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DENVER – The Colorado Chamber of Commerce today held its annual meeting luncheon and hosted a bipartisan political discussion featuring top leaders from the state legislature and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Colorado Chamber of Commerce also announced the winner of its inaugural Coolest Thing Made in Colorado competition at the event.
Neil Bradley, executive vice president, chief policy officer and head of strategic advocacy for the U.S. Chamber, presented the keynote address and participated in a panel discussion with Colorado Senate President Stephen Fenberg, Senate Minority Whip Paul Lundeen, House Speaker Alec Garnett, and House Minority Leader Hugh McKean.
Bradley weighed in on the upcoming midterm elections at the national scale, predicting that the U.S. House is the Republicans’ race to lose while the U.S. Senate is a toss-up. He also pointed to some notable political trends occurring across the nation, including the “fading away” of traditional swing districts where a district votes for a presidential nominee from one party and a member of Congress from another.
“Most members of Congress live and work in districts that are unified up and down the ballot in terms of voter ID,” Bradley said.
In addition, state governments are becoming more polarized, Bradley said. Fifteen years ago, half of all U.S. states experienced divided government at the state level – with Republicans and Democrats sharing power in the legislative and executive branches. Today, there are only 12 states with divided governments.
“For the business community, we at the federal level have to figure out more ways to find durable policy that crosses the aisle, that works for Republicans and Democrats, that can hold true whether there’s a Republican majority or Democrat majority,” said Bradley.
Even with increased national polarization between political parties, Colorado legislative leaders championed bipartisanship and collaboration at the state level in Colorado. Sen. Fenberg said that when it comes to policymaking, party split is less important than the people who make up the majority.
“We have disagreements, but it is a deliberative body and I generally think it works,” Fenberg said. “The vast majority of the bills that pass are bipartisan one way or another.”
In terms of policy, Fenberg predicted that the 2023 legislative session would focus more on uniting issues and less on major structural reforms that have received the most attention in the last several years. He anticipates clean-up bills and focusing on bipartisan topics like water.
The panel also weighed in on the implications of the election on Colorado state government, with all legislative leaders in agreement that the current balance of power would narrow one way or another.
On the House side, Rep. Alec Garnett, speaker of the house, believes Democrats will keep their majority in his chamber.
“I don’t believe the majority will remain at 41-24,” he said. “That’s a historically enormous majority. I would imagine that goes down, but I don’t think it will flip control.”
McKean spoke about his strategy for shaping the Republican Party in Colorado moving forward, highlighting the need to move ideas forward that bring people together and represent the entire state.
“My priority is to change the brand of the Republican Party,” McKean said. “We have better ideas and we have common-sense solutions. What we have to do is we have to be engaged in a process of telling the people of Colorado that we can govern well.”
In the Colorado Senate, Sen. Lundeen expressed optimism that Republicans hold the advantage.
“Republicans are about three points ahead on the general congressional ballot, which will benefit Republicans in Colorado,” he said. Lundeen also emphasized the importance of divided government to bring diverse perspectives to the table for better policy outcomes.
The Colorado Chamber of Commerce champions free enterprise, a healthy business environment and economic prosperity for all Coloradans. It is the only business association that works to improve the business climate for all sizes of business from a statewide, multi-industry perspective. What the Colorado Chamber accomplishes is good for all businesses, and that’s good for the state’s economy. It was created in 1965 based on the merger with the Colorado Manufacturers’ Association.