Voters will decide who wins the House District 1 primary race between Democrats Alfredo Hernandez and Jeanne Labuda between now and the August 8, 2006 primary election. Early voting starts July 29, 2006.
Despite the strong historical advantage of Democrats in the District, this may not be a cakewalk for the winner. Republicans have targetted the campaign, in part, because it is an open seat. Aimee Rathburn, a paralegal who is the President of the Bow Mar Heights Improvement Association running as a Republican for the seat in the general election, has raised more than $17,765 and has $11,472 in cash on hand. But, Fran Coleman won the seat comfortably in 2004 by a 13,132 to 8,534 vote margin (more than 60% of the vote).
House District 1 includes middle-class suburban areas of Southwest Denver, most or all of the City of Sheridan, a small, predominantly white working class first ring suburb and the Northern part of the District, around Lincoln High School, which is a predominantly Hispanic working class neighborhood. The seat is currently held by Fran Coleman who is now running for the Senate District 32 seat vacated by Dan Grossman.
I spoke with both candidates at a Democratic Party picnic at Ruby Hill Park in Denver on Sunday. Labuda and Hernandez are both operating door to door level campaigns and agree that the key to the race will be getting out the vote. Labuda said that turnout will be key. Hernandez was concerned that regular primary voters, many of whom are in their 60s or older and are long time residents of the neighborhood, may have trouble finding their way to Denver's new vote centers which replace the precincts that most have been going to out of habit for years.
Labuda is mild-mannered and tuned into the sometimes tawdry politics of Sheridan, where she joked that many of the senior officials are sleeping with each other, because they're married. Hernandez exudes efficiency and action. He is in his element directing staffers about the next campaign task to be done and is focused on the tactical issues involved in getting elected, like getting older voters to the polls.
Margaret Attencio, a senior state Democratic party official, was an early candidate in the race, but failed to gather enough signatures to petition onto the ballot.
Both campaigns appear to have a credible amount of money to spend. Hernandez had $2,755 of cash on had as of July 17. He had raised $16,660 as of his last cumulative contribution report. His biggest donors are the United Food and Commercial Worker's Local #7 ($2,000), and the Colorado Education Association ($1,000).
Labuda's campaign finance reports are not properly indexed at the Secretary of State's website in her race (her committee is "Committee To Elect Jeanne Labuda" with SOS Assigned ID: 20065601826). Her candidate committee has received $9,515 in contributions, and she has loaned herself $35,000. At last report Labuda had $5,831 of cash on hand.
Labuda, the top line candidate, based on the vote at the spring caucus, is a former Assistant Attorney General from the part of the Southwest Denver District sometimes known as Denver's "cop town", a suburban style neighborhood which caught on with police and firefighters looking for a suburban lifestyle but who were required by residency rules to live in the City and County of Denver (the rules have since been relaxed from the time when the neighborhood took on that character).
Her platform favors funding for transportation, education, and health care, making special note of her budget support for police and firefighters and their pensions. She also notes that she supports "comprehensive immigration reform." Specifically: "She thinks that every state should tell the federal government how many immigrant workers are needed in the hospitality, agricultural, manufacturing, construction and other sectors of the economy. Then the federal government should base its guest-worker program on those figures." (Of course, the real decision making power is in Washington, not the state capitol in Denver.) She also has background processing claims in the Social Security Administration, as a high school teacher, and on the Denver Planning Board. Her most notable endorsement is from Don Mares, a former City Auditor who swept the majority Hispanic areas in Denver's last Mayoral election, but ultimately lost to Mayor Hickenlooper. She is also endorsed by Denver School Board member Michelle Moss, and several elected officials, including one Republican, from the City of Sheridan.
Alfredo Hernandez is a deputy district attorney in Denver, and a generation younger than Labuda. He too is committed to improving schools, health care and transportation in Colorado. He says his first bill will be to increase the minimum wage in Colorado.
Hernandez is endorsed by sitting District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, Denver Fire Chief Larry Trujillo, the police officer's union, the Colorado trial lawyers association, State Representatives Joel Judd, Jerry Frangas, Val Vigil and Debbie Benefield, Denver School Board member Jill Conrad and Denver City Council member Rick Garcia.
Coyote Gulch reported at Square State on the first debate in the race (held outside HD 1). Suffice it to say that the candidates differ only in the finest nuances on the issues. This is a race between experience in the person of Labuda, and enthusiasm in the person of Hernandez.
One more debate, with both the Republican and Democratic candidates, and a handpicked bipartisan audience, is planned before the primary.
Cross posted at Colorado Confidential.