(Because it’s never too soon or something – promoted by Colorado Pols)
I know, I know, we just finished the election and no one wants to talk about voting anymore. But for the Democrats who just regained full control of the legislature, they are looking ahead to the next election, not because they want to, but because they have to. The fact that Dems start early is a big part of how we win. And in 2014, the big battlefield in Colorado is the State Senate.
Based on the results of November 6th, Democrats should be confident that they can hold the State House and retain the majority in 2014. But only half the Senate seats are put up for election each year. In 2014, the 17 seats that are up slightly favor GOP challengers, giving them the opportunity to gain a majority and split control of the legislature once again.
Currently, the Democrats hold 20 of the 35 seats in the Senate, so the GOP will need to flip 3 seats to win a majority. A tough, but doable task. Fortunately, the Dems managed to win almost all of the winnable seats in 2012, leaving them in a great position to defend the Senate in 2014.
(Jefferson County residents should prepare themselves for another long election season.)
Specifics after the jump…
Here’s the rundown:
Up for election this year are the following Senate Districts:
SD 1: Spans 11 counties across rural, Northeastern Colorado
SD 2: Spans 5 counties in rural Central Colorado
SD 3: Covers Pueblo West, the Western half of Pueblo, and the North West area of Pueblo County
SD 5: Spans 7 rural counties on the Western Slope
SD 6: Spans 8 Counties in Southwestern Colorado, including Durango
SD 7: Covers all of Mesa County, including Grand Junction
SD 9: Covers a portion of El Paso County, including Monument and the Air Force Academy
SD 11: Covers Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs
SD 13: Covers a potion of Weld County including Greely and Fort Lupton
SD 15: Covers most of Larimer County, excluding most of Fort Collins (which is in SD14)
SD 16: Covers most of rural Jefferson County, all of Gilpin County and parts of Rural Boulder County. Includes the towns of Golden and Morrison
SD 20: Central Jefferson County including parts of Wheat Ridge, Arvada, and Lakewood
SD 22: Mostly Lakewood, with some other bits of Jefferson County included
SD 24: Northwestern Adams County, including Northglenn and East Lake
SD 30: Highlands Ranch and some other parts of Douglas County
SD 32: South Denver
SD 34: Downtown Denver and Northwest Denver
Of those 17 seats up for election, 9 are currently held by Democrats and 8 are held by Republicans.
The Republican Seats:
Senate Districts 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 13, 15 and 30 are held by Republicans. Based on analysis of the districts including voter registration numbers and previous elections, none of these seats are likely to be won by a Democrat in 2014.
Senate District 13 is the only one that’s really even possible. In 2008, Mark Udall managed to carry the district in his US Senate Race, but only just barely. His re-election campaign in 2014 may help a Democratic challenger here. In 2010, by contrast, Ken Buck received almost twice as many votes as Michael Bennett, which may scare any serious challenger away. Incumbent Scott Renfroe is the Chairman of the Republican Caucus in the Senate and his successor will have all the support they need to retain the seat.
The Democratic Seats:
Senate Districts 3, 5, 11, 16, 20, 22, 24, 32, and 34 are held by Democrats. Based on analysis of the districts including voter registration numbers and previous elections, several of these seats can be considered “swing seats”.
Districts 3, 32, and 34 are strong Dem seats. No Republican has a chance here.
District 11 is not as strong for the Dems as the three above, but even in 2010, the Dems won more votes here than the GOP. They should easily hold this seat.
District 24 is about as strong for Dems as district 13 is for the GOP. The Democrats have about 1500 more members in the district than the Republicans, but the GOP has won here in the past, including the 2010 Regent at-large race, though most attribute that to the fact that 2010 was the “wave year” for Republicans.
District 22 was won this year by Democrat Andy Kerr, but will be up again in 2014. Kerr won the district handily in 2012 and should be able to hold it in 2014. Nonetheless, the district is technically flipable. The GOP enjoys a voter registration advantage here, but the unaffiliated voters tend to side with the Dems, making the district lean left.
Dems hold a slight advantage in Districts 5 and 20, but only slight. Republicans have a voter registration advantage in both districts and have won races there in the past few years. District 20 has the benefit of an incumbent (Cheri Jahn) running for re-election, but in district 5, incumbent Gail Schwartz is term limited, so the seat will be wide open. Watch for Republicans to spend a ton of money in these two districts.
District 16 is the single best opportunity for the GOP to find a win in 2014. Together with SD20, Jefferson County will be a focal point for election activity in 2014 (again). Expect at least one of the parties to hold their state convention here. Incumbent Jeanne Nicholson will be targeted by the GOP and their “independent expenditure” groups the same way that Sen. Hudak was in 2012. The GOP has about 4000 more registered voters than the Dems, so effective outreach to the unaffiliated population will be crucial to the Dems’ chances. All said, though, Dems should be able to hold this seat, despite the GOP advantage here.