Colorado Capitol Report

Democrats Take Control of State Legislature and Governor’s Seat

Democrats Take Control of State Legislature and Governor’s Seat

Last night, the Democrat Party was able to secure a majority of seats in the State House and State Senate, as well as control of Governor’s seat, giving Democrats the trifecta at the State Capitol for at least the next two years and the Governor’s seat for at least the next four years.

Prior to this election, the Republicans have held the State Senate majority by a very narrow one (1) seat margin since the 2014 election, while Democrats have held the State House by a significant seven (7) seat margin since 2016.  Based on the most recent results, House Democrats potentially pick up two (2) seats giving them a nine (9) seat margin while Senate Democrats pick up three (3) seats giving them a two (2) seat margin.  As of this morning, there are still one to two House seats with very close margins and some counties are still counting ballots.  Therefore, the results may change slightly in the House but won’t dramatically change the overall margin between Democrats and Republicans.

Out of the 57 legislative candidates and incumbents that the Colorado Chamber endorsed this summer, 46 won their seat.

A complete list of the winners of the state House and Senate seats as well as the results of the statewide seats can be found here.

In the race for Governor, Congressman Jared Polis (D – Boulder) had been polling ahead of Treasurer Walker Stapleton (R) for several months but Stapleton had narrowed the margin within the last few weeks up until Election Day.  Polis succeeded in beating Treasurer Stapleton rounding out the trifecta for the Democrats.

Statewide Office Results:

This cycle there were also three (3) statewide seats up for grabs which included the Attorney General, State Treasurer and Secretary of State.  Although history has shown that Colorado voters normally split their vote in statewide seats, the results this year favored Democrats overwhelmingly.  In the race for Attorney General, Phil Weiser (D) won against Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler (R), while State House Representative Dave Young (D) beat entrepreneur Brian Watson (R) for State Treasurer.  Also, incumbent Wayne Williams (R) lost his position as Secretary of State to Jena Griswald (D), who previously worked on President Obama’s re-election campaign.

Congressional Delegation Results:

In the seven (7) Colorado Congressional seats, the outcome was as expected but Republicans failed to hold their majority lead of the delegation.  Congressman Mike Coffman (R – CD 6) lost a hard-fought race against newcomer Jason Crow (D).  CD-6 has experienced changes in its demographics over the last few years and is now considered a bell-weather seat that Democrats have targeted during the last two election cycles.  Congressman Coffman had been able to defeat every challenger that came his way until this election year.

In the other seats, Democrats held CD-2 with Joe Neguse, former Executive Director of the Department of Regulatory Agencies, while incumbents Diana DeGette (CD-1) and Ed Perlmutter (CD-7) maintained their seats.  Republicans Scott Tipton (CD-3) fended off former state representative Diane Mitch-Bush by 9 points in what had been deemed a toss-up race, while Congressman Ken Buck (CD-4), and Doug Lamborn (CD-5), were declared early winners of their respective seats.  On the Senate side, neither of Colorado’s Senators were up for re-elect this year.

Nationally, Republicans held the U.S. Senate while Democrats took control of the U.S. House. Of the 435 U.S. House races up this election, Democrats were able to take back a majority.  As of this morning, Democrats hold 220 seats, while Republicans hold 194, with 21 seats still too close to call.  Presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took the opportunity to lay out her party’s top priorities, saying her party will not focus on impeachment proceedings, but will instead focus on investigating the Trump Administration.

Pelosi also offered infrastructure spending as a bipartisan opportunity and according to her post-election press statement, Democrats are also expected to focus on healthcare costs, including prescription drugs prices, as well as campaign finance reform.   In the Senate, judicial nominations will continue to dominate the calendar.

Colorado Ballot Measures:

Despite the “blue wave” in state legislative races and statewide offices, many of the ballot measures were defeated including several statewide tax increases. These included Proposition 112 which required all new oil and gas development be located a minimum distance of 2,500 feet, as well as the two transportation funding initiatives – one requiring a sales tax increase and another to fund transportation through the state’s budget.  Additionally, Proposition 73 that called for a $1.6 billion tax increase to fund public education was defeated.  The future of transportation funding for Colorado is still unknown at this time, and legislators could certainly pursue new legislation during the upcoming Session.  There is also an opportunity for voters to approve bonding for transportation projects in the 2019 election based on language provided in Senate Bill 18-001 which was adopted during the 2018 Session.

A complete list of the ballot initiatives that won and lost can be found here.

Now that the election is complete, legislators at the State Capitol will choose their leadership on Thursday, November 8, and begin drafting legislation for the 2019 Legislative Session. The Colorado Chamber will be monitoring legislative activities closely to determine which bills will return from prior legislative sessions and work with its members on that legislation.