Colorado Democrats braced themselves for the possibility of losing seats in the state legislature on Election Day. Instead, the party expanded its already sizable majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate.
Democratic candidates rotated GOP-held districts from Colorado Springs to Loveland to the Roaring Fork Valley, unseated Republican incumbents — including a representative expected to chair the House GOP caucus — and won in areas designated as conservative strongholds apply.
Some of the excitement can be traced back to last year’s decennial redistribution process. Others are simply the result of Democratic victories in areas of the state that have supported Republicans in recent election cycles.
It seems that some of the victories came as surprises for both parties.
A Colorado Sun analysis of political groups’ spending in state legislative contests showed that only one of the eight upturned seats in the House and Senate was the target of significant funds. Another, House District 43 in Douglas County, which was supposed to favor the GOP by 7 percentage points, saw no outside spending at all.
Democrats are flipping five seats in the GOP House of Representatives
Votes are still being tabulated, and district clerks have until Friday to tally all healed and foreign and military ballots, but all close races in the Colorado House have been called in Democrats’ favor.
Because of the victories, Democrats will have a supermajority of 46-19, allowing them to override vetoes without Republicans and refer constitutional amendment measures to the ballot. That’s an increase of five seats from their current majority of 41-24 in the chamber.
Here are the five House seats that switched from Republican to Democrat:
- State Sen. Tammy Story defeated Republican Assemblyman Colin Larson in House District 25 in Jefferson County. According to an impartial analysis of the 2016-2020 election results, the district is tilted 2 percentage points in favor of Republicans. This year, the story ran for the House of Representatives after it was pulled into a high-Republican Senate district during the reelection process. Larson was expected to be in a house GOP leadership role. Story led Tuesday morning by 2 percentage points.
- Democrat Bob Marshall defeated Republican Kurt Huffman in House District 43 in Douglas County. The district was represented by Republican Representative Kevin Van Winkle of Highlands Ranch, who was elected to the Senate on Tuesday. According to the analysis of past election results, the district rejects 7 percentage points in favor of the GOP. Marshall gained less than 1 percentage point Tuesday morning.
- Democrat Elizabeth Velasco defeated Republican Rep. Perry Will of New Castle. in House District 57, spanning Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties and centered on the Roaring Fork Valley. Will was expected to lose in the district that favored Democrats by 16 percentage points after the reallocation. Will was down 8 percentage points Tuesday morning.
- Democrat Stephanie Vigil defeated Republican Dave Donelson in House District 16 in El Paso County. It was an open seat that tipped 3 percentage points in Republican favor after the reallocation. Republican Andres Pico now represents the district but chose not to run for re-election this year. Vigil won Tuesday morning by 2 percentage points.
The unconnected is our twice-weekly newsletter about Colorado politics and politics.
Each issue is filled with exclusive news, analysis and other behind-the-scenes information you won’t find anywhere else. Sign up today to see what all the craze is about.
One of the most notable seat changes occurred in House District 19 in Erie, where Republican Rep. Dan Woog lost to Democrat Jennifer Parenti in a district that tilts 2 percentage points in favor of the GOP.
Parenti’s win — she gained 3 percentage points Tuesday morning — is ironic because Boulder County Rep. Tracey Bernett changed her address to avoid running against Woog in House District 19, in what was considered a Republican-leaning tossup. Her home in Longmont was moved into District 19 and out of House District 12, which she currently represents.
Bernett changed her address to an apartment in Louisville to run again this year in District 12, which leans heavily in favor of the Democrats. Earlier this month, Boulder County prosecutors charged her with three felonies and two misdemeanors stemming from claims that she never actually moved into the home.
The Colorado Sun asked Bernett last week if she planned to continue serving at the statehouse amid the allegations. She pulled a tiny piece of paper from her wallet and appeared to be reading, “I have a lawyer who will do this for me. Can’t comment.” – before walking away.
Republicans are losing Senate seats
In the Senate, Democrats will have a 23-12 advantage, one vote short of a supermajority, after Democrats flipped three districts from the GOP.
Democrat Janice Marchman, a former school board member, beat Republican Sen. Rob Woodward from Loveland in Senate District 15, which stretches from Loveland through western Boulder and Larimer counties, including the cities of Estes Park, Nederland, Lyons and Eldorado Springs. She won by nearly 1,000 votes Tuesday morning in the district deemed total manslaughter — with neither party having an advantage ahead of Election Day.
Democratic Rep. Dylan Roberts beat former Eagle City Councilman Matt Solomon in Senate District 8 in northwestern Colorado, who is currently represented by Republican Senator Bob Rankin. Rankin was inducted into District 5 as part of the reelection process, but will not stand for re-election until 2024.
The new District 8 is leaning 7 percentage points in favor of the Democrats. Roberts gained 12 percentage points on Tuesday morning.
The Marchman-Woodward and Roberts-Solomon races were considered two of seven state Senate competitions that year. Democrats needed to win two to keep their majority – which is currently 21-14 – in the chamber. Instead, the Democrats won all seven.
Another district the Democrats won on Election Day was District 11 in Colorado Springs. It is currently represented by Democratic Senator Pete Lee, who did not seek re-election. State Representative Tony Exum won in the district on November 8, beating Republican Sen. Dennis Hisey, who moved to the district after being unable to run in his old district – District 2 – because of a new districting.
Democratic Sen. Faith Winter won Nov. 8 in Colorado’s 25th Senate District, which was redraw during the reelection process and focuses on Broomfield, Westminster and Northglenn. She currently represents District 24. Currently, District 25 is represented by Senator Kevin Priola, a Henderson Democrat who recently changed his party affiliation from Republicans and gave the Democrats an additional seat in the chamber.
Priola was moved to District 13 during the redistricting process. The GOP-leaning seat is up for grabs in 2024 as Priola is time-limited.
Republicans actually turned one district blue. That was Senate District 4, Story’s old seat, where GOP Rep. Mark Baisley defeated Democrat Jeff Ravage on Election Day. As we mentioned earlier, the district’s boundaries were redrawn last year to tilt about 24 percentage points in favor of the GOP. It extends from southwestern Jefferson County into Park, Lake, Chaffee, Fremont, Teller, and Custer counties.