It’s a whole new year, with plenty of political implications for Colorado and the nation.
309 days until the 2018 midterm elections.
— Midterms Are Coming! (@looming_midterm) January 1, 2018
In just 309 days, voters will go to the polls in the first midterm election following President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory.
Past midterms brought significant change:
- The Tea Party revolution of 2010, President Barack Obama’s first midterm, saw Democrats lose 63 seats in the U.S. House (including two in Colorado) and six in the Senate.
- President George W. Bush saw both houses of Congress turn from red to blue in his second midterms in 2006. Those midterms ended 12 years of control of the House by the GOP.
- The Republican Revolution of 1994 saw the GOP take control of the House and Senate in the middle of President Bill Clinton’s first term.
But in Colorado, the focus is likely to be less on federal races and far more on state-level contests.
Here are the Top 5 stories #COpolitics.co will be watching this year:
No 1: Governor’s race
Coloradans will see the most crowded field for governor in decades with the exit of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Those candidates raised or loaned more than $7.5 million to individual campaigns through September. Several candidates – most notably Democratic Rep. Jared Polis and former GOP state Rep. Victor Mitchell – are putting plenty of cash into their campaigns.
That’s just candidate money. Outside groups from the Democratic and Republican governors associations to state-level independent spending committees will pour in millions more.
It’s likely to make for the most expensive governor’s race in Colorado history.
But money – especially a candidate’s cash – isn’t everything in politics. We took a look at past big spenders for KUNC and found most lost. Except for Polis.
No. 2: Control of the General Assembly
Republicans will focus on preserving and potentially expanding their majority in the state Senate, where they now hold a one-vote (or two if you consider Sen. Cheri Jahn’s recent exit from the Democratic Party) margin.
Jahn is one of seven term-limited senators among the 17 seats up for election in 2018.
All 65 House seats are up for reelection, with only five representatives term-limited, though five are leaving to run for open Senate seats and one is leaving to run for state treasurer. Democrats hold a 37-28 majority in the House, which may be a tougher reach for the GOP than retaining or expanding their Senate majority.
No. 3: Independent Impact
Independent voters will be the Colorado wild card in 2018.
That’s because they’ll be able to vote in primary elections for the first time, potentially making two already wild primaries for governor even wilder.
Meanwhile, Colorado is one of several states targeted by the Centrist Project, which is recruiting unaffiliated candidates to run for the legislature.
Jahn’s exit from the Democratic Party to become unaffiliated gives that project some potential fuel. And it raises the question of whether the 18-year lawmaker from Wheat Ridge will aim for a statewide office as an independent candidate.
No. 4: Sexual harassment at the Capitol
KUNC’s Bente Birkeland broke open a web of accusations and counter accusations when she began asking around the Capitol about #MeToo.
The issue will be front and center when the General Assembly begins meeting Jan. 10. One of the first items of business may be an effort to expel Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock, who is also running for state treasurer. Lebsock denies accusations of Rep. Faith Winter (who’s running for the state Senate) and others.
Meanwhile, two GOP senators and another Democratic representative also are being investigated.
Questions abound: What will become of the investigations? Will action be taken? Are there more accusations to be revealed? As they say, stay tuned.
No. 5: So many options!
So here’s a list of other potential topics that will bring the political heat to Colorado in the next 12 months:
- Oil and gas development. Fossil fuel supporters spent big in Broomfield in 2017 and lost. They’re certain to come at Jared Polis (and most any other Democratic gubernatorial nominee) with a cache of cash in 2018. But will they also have to fend off a ballot initiative aiming to limit development?
- Redistricting. Initiatives reforming the current commission that redraws legislative districts every 10 years and creating a commission to draw congressional districts may well be on the ballot, in anticipation of the 2021 redistricting.
- Transportation funding. It’s sure to be a major point of contention during the legislative session, with potential carryover into fall legislative campaigns.
#COpolitics will be following all these topics in 2018 with an emphasis on the data: the money, where it came from, where it’s spent; and the messages, who delivered them, who paid for them, and who benefits.
So what’s missing from the list? Have ideas you’d like to see covered? Email fish (at) copolitics.co
And Happy 2018!