Friday, December 14, 2012

One-Party Government Controlled by Democrats for Ten Years?

Colorado Democrats swept control of the Colorado House.  They had lost it by just one seat in the 2010 national Republican wave, but took it back with a 5-seat majority this year.  Democratic five-seat control of the State Senate was unchanged.

The last 8 years of Democratic legislative dominance, after nearly 40 years of Republican control of both houses, has been extraordinary. It reflects Democrats’ superior funding, candidate recruitment and campaign operations since 2004.

1.  Due to legislative redistricting after the 2010 census, Democrats not only won a majority, but they may have locked it in for the next decade.

2.  Republicans have yet to recognize one of their most fundamental problems – Democrats out-fundraise and outspend them in legislative races. Democratic candidate spending through regular PACs, 527s and now Super PACS are simply overwhelming Republicans.
3.  The controversy at the end of the 2012 legislative session on civil unions significantly contributed to the Republican November losses. It inspired greater Democratic effort on candidate recruitment and fundraising.
4.  President Obama’s campaign overlaid the local Democrats’ turnout effort, especially among minority voters. Democrats recruited minority and gay candidates in record numbers.
5.  One-party government has become the norm in the states. Colorado joins 40 states with one-party governments, which represents 90 percent of the country’s voters. The vertical partisanship reflects the strength of partisan voting today and a polarized electorate.
States may take on issues that have gridlocked Washington as governors look to establish themselves as problem solvers using their party dominance.   
But, the new control of both houses of the legislature may be a problem for Governor Hickenlooper, who has tried to maintain a moderate and bipartisan image with a focus on business and economic development.  With split partisan control, bills passed only with concurrence of both parties.
Now, bills that the Governor may not prefer related to business and environmental regulations and controversial social legislation could pass.  He and Democratic legislative leadership will have to be much more active in prioritizing legislation and holding the line on issues that he opposes, or at least believes are not in his or the party’s interest, in the 2014 election.

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