Colorado Republicans were shellacked Tuesday night, which means, starting next year, the GOP will no longer have any statewide elected officials. And the party will have to wait until 2026 before they get a chance to change that.
That’s because there are no statewide offices up for reelection in 2024.
Additionally, the GOP was on track Wednesday morning to fall even further into the minority in the Colorado Senate – so far so that they won’t realistically have a shot at taking back the chamber in 2024. A Republican majority in the Colorado House is also largely seen as out of reach for the foreseeable future.
Democrats have never held this level of sustained power at the state or congressional levels in Colorado.
“It’s just super depressing if you’re a Republican,” said George Brauchler, a conservative talk radio host who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2018. He called his party’s 2022 losses “epic.”
Brauchler spoke to The Sun on Tuesday night at the Colorado GOP’s watch party at the DoubleTree Hotel in Greenwood Village, which was perhaps the saddest place in the state. It was not even 10 p.m. when the ballroom had almost fully cleared out, following concession speeches from U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea, secretary of state candidate Pam Anderson, treasurer candidate Lang Sias and John Kellner, who ran for attorney general.
A band played Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” to an audience of mostly reporters busy digesting the GOP’s stunning defeats.
“The outcome is a tough pill to swallow,” O’Dea said in his concession speech to a hushed crowd at about 8:30 p.m., when early returns showed him trailing Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet by 18 percentage points. “But that’s life in the big city.”
O’Dea, a first-time candidate and Denver construction company owner, ran as a moderate in the hopes of winning over voters in a state moving increasingly toward Democrats. It didn’t work – in a big way. (O’Dea was trailing Bennet by 12 percentage points on Wednesday morning.)
In La Plata County, Bennet received 59% of the vote compared to O’Dea’s 38%.
Heidi Ganahl, a University of Colorado regent who was the only statewide elected Republican, lost her bid Tuesday to unseat Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. The contest was called by Fox News, playing in the DoubleTree ballroom, minutes after the polls closed. Ganahl was trailing Polis by 18 percentage points on Wednesday morning.
In La Plata County, Polis received 62% of the vote compared with Ganahl’s 36%.
Former state Sen. Greg Brophy, an Eastern Plains Republican, was predicting a good night for Republicans heading into Election Day. On Wednesday morning he was in disbelief.
“I’m blown away,” he said. “In shock.”
Kristi Burton Brown, chairwoman of the Colorado GOP, said Tuesday’s results show where Colorado “really is” politically “and whether or not Colorado has become a state more like Washington or California.”
Republicans, she said, will now have to focus district by district on legislative races and on local elections – school board, mayoral and city council contests, for example – until they get another shot at statewide office. U.S. House races, which are decided every two years, will also be a major focus for the party.
“If it’s district by district,” she said, “we’ll go fight district by district.”
Burton Brown said the GOP’s next big focus will be in Aurora, where they hope to keep a Republican in the mayor’s office in Mike Coffman and a GOP majority on the City Council. (Aurora’s municipal races are technically nonpartisan.)
And then there’s the 2024 presidential race. But no Republican presidential candidate has won in Colorado since George W. Bush in 2004.
In the Colorado Senate, where Republicans hoped to win a majority and be able to stop Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ agenda, the GOP needed to win six of seven competitive races this year to secure the gavel. On Wednesday morning they were losing in all seven races.
While Republicans were hoping to ultimately win in a few of the seven districts once the vote count is complete, the party was bracing for the reality that they may fail in all of the races.
If Democrats ultimately prevail in the seven competitive contests, the party’s majority will expand to 23-12 from 21-14. There are only two Democratic seats the party is at a real risk of losing in 2024, which means their future majority doesn’t appear in doubt until at least 2027.
Republicans may have lost seats in the House his year, as well, where they were already outnumbered by Democrats 41-24.
“We as a party have self-imploded in Colorado,” Ben Engen, a Republican political consultant and data analyst, said Wednesday.
The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.