The results of the 2020 Election made it very clear that Colorado is an anomaly when compared to the rest of the nation. Once again, the voters in our state remained fiscally conservative on some ballot initiatives but voted to keep one party in control at the state capitol and in the U.S. Senate – while other states saw Republicans pick up seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, which closed the gap in the U.S. House despite expectations of a “blue wave.”
Colorado saw record voter turnout across the state, easily surpassing 2016 levels and potentially having the highest rate of voter turnout in the nation this year. Unaffiliated voters accounted for about 39% of the turnout as of Wednesday, surpassing both Democrats and Republicans in votes cast.
There was no question that Colorado’s electoral votes would go to Joe Biden on election night while the rest of the nation awaits the final presidential results. But when it comes to who will be roaming the halls in Washington, DC, we’ll have two newcomers:
- Lauren Boebert: Boebert is the Republicans’ new darling who built her reputation in a short period of time as a gun slinger and vocal small business owner. She won by over 22,000 votes against former Democrat legislator Diane Mitch-Bush in Congressional District 3 (CD 3). That district has historically voted to keep Republicans in charge so it wasn’t a surprise to many that even though Rep. Tipton lost to Boebert in the primary, she would keep that seat in Republican hands;
- John Hickenlooper: The big win for Democrats was the loss of incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner to former Gov. Hickenlooper in our U.S. Senate seat. The polls continued to show over the last several months that Gardner was down by double digits. While polling has proven unreliable at times, Gardner’s loss was considered highly possible in Colorado.
The General Assembly will remain in Democratic hands, with the party split in the State House remaining the same at 41 Democrats to 24 Republicans and Democrats picking up one seat in the State Senate, shifting the power to 20 Democrats and 15 Republicans.
This summer, the Colorado Chamber endorsed a bipartisan list of legislative candidates after an extensive vetting and interview process. Out of 36 endorsements in the State House, 31 chamber-endorsed candidates won their races. Out of 13 endorsements in the State Senate, 12 chamber-endorsed candidates won their races. Additional details on specific House and Senate races are below.
The General Assembly
State House of Representatives:
When it comes to the State Legislature, not much changed in the Colorado House of Representatives. One seat shifted out of the Democrats’ hands in Pueblo where Bri Buentello (D) lost her seat to Republican Stephanie Luck. Republicans lost a seat in Arapahoe county with Richard Champion (R) losing to newcomer David Ortiz (D). The House caucus split will remain the same with Democrats controlling 41 seats while Republicans control 24 seats.
While some political junkies hoped that a few House seats would be competitive in Jefferson County – including the seats held by Democrat incumbents Brianna Titone and Lisa Cutter – once again JeffCo stayed solidly blue and both of those seats were held by the incumbents. Locally, JeffCo voters also ousted Libby Szabo, a Republican who served as County Commissioner since 2017, to former House legislator Tracy Kraft-Tharp (D).
Chamber-endorsed victories in the House are as follows:
Alec Garnett (D), House District 2
Leslie Herod (D), House District 8
Karen McCormick (D), House District 11
Judy Amabile (D), House District 13
Shane Sandridge (R), House District 14
Dave Williams (R), House District 15
Andres “Andy” Pico (R), House District 16
Marc Snyder (D), House District 18
Tim Geitner (R), House District 19
Terri Carver (R), House District 20
Mary Bradfield (R), House District 21
Colin Larson (R), House District 22
Shannon Bird (D), House District 35
Mark Baisley (R), House District 39
Naquetta Ricks (D), House District 40
Kevin Van Winkle (R), House District 43
Kim Ransom (R), House District 44
Patrick Neville (R), House District 45
Tonya Van Beber (R), House District 48
Mike Lynch (R), House District 49
Hugh McKean (R), House District 51
Jeni Arndt (D), House District 53
Matt Soper (R), House District 54
Janice Rich (R), House District 55
Rod Bockenfeld (R), House District 56
Perry Will (R), House District 57
Marc Catlin (R), House District 58
Ron Hanks (R), House District 60
Dan Woog (R), House District 63
Richard Holtorf (R), House District 64
Rod Pelton (R), House District 65
Republicans in the State Senate saw their numbers reduced once again due to a loss in Senate District 27 by Suzanne Staiert (R) to Chris Kolker (D). This seat was held by Republican Jack Tate (R), who chose to resign early, and the seat has historically been held by a Republican. There was quite a bit of negative campaigning against Staiert who served as Deputy Secretary of State which is the likely cause for her loss. The State Senate party split will likely be 20 Democrats to 15 Republicans, a change from the previous split of 19 to 16. This will likely change the committee structure and create a further advantage for Senate Democrats.
As of Wednesday afternoon, two State Senate races are still too close to call. Incumbents Kevin Priola (R – SD 25) and Bob Rankin (R – SD 8) are currently ahead in their races with final results still pending.
Chamber-endorsed victories in the Senate are as follows:
Jim Smallwood (R), Senate District 4
Bob Rankin (R), Senate District 8
Larry Liston (R), Senate District 10
Bob Gardner (R), Senate District 12
Joann Ginal (D), Senate District 14
Steve Fenberg (D), Senate District 18
Rachel Zenzinger (D), Senate District 19
Barbara Kirkmeyer (R), Senate District 23
Kevin Priola (R), Senate District 25
Janet Buckner (D), Senate District 28
James Coleman (D), Senate District 33
Cleave Simpson (R), Senate District 35
The most interesting outcome of the Colorado election results can be found within the multitude of ballot initiatives. Not including the many local initiatives that voters had to navigate through, there were ten statewide initiatives that ranged from allowing gray wolves to be reintroduced into our state, to a state income tax reduction, to joining a national popular vote compact.
While the state yet again proved to be solidly “blue” in terms of elected officials, the ballot initiatives tell another story. Colorado voters were fiscally conservative on some issues – like decreasing the state income tax and preventing the Legislature from creating new tax or fee enterprises without voter approval. On the other hand, they also voted to increase worker payroll taxes through a new government-run family leave program – although ballot language did not explicitly identify this measure as a new tax.
Local results: the Colorado Chamber did not make any endorsements in local ballot initiative elections, but it’s worth noting that the City of Denver voted once again for every local measure imposing a tax increase, as well as giving more power to the City Council.
Ballot Initiative Results (as of 11/4/20):
Amend B (Gallagher) – passed 57.5%
Amend C (Bingo raffles) – likely pass 51.6%
*Chamber endorsed a YES vote: Amend 77 (Gaming limits) – passed 59.6%
Prop EE (Cigarette tax) – passed 68.4%
Prop 113 (Nat’l Popular vote) – likely pass 52.2%
Prop 114 (Gray wolves) – likely pass 50.2%
Prop 115 (Late term abortions) – failed 59.2%
Prop 116 (state income tax reduction) – passed 56.7%
Prop 117 (voter approval state enterprises) – likely pass 52.4%
*Chamber endorsed a NO vote: Prop 118 (FAMLI) – passed 57%
The election results will continue to trickle in over the next few days, however, we don’t expect significant changes in Colorado based on what has been reported thus far. We can certainly expect the Presidential results to continue to cause consternation nationwide until those results are final.
The expansion of the Senate Democrats majority could have a significant impact as the party is likely to look to the business community to fill any potential budget holes from the economic fallout of COVID-19. This summer, we saw a preview of what we could expect in the 2021 legislative session with House Bill 1420, which the business community was able to defeat this summer after a massive outreach campaign. The bill would have repealed hundreds of millions of dollars in tax exemptions for the business community and would have been devastating to employers across the state. It’s critical that the business community remain engaged with the legislature as we approach the upcoming legislative session.