The Big Picture

National Look

While it might not have been a blue tsunami, the surf was definitely up on election night. Most notably, the U.S. House of Representatives flipped blue with the Democrats picking up 39 seats to gain the majority. The change in control of the House certainly alters the political dynamic in D.C. On the other side of the chamber the United States Senate remains in Republican control where they expanded their one seat majority by two seats. The end of the one-party Republican rule will definitely have an impact on politics and policy in Washington, but what that will look like is anybody’s guess.

The blue ripple also gained Democrats eight gubernatorial seats and saw approximately 350 state legislative seats switch back to Democrats.  Republicans had gained more than 900 seats during President Obama’s two terms. With these changes, Democrats now have a trifecta (single party rule of both chambers and the governors’ office) in 13 states (Republicans have 21 state trifectas). Interestingly, Minnesota’s legislature, where Democrats flipped the House blue while the Republicans retained control of the Senate, is currently the only divided legislature in the U.S.Finally, women had quite an election. A record number of 277 women ran for Congressional and gubernatorial seats in 2018. We now have the most women ever serving in Congress with102 in the House and 24 in the Senate. Additionally, the diversity of race, religion and sexual orientation among these women is notable. The nation’s first two Native American and Muslim women will be seated in Congress in January. Also, the incoming Congressional class will feature record numbers of women of color and non-incumbent women. The majority of women elected to Congress were Democrats, but a few Republican women will also be blazing new trails.

State View

Colorado experienced record turnout for midterm elections. Over 2.4 million Coloradans turned in ballots this election, an increase of more than 342,000 over 2014, the previous record holder. Democrats, 129,000 ballots more than 2014, and unaffiliated voters, 202,000 more ballots than 2014, substantially increased their participation, while Republicans noted a slight uptick of 5,000 ballots. Finally, women turned out in higher numbers than men, casting more than 100,000 more ballots. These numbers certainly impacted the race in the 6th Congressional district where the election of the Democratic challenger Jason Crow over incumbent Mike Coffman means Colorado now has four Democratic and three Republican House members in Washington.

In statewide races, the blue wave carried Democratic candidates to wins in all five constitutionally mandated positions beginning with the Governor’s race where the Democratic ticket of Governor-elect Jared Polis and Lt. Governor-elect Dianne Primavera beat the Republican ticket of Walker Stapleton and Lang Sias. The remaining three statewide positions went to Democratic candidates: Attorney General-elect Phil Weiser, Secretary of State-elect Jena Griswold, and Treasurer-elect Dave Young.

Democrats also flipped the state Senate from red to blue and extended their hold on the House of Representatives. The Democrats picked up two seats in the Senate to give them a 19-16 edge (18 votes are need to pass legislation in the Senate). In the House, Democrats party picked up three additional seats moving their existing advantage from 36 to 39 (33 votes are need to pass legislation in the House).

Colorado is now one of the 13 Democrat trifecta states where the Democratic Party controls the Governor’s seat and both houses of the legislature.

Statewide Ballot issues

While Colorado voters were handing the keys to the government to the Democrats, they simultaneously rejected the two statewide tax increases on the ballot to fund education and transportation infrastructure. Both measures failed by wide margins with Amendment 73 (education) losing 55%-45% and Proposition 110 (transportation infrastructure), going down 60%-40%.

LiveWell supported and campaigned for Proposition 110. We are disappointed to see the measure, supported by over 500 organizations and individuals, fail. LiveWell supported Proposition 110 as it not only addressed the state’s crumbling highway system, but also provided funding to local governments that could be used for road, bridge, or multimodal projects, as well as creating the Multimodal Options Fund to be used for walk, bike, transit projects, including mobility options for seniors and the disabled in urban and rural areas alike.

Proposition 110 was a reasonable response to Colorado’s transportation crisis. Currently, most of Colorado’s transportation funding comes from the 1992 gas tax that is not tied to inflation, gas prices, or the economy – and certainly does not factor in the increasing fuel efficiency of today’s and tomorrow’s cars. Without Proposition 110, it is not clear how the state will chip away at over $9 billion in backlogged transportation projects – not to mention future planning for needs as our state continues to grow. While it was clear from Tuesday’s vote that Coloradans don’t have an appetite for increasing sales taxes to address our many infrastructure needs, something has to be done. As we head into 2019, we, along with our coalition of partners, will look to the legislature to eek more money out of our constrained state budget to address our growing infrastructure issues. This will sadly be a Band-Aid and not the substantive fix we need.

And it wasn’t just taxes Coloradans were clearly not interested in passing on the statewide ballot. Voters also rejected four of the five remaining statewide amendments by wide margins:  Amendment 74 (property compensation) was defeated 54%-46%; Amendment 75 (increasing campaign contribution limits) died on 54%-34%; Proposition 109 (roads only with no tax increase) went down 61%-39%; and, Proposition 112 (oil and gas setbacks) was defeated 56%-44%.

Colorado did, however, pass Proposition 111 (payday lending limits) by a huge margin, 77%-23%, sending a strong message to payday lending companies (LiveWell supported this issue). Voters also passed five of the six measures referred to the ballot by the Colorado Legislature, including: a prohibition on slavery; a technical ballot revision on how judges are listed; the redefinition of industrial hemp; and the creation of two non-partisan commissions who will draw the political boundaries for Congress and the Colorado Legislature following each decade census. The one referred measure the voters rejected was reducing the eligible age from 25 to 21 for running for a seat in the legislature.

And one last note: LiveWell supported the “Healthy Food for Denver Kids” initiative, or Ordinance 302, on the Denver ballot. We were happy to see the efforts of many of our local Denver partners come to fruition when this measure, levying a .08 percent sales tax increase, passed by a wide 58%-42% margin. Denver will be able to use this funding, expected to raise $100 million over the 10-year tax period, to increase access to healthy foods for food-insecure and hungry kids.