While the Colorado state Senate could change party hands on election night, it’s unlikely, with an eight-seat deficit, that Republicans will be able to flip enough seats to take control away from the Democrats.
There are several seats that could flip from Democrat to Republican, but Democrats also have a shot at flipping at least two seats.
There are only five members of the Colorado House who are term-limited, and all are Democrats and in mostly safe Democratic districts.
But take a look at the number of House members who decided to do something else for 2019, and the list grows by a factor of three. Fifteen members of the House are leaving that body, 10 Republicans and five Democrats. Eleven ran or are running for other offices, such as county commissioner, state Senate, state treasurer or even lieutenant governor (Republican Rep. Lang Sias of Arvada).
Then there were three who lost their primary races (Republican Reps. Judy Reyher of Swink and Phil Covarrubias of Brighton, and Democratic Rep. Paul Rosenthal of Denver) and another who quit for other reasons (Republican Rep. Tim Leonard of Evergreen).
While all 65 seats are up for election in 2018, those changes create 20 open seats in the House.
So what are the races to watch? While the Senate is the main battleground in 2018, there are a few races that are worth watching for on election night.
House District 47 includes Fremont, Otero and parts of rural Pueblo County. The race began with a primary loss by Reyher to fellow Republican Don Bendell. But Bendell’s children launched a salvo of their own, calling him a “deadbeat dad” for failing to pay child support for 17 years.
While the seat has been held by Republicans since 2010 with the election of then-Rep. Clarice Navarro Ratzlaff, this is a seat, based on current voter registrations, campaign fundraising and primary performance, that could go to the Democrat, Brianna Buontello of Pueblo.
When former Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton got kicked out of the General Assembly in March amid accusations of sexual misconduct and retaliation against his accusers, he switched his party registration at the last minute to allow a Republican to fill the House District 34 seat.
But voter registration, campaign fundraising and primary performance don’t bode well for his replacement, Rep. Alexander “Skinny” Winkler. His Democratic opponent, Kyle Mullica, has so far raised more than $120,000 to Winkler’s $2,000 in contributions, although Winkler has also loaned his campaign $12,000. The seat has not been held by a Republican in at least 30 years.
And then there’s the perpetual back-and-forth between Democratic-Rep. Tony Exum, Sr. and Republican former Rep. Kit Roupe, both from the House District 17 seat in southern Colorado Springs. Exum won the seat in 2016, taking it from Roupe, who took it from him in 2014. Voter registration favors the active unaffiliates, with 13,706; Democrats trail behind at 10,304 and Republicans at 8,139. Exum has outraised and outspent Roupe so far in 2018, but don’t count her out: he outraised and outspent her in 2014 and still lost.
Two races may depend on how voters view questions about where their candidates live.
One is in House District 62, in the San Luis Valley. The district is solidly Democratic, but the campaign spending so far actually slightly favors the Republican challenger, Scott Honeycutt of Alamosa, helped by a loan of more than $13,000 to his campaign coffers. He’s challenging Democratic Rep. Donald Valdez of La Jara, who has faced questions about whether he actually lives in the district and for getting into confrontations with fellow Democrats at the state Capitol.
And in House District 54, the Republican, Matt Soper, is also under fire to not living in the district as well as what his family is willing to do to fix that. Two complaints were lodged with district attorneys in Delta and Denver counties over Soper’s residency claims. Soper’s only opponent is independent candidate Thea Chase of Palisade. He did not show up for their last scheduled debate in Grand Junction.
Finally, there’s House District 41 in Aurora, where Democratic Rep. Jovan Melton picked up a late Republican challenge. Melton was asked last month to step down based on reports about a 1999 conviction tied to domestic violence. But the three-term Democrat shows no signs of doing that and he has strong support from some of the area’s most prominent African-American community leaders and politicians.