There are more questions than usual ahead of this month’s primary election in Colorado.
Several factors collide to make this one of the most unusual and least predictable Colorado primary seasons in memory.
All the action at the top of the ticket is on the Republican side this time around, though Democrats have their share of contested primaries further down the ballot.
That’s because Democratic incumbents are seeking unopposed re-election for the major statewide races — governor, U.S. senator, attorney general, secretary of state and state treasurer — at the same time. the party coalesced early around candidates in both open congressional districts, while Republicans staged what appear to be roughly even primaries in all but a few of those races.
Mail-in ballots begin mailing to most Colorado voters on Monday, and they are due back by 7 p.m. June 28.
Voters will face one of the least crowded primary ballots in years – just seven candidates, all Republicans, are running in contested statewide primaries this year, compared to 15 candidates from both parties who have participated in the contested 2018 primaries, without a U.S. Senate race on Colorado’s ballot.
On the Democratic side, Gov. Jared Polis, U.S. Senator Michael Bennett, Attorney General Phil Weiser, Secretary of State Jena Griswold and State Treasurer Dave Young were all able to make it to the November ballot, while Senator of State Brittany Pettersen and State Representative Yadira Caraveo were able to conserve her funds and avoid some of the difficulties that candidates can face in the primaries in their bid to represent the 7th and 8th congressional districts, respectively.
It’s a different story in Republican races for the same positions, with only a few of the GOP nominees already set — Attorney General nominee John Kellner and State Treasurer nominee Lang Sias.
Republicans running in the primaries include gubernatorial candidates Greg Lopez and Heidi Ganahl, U.S. Senate candidates Ron Hanks and Joe O’Dea, candidates for Secretary of State Tina Peters, Pam Anderson and Mike O’ Donnell, and crowded races in the two open congressional districts. In the 7th CD, Erik Aadland, Tim Reichert and Laurel Imer race, and in the 8th CD it’s Lori Saine, Jan Kulmann, Tyler Allcorn and Barb Kirkmeyer.
It will be up to Republican primary voters — including an unknown number of unaffiliated voters, who can vote in either major party’s primary — to choose not just the candidates the GOP advances in the general election , but also the direction of the State. Republican The party takes, to hear the strategists and pundits say so.
The choices between more traditional Republicans and their Trumpified counterparts have rarely been so straightforward, with Ganahl, O’Dea and Anderson holding the former position and Lopez, Hanks and Peters proudly waving the MAGA flag. In congressional races, Imer and Saine adopt the Trump mantle, though the distinction isn’t as firm in the more crowded areas.
Even though Democrats have fought at the polls in recent elections, Colorado is still seen as up for grabs in the right climate, and Biden’s midterms appear to be providing the kind of tailwind Republicans have been praying for.
For nearly all the harbingers, this November should be a toss-up for the state’s ruling Democrats, who hold all of the state’s executive positions, the two U.S. Senate seats, the majority of seats in the United States House and a majority in both houses of the General Assembly.
It’s a midterm election, which should mean losses for the party that occupies the White House, and voters are apparently as frustrated and angry as they have been in years with runaway inflation. , the rising crime rate and the lingering effects of the two-year-old pandemic. It’s a recipe for swing voters to decide to throw out bums, which isn’t good news for Democrats, since they’re the party in charge.
This year’s election could finally answer the question of whether Colorado has tipped into reliable blue territory or — as Republicans in the state have argued for years — whether former President Donald Trump’s presence on the ballot and at the White House skewed the results in a state whose voters hated Trump enough to lash out at fellow Republican candidates.
Election forecasters see Polis as safe and are calling on Bennet’s Senate race to lose, but statewide down races — for attorney general, secretary of state and state treasurer — could give the voters waved a chance to split their tickets. National groups are already pouring millions into the two open seats in Congress, and both parties agree that control of the state Senate, where Democrats currently hold a 20-15 majority, will be at stake, particularly in the first election after redistricting.
The number of Colorado voters opting out of voting by mail and voting at polling centers and county clerks’ offices has been extremely low in recent elections, but since several of the leading Republican candidates have disparaged mail-in voting – Peters, for example, says she wants to bring the state back to in-person voting, linking mail-in ballots to unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud – will more of their adherents vote? in person than in the last election?
While the GOP’s central state committee largely rejected the proposal, a vocal contingent of Republicans made it clear for the second time last year that they don’t want votes that aren’t registered Republicans to have their say about party candidates. appointed. Will unaffiliated voters remember this, or flock to vote in the Republican primary, since there isn’t much choice if they vote the Democrats ballot?
Will the Republican primary in the 3rd congressional district see more voters than usual, as unaffiliated voters who typically vote in the Democratic primary — along with what appears to be a few thousand Democrats who switched registering them as unaffiliated so they can vote in the GOP primary — casting their votes to U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s main challenger, State Sen. Don Coram?
For months, some of Boebert’s critics have organized an effort to encourage 3rd CD voters who are keen on making Boebert a one-term congresswoman to try and oust her in the Republican primary, since the district has been redrawn for favor the Republicans by the few. more points than in the last election, when she beat the Democratic candidate by just over 6 points.
Most Democrats — including the three candidates vying to challenge Boebert in November — have discouraged such talk, saying the right candidate running the right campaign can turn the year’s red tide and defeat the incumbent, though any everyone agrees it’s a tough climb.
It’s also an open question whether Trump will grant endorsements to Colorado candidates beyond Boebert, who secured his endorsement months ago.
The Mar-a-Lago scuttlebutt suggests Trump may be less inclined to dispense with endorsements after the bombardment he suffered in the Georgia primary a few weeks ago, when his favorite candidates in high-profile races were dropped by a long shot, but Tealeaf readers are also predicting that Trump might want wins and therefore could endorse Peters or Hanks — or both — if it looks like his nod would tip their primaries.
Additionally, the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion quashing Roe v. Wade has already put abortion in the spotlight in some primaries — in the Senate primary in particular, with Hanks hammering O’Dea’s stance that he backs Roe — but if the court’s final opinion is released before the primary, he could motivate less politically-hungry voters by putting the issue front and center as they fill out their ballots.