Monday, November 13, 2017

Colorado’s Off-Year Election

Slightly more than a third of the electorate took the time to return their ballots, with half the votes coming in the last weekend and Election Day (3.2 million mailed, 1.2 million returned 11-9-17, 38%). Most of the major decisions were old battles or proposals that voters have seen before.

Denver. Denver voters continue to support investing in the city’s infrastructure. They approved a billion dollars in bonds for transportation, public safety and anchor institutions, such as libraries, hospitals and cultural facilities. The passage helps secure Mayor Michael Hancock’s political control over the city and his run-up for a third term. Growth, density and traffic are residents’ major complaints, and Hancock hopes the bond initiative’s transportation funding will address the issue sufficiently. Liberal voters did defy considerable civic opposition and approved the Green Roof initiative with a narrow win. A four-to-one Democratic over Republican ballot return was too much ideology over pragmatism.

Schools. Organized labor’s biannual effort to control school districts had more success in 2018. The pro-labor, anti-choice slate swept the Douglas County School District, retained their incumbents in Jefferson County and picked up two seats on Denver’s seven-person board. Tuesday night may signal the rise of the Colorado teachers union with their national affiliates targeting the state Democratic primary next June and the general election. The union would like a friendly governor and state legislature.

Fracking. The anti-fracking forces continue to win local battles, but lose to the courts and state regulators. The hydrocarbon industry has spent plentifully to fight what they consider misinformation from the anti-fracking advocates. Their audience is voters and especially opinion leaders. But Broomfield voters passed an anti-fracking measure in spite of the industry spending more than $300,000 against it. Expect the issue to morph into the 2018 Democratic primary for governor and Northern Colorado legislative and local elected officials.

Winners and Losers

Colorado’s election results portent much for the 2018 midterms and especially the governor’s race:
  • Voters signaling yes on infrastructure
  • Teachers union wins (Does it help Kennedy? Problem for Polis, Johnston?)
  • Brakes on school choice, performance pay, testing
  • Anti-fracking activists win (Bother Polis?)
  • Oil and gas on defensive, but in the battle
  • End of Hickenlooper era (school unions, anti-frackers?)
  • Democrats recharged from national and local wins (Could they win governor and both houses?)

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