The open seat in El Paso County's House District 17 (formerly held by Republican Stella Garza Hicks) between Democrat Dennis Apuan and Republican primary winner Catherine "Kit" Roupe shows signs that it might swing from red to blue.
Three incumbent Democrats running for re-election in Republican leaning House District 27 (Sara Gargliardi), House District 38 (Joe Rice), and House District 55 (Bernie Buescher) have strong fund raising edges and demonstrated abilities to win over unaffiliated voters and Republicans, but are in districts where early Republican turnout exceeds early Democratic turnout.
In the open seat in South suburban Denver's House District 40, previous held by Republican turned Democrat Debbie Stafford, Democrat Karen Wilde has raised less money than Republican Cindy Acree, and also faces a stiff Republcan edge in early turnout.
But, none of these crossover races are open and shut for either party. In all other house races in the state, a few of which are also close, the party that held the seat at the end of the last legislative session is leading in early and mail-in voter turnout.
There are sixty-five state house districts in Colorado. Every seat is up for re-election every two years, and there is virtually no public polling of these races available.
In the vast majority of cases, there are more early and mail-in ballots from Democrats than Republicans in seats that were held by Democrats at the end of the last legislative session, and the reverse is true in seats that were held by Republicans. There are exceptions, however.
Democratic Leaning Seats Previously Held By Republicans
Democrat have returned more ballots than Republicans in House District 17 (held by Republican Stella Garza Hicks in El Paso County), which is now an open seat. As of a few days ago, in House District 17, votes cast come from 1770 Democrats, 1549 Republicans, 948 unaffiliated voters, and 18 third party voters (an edge of 221 Democrats). This year's race is between Democrat Dennis Apuan and Republican primary winner Catherine "Kit" Roupe.
Apuan had $15,623.72 of cash on hand as of the last campaign finance reporting period and raised $29,797.96 in the campaign. Roupe had $12,111.85 of cash on hand, has raised $35,775.64 (net of a returned contribution and including "other receipts"), and has also received a $2,000 loan which remains outstanding.
Republican Leaning Seats Previously Held By Democrats
Republicans have returned more ballots than Democrats in House District 27 (held by Democrat Sara Gagliardi in Jefferson County), House District 38 (held by Democrat Joe Rice in Arapahoe County), House District 40 (held by party changed Democrat Debbie Stafford in Arapahoe and Elbert counties), and House District 55 (held by Democrat Bernie Bueschar in Mesa County).
Incumbent Democrat Sara Gagliardi is facing off against Republican John Bodnar in House District 27. At this point, votes cast come from 5396 Democrats, 6063 Republicans, 3594 unaffiliated voters, and 55 third party voters (an edge of 667 Republicans). Gagliardi has $23,554.92 of cash on hand and has raised $93,022.77 (net of returns) in contributions in this election. Bodnar has $22,187.27 of cash on hand and has raised $30,024.31 in contributions, in addition to receiving a currently unrepaid $1,000 loan.
Incumbent Democrat Joe Rice faces Republican Dave Kerber in House District 38. At this point, votes cast come from 4500 Democrats, 5477 Republicans, 2550 unaffiliated voters, and 33 third party voters (an edge of 977 Republicans). Rice has $33,310.86 of cash on hand and has raised $107,054 of contributions (net of returned contributions and including "other receipts"). The records aren't entirely clear, but it looks like a loan of $12,700 to Rice's campaign is from a prior cycle and was repaid. Rice has also received $12,391.64 in "in kind" contributions. Kerber has $12,798.42 of cash on hand and has raised $44,590 (net of returned contributions) and has received $10,000 of unrepaid loans.
House District 40 is an open seat that pits Democrat Karen Wilde and Republican Cindy Acree against each other. At this point, votes cast come from 3942 Democrats, 5753 Republicans, 2770 unaffiliated voters, and 49 third party voters (an edge of 1811 Republicans). Wilde has $4,382.97 of cash on hand and has raised $8,664.00 of contributions (net of returned contributions). Acree has $10,879.31 of cash on hand and has raised $38,500 of contributions (net of returned contributions).
Incumbent Democrat Bernie Buescher in House District 55 is facing Republican Laura Bradford. At this point, votes cast come from 3785 Democrats, 6669 Republicans, 3211 unaffilated voters, and 55 third party voters (an edge of 2884 Republicans). Buescher has $35,482.17 of cash on hand and has raised $245,782.95 of contributions (net of returned contributions). Buescher has also received $3,287.74 in "in kind" contributions. Bradford has $4,267.07 of cash on hand and has raised $49,338.56 of contributions, and in addition has received $1,495 of "in kind" contributions.
These are not the only seats that are in play this election. A number of other seats previously held by Republicans or Democrats with early election returns matching the party affiliation of the previous incumbent are close. But, this is an important subgroup of close house races.
Each of these races has vigorous campaigns by bona fide credible candidates from each major party.
At least in the three seats where there are incumbents running, it is unwise to place too much emphasis on party affiliation. These individuals won previous races in precisely the same districts, at a time when there was less of a national trend to the left, on the basis of moderate positions and strong personal appeals to independent voters and affiliated voters who cross party lines.
Democrats can also offer prospective voters the lure of the power to represent their interests through membership in the majority party, and in the case of Bernie Buescher, a senior leadership position (he is currently the top house Democrat on the powerful joint budget committee).
None of these cross over races are so tight that they can't be won entirely on the strength of support from members of their own party and unaffiliated voter support, although in reality, some members of each party almost always vote for the other's party's candidate.
The partisan mix of early turnout and campaign contributions are really the only publicly available, neutral facts that are available to see how these races are going. Money doesn't translate directly into votes, but is often a reasonable proxy for grass roots support and campaign effectiveness.
By those measures, House District 17 is a very close race, with Democrat Dennis Apuan holding a slight turnout advantage and cash on hand advantage, and Republican Catherine "Kit" Roupe holding a modest edge in funds raised.
All three of the Democratic incumbents have raised far more money than their Republican opponents, have proven their appeal to their constituencies in prior elections.
Karen Wilde, in South suburban and ex-urban Denver has the most uphill fight of any Democrat in these five cross-over races. She lags in fund raising, although neither candidate has raised huge sums of money. The Republican early return edge is a large percentage of the unaffiliated voters in the district who have voted, so she needs a large share of all independent voters and significant Republican cross over voting. And, unlike candidates in the other races, voters in House District 40 haven't previously voted for a Democrat in recent years, even though their Republican representative was a moderate.
Still, none of these races are out of either side's reach and all five will be raised to watch Tuesday night.