2022 Election, Adams County, Elections, Featured, Greeley, Original Report, Sherrie Peif, Weld County

Third-party spoilers leave Weld County voters blue as Democrats win by plurality

GREELEY — The 2022 midterm election has left many residents in the northern Colorado cities of Evans, Garden City and most of Greeley feeling like Santa left them a lump a coal in their stocking.

Not one of the Democrats who won office at the state and federal levels in this area were elected with more than 50 percent of the vote. And one was not elected at all. And many believe third-party candidates likely helped push three of the other four over the finish line, and they point to the sole Republican winner as even more proof.

First, voters learned they wouldn’t even get a say on a new representative in Senate District 13, because of redistricting and a state constitutional rule that doesn’t allow a sitting official to be drawn out of office. Sen. Kevin Priola was originally elected to Senate District 25 in Adams County, but was drawn into Senate District 13 under the new maps. The current SD13 representative, John Cooke, was term limited at the end of 2022. So, Priola was awarded Cooke’s seat by default.

If finding out that Cooke’s seat going to Priola — a Republican with a long history of voting with Democrats more often than his own party — wasn’t enough, soon after, Priola officially jumped ship and switched parties, putting a Democrat in that seat for the first time in as long as anyone can remember, leaving voters to question whether or not Priola truly has their best interests at heart.

Then, the new 8th Congressional District–created after the last census because Colorado grew in population–opened up three new seats: one in the House of Representatives, one to the CU Board of Regents, and one on the State board of Education.

Historically the tri-town area around Greeley was represented by the 4th Congressional District and a long line of Republicans, and nearly all predictions were the new 8th would go red as well.

CD-8 does not look like any other district in Colorado. It spreads north across sections of Adams, Larimer and Weld counties, and includes the cities of Westminster, Brighton, Commerce City, Thornton and Greeley, among others. It is home to the state’s largest block of Hispanic voters.

However, with the exception of the CU Regent seat, all offices were won by Democrats.

Finally, House District 50 — although traditionally the lone seat in Weld County held by a Democrat and generally won by 55 percent and more — also fell likely because of a third party.

The spoilers

Although there are always stories of third-party spoilers, the 2022 midterm in northern Colorado is probably the most large-scale example of where it affected a single set of geographic voters.

In the 8th Congressional District House seat race, Yadira Caraveo won with just 48.38 percent of the vote (114,377) while Libertarian Richard Ward took 3.93 percent of the votes (9,280). There was just a 1,632-vote difference between Caraveo and Republican opponent Barbara Kirkmeyer.

Ward, however, never reported a single penny raised or spent with the Federal Elections Commission. He didn’t campaign and most didn’t know he was running for office.

Also in the 8th Congressional District, the Republican running for the State Board of Education seat also lost by just under 2,000 votes, despite overwhelmingly beating her Democrat opponent on her own home turf.

Peggy Propst, almost unknown in Weld County, beat Democrat Rhonda Solis by nearly 17,000 votes in Weld County where Solis spent eight years on the Board of Education for the county’s largest school district in Greeley-Evans School District 6 (the heart of CD8) and started the Latino Coalition of Weld County, which purports to give a voice to Latinos in a county where Hispanics make up the majority of the population.

However, American Constitution (ACN) candidate James Treibert, who also raised no money and spent no money on his campaign, garnered 5,367 votes. Those who have worked in politics for decades, such as former Colorado GOP Chairman and political analyst Dick Wadhams say it is highly unlikely any ACN voter would have voted for the Democrat had Treibert not been on the ballot.

Solis also did not get more than 50 percent of the vote in her victory. She won with 49.28 percent of the vote.

Wadhams said the results are not surprising. He recalled a story when he was helping a Republican running for U.S. Senate in 2000 in another state. He said the example is a classic explanation into how Libertarian voters think when they cast their ballot.

The race was very close, Wadhams said. They had convinced the Libertarian on the ballot to drop out and endorse the Republican candidate. They flew all over the state attending events together and making sure that Libertarians knew he was supporting the Republican candidate. But in the end the Democrat won by a margin smaller than the vote count for the Libertarian because, as Wadhams said, Libertarians will vote for Libertarians regardless.

“It doesn’t matter if the people who vote the Libertarian line don’t know who the candidate is,” Wadhams said. “They just want to vote for the Libertarian.”

The only Republican to win in the 8th Congressional District was Republican Mark VanDriel, who won his CU Regent seat with 51.68 percent of the vote.

However, there was no third-party candidate on the ballot, yet one more reason experts believe it was the third-party candidates who were the spoilers.

Lastly, in House District 50, the only stronghold of the Democrat party, it was more of the same.

Republican newcomer Ryan Gonzalez the 27-year-old son of Mexican immigrants came within 300 votes of beating his very intrenched Democrat opponent Mary Young — the wife of State Treasurer Dave Young — despite Democrats soft money spending nearly $700,000 on the race against Gonzalez. Young’s campaign also spent more than $100,000. The most money spent on any House race in Colorado.

Gonzalez campaign spent just over $43,000 on his race.

Historically, for the last two decades, the Democrat in 50 has won with at least 55 percent of the vote. This year, however, Young won with just 49.19 percent. And the Libertarian on the ballot, who spent just $35 on his campaign, brought in 615 votes.

“It’s awful, just awful,” Wadhams said about the third-party problems in elections. “But there is very little anyone can do about it.”

But there might be. A runoff system would mean in any case that a candidate did not receive 50 percent plus 1 vote, the top two vote getters would face off in a second election.

For the people of Weld County, that might make them feel a bit more respected, considering anyone who lives in Evans, Garden City or east of 35th Ave in Greeley is now represented by four Democrats, none of whom were elected by the majority of voters in the district.

It’s unclear exactly how it would become law, but Wadhams, who said he could support the idea, thinks it as simple as a citizen-initiated state statute, since the Democrat controlled legislature is unlikely to put it to the voters.

“I like it,” Wadhams said. “But since the Dems seem to benefit all the time from a third-party candidate, I doubt they’d go along with it.


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