The most important question going into election 2022 was whether Republicans could rebound after devastating defeats in 2018 and 2020 when opposition to President Donald Trump propelled Democrats to their most dominant position since the 1930s.

Opportunities abounded in races for governor, U.S. senator, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer, and redrawn congressional districts, including the new 8th District, and a reapportioned state legislature.

Strong Republican candidates emerged from hard-fought primaries, where they defeated stolen-election conspiracy activists including one who was criminally indicted. But the cold hard reality is that these conspiracy theorists leave a stench on the entire Republican Party.

For many decades, Colorado enjoyed a very competitive political process where both parties could possibly win at all levels in hard-fought campaigns. Colorado’s electorate was essentially split in thirds among Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters, but the influx of 800,000 people into the state between 2010 and 2020 resulted in a vast reshaping of the electorate.

These new arrivals are younger and more liberal and while they registered in large numbers as unaffiliated voters, we now know they are really liberal Democrats who register as unaffiliated in some attempt to claim independence from political parties.

As of Nov. 1, there were 1,736,967 unaffiliated voters or 45.6%; 1,058,592 Democrats or 27.8%; and 940,970 Republicans or 24.7%.

Would those massive numbers of unaffiliated voters, who were so anti-Trump in 2018 and 2020, consider supporting strong Republican candidates in 2022 when Trump was no longer president?

The answer this week was a resounding no.

Republicans suffered devastating defeats at all levels, losing every election for statewide office along with the new 8th CD while getting swamped in the state legislature, losing all seven competitive state senate races and losing even more seats in the House of Representatives.

It appears Democrats will have a 23-to-12 Senate majority along with a veto-proof 44-to-21 House majority, not to mention a second term for Gov. Jared Polis.

While this was devastating for Republicans, it is even more ominous for the future of this state which is already experiencing a precipitous decline in its quality of life in the face of rising crime and rampant homelessness. The insane policies of unrestrained Democratic legislative majorities and their largely compliant governor have ravaged the personal safety of Coloradans.

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Republicans aggressively campaigned against these pro-criminal policies of their Democratic opponents, offering a clear choice to voters. But the Colorado electorate, driven by the 40% of unaffiliated voters who actually cast ballots, stood by Democrats. Maybe rising crime and homelessness is just a way of life in the places where these newly arrived voters came from, and they don’t mind it here.

Democratic leftists were fueled by an almost limitless amount of “dark money” that they so self-righteously decry, but Republicans were swamped in every competitive race. Democrats offered no defense of their pro-criminal policies and instead campaigned almost exclusively on abortion. painting their Republican opponents as dangerous threats to women. And it worked.

With these newly increased legislative majorities there is no doubt there will be a Democratic move to reversing the increased criminal penalties for fentanyl possession. Why be afraid of public reaction to once again decriminalizing fentanyl since voters strongly vindicated pro-criminal policies in this election?

A new mayor of Denver will be elected in 2023 and there is a strong possibility, even probability, a much more ideological, far-left mayor will be elected. We might be looking back on the glory years of outgoing Mayor Michael Hancock who was no conservative as he presided over the decline of downtown Denver.

So what is the opportunity for Colorado Republicans in future elections?

There is no major statewide race on the ballot in 2024 other than president. Given the results of the past three elections, it is difficult to see how Colorado will be seen as a swing state worthy of competing by both parties especially if Trump is once again the Republican presidential nominee.

But the Democrats could actually nominate the doddering Joe Biden for another term or the hapless Vice President Kamala Harris. Republicans might have the foresight to offer a younger, dynamic candidate with a record of electoral success such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was re-elected this week by a 20-point margin. Colorado might be in play.

Meanwhile, an out-of-control, pro-criminal Democratic legislature might actually go too far even in the minds of the unaffiliated voters who stood by them in 2022. Hope springs eternal.

But make no mistake about it. Colorado has fundamentally changed in the past 10 years and at least for right now, this is not a competitive state.

The once-great state of Colorado is declining and this election has accelerated that decline.

Dick Wadhams is a Republican political consultant and a former Colorado Republican state chairman.

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