Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Will Colorado Democrats Win the State House?

The intense and deadlocked presidential race has absorbed most of this year’s political attention, but control of Colorado’s State House could shift to the Democrats in this election, complicating Governor Hickenlooper’s next two years, moving the image and agenda of the legislature to the left.

Several factors make the current legislative battle unique in Colorado’s recent history.  The extraordinary presidential race, especially the get-out-the-vote effort, will no doubt affect down ballot voting in the handful of competitive legislative races, the end of session fight over civil unions was the surprise issue that has influenced the races more than any other, and the mass of money in targeted races is beyond even the expensive races of recent years.

Similar to the presidential race, both parties target districts.  The consensus is that four Senate races and twelve House seats began the summer competitive.  Republicans would have to sweep the four competitive Senate seats to win control.  State legislative lobbyists and observers believe the Republicans could pick up a senate seat or two.  The most unusual race in sheer level of expenditures is in the San Luis Valley where the Democrat Crestina Martinez has received more than $700,000 to grab what has been a Republican seat.  (The chart shows Super PAC expenditures and the percent given to Democrats.)

Democrats have the advantage in having to win just one House seat out of several they have targeted, but many races are close and there are vulnerable Democratic incumbents.

Jefferson County wins the award for the most competitive county.  It has two competitive Senate seats, three House seats, a competitive congressional race, and is considered an essential win for the presidential candidates.

Other factor affecting the races this year are redistricting, which shifted the partisanship of several districts causing retirements and endangering incumbents, and third party candidates, both on left and right, who may take sufficient votes to affect close races.  Also, minority candidates, both African-American and Hispanic, are running in either safe districts or have a good chance of winning – significantly increasing minority representation.  Gay representation and clout will likely increase, especially if Democrats take control of the House.  The first House bill is likely to be legalizing civil unions.

Prediction:  Democrats control both houses.

See Denver Post:
Colorado’s liberal super PACs dominate spending in state races
Democratic activist Tim Gill heavily funded federal super PAC

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