About DENependent

Independent voter interested in the analysis of the "whys" of politics. Resident of Denver, Coloradan since 1980.

On to the Runoffs

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

UPDATE: A newsworthy come from behind win for Denver’s Initiative 301, decriminalizing “magic mushrooms,” which is now ahead outside the recount margin:

Far out, man.


Shrooms for you, Denver!

WEDNESDAY POLS UPDATE: It’s runoffs galore in Denver as Westword’s Michael Roberts updates:

The results in Denver’s 2019 election will spur multiple runoffs just under a month from now. Incumbent Mayor Michael Hancock must best former RiNo Art District president Jamie Giellis to keep his job on June 4, when five Denver City Council races will also be decided. Meanwhile, Ordinance 300, better known as Right to Survive, failed by a margin that left plenty of veteran political observers slack-jawed, while Ordinance 301, which called for the decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms, fared better and isn’t technically dead, but its chances have faded in a big way…

District 2’s Kevin Flynn, District 6’s Paul Kashmann and District 7’s Jolon Clark ran unopposed, while three other incumbents — District 4’s Kendra Black, District 8’s Chris Herndon and District 11’s Stacie Gilmore — tallied more than 50 percent to secure their re-election. Not so for District 5’s Mary Beth Susman, District 9’s Albus Brooks and District 10’s Wayne New, all of whom must immediately gear up for June 4. Their respective opponents will be Amanda Sawyer, Candi CdeBaca and Chris Hinds.

Runoffs will also be necessary in District 1, where Amanda Sandoval and Mike Somma are set to face off, and in District 3, where Jamie Torres and Veronica Barela are still standing. And while Timothy O’Brien had no opposition in his bid to remain Denver auditor, the sprint for clerk and recorder proved tight, tight, tight. Signs point to Paul López and Peg Perl winding up back in the ring next month.

In the at-large council race, incumbents Debbie Ortega and Robin Kniech held on to their seats over a large field of challengers. But from the mayoral race where the incumbent will face a runoff for the first time since 1995 down to a surprisingly hot clerk and recorder’s race where Peg Perl squeaked into a runoff against the better known Paul Lopez, the 2019 Denver municipal elections are only at halftime. Original post follows.


As of 8:30pm it is looking increasingly likely that many of Denver’s races will be decided in runoffs on June 4th. With just over 100,000 ballots counted Mayor Hancock leads by just 39.7%, not enough to avoid facing one of his challengers next month.

Likewise Clerk and Recorder, District 1, District 3, District 5, and District 10 all are very likely to go to a run off at this hour. In District 9 Albus Brooks may yet get enough votes to pass the magic 50% mark, but as of right now he’s only at 48.07%. Incumbent Chris Herndon in District 8 is probably a bit happier with 51.15% of the vote. That could also go to a run off, but unlike in District 9 his closest challenger only has 22.26%. Still not a great result for an incumbent.

There is no doubt, however, that ordinance 300 has gone down to a wide defeat. Over 80% of the votes counted so far have been against it. After this bad showing in Denver it would be surprising to me if a similar bill gets out of committee in the legislature.

Edited to Add: The Denverite relays that there are only 139,412 ballots. This means that there are just short of 40,000 or 28% left to be counted. The next update for people staying up that late will be 10pm.

Denver Council District 1, 2019

Northwest Denver, including Sunnyside, Berkley, Sloane’s Lake, Highlands, and part of West Colfax is in Denver Council District 1. Since it is an open seat in 2019 there are seven (!) candidates to replace the outgoing Councilman Rafael Espinoza.

Denverite has short introductions to all seven in a March 19th article. The really interesting part for the horse race of who’s getting support is the money raised by each.

Somma- $48,791.05, $1,000 self funded
Sandoval- $47,470.00
Durrah- $43,902.20
Kulkarni- $26,093.47 $4,900+ self funded
Sabados- $25,936.59 $1,000+ self funded
D’Agosta- $15,192.75 including a $2,635.75 loan
Aguilar- $6,221 $2,000 self funded

Purely on this basis it looks a lot like a three person race between Michael Somma, Amanda Sandoval, and Scott Alan Durrah and seems likely to go on to a run off. Denver city elections, even though they probably impact people’s lives more than statewide elections, are low turn out and low information votes.

Random chance has them on the ballot as:
1) Praj Kulkarni 2) Victoria R. Aguilar 3) Sabrina D’Agosta 4) David Sabados 5) Mike Somma 6) Amanda Sandoval 7) Scott Alan Durrah

Will this give a boost to Kulkarni? He’s not leading in fundraising, but he’s not totally out of the hunt either. Without the usual signals of party affiliation voters might break for him. Espinoza has endorsed Sandoval and the other two top fundraisers are white guys. Will that give her an edge? On the other hand Somma is a firefighter and lots of people have warm feelings towards that profession. As of the 22nd his election website is also the highest ranked in searches for “Denver Council District 1”.

Michael Bennet Gets Coveted Morning Joe Endorsement

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Joe Scarborough.

In the Washington Post Joe Scarborough has proclaimed that Michael Bennet is the one! The one Democrat who can unite party hacks and left wing loons into a machine that will defeat the Trumpster! Well he does not quite use those words, but on the basis of the one viral moment that Bennet has ever had Joe thinks that he, “has also shown the capacity to inspire the grass roots.” He also thinks that simultaneously Michael Bennet’s politics could create a, “center-left coalition that could break the logjam of fifty-fifty America.”

Is this a reality based claim or just wishful thinking with lots of weasel words? I’d say the latter is more likely. We can actually directly compare the electoral performance of Bennet vs. Clinton in 2016 here in Colorado. Senator Bennet managed to get 31,780 more votes than Clinton in Colorado when running against El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn. Remember Glenn’s amazing campaign? Against one of the worst candidates in Colorado history Bennet outperformed Clinton by getting 49.97% while she only got 48.16%. Massive! Clearly there is an enormous unmet desire for moderates.

Translated nationwide this could mean that Bennet will win very close to 50% of the popular vote! Unless Darryl Glenn was an easier opponent to beat than Trump. Also if incumbency explained all of the difference (and then some at +2% for a first term Senator) outperforming Clinton might not be so impressive. Also the fact that he outspent Glenn by as much as $14 million to $3 million.

Seriously though, is anyone asking for this? He’s not a terrible Democratic Senator (Hi, Bob Menendez), but he does not have an inspiring story, a great cause, or even an amazing electoral machine. Sure, he’d have the moderate-Republicans-who-wish-everyone-would-just-stop-being-so-extreme vote locked up, but is anyone else actually calling on him to run? Would even his Wall Street donors be excited about the prospect of a Michael Bennet presidency? He’s the human equivalent of a bowl of soggy shredded wheat.

Down Ballot Turn Out in 2018 vs. 2014

First off, Democrats were across the board more popular in 2018. However, the size of their wins down ballot depended on better turn out. While there are still fewer people voting for the down ballot races those gaps all narrowed in 2018 when compared with the turn out in the Governor’s race.

2014 Down Ballot Drop-Off
Secretary of State: -7.65%
Treasurer: -3.82%
Attorney General: -4.51%

2018 Down Ballot Drop-Off
Secretary of State: -1.28%
Treasurer: -2.01%
Attorney General: -1.31%


Many voters who went for Hickenlooper at the top of the ticket in 2014 split their votes for the other races or (mostly) decided not vote in down ballot races. This tendency was cut by about 2/3rds in 2018.

2014 Democratic vote vs. Governor’s Race
Governor: 49.30% : 1,006,433
Secretary of State: -11.96% : -120,390
Treasurer: -12.32% : -123,996
Attorney General: -17.91% : -180,251

2018 Democratic vote vs. Governor’s Race
Governor: 53.42% : 1,348,888
Secretary of State: -2.61% : -35,172
Treasurer: -4.02% : -56,607
Attorney General: -4.70% : -63,424


Republicans did benefit from ticket splitting in 2018 with their down ballot candidates getting more votes down ballot than they did for Governor. Their problem was that the whole Republican brand was much less popular compared to 2014 and the relative size of their advantage diminished with greater turn out. In order to win something down ballot they need at least a 3% swing in the total statewide vote and for Democratic leaning voters to not vote down ballot races.

2014 Republican vote vs. Governor’s Race
Governor: 45.95% : 938,195
Secretary of State: -0.60% : -5,607
Treasurer: +4.38% : +41,086
Attorney General: +6.87% : 64,431

2018 Republican vote vs. Governor’s Race
Governor: 42.80% : 1,080,801
Secretary of State: +3.06% : +33,126
Treasurer: +4.38% : +41086
Attorney General: +4.07% : +43,956


The lower amount of ticket splitting also shows up in the third party vote. Making a direct comparison is a bit more apples and oranges due to the different mix of parties from year to year, but in 2014 a there were more voters for 3rd parties down ballot than for governor. In 2018 this was reversed.

2014 Third Party Votes
Governor: 4.75% : 96,977
Secretary of State: 7.68% : 151,203
Treasurer: 5.19% : 101,826
Attorney General: 6.19% :120,745

2018 Third Party Votes
Governor: 3.78% : 95,373
Secretary of State: 2.61% : 64,992
Treasurer: 2.85% : 70,475
Attorney General: 3.28% : 81,733


Now the one exception. The At-Large CU Regent’s race. Both major parties lost votes due to switches to 3rd parties as protest votes and due to people skipping the race entirely. The Democrats lost more votes than Republicans, but in a similar enough ratio to give this race a wider margin (8.93%) than the AG race (6.45%).

CU Regent At-Large
51.95% Democratic 1,246,318
43.02% Republican 1,031,993
1.21% Unity Party 29,128
3.82% Libertarian 91,586
Total votes: 2,399,025
Total Drop-off: -4.99% : -126,037
Dem Drop-off: -7.60% : -102,570
Rep Drop-off: -4.52% : -48,808

I personally suspect that without Jared Polis and Republican dark money this year would have looked more like the Regent’s race. Still a solid win for team blue, but not as overwhelming a win and with lower turn out for both.

2018 Colorado House Vote Totals

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Much of the attention has been about the 41 seats out of 65 that Democrats captured in the house or the double digit margin of victory for Jared Polis in the governor’s race. A margin of 10.62% is nothing to disparage, but the Democratic victory in the Colorado House of Representatives was even larger. Adding up all the votes for house candidates shows that Democrats won the statewide vote by a margin of 12.27%.

This result shows the power of turn out. There were 27,178 fewer votes for Democratic candidates than they picked up for governor, but the Republicans suffered a down ballot drop-off of 55,036. Put another way Democratic candidates performed 2.01% worse than their candidate for governor, but Republicans performed 5.09% worse. Some of this is Republicans entirely failing to field a candidate in five very blue districts, but looking at similar districts and the lower turn out for the unopposed Democrats it seems likely to me that the Democratic margin would only have been reduced to 11.75% if the Republicans had run in every district.

Because there is no easy way to compare Colorado State Senate districts using the spreadsheet provided by the SoS office I have not tried to do so, but it is interesting that Democrats did not win the same way they did in the house. Is this the power of incumbency? The districts being slightly more conservative? I am not sure. Though it seems likely that when 2022 comes around there will be big state senate gains for Democrats due to redistricting and the large population gains along the front range.

53.42% Democratic 1,348,888
42.80% Republican 1,080,801
2.75%   Libertarian 69,519
1.02%   Unity Party 25,854
Total votes: 2,525,062

State House
54.80% Democratic 1,321,710
42.53% Republican 1,025,765
1.42% Independent 34,298
0.71% Libertarian 17,153
0.50% unaffiliated 12,149
0.04% Unity Party 874
Total votes: 2411949
Total Drop-off: -4.48% : -113,113
Dem Drop-off: -2.01% : -27,178
Rep Drop-off: -5.09% : -55,036

State Senate
50.32% Democratic 608,037
46.75% Republican 564,971
1.98% Libertarian 23,898
0.67% Independent 8,156
0.28% unaffiliated 3,328
Total votes: 1,208,390

Next Time: What the executive races say about how the Democrats did in 2018.

Colorado Legislature Close to Gender Equality

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The new legislative session will open with 45% of Colorado General Assembly seats being held by women according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers. This is second only to Nevada where 50.8% of the seats are held by women (well done Nevada).

Unsurprisingly most of these women are Democrats. In the state senate 11 of the 12 women are Democrats and in the house 25 of the 33 women are Democrats. Another way to look at it is that more than half of the Democratic caucus (60.97% of the house and 57.89% of the senate) in Colorado are women.

All of these numbers are increases from 2018 when 38.0% of Colorado legislators were women and our state ranked down in 4th place.

FiveThirtyEight had an excellent analysis of Why the Republican Party Elects So Few Women last year. Their answer was that Republicans first do not get as many women to run for office as Republicans and then the retention of women in office is worse on the Republican side.

The top 10 states:
Nevada (50.8%) (up from #3)
Colorado (45.0%) (up from #4)
Oregon (41.1%) (up from #9)
Washington (40.8%) (up from #5)
Vermont (39.4%) (unchanged % drops them from #2)
Maine (38.7%) (up from #7)
Alaska (38.3%) (new to the top 10, was #12)
Rhode Island (38.1%) (up from #10)
Arizona (37.8%) (down from #1)
Maryland (37.2%) (increased %, but down from #8)

Also unsurprisingly given the gap between the parties is that very red West Virginia and Mississippi are nearly tied for last place with 14.2% and 14.4% respectively.

Reapportionment Estimates for 2020

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In looking for population projections to put in my spreadsheets I came across Election Data Services and their projection for reapportionment in 2020. Their analysis of who will gain or lose seats is wonderfully in depth using both current population and projections to 2020.

Colorado has definitely cinched an 8th seat. At two years ago it was still somewhat in question, but we have both passed Minnesota in population and we are projected to keep gaining population at a rate through 2020 that may have us passing up Wisconsin. Even if reapportionment were done today we would definitely gain a seat.

The likely winners in this zero sum game:
Arizona +1
Florida +2
Montana +1
North Carolina +1
Oregon +1
Texas +3

The likely losers:
Alabama -1
Illinois -1
Michigan -1
New York -2
Ohio -1
Pennsylvania -1
Rhode Island -1
West Virginia -1

Two other states are still in flux and it is impossible to say if they will gain or lose seats.

California- Possibly will lose one seat, but may stay even at 53. This would be the first time in history that California has lost a congressional seat in reapportionment.
Minnesota- Currently the counterbalance to California. If California stays even they lose a seat going down to 7. If Minnesota stays even at 8 seats then California loses a seat.

Special Elections to Congress 1971-2018

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Past performance is no guarantee of future value and other disclaimer like things. However, this is what we have to go on to predict the future. From the 92nd Congress in 1971 to the present the average number of special elections to the House of Representatives has been 8.46 per session or 4.23 per year. There is no real trend up or down that is obvious from eyeballing the data. Throwing out the highest and lowest number as outliers produces nearly the same result of 8.45 per session.

Excluding the 115th the average is exactly 9 per congress from 2001-present. If I were going to predict the number of special elections for the 116th congress it would be between 5 and 13 with 9 being my best guess.


300, the Denver College Affordability Fund, Is a Photo Finish

As of 1pm the day after the election Initiated Ordinance 300 is behind by just 43 votes. This is out of 79,175 for and 79,218 against. With more than 6,000 undervotes and 21 overvotes (Source: DenverGov) a recount seems incredibly likely.

With four other tax increases on the ballot this effort may have just been one too many for Denver voters. Also, opponents raised the issue of if this should be a function of city government. Though language was submitted to the blue book to oppose this measure there was no organized campaign against it other than statements made by the usual suspects.

The rest of the Denver tax increases, 2A, 301, 302, and 7G passed by wide to significant margins.

Parks – 61.44% yes
Mental Health – 68.11% yes
Childhood Healthy Meals – 57.42% yes
Flood Control – 60.04% yes (Denver alone)

District Wide
Flood Control – 55.35% yes (source: Denver Post)

Early Voting in Colorado 2016 and 2018

I have often read that registered Democrats tend to vote later. Is this the case in Colorado with our mail in ballot? The evidence from 2016 seems to say that it is unaffiliated voters and registered Republicans who are late turning in their ballots.

Election day in 2016 was on November 8th, as late as it can be. So one week until election day fell on November 1st. The press release from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office on early voting put out on 2016 Nov. 2 had the following voting breakdown:

Nov. 2
ACN 2,660 0.22%
Democrat 443,517 36.94%
3,182 0.26%
Libertarian 10,606 0.88%
Republican 420,330 35.01%
Unaffiliated 320,210 26.67%
Unity 167 0.01%
Total 1,200,672

The totals announced on December 9th were:

 Dec. 5
ACN 7,654 0.26%
Democrat 943,921 32.72%
Green 9,399 0.32%
Libertarian 3,2819 1.14%
Republican 963,061 33.38%
Unaffiliated 927,346 32.14%
Unity 607 0.02%
Total 2,884,807

So this has Democrats returning 23,187 more ballots around a week out than Republicans and making up a plurality of 36.94% of the total electorate at that point. By the end of the election were ahead by 19,140 ballots and were 33.38% of the total electorate. The unaffiliated vote surged up to be around 1/3 of the total from only being around 1/4. Likewise the minor parties all increased their percentage of the electorate by the time all valid ballots were received.

So what does this suggest for 2018? Well the Democrats are not doing well relative to this time in the presidential election. They are probably doing well relative to their usual performance in midterm elections. SoS Press Release for Oct. 31, 2018.

ACN 1764 0.18%
APV 21 0.00%
Democrat 331,263 34.82%
Green 1,868 0.20%
Libertarian 7,206 0.76%
Republican 331,706 34.86%
Unaffiliated 277,458 29.16%
Unity 145 0.02%
Total 951,431

As usual, the total votes are down in a midterm election, so nothing unexpected there.

If the pattern is the same as last cycle then ballots from Republican affiliated voters will will pull ahead by about 2.5%, though the surge of unaffiliated voters should give many Democrats a win on election night. Unaffiliated voters are already ahead of where their ballot returns were in the last cycle and if that holds their percentage of the voting electorate may exceed that of the major parties for the first time. It also could be that Democrats were just unusually fast to turn in ballots in 2016 because they were totally clear on who they wanted to vote against.

Big Government Saves Western Water Users (Again)

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

But the Future Water Supply is Uncertain

For the last 18 years the Colorado River Basin and the southwestern states supplied by the river have been dry. How dry? The Department of the Interior said in 2016, “the Basin has experienced its lowest 16-year period of inflow in over 100 years of record keeping”. KUNC published an article in March asking, “When a drought lasts 18 years, does it need a new name?

Despite the low flows and droughts the users of the Colorado River have not had to cut back much. In 2001 the lower basin states (Arizona, California, Nevada) and Mexico used 9.974 million acre feet (maf) of water. In 2017 the lower basin states and Mexico used 8.296 maf. The August 16 report that prompted the associated press news story projects that there will be no cutbacks in 2019 either. Being news organizations they made the 52% chance of cutback in 2020 their headline, because fear doom and gloom sell better than hotcakes. Weirdly. Myself, I prefer a nice stack of wheaty cakes with butter to bad news.

Under the current rules if Lake Mead is lower than 1075 above sea level on January 1 of a year then there will be mandatory cuts of 320,000 acre-feet for Arizona, 13,000 acre-feet for Nevada, and 50,000 acre-feet for Mexico. That is 11.4% of the water Arizona uses in a year, so now is not the time to get a vacation home in the Valley of the Sun.

We here in Colorado and the other upper basin states will not feel the pinch directly unless Lake Powell runs dry. We are obligated under the Colorado River Compact to ensure there is at lest 8.2 million acre feet of water for the lower basin to use each year (7.5 for the states and 0.7 for Mexico). Then it is possible that we will have to cut back, though it gets complex because it is an average over 10 years. In most years up to now we’ve actually been sending 9.0 maf down the river so there is a potential cushion depending on how lawyers interpret the agreement.

Needless to say if the lower basin decided to invoke a “call” on the river it would head to court at a speed somewhat faster than bad news, itself known for breaking the speed of light under laboratory conditions.

The bottom line we are fine for now and sitting at around a 50-50 chance of mandatory cutbacks in 2020 for Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico. Further out it gets even more murky with the potential for everyone feeling parched if the winter snow average does not improve.

Is Measles Outbreak a Preview for Colorado?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)


The BBC reports that more than 41,000 people in Europe have been infected with measles in the first six months of 2018. There have been 37 deaths caused by this outbreak.

Of the 57 states, districts, territories, and commonwealths in the most recent CDC report on kindergartners who had received the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine Colorado ranked last. Just 87.3% of kindergartners had received the two doses needed to protect them.

In the Ukraine, where 23,000 of the cases in 2018 have occurred, there have been years of problems getting the population vaccinated. Wars, lack of vaccines, and a medical system that makes the US look like a model of competence and efficiency caused the rate to dip as low as 31% of 6 year olds in 2016 from a high of 95% in 2008. The WHO estimates there were 621,000 under- or unvaccinated people in Ukraine in 2017. The good news is that about 80% of them have been given at least a first dose of the MMR vaccine. The bad news is that the outbreak will undoubtedly be used by anti-vaccine lobbyists to “prove” that vaccines are the problem. Ignoring the inconvenient fact that the countries with the lowest vaccination rates are the places with the most infected or dying people.

In 2017 Italy has a similar vaccination rate to Colorado at 85% of school aged children being vaccinated (The Guardian). The 2018 August ECDC report on measles and rubella found 3,341 cases in that country since last year with a rate of 55.1 per million. Five people have died in Italy in the last year. A similar outbreak in Colorado would cause 300 cases of measles.

Colorado is one of 16 states that allow parents to opt out of vaccines for “personal reasons” instead of religious or medical reasons.