Foreseeing a shutdown of the federal government due to a broken Congressional deal over Dreamers, Colorado House Democrats made a plea to Washington Friday morning and put their Republican colleagues in an awkward position - playing out an all too familiar dynamic in politics: dysfunction. Like last session, Republicans and Democrats are racing to score political points for themselves to benefit future primary and general election campaigns, while federal politics cloud what happens in the state.
This week began with more sexual assault accusations and bitter fights regarding the civil rights commission, but thankfully not everything happening under the Golden Dome is hopeless partisanship.
This week there were a number of bills introduced (some resurrected from years past) highlighting priorities from each caucus and Governor Hickenlooper signed his first bill of the session.
As was indicated last week, the House majority is prioritizing work-life balance, rural education, the opioid epidemic and college education credits in this new legislative session.
"A major goal this session is to create more opportunities for Coloradans to turn their hard work into economic security," said Speaker Crisanta Duran (D-Denver). "These bills are part of a much larger agenda to preserve and enhance our Colorado way of life."
Republicans, the majority in the Senate, are focusing on transportation, Public Employee Retirement Act (PERA) reform, and the institution of the Colorado Energy Office, with a slightly different mission.
"The Colorado Senate Republicans are ready, willing, and able to start solving the tough problems facing Colorado," Senate President Kevin Grantham said. "I am so proud of my caucus for their commitment and dedication in tackling the major problems we are facing as a state."
Points of contention will remain, as they have in sessions past, on: energy issues, how to regulate business, and what the state can do to curb health care costs. Already a flurry of anti-energy bills have been introduced, most dealing with oil and gas, but one dealing specifically with wind. Bills that have died in past sessions, like the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) were introduced, but don't face a bright future. And a number of bills dealing with transparency in the healthcare system have been introduced, all facing a rather unpredictable course through the legislative bodies.
For those already wanting the session to be over, there are a lot of legislators in the same boat. Over 10 percent are running for higher office. Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) is taking on Congressman Doug Lamborn. Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Loveland) is running for state Treasurer; as are Rep. Dave Young (D-Greeley), Rep. Polly Lawrence (R-Roxbourough Park), Rep. Justin Everett (R-Littleton), and Rep. Steve Lebsock (D-Thornton). Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Thornton) is running for Attorney General. And the rest are leaving the House to run for seats the Senate.
This week marked the end of the campaign-fund reporting period, so those aspirations seem more realistic for some, but in such a tumultuous political environment, making predictions at this stage of the game is futile.
In the case that money matters, here are some takeaways on statewide races:
With a whopping $10.8M raised for this race (by all candidates), Democrats Mike Johnston, former state Senator, and sitting-Congressman Jared Polis lead the field in fundraising, both with war chests over $1.5M. Republican Walker Stapleton trails by $500K, but has outpaced his Republican opponents by almost $700K. Former Congressman Tom Tancredo is not to be ignored though, his loyal following may help him secure this nomination. And notably, Republican Victor Mitchell has the most cash-on-hand due to a $3M loan he issued to his own campaign.
Secretary of State
Democrat Jena Griswald is giving incumbent Wayne Williams a run for his money, pun intended. She has out-fundraised him by about $50K and holds $114K to his $58K. Could be anyone's game.
State Attorney General
Phil Weiser, Democrat, holds the lead here with nearly $700K separating him from his formidable Republican opponent, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler. He might be remembered as a gubernatorial candidate, but after sitting Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (R) jumped in the race, Brauchler quickly redirected.
Republicans are have secured the top two ranks here. Brian Watson, former state legislative candidate and Rep. Polly Lawrence both have over $80K in cash-on-hand.
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