Following the November 2 election, Colorado is truly a purple state. Republicans now control the Colorado House with a 33-32 majority*, won three of the statewide races and two Congressional races. Democrats were able to keep control of the Colorado Senate, the Governor’s office as well as the U.S. Senate.
The Governor’s was a seesaw of information until right before polls closed, but in the end John Hickenlooper was named Colorado’s next Governor. Early in the political season, political pundits predicted an easy victory for John Hickenlooper (D) due to the turmoil surrounding the Republican Party candidate Dan Maes and the American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo. But as Election Day got closer, Tancredo was able to close the gap between himself and Hickenlooper. Much of this was due to rapid disenchantment with Dan Maes and a flurry of Republican leaders putting their support behind Tancredo.
Hickenlooper is known for his business background and has promised to work with Republican leadership to move the state forward. John Hickenlooper has served as the Mayor of Denver since 2003. Before becoming Mayor, he worked as a geologist in the oil & gas industry before becoming a well-known brew-pub owner. He is credited with being one of the main supporters and contributors to the re-energizing of LoDo – a section of downtown Denver that is now known as a cultural hotspot. As Mayor, Hickenlooper developed strong partnership with surrounding suburban mayors. One of his greatest successes was bringing the Democratic National Convention to Denver in 2008.
U.S. Senate – Michael Bennet
The U.S. Senate race was one of the closest races in the country. We didn’t know the final outcome until the day after the election, when Ken Buck conceded the race to Michael Bennet. This race was one of the most watched races on the national level and polling predicted a close contest. Election officials are still counting provisional and military ballots, but it is unlikely that the numbers will shift much either way.
Congressional District 1- Diana DeGette
Congresswoman Dianna DeGette (D) easily won her race against Mike Fallon (R). DeGette currently sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Congressional District 2 – Jared Polis
Congressman Jared Polis (D) was re-elected to serve as Congressman from this metro-area district. Stephen Bailey was the Republican challenger.
Congressional District 3 – Scott Tipton
Congressman John Salazar (D) lost his bid for re-election to Scott Tipton (R). This race was one of the races that had national attention, with Tipton being named as a Republican “Young Gun”. Salazar has been a fairly moderate Democrat but couldn’t overcome the general voter discontent with Democrats.
Congressional District 4 – Cory Gardner
Republican challenger Cory Gardner won back this seat for the Republicans in a heated battle against Democrat Betsy Markey. This was considered an early target seat and attention against Markey significantly rose after she voted in support of federal cap & trade legislation. Gardner served in the Colorado House of Representatives prior to running for Congress.
Congressional District 5 – Doug Lamborn
Congressman Doug Lamborn (R) holds this seat. CD 5 is based in the Colorado Springs area and is a Republican strong-hold in Colorado. Lamborn faced Democrat Kevin Bradley.
Congressional District 6 – Mike Coffman
Congressman Mike Coffman (R) was re-elected in this heavily Republican District to serve his 2nd term.
Congressional District 7 – Ed Perlmutter
Two-term Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D) faced a tough challenge from Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier (R). This race has garnered national attention and was viewed as a toss-up for the first time since 2006.
Colorado General Assembly
In the House, Republicans won six legislative seats to take control with a 33-32*majority. The Senate will remain in Democrat hands. Representative Frank McNulty (R) from Highlands Ranch was chosen to be the next Speaker of the House. Senator Brandon Shaffer (D) from Longmont will remain in his post as Senate President.
Colorado agriculture saw a boost in representation with J. Paul Brown (R) and Don Coram (R) being elected to the House of Representatives. Brown is a Farm Bureau member and a rancher from the Durango area and Coram hails from a cattle ranching family in Montrose. Jon Becker (R) from Fort Morgan also has a farming background. This brings the number of legislators with strong agricultural ties to seven (House: Sonnenberg, Baumgardner, McKinley, Brown, Becker, Coram; Senate: Brophy).
The State faces an estimated $1.1 billion shortfall in next year’s budget, which begins in July. Loss of federal stimulus money that won’t be back as well as declining revenues are the reason for the shortfall. Two-thirds of the budget is constitutionally protected leaving the General Assembly little flexibility to find ways to cover the gap. It is expected that cuts will have to be made to both K-12 and Higher Education. Smaller adjustments to health care programs as well as possible fee increases will also be looked at. Republicans have vowed to restore the tax credit and exemptions that were repealed or postponed last year, but Democrats have been adamant that this solution is not good public policy in such tough budgetary times. It is not yet known if Governor-elect Hickenlooper will take most of Governor Ritter’s budget proposal. It is rumored that Hickelooper wants to take a hard look at everything and assess whether or not entire Departments should be eliminated. As one of the smallest state departments, the Department of Agriculture might be a target.
Also on the political horizon is re-districting, which will change legislative district boundaries. Both sides will fight to give their party an advantage that will help predict future election outcomes.
*Two legislative races still have not been finalized. In HD 29, it looks like Robert Ramirez (R) has successfully challenged incumbent Debbie Benefield (D) but not all of the ballots have been counted. In HD 61, Independent Kathleen Curry is challenging a ruling by the Secretary of State regarding how write-in ballots should be counted. If Curry wins her legal challenge, it is highly likely that she will be declared the winner. If not, Democrat Roger Wilson will assume the seat. If Curry wins, the House will still be controlled by the Republicans but on a 33-31-1 majority.