In Colorado’s nearly constant election environment, the following are six Election Night outcomes that highlight new and continuing trends that will influence 2014 and beyond.
: Does $10 million and the new voting procedures (universal mail ballots) increase the turnout from an expected one million to 1.3 million or 1.5 million voters? Can proponents motivate a new mix of voters adding occasional (i.e., presidential-only) voters? Turnout is likely to be the difference for Amendment 66 passing or not.
: Democrats have been playing defense since their hyper-liberal legislative session ended in May, facing two recalled legislative leaders, a High Plains secession movement and weak poll numbers. Amendment 66’s failure or success will extend or truncate the narrative.
: The Amendment 66 campaign is following the two drink rule. If you can spend up to two drinks per likely voter, they should be in a good enough mood to offer support. Although Amendment 66 was locally conceived, the election funding was dominated by out-of-state interest groups and billionaires on the left. More than half the $10 million spent came from national players interested in the salaries and benefits or the potential improvements in education policy. The trend follows the September recall election where national Democratic/liberal money dominated the election 10-to-1 against the recalls.
School board positions, which pay nothing, have attracted more than $1.5 million between Denver and Douglas counties. The unions are battling reformers and business interests for control of school policy around choice and teacher accountability. Reformers tend to dominate the money race 3-to-5-to-1. Expect more union/management conflict in the 2014 legislative session.
: The Denver metro area is likely to provide the bulk of the pro-Amendment 66 votes. It represents about 56 percent of registered voters, but would need to contribute more than 60 percent of the Amendment’s support if it is to have a chance.
The success of the ten-county, northwest county secession movement will be a barometer as to the passion of the urban/rural divide. If it carries most of the counties, the 2014 legislative session and the governor’s race will be awash with passionate speeches and partisan maneuvering to extend the conflict or tamp it down.
Fracking and the Wind
: The I-25 Corridor has become a dividing line in the state’s energy war. On its urban west side, anti-fracking activists have placed bans on four municipal ballots – a direct challenge to state regulatory authority, Governor Hickenlooper and one of the state’s most powerful industries.
The ten-state secession movement (11 counting Western Slope Moffat, a Coal County) has a major pro-oil and gas component to it. Supporters resent the anti-fracking attitudes of the state legislature and resist the Democrats frequent and, in their view, heavy-handed regulatory strategies to make local consumers pay for expensive wind and solar renewable projects.
Also, west of the I-25 Corridor is the City of Boulder anxious to pay $200 million, or three times as much, to buy its electrical utility so it can use wind and solar as its primary supply. Nearly a million dollars is being spent in the fight.
This election will illuminate the divide and which side has the most momentum. It will be another issue that bedevils the Governor and the legislature next year. It could also be a 2014 statewide ballot issue.
Dope and Guns
: Colorado’s national image as a presidential battleground is now painted in bolder and brighter colors. Ask people what they’ve heard about Colorado lately and it’s dope and guns – a dangerous combination. Along with last September’s recalls, the secession movement has a big gun rights component. And in this election, Colorado voters will vote to put in place the financing of its new regulatory structure for legal marijuana use and sales. Retail sales start in January 2014.
Is Colorado more comfortable with sin taxes or income taxes? Bet on sin.