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The politics of Colorado, United States, are that of a blue state. Once considered a swing state that used to be Republican-leaning, Colorado has been trending Democratic since the early part of the 21st century due to changing demographics and a rising number of the large unaffiliated bloc of voters leaning Democratic.[1] The growing shift of the state's Republican Party towards social and religious conservatism along with shifting further to the right has also been cited as reasons for the changing voting patterns of Colorado.

After showing support for the populist movement between the 1890s and 1910s, Colorado voted for Republicans nationally, all but five times between 1920 and 2004. Only in 1932, 1936, 1948, 1964, and 1992 did the state vote Democratic, however, since 2008, Democrats have won the state four cycles in a row, the longest such win streak for the party in the state's history.[2] Democrats have historically fared better for state offices (especially for the governorship), however, they tended to be more moderate than the national party.

For instance, until the election of Barack Obama in 2008, 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 24 of the past 32 years since 1991.[3]

Colorado's constitution

Political orientation

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, now Senator John Hickenlooper, who won election in 2010 was also a Democrat.

The people of the state of Colorado are also represented in the federal government of the United States by two United States Senators and eight Congressional Representatives. Of Colorado's eight members of the United States House of Representatives, five are Democrats and three are Republicans. The Senators are Michael Farrand Bennet (D) and former Governor John Hickenlooper (D).[4]

Colorado has a history of voter initiatives that 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.[5]

History

United States presidential election results for Colorado[6]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 1,364,607 41.90% 1,804,352 55.40% 88,021 2.70%
2016 1,202,484 43.25% 1,338,870 48.16% 238,893 8.59%
2012 1,185,243 46.09% 1,323,102 51.45% 63,501 2.47%
2008 1,073,629 44.71% 1,288,633 53.66% 39,200 1.63%
2004 1,101,256 51.69% 1,001,725 47.02% 27,344 1.28%
2000 883,745 50.75% 738,227 42.39% 119,393 6.86%
1996 691,848 45.80% 671,152 44.43% 147,704 9.78%
1992 562,850 35.87% 629,681 40.13% 376,649 24.00%
1988 728,177 53.06% 621,453 45.28% 22,764 1.66%
1984 821,818 63.44% 454,974 35.12% 18,589 1.44%
1980 652,264 55.07% 367,973 31.07% 164,178 13.86%
1976 584,367 54.05% 460,353 42.58% 36,415 3.37%
1972 597,189 62.61% 329,980 34.59% 26,715 2.80%
1968 409,345 50.46% 335,174 41.32% 66,680 8.22%
1964 296,767 38.19% 476,024 61.27% 4,195 0.54%
1960 402,242 54.63% 330,629 44.91% 3,375 0.46%
1956 394,479 59.49% 263,997 39.81% 4,598 0.69%
1952 379,782 60.27% 245,504 38.96% 4,817 0.76%
1948 239,714 46.52% 267,288 51.88% 8,235 1.60%
1944 268,731 53.21% 234,331 46.40% 1,977 0.39%
1940 279,576 50.92% 265,554 48.37% 3,874 0.71%
1936 181,267 37.09% 295,021 60.37% 12,396 2.54%
1932 189,617 41.43% 250,877 54.81% 17,202 3.76%
1928 253,872 64.72% 133,131 33.94% 5,239 1.34%
1924 195,171 57.02% 75,238 21.98% 71,851 20.99%
1920 173,248 59.32% 104,936 35.93% 13,869 4.75%
1916 102,308 34.75% 178,816 60.74% 13,251 4.50%
1912 58,386 21.88% 114,232 42.80% 94,262 35.32%
1908 123,693 46.88% 126,644 48.00% 13,521 5.12%
1904 134,661 55.26% 100,105 41.08% 8,901 3.65%
1900 93,072 42.04% 122,733 55.43% 5,603 2.53%
1896 26,271 13.86% 161,005 84.95% 2,263 1.19%
1892 38,620 41.13% 0 0.00% 55,271 58.87%
1888 50,772 55.22% 37,549 40.84% 3,625 3.94%
1884 36,084 54.25% 27,723 41.68% 2,712 4.08%
1880 27,450 51.26% 24,647 46.03% 1,449 2.71%

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, while 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 for the first time since 1963. 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.

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%.[7]

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. 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 has been trending Democratic in recent years due to the rising percentage of young, college-educated, suburban, and unaffiliated voters leaning Democratic.[8][9][10] The growing social and religious conservative shift of the state's Republican Party has also been cited as a reason for the changing voting patterns of Colorado, along with the party shifting right-ward politically.[11][12] As of 2022, unaffiliated voters made up over 40% of the electorate. These voters tend to lean Democratic or have preferred Democratic candidates over Republican ones in recent elections.[13]

In the 2018 state elections, Democrats gained control of the state Senate, won all the constitutional statewide offices (including the governorship), and expanded their majority in the state House. They also gained a numerical majority for the U.S. House delegation.[14] In the 2020 presidential election, Colorado was considered a safe blue state. Joe Biden handily won Colorado with over 55% of the vote by a margin of more than 13% over Donald Trump.[9] In the 2020 state elections, Democrats retained their majorities in the state House and Senate. Democrats also picked up another U.S. Senate seat with John Hickenlooper's victory over Cory Gardner.[15]

In the 2022 state elections, Jared Polis was re-elected for Governor by a landslide, Democrats easily retained all statewide offices and Michael Bennet was re-elected to the U.S. Senate by the largest margin for a state Democrat since 1974.[16] Additionally, Democrats further expanded their majority in the state house by five seats, grew their senate majority by 2 seats and increased their majority in the state Board of Education.[17][18]

Colorado General Assembly

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.

The Colorado Senate is the upper house of the Colorado General Assembly, composed of 35 seats representing approximately 143,000 people each. Senators are constitutionally limited to two consecutive four-year terms. The Senate is currently composed of 23 Democrats and 12 Republicans. The Senate is led by President of the Senate, Steve Fenberg, Majority Leader Robert Rodriguez, and Minority Leader Paul Lundeen.

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 46 Democrats and 19 Republicans and is led by Speaker of the House Julie McCluskie, Majority Leader Monica Duran, and Minority Leader Rose Pugliese.

Federal representation

Colorado has had eight seats in the United States House of Representatives since the 2020 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.

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 Lauren Boebert of Rifle. 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. Boebert defeated incumbent Scott Tipton for the Republican nomination for this seat in 2020.

Colorado's 4th congressional district was represented by Republican Ken Buck of Windsor until his resignation on March 22, 2024. His successor is to be determined pending the special election. 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.

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 Space Force Base, Peterson Space Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Complex, and the United States Air Force Academy.

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 Brittany Pettersen 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.

Colorado's 8th congressional district is represented by Democrat Yadira Caraveo. This district contains portions of Adams County, Weld County, and Larimer County.

Democrats John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet are Colorado's junior and senior United States senators, serving since 2021 and 2010, respectively.

Colorado is part of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado in the federal judiciary. The district's cases are appealed to the Denver-based United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

Sovereignty of the people

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.[19][20]

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.[19][21]

Initiative, referendum, and recall

In addition to providing for voting[22][23] the people of Colorado have reserved initiative of laws and referendum of laws enacted by the legislature to themselves[24]

... 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.[25]

and provided for recall of office holders.[26]

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

There are proportionally more Democrats in the City of Denver, Boulder County, Fort Collins, and 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. Counties located in mountain valleys which are also home to ski towns are also Democratic. Pitkin, Eagle, La Plata and Routt are examples of such counties.[27]

Denver's suburban counties usually hold the balance of power in Colorado politics. In recent years, these suburban counties have significantly shifted towards the Democrats. Adams, Arapahoe, Jefferson, Broomfield and Larimer have seen a shift towards voting for Democrats in the last few gubernatorial and presidential elections.[9]

There are proportionally more Republicans 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. However, support for Republicans in these areas has been slightly decreasing in recent election cycles.[9] 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.

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.[28] The votes were seen as a largely symbolic effort to attract the attention of the then-Democratic Colorado General Assembly;[29] secession 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.[30]

See also

References

  1. ^ Colorado Secretary of State. "2023 Voter Registration Statistics". www.sos.state.co.us. Retrieved 2023-12-21.
  2. ^ "Colorado Presidential Election Voting History - 270toWin". 270toWin.com. Retrieved 2023-03-06.
  3. ^ "Former Governors - Colorado". National Governors Association. Retrieved 2023-12-21.
  4. ^ Hickenlooper defeated incumbent Cory Gardner in the 2020 United States Senate election in Colorado. 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.
  5. ^ "2005 Referendum Special Election Results". U.S. Election Atlas. 2007-05-11. Retrieved 2008-06-05.
  6. ^ Leip, David. "Presidential General Election Results Comparison – Colorado". US Election Atlas. Retrieved October 27, 2022.
  7. ^ "Election News 2008: Obama carries Colorado". The New York Times. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  8. ^ Kruegel, Evan (2020-11-05). "Is Colorado firmly a 'blue state'? Political experts weigh in". FOX31 Denver. Retrieved 2021-12-29.
  9. ^ a b c d Frank, John; Osgood, Carrie (2020-11-10). "Colorado continues to shift blue: The 2020 election, explained in graphics". The Colorado Sun. Retrieved 2021-08-21.
  10. ^ Warwick, Ben (2020-11-10). "Colorado Has Gone From 'Swing' To 'Safe' In The Last 3 Presidential Elections". CBS Denver. Retrieved 2021-12-29.
  11. ^ Park, Catherine (2020-09-08). "'Purple' Colorado could go blue in 2020 election as younger voters flock to state, experts say". Fox 5. Retrieved 2021-12-29.
  12. ^ Paul, Jesse (2020-11-12). "Where do Colorado Republicans go from here?". The Colorado Sun. Retrieved 2022-11-26.
  13. ^ "Colorado's getting bluer even though it's gotten more purple". FOX31 Denver. 2022-11-15. Retrieved 2022-11-26.
  14. ^ Herrick, John (2018-11-07). "Democrats take the Colorado Senate". The Colorado Independent. Retrieved 2021-12-29.
  15. ^ Ingold, John (2020-11-04). "The last time Colorado Democrats swept everything in an election was 1936. The parallels are striking". The Colorado Sun. Retrieved 2021-12-29.
  16. ^ Hernandez, John Frank,Esteban L. (2022-11-09). "Democrats post historic wins in Colorado, hold huge power at state level". Axios. Retrieved 2022-11-26.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ Paul, Sandra Fish, Jesse (2022-11-16). "The eight Colorado legislative districts Democrats flipped from the GOP this year, from Colorado Springs to the Western Slope". The Colorado Sun. Retrieved 2022-11-26.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ Meltzer, Erica (2022-11-09). "Democrats will hold six seats on the Colorado State Board of Education". Chalkbeat Colorado. Retrieved 2022-11-26.
  19. ^ a b Article II of the Constitution of Colorado on Justia.Com, accessed September 21, 2010
  20. ^ Section 1, Article II, Constitution of Colorado
  21. ^ Section 2, Article II, Constitution of Colorado
  22. ^ Section 5, Article II, Constitution of Colorado
  23. ^ Article VII, Constitution of Colorado
  24. ^ Section 1, Article V, Constitution of Colorado
  25. ^ Article V, Constitution of Colorado Justia.Com, accessed September 21, 2010
  26. ^ Article XXI, Constitution of Colorado
  27. ^ Best, Allen (16 November 2014). "Ski towns mostly stay on blue side". Summit Daily News. Retrieved 2022-11-26.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ Ivan Moreno, 5 rural Colorado counties vote to secede, become 51st state, Associated Press (November 11, 201).
  30. ^ Ana Cabrera, Sara Weisfeldt & Bryan Koenig, Colorado rural counties to vote: Should we stay or should we go?, CNN (November 4, 2013).