The gains made by women and candidates of color in 2018 in the Colorado General Assembly aren’t likely to be improved upon in 2020.
After the 2018 election, women held more seats in the Colorado House than men, 33-32, but that advantage evaporated as the ensuing General Assembly wore on. By February 2020, men held 33 seats out of the 65, due to replacing two Republican women whose vacancies were filled by men (Reps. Kimmi Lewis and Susan Beckman). Democrats added one more woman, Rep. Meg Froelich, who filled the vacancy left when Jeff Bridges filled a vacancy in the Senate when Daniel Kagan stepped down.
In the House, all 65 seats are up for election, but 13 seats are open due to term limits or when incumbent House members decided to run for the Senate. Of the open seats, Republicans will defend six, Democrats, seven. Virtually all are safe seats for their respective parties.
Republicans have a few opportunities to reverse their disastrous 2018 election, when they lost four seats, increasing their disadvantage from 28-37 to 24-41.
In the House, all 65 seats are up for election, but 13 seats are open due to term-limits or when incumbent House members decided to run for th…
Four seats are considered the most competitive in the House in 2020:
House District 25 (Littleton/Evergreen): Democratic Rep. Lisa Cutter of Littleton was the surprise victor in 2018, winning a House seat that had never before been represented by a Democrat. That win came despite a voter registration disadvantage of about 4,000 for Democrats, although as is true almost everywhere, unaffiliated voters dominate. In 2020, the gap has narrowed between Democrats and Republicans, although Republicans still have about an advantage of about 2,000 voter registrations. Unaffiliated voters have increased by 3,398.
Cutter has a strong lead in fundraising over Republican challenger and former Jeffco commissioner Don Rosier. Cutter has raised $57,626 to Rosier's $14,875.
House District 27 (Arvada): Incumbent Democratic Rep. Brianna Titone became the first transgender state lawmaker in Colorado with her narrow victory over Republican Vicki Pyne, a margin of 439 votes. Pyne is challenging Titone in 2020.
Voter registration in 2018 leaned Republican, with about a 2,000 voter registration advantage over Democrats. That lead has evaporated to just over 300. Unaffiliated voter registrations have picked up by more than 4,000.
Titone has a healthy lead in fundraising heading into the fall general election. She’s also likely to pick up strong financial support from independent expenditure committees, as she did in 2018.
House District 37 (Centennial): Similar to House District 25, Rep. Tom Sullivan is the first Democrat to represent this Arapahoe County district and in 2019 was the subject of a failed recall effort. He won despite a voter registration disadvantage for Democrats in 2018. That gap has evaporated since 2018, and as is true for the other competitive seats, unaffiliated voters will make the difference in November.
Independent expenditure committees, especially those tied to the gun-control movement, are expected to spend heavily to support Sullivan. He also has a significant advantage, as of July 27, in fundraising over Republican challenger Caroline Cornell. Sullivan has raised $63,013 to Cornell's $6,905.
House District 38 (Littleton): In 2018, Republican Rep. Susan Beckman won a close House race against Democratic challenger, Chris Kolker (who’s running for the state Senate this year). Beckman’s margin was 374 votes.
But Beckman is gone, replaced by Republican Rep. Richard Champion last January when Beckman took a job with the Trump administration.
Democratic challenger David Ortiz is on a fundraising tear, bringing in four times the money that Champion has so far raised as of July 27. However, Ortiz also spent heavily to win his primary challenge against Candice Ferguson. That means the cash on hand for the two candidates heading into the fall and the general election is relatively close.
Voter registration favored the Republican in 2018, but it’s not as comfortable a lead going into the fall. Democrats have gained nearly 800 registrations; Republicans have lost 1,500 and unaffiliated voter registrations have grown by more than 2,700.
House District 47 (Otero, Pueblo and Fremont counties): The closest race in 2018 was also the most contentious, between eventual winner Democratic Rep. Bri Buentello of Pueblo and Republican Don Bendell of Florence. Buentello won by just 321 votes and became the first Democrat to represent at least part of the district since 2008, when it included only Pueblo and Fremont counties. It’s also a district that Donald Trump won in 2016.
This year’s House race could easily be as close, based on voter registration.
The district has changed little in voter registrations since 2018, when it was evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters. The biggest change in the past two years is in unaffiliated registrations, which increased by 2,500. Republicans, however, now hold a slim 250-voter registration advantage over Democrats. In 2018, Democrats led by about the same margin.
The biggest difference in this race so far has been financial. Buentello has raised nearly $100,000, with more than $67,000 still in the bank heading into the fall. She also has backing from independent expenditure committees. Her Republican challenger, Stephanie Luck, has raised $12,840 but had to fend off a primary challenge. As of July 27, Luck is down to $5,265.
The battle for control of the state Senate — the top legislative prize in 2020 — could boil down to five seats: three held by Republican incumbents, two held by Democrats. And unaffiliated voters will be key in virtually every race, as well spending by independent expenditure committees.
The House Majority Project announced August 27 they would also target HD 38 and two other safe seats: House District 22 and House District 43.
Those seats are currently held by Republican Reps. Colin Larson of Littleton, who won a bruising primary in June; and Kevin Van Winkle of Highlands Ranch, the assistant minority leader.
In the Senate, 18 seats are up for election.
In the Senate, 18 seats are up for election. Here are the open seats and who currently holds them. Senators are term-limited unless otherwise noted.
The competitive seats:
Senate District 8, northwestern Colorado: Republican Sen. Bob Rankin of Carbondale was appointed to the seat in 2019 after the resignation of Sen. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs.
Independent expenditure committees, some backed by Democratic donors, spent heavily to ensure that Rankin, the senior member of the Joint Budget Committee and a center-right Republican, won his primary. The question becomes whether that will repeat for the November election. While Republicans hold a 6,000-voter registration advantage over Democrats (down from a 7,400 advantage two years ago), there are more unaffiliated voters than either. Republican voter registrations have dropped by more than 1,000 in the past two years, unaffiliated voter registrations increased by 5,000.
Both Rankin and his Democratic challenger, Karl Hanlon of Glenwood Springs, first had to win primary challenges, which depleted their campaign bank accounts. But Rankin still holds quite an advantage, spending half of the $68,000 he raised through July 27. Hanlon has raised just over $46,000, including $12,000 in loans, and heads into the fall campaign with just $2,742 in the bank.
Senate District 19, Jefferson County: The seat has flipped between Democrats and Republicans in the past decade, and is currently held by Democratic Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada. Some of the same IECs are already spending in favor of Zenzinger, even though she didn’t have a contested primary. Although Democrats have increased their voter registration advantage over Republicans in the past two years, unaffiliated voter registration has grown by nearly 6,000.
This district has been home to the most expensive senate race in the state for the past eight years (averaging north of $423,000 in candidate contributions in 2012, 2014 and 2016) and it's starting to look that way for 2020. Zenzinger has already raised $168,000, more than any statewide legislative candidate and has $115,000 on hand for the general election. Her Republican challenger, Lynn Gerber, has raised about $20,000 and has $11,438 on hand heading into the fall.
Senate District 23, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties: This open seat has two women candidates vying to replace term-limited Republican Sen. Vicki Marble of Fort Collins. While this has been considered a safe Republican seat, population growth had made this the fastest-growing and largest senate district by population in the state. SD23 grew from 104,000 registered voters in 2016 to more than 139,000 as of July 2020, with more than 20,000 voters added in Weld County and 9,000 in Broomfield County.
Democrats gained 4,000 voters between 2016 and 2020 to 32,524; Republicans gained about 3,500 to 45,992. Unaffiliated voter registrations jumped from 46,349 to 58,408, the largest such increase in any state senate district. Don't be too surprised if this district gets a new look after the 2020 census.
Both major party candidates had to win primaries in June, depleting their campaign funds. Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer, a Weld County commissioner, was strongly backed by center-right IECs such as Weld Strong, and goes into the fall with $8,373 in the bank. Democratic candidate Sally Bocella of Johnstown has $14,099 left over from the primary for the general election.
Senate District 25, Adams County: Republican Sen. Kevin Priola of Henderson has been a reliably moderate vote in the Senate. That said, Democrats would like to increase their 19-16 advantage, and this is one of two prime targets, especially given that Democrats hold a 6,500-voter registration advantage over Republicans. This is also a district that saw a big jump in unaffiliated voter registrations in the past four years, by nearly 12,000.
Neither Priola nor his Democratic challenger, Paula Dickerson, had primary challenges. Priola holds a strong lead in fundraising, with $45,206 in the bank for the general election to Dickerson's $19,956.
Senate District 26, Arapahoe County: The second of the two targeted districts for pickups by Republicans, SD26 includes the rural portion of Arapahoe County as well as the county’s largest cities: Greenwood Village and Cherry Hills. Kagan won his 2016 contest by 6 percentage points.
But this race will be harder for a Republican to win in 2020 than it has been in the past. Four years ago, the district was nearly evenly divided among Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters. Not any more. Democrats have picked up 3,500 voters, Republicans have lost 2,500 and unaffiliated voters increased by more than 9,000.
The race also includes Libertarian Party candidate Marc Solomon, which could draw votes away from the Republican challenger, Bob Roth.
In fundraising, Bridges has already raised more than $119,000 to Roth's $11,860. Solomon has not reported any campaign contributions. Independent expenditure committees are expected to play a big role here.
Senate District 27, Arapahoe County: The biggest target of them all for both parties, this is an open seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial, who decided not to run for another term.
Four years ago, Tate defeated Democrat Tom Sullivan by 6.5 percentage points. But the district looked a lot different back then. The district has flipped in voter registration since then. In 2016, Republicans held a nearly 8,000-voter registration advantage of Democrats and 4,000 more than unaffiliated voters. That lead has evaporated. Democratic voter registration now trails Republicans by just over 1,000 but unaffiliated voter registration has jumped by more than 10,500 and lead all groups.
Democrat Chris Kolker has raised $82,735 to $39,558 for Republican Suzanne Staiert, a former deputy secretary of state. But IECs are expected to play an oversized role in this race, too.