United States: Colorado 2018 General Election Recap

The results of the  2018 general election are in the books for 318 contested races. A total of 2,578,358 Colorado voters returned ballots (813,079 Republicans, 848,493 Democrats and 877,066 Unaffiliated). We want to take a moment to give you a brief update on where things stand now, and what it will mean for the state government, particularly the Governor and Legislature going forward.

In Colorado, we saw a fairly significant blue wave, though not quite the tidal wave that it could have been (more on that below). Conventional wisdom leading up to Election Day in Colorado pointed to a Democratic win for Governor and closer races for the other statewide offices, gains in the House of Representatives and a toss-up that leaned Democratic in the Senate. As you'll see, voters gave even more power to Democrats than most watchers predicted.

Candidate Races

In terms of candidate races, Democrats were the big winners across the board. All statewide offices will be held by a Democrat come January, as will legislative majorities in both chambers.

For Governor, Congressman Jared Polis defeated State Treasurer Walker Stapleton 53% to 43%. For Secretary of State, Jena Griswold defeated incumbent Wayne Williams 52% to 45%.

For Treasurer, State Representative Dave Young defeated Brian Watson 52% to 45%

For Attorney General, Phil Weiser defeated George Brauchler 51% to 45%.

State House

The State House (currently controlled by Democrats 36-29) will stay in Democratic hands. The Democrats now control the House 41-24. On election night, three races were too close to call, though in the week since Election Day, all three races broke towards the Democrat and include:

  • House District 27 (Jefferson): Brianna Titone (D) defeated Vicki Pyne (R) 50.4% to 49.62% (Flip from GOP).
  • House District 47 (Pueblo, Fremont, Otero): Bri Buentello (D) defeated Don Bendell (R) 50.5% to 49.5% (Flip from GOP).
  • House District 50 (Weld): Rochelle Galindo (D) defeated Michael Thuener (R) 53.2% to 46.7%.

Additionally, Democrats were able to flip several other GOP-held seats their way including:

  • House District 25 (Jefferson): Lisa Cutter (D) defeated Steve Szutenbach (R) 53% to 47%.
  • House District 34 (Adams): Kyle Mullica (D) defeated Rep. Alexander "Skinny" Winkler (R) 60% to 39%.
  • House District 37 (Arapahoe): Tom Sullivan (D) defeated Rep. Cole Wist (R) 54% to 46%.

State Senate

The State Senate grabbed most of the attention this cycle with Republicans trying to maintain their one-seat majority (18-17) in the face of a likely Democratic Governor and House. There were five truly contested races and all broke the Democrats' way. The "Fabulous Five" winners swung the majority to the Democrats 19-16.

  • District 5 (Eagle, Lake, Pitkin, Delta): Incumbent Sen. Kerry Donovan (D) defeated Olen Lund (R) 60% to 40%.
  • District 16 (Jefferson): Tammy Story (D) defeated incumbent Sen. Tim Neville (R) 55% to 41% (Flip from GOP).
  • District 20 (Jefferson): State Rep. Jessie Danielson (D) defeated Christine Jensen (R) 54% to 42%.
  • District 22 (Jefferson): State Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D) defeated Tony Sanchez (R) 58% to 42%.
  • District 24 (Adams): State Rep. Faith Winter (D) defeated incumbent Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik 52% to 40% (Flip from GOP).

Ballot Measures

In terms of statewide ballot measures, there are a few of note:

  • Amendments X and Y (independent panels for redistricting) passed with 60% and 71% respectively.
  • Amendment 73 (income tax increase for education) was defeated 45% to 55%.
  • Amendment 74 (compensation for property value loss) was defeated 46% to 54%.
  • Proposition 109 (bonding for transportation) was defeated 39% to 61%.
  • Proposition 110 (sales tax increase for transportation) was defeated 40% to 60%.
  • Proposition 112 (increase setbacks for oil and gas) was defeated 44% to 56%.

Interestingly, while voters gave Democrats the proverbial keys to the kingdom, they did not provide them with new ways to fund their agenda. As you can see, two measures to provide more funding for transportation, plus one for education funding, did not pass. It'll be up to legislators to find creative ways to identify revenue sources, possibly to include raising the state revenue cap, a push for constitutional reforms, and/or increasing fees.

What to Expect in 2019

We anticipate that a fairly progressive slate of bills will be introduced and, ultimately, passed and signed into law. With split chambers, which we've had for the past four years, bills generally require bipartisan support to pass. In 2019, Democrats will be in command of both the Governor's office and the General Assembly, which enables them to pass bills without bipartisan support (if they so choose).

We believe that issues such as affordable housing, health care, paid family leave, mandatory retirement accounts, education funding, climate change, energy, gaming, and online sports betting, as well as others, will be at the forefront next year.

The First Regular Session of the Seventy-second General Assembly will convene on January 4, 2019 and run for 120 days.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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