|COLORADO||9 Electoral Votes|
Republicans had a number of advantages in Colorado in 2004. Their 5.70 percentage point registration edge (36.13% to 30.43%, with 33.03% unaffiliated) was actually a bit more than in 2000. They had controlled the governorship since Bill Owens was elected in 1998, and seven members of the nine-person congressional delegation were Republicans.
Democrats nonetheless made a case that Colorado was in play. They argued that, "Attorney General Ken Salazar's bid for the U.S. Senate increases the odds of a Kerry victory." Salazar, who faced Republican nominee Pete Coors for the seat vacated by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R), would "register thousands of new Hispanic voters and is likely to turnout a larger percentage of this constituency than turned out in 2000." Democrats further argued that, "Kerry's biography, message, and experience will cut into Bush's military base in places like Colorado Springs." Finally they maintained they could "win bigger in Democratic strongholds like Denver and Boulder than Al Gore did in 2000."
Bush-Cheney campaign executive director Jason Hebert started in Colorado in mid-June, moving over from heading up the campaign in Louisiana; this was a relatively late start, leaving him four and a half months rather than the typical six- to eight-months in other states. Hebert ran a lean operation until September when "the floodgates opened" and a bunch of new staffers came in from other states, particularly Arkansas.
Kerry-Edwards state director Sue Casey started on August 1 after working as program director at the Democratic National Convention. She says there was a three or four week period where the polls were very close and "we really thought we had a chance." Casey says that Kerry spent "a good bit of time in Colorado." Salazar's strength also "gave us some hope," she states. She also notes that "so many people were active...active making phone calls, active door to door...from day one." In the end, however, Casey says the campaign "pretty much came up just shy everywhere" in terms of its county goals (based on voter registration and voting history).
Several of Kerry's visits the state highlighted its importance. On July 23, he kicked off his tour leading up to the Democratic National Convention with a speech at his birthplace, the Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Aurora. Coming out of the convention on his "Believe in America" tour, he made a couple of stops via train on August 7, rallying in Lamar and La Junta in the Southeast corner of the state. He also spent several days preparing for the October 8 debate at the Inverness Hotel in Englewood (south of Denver).
Casey says the campaign had enough television advertising in Colorado, but it "wasn't all that effective" given the volume of advertising from the competitive U.S. Senate and U.S. House races. However, she says that "the Republicans really owned radio" and in particular "put a ton of money into Hispanic advertising."
President Bush received the endorsements of the state's two biggest newspapers, the Denver Post (October 24) and the Rocky Mountain News (October 16). The Post's endorsement was surprising as the paper had endorsed Gore in 2000. (Note that the two newspapers entered into a joint operating agreement in January 2001). Meanwhile two smaller papers that had endorsed Bush in 2000, the Daily Camera (Boulder) and the Greeley Daily Tribune backed Kerry.
Voter registration drives helped increase the state's voter rolls by almost 300,000 in 2004 (from 2,815,372 as of January 15 to 3,114,566 as of October 27). Among the groups active in Colorado were the New Voters Project, the Colorado Progressive Coalition (CPC), and ACORN. The New Voters Project claimed it registered over 71,000 young people in Colorado as of October 13; Ben Prochazka served state director. CPC claimed that its volunteers and partner groups registered 27,061 new voters. The new registrations kept local registrars busy, and Secretary of State Donetta Davidson was also kept very busy. On September 20 Colorado Common Cause filed a lawsuit in Denver District Court challenging (a) the requirement that voters show a picture ID, (b) a ruling that people who had applied for absentee ballots would not be allowed to cast provisional votes, and (c) a ruling that people who vote in the wrong precinct could only vote for president. In an October 18 ruling Judge Morris Hoffman upheld the ID requirement and the restrictive ruling on voting in the wrong precinct. In mid-October stories about fraud filled the news. On October 10 the Denver Post reported that the voter registration rolls included as many as 6,000 ineligible felons. On October 11 Channel 9, the NBC affiliate in Denver, reported it had "discovered a record number of fraudulent voter registrations across the state." The report "documented 719 cases of potentially fraudulent forms" and singled out ACORN.1 This was not a case of ineligible people seeking to vote, but rather people paid to do voter registration cheating and seeking to earn more money. Meanwhile in response to concerns that some groups had gathered registrations but not submitted them by the October 4 deadline, Davidson issued a controversial ruling that effectively obviated that deadline. Seeking to avoid lawsuits, Davidson decided to rely on the trustworthiness of voters; people who were not on the registration rolls could vote by provisional ballot if they showed ID and took an oath. As the campaign drew to a close, FairVoteColorado.org helped to educate Colorado voters about the rules and protect their right to vote, including placing nearly 200 volunteers at over 140 polling places on Election Day.
A noteworthy initiative on the November ballot, Amendment 36, would have, effective this election, changed the way Colorado allocates its electoral votes so they are divided based on the popular vote rather than the current winner take all system. Make Your Vote Count qualified the initiative and ran the campaign for it; Coloradans Against a Really Stupid Idea opposed the measure. Legal action was certain if Amendment 36 passed, but voters handily rejected it by a magin of 65.22% to 34.78%.
In addition to the hotly contested U.S. Senate race, several competitive U.S. House races boosted voter interest. The retirement of Rep. Scott McInnis (R) opened up the 3rd CD, one of the largest districts in the country, covering 29 counties in the western part of the state. State Rep. John Salazar (D), brother of the Attorney General, defeated Greg Walcher (R), exec. dir. of Colorado's Department of Natural Resources, who worked for many years as an aide to Sen. Bill Armstrong. In the 4th, Rep. Marilyn Musgrave defeated Stan Matsunaka by a margin of 51.05% to 44.78%. In the 7th, which includes parts of Jefferson, Adams and Arapahoe counties, Rep.Bob Beauprez (R), who won by 121 votes in 2002, defeated Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas (D) by a margin of 54.72% to 42.79%.
Although Kerry fell short, Democrats were pleased to pick up the U.S. Senate and U.S. House seats. Colorado will likely continue to be a volatile state politically in the coming years.
John Nichols. "Democrats Score in the Rockies." The Nation. December 6, 2004.
1. According to the report, "One woman admitted to forging three people's names on about 40 voter registration applications. Kym Cason says she was helping her boyfriend earn more money from a get-out-the-vote organization called ACORN or Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now."
2. Casey interviewed by phone on in
early January 2005.
|Bush-Cheney '04||Kerry-Edwards 2004|
Chair: Gov. Bill Owens
Exec. Director: Jason Hebert
Office: 200 W. Plaza Drive, Suite 100, Highlands Ranch
Colorado Republican Party
State Director: Sue Casey
Comm. Director: Steve Haro
Office: 333 West Colfax Ave, First Floor, Denver
Coordinated Campaign Director: Broward "Beage" Atwater
Colorado Democratic Party
|Final Month (Oct. 2-Nov. 2, 2004)|
W. Bush - 2 visits (3 days)
Dick Cheney (and Lynne Cheney) - 2 visits (2 days)
Laura Bush (solo) - 0 visits
Kerry - 2 visits (4 days)
John Edwards - 1 visit (1 day)
Teresa Heinz Kerry (solo) - 0 visits
Elizabeth Edwards (solo) - 1 visit (1 day)
|Eight Months (March 2-Nov. 2, 2004)|
W. Bush - 4 visits (6 days)
Dick Cheney (and Lynne Cheney) - 7 visits (7 days)
Laura Bush (solo) - 1 visits (1 days)
Kerry - 6 visits (8 days)
John Edwards - 4 visits (4 days)
Teresa Heinz Kerry (solo) - 1 visit (1 day)
Elizabeth Edwards (solo) - 1 visit (1 day)
The Denver Post (10/24/04)
Rocky Mountain News (10/16/04)
The Pueblo Chieftain (9/26/04)
The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction)
Daily Times-Call (Longmont) (10/17/04)
Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald (10/17/04)
Daily Record (Canon City)
*Boulder Daily Camera (10/16/04)
Fort Collins Coloradoan (10/24/04)
*Greeley Tribune (10/31/04) >
Aspen Daily News
Durango Herald (10/24/04)
Third Party and Independent
Nader Ballot Access
In September the Secretary of State placed Nader on the ballot as the nominee of the Reform Party. The Democratic Party and the Ballot Project sued in Denver District Court challenging the decision on several points. On Sept. 17, 2004 Judge John McMullen ruled in favor of Nader.
Nader: Chris Wetherill
Badnarik: Amber Crisp
Cobb: Hollie Kopp
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Copyright © 2004, 2005 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.
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