party divisions, Democrats who are pushing for progressive legislation will have to work much harder to count their votes and get their bills through the chamber. A tighter House of Representatives combined with a Republican Senate would give centrist Democrats and the GOP even more clout to defeat a more progressive legislature — which is already regularly struggling to win the signature of Polis, a Democratic governor whose views contradict many places are conservative.

Mullica, a current member of that chamber, said: “There are headwinds against us. We know that. We are very aware of the coordination with our President. What we will focus on is controlling what we can control.

He continued: “So, we’re not naïve about what the political landscape is like and what we need to do, but I can honestly say I treat my race the same way (as previous races have). If you are not sincere and who you really are, voters will see through this.” Colorado Democrats could lose control of the Capitol. Here’s how. – Greeley Tribune

James Brien

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