Death of (another) red state


As ABC News put it, “the traditionally red state of Colorado has seen a wave of blue voters.” The state picked Obama for president, probably boosted by high turnout among Hispanics, 20 percent of the state’s voters. The last time Colorado went blue was in 1964, for Lyndon Johnson.

Dems now control both U.S. Senate seats, the governorship, and the state legislature. Colorado is not alone -- many other Western states, including Nevada and New Mexico, shifted left in this election (check out this nifty map from the New York Times).

In the most expensive race in Senate history (if spending by outside groups is counted), Democrat Mark Udall picked off Republican Bob Schaffer. The five-term congressman is the son of Western conservation hero Mo Udall. Udall's vacated House seat was taken by Democrat Jared Polis, the first openly gay person from Colorado elected to Congress.

Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, John Salazar and Ed Perlmutter all held onto their seats. Salazar, a sixth-generation San Luis Valley potato and wheat grower, won his third term under a folksy slogan -- “Send a farmer to Congress.”

Incumbent GOP Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, a champion of anti-gay legislation, lost to Democrat Betsy Markey. State Republicans had just two reasons to celebrate: Secretary of State Mike Coffman won a Congressional seat and Rep. Doug Lamborn was re-elected.

Colorado had one of the longest ballots in the nation, with 14 initiatives. The state’s voters turned down a referendum that could have shortened future ballots by upping the number of signatures required to propose amending the state’s constitution.

An attempt to end a tax credit for oil and gas and thereby raise $300 million per year for college scholarships, wildlife habitat, and renewable energy projects is probably going down to defeat. An $11 million advertising blitz from the energy industry managed to convince voters that the change would cause their energy and gas bills to soar. Independent analysis, though, showed that the price hike on natural gas would cost consumers less than 16 cents a month, assuming that utilities bought only locally-produced gas. And jet fuel, heating oil and gasoline might cost 4 cents more per gallon.

Only one of three union-opposed measures appeared to have passed, Amendment 54, which bans campaign contributions from unions that represent government workers. However, Amendment 49, which would prevent the government from automatically deducting union dues from its workers' paychecks, looks like it will be defeated. And the misleadingly named “Right to Work” measure, Amendment 47, also appears to be rejected. The business-backed measure would have prohibited making the payment of union fees a condition of employment.

Finally, the controversial “personhood” measure has apparently been defeated. It would have guaranteed constitutional protections to "any human being from the moment of conception." An initiative that would ban affirmative action is still too close to call.  Voters are leaning against an effort to shift a state spending account from an emphasis on water projects to road projects.

Some think that the state's Democratic governor, Bill Ritter, might have a role to play in the Obama administration, although the gov discounts the possibility. Ritter's emphasis on the "New Energy Economy" resonates with Obama; both used the term in their campaigns to describe the importance of renewable energy development, and Colorado is rapidly becoming a hub for solar, wind and geothermal projects.