Yesterday’s election ushered in some significant changes to the political landscape both nationally and in Colorado. Although some races are still too close to call, a majority are settled, and we know what our state-level leadership will look like moving into 2019. Final results are also available for most state and local ballot initiatives, and we will highlight those below.
In the coming days and weeks, political experts and pundits will share their analysis and insights about the key take-aways from this midterm election. Here are some immediate storylines emerging that are worth taking note of now:
In Colorado, more ballots were turned in by unaffiliated voters than by Republicans or Democrats. As the Denver Post noted this morning, “This. Is. Unprecedented.” Never before have unaffiliated voters turned out in higher percentages than Republicans or Democrats, and while unaffiliateds do make up the largest voting block in Colorado, this strong turnout came as a surprise.
The blue wave has hit Colorado. Democrats will now control the Governor’s seat, House and Senate. The House significantly increased its Democratic majority and though some Senate races are still too close to call, Republicans will no longer control that chamber. Further indicative of Democrats’ success is that this will be the first time since 1977 that the Attorney General’s seat and Governor’s office will be held by the same party.
Anytime a single party has political control, there is always a question about whether they will swing too far in pursuing their agenda and alienate moderate and unaffiliated voters. Democrat leadership has already said that they are mindful of this dynamic and won’t overreach. We will know more about their legislative agenda for 2019 in the coming weeks.
Voters approved some local school district initiatives but did not approve Amendment 73. Voter approval for Amendment 73 fell short of 55% and we are very disappointed by the loss. Local district ballot questions came out with mixed results--there were a number of important successes but also some very hard losses. The fight for adequate funds for our public schools will continue, and we’ll be back to make our case to voters.
Below you will find key results from yesterday’s election. Leading into the 2019 legislative session, CASE will share the policy priorities and issues we expect to see and let you know how to get involved.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions, and as always, thank you for your membership in CASE.
- Lisa Escárcega, CASE Executive Director
Democrats seize majority at the statehouse
Democrat Jared Polis handily won the gubernatorial seat by about 52% compared to Walker Stapleton’s 45%. Polis, a former Colorado State Board of Education member, has been involved in public education causes for many years and promised during his campaign to make investments in our schools a high priority.
It was predicted that Democrats would retain their majority in the House, which proved true. They also picked up several seats that will widen their majority control; though not all races are settled, the most recent results point to a 38-27 split in that chamber.
Perhaps most surprising to many is that Democrats took control of the state Senate for the first time since 2014. Although votes are still being counted in a few key races, it could be that Democrats have a three-seat majority moving into 2019 with victories in a few key contentious races.
2018 Ballot Initiatives Results
This year’s ballot was a hefty one with thirteen initiatives, several of which had implications for public education. A majority of the initiatives failed, and we’ve outlined the results below.
Amendment 73: Tax Increase for Public Education – Did Not Pass
As you know, CASE has been a strong supporter of the Yes on Amendment 73 campaign, and like many of you, we’re very disappointed to see it fail. With that said, there is a lot to celebrate. The last few years have shown us that Colorado’s education leaders are coming together to improve Colorado’s school finance system. Last year, the state’s superintendents presented an education finance reform package to lawmakers after over two years of hard work. This movement has only continued to grow, and the election results are evidence of that. We’re encouraged by the incredible momentum we saw behind the Yes on 73 campaign, and CASE believes that the general public is recognizing the dire need to improve Colorado’s public education system.
This campaign made it further than anyone thought it would, and that support is highly promising. While Amendment 73 didn’t meet the 55% threshold to pass, it came quite close. When it comes to raising taxes, the public chose education by almost 6 points over a transportation tax. Even when you take increasing taxes off the table, the public chose to support education over transportation by more than 4 points. We credit this campaign with educating the public on the needs of our state’s schools, and we know that down the line, we’ll only continue to build on that momentum to eventually cross the finish line.
Amendment 74: Just Compensation for Damage Due to Government Law or Regulation – Did Not Pass
In October, we shared that the CASE Coordinating Council voted to oppose this measure; CASB and CRA also opposed it. The amendment would have allowed any property owner to sue local and state governments over any new regulation, which could include basic health and safety protections. The language of the measure was not clear or specific and could have led to a significant increase in lawsuits from property holders who believed that any property value decrease is due to government law or regulation.
The initiative failed narrowly, gaining only 54 percent approval (it needed 55 percent to pass). We’re pleased that Colorado voted against this risky amendment.
Transportation Initiatives: Propositions 109 & 110 – Both Did Not Pass
Also known as the “Fix Our Damn Roads” campaign, Prop. 109 would have required the state to issue up to $3.5 billion in bonds to fund 66 transportation projects. The Legislature would have needed to direct $260 million each year in General Fund revenue to pay off the bonds. The state would have effectively been taking on new debt, absent any new revenue to pay it back.
Proposition 110, on the other hand, would have raised the state’s sales tax .62 percent to generate up to $6 billion for transportation projects around the state. Both of these initiatives failed, so the state will revert back to Senate Bill 1, passed in this year’s legislative session. According to The Coloradoan, “it authorizes a 2019 ballot measure that would ask voters for bonding authority of about $3 billion to be repaid by the general fund over 20 years.”
Proposition 112: Increased Setbacks for Oil and Gas Development – Did Not Pass
This proposition would have required that any new oil and gas development be set back by at least 2,500 feet from homes and “vulnerable areas,” such as playgrounds, sports fields, lakes, rivers and amphitheaters. Colorado voters rejected the initiative, keeping the state’s current requirement of setting wells back 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools.
Please find a summary of the other initiatives in the following:
The following ballot initiatives passed:
- Amendment A: Prohibiting Slavery and Involuntary Servitude in Colorado
- Amendment W: Judge Retention Ballot Language
- Amendment X: Reclassifying Industrial Hemp in Colorado
- Amendment Y: Independent Redistricting Commission (US Congress)
- Amendment Z: Independent Redistricting Commission (State Houses)
- Proposition 111: Payday Loan Limits
The following ballot initiatives failed. We’ve provided some context for some of the more notable initiatives.
- Amendment V: Lowering the Age Requirement for General Assembly
- Amendment 75: Campaign Contribution Limits
2018 Local School District Results
This year’s ballots represented the largest amount of money asked for by school districts, combined, in the history of the state. According to the latest results from the Colorado School Finance Project, a number of important measures in local school districts passed, but we also faced several devastating losses of bond and mill levy override measures.
A few key takeaways include:
- $1.7 million mill levy override (MLO) to increase staff salaries, supplement full day Kindergarten and improve school safety in Archuleta County.
- After several unsuccessful attempts, a $250 million bond passed in Douglas County to improve security and infrastructure, security, information technology, and more.
- Aurora Public Schools passed a $35 million MLO for student health, safety and learning.
- Westminster Public Schools passed a $9.9 million MLO to attract and retain more teachers, mental health professionals and counselors, provide funds to existing vocational programs, and to enhance student environments.
- Jeffco passed a $33 million MLO that will go toward teacher retention, student mental health support, and expanded workforce readiness programs.
- Bethune’s measure for 15.2 mills—which would have supported the district’s need for facility upkeep, teacher retention and technology upgrades—failed.
- Another tough loss is in Pueblo City 60 District, where a $6 million MLO would have improved the quality of schools. A whopping 50 percent of these funds would have gone towards increasing teacher and staff salaries.
- Trinidad’s Bond / BEST request for $4.7 million would have gone towards badly-needed construction renovations at Trinidad Middle School to meet certain health and safety standards and extend the life of the facility. This measure did not pass. Trinidad also had an MLO on the ballot for $8.2 million, and that is still too close to call.
For a complete list of the local school district results, please click here. This document will update in real time, as more results become available.