Politics of Colorado

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Democrat Bill Ritter was the Governor of Colorado from 2007 to 2011.

Colorado has elected 17 Democrats and 12 Republicans to the governorship in the last 100 years. Incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper, who was elected in 2010, is a Democrat, and his predecessor, Governor Bill Ritter, who won election in 2006 is also a Democrat, though his predecessor Bill Owens is a Republican.

The state's electoral votes went to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992, Republican Bob Dole in 1996, Republican George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

The people of the state of Colorado are additionally represented in the federal government of the United States by two United States Senators and seven Congressional Representatives. Of Colorado's seven members of the United States House of Representatives, four are Republicans and three are Democrats following the 2010 election. The Senators were Mark Emery Udall (D) and Michael Farrand Bennet (D).[1] The Representatives were Diana Louise DeGette (D), Jared Schutz Polis (D), Scott Tipton (R), Cory Gardner (R), Douglas L. "Doug" Lamborn (R), Michael "Mike" Coffman (R), and Edwin George "Ed" Perlmutter (D).

Until the election of Barack Obama, the people of Colorado had voted Republican in every U.S. Presidential Election since 1964, with the exception of 1992 when a plurality voted for Bill Clinton, (possibly due to the effect of Ross Perot's candidacy.) Conversely, Colorado has held a Democratic governor for 22 of the past 30 years.

Colorado has a history of voter initiatives which severely restrict the power of state government. Some of these initiatives include Term Limits on legislators (1990), Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) (1992), and Amendment 23, passed in 2000, which set a fixed percentage of the budget for K-12 education. Voters passed Referendum C in 2005, amending some restrictions of TABOR and Amendment 23.[2]

Colorado supported George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, by a majority approaching 60%. Republicans have generally held control of state-wide offices and the state legislature since the 1960s. In 2004, while Bush won the state's electors, Democrat, Ken Salazar won a U.S. Senate seat and his brother John Salazar won a seat in the U.S. House, while the Democrats captured both chambers of the state legislature. Most recently, in 2006, Democrat Bill Ritter won the governorship by a 16-point margin while the Democrats expanded their majorities in both chambers of the state legislature and Democrat Ed Perlmutter captured another U.S. House seat. In 2010, however, Republicans made big gains in the state. They won the statewide races of Attorney General, Secretary of State and Treasurer. Republicans also defeated two incumbent Democratic House members to hold a 4-3 majority in the state's House delegation. Furthermore, Republicans took control of the Colorado House of Representatives. This occurred even as Democrat John Hickenlooper won the governorship, albeit over weak and divided opposition, and Democratic Senator Michael Bennet was re-elected. Also as a result of the 2010 gubernatorial election the Constitution Party gained major party status as it passed the 10% popular vote threshold, putting it in an equal legal position with the Democratic and Republican parties in terms of rights under state election law. However, the Democrats regained the Colorado House by a large margin during the 2012 election.

Colorado was a battleground state in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election between Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama. Obama won Colorado, by a margin of 8%, with 53% of the vote to McCain's 45%.[3]

Colorado General Assembly[edit]

The Colorado Senate is the upper house of the Colorado General Assembly, composed of 35 seats of approximately 143,000 people each. Senators are constitutionally limited to two consecutive four-year terms. The Senate is currently composed of 18 Democrats and 17 Republicans, and is led by President of the Senate, Morgan Carroll, Majority Leader Rollie Heath, and Minority Leader Bill Cadman. 17 seats are up for election in 2014.

Currently, Democrats are in control of the Senate and House. The 64th Colorado General Assembly was the first to be controlled by the Democrats in forty years, as the Republican Party traditionally held control of the state government. Colorado now being a swing state has seen increased competitiveness and consequently, variation in partisan control of the statehouse from election to election. The current Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives is Mark Ferrandino.[4][5][6]

The Colorado House of Representatives is the lower house of the Colorado General Assembly, composed of 65 seats of approximately 77,000 people each. Representatives are constitutionally limited to four consecutive two-year terms. The House is currently composed of 37 Democrats and 28 Republicans, and is led by Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino, Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, and Minority Leader Mark Waller. Every seat is up for election 2014.

Congressional representation[edit]

Democrats Mark Udall and Michael Bennet are Colorado's senior and junior United States senators, respectively. Udall was elected in 2008, and Bennet was appointed by Governor Bill Ritter in January 2009 to succeed Ken Salazar, who resigned following his confirmation by the Senate as United States Secretary of the Interior in the Barack Obama administration. Michael Bennet won his first full term to the United States Senate in 2010. Mark Udall has been challenged for his seat by a wide array of Republicans in 2014, including 2010 Senatorial candidate Ken Buck, former State-House leader Amy Stephens, and Colorado Springs legislator Owen Hill. In late February after the Republican Primary debates, Ken Buck, Amy Stephens, and Representative of Colorado's 4th Congressional District Cory Gardner made an agreement in which Ken Buck would run for Gardner's seat, Amy Stephens would drop out entirely, and Cory Gardner, who had to date out-raised Buck and Stephens combined, would join the race for the Senate.

Colorado has had seven seats in the United States House of Representatives since the 2000 reapportionment.

Colorado's 1st congressional district is represented by Democrat Diana DeGette. The district runs southwest to northeast, containing Columbine in Jefferson County, Englewood and Cherry Hills in Arapahoe County, and all of Denver County. Diana DeGette has yet to raise any significant challenger in the 2014 congressional election.

Colorado's 2nd congressional district is represented by Democrat Jared Polis. The district contains all of Larimer, Grand, Summit, Clear Creek, Gilpin and Broomfield counties, most of Boulder County, and parts of Jefferson, Eagle, and Park counties. Jared's 2014 challenger is Boulder County Republican Party Chair George Leing.

Colorado's 3rd congressional district is represented by Republican Scott Tipton. This district contains the western third of the state as well as parts of southern Colorado, containing the cities of Grand Junction and Pueblo, the San Luis Valley, and the northeast portion of the Four Corners. Tipton's 2014 challenger is former State Senator Abel Tapia.

Colorado's 4th congressional district is represented by Republican Cory Gardner. This district contains the eastern third of the state, as well as most of Douglas County along the I-25 corridor, the city of Longmont in Boulder County, and all of Weld County. Together, these compose 75% of the district's population. Cory Gardner announced on March 1st that he would join the Republican primary for the 2014 Senate race in Colorado, leaving his seat open. Weld County DA and 2010 Senate candidate Ken Buck won the Republican primary to replace Gardner, and will face Army veteran and Colorado Department of Corrections case manager Vic Meyers in the general.

Colorado's 5th congressional district is represented by Republican Doug Lamborn. The district contains Chaffee, Teller, and Fremont counties in their entirety, and most of Park county. The district is anchored in El Paso County, containing 6/7ths of its population. The district is home to major military installations at Fort Carson, Schriever Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain and the United States Air Force Academy. Doug Lamborn's 2014 challenger is former U.S. Air Force Major General Irv Halter.

Colorado's 6th congressional district is represented by Republican Mike Coffman. This oddly-shaped district contains parts of Adams and Arapahoe counties, as well as Highlands Ranch in Douglas County, but is mostly anchored in Colorado's third largest city, Aurora. Mike Coffman's 2014 challenger is former Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, Andrew Romanoff.

Colorado's 7th congressional district is represented by Democrat Ed Perlmutter. This district contains the northwestern portion of the Denver Metropolitan Area, including the most populous parts of Adams County and Jefferson County. Ed Perlmutter's 2014 challenger is former Chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party and state senate candidate Don Ytterberg.

Sovereignty of the people[edit]

Article II of the Constitution of Colorado enacted August 1, 1876, the Bill of Rights provides:

Section 1. Vestment of political power. All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government, of right, originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.[7][8]

Section 2. People may alter or abolish form of government − proviso. The people of this state have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves, as a free, sovereign and independent state; and to alter and abolish their constitution and form of government whenever they may deem it necessary to their safety and happiness, provided, such change be not repugnant to the constitution of the United States.[7][9]

Initiative, referendum, and recall[edit]

In addition to providing for voting[10][11] the people of Colorado have reserved initiative of laws and referendum of laws enacted by the legislature to themselves[12][13]

... the people reserve to themselves the power to propose laws and amendments to the constitution and to enact or reject the same at the polls independent of the general assembly and also reserve power at their own option to approve or reject at the polls any act or item, section, or part of any act of the general assembly.[14]

and provided for recall of office holders.[15]

Initiatives and referred laws are considered by the electorate at every general election in Colorado. Many are housekeeping measures or lack substantial public support, but matters of great public concern are also considered such as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), enacted in 1992, which amended Article X of the Colorado Constitution to the effect that any tax increase resulting in the increase of governmental revenues at a rate faster than the combined rate of population increase and inflation as measured by either the cost of living index at the state level, or growth in property values at the local level, would be subjected to a popular vote in a referendum.

Issues to be considered in 2010 include proposition 101 which would repeal unpopular increases in car registration fees as well as phone and, possibly, income taxes. Amendment 60 would cut property taxes and Amendment 61 would prohibit state and limit local borrowing. Many Colorado officeholders oppose these measures which they fear have substantial public support.[16][17]

Regional differences[edit]

Democrats are strongest in the City of Denver, Boulder County, Fort Collins, Pueblo, parts of the I-70 corridor and the San Luis Valley. The most Democratic counties in the 2012 presidential election were Costilla County in the south which contains San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado, San Miguel County on the western Slope, and Denver County.

Republicans are strongest in El Paso County, the state's most populous county and home of Colorado Springs, and Douglas County, an exurb of Denver and one of the wealthiest counties in the country. Many Republican votes also come from the western slope near Grand Junction, the high mountain communities in the center of the state, and in the eastern plains. The most Republican counties in the 2012 presidential election were Washington, Cheyenne, and Kiowa in the eastern plains, and Rio Blanco County on the western slope.

Denver's suburban counties usually hold the balance of power in Colorado politics. Adams, Arapahoe, Jefferson and Larimer are considered "swing" counties, despite voting for Democrats in the last two gubernatorial and presidential elections.

These regional differences experienced a boiling point in 2013, when several of Colorado's northwestern counties put forth ballot measures designed to initiate secession from the state following the passage of several laws by the state legislature, including expanded background checks for gun purchases, magazine capacity limits on firearms, and a new quota on renewable energy production. The ballot measure was successful in Washington, Yuma, Phillips, Kit Carson, and Cheyenne County with a combined population of around 30,000, but was unsuccessful in Logan, Elbert, Lincoln, Sedgwick, Moffat, and Weld County, which alone was more than twice as populous as all other voting counties combined. This act of secession, which would have created a 51st state, would have required approval by the state legislature, the governor, as well as congress and the President.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Colorado Governor Bill Ritter appointed Michael Bennet to serve the remaining two years of United States Senator Ken Salazar term of office which was left vacant on 2009-01-20, when new United States President Barack Obama appointed the Colorado Senator to serve as his Secretary of the Interior.
  2. ^ "2005 Referendum Special Election Results". U.S. Election Atlas. 2007-05-11. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  3. ^ The New York Times http://elections.nytimes.com/2008/results/president/votes.html |url= missing title (help). 
  4. ^ "The Denver Post – Colorado House Democrats pick Ferrandino for speaker, historic first for gays". 
  5. ^ "CO – Election Results – Colorado Secretary of State". 
  6. ^ "State House 2012 Election Results – Denver Post". 
  7. ^ a b Article II of the Constitution of Colorado on Justia.Com, accessed September 21, 2010
  8. ^ Section 1, Article II, Constitution of Colorado
  9. ^ Section 2, Article II, Constitution of Colorado
  10. ^ Section 5, Article II, Constitution of Colorado
  11. ^ Article VII, Constitution of Colorado
  12. ^ Section 1, Article V, Constitution of Colorado
  13. ^ Section 1, Article V, Constitution of Colorado
  14. ^ Article V, Constitution of Colorado Justia.Com, accessed September 21, 2010
  15. ^ Article XXI, Constitution of Colorado
  16. ^ "Tax Cuts on Colorado Ballot Stir Alarm" article by Dan Frosch in The New York Times September 20, 2010, accessed September 21, 2010
  17. ^ "Ballot measures called budget busters: School districts, library to share losses, council told." article by Peter Roper in The Pueblo Chieftain June 22, 2010, accessed September 21, 2010

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