November 28, 2022

Democrats have never held this amount of sustained control at the state or congressional level

The Colorado Republican Party podium is bare after a 2022 candidate watch party at the DoubleTree By Hilton in Greenwood Village. (Olivia Sun/The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Colorado Republicans came under fire Tuesday night, meaning that starting next year, the GOP will no longer hold any statewide elected office. And the party will have to wait until 2026 before they have a chance to change that.

That’s because there are no statewide offices up for re-election in 2024.

Also, the GOP was on track Wednesday morning to slip further into the minority in the Colorado Senate, so far, so they won’t have a realistic shot at retaking the chamber in 2024. There’s also a Republican majority in the Colorado Chamber. largely considered out of reach for the foreseeable future.

Democrats have never had this level of sustained power at the state or congressional level in Colorado.

“It’s very depressing if you’re a Republican,” said George Brauchler, a conservative radio host who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2018. He called his party’s losses in 2022 “epic.”

Brauchler spoke to The Sun Tuesday night at the Colorado GOP watch party at the DoubleTree Hotel in Greenwood Village, which was perhaps the saddest place in the state. It wasn’t even 10 p.m. when the ballroom was almost completely sold out, following concession speeches from U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea, Secretary of State nominee Pam Anderson, the treasurer candidate Lang Sias and John Kellner, who ran for attorney general.

A band played Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” to an audience of reporters busy digesting the GOP’s stunning defeats.

“The result is a tough pill to swallow,” O’Dea said in his concession speech to a hushed crowd around 8:30 p.m., when early returns showed him trailing Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet by 18 percentage points. “But that’s life in the big city.”

O’Dea, a first-time candidate and owner of a Denver construction company, ran as a moderate in hopes of winning over voters in a state that has been increasingly leaning toward Democrats. It didn’t work, largely. (O’Dea trailed Bennet by 12 percentage points Wednesday morning.)

In La Plata County, Bennet received 59% of the vote to O’Dea’s 38%.

Heidi Ganahl, a University of Colorado regent who was the only Republican elected statewide, lost her bid to unseat Democratic Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday. The contest was called by Fox News, playing in the DoubleTree Ballroom, minutes after the polls closed. Ganahl was trailing Polis by 18 percentage points Wednesday morning.

In La Plata County, Polis received 62% of the vote to Ganahl’s 36%.

Former state Sen. Greg Brophy, an Eastern Plains Republican, predicted a good night for Republicans heading into Election Day. Wednesday morning I was in disbelief.

“I’m blown away,” he said. “In shock.”

Kristi Burton Brown, chairwoman of the Colorado GOP, said Tuesday’s results show where she “really” stands politically “and whether or not Colorado has become another state like Washington or California.”

Republicans, he said, will now have to focus district-by-district on legislative races and local elections — school board, mayoral and city council races, for example — until they have another shot at state office. The US House races, which are decided every two years, will also be a major focus for the party.

“If it’s district by district,” he said, “we’re going to fight district by district.”

Burton Brown said the GOP’s next big focus will be in Aurora, where they hope to keep a Republican in Mike Coffman’s mayor’s office and a Republican majority on the City Council. (Aurora’s municipal races are technically nonpartisan.)

And then there’s the 2024 presidential race. But no Republican presidential candidate has won Colorado since George W. Bush in 2004.

In the Colorado Senate, where Republicans hoped to win a majority and be able to stop Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ agenda, the GOP needed to win six of seven competitive races this year to secure the gavel. Wednesday morning they were losing in all seven races.

While Republicans hoped to eventually win some of the seven districts after vote counting was completed, the party was preparing for the reality that they may lose in every race.

If Democrats ultimately prevail in all seven competitive contests, the party’s majority will expand to 23-12 from 21-14. There are only two Democratic seats the party is at real risk of losing in 2024, meaning its future majority is not in doubt until at least 2027.

Republicans could also have lost seats in the House this year, where they were already outnumbered by Democrats 41-24.

“We as a party have imploded in Colorado,” Ben Engen, a Republican political consultant and data analyst, said Wednesday.

The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan, reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. For more information, go to coloradosun.com.

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