Amy Stephens

Everything you need to know about Colorado’s elections

After a long-awaited night, the results of the 2018 midterm elections are in and the determination of Colorado’s state-wide leadership has been decided. The Colorado Secretary of State’s (SOS) office is reporting as of the morning of November 7,2018, that votes have been counted and the following races have been called based on majority percentages.

As of November 7,108, total active registered voters were counted at 3,900,192. With 51% reporting, records indicate 1,973,369 ballots have been casted. Final numbers on active registered voters and actual votes cast by party affiliation will not be available until after this report. As of now, this report will reflect the most recent result reporting by the Colorado counties.

The story of the 2018 Colorado mid-term elections is the independent voter under the age of 45. This voter leaned Democratic but rejected ballot issues typically supported by Democrats. What we saw versus numbers in the 2014 mid-term elections was significant growth in Independent voters.

In 2014 the voter numbers were:
41% – R 32% – D 27% – U

In 2018 the voter registration looks much different:
34% – R 34% – D 32% – U

Republicans also entered the 2018 election with a serious deficit in voter registration compared to Democrats, who had been busy growing their voter registration by 50,000 + voters.

The growth in Independent voters under the age of 45 has increased dramatically – and this group typically votes late and not necessarily along party lines – though the growth in Independent voters leans Democratic. This group is determining future elections in Colorado – unless Republicans can figure out how to register more voters and moderate their message and communication in the future.

A look inside the state elected offices, the state legislature, and the 2018 amendments and propositions can be found in this report as results continue to roll in.

Colorado State Elected Offices

Colorado Governor & Lieutenant Governor
Jared Polis & Dianne Primavera (D) 
Colorado Secretary of State
Jena Griswold (D) 
Colorado State Treasurer
Dave Young (D) 
Colorado Attorney General
Phil Weiser (D) 

US Congressional Offices

United States Congress – District 1
Diana DeGette (D) 
United States Congress – District 2
Joe Neguse (D) 
United States Congress – District 3
Scott Tipton (R) 
United States Congress – District 4
Ken Buck (R) 
United States Congress – District 5
Doug Lamborn (R) 
United States Congress – District 6
Jason Crow (D) 
United States Congress – District 7
Ed Perlmutter (D) 

State Legislature – Colorado House of Representatives

If there is one thing that can be certain, the 2018 primary election was highly contested in both parties, with 15 primaries faced off to compete for the Colorado House of Representatives. Nine Democratic and Six Republican primaries were held this summer with 4 seated Republicans challenged. Two of the four incumbent primary races were lost by the sitting state representatives (HD 47- Otero County & HD 57 Adams County). All 65 House Districts were up for grabs on election night as 45 incumbents faced re-election. Before election night, it was seen that we would only see 20 new faces in the House due to termed-out legislators, primary loss, or the vacating of a seat. In 2018 after the Democrats losing a seat mid-session (HD 35 – Thornton), they held the majority by 7 seats.

As of 10:00 am on 11/7/2018, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office is reporting that the Democrats picked up 2 House seats and regained their lost HD 35-Thornton seat. Here is where it gets interesting. As of the most recent reporting, Democrats lost HD 50 held by Democrat Representative Dave Young (Greeley), but picked up 2 seats HD 25 (Rep. Tim Leonard -Evergreen CO) and HD 37 (Cole Wist – Arapahoe County) This now increases the Democrat majority by 11 seats.

State Legislature – Colorado Senate

This election cycle, nearly half of the Senate (17 Seats) were up for re-election, giving the Democrats a chance at picking up seats in districts where unaffiliated voters are considered strong. In order GOP to have maintained control, they would have needed to Senate District 24 (Northern Adams County) red and with any luck, flip another highly competitive seat such as Senate District 20 (Western Jefferson County) or Senate District 16 (Northern Jefferson County).

On Election night, we saw a major shakeup. For months all eyes were on THREE Senate District seats t

hat most predicted that would have major impact and would determine the fate of the majority and who would control the Senate in 2019. It is safe to say that that all was left on the field this election. It has been said that Senate District 24 (Northern Adams County) was the mostly watched and most expensive Senate race with the Senate Districts 16 (Northern Jefferson County) and 20 (Western Jefferson County) to follow. The surprise of the evening was to see incumbent Senator Tim Neville of Jefferson County lose his seat to Democrat Tammy Story by a little less than ten-thousand votes.

Amendments and Propositions

Passed

Amendment A (Constitutional)
Description: Amendment A will remove language from the state constitution that allows slavery and involuntary servitude to be used as punishment for the conviction of a crime. Proponents, including Abolish Slavery Colorado, argue that the constitution should be updated because it represents a time much different than today.

Amendment W (Constitutional)
Description: Amendment W will change the ballot format for judicial retention elections. This essentially condenses repetitive information and will display an easier format when voted for judge or justice retention.

Amendments Y&Z (Constitutional)
Description: Amendments Y&Z will allow independent commissions to draw electoral districts for state legislators and members of congress. Proponents argue that this measure will take politics and partisanship out of the redistricting, increase transparency and give unaffiliated voters a seat at the table. Under both Amendments, newly created 12-member commissions that would approve new districts. They would be equally divided between unaffiliated voters and the state’s largest political parties–currently Democratic and Republican.

Proposition 111 “Limits on Payday Lenders” (Statutory)
Description: Proposition would reduce and cap the annual percentage rate (APR) a payday lender could charge and expand what constitutes unfair or deceptive trade practices. Proponents argue residents are paying too much for small loans, and can end up borrowing money to pay off existing loans. Opponents worry about the elimination of payday lenders all together should consumers go more for traditional types of credit.

Defeated

Amendment 73 (Constitutional)
Description: Amendment 73 would have increased funding for public schools in Colorado by changing the state’s tax system. The Measure would/will raise the individual income tax rate for those with a taxable income of $150,00 or more, increase corporate income tax, and change property tax rates. Amendment 73 would/will generate $1.6 billion of new revenue in 2019-20 school year.

Amendment 74 (Constitutional)
Description: Amendment 74 would have required state or local government in Colorado to compensate a property owner if a new law or regulation reduced the fair market value of his or her property. Proponents included the Colorado Farm Bureau and the oil and gas industry. Opponents include the Colorado Municipal League.

Amendment 75 (Constitutional)
Description: Amendment 75 would have relaxed some state campaign contribution restrictions if a candidate in a given race gave $1 million or more to his or her campaign or third-party committee. Proponents say it would help level the playing field between wealthy candidates and others. Opponents worry that the measure would further complicate the state’s campaign finance system.

Amendment V (Constitutional)
Description: Amendment V would have lowered the age requirement to serve in the state legislature from 25 years of age to 21 years of age.

Proposition 109 “Fix Our Damn Roads” (Statutory)
Description: Proposition 109 would have directed the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to issue $3.5 billion in bonds for more than 60 road work projects across the state. The measure differs from Proposition 110 in that it would NOT raise taxes or fees, and does not include any money for public transit. It also forces the legislature to spend more on highway projects at the expense of other state programs. Opponents say the measure fails to address ongoing maintenance costs and spends too much on debt servicing (the state would end paying $5.2 billion for the $3.5 billion it would borrow).

Proposition 110 “Let’s Go Colorado” (Statutory)
Description: Proposition 110 would have increased Colorado’s sale tax from 2.9 % to 3.52% and allow the state to borrow up to $6 billion. The $767 million generated annually would go toward a variety of road, transit, pedestrian, and bike projects that Proposition 109 does not address. The measure differs from 109 in that it raises taxes, allows state and local governments to choose which projects to pursue, and includes money for multimodal transportation projects. Opponents say that the state should cut other programs to spend more on transportation. They also say it spends too much on multimodal transportation and relies on a sales tax, which they say disproportionately affects low-income residents.

Proposition 112 “ Increase setbacks for Oil and Gas Operations”
Descriptions: Proposition 112 would have required any new oil and gas development not on federal land to be set back at least 2,500 fee from homes and “vulnerable areas” like playgrounds, lakes and rivers. Proponents say this is a safety measure and gives property owners greater certainty about new locations. Opponents argue would eliminate new oil and gas activity on most-federal land in the state and would cost the state jobs. State and local governments would also receive less in tax revenue should it pass the opponents believe.

Conclusion

As a bipartisan team dedicated to solutions oriented answers for our clients, we see great opportunity in the days ahead. Our relationships are consistently bipartisan and we always see opportunities to work together.

What does a blue tsunami mean for Colorado in the days and months ahead and moving towards the 2020 elections? We believe there are a few important factors to consider:

  • Since the Great Depression, midterm elections are typically swing elections and this one is no different. In 2010 and 2014 Republicans had huge gains in response to President Obama’s Agenda even though Obama overwhelmingly won his second presidential election in 2012. Colorado went for Hillary Clinton by 5% in 2016 even though President Trump stunned with a winning election. Nationally and in Colorado that swing toward Democratic control was to be expected however, in Colorado’s elections the Democratic Party ran good campaigns and largely spoke to independent voters to gain an overwhelming lead in Colorado.
  • Republicans have to realize that voter registration and reaching independent voters with a message that resonates with their concerns is paramount, if Republicans are to remain competitive in the future.
  • Historically, when Democrats have controlled all branches of Government, they have over played their hand legislatively which has created a backlash from voters and recall elections. Stakeholder inclusiveness, and a bipartisan approach to Colorado’s challenges is of the upmost importance moving forward in 2019.
  • Rural Colorado legislators will continue to be very important in in any legislative process in the future. Their challenges do not go away no matter which party is in control.
  • Colorado has enjoyed tremendous growth and a booming economy in the past 8 years. Colorado’s transportation needs in the legislature must be front and center if Colorado is to remain a vibrant state.
  • All issues are local. Local control, home rule, local growth play an ever-increasing role in Colorado’s future. We see great opportunities in the days and months ahead for innovation and great ideas coming together to prosper Colorado.

We look forward to working with you as a new year approaches. Do not hesitate to call us with any questions or concerns we are here at your service.

Denver’s Gorsuch in spotlight as Trump nears SCOTUS pick

President Donald Trump will announce his nomination for the United States Supreme Court Tuesday evening, filling a months-long vacancy made by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year.

Denver native, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch of the Tenth Circuit of Appeals (which has jurisdiction over the District of Colorado), is reportedly on the president’s short list for the bench. A graduate of Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford University, Gorsuch, 49, has a unique combination of Western roots and East Coast experience. After law school, Judge Gorsuch served as Law Clerk to Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals, for the D.C. Circuit, and later as Law Clerk to Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy.

In 2006, President George W. Bush appointed Judge Gorsuch, then age 39, to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Before Judge Gorsuch’s appointment to the Tenth Circuit, he was in private practice for ten years at a Washington D.C. law firm and a Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General at the Department of Justice.

Eric Citron of SCOTUSblog has described Judge Gorsuch as “the most natural successor to Justice Antonin Scalia on Trump’s shortlist, both in terms of his judicial style and his substantive approach.”  Judicial commentators note that Judge Gorsuch has a brilliant legal mind and a reputation for being an active questioner during oral argument.  Further, Judge Gorsuch’s written opinions have been known for their clarity, thorough reasoning, and commitment to a textual analysis of the law.

Since his appointment to the Tenth Circuit, Judge Gorsuch has authored numerous opinions, and received attention for his concurrence in Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius and his majority opinion and concurrence in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch.  In Hobby Lobby, Judge Gorsuch sided with the company owners and held that the parties’ understanding regarding the tenets of their faith should prevail over the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide contraception insurance coverage to employees.  As a result of this opinion, Judge Gorsuch became known as a defender of religious liberties.  In Gutierrez-Brizuela, Judge Gorsuch advocated for ending the Chevron doctrine to executive branch agencies’ interpretation of the statutes they implement.  The Judge’s a position departs significantly from Supreme Court precedent dating to the 1980s.

Given Judge Gorsuch’s reputation and history on the Tenth Circuit, it is likely that if appointed and confirmed for a seat on the Supreme Court, he would uphold a conservative judicial theory in accord with principles of limited government and state’s rights—a philosophy that is strikingly similar to Justice Scalia.

Until President Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court becomes public on Tuesday, January 31, Judge Gorsuch—and the country—patiently await to learn the future of the Court.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Legalized Marijuana in Colorado shows large Emerging Gray Market

The interim committee on the Cost-Benefit Analysis of Legalized Marijuana met with some disturbing news from the Governor’s state office on marijuana regulation in Colorado.

Andrew Freedman, Director of the Marijuana Coordination for the state of Colorado, told the committee that the challenge to Amendments 20 & 64 which allows for the medical and recreational uses of marijuana is that a gray market is emerging under the guise of caregivers and patients using the ability to get the maximum 99 plants to sell for profit mostly out of state. “Even when law enforcement gets close to the bottom of finding they aren’t patients or caregivers, the criminals then flip and say “OK, we are now a cooperative – we are growing plants for our friends to assist them.” Friedman says the large loopholes created in Amendments 64 and 20 have allowed criminals to grow and sell out of state often for $5,000 to $6,000 a pound for marijuana.

The Governor’s office is exploring ways to stop the gray market simply because of exposure and risk to youth and growth of organized crime.  Guardrails mentioned by the office are in draft-proposal only and admittedly needs much more discussion.  Ideas are:

  1. Statutorily define “assist” as it exists in Amendment 64. The goal is that patients can still be assisted, but will have to grow their six plants at their residence, hopefully addressing the “cooperative” loophole.
  2. Explore a hard plant count number limit – Colorado has a 99 plant limit – far beyond any other states whose average number is 12 plants.
  3. Tie the legal ability to register as a caregiver or patient that complies with local zoning restrictions – This would allow for zoning restrictions more than financial penalties but if one is going to have the protections of Amendments 20 & 64 then you would have to meet local zoning restrictions and requirements. There could still be growing in a commercial setting but through local zoning laws.
  4. Create a low tech tagging system – something being done in Rhode Island, allowing local law enforcement to do site checks to ensure plants are actually being delivered to patients. A zip tie with a patient number where the deliverer keeps one part of the receipt and patient keeps the other.
  5. Starting a fund for local law enforcement and DA’s – so they can prosecute gray and black market cases. Law enforcement reports that they need resources to prosecute these cases, particularly needing help in rural settings where there are less resources.

The Governor’s office is considering the above as a package to address the  gray market where they’ve already seized millions of dollars in assets, guns, thousands of pounds of marijuana, thousands of dollars in cash and credit cards.  Interim committee legislation discussion will continue now through December 2016 prior to the 2017 legislative session.

“Troublemakers” Colorado Delegates come around at the end of RNC Convention

They had the term “troublemaker” as a label before they even arrived at the RNC in Cleveland.  “Troublemaker” pins were made – now a collectors item – and then there was being placed at the far back of the convention center just in case things got out of control.

A few delegates leading the charge for “Never Trump” and asking for a “conscience clause” in the Rules Committee found out that while the RNC understood their right to protest – they were not going to have it disrupt the entire convention.  A desperate media looking for anything controversial seized on one protestor in particular making her a prime story before the con
vention began.

And how did it all turn out?  Like a whimper.  The Rules Committee prevailed.  The ringleader got her 15 minutes of fame, some walking out of the convention garnered a short tweet, but in the end – the majority of Colorado delegates came around to support the Trump/Pence ticket.

RNC ConventionThe reason?  The man they pledged allegiance to himself – Ted Cruz.  Cruz’s speech started with thank-you’s and then a touching story, but as the speech went on Colorado delegates and guests got the clear sense Cruz was not going to endorse Trump – and things got as ugly.

Posted from Jeff Crank, popular radio host in Colorado Springs, CO:

“As a former candidate who lost elections and faced the choice of endorsing my opponent after a hard-fought battle, it is gut-check time for Ted Cruz.  He will either write his own ticket or write his political obituary. Time to stand up and do the right thing.”

As Cruz was booed off the stage it was clear the Colorado delegates had a choice to make.  Some continued to defend Cruz, but by the end of the convention photos popped up of delegates with Trump hats or declarations that they would support the presidential nominee.

From DC to Denver

In addition to providing updates on policy, lobbying and regulatory issues in Colorado’s legislative and executive branches, Dentons’ Colorado Government Affairs team looks at political and policy developments in Washington, DC, that are pertinent to the state. Below we discuss the difficulties that California Senator Dianne Feinstein has faced mustering support on the Hill for her water policy bill, sweeping legislation that addresses recycling, storage, desalination and grants. On the home front, we look at the Colorado legislature’s difficulty crafting budgets 25 years after the state’s voters approved TABOR, arguably the most restrictive tax and spending limitation in the country.

News and legislative highlights this week


Federal news

Feinstein grappling with difficulty of water legislation

In an attempt to maximize water supply for the drought-plagued Western states, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a sweeping water policy bill that addresses recycling, storage, desalination and grants. But Feinstein admitted to the Sacramento Bee reported that she’s been having a tough time achieving buy-in from her Senate colleagues for the $1.3 billion initiative. In fact, the effort has been more challenging than her repeated attempts to renew the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004. The water bill, she told the publication’s editorial board, has already undergone 26 drafts, with 43 amendments in the last version alone.

Read more in the Sacramento Bee

The EPA is adjusting its priorities in the wake of criticism to their response to the Gold King Mine spill

The EPA’s top lawyer said that in the wake of the Flint, MI, lead drinking water and Gold King mine spill crises, the agency is adjusting its priorities to put greater focus on public health issues.

Read more at Law360 (subscription required)


Colorado news

Colorado legislature is budget, budget, budget, this week

The Colorado legislature debates the state budget this week and next with this year’s budget starting in the House. The $27 billion dollar budget, crafted by the Joint Budget Committee, is always a shell game of balance with the committee eliminating $59 million in taxpayer refunds under TABOR.

Read more in the Durango Herald

Colorado rain-barrel bill back on track, advances to Senate

HB 1005 by Senator Michael Merrifield advanced allowing rain barrels to capture water under the supervision of the state engineer. Three Republicans voted against the bill in the Senate committee, but the bill will advance to the full Senate floor. The bill enjoyed broad bipartisan support in the House.

Read more in the Denver Post

Colorado AG Coffman is weighing litigation in Gold King Mine spill

Addressing leaking mines throughout the state has become a priority, while Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is still looking into litigation regarding the Gold King Mine spill from August 2015.

Read more in the Denver Post