This year begins a titanic struggle in Colorado between Democrats and Republicans for control of the state’s politics and political agenda. After the Democrats’ sweeping victory in 2012 and their aggressive legislative session, they have been on the defensive. Since the end of the session, they lost three state senators, watched a host of counties declare independence, had their signature tax funding package for education rejected two-to-one and observed their polling numbers drop precipitously.
But, the Democrats’ opposition has been led by an eclectic collection of angry gun rights advocates, farmers and rural county commissioners made up of a mix of Republicans, independents and conservative Democrats. The Republican Party, itself, remains divided without a clear message or leader. Will 2014 provide the opportunity for them to regroup and offer a coherent opposition? Colorado’s voters are waiting for the contest to begin.
Will a GOP divided in 2013 find fortune in ‘14?
Colorado Democrats, after eight years of success capped by President Obama’s 5-point win in 2012, are now on the defensive. But can Republicans take advantage with few new candidates for top positions? Tom Tancredo, the independent 2010 gubernatorial candidate and nominal Republican, and Ken Buck, 2010 Senate candidate, lost in messy races, but are the current frontrunners for the GOP nomination in their respective races. The Colorado Republican Party remains divided between ideologues and pragmatists.
Unions out of favor with Colorado voters
Unions, especially the teachers union, had a very bad year with Colorado voters. Three of their preferred legislators were removed by recall or the threat of one, and despite their $4 million investment in Amendment 66, it was crushed by voters. In addition, school reform candidates in local school districts won handily in the face of union opposition. The winners either actively opposed unions or at least supported school choice and teacher merit policies, both of which provoke the unions.
Colorado independence: We're still a purple state
Unaffiliated voters are now the largest bloc of voters in Colorado. At more than 1 million, they will decide many close 2014 elections as they tend to be less partisan and less committed to either party or a particular candidate or issue position. Recent Colorado polls show them leaning against incumbent Democrats, but unhappy with both parties.
See Denver Post: In 2013, the issues that mattered most in Colorado politics