Politics of Colorado

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Democrat Bill Ritter was the Governor of Colorado from 2007-11.

Colorado has elected 17 Democrats and 12 Republicans to the governorship in the last 100 years. Incumbent Governor Jared Polis, who was elected in 2018, is a Democrat, and his predecessor, Governor John Hickenlooper, who won election in 2010 is also a Democrat.

The state's electoral votes went to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992, Republican Bob Dole in 1996, Republican George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and Democrats Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The people of the state of Colorado are also represented in the federal government of the United States by two United States Senators and seven Congressional Representatives. Of Colorado's seven members of the United States House of Representatives, four are Democrats and three are Republicans following the 2018 election. The Senators are Michael Farrand Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R).[1] The Representatives were Diana Louise DeGette (D), Joe Neguse (D), Scott Tipton (R), Ken Buck (R), Douglas L. "Doug" Lamborn (R), Jason Crow (D), and Edwin George "Ed" Perlmutter (D).

Until the election of Barack Obama, the people of Colorado had voted Republican in every U.S. Presidential Election since 1964, with the exception of 1992 when a plurality voted for Bill Clinton, (possibly due to the effect of Ross Perot's candidacy.) Conversely, Colorado has held a Democratic governor for 22 of the past 30 years.

Colorado has a history of voter initiatives which severely restrict the power of state government. Some of these initiatives include Term Limits on legislators (1990), Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) (1992), and Amendment 23, passed in 2000, which set a fixed percentage of the budget for K-12 education. Voters passed Referendum C in 2005, amending some restrictions of TABOR and Amendment 23.[2]

Colorado supported George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004. Republicans have generally held control of statewide offices and the state legislature since the 1960s. In 2004, while Bush won the state's electors, Democrat, Ken Salazar won a U.S. Senate seat and his brother John Salazar won a seat in the U.S. House and the Democrats captured both chambers of the state legislature. In 2006, Democrat Bill Ritter won the governorship by a 16-point margin while the Democrats expanded their majorities in both chambers of the state legislature and Democrat Ed Perlmutter captured another U.S. House seat.

In 2010, however, Republicans made big gains in the state. They won the statewide races of Attorney General, Secretary of State and Treasurer. Republicans also defeated two incumbent Democratic House members to hold a 4-3 majority in the state's House delegation. Furthermore, Republicans took control of the Colorado House of Representatives. This occurred even as Democrat John Hickenlooper won the governorship, albeit over weak and divided opposition, and Democratic Senator Michael Bennet was re-elected. Also as a result of the 2010 gubernatorial election, the Constitution Party gained major party status as it passed the 10% popular vote threshold, putting it in an equal legal position with the Democratic and Republican parties in terms of rights under state election law. However, the Democrats regained the Colorado House by a large margin during the 2012 election.

Colorado was a battleground state in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election between Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama. Obama won Colorado, by a margin of 9%, with 54% of the vote to McCain's 45%.[3]

Colorado General Assembly[edit]

Currently, Democrats control both the House and the Senate. The 64th Colorado General Assembly was the first to be controlled by the Democrats in forty years, as the Republican Party traditionally held control of the state government. Colorado now being a swing state has seen increased competitiveness and consequently, variation in partisan control of the statehouse from election to election. The current Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives is KC Becker.

The Colorado Senate is the upper house of the Colorado General Assembly, composed of 35 seats of approximately 143,000 people each. Senators are constitutionally limited to two consecutive four-year terms. The Senate is currently composed of 19 Democrats and 16 Republicans. The Senate is led by President of the Senate, Leroy Garcia, Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, and Minority Leader Chris Holbert.

The Colorado House of Representatives is the lower house of the Colorado General Assembly, composed of 65 seats of approximately 77,000 people each. Representatives are constitutionally limited to four consecutive two-year terms. The House is currently composed of 41 Democrats and 24 Republicans and is led by Speaker of the House KC Becker, Majority Leader KC Becker, and Minority Leader Patrick Neville.

Congressional representation[edit]

Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Michael Bennet are Colorado's junior and senior United States senators, respectively. Bennet was appointed by Governor Bill Ritter in January 2009 to succeed Ken Salazar, who resigned following his confirmation by the Senate as United States Secretary of the Interior in the Barack Obama administration. Michael Bennet won his first full term to the United States Senate in 2010. Cory Gardner represented Colorado's 4th congressional district in the House of Representatives since 2011 before ousting incumbent Senator Mark Udall in 2014.

Colorado has had seven seats in the United States House of Representatives since the 2000 reapportionment.

Colorado's 1st congressional district is represented by Democrat Diana DeGette of east Denver. The district runs southwest to northeast, containing Columbine in Jefferson County, Englewood and Cherry Hills in Arapahoe County, and all of Denver County. Diana DeGette has yet to raise any significant challenger in the 2016 congressional election.

Colorado's 2nd congressional district is represented by Democrat Joe Neguse of Boulder. The district contains all of Larimer, Grand, Summit, Clear Creek, Gilpin and Broomfield counties, most of Boulder County, and parts of Jefferson, Eagle, and Park counties.

Colorado's 3rd congressional district is represented by Republican Scott Tipton of Cortez. This district contains the western third of the state as well as parts of southern Colorado, containing the cities of Grand Junction and Pueblo, the San Luis Valley, and the northeast portion of the Four Corners. Scott Tipton has yet to raise any significant challenger in the 2016 congressional election.

Colorado's 4th congressional district is represented by Republican Ken Buck of Windsor. This district contains the eastern third of the state, as well as most of Douglas County along the I-25 corridor, the city of Longmont in Boulder County, and all of Weld County. Together, these comprise 75% of the district's population. Ken Buck has yet to raise any significant challenger in the 2016 congressional election.

Colorado's 5th congressional district is represented by Republican Doug Lamborn of north Colorado Springs. The district contains Chaffee, Teller, and Fremont counties in their entirety, and most of Park County. The district is anchored in El Paso County, containing 6/7ths of its population. The district is home to major military installations at Fort Carson, Schriever Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Complex and the United States Air Force Academy. Doug Lamborn has yet to raise any significant challenger in the 2016 congressional election.

Colorado's 6th congressional district is represented by Democrat Jason Crow of Aurora. This oddly-shaped district contains parts of Adams and Arapahoe counties, as well as Highlands Ranch in Douglas County, but is mostly anchored in Colorado's third largest city, Aurora.

Colorado's 7th congressional district is represented by Democrat Ed Perlmutter of Golden. This district contains the northwestern portion of the Denver Metropolitan Area, including Lakewood, Golden, Arvada and Westminster in Jefferson County and Thornton, Northgate, and Commerce City in Adams County. Ed Perlmutter has yet to raise any significant challenger in the 2016 congressional election.

Sovereignty of the people[edit]

Article II of the Constitution of Colorado enacted August 1, 1876, the Bill of Rights provides:

Section 1. Vestment of political power. All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government, of right, originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.[4][5]

Section 2. People may alter or abolish form of government − proviso. The people of this state have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves, as a free, sovereign and independent state; and to alter and abolish their constitution and form of government whenever they may deem it necessary to their safety and happiness, provided, such change be not repugnant to the constitution of the United States.[4][6]

Initiative, referendum, and recall[edit]

In addition to providing for voting[7][8] the people of Colorado have reserved initiative of laws and referendum of laws enacted by the legislature to themselves[9][9]

... the people reserve to themselves the power to propose laws and amendments to the constitution and to enact or reject the same at the polls independent of the general assembly and also reserve power at their own option to approve or reject at the polls any act or item, section, or part of any act of the general assembly.[10]

and provided for recall of office holders.[11]

Initiatives and referred laws are considered by the electorate at every general election in Colorado. Many are housekeeping measures or lack substantial public support, but matters of great public concern are also considered such as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), enacted in 1992, which amended Article X of the Colorado Constitution to the effect that any tax increase resulting in the increase of governmental revenues at a rate faster than the combined rate of population increase and inflation as measured by either the cost of living index at the state level, or growth in property values at the local level, would be subjected to a popular vote in a referendum.[citation needed]

Regional differences[edit]

Democrats are strongest in the City of Denver, Boulder County, Fort Collins, Pueblo, parts of the I-70 corridor and the San Luis Valley. The most Democratic counties in the 2012 presidential election were Costilla County in the south which contains San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado, San Miguel County on the western Slope, and Denver County.

Republicans are strongest in El Paso County, the state's second most populous county and home of Colorado Springs, and Douglas County, an exurb of Denver and one of the wealthiest counties in the country. Many Republican votes also come from the western slope near Grand Junction, the high mountain communities in the center of the state, and in the eastern plains. The most Republican counties in the 2012 presidential election were Washington, Cheyenne, and Kiowa in the eastern plains, and Rio Blanco County on the western slope.

Denver's suburban counties usually hold the balance of power in Colorado politics. Adams, Arapahoe, Jefferson and Larimer are considered "swing" counties, despite voting for Democrats in the last three gubernatorial and presidential elections.[citation needed]

These regional differences experienced a boiling point in 2013, when several of Colorado's rural northeastern counties put forth ballot measures designed to initiate secession from the state following the passage of several laws by the state legislature, including expanded background checks for gun purchases, magazine capacity limits on firearms, and a new quota on renewable energy production. The ballot measure was successful in Washington, Yuma, Phillips, Kit Carson, and Cheyenne County with a combined population of around 30,000, but was unsuccessful in Logan, Elbert, Lincoln, Sedgwick, Moffat, and Weld County, which alone was more than twice as populous as all other voting counties combined.[12] The votes were seen as a largely symbolic effort to attract the attention of the then-Democratic Colorado General Assembly;[13] seccession of a part of Colorado to create a new state would require approval from the Colorado General Assembly and then the United States Congress under Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Colorado Governor Bill Ritter appointed Michael Bennet to serve the remaining two years of United States Senator Ken Salazar term of office which was left vacant on 2009-01-20, when new United States President Barack Obama appointed the Colorado Senator to serve as his Secretary of the Interior.
  2. ^ "2005 Referendum Special Election Results". U.S. Election Atlas. 2007-05-11. Retrieved 2008-06-05.
  3. ^ "Election News 2008: Obama carries Colorado". The New York Times. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Article II of the Constitution of Colorado on Justia.Com, accessed September 21, 2010
  5. ^ Section 1, Article II, Constitution of Colorado
  6. ^ Section 2, Article II, Constitution of Colorado
  7. ^ Section 5, Article II, Constitution of Colorado
  8. ^ Article VII, Constitution of Colorado
  9. ^ a b Section 1, Article V, Constitution of Colorado
  10. ^ Article V, Constitution of Colorado Justia.Com, accessed September 21, 2010
  11. ^ Article XXI, Constitution of Colorado
  12. ^ Chokshi, Niraj (2013-11-07). "Colorado's 51st state movement failed, but 43,900 people still wanted to secede". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  13. ^ Ivan Moreno, 5 rural Colorado counties vote to secede, become 51st state, Associated Press (November 11, 201).
  14. ^ Ana Cabrera, Sara Weisfeldt & Bryan Koenig, Colorado rural counties to vote: Should we stay or should we go?, CNN (November 4, 2013).

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