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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.

State Legislature

House of Representatives
. 1998 2000
Republican 40 38
Democrat 25 27
Republican 20 17
Democrat 15 18
Ciruli Associates, 2001

Major Impact

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!

Democratic Strategy

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.

Candidate Recruiting Democrats recruited some excellent candidates. For example, House majority leader Ken Gordon in Denver; and DeAnne Hanna, Sue Windels and Joan Fitzgerald in Jefferson County. Several Republican candidates either had tough primaries or were vulnerable to being characterized as outside their party mainstream.

Money and Campaigns Democrats kept their candidates competitive in the money chase; several races exceeded $100,000 per candidate. Campaign consultants like Judy Rocciano were dispatched to Hanna’s race and got the direct mail moving.

Message Democrat candidates and the party in general (using generic advertising) ran on guns, growth and schools. Voters were concerned about those issues and trended toward Democrats.

Battleground Seats

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 Feeley’s vacated seat in Lakewood.

November Election
Senate Dist. 8 (NW Colorado) Paul Ohri, D, vs
Jack Taylor, R.
Senate Dist. 13 West Jeffco, Summit Cty.) Joan Fitzgerald, D, vs
Terri Rayburn, R.
Senate Dist. 14 (Fort Collins) Peggy Reeves, D, vs
Steve Tool, R.
Senate Dist. 19 (East Jeffco) Jim Congrove, R, vs
Sue Windels, D.
Senate Dist. 21 (Lakewood) DeAnne Hanna, D, vs
Penn Pfiffner, R.
Senate Dist. 23 (Adams County) Ken Arnold, R, vs
Michael Massarotti, D.
Senate Dist. 29 (Aurora) Debbie Allen, R, vs
Bob Hagedorn, D.
Senate Dist. 35 (South Denver) Ken Gordon, D, vs
Dorothy Gotlieb, R.
WINNERS are Underlined
Ciruli Associates, 2001

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