(Interesting diary, and it’s obvious you put quite a bit of time into it. Thanks for doing that. – promoted by ellbee)
With the Primary Election season concluded, a lot of people have been asking which districts are the best opportunities and the greatest risks for Democrats in the 2012 election.
This post will cover the State House side of that landscape. I will follow up with a similar analysis of the Senate races another day.
The fact is that, even though 28 members of the State House are not running for re-election (or were defeated in Primaries), the vast majority of seats will stay in the hands of the current party that holds it. It’s always possible for something unusual to happen and sometimes Dems get elected in heavy GOP districts and vice versa, but that kind of thing is pretty tough to predict.
There are a few districts, though, that are in play this year and could change party without some sort of miracle. These 10 districts will be the focus of most of the money and attention for the rest of the year.
What’s on the Line?
Democrats currently need to flip one seat in order to gain the majority. However, they gave away two districts in reapportionment that are almost certain to flip to the GOP. So this means that Dems need to win at least three contested seats to take control of the House, assuming they don’t lose any others. And with two current Dem seats that are competitive and at risk, Dems should plan to win at least 5, if not all 8 of their pick-up opportunities in order to ensure that they get the Speaker’s gavel next year.
The full details after the jump…
I used voter registration numbers, as well as actual performance numbers from 2008 and 2010 to create a score for each district that offers an objective measure of each districts likely performance in a general election. (Similar to and based on the O’Hara Progressive Voter Performance Index)
A score of 0 means the district is completely balanced and no party has an advantage. Districts with scores of 0 through 20 lean Dem, while 0 through -20 will lean GOP.
Anything over 20 in either direction (+ / – ) is highly likely to go with the same party consistently over and over.
+75 = Dem forever
+50 = Strong Dem
+20 = Lean Dem
0 = Perfectly Balanced
-20 = Lean GOP
-50 = Strong GOP
-75 = GOP Forever
This isn’t a perfect method and doesn’t account for many elements that make or break a campaign. This is also based on numbers from 2008 and 2010, so some of it will have changed by now. But, acknowledging those flaws, I hope this provides a glimpse into where the action (and attention) will be this Fall.
These districts numbers were drastically altered or relocated to make room for Dem gains elsewhere. These are practically unwinnable for Dems.
HD56 Arapahoe and Adams County (Formerly Summit County) – Incumbent (HD30) Kevin Priola vs Dem Dave Rose (Score: -40)
HD64 Eastern Plains – GOP Tim Dore vs No Dem Running (Score: -68)
At-Risk Dem Seats:
HD3 Arapahoe County – Incumbent Dem Daniel Kagan vs GOP Brian Watson (Score: +8)
HD50 Weld County (Greely) – Incumbent Dem Dave Young vs GOP Skip Carlson (Score: +4)
Possible Dem Pick-ups
HD17 El Paso County – Incumbent GOP Mark Barker vs Dem Tony Exum (Score: +7)
HD28 Jefferson County – GOP Amy Attwood vs Dem Brittany Petterson (Score: +21)
HD29 Jefferson County – Incumbent GOP Robert Ramirez vs Dem Tracy Kraft-Tharp (Score: +20)
HD30 Adams County – GOP Mike Sheely vs Dem Jenise May (Score: +24)
HD33 Broomfield County – GOP David Pigott vs Dianne Primavera (Score: +10)
HD40 Arapahoe County – Incumbent GOP Cindy Acree vs Dem John Buckner (Score: +23)
HD47 Pueblo County – GOP Clarice Navarro-Ratziaff vs Dem Chuck Rodosevich (Score: +6)
HD59 SW Colorado – Incumbent GOP J. Paul Brown vs Dem Mike Maclachlan (Score: -2)
Denver Districts 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 will all stay squarely in the Democrats column. It’s Denver. All have scores +50 or higher and most are over +100.
Arapahoe County (1 at-risk, 1 pick-up opportunity)
District 3 used to be mostly in Denver, but was moved into Arapahoe County during reapportionment. Incumbent Rep. Daniel Kagan is facing a much tougher election than last time. Before redistricting, HD3 was +65, but now it’s only +8. Fortunately, the very popular incumbent should be able to hold the seat.
Districts 36, 41, and 42 will Stay Dem. All are +30 or higher.
District 56 (partly in Adams County), 37 and 38 will remain GOP they are all -30 or higher.
District 40 is a great pickup opportunity for Dems. What used to be a -45 rural GOP district is now a +20 urban district. The newly reformed district is about 36% Dem and 31% GOP. The district voted for Bennet over Buck by 51/42 and voted for the 47/46 in the Regents race in favor of the Dem candidate. John Buckner has a great shot at winning this one and unseating Cindy Acree.
Jefferson County (2 pick-up opportunities)
District 22 and 27 each used to lean GOP, but were contestable, but HD22 is now a solid -40. This district will stay GOP for a while.
HD27 is -18. It’s conceivably winnable, but pretty tough for Dems. Udall won here by a little in 2008, but Buck won it by a lot on 2010.
Districts 23, 24, and 26 are less strong for Dems than they were, but are still all over +20. District 26 is the weakest at +21, but should be fine.
District 28 is another great pickup opportunity for Dems. It was a -48, but is now +21. Incumbent Jim Kerr is not in the race, so GOP Amy Attwood will have a difficult time holding the seat against challenger Brittany Petterson.
District 29 is currently held by the GOP, but never should have been. Robert Ramirez is almost certain to lose this seat to Tracy Kraft-Tharp who is running a great campaign. The district improved from +14 to +21 in the reapportionment.
Districts 10, 11, and 12 will all stay very Dem. They are +145, +30, and +73 respectively.
Adams County (1 sacrifice, 1 pick-up opportunity)
With the exception of HD56 which is half in Arapahoe County and scores -40, Adams County’s districts are all good Dem districts after the reapportionment.
Districts 31, 32, 34, and 35 are all Dem districts that will stay that way, being +25 or higher.
District 30 was held by Kevin Priola, but he was redistricted into HD56 (which he will hold) leaving HD30 as a great pickup opportunity for Dems. The district is +26 after reapportionment.
Broomfield County (1 pick-up opportunity)
Broomfield’s HD33 is a very competitive seat. Dianne Primavera barely lost it in 2010 and is poised to re-take it in 2012, especially with the help of a slightly more friendly district. It was +7 before and is +11 now. The seat is open this time around (incumbent Don Beezley is not in the race), so Primavera has an advantage, having served the area before. Dems should be able to pick this one up this year.
Douglas County is Douglas County. All of them (HDs 39, 43, 44, and 45) are -70 or worse and all will remain Republican for the foreseeable future.
El Paso County (1 pick-up opportunity)
Districts 14, 15, 16, 19, 20, and 21 are all Republican and will stay that way. The only district anywhere near 0 is HD 21 and it’s still at -25. Unfortunately, there is no Democrat running there. There is an American Constitution Party candidate in HD21, however, named Sean Halstead. Without a Democrat running, Halstead might just make a splash in the open seat.
But the real story in El Paso County will be districts 17 and 18. In both districts, Dems have slight advantage (+7 and +16 respectively). These are districts that are competitive. The GOP currently has HD17 (Rep. Mark Barker) and the Dems have HD18 (Rep. Pete Lee). But what the Dems will have this year that they’ve never had before is American Constitution Party candidates in both races. These right leaning third party candidates could be just the thing Dems need to win. And if they do, don’t forget that it was Tom Tancredo’s semi-successful campaign for Governor that allowed all the ACP candidates to get on the ballot without having to petition. So when the Dems take back the House next year, we should all send a thank you to Tancredo for bringing a third major party into Colorado politics.
Districts 49 and 51 will stay solidly Republican.
Districts 52 and 53 will stay solidly Democratic, although HD52 (currently John Kefalas) will be a tougher race than usual. It is an open seat this year and was reduced from +31 to +18 when the lines were re-drawn. Should still be a relatively easy win, but if GOP candidate Bob Morain works hard enough, he could give Dem candidate Joann Ginal a run for her money.
Weld County (1 at-risk)
Districts 48 and 63 will remain solid GOP seats.
District 50 is a competitive seat. It was previously held by Jim Riesburg, who was replaced by Dave Young, both Dems. Young is running to keep the seat against GOP challenger Skip Carlson. The district has always been competitive and didn’t change much (demographically) in reapportionment. Young should be able to hold the seat, but will need plenty of support.
Pueblo (1 pick-up opportunity)
District 62 didn’t change much, it will remain Dem.
District 46 (Previously held by Sal Pace) was weakened a little in reapportionment, but not enough to make it competitive. Dems will hold here.
The balance of Dem advantage was given to District 47, which has always been competitive, but now leans slightly left. Dem candidate Chuck Rodesivich has a good shot at picking up this open seat.
Eastern Colorado (1 sacrifice)
District 64 is easily the largest, geographically, of all the House Districts. It covers 9 counties and stretches from Trinidad and the Southern Colorado border at 1-25 to three counties on the Eastern border all the way up North of I-70 and Washington County. This district is huge. But more importantly, it is completely different than the district that Dem Wes McKinley has served for the last couple years. Instead of being a balanced, competitive seat with a +0.3 score, it is now a -68 Republican bastion. There isn’t even a Dem running.
District 65 covers 7 counties in the Eastern and Northern part of the state. This district is also heavily Republican and will stay that way.
Western Colorado (1 pick-up opportunity)
District 13 covers Jackson, Grand, Gilpin, and Clear Creek Counties. It also includes half of Boulder County. It is a solid Dem seat at +106.
District 26 (The number used to be in Jefferson County) is now the combination of Routt and Eagle County. It is a little less strong than the old 26 (+20 vs +30), but the Dems should hold it, even in the new neighborhood.
Districts 54 and 55 are both Grand Junction Districts and are both solid GOP districts. They will stay that way.
District 61 is a strong Dem seat (+27) and will be held.
District 59 is a competitive seat which was made more competitive in reapportionment, bringing it to -2. Representative J. Paul Brown is running for reelection there, but Dem challenger Mike Maclachlan has a good chance if he works hard enough.
Districts 57, 58, and 60 cover the rest of Western Colorado and are all -50 or worse.