The 2019 election isn’t quite finished yet, but we’re not waiting for Aurora to announce our Winners and Losers from the cycle.
Incumbent mayoral candidates won re-election in several cities, including Lakewood, Arvada, Longmont, and Greeley. Voters in Broomfield also welcomed back former Mayor Pat Quinn. Incumbent victories might have more to do with the quality of their opponents than the power of the office itself (see Ramey Johnson below), but Tuesday was generally a good night for Mayors seeking another term.
The former Congressman from CO-6 appears likely to have won his race for Mayor of Aurora, which extends Coffman’s 30+ years in elected office.
As the Associated Press reports, the 2019 election results included some encouraging signs of diversity:
People of color made history this week by winning municipal races in places their families were once ignored or prevented from voting, including a New Mexico mayor whose father was forced into a Japanese internment camp during World War II.
From Arizona to Massachusetts, the gains highlight the ongoing demographic changes in the nation but also the growing political power of black, Latino and Native American voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Colorado voters may not have agreed with forgoing potential TABOR refunds, but they don’t have much of a problem with “sin taxes.” Proposition DD, which permits sports betting in Colorado via a tax on casinos, won a narrow victory on Tuesday. Voters in several communities also approved significant new taxes for cigarettes and vaping products.
Colorado Water Plan
The passage of Proposition DD provides funding for the Colorado Water Plan, one of the signature achievements of John Hickenlooper from his time both as Denver Mayor and Governor of Colorado. The Colorado Water Plan was created to help ensure that the state has enough agua for a population that could double by 2050.
The Denver Classroom Teacher’s Association (DCTA) will have a pro-union majority on the Denver School Board for the first time in many years — a change from the “reform” direction that had enjoyed popular support in recent elections. Denver voters were moved in part by a three-day teacher’s strike last spring.
President Trump and Cory Gardner
Election results in Kentucky and Virginia can be viewed as pretty clear referendums against President Trump, which doesn’t bode well for his chances in Colorado in 2020 (and by association, the hopes of Sen. Cory Gardner). Kentucky voters booted an incumbent Republican Governor, despite Trump’s last-minute campaigning in the state. In Virginia, voters gave Democrats majority control of the state legislature for the first time in decades, affirming progressive policies to curb gun violence that Gov. Ralph Northam has already promised to re-introduce.
For Republicans looking beyond the president’s reelection campaign, the deterioration of support in the suburbs should be cause for major alarm. Democrats won control of the House in 2018 by flipping suburban districts, and there was nothing in the results Tuesday night to suggest that the anti-Trump energy that fueled those victories has slackened. Trump is the master of motivating voters — both those for him and, clearly, those against him.
“This is an overwhelming Trump phenomenon,” said a gloomy Republican strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment of the party’s plight. “Trump has accelerated everything. There is no path in a swing, suburban district for a Republican — male, female or minority. . . . It’s not a challenge, it’s a hill. . . . There’s no strategy to climb it.”
This strategist said she worries about the GOP losing more suburban swing districts in 2020. If that happens, she said, the diversity of the Republican conference in the House will be reduced to “white men with white hair and white men with gray hair and a few token women, and when [Rep.] Will Hurd [Tex.] leaves, no African Americans and only a couple of Latinos.”
Ryan Frazier and Ramey Johnson
Barack Obama lost a Congressional race before being elected to the Senate and the Presidency. Abraham Lincoln lost a bunch of elections before making it to the White House. Both men are often cited to encourage politicians to keep trying to fulfill their election hopes and dreams.
Conversely, Frazier and Johnson are excellent examples of politicians who should probably do something else.
Frazier finished a distant third in the race for Aurora Mayor, his latest bid for elected office after multiple failed attempts for Congress and U.S. Senate. Frazier even changed his voter registration from Republican to Unaffiliated in hopes of winning another election, but it didn’t make any difference; he’s been stuck in the loss column since finishing his second term on the Aurora City Council in 2011. For whatever reason, voters in Colorado just aren’t interested in what Frazier is selling.
Johnson, meanwhile, was defeated for the second time in her bid to become Mayor of Lakewood (losing both times to Adam Paul). It didn’t help her cause in 2019 when she promoted the Climate Change denial theories of one Tyler Durden, who is in fact a fictional character. Running for office is basically Johnson’s hobby; she’s been a candidate for office in just about every election cycle since at least 2000 — seriously, we’re not exaggerating here — and she’ll probably be on the ballot again for something in 2020. In 20 years, Johnson has won one race for State Representative, another for RTD Board, and has even managed to get elected to Lakewood’s City Council (all while using the same headshot). It’s probably time for the 73-year-old Johnson to do something else.
Medicaid Work Requirements
We’ll let The Washington Post explain this one:
There was a clear loser in last night’s elections: Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky and Virginia.
To accomplish its goals for Medicaid, the Trump administration needs the help of state political leaders – and election results in Kentucky and Virginia yesterday made that less likely as Democrats widened their control in those states. Meanwhile, a Republican won in Mississippi, keeping it in the camp of states aligning themselves with the administration’s vision for the health insurance program for the low income.
In all three of these states, Medicaid work requirements and its expansion through the Affordable Care Act were on the line. The Trump administration can only do so much in carrying out its vision for the Medicaid program, which includes requiring able-bodied enrollees to work or volunteer and generally trying to limit further dependence on public benefits by discouraging Medicaid expansion. It’s up to governors and legislators to decide whether to expand Medicaid under the 2010 health-care law and what types of eligibility requirements to impose.
Local Ballot Measures in Big Counties
Voters in both Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, respectively, rejected ballot measures to allocate more funding for jails. Arapahoe County wanted to raise property taxes, while Jeffco was asking to keep more of the money it is required to return because of TABOR. Both measures suffered from poor campaigns that failed to adequately explain why the changes were needed; Jeffco has seen several particularly bad ballot measure campaigns in recent years and will need a different approach in the future.
Colorado saw decent ballot returns in 2019 thanks primarily to older voters. Younger voters may be getting more involved in even-year election cycles, but they aren’t showing a lot of interest in off years.