By Kent Singer, CREA Executive Director –
Inspired by a cross-country train trip in 1893, Katharine Lee Bates wrote a poem that became the lyrics to “America the Beautiful,” a song that is sometimes called our second national anthem. Bates wrote the poem after exploring the Colorado Springs area, and the “purple mountain majesties” described in the song refer to Pikes Peak and the surrounding Front Range of the Rockies.
While Bates probably was not terribly interested in the political landscape of Colorado in the late 19th century, her description of the physical landscape nonetheless resonates today in describing Colorado’s current political dynamic. As the 2014 midterm election clearly demonstrates, Colorado is truly a place where both Democrats and Republicans can be successful: we are not a red state or a blue state, but decidedly purple.
There has been a lot of talk in the last several years about how Colorado is “trending blue,” meaning that Democrats are winning more elections than Republicans. That appeared to be the case for the last several years as a majority of Colorado voters supported President Barack Obama in the last two general elections and our state legislative and executive branches favored Democrats. The 2014 election, however, seems to have interrupted that trend.
Although Gov. John Hickenlooper squeezed out a victory over former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez and saved that seat for the Democrats, the three remaining statewide offices (secretary of state, state treasurer and attorney general) were won by Republican candidates. Our legislature is nearly evenly divided: 51 Democrats and 49 Republicans (the Ds have a 34-31 majority in the House, the Rs have an 18-17 majority in the Senate).
Colorado will be represented in the 114th Congress by one Democrat and one Republican in the U.S. Senate, four Republicans and three Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Although U.S. Sen. Mark Udall was defeated by Rep. Cory Gardner, the other congressional seats were won by the incumbents, and Ken Buck will take over for Gardner in Congressional District 4.
The concept of shared power is nothing new in Colorado. Even though Republicans had control of the legislative branch for many years up to 2004, they had to work with the Democratic governors who were elected between 1976 and 2000 (Dick Lamm in 1976, 1980 and 1984; Roy Romer in 1988, 1992 and 1996). Both parties were able to work together to pass budgets and other legislation during those years, and they will be able to do so again during the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions.
What does the election of 2014 mean for Colorado’s electric co-ops? First of all, it means that only bills with bipartisan support will make it through the legislative process and land on the governor’s desk. This was not the case in the 2013 legislative session when the bill doubling the renewable energy requirements for electric co-ops (Senate Bill 13- 252) passed without a single Republican vote in either house. In 2015, one party will not be able to determine the outcome of proposed legislation.
With the conclusion of the 2014 campaign, we got a reprieve from all those negative ads on television and radio. While it may seem somewhat obscene that a total of $4 billion was spent on those ads nationwide this election cycle, remember that’s less than Procter & Gamble’s advertising budget in 2014. Perhaps $4 billion is not too much when it comes to the important task of electing the folks who lead our government.
Now that another election cycle has wrapped up, we can all turn our attention to something a little more uplifting: holidays, family and the warm spirit that prevails at this time of year. As I write this, a winter storm approaches Denver and another change of the seasons is upon us. I’m looking forward to throwing a couple of logs on the fire (that is, if we don’t have a “no burn” day in Denver!) and enjoying the start of another beautiful Colorado winter.
While we may not always like the bickering and acrimony that goes along with our political process, we are truly blessed to have a process where anybody can run for office and no one is entitled to get elected by virtue of status or heredity. We should celebrate the peaceful transfer of power that takes place in America every couple of years; our democracy is the envy of the world.
So, this holiday season, let’s all celebrate the purple mountain majesty that is Colorado and our good fortune to live in this great country.