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Outdoor retailers group claims first foray into elections a success

DENVER — An outdoor industry retailers group says its first venture into electoral politics was a success.

The political director of the Outdoor Industry Association, Alex Boian, said Thursday the group endorsed 23 candidates for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House or governor in the mid-term elections, and 20 won.

The association also made campaign contributions through its political action committee but the amounts weren’t immediately available.

Fifteen of the candidates the group endorsed were Democrats and eight were Republicans.

Boian says President Donald Trump’s decision to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah helped spur the association to jump into politics.

The association says its industry generates $887 billion a year and is responsible for 7.6 million jobs nationwide.

Kerry Donovan eager to serve in the majority in Colorado Senate

EAGLE COUNTY — Kerry Donovan has already served a full term in the Colorado Senate. In January, she’ll have a new experience: serving as a member of the majority.

Donovan, who on Tuesday, Nov. 6, won re-election to represent Senate District 5, will be part of a new 19-16 majority for the Democrats. Donovan said she’s hopeful that the party’s full control over the Colorado Legislature will allow action on some issues that had previously stalled out due to partisan differences.

At the top of that list is the cost of health care, especially on the Western Slope and other rural areas in the state.

Donovan noted that Governor-elect Jared Polis — also a Democrat — campaigned on a promise to help control health insurance costs.

“I look forward to working with (Polis) to bring down the cost of health care across rural Colorado,” she said.

But first, she added, her responsibilities start with the people of the district.

Regardless of whether the conversation is with an interest group, or representatives or the governor, the people of the district need to know that state government is working for them, she said.

TRANSPORTATION A PRIORITY

Transportation will also be a priority in the next session of the legislature. In the wake of voters’ rejection of both transportation-funding measures on this fall’s ballot, Donovan said it’s going to be up to the legislature to find ways to improve funding for the state’s overburdened transportation system.

But finding funding won’t be easy. Much of the state’s budget is already legally dedicated to several issues, and there isn’t a lot left over. That’s complicated by a 1992 constitutional amendment known as the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR. That amendment limits taxes and spending and requires voter approval of any new taxes.

Still, Donovan said, transportation is a “top of mind problem, along with health care, education and protecting the environment.”

Those issues will all require strong leadership, Donovan said, adding she hopes to be one of those leaders.

Senate Democrats were set to meet Thursday, Nov. 8, to vote on leadership roles and committee assignments.

Donovan said legislative leaders will revisit a number of bills that were derailed in previous sessions. But, she added, that doesn’t mean previously introduced bills will simply be re-submitted.

“We want to be more thoughtful and deliberate,” she said, adding that it’s possible a bill requiring adequate tires on passenger cars traveling the Interstate 70 mountain corridor could be brought back.

That bill is worth another conversation with the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado State Patrol and local police departments, Donovan said. If those groups agree there’s value in such a bill, chances are it could be revived.

LOCAL INTERESTS WEIGH IN

Other local interests will be ready to weigh in on those and other issues.

Chris Romer is the president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Romer said he expects to spend a good bit of time in Denver during the next legislative session, lobbying and testifying on bills.

The Partnership earlier this year lobbied for approval of a health care option called Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements.

Romer said that could be one answer to rising costs, but noted that the state needs to take a “yes, and …” approach to health care and other issues.

“I want to see more options … by which people (can access care),” he said.

Romer added that with Donovan and State Rep. Dylan Roberts, Eagle County has two residents representing the area’s interests in the legislature.

That means the county’s representatives “have a more intimate understanding” of issues facing the area, he said.

But, Donovan said, her responsibility is to everyone in her district.

“I continue to be overwhelmed by support from (the district),” she said. “It’s really humbling to see the amount of support I got … such decisive support from a very diverse district.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.

Democrats knock holes in Republican wall of state control

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Republican wall that has stood in state capitols for much of the past decade now has a few holes in it.

Democrats flipped control of seven gubernatorial offices, marking their greatest gains in several decades, and picked up hundreds of state legislative seats in Tuesday’s first midterm elections of President Donald Trump’s tenure.

Yet those victories didn’t quite reach the lofty goals of an anticipated blue wave, leaving both major parties with reason for hope on Wednesday as they look ahead to another pivotal battle in 2020.

Some of the biggest wins for Democrats came in the Midwest, where Republicans had virtually wiped them out in prior elections. Democrats defeated Republican Govs. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Bruce Rauner in Illinois while picking up open seats previously held by Republican governors in Michigan and Kansas.

Democrats also flipped control of governors’ offices being vacated by Republicans in Maine, Nevada and New Mexico.

The Democratic Governors Association said it was their greatest number of pickups since 1982, the first midterm election of Republican President Ronald Reagan. The Democratic group’s chairman, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, called it “a broad-based win” and a historically big rejection of the president’s party.

“For those who were troubled by the results of 2016 in the Midwest, we have proved that the Democrats can run and win,” Inslee said.

Yet Republicans held on to the governor’s office in other key swing states targeted by Democrats, including Florida, Ohio and Iowa. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp also was leading in Georgia’s gubernatorial race, though Democrat Stacey Abrams held out hope that absentee and the provisional ballots remaining to be counted could push Kemp’s percentage below 50 percent and force a runoff.

Republicans entered Tuesday’s election controlling 33 governors’ offices and two-thirds of the 99 state legislative chambers. The Democratic gubernatorial victories will push that closer to an even split. But Republicans will still control at least three-fifths of the state legislative chambers, even after Democrats flipped about a half-dozen chambers.

The gubernatorial and legislative gains appeared to give Democrats new trifectas of power in Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico and New York. Democrats also broke up existing Republican trifectas in Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

Democrats ended a Republican legislative supermajority in North Carolina, making it harder for the GOP to override vetoes by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Yet even after Tuesday’s victories, Democrats still will have full control of the governor’s office and legislature in about one-third fewer states than Republicans.

The Democratic gains amount to a mere “ripple” in Republican legislative control, said Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

“It is not a wave, and I would say it’s a far cry short of what they should have done” during a midterm election in which Republicans had to defend far more seats, Walter said.

During the first midterm election of Democratic President Barack Obama’s tenure in 2010, Republicans picked up about 725 state legislative seats while flipping control of 21 chambers. Republicans then used that enhanced power in many states to redraw legislative districts to their favor after the 2010 Census.

Tuesday’s shift of about a half-dozen chambers for Democrats is well below the average of 12 chamber changes per election cycle dating back 1900, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Whereas “Obama’s first midterm was a wipeout for Democrats,” the Republican losses Tuesday are “relatively modest,” said NCSL elections analyst Tim Storey.

That’s partly because Democrats are still “running on mostly Republican-drawn maps,” he said.

Both Democrats and Republicans were trying to put themselves in a strong position for the elections in two years, which will determine which party will have the upper hand in redrawing congressional and state legislative districts after the 2020 Census. But that jostling for power will matter less in some states as a result of Tuesday’s elections.

Voters in Colorado, Michigan and Missouri approved ballot measures overhauling the redistricting process in ways that are intended to reduce the likelihood of partisan gerrymandering by either major party. The Colorado and Michigan measures set up independent commissions to handle the task instead of leaving it to lawmakers and the governor.

The Missouri measure keeps in place an existing bipartisan commission for state legislative districts but creates a new position of nonpartisan state demographer to draft maps that prioritize “partisan fairness” and “competitiveness.”

Trump has no sympathy for Colorado GOP candidate Mike Coffman

DENVER — Five-term Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman blamed his defeat in Colorado on resentment toward President Donald Trump — but Trump is offering no sympathy and accepting no responsibility.

“Too bad, Mike,” Trump said at a news conference Wednesday.

Coffman had held the suburban Denver district for a decade, holding off a series of Democratic challengers as the district turned more liberal and diverse. But dislike of Trump and mistrust of the GOP’s immigration policies proved too much this election, Coffman said after losing to first-time Democratic candidate Jason Crow on Tuesday.

“In this congressional district, in this race, it was a referendum on the president,” Coffman said. “In the end, the waves were too big for this ship to stay afloat.”

Trump on Wednesday listed Coffman and seven other Republicans who lost after distancing themselves from the president — refusing what Trump called “the embrace.”

“They did very poorly,” Trump said. “I’m not sure that I should be happy or sad, but I feel just fine about it.”

In his concession speech, Coffman remarked on the shifting demographics of his district, where one in five residents was born outside the United States. He said spending time with diverse communities made him a better congressman and a better person.

Coffman softened his position on immigration but said he could not overcome immigrants’ mistrust of his party.

“They believe that Republicans aren’t simply against illegal immigration but they are against immigrants,” he said.

Three other incumbent Republican congressmen won re-election in Colorado, but the rest of the state was trending blue. Democrats held on to the congressional district now represented by Jared Polis, who was elected governor, keeping the office in Democratic hands.

Democrats won the secretary of state and state treasurer’s offices and were leading in the race for attorney general. All three offices are now held by Republicans. Democrats also were on track to take over the state Senate from Republicans and expand their majority in the state House.

Coffman’s seat was one of more than two dozen that Democrats took from Republicans on Tuesday as the GOP lost control of the U.S. House. The telegenic Crow, an attorney, was the choice of national Democratic leaders to challenge the incumbent.

Both candidates are veterans: Crow is a former Army Ranger who served in Iran and Afghanistan, and Coffman is an Army and Marine veteran who served twice in Iraq.

Crow campaigned on his differences with Coffman on gun control, health care and immigration.

The Democrat called for expanded background checks on gun purchases and restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines, proposals that resonated in a district where a gunman opened fire in a movie theater in 2012, killing 12 people. The district also abuts Columbine High School, where two students killed 13 people in 1999.

Coffman opposed blanket gun restrictions but advocated for mental health and school safety measures.

Crow assailed Coffman for voting for the GOP tax measure that revoked tax penalties for those who don’t buy health insurance. It was a key provision of former President Barack Obama’s health care law, which Crow defended as a first step toward his goal of universal health care.

Coffman was booed at town halls last year for insisting that the health law be repealed, though he eventually voted against the GOP effort. He insisted that any replacement legislation guarantee coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Coffman cited his longtime advocacy for veterans, his military service and his occasional bucking of the GOP to try to persuade voters to keep him.

Crow depicted him as someone no longer able to act as a check on Trump and the Republican Party.

Voter Darnell Driskell said Trump was a big factor in his decision to support Crow.

“I don’t like the hate, you know what I’m saying?” Driskell said. “I don’t like the discomfort, I don’t like what he stands for and what he does, what he represents.”

Jeff Johnson, who voted for Coffman, said Trump didn’t figure into his choice. Johnson said he considers himself a conservative, not a Republican, and he votes for candidates who support his values.

About Trump, Johnson said, “He’s egotistical and he runs his mouth off, but look at the economy. The economy is a hell of a lot better than it was two years ago.”

Coffman also lost the crucial fundraising battle. With the support of gun control groups, Crow raised more than $5 million, while Coffman collected $3.4 million. Big Republican donor groups pulled out of Coffman’s campaign to focus on races they saw as more winnable, and he was outspent 3-to-1 on the airwaves.

Crow made scant mention of Trump in his victory speech but noted “the dark and uncertain political moment we find ourselves in.”

“You sent a message that democracy is alive and well in America and that you will not be silenced,” he told supporters.

Crow was more conciliatory than jubilant, praising Coffman as a hard worker who served his country with honor.

“Mike Coffman and his supporters are not our enemies. This is politics, not war, and I will never stop trying to find common ground wherever I can,” he said.

Snowmass Village and Basalt have fire district levies passed

Separate proposals by the fire districts of Basalt and Snowmass Village to adjust their mill levies to maintain current property tax revenue levels were approved by overwhelming margins by voters in Tuesday's election.

Preliminary results showed the Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District ballot question had an insurmountable lead. Early voting from Pitkin and Eagle counties showed there were 3,235 in favor and 778 against. That's a margin of 81 percent to 19 percent in favor, according to the clerk's offices.

The vote on the Snowmass-Wildcat Fire Protection District question was 673 in favor and 265 against though numerous votes were still to be counted in Pitkin County.

"I feel very grateful that our constituents would support us," said Ed Van Walraven, president of the Basalt district's board of directors.

Without voter approval to adjust the mill levies and keep revenues, Basalt would have lost an estimated $279,000 in 2020 while Snowmass would have lost $373,000.

"We carry on without this cloud hanging over our head," Van Walraven said.

The Basalt fire department, which also handles emergency medical response, will be able to carry on the same services people have come to depend on, he said.

Bill Boineau, president of the Snowmass-Wildcat Fire Protection District, also expressed gratitude for the community support.

"There had been concern the community might not support it," Boineau said. The district had successfully got a property tax increase a couple of years ago to fund construction of a new firehouse.

All Roaring Fork Valley area judges retained by voters

Every judge on the 2018 local midterm ballot will remain in office.

Pitkin County Court Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely was retained by a 90 percent vote in favor, with a majority of votes counted as of 9:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Ninth Judicial Court judges James Berkley Boyd, Anne K. Norrdin and Christopher G. Seldin were also retained by large margins.

At the state level, Colorado and Pitkin County voters chose to keep on the bench Colorado Supreme Court Justice Robert L. Gabriel, as well as Colorado Court of Appeals judges Daniel Dailey, Rebecca Rankin Freyre, Elizabeth L. Harris and David J. Richman.

Julie McCluskie declares victory in House District 61 race to replace Hamner

Democrat and Dillon resident Julie McCluskie declared victory Tuesday night in her race to become the next state representative for Colorado House District 61.

Holding a commanding lead over her Republican challenger Mike Mason with 31,466 votes counted, McCluskie said she was "proud and honored" to be the next representative and serve the district she calls home.

"Together, we are going to work hard to make a difference for all the hard-working families in this district," McCluskie said in a victory speech at the Democratic election party taking place at HighSide Brewery in Frisco. "I am going to work to give our kids the best public education possible, to fix our broken healthcare system, and protect the beautiful environment we call home."

The district — which covers Summit, Lake and Pitkin counties and portions of Delta and Gunnison counties — has been represented by Democrat Millie Hamner since 2012. Hamner is vacating the seat due to term limits.

Colorado State Races: Griswold wins Secretary of State race

Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams lost his bid for a second four-year term to Democratic challenger Jena Griswold on Tuesday.

Williams had 47.4 percent and Griswold had 50.3 percent at 9:38 p.m. Tuesday, with an estimated 73 percent of the vote counted, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Williams conceded to Griswold, saying it's like "John Elway leaving the Broncos after winning a couple of Super Bowls."

"I just really look forward to serving the people of Colorado in this position," Griswold said. "We saw a path to victory. We worked hard."

Griswold, a voter rights attorney for then-President Barack Obama, pitched policies that focused on more transparency in campaign finance and making voting more accessible. She also was a Washington, D.C., liaison for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's administration.

Secretary of State: Jena Griswold (D) 50.3% vs. Wayne Williams (R) 47.4%

Treasurer: Dave Young (D) 50.5% vs Brian Waton (R) 46.9%

Democrat Dave Young will be Colorado's next treasurer.

With more than 1.79 million votes recorded, Young held a 50.5 percent to 46.9 percent advantage over Republican Brian Watson at 10 p.m. Tuesday, the Colorado Secretary of State's Office reported. He earned 906,836 votes to Watson's 842,569.

Young told The Denver Post Tuesday night that he had a conversation with Watson who conceded.

"We're thrilled to have won and are ready to start working," Young said.

As the state's top bookkeeper, the treasurer's responsibilities include investing state tax dollars and serving on the Public Employee Retirement Association board, which oversees the state pension system for government employees.

Young has represented Greeley-based District 50 in the Colorado House since 2011. He has vowed to treat the office as a full-time job and use effective management to fully fund state pensions.

AG: Phil Weiser (D) 49.2% vs. George Brauchler (R) 48.1%

Democratic candidate Phil Weiser pulled ahead of Republican George Brauchler in a close attorney general's race Tuesday night after a tight battle focused on experience and the role the office should play in setting policy.

Weiser was slightly ahead with 49.2 percent percent of the vote, according to partial results at 8:55 p.m. with 70 percent of the vote in. Republican candidate George Brauchler had 48.1 percent of the vote.

The lead was tight enough for Brauchler to hold out hope that he can still pull out a win with voters from the state's conservative corners.

"I feel optimistically cautious," he said shortly before 9 p.m. "There's a ton of ballots still out there in the rural parts of the state."

Weiser, noting that there were still ballots to be counted from Denver and Boulder County, said he's very optimistic.

"I am not afraid of close races," he said. "This one looks like the effort we put in is going to pay off."

Colorado Mountain College easily wins tax revenue proposal

Western Colorado voters approved Colorado Mountain College's bid to adjust property tax rates during lean budget years in a ballot initiative Tuesday.

Early results for the college's district — which includes Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin, Lake, Routt and Summit counties — showed the measure winning with more than 70 percent support.

Ballot Question 7D was not a property tax, but a way for the college to make up for budget shortfalls caused when the state reduces property tax assessment rates. The CMC board of directors had asked for the ability to change the mill levy rates in order to restore tax revenue that may be lost when the assessment rate changes in the future.

"We are honored that voters in our communities took the time to learn about how a quirk in the state Constitution put local services in rural areas at risk and have entrusted the college with the ability to maintain revenues that otherwise would have been lost," the board of trustees said in a statement Tuesday.

"We humbly accept this responsibility and are committed to providing the essential education and training that our students, employers and communities need to meet the demands of our regional economy."

The residential mill levy is typically adjusted down, due to the Gallagher Amendment to the state Constitution, which requires a certain percentage of revenue to come from businesses compared with residential property taxes. That system has caused CMC to lose revenue, according to the board.

CMC proposed a similar change to offset losses from the Gallagher Amendment during the 2017 election, but that measure was defeated with around 45 percent report.

As part of the ballot language, CMC promised to maintain a transparent accounting of how it uses its funds and its justification for increasing a mill levy over the assessment rate.

"As has always been true, we will continue to publicly and transparently report the actions of the CMC Board of Trustees, when and if they ever exercise the provisions of 7D," the statement said.

In 2017, CMC changed employee benefits and implemented reductions in operations, along with raising tuition, to accommodate the drop in revenue. If the assessment rate drops in 2019 — a certainty unless the legislature can devise a way to change Gallagher — the college would have faced an additional reduction for $3.8 million without the passage of 7D, according to the trustees.

Critics of the measure said that in future years, if CMC raises the mill levy rate as the assessment rate drops, it would be, in effect a tax not subject to community vote.

tphippen@postindependent.com

Colorado Ballot Questions: Voters reject oil and gas setbacks

Seeking to establish new setback restrictions between oil and gas operations and homes, Proposition 112 was shot down by Colorado voters on Tuesday as oil and gas facility statewide setbacks will remain 500 feet from residences.

While the proposal received both widespread criticism and support from officials throughout Colorado, just being on the ballot, which required nearly 100,000 signatures from Colorado residents, may open the door for future setback rules discussion in Colorado, supporters said.

The current setback rules, established by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in 2013, set a 500-foot statewide setback from residences, as well as a 1,000-foot setback from high occupancy buildings such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals.

As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, the measure was failing in the statewide vote with 57 percent opposed.

Prop 112 sought to push that setback to at least 2,500 feet from occupied buildings and other vulnerable areas.

Prop 109 38.7% For, 61.4% Against

Prop 110 40.33% For, 59.67% Against

As of 10 p.m., both propositions 109 and 110, which would both provide funding for transportation initiatives, appeared headed toward failure.

Proposition 109, otherwise known as "Fix Our Damn Roads," was losing by a margin of over 300,000 votes. Proposition 110, better known as "Let's Go Colorado," was losing by more than 340,000 votes.

Proposition 109 would have authorized $3.5 billion in bonds to fund statewide road projects — primarily bridge expansion, construction, maintenance and repairs. Proposition 110 would have raised the state's sales tax rate by 0.62 percent for 20 years to fund transportation projects.

Amendment Y 71.26% For, 28.74% Against

Amendment Z 70.87% For, 29.13% Against

The proposal to establish a new process for congressional and state legislative redistricting has earned the overwhelming support of Colorado voters.

The amendments were passed by a three-to-one margin with roughly 71 percent of statewide voters casting their ballots in favor of Y and Z, which garnered wide bipartisan support.

Amendments Y and Z will create a commission made up of four Republicans, four Democrats and four unaffiliated members, with half chosen by lottery and half chosen by a panel of retired judges.

Amendment 73 44.29% For, 55.71% Against

For the third time in eight years, Colorado voters turned down additional state funding for education Tuesday as Amendment 73 was defeated.

As of 10 p.m., the amendment held 43.29 percent of votes tallied; the amendment needed a 55 percent super-majority in favor to pass. Amendment 73 would have generated $1.6 billion through an increased tax scale on the state's flat tax (which is 4.63 percent) for those individuals and companies making between $150,000 and $500,000.

Amendment A 65% For, 35% Against

Slavery is officially prohibited under all circumstances in Colorado after voters approved a ballot measure to remove the exception to allow slavery or indentured servitude in the case of punishment for a crime.

The majority of voters, 65 percent, voted to remove the exemption from the Colorado Constitution.

Supporters said it was important to remove the exception for moral and ethical reasons. Though the measure would not have a direct impact on prison reform, proponents believe the change reflects the state's values of freedom and equality and the vote is important symbolically.

Amendment V 34.8% For, 65.2% Against

Colorado voters decided not to lower the age limit to serve as a representative or senator from 25 to 21 years old. More than 65 percent of votes were cast against lowering the age requirements for state office, as of 10 p.m.

Amendment W 53.24% For, 46.76% Against

As of press time, it was unclear whether citizens of Colorado will find a different format for judge retention questions in future elections.

Amendment W, a 2018 ballot measure that seeks to change the format of judge retention questions in future elections. As of 10 p.m. with 1.7 million ballots counted, the amendment had about 53 percent of the vote. The amendment needs a 55 percent super-majority to go into effect.

Amendment X 60.71% For, 39.29% Against

More than 60 percent of statewide Colorado voters favored the change of the state's official definition of industrial hemp, as of 10 p.m. The basis of the ballot measure comes from Colorado's Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana in the state when the voters approved it in 2012. Amendment 64 created a constitutional definition for "industrial hemp."

Amendment 74 46.5% For, 53.5% Against

This measure would have allowed property owners to file a takings claim against the government when a government action or regulation reduces their property's value. It was turned down by voters by a 53.5-percent to 46.5-percent margin with more than 1.7 million votes counted at 10 p.m. Tuesday night.

It needed 55 percent of the vote to pass.

Amendment 75 33.86% For, 66,14% Against

State voters appeared to overwhelmingly reject a constitutional amendment that could help those running against wealthy candidates. In statewide results as of 10 p.m. Tuesday, Amendment 75 was being soundly defeated by a 66 percent to 34 percent margin.

The amendment was an attempt to cut the campaign spending advantage held by wealthy candidates.

Prop 111 76.67% For, 23.33% Against

Proposition 111 places interest rate limits on payday loan service, and as of 10 p.m. nearly 77 percent of voters supported the proposition.

The proposition will do away with the current fee structure and instead implement a maximum annual percentage rate of 36 percent on the payday loan industry.