Oct 29, 2023 - Election

5 storylines to watch in Colorado's 2023 election

Illustration of the Colorado flag with a checkmark and box instead of a C and the sun.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Colorado's odd-year election is certainly not ordinary.

What's happening: The ballot features a billion-dollar rewrite of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, 75 local measures, and dozens of high-stakes races for mayor and school board.

  • The expected low turnout only amplifies the race.

Why it matters: The choices voters make in 2023 will reshape communities and impact family budgets for years to come.

What to watch: Here are five storylines to watch ahead of the Nov. 7 election.

1. Denver power play: Mayor Mike Johnston is flexing his political muscle five months after his big win and asking voters to pick his favorite candidates for Denver school board.

  • Johnston is a former educator and his endorsement of the reform slate of candidates (not those backed by the local teachers union) is the first major test of his influence.

2. TABOR overhaul: Proposition HH is the latest attempt by Gov. Jared Polis and Democrats to erode TABOR's spending protections and provide more money for state budget priorities. This time, they paired it with a decrease in property tax rates that aims to soften the 40% average increase coming next year.

  • The battle lines are similar to prior efforts that failed, but Democrats are more optimistic that voters will support this tradeoff.

3. The top race: The contest for mayor in Aurora — the state's third-largest city — is the most high-profile local election in Colorado. Mike Coffman, a former Republican congressman, is seeking re-election as he plots a referendum that would make his position as mayor even more powerful.

  • Coffman, who led a conservative takeover of the council, faces one of his most vocal opponents, Juan Marcano, a progressive who in the past has aligned himself with Democratic Socialists of America.

4. Schools in spotlight: A national conservative movement to control school boards is making a big push in Colorado this election with candidates putting lightning-rod issues of race, gender, and history at the center of typically nonpartisan races.

  • This is the first election with limits on campaign donations to school board candidates, but the heightened attention is leading to nearly $2 million in fundraising statewide, on par with prior elections, the Colorado Sun found.

5. Local ballot measures: Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, and more than a dozen other municipalities across the state are seeking voter approval for tax hikes to pay for services ranging from preschool and public safety to transit and affordable housing.

  • Sterling and Lochbuie are asking approval for marijuana retail cities within their limits nearly a decade after it first became legal.

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