on November 21, 2014 by in Golden News, Comments Off on Democrats suffer whiplash in vote tallies

Democrats suffer whiplash in vote tallies

A lot of things have happened since 1936 –; Hawaii and Alaska becoming states and the inventions of canned beer, color television and the Slinky, just to name a few.

But prior to this month, Republicans doing really well in Adams County elections is something that had not happened in 78 years.

“Before the Depression and the Franklin Roosevelt era, Adams County up until that point been a Republican county,” said longtime Republican Adams County politico and historian Bob Briggs. “The whole aspect of the Depression changed that and the Democrats have been in control since then.”

Here’s a fact that really puts the election results from Nov. 4 into perspective: Until recently, a Chicago Cubs World Series appearance had been a more modern-day historical moment than there being a majority of Republicans holding elected offices in Adams County.

That salt-in-the-wound reality is something county Democrats continue to ponder now that the votes from Nov. 4 have all been counted from an election where many Democrats lost races few thought were even possible to lose.

“I never saw Democratic candidates out there doing anything, any sort of campaigning, and they took their wins for granted,” said Adams County Republican Party Chairman Gary Mikes. “We passed them up and by the time they realized it, they were done.”

The results from Nov. 4 are striking:

● Republican Beth Martinez-Humenik defeated former Democratic state Rep. Judy Solano for an open state Senate seat that had been held by term-limited Democrat Lois Tochtrop. The win gave Republicans a one-seat majority in the chamber.

● Democratic state Rep. Jenise May –; who sits on the Legislature’s important Joint Budget Committee and who easily won her seat in 2012 –; lost to JoAnn Windholz. What’s more stunning about May’s defeat is that Democrats considered her seat so safe, they pegged her to head an operation aimed at getting more Democrats elected to the House.

● Democratic Attorney General candidate Don Quick lost Adams County by four points to opponent Cynthia Coffman, who won the election. Quick is the former district attorney for Adams County.

● Of the 32,222 Adams County voters who cast ballots in the 6th Congressional District race, they overwhelmingly supported Republican Congressman Mike Coffman over Andrew Romanoff by a margin of more than 11 points.

● Republican candidates won two county commission seats and, for the first time since 1936, they will hold the offices of sheriff, assessor, treasurer and clerk and recorder at the same time.

All of this in a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 26,000 registered voters, about a 10-point advantage.

And Adams is a county that is right up a Democratic candidate’s alley –; a diverse, blue-collar county where many middle-class workers and families reside.

“Anytime you have losses like that it’s going to be alarming, sure,” said state Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio. “We’ll take a long look at the numbers and we’ll figure out where the next steps are.”

But gleeful Republicans think they know exactly where Democrats went wrong in Adams County.

“The ruling Democratic elites forgot about the middle class, forgot about the people who work for a living, and that’s the only way to explain what happened in Adams County,” said Republican Frank McNulty, a former state speaker of the House of Representatives.

Voters frustrated

Current House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, who is term-limited and who will not be returning to the House in January, said what happened in Adams County earlier this month “surprised” him, but that he also understands the challenges the county faces and why voters may have taken out their frustration on Democrats.

“You look at the issues around Adams County, there’s a lot of working-class families,” he said. “The state is in an economic recovery, but it hasn’t impacted some communities across this state.”

Ferrandino said Democrats have been effective in recent years in passing bills at the Legislature that would help middle-class families like those that live in Adams County.

“We made higher education more affordable, child care assistance for families …,” he said. “Those things need to be even more of a priority now.”

State Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton survived the Republican wave, but barely. Salazar’s seat was widely considered to be safe, yet he only managed to eke out a 221-vote win over Republican Carol Beckler in a race that wasn’t decided until several days after Election Day.

“I didn’t think it was going to be this close,” Salazar said. “I became nervous in September that I needed to do more in my district and we ran a very strong ground campaign, and thank God I did. I didn’t take my voters for granted.”

Salazar doesn’t think the vote results were a referendum on Democratic policies, because he believes Democrats “have very good ground to stand on,” when it comes to legislative accomplishments that help middle-class families.

Rather, Salazar chalks up the losses to a national Republican wave that resulted in Democrats losing the majority of statewide races, including U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, who was defeated by Republican Congressman Cory Gardner.

“Cory Gardner ran one hell of a campaign,” Salazar said. “He spent an enormous amount of resources in my House district. I had the Cory Gardner war machine coming at me.”

Not buying claims

But Republicans think it’s awfully convenient for Democrats to chalk up the bad results to a one-year wave and think that everything will go back to normal in a couple of years.

“They didn’t like what had been happening,” Martinez-Humenik said of Adams County voters who supported her candidacy. “They feel the loss of income in their houses. They keep hearing unemployment is down, but they’re not seeing it in their own families.”

State Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call also thinks that corruption cases involving elected county Democrats over the last few years also weighed heavily on frustrated voters’ minds.

“Adams County rejected corruption and mismanagement in Democratic majorities,” Call said. “It’s pretty darn encouraging when we see the contrast in reform-minded Republicans running against Democrats at the county level.”

To be sure, not all news was bad for Democrats following the Nov. 4 results. Statewide Democratic candidates running for secretary of state and treasurer performed better here than in many other parts of the state. And Adams voters supported Gov. John Hickenlooper and Udall.

Still, the results were not good for Democrats overall. But, while county Republicans may be feeling good now, 2016 could be a whole other ballgame.

More Democratic voters –; especially minorities –; cast ballots during a presidential year than in a midterm election. And will newly elected county Republicans hold on to their seats four years from now, without the potential benefit of a national Republican wave?

And, as Mikes is fully aware, Republicans start each election in Adams County “as 10-point underdogs.” And Briggs said it’s too early to know what the results from earlier this month will mean in the long run.

“Is it a one-time blip or is it a trend?” he said. “Only time will tell that.”

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