While President Barack Obama was still waiting for the phone call from Gov. Mitt Romney conceding the presidential race, Democrats in Colorado were celebrating victories here that make our swing state seem more like a Democratic stronghold. The Colorado House and Senate both emerge from Election Day with Democratic majorities.
“We’ve all been working for weeks and weeks and months and months to get where we are tonight — where we can celebrate,” incumbent Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder), who won her race for House District 13 handily against Republican Adam Ochs, said in a speech at the Democratic election night watch party at the Boulder Theater on Nov. 6. The results around the state and the wave that was crossing the nation, she says, indicate that “hope beats cynicism and the truth beats lies.”
Of course, to get out of the gridlock that’s gripped politics these past four years, legislators will have to set such partisan stereotyping aside.
Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder), who defeated her Republican challenger, will become majority leader as Democrats reverse the narrow majority Republicans held in the State House.
Colorado’s state Senate will also see Democrats in the majority and State Sen. Rollie Heath (D-Boulder), who successfully defended his seat against Republican Barry Thoma, says his top priorities will be civil unions and an asset bill, as well as his continued focus on funding for education.
Democrat Dianne Primavera, who lost the race for State Representative for District 33 in Broomfield two years ago by 314 votes after what she described as a “horrific smear campaign,” also saw victory Tuesday night over Republican David Pigott.
“This race was about making sure that we kept things positive,” says Rep. Jonathan Singer (D-Lyons), who also won his race against Republican challenger Ellyn Hilliard. Singer was in a suit and tie at the Democrat’s watch party at Boulder Theater on Tuesday night, and said he’s not going to take his tie off and stop working until the civil unions bill passes.
The civil unions bill died in May 2012 when the State Speaker of the House Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) refused to introduce the bill before the conclusion of the legislative session, instead referring it to a kill committee during a special session, though it appeared there was sufficient support among legislators to pass the bill. Losing the majority in the House will put a Democrat in that seat and could lead to a swift introduction of a civil unions bill.
“I will be surprised if civil unions don’t pass in the first month,” says Matt Jones (D-Louisville), who defeated Charlie Plagainos in the race for State Senate District 17, which includes Louisville, Lafayette, Superior and Longmont, and will replace State Senate President Brandon Shaffer, who lost his bid for Congressional District 4 to incumbent Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).
Other issues Democratic representatives and senators mentioned taking on this session include renewable energy, voter suppression laws, clean energy jobs, schools and fracking.
Speaking of winning everything, Longmont’s Ballot Question 300, which puts a ban on fracking in that city’s charter, also passed, as did Amendment 64, which legalizes the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.
In contrast to the increasingly progressive will of the voters, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office is emerging now as the most conservative institution in the state.
The governor told The Washington Post that while he respects the will of the voters, “federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or Gold Fish too quickly.” On election night he made it clear he was more interested in working with the Feds to challenge Amendment 64 than fighting the federal government on behalf of the majority of Colorado citizens who supported its passage.
Hickenlooper has also already cautioned Longmont residents that their ban on fracking would incur lawsuits and claims for value lost to the mineral rights owners who would otherwise have used fracking to access oil and gas reserves.
For those eager to let the governor know just what they think about his recent deafness to the majority of Colorado voters, Hickenlooper’s name will be on the ballot in 2014. Perhaps he’ll see about getting his hearing back before then.