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Out of eighteen state Senate seats up for election, only four are “competitive.” These Senate districts have less than five percentage points separating Democratic and Republican registration. They also have Unaffiliated registration up to 39% of voters.

The fight for these seats puts four Democratic women, or the Four Musketierres, against two men and two women on the GOP side. As of the latest donor reports, the musketierres, Faith Winter in SD-24, Jesse Danielson in SD-20, Brittany Pettersen in SD-22, and Tammy Story in SD-16, are pummeling their opponents in their checking accounts.  However, recent news reports say the Koch brothers will spend a few million to control these seats.

Incumbent GOP state Sen. Tim Neville, SD-16, father of House minority leader Rep. Patrick Neville, is short almost $140,000 to Tammy Story’s $300,000. She has outraised her three incumbent musketierre sisters in a sign of her prowess. Story lost the House district 25 race in 2016 to Rep. Tim Leonard in a district that leaned Republican. SD-16 also leaned Republican in 2016, but it’s gained Democratic momentum in its north end that includes parts of Boulder and Denver.  Neville is targeted by the Kochs to receive their help.

Rep. Faith Winter, Democrat from HD-35, wants to unseat Republican state Sen. Beth Martinez-Humenik, who grabbed the district from Democrats in an upset in 2014. Martinez-Humenik is the most moderate Republican in the Senate. Of the 422 bills in the 2018 session signed by the Governor, Martinez-Humenik voted NO nine times and Winter voted NO twice. In comparison, Sen. Neville voted NO 77 times.

As an indication of how much this seat means to Democrats, Winter has outraised her opponent by about $210,000. The Democratic party pitched in $10,000 as recorded in the September filing.

Rep. Jesse Danielson, D-HD24, is running against Christine Jensen, a mortgage banker from Jefferson County. Jensen is putting up a fight. She’s garnered $101,191 to Danielson’s $220,193. In 2014, state Sen. Cheri Jahn eked out a win by about 600 votes. The district leans ever-so-slightly Democratic, by 1.5% with 38.6% undecided. The Democratic party has sent $25,000 to Danielson in the most recent reporting period.  The Kochs see an opportunity here to pound Danielson.  She's already on the butt end of ads that accuse her of being insufficiently supportive of public education funding.  Her votes in this area match other Democrats.

Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-HD28, meets Tony Sanchez in the contest for SD-22. Sanchez took on state Sen. Andy Kerr in 2014 and lost by a small margin. In 2018, Pettersen has a more comfortable Democratic registration advantage at 2.9%, and she’s outraised Sanchez by $116,000. The Democratic party gave Pettersen $15,000 according to September filings. Sanchez’s biggest donor in the period is Rocky Mountain Gun Owners at $7200.

The Four Musketierres have turned to the same marketing mail firm: Mad Dog Mail. This outfit out of Florida has run and won lots of Colorado state Senate campaigns over the last decade. It knows Colorado like the back of its paw.

The four GOP candidates are under the radar about their spending. Christine Jensen pitched $3500 to Rearden Strategic, the Republican agency that attacked Cynthia Coffman in her unsuccessful race for governor and ridiculed state Sen. Kevin Priola over his support for electric vehicles. Rearden Strategy also runs Advancing Colorado. Rearden’s president is Joe Neville.

Rearden Strategic does not appear in Sen. Tim Neville’s expense account. Neville’s biggest expenditure in the September filing is to the US Post Office at $141. His largest expense in August was $314 to Vista Print.

Republicans are relying on dark money to get them across the finish line. The Democrats’ Mad Dog Mail has faced such attacks before. All those unaffiliated voters better get prepared for the onslaught. It’s enough to make a voter want to register in a party and cut the mail by half.

To see what may happen in the 2018 elections, check out these trends in voter registration over the last decade.

Since 2008, the state has added 550,000 residents, a “pseudo city” with a population size between Denver and Colorado Springs. The state had 2.44 million voters in 2008 at 35% GOP, 35% Dems, 30% Unaffiliateds (UAFs) with active voters at 76% of the total.

In 2010, with the Tea Party movement, voter registration dropped by 600,000 and active participation sagged to 56%. Republicans took the lead of active voters at 39%, with Dems at 34% and UAFs at 27%. The impact of the Great Recession hit hard on voter activity. Dems and UAFs dropped out.

By 2014, the numbers began to change. Active voter registrations rebounded at 81% of total voters and UAFs beat out both parties for registration at 35% with 33% for the GOP and 31% for Dems. In 2016, active voter registrations surged to 87%.

Today, there are 3.2 million active voters, 82% of the total. Democrats have taken a slight lead of 16,500 over the GOP in active voter registrations, with the two parties splitting the percentage at 31% to 31%. UAFs have almost reached the 2010 Republican peak of active voters at 38%.

Voter registration increases will affect the top of metro Denver most, with Broomfield County up 16.6% since 2014, Adams County up 7%, and Arapahoe County up 12%. Looking south, Douglas County registrations increased 14.8% and El Paso County bumped up 11.8%.

Boulder and Denver Counties declined in registration and Jeffco was stable at a 2.3% increase.

Digging deeper, problems for Republicans show up in how active voter registrations currently look. Broomfield County Democrats show a 20% increase in active voter registrations since 2014, Republicans gained 1%. Arapahoe County Dems saw an 11.8% increase since 2014, Republicans got .05%. Jeffco Dems gained 3%, the GOP dropped -7%. Even El Paso County and Douglas County have flu symptoms for Republicans, with Dems increasing their active voters by over 10% to the GOP’s 4.8% in El Paso and 13% to 5.5% in Douglas.

The red wave in 2010 surged on low voter turnout and unrest over the economy. Both the economy and voter turnout have since strengthened. It’s an 11% active voter turnaround for UAFs, from their low of 27% in 2010 to their high today at 38%. The state’s recent primaries confirm the trend.

Both parties have experienced losses to the UAF category in active voter percentages, but the GOP, according to the numbers, is on a black diamond slope with lots of bumps.

What’s different between 2010 and 2018 is that the UAF category has increased so substantially. Old political theory assumed that UAF voters were uninterested and detached. That clearly is not the case now. The 1.2 million active unaffiliated voters in Colorado hold the cards.

Subscribe for only $150 to Colorado Capitol Watch for complete access to the CCW platform, including a webpage for each candidate, donor information, votes for legislator candidates, and much more.  Make reports for clients.  Get the most current voter registration data.  See 2014 voter performance numbers for the State Senate and 2016 State House.  Follow the most contested races.  Just contact us at to sign up!

Phil Weiser raised a lot of money to defeat Rep. Joe Salazar by a little bit in the state primary. He’s going to need to raise even more to defeat Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler in the general election.

In the August report, Brauchler raised $29,195.00 and spent $17,191.87. Weiser raised $260,902.15 and spent $34,149.98. The Democratic party is making an early investment in Weiser with $39,000. The Colorado Conservation Action Fund and two labor unions pitched in another $13,000. Weiser received 139 donations at $1000 or more, many of which can be more than doubled into the November general election. Almost 1000 people have contributed to his campaign since the primary.

Brauchler's situation

Brauchler didn’t face a primary so he built his campaign chest to the point where he and Weiser have about the same amount in dollars available to spend. But Brauchler has not shown himself to be a fundraising star like Weiser, as he received only six donations at $1000 or more since the primary. The Republican party may be sitting on some money that will eventually go Brauchler’s way, but the party didn’t make an early play.

Brauchler is using Cutter Consulting LLC for his digital marketing. The Cutters have a sturdy, local reputation, as Jack Cutter “was instrumental in flipping the Colorado State Senate to the Republican majority in 2014.” Sara Cutter does the “nose-to-tail sausage grind” on campaigns, canvassing, and petitions. GS Strategy Group from Idaho provides research. According to GSSG, the nation’s voters are “fiscally conservative and socially tolerant.” GSSG’s data will undoubtedly inform Cutter Consulting’s digital work for ad placement and messaging.

Weiser's situation

Weiser used DSPolitical to spearhead his primary campaign. Its expertise is digital targeting to reach voters, influencers, and constituents. It’s located in DC and Oakland, CA. DSPolitical has done a run- through in the primary. Now Weiser has to replay the script for the general election.


Since the primary, he’s added a local digital company, Fruition, from Denver. Weiser paid DSPolitical $43,000, as reflected in his July 2 report, and he’s paid Fruition almost $6500 based on the August report. He had almost $7000 in his July 15 payroll.

The Advantages

Brauchler’s advantage is name recognition through his role as district attorney, especially trying the James Holmes case. Weiser’s advantage is that he knows exactly who voted in the Democratic primary and can expand his targets from there. It looks like Weiser can raise as much money as necessary to position him for a win. Democrats had a significantly higher turnout than Republicans in the primary.

Brauchler will have to deal with GSSG’s finding that most voters are “socially tolerant.” He did support the “red flag” legislation on gun control that lost in the Republican controlled Senate, but that position can play for and against him at the same time.

Weiser defeated the more liberal candidate in the Democratic primary so he may have come out of that race with a more moderate reputation, but that may play for and against him at the same time.

This race will undoubtedly be highly contested with two capable professionals heading into a brutal campaign season.  PEN

In the grand total of many things political, Democrats did well in Colorado in 2016, going against the fly-over state trend.  Even so, at the state level, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  The state House in 2017 will be somewhat more breguet replica watches Democratic, but the state Senate breaks once again at 18-17, advantage Republicans.

Statewide, unaffiliated voters broke toward Democrats at about 4.5 percent.  With party registrations in November at almost even between Democrats and Republicans, both parties needed unaffiliated voters to give them more votes, and Democrats won that battle decisively.

Congressional race results show that nothing is going to change in those seats, unless incumbents retire, until redistricting in 2021.

Diane Mitsch-Busch, HD26

Democrats in the state House of Representatives pounded Republicans.  In most contested seats, Democrats won well above their percentage of registered voters.  Rep. Diane Mitsch-Bush,  punched 18.5 percent of votes by registration above her diminutive size.  Tammy Story, who lost the HD25 race, made that contest much closer than expected, showing how Democrats are gradually taking control of Jefferson County.  

The state Senate story continues to show how Adams County is changing, and the results follow the same candidate, former state Rep. Jenise May.  In 2014, May lost HD30 to JoAnn Windholz, a right-right Republican.  This year, May lost her race for SD25 to Republican state Rep. Kevin Priola, with Priola gaining 11 percent more votes than registration breakdown predicts.

The Windholz race for HD30 went to the Democrats as Dafna Michaelson won, but Michaelson didn’t win by the Democratic share of registered voters.  Parts of Adams County may parallel the economic environment of the Midwest with some blue collar Democrats switching their votes without switching their registration. 

Pueblo County is another fly-over state trend follower.  Clinton lost Pueblo by .5 percent, significantly underperforming US Senator Michael Bennet, who won by 9.5 percent.  Rep. Clarice Navarro on the east side of Pueblo county hit very high approval numbers.  Her district has grown in Republican registration since she was elected and she won by 15.5 percent.

Some districts just can’t make up their minds whom they want for legislator.  In  2014, former state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger lost SD19 to state Sen. Laura Woods.  This year she recaptured the seat.  SD19 has had three state Senators since 2013 when Evie Hudak resigned under pressure from the 2nd amendment voters in the district.

HD59 in Durango is an ancient Greek dramedy with the seat bouncing back and forth between Rep. J. Paul Brown-R and the McLachlan family-D.  Paul had the seat in 2010.  He lost it to former Rep. Mike McLachlan in 2012 by a quarter inch.  McLachlan lost to Paul in 2014 by a quarter inch.  Now Paul lost the seat again, this time to Barbara McLachlan, Mike McLachlan’s wife.  She won by a 1.46 percent victory landslide.

SD19 in turmoil since 2012

North Jeffco is a microcosm for the nation.  Laura Woods and Rachel Zenzinger hold opposite views on many issues, including gun control, public education policy, and health care.  Their campaign wasn’t pretty.  That district has gone through maximum election turmoil, including the recall of school board candidate Julie Williams in 2015.  Somehow, though, the neighborhoods remain neighborhoods.  PEN 

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