18 October 2006

Colorado State Senate Races Rated

Mile High Delphi, a blog run by a bipartisan quartet of contributors, including Blogicus Maximus, who was my conservative colleague when I blogged for Political State Report (who continues to blog there on ocassion), has released it lastest rankings of the eighteen state state races to be decided this year in Colorado today. While many political insiders have undertaken this exercise, Mile High Delphi is the only publicly available source of which I am aware which has make its rankings of state senate races public.

Half of the state senate's seats are open every two years (Betty Boyd in SD-21 is running for only a two year term, however, as she was appointed by the Democratic party vacancy committee when the seat held by Deanna Hanna was vacated). Eight of the seats before voters this year are currently held by Democrats, ten are currently held by Republicans.

They predict that the State Senate will go from a current 18D-17R seat split to a 19D-16R seat split after the election in the 35 seat body, leaving the Democrats in control. Republican leaders apparently agree as it is an open secret that the GOP money bags have largely abandoned the Governor's race and State Senate struggle in Colorado in an effort to maximize their chances of regaining control of the State House, so that they are not shut out of the legislative process.

The Delphinans have rated four races safe Republican, four leaning Republican, three races as toss ups, three races safe Democratic, and four as leaning Democratic. Democrats need only one of the three toss up races to win control of the chamber, if any surprises on the Democratic side are matched by surprises on the Republican side.

Their ratings are generally on target, although I would personally rank the race in SD-9 between Democrat Keely Marrs vs. Republican David Schultheis in the leaning Republican category, rather than the safe Republican slot this year. The Denver Post said this about the race in El Paso County:

Democrat Keely Marrs is a U.S. Army veteran whose background and understanding of water and transportation issues make her a better choice for this district than Republican David Schultheis, who obsessed on divisive social issues during his House service.

Many people will be breaking with habit by voting for Jay Fawcett rather than Doug Lamborn in Colorado Springs in the open 5th Congressional District race this year, which includes Senate District 9. Fawcett has polled remarkably well in the overwhelmingly Republican district. Fawcett Republicans may likewise push the button Marrs, whose race presents a very similar choice between a fighting Dem and an ultra-conservative with an abrasive personal style not interested in getting things done. Marrs, like any Democrat running for office in El Paso County, is still an underdog, but this race is still in play in my book.

Colorado is a fairly conservative state, but most unaffiliated voters who vote for Republicans in Colorado, even in Focus on the Family home Colorado Springs, do so for the anti-tax, pro-gun, tough on crime, pro-defense spending stances traditionally associated with the Republican party, not because they hate gays, not because they want to drown government in a bathtub, and not because they think that religion needs a larger role in public life. This is a very different group of people than the coalition who win races for Republicans in the South, where many Democrats are more conservative on social issues than most Colorado Republicans.

The Marrs race is in the same category as the race for the 7th State Senate District between Democrat Dana Barker and Republican Josh Penry, in which Barker received a remarkable endorsement from the Grand Junction Sentinel, the leading newspaper in the district, a race that the Delphinians rate as leans Republican.

If Bill Ritter's campaign for Governor, and Democrats John Salazar and Jay Fawcett in the 3rd and 5th Congressional Districts respectively, combat the usual sense of hopelessness that pervades Democrats in Republican strongholds, it isn't impossible that the general anti-GOP sentiment this year could push both underdog Democrats into office.

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