Colorado started trending purple in 2004 with the election of the Salazar brothers, both Democrats, to Senate and House seats previously held by Republicans. Democrats also took the state legislature. Two years later, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate won by a 15 point margin. In 2008, Democrats picked up another Senate and House seat and the state went for President Obama. While Republicans recaptured the House seats in 2012, they lost the governor’s race to Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper and saw the state slip once again into the Obama column. Unlike many western and southern states where legislatures are held by Republicans, Colorado’s legislature has stayed in Democrat hands. It appeared in 2012 that the state had tipped from purple to blue.
Let’s give credit where credit is due. Democrats worked hard for those victories. As the book, The Blueprint, spells out in detail, Democratic strategists, activists, and millionaires created a robust infrastructure of liberal political and educational organizations, winsome candidates, well spun messages and technology. They turned a once libertarian/conservative leaning state blue.
Nothing lasts forever though. The political landscape appears to be changing once again. Almost ten years from the beginning of the Colorado blues, the Democrat wave appears to have crested. Against significant odds, two Democratic legislators were recalled in September because of their controversial gun control votes and general dissatisfaction among their constituents. The legislator who lost her seat by the highest margin represented a district in a traditionally deep blue area of the state.
On November 5, Amendment 66, a proposed billion dollar income tax increase went down by a large margin 34% to 66% despite a 10 to one campaign funding advantage by proponents. Even New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s million dollar cash infusion didn’t help. Meanwhile, school district candidates who favor reforms like providing performance pay, shutting down poor performing schools, opening charter schools, and even enacting a voucher program won in three of the state’s largest school districts against staunch union opposition. Their only consolation for liberal activists this election was the passage hydraulic fracturing moratoriums in a couple of left-leaning municipalities.
Looks like Colorado might be trending magenta. Time will tell. There are reasons for conservatives to feel optimistic. The gender gap in the 2012 was lower in Colorado than in other targeted swing states. The specious War on Women tactic may be even less effective in the 2014 election. Virginia women might be fooled but independent minded western girls are certainly less gullible.
Meanwhile the grassroots are energized and active and Republicans have a growing bench of attractive potential candidates for races in 2014.
Many Coloradans feel that liberals have overreached. Nearly 250,000 Coloradans will lose their health insurance this fall according to the Denver Post. While the Colorado exchange website runs well compared to the dysfunctional national site, only a few thousand Coloradans have signed up. The bloom is coming off the Obamacare rose even for many on the left and people are feeling increasingly skeptical of Washington solutions.
There is an old saying that there are no permanent victories. The flip side is that there are no permanent defeats. Lovers of liberty, personal responsibility, and limited government don’t need to pack their bags for Idaho or Wyoming. They can fight the good fight here and win.