Dems take control of Colorado House

After two years of narrow GOP rule, Democrats took back control of the Colorado House on Tuesday.

That happened, in part, because of reapportionment of legislative district lines last year that created far more competitive, albeit left-leaning districts than the state has ever had.

It also means that the state is expected to get its first openly gay speaker.

“We lost six seats in 2010, we gained six seats in 2012, so it’s definitely a strong message sent by the voters of Colorado,” said House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, who is expected to be his party’s pick for that top job. “I think each of the candidates worked their districts, taking a message of improving our economy by fighting for small businesses and start-ups, and fighting for education. Those two issues are things that really resonated with voters.”

While Republicans managed to pick up some seats previously held by Democrats, it wasn’t enough to maintain the party’s narrow 33-32 majority.

Instead, Democrats will control by a much wider margin, but one that could go as high as 38 seats to the Republicans’ 27. Some races still are too close to call to be sure.

Two area House races helped make that happen.

First, Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Frisco, held onto her redrawn House District 61 despite facing four other contenders, including Republican Debra Irvine and former state Rep. Kathleen Curry, who ran as an unaffiliated candidate but only picked up about 13 percent of the vote.

With two counties still waiting to report by midnight, Hamner earned 19,132 votes, or 41 percent, to Irvine’s 13,885, or 34 percent. Curry picked up 5,488 votes.

The second big turn occurred to the south, when Democrat Michael McLachlan unseated freshman Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, in House District 59.

He did so with 53 percent of the vote, or 18,316 for McLachlan to Brown’s 16,272 as of midnight. Three of five counties in that district had reported, one being the most popular, La Plata County.

That race was one of the most expensive in the state, and perhaps the history of Colorado House races.

McLachlan, a long-time Durango attorney who served as solicitor general under Ken Salazar when he was Colorado’s attorney general, raised more than $133,000 in the race.

That compared to Brown’s $113,000.

It was one of several races in which both parties sunk huge amounts of money, and that doesn’t even count super political action committees and small-donor committees that also raised and spent money on various races.


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