Record turnout for Colorado’s primary election

Record turnout for Colorado’s primary election

Walker Stapleton (R) and Jared Polis (D) won their respective party’s nominations for governor.

Walker Stapleton (R) and Jared Polis (D) won their respective party’s nominations for governor amid record turnout in Colorado’s primary election, which concluded yesterday. Over one million ballots were cast, besting the previous record for a mid-term election.

Ballot initiatives that passed in 2016 changed the primary system to allow non-affiliated voters to vote in party primaries. Unaffiliated voters who expressed a preference for a Republican or Democratic ballot were sent that party's ballot, but those who did not were sent both ballots with the caveat that if they voted both ballots, neither ballot would count.

Of the total, 411,578 ballots were cast by Democrats, 380,974 by Republicans and 251,133 by unaffiliated voters. Colorado voter rolls are almost evenly divided into thirds with Republicans and Democrats having 1 million active voters each; there are 1.2 million unaffiliated voters.

The ballot-return reports do not include in-person voting from Tuesday. Ballots were mailed on June 5th.

A significant factor for the increased turnout was the number of contested races in both parties. There had been speculation that with an essentially open primary there would be a lot of cross-party voting. Secretary of State Wayne Williams said yesterday, however, that only about 600 voters changed registration at the last minute to unaffiliated in order to get ballots from both parties.

On the Republican side, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, with 48% of the vote, beat former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez (13%) and businessmen turned aspiring politicians Doug Robinson (9%) and Victor Mitchell (30%). The Stapleton-Lopez result mirrored the result at the state party assembly. Robinson and Mitchell avoided the assembly by petitioning on to the ballot.

On the Democrat side, Jared Polis’ 45% to former State Treasurer 25% reverses the result of the Democrat state assembly where Kennedy beat Polis 2:1. Mike Johnston received 23% of the vote and Donna Lynne 7%.

This sets up a very interesting dynamic for the November election.

Stapleton seemed to appeal to Republicans across the spectrum and has a solid record as state Treasurer. Jared Polis, named the most corrupt member of Congress by political researcher Peter Schweitzer, is a far left billionaire known for spending millions of his own money on elections.

Jared Polis promises to make Colorado into a socialist state: in campaign ads, he promises universal healthcare via Medicaid for all, universal pre-k education, and 100% renewable energy.

Greg Lopez was a Tea Party favorite but had raised almost no money. Cary Kennedy was backed by the teachers’ union. A recent poll seemed to show Victor Mitchell surging toward the end but he fell well short.

In races for the U.S. House of Representatives, six of seven incumbents are running of re-election and all easily won re-nomination. Joe Neguse won the Democrat nomination for Jared Polis’s 2nd District safe Democrat seat. Expect to see no changes to the Colorado Congressional delegation in November.

The most controversial race was for El Paso County’s 5th District seat where an issue of the legality of petitions collected by incumbent Doug Lamborn threatened to derail his re-nomination. He won handily with 53% of the vote, beating challengers Darryl Glenn (20%) and Owen Hill (19%).

Statewide, the Republican nomination for Treasurer to replace Walker Stapleton is very close with Brian Watson at 38% and Justin Everett at 37% with about 4,000 votes separating them. State legislator Polly Lawrence came in third with 25%.

In El Paso County, incumbent Sheriff Bill Elder beat retired Air Force OSI colonel Mike Angley 58% to 42%. Elder won at the County Assembly as well.

On the Republican side, at least, voters did not reward negative campaigning. Bothe Victor Mitchell and Mike Angley ran nasty campaigns with questionable claims about their opponents. Both lost. Owen Hill’s Obama-like attempt to keep Doug Lamborn off the ballot also backfired. Both parties seemed finally to realize that trashing their opponents in the primary is a recipe for disaster in the general election.

Overall, it would be hard to claim a blue wave in Colorado. There were 236 candidates running in 190 races. As of 7pm Tuesday, Democrats had returned 41% of ballots, Republicans 38% and Unaffiliated 21%.