|The Democrats are enjoying their first majority in 38 years in the State Senate. Senate Democrats, lead by former minority leader Mike Feeley, added three seats to beat the predictions and took control of the Senate by one vote, 18 to 17. Democrats also picked up two seats in the Statehouse, but still trail 38 to 27.
The shift in senate control to the Democrats has had a major impact on state politics. Democrats have achieved most of their labor and local control goals in the school funding debate; they have the high ground in the growth debate; and they are becoming more partisan on transportation.
Despite 24 years of controlling the governorship during the tenures of Dick Lamm and Roy Romer, Democrats had few leaders or voices (no real star-studded bench of politicians). Now Gov. Owens and Republican legislative leadership are being challenged by a host of high-profile new Senate Democrats: Ed Perlmutter, Stan Matsunaka, Bill Thiebaut, Peggy Reeves, Ken Gordon and many others. This group is becoming successful at pushing Democrat alternatives to Republican initiatives, and will provide candidates for U.S. Congress, Senate, governor, and other state races in 2002 and beyond.
Prediction: The biggest battle in the 2002 election will be the Republican effort to retake the State Senate-total war!
Many factors were involved in the Senate win, but in general, Senate Democrats bested Republicans both at the grassroots level and on the big issues.
The following eight districts were considered the battlegrounds. Most observers did not believe Democrats could pick up a net of three seats given strong Republican challenges to Democrats Peggy Reeves in Fort Collins, Bob Hagedorn in Aurora, and Mike Feeleys vacated seat in Lakewood.