The much-anticipated midterm election is finally over, and at the national level the “blue wave” turned into a splash; Democrats gained a majority in the U.S. House, but lost seats in the U.S. Senate and received a mixed bag for governorships around the country.
Colorado, on the other hand, was clearly different. The blue wave crested on top of the Centennial State, wiping out several incumbents from the Denver metro area and giving Democrats control over both chambers of the General Assembly and every statewide office —one party control the likes of which Colorado has not seen in decades.
The blue wave hit Arapahoe County especially hard, taking out a sitting congressman and the state House assistant minority leader, even extending all the way down to the county clerk and recorder, assessor and sheriff. The ultimately successful attack ads run by their opponents linked each of these individuals to President Trump; yet in reality, each of them is a pragmatic problem solver who effectively represented constituents or managed departments, with honor, intelligence and great ability. Toxic federal politics, unfortunately, seeped into Colorado. Each of these people lost not because of their abilities, qualifications or experience but because of the R next to their name on the ballot. In Colorado’s suburbs, the election became a referendum on President Trump – or more specifically, on President Trump’s tone.
From December 2014 to September 2018, Colorado added 802,610 new voters. These new voters fall into one of the following categories: (A) 216,320 Democrat; (B) 173,023 Republican, or (C) 392,391 unaffiliated. That’s a margin of 43,297 more Democrats than Republicans, and a margin of 219,368 more unaffiliated voters than Republican. Polling finds unaffiliated voters are more left-leaning in their political views. These are daunting numbers which do not bode well for any hope of Republicans wielding any lever of power soon in Colorado.
And yet a few glimmers of hope emit from last week’s election: While Colorado voters rejected Republican candidates, they embraced center-right-leaning policies, defeating Proposition 112 and both tax-increase measures. So a chance, however tenuous, still remains for the Republican Party in Colorado. But serious reforms are needed to win back suburban voters if the GOP does not wish to risk becoming a permanent minority party in the state.
Republicans need to not only recognize, but effectively communicate certain nagging, disquieting economic facts. We must, for example, recognize that in the U.S. nearly 20 percent of working-age Americans are not employed full-time. In Colorado, the cost of living has increased far faster than wages, and our healthcare policies are hurting entrepreneurs and families. Our transportation infrastructure in the state is wholly inadequate, negatively impacting economic growth and citizens’ lives, and we risk losing a great amount of our talent to other states.
To earn back voters’ trust Republicans must offer a positive, pro-growth vision for Colorado that addresses these concerns which, among others, represent our state’s biggest challenges. And they need to do so in a way that speaks to all Coloradans, rather than just take for granted that the message will sell itself. Republicans are the party of opportunity, liberty, fairness, and fiscal responsibility, and we must not only return to these core principles but communicate them effectively to win back Colorado’s voters. In short, we need to make changes, not excuses. That is how Bill Owens won the governor’s mansion back in 1998, and we would do well to learn from his example.
Toren MushovicGreenwood Village
The author was the Republican candidate for Colorado state House District 3.
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