Colorado’s political landscape shifted dramatically in the 2018 midterm elections, primarily in response to President Donald Trump’s election and first two years in office. Previously, the state had operated under a divided government with Democrats holding a majority in the House and Republicans holding a majority in the Senate.
As a result of the 2018 election, Democrats won the governor’s race and extended their majority in the House (41 Democrats; 24 Republicans) and captured the Senate majority. The current Senate makeup is 19 Democrats and 16 Republicans.
Democrats also unexpectedly won the attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state races.
In their first legislative session with full-power, Democrats pushed through an ambitious, progressive agenda that covered seemingly everything: full-day kindergarten, red-flag laws, a ban on conversion therapy and sweeping energy-extraction and production regulation. By all accounts, the Democrats accomplished much of their political agenda.
So as the legislature reconvened in 2020, two questions arose. Did the Democrats overreach? And, what can we expect this session?
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Four times in the past 20 years one party has had a trifecta in Colorado with a governor and majority in the House and Senate. In each instance, the trifecta was short-lived, because the party overreached. In 2013, Democrats used a trifecta to push through a controversial political agenda. The following year, Democrats lost the Senate. Republicans are hoping for a repeat and appear to be messaging along the lines that the Democrats are out of step with mainstream Colorado values.
However, there are strong signs that Coloradans don’t buy that argument. Perhaps the most significant sign is the fact that the Republicans favorite play call, the recall, failed miserably. All five recall campaigns fell flat. If the Democrats had overreached, would all of these efforts come up short? More importantly, if Colorado’s strong economy stays on track, voters will have little incentive to want wholesale political change in 2020.
So how should Democrats lead in an election year?
No matter which party is in control, they need to choose their agenda carefully and moderate the most extreme side of their political base. Yes, this will surely make the far left wing of the constituency angry, but just because they can pass any legislation they choose, does not mean that they should. Especially, if they want to wield power beyond a term or two.