Colorado Democrats celebrate another ‘decisive majority’ in state legislative races

At least two seats flipped from red to blue, according to unofficial results

Arapahoe County ballot sorting
Election workers process ballots at the Arapahoe County Elections Facility in Littleton on Nov. 3, 2020. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

Colorado Democrats are set to maintain control of the Colorado House of Representatives, and have added at least one seat to their crucial state Senate majority, unofficial results from the Colorado secretary of state’s office showed Tuesday night.

As of 10 p.m, Democrats had claimed victory in two races for Republican-held General Assembly seats in south metro Denver. In the 38th House District, Army veteran and disability-rights activist David Ortiz led incumbent GOP Rep. Richard Champion by nearly 7,000 votes out of 58,000 ballots cast. Democrat Chris Kolker also holds a substantial lead over veteran conservative operative Suzanne Staiert in the 27th Senate District, a seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Jack Tate.

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The unofficial results cement Democrats’ grip on power at the state Capitol, and continue the party’s strong recent electoral performances among voters in suburban areas along the Front Range, where they’ve pushed into territory once considered safe for Republicans.

“The map has completely changed,” House Speaker KC Becker said during a virtual election-night watch party hosted by the Colorado Democratic Party. “We’re in places we’ve never been before, and we have seats that we’re less worried about than we’ve ever been before.”

In the 8th Senate District, Democrat Karl Hanlon, a water attorney and rancher, also led incumbent GOP Sen. Bob Rankin. If results hold, Democrats would secure a 21-14 majority in the state Senate.

If results hold, Democrats would secure a 21-14 majority in the state Senate. Click To Tweet

Another vulnerable GOP incumbent, Sen. Kevin Priola — the legislature’s most moderate Republican lawmaker — led challenger Paula Dickerson by slightly more than 1,000 votes in the 25th Senate District contest, according to the latest unofficial results.

Meanwhile, at least one incumbent Democratic legislator appeared to be in trouble on Tuesday night; State Rep. Bri Buentello of Pueblo, seeking reelection in Colorado’s 47th House District, trailed GOP challenger Stephanie Luck by 5%.

Overall, however, it was a strong night for Democratic lawmakers across the state. In a press call, House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, a Democrat from Denver, celebrated another “decisive majority” in the Colorado General Assembly’s lower chamber, and promised that his caucus would deliver results for Coloradans when it convenes in January for the 2021 legislative session.

“We’re going to celebrate tonight this amazing win across the state of Colorado,” Garnett said. “But tomorrow we’re going to wake up and we’re going to focus on the work that we have ahead. We have to make sure we’re leading and helping our economy and our communities that are being really hit hard by this pandemic.”

Both Becker and Garnett also praised Democrats’ emphasis on electing women and people of color, following the election of Colorado’s most diverse legislature ever in 2018. On Tuesday night, activist Iman Jodeh claimed victory with more than 66% of the vote in the 41st House District, according to unofficial results, and is set to be sworn in as Colorado’s first Muslim lawmaker.

“We have made history here,” Jodeh said during a press call Tuesday night. “I look forward to representing HD 41 and bringing our issues to the table, and to move the needle on progressive, positive causes.”

Becker, who is term-limited, predicted that by expanding their majorities at the state Capitol, Colorado Democrats will be able to continue to make progress on a wide range of liberal priorities like health care and clean energy.

“Colorado really has been leading trends across the nation, in terms of the legislation that we’ve passed,” Becker said. “From police brutality legislation, to nationally-leading climate legislation, to oil and gas reform, (to) leading the way with things like the National Popular Vote.”