By Marianne Goodland
This piece first appeared in The Colorado Independent.
Democrats appear likely to keep control of the state House, and Republicans their one-seat lead in the state Senate, based on unofficial returns from Tuesday’s election.
Democrats currently hold a 34-to-31 advantage over Republicans in the House, and appeared likely to pick up three seats. That would give them a 37-to-28 advantage in the 2017 session.
That could include a seat in redder-than-red El Paso County, where Democrat and former state Rep. Tony Exum appears headed to a win over Republican incumbent Rep. Kit Roupe, both of Colorado Springs. Roupe beat Exum to win her first term in 2014.
In Adams County, Republican incumbent Rep. JoAnn Windholz is trailing her Democratic challenger, Dafna Michaelson Jenet by more than 4 percent in District 30. Windholz came under fire last year for blaming Planned Parenthood for the shooting at a Colorado Springs clinic last November. Vicki Cowart of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains told The Colorado Independent that she had walked the district as a volunteer, and heard from voters in the Commerce City district that they value women’s health care and the ability to make their own health care choices.
In Durango’s House District 59, Democrat Barbara McLachlan holds a slightly more than 1-point lead over Republican incumbent J. Paul Brown in unofficial results.
Another tight race in the suburbs south of Denver shows Democrat Jeff Bridges of Greenwood Village with a five-point lead over Republican Katy Brown of Cherry Hills Village. The House District 3 open seat held by term-limited Rep. Daniel Kagan of Cherry Hills Village.
In the foothills west of Denver, Republican Rep. Tim Leonard of Evergreen –who likely is headed to jail next month over a contempt of court charge in his divorce case – appears headed to a narrow victory over Democrat Tammy Story of Conifer.
House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran of Denver, likely the next Speaker of the House and the first Latina to hold that position, said her priorities will include transportation, affordable housing, economic development in rural parts of the state and equal pay for women.
“We have an incredible quality of life and need to continue to preserve it. But with 100,000 people moving to Colorado every year, we have serious issues. We need a statewide plan to fund transportation, address affordable housing and make sure every boy and girl has an opportunity to realize their full potential through educational opportunities. We also need to listen. A lot of working people in this state make good decisions but feel they are being left behind” and should have access to the American dream, Duran said.
Republicans are likely to keep their one-seat advantage in the state Senate.
Democrats had several paths to winning control of the Senate, but in the end couldn’t find that one last seat.
The most endangered Republican in the state Senate, Sen. Laura Woods of Westminster, appears headed to defeat in her northern Jefferson County District 19 race against Democratic former state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada. Woods was a strong supporter of Republican president-elect Donald Trump. As of this writing, Zenzinger is up by almost 2 percentage points.
In Senate District 26, an open seat held by term-limited Democrat Sen. Linda Newell of Littleton, Democratic state Rep. Daniel Kagan of Cherry Hills Village has a six-point lead over Republican Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Doty of Littleton.
In the race for another seat Democrats hoped to pick up, Republican incumbent Jack Tate has a nearly six-point lead over Democratic newcomer Tom Sullivan and appears headed to a win in Centennial-based Senate District 27.
But the marquee race of the night was for the District 25 seat in eastern Adams County, a fight between Republican Rep. Kevin Priola of Henderson and Democratic former Rep. Jenise May of Aurora. The seat was an open one, held by Democratic Sen. Mary Hodge of Brighton, who is term-limited this year and has been a moderate-to-conservative Democrat at the state Capitol. While the county voted strongly in favor of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, unofficial results show the rural eastern part of the county giving Priola a more than seven-point win over May, by some 2,977 votes.
Sen. Kevin Grantham of Canon City, likely to become the next senate president, told supporters at the Denver Tech Center Doubletree Hotel that there were still quite a few votes to count. “We’re going to let the process take its path that it does, and we’re looking forward to retaining the majority of the state Senate,” he said.
“Cross your fingers, we’re going to keep working, we’re going to keep fighting for you and everyone else,” Grantham added.