Nov 8, 2022 - Politics

What to watch on Election Day 2022 in Colorado

Illustration of a pair of aviator sunglasses over a divided blue and red background with elements of ballots.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Election Day will offer answers to major questions about the future of Colorado, as well as its current political and social landscape.

What's happening: The ballot features a prominent U.S. Senate race, four statewide contests including governor, and a host of state and local ballot measures.

What they're saying: We spoke to more than a dozen political strategists and experts across the ideological spectrum to get a sense of what to watch as the votes are counted.

A big GOP night … The national picture is expected to favor Republicans, who are projected to retake the U.S. House. GOP operatives are counting on that momentum to boost their candidates in down-ballot races for state treasurer and the state Senate, where Republicans need five big wins to retake the majority.

  • "I think Colorado will experience much more of the red wave this year than we did in 2010 in spite of the influx of people from the San Francisco area," says Greg Brophy, a lobbyist and former GOP lawmaker.

… or a Democratic breakwater? Democrats could blunt the GOP momentum with big wins in the governor's race and U.S. Senate battle — and Colorado could emerge as a national bright spot.

  • "Overall, I am struck by how different the landscape in Colorado looks and feels compared to the nation," says Alan Salazar, a veteran Democratic operative.
  • In the most favorable national environment for Republicans since 2010, the best they can hope for in Colorado is a red trickle, and even that's unlikely," says Democrat Curtis Hubbard.

8th District: All eyes are on this new congressional seat north of Denver, which Republicans see as a test case for the entire election and the party's best hope for a big win.

  • "If [GOP candidate] Barb Kirkmeyer is winning … by a clear victory, I think that bodes well for Republicans … because it tells me the red wave is really hitting Colorado," says Dick Wadhams, a longtime GOP strategist.
  • Democratic consultant Sheena Kadi sees Democrat Yadira Caraveo claiming victory in this district, where 40% of residents are Latino. "The winner of this new, diverse district will set the tone for the rest of the state and the country for their party," she says.

Is Colorado a blue state? Democrats swept into power four years ago in the 2018 midterm, and now they have to hold. Another round of victories will certainly color the state blue.

  • In close races, such as the 8th District, "the GOP really needs to win in an election context where the fundamentals point to GOP gains,” says Robert Preuhs, a political science professor at Metro State University.
  • "If not, we really need to move beyond calling Colorado a purple state — which, admittedly, few still do."

But the GOP faithful says not to write Republicans out of the equation.

  • "If these candidates are losing by a couple points, that's not irrelevancy, that's the brink of return," says Sage Naumann, a GOP communications strategist.

Geographic divide: On the Western Slope, Democratic party strategist Shad Murib says he's seeing warning signs "in places we shouldn't have problems in."

  • "We have extremely strong Democratic candidates … but getting party resources to Western Colorado has been harder this cycle than in previous years, and the outside groups' messaging has been Front Range focused and at odds with the candidates' own messaging," he adds.

Turnout demographics: Democrats ran up the tally in 2018 with strong turnout from younger voters.

"The return of ballots by those under age 45 is pretty anemic right now … but if younger people don't pick up the pace it will have a major impact on a host of races and ballot measures," says Lori Weigel, a pollster with roots in GOP politics.

  • "Age — along with party of course — is a defining difference on everything from how people perceive taxing themselves to drug laws to any number of issues Coloradans are being asked to consider this year."

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