GREELEY — Although all signs point to Democrats maintaining the majority in the Colorado House of Representatives, Republicans are cautiously optimistic they could gain two — maybe three — seats that were originally in the blue column, along with a Senate seat or two.
Seats belonging to House District 50 Rep. Dave Young (Greeley), who is term limited; HD 17 Rep. Tony Exum (El Paso), who is running for re-election; and Senate District 5 Kerry Donovan (Eagle County), who is also running for re-election, are too close to call just 24 hours before voting closes.
According to Republican leaders tracking ballot returns, as of Friday, Democrats were 82 ballots ahead of Republicans in Donovan’s district and 124 ahead in Exum’s district.
However, in HD 50, which has been held by Democrats for nearly two decades, Democrats are behind Republicans in ballot returns — by 450 as of Monday. That district features two relative newcomers to elected office.
Former Greeley City Councilwoman Rochelle Galindo, a 28-year-old Greeley native, has ran her campaign on being the first openly gay, Latina woman to win a seat on a predominantly conservative city council in 2015. She wants to bring that same perspective to the state level.
Her campaign has been plagued by problems. She’s been through three campaign managers amid controversy she mistreats her staffers. Although supporters have spent more than $100,000 on ads claiming she will stand up to special interest, most of her campaign funds have come from out-of-district and out-of-state special interest groups.
She takes a neutral stance on Proposition 112, which would effectively ban new oil and gas drilling on more than 85 percent of the land in Colorado. Experts say it would cripple the Colorado economy and put hundreds of thousands out of work.
It’s a polarizing topic among her oil-and gas-dependent district. Her voting record against the industry is well documented, however, while serving as a city council member.
Campaign finance reports during Galindo’s run for Greeley City Council also showed that she misspent campaign funds on a celebratory trip to Las Vegas.
Galindo’s opponent Michael Thuener, is a 36-year-old Army Veteran, who served two tours in Iraq in 2004 and 2007. He is married and has three children. He is also an elder in his church. He works in telecommunications and data connectivity. He has spent his campaign running on improving funding for public schools, allowing parents of private school students to get tax credits and finding transportation solutions.
He has come out in strong opposition to Proposition 112.
As of Monday afternoon, the Secretary of State’s office reported just more than 1.6 million ballots had been returned state-wide. Of that, Republicans had the edge with 556,119 ballots returned compared to 554,809 by the Democrats. Unaffiliated ballots came in third at 505,496.
In Weld County, where House District 50 is located, those numbers favored Theuner as well as all his Republican counterparts running for office. Democrats had turned in 17,423 ballots while Republicans were nearly double that at 33,231. Unaffiliated were also ahead of the Democrats with 22,890 ballots returned.
The Greeley Tribune said Thuener is more moderate among the two candidates. In its endorsement of Thuener, the Tribune editorial board called Galindo a political operative, unsure she could reach across the aisle to do what’s best for all her constituents.
“Galindo’s truncated stint on the Greeley City Council was brief, occasionally divisive and relatively devoid of notable accomplishment,” the Tribune endorsement for Thuener said. “More importantly, Galindo entered public service as a longtime Democratic political operative, working on several campaigns, including Barack Obama’s. It’s unclear whether she will function as the kind of centrist lawmaker this district demands. Ultimately, we think Thuener offers the best fit for the district.”
Writers note: This story has been changed to reflect a change from House District 5 to Senate District 5. We apologize for the error.