As many of you know, I live in Colorado.
And living in Colorado puts me in a unique position with my vote.
Colorado is a swing state having gone for the electoral winner in the last four elections. It is also a reliable bellwether having gone for the winner in every election since 1980 except in one instance when it picked Bob Dole in 1996 while Bill Clinton dominated the electoral vote. Still 8 out 9 is a pretty good track record. Not as impressive as Ohio’s current streak going back to 1964, but Colorado might become the new electoral bellwether in the 21st century.
So I have the power to pick the next president…
As shown in 2014 that power extends to the senate, gubernatorial, and other statewide races. With the senate, it can determine which party controls that chamber.
And that is as far as the power of my vote goes.
Without giving away EXACTLY where I live in Colorado, I can provide a hint.
I live in Colorado’s first congressional district (THE FIGHTIN’ FIRST!!!!). That means that the state legislative districts are also very Democratic as well. The toughest fights that Representative Diana DeGette, soon-to-be State Senator Angelia Williams, and soon-to-be State Representative Leslie Herod will face will be in the primary.
And believe me… those were some contentious battles that I witnessed in the lead up to the primary last June.
Honestly, the primary for Colorado-1 was mainly a bucket list item for DeGette’s opponent.
And I understand why the opponents for Williams and Herod fought so hard was because even though state senator is a 4-year term and state representative is a 2-year term it is due to where the districts are located. Because of the blue tint, those offices are at most an 8-year stint with almost guaranteed job security. Colorado has term limits for its legislators; a state representative can serve a maximum of 4 consecutive terms while a state senator is up for re-election once. Williams and Herod will likely be in the general assembly in their respective chambers until January 2025 UNLESS they lose a primary (unlikely, incumbency is very powerful) or decide to run for higher office.
And let’s not forget that Williams’ opponent specifically his campaign manager had some issues specially in attacking Williams on her liberal bona fides. It was why she won the primary 82-18.
So as a Democrat (shhhh…. Don’t tell anyone…), my vote will have no impact on flipping a state legislative seat or a congressional district from red to blue.
Same if I was living in Colorado-2 (Jared Polis) or Colorado-7 (Ed Perlmutter). Still, I encourage people that live in those districts to follow my example and cast their ballots for these people like I plan to do so for Representative DeGette.
If I lived in Colorado-6 or Colorado-3 or a state legislative district that was competitive, my voting power would increase even greater.
Over the last three election cycles Colorado-6 has been one of the few competitive congressional districts in the nation. The seat is currently held by Mike Coffman. Coffman was first elected to Congress in 2008 after climbing through state politics and occupying the post of secretary of state. He is most remembered for joining the chorus of Republicans questioning Barack Obama’s birthplace but later recanted those claims.
After the 2010 census, Colorado followed suit like many other states and redrew their congressional seats. Colorado-6 was redrawn from Douglas and Elbert counties to the more politically and ethnically diverse eastern Denver suburbs.
In 2012, Democrats almost pulled off the upset with a relative nobody losing to Coffman by 2. Two years later, Colorado Democrats went with former State House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. Even though he had name recognition, Romanoff lost the bid by 9 points. In Romanoff’s defense, 2014 was a favorable year for Republicans where they increased their House majority to a level seen last in 1928 and flipped the Senate.
Democrats believe they have a candidate that could unseat Coffman this cycle. State Senator Morgan Carroll, who is term limited, opted to run in Colorado-6. Carroll has served in both the Colorado State House and Senate since 2005. In 2013, as part of the backlash over expanded background checks then-President of the Senate John Morse was recalled and the event elevated Carroll to that position. When Republicans took over the state senate in 2015, Carroll was made Minority Leader. She resigned the post in July 2015 in order to concentrate her efforts on defeating Coffman. Carroll authored a book, Take Back Your Government: A Citizen’s Guide to Grassroots Change, in 2011.
The Carroll campaign and Colorado Democrats are hoping that this the year that Coffman is finally unseated. Like many Republicans representing swing seats and states, Coffman is having to make a choice: embrace Trump and likely lose general election support; or distance himself from the party’s nominee and lose critical support from the base. Essentially a lose-lose proposition.
Coffman chose to call for Trump to leave the race after the revelation of a video tape where Trump was caught on a hot mic talking about sexually assaulting women and getting away with it because he was famous.
In a profile by the Colorado Independent about the race, the article points out that there is a lot of money poured into this race. Emily’s List and NARAL Pro-Choice as well as the DCCC and the Super PAC Immigrant Voters Win are supporting Carroll while the Koch Brothers backed Americans For Prosperity and the Texas Republicans United PAC are supporting Coffman.
Given the district’s demographics combined with Colorado moving away from swing state status to reliably lean Democratic, Carroll has an excellent chance at becoming the first Democrat ever elected to represent Colorado-6. When the district was created after the 1980 census, the district has consistently elected Republicans. The first to win was Astronaut Jack Swigert of the Apollo XIII mission but died of cancer prior to taking the seat. Tom Tancredo once represented the 6th district until he decided to not run for re-election in 2008 to briefly run for the Republican nomination on a primarily anti-immigrant platform.
Carroll also has a very key endorsement that she is proud to trumpet.
Exciting news - @BarackObama endorsed our campaign this morning! #copolitics pic.twitter.com/QiAA3RO6Ee— Morgan Carroll (@MorganLCarroll) October 24, 2016
Carroll is one of 150 downballot Democrats that President Obama is endorsing, and Obama won the district 52-47 in 2012, closely mirroring Colorado’s vote percentage that year.
Meanwhile a different battle is taking place primarily in the western and southern portions of the state.
Because of the toxicity of Trump at the ticket, Colorado Democrats are hoping that it extends to Colorado-3. The seat has existed since 1915 and has primarily represented Grand Junction, Pueblo, and Trinidad. 8 Democrats and 6 Republicans have filled the seat in its century of existence. The last Democrat to represent Colorado-3 was John Salazar who won the seat in November 2004, a year that was favorable to Republicans nationally. Six years later Salazar lost the seat in the Republican wave election of 2010.
Since then, Scott Tipton has represented this wide district and has legislated primarily as a rubber stamp for his party. According to Ballotpedia, Tipton voted with his fellow Republicans over 90% of the time in both 2013 and 2014 despite touting bipartisan credentials. The Denver Post endorsed Tipton in his 2012 re-election bid but recommended he pursue a more moderate path. In 2014, the paper did not endorse anyone for election to the 3rd. For 2016, the Denver Post reluctantly endorsed Tipton despite praising Gail Schwartz, his Democratic opponent, for her accomplishments.
I will expand on Schwartz’s accomplishments.
Schwartz was elected to the University of Colorado Board of Regents for Colorado-3 in 2000 campaigning on a platform of increasing higher education access. Upon being added to the 9-person board, Schwartz supported adding sexual orientation to the university’s nondiscrimination policy. Schwartz was later elected to serve in the Colorado state senate and served the maximum two terms.
In an editorial for Steamboat Today, Schwartz stated her support for protecting Colorado’s public lands. The issue certainly has drawn the attention of the presidential candidates.
When asked by public land advocates which is a unique coalition of conservationists and sportsmen, the Clinton campaign stated their support that “public lands must stay in public hands” and promised to double the size of the nation’s $646 billion outdoor economy over the next 10 years.
The Trump campaign has said nothing on this matter (which seems to be a pattern about his policies) and those seeking answers have had to sift through interviews and public statements to determine a coherent answer. One answer about who Trump might pick as Interior Secretary has drawn the scorn of the conservationists as there are hints that he might pick oil executive Forrest Lucas to run that department.
As I stated in a post disclosing my financial support for candidates, I am supporting Morgan Carroll and Gail Schwartz, and I encourage anyone who lives in the districts where they are running to cast a ballot in their names.
I also extend this observation to Bob Seay in Colorado-4 and Misty Plowright in Colorado-5. They are even more strong Republican districts but are deserving of votes.
Carroll and Schwartz are similar on their platforms regarding veterans. Carroll would represent a district where the new VA Hospital being built in Aurora has veered into large cost overruns. Meanwhile, Schwartz is the daughter of an Air Force veteran and would serve a district that at times does not have the same access to those services that the large metropolitan areas have.
Schwartz pursued sexual orientation to be covered in the University of Colorado’s nondiscrimination policy back in the 2000s while Carroll has the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign stating her record supporting LGBT rights dating back to opposing Amendment 2 in 1992.
I also agree with Carroll on campaign finance reform and ways to find meaningful legislation in post-Citizens United era.
And I agree that there do need to be more women involved in politics.
There is one other thing.
Democrats need to get out from behind their blue fortresses if they are to retake the House.
Schwartz presents a great opportunity for a House pickup. Even though Cook Political rates it R+4 it is a longshot. For Democrats to do so, they need to seriously look into start building farm systems in those downballot races like state legislator, mayor, city council, and other races that are routinely ignored. Because eventually you get people who can run for Congress, like Carroll and Schwartz who served in the Colorado Senate, or higher statewide offices like governor, secretary of state, attorney general, etc. And that means more people to run for president in future elections.
Another thing is that if Democrats can retake the House (and it is a longshot given the lack of competitive House races as well as the number of lean Republican districts needed to flip) combined with holding the White House past 20 January 2017 and flipping the Senate, then Clinton would have greater odds of advancing her legislative agenda.
And that is true voting power