With political tempers running high and decisions on energy and public lands in the balance, the state of Colorado is keyed up for a pivotal election this November. We give you information on the issues and the candidates across the state to help better navigate your ballot.
After a huge voter turnout for Colorado’s primaries in June, the Centennial State’s November election promises to be a showdown to remember. Ballots will start going out Oct. 15, and Election Day is Nov. 6. Here’s what you’ll be voting for this fall.
Statewide Ballot Initiatives for 2018:
No matter where you live in the state, these measures—which will change either state statutes, the state constitution or both—will appear on your ballot.
Amendment A: Removes slavery language
Sound familiar? Two years ago, this same amendment to the state constitution was brought before voters. The idea is simple: Remove archaic language that still allows slavery or indentured servitude. The language on the 2016 ballot was confusing, and voters rejected the initiative. Here’s an easy way to remember: Do you hate slavery? Yes, of course you do. Vote yes to remove it.
Amendment V: Lowers the age qualification for state legislature to 21
Currently, you must be 25 to serve as a legislator in Colorado’s General Assembly. This amendment would lower the minimum age for serving as a state senator or representative to 21.
Amendment W: Shortens ballot language for judges
This is a ballot format change for questions about retaining judges. If it passes, the judge’s name will appear below the question about retention, with a yes or no, instead of within the question.
Amendment X: Adopts federal definition of industrial hemp
When Colorado voters legalized cannabis in 2012, they also enshrined rules for THC levels in industrial hemp into the constitution. In 2014, the Farm Bill opened the doors to hemp research and set the federal THC limit for the crop at 0.3 percent—identical to Colorado’s constitution. Now, with the next Farm Bill on the horizon, state legislators are worried farmers here will be left behind if the federal legal limit changes. Amendment X would adopt the federal definition of hemp. Proponents hope this will give Colorado farmers—who produce half of the country’s hemp crop—flexibility if the federal rules change.
Amendment Y: Creates an independent panel for Congressional redistricting
Lawmakers and political appointees set Congressional districts and draw district boundaries every 10 years, after the Census. But, as a Colorado Springs Gazette story noted, politicians from both sides know partisan politics come into play in redistricting, though “neither side openly admits to gerrymandering.” Enter Amendment Y, which establishes an independent panel—with equal numbers of members from the two largest political parties—and judicial review process for redistricting. Adding to the pressure for this measure: Colorado is projected to add a U.S. Rep after the next Census.
Amendment Z: Creates an independent panel for state legislative redistricting
Amendment Z establishes an independent panel for redistricting for state legislators.
Amendment 73: Establishes tax brackets and raises funds for education
This amendment would raise $1.6 billion for public schools in Colorado by raising taxes on corporate income and individuals making more than $150,000 a year. The measure funds all-day kindergarten and some special-needs preschool programming. Opponents say this funds a system that doesn’t improve student achievement. Backers say this is the funding Colorado schools sorely need.
Amendment 74: Compensates property owners for reduction in market value
This measure would give property owners the right to ask for compensation from the state, city or county if their property’s value was reduced because of state laws or regulations— say, for example, because of new oil and gas setbacks. Opponents say this would clog the courts and be a burden for taxpayers, and that the measure doesn’t define “fair market value.”
Amendment 75: Changes rules on campaign financing
Known as the “Stop Buying Our Elections” initiative. If passed, this question would change campaign financing rules for candidates vying for state-level office, from governor to members of the state House and Senate. The amendment targets those who have contributed $1 million or more to their own campaigns, a category that includes both gubernatorial candidates.
Proposition 109: Authorizes bonds for transportation improvements
Here’s what both sides seem to agree on: The state’s roads fall further into continued disrepair, with CDOT having to delay projects—despite the General Assembly wrestling with funding propositions. Here’s what no one seems to agree upon: How to fund the problem. As Proposition 110, below, became a reality, some critics of the measure countered the proposed tax with this counter-initiative, which would authorize $6 billion in bonds for transportation. It would let CDOT take care of some high-priority projects but leaves the General Assembly to figure out how to pay back those bonds over 20 years.
Proposition 110: Increases sales tax to fund transportation improvements
This proposition seeks to fund those aforementioned transportation projects (beyond the ones marked as high-priority) with a 0.62 percentage-point tax increase to raise a projected $20 billion over the next 20 years. Critics think the tax is too high — it amounts to 62 cents on every $100 you spend starting in 2019. Backers say it’s the only way to fund the transportation backlog and plan for the future.
Proposition 111: Caps annual interest rates on payday loans
This would limit annual interest rates on payday loans at 36 percent and eliminate other finance charges and fees lenders levy on these loans. The organization that brought the signatures for the initiative, Coloradans to Stop Predatory Payday Loans, told Westword that lenders sometimes charge as much as 200 percent to the working families who use them. The proposition has no registered opposition.
Proposition 112: Increases oil and gas setbacks
If passed, this would require a minimum setback for oil and gas development at 2,500 feet from occupied structures and “vulnerable areas,” which include drinking water sources, public open space, irrigation canals, reservoirs, lakes, rivers and creeks. The current setback is 500 feet for homes and 1,000 feet for schools. A report from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission released earlier this summer concluded that the setbacks would take 54 percent of Colorado’s land and 85 percent of the state’s non-federal land off the table for new development. A spokesman for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association told the Denver Post the setbacks would cost more than 100,000 local jobs, and critics of the measure say oil and gas tax revenue is also major player in the state’s booming economy. Some proponents of the setbacks say they don’t go far enough to protect public health, citing studies that link wells and fracking to a variety of health concerns, and an explosion caused by a leaking flow line that killed two people in Firestone last year. Of note: Both gubernatorial candidates have said the measure would effectively kill the industry in the state; neither candidate supports the setbacks.
Statewide Elected Officials:
These candidates will be all ballots.
Jared Polis, D | Walker Stapleton, R
As term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, leaves office, the whole country could be watching the showdown for the state’s top office on Election Day. Democrat Jared Polis, currently serving as District 2’s U.S. Representative, will face pro-business, Trump-aligned state Treasurer Walker Stapleton. Since this is EO, let’s look at their environmental records and policies: The League of Conservation Voters gives Polis their top score of 100 for his 2017 voting record, and Conservation Colorado and the Sierra Club have endorsed the Democrat from Boulder. Asked about renewable energy, Walker has called for an “all of the above” approach to energy development that lets markets sort out what energy Coloradans use. The Durango Herald reported that at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association annual Energy Summit in late August, Stapleton said, “Without energy development we would not be able to build the storage we need to meet the needs of our growing population, to protect clean drinking water and do it in a way that protects our ecosystems around our streams, rivers and lakes.” Both candidates say they’re opposed to increased oil and gas setbacks.
George Brauchler, R | Phil Weiser, D
Current AG Cynthia Coffman declined to run for office again to make a (failed) bid for the Governor’s office. In her wake is a robust race between Republican George Brauchler, the District Attorney for the 18th Judicial District who was the prosecutor in the Aurora theater shooting trial, and Democrat Phil Weiser, who was a Justice Department official for the Clinton and Obama administrations and is a former dean of the University of Colorado Law School. At a recent debate in Grand Junction, Weiser served up many policy opinions, including telling the audience he wanted Colorado to be “a leader internationally on water management,” to which Brauchler replied that the AG’s role is not to be a legislator or policymaker.
Secretary of State
Jena Griswold, D | Wayne Williams, R
As Secretary of State, Republican Wayne Williams has established a nationally lauded risk-limiting audit system to ensure fair elections and instituted the system that automatically opts applicants for a driver’s license into the voter registration system, thus improving voter access, Westword reported. But his opponent, Democrat Jena Griswold, blames the incumbent for giving some Colorado voter data to a controversial White House commission on voter fraud — a move that caused thousands of voters to panic and cancel their registration.
Brian Watson, R | Dave Young, D
With current state treasurer Stapleton not seeking reelection to pursue the governorship, businessman Brian Watson, a Republican and the CEO of an investment firm in Denver, and Democratic state Representative from Greeley Dave Young will vie for the job. During his time in the state House, Young has had a seat on the Joint Budget Committee. Watson says he won’t accept a salary if he gets the job.
U.S. House of Representatives from Colorado:
Depending upon where you live, one of these races will appear on your ballot.
District 1 (Denver)
Diana DeGette, D | Casper Stockham, R
DeGette, a Democrat, has held this seat for more than 20 years and, after a tough primary, is considered a shoo-in for this seat. The incumbent faces Casper Stockham, an Air Force veteran who has run for the seat before. Independent Paul Daily will also be on the ballot.
District 2 (Northern Colorado)
Joe Neguse, D | Peter Yu, R
Polis currently holds this seat—which opens the door for a new representative. Joe Neguse, a Democrat, wants to fight climate change by investing more in renewable energy and supports a ban on fracking on federal public lands; he told the Vail Daily that climate change and protecting public lands are a big part of the reason he’s running for Congress. Yu told the Summit Daily that he supports the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan effort to help the National Park Service tackle its maintenance backlogs. On energy, Yu told the Daily he’s a believer in natural gas: “It is abundant and affordable, and we should use it until renewable tech becomes affordable to average consumers.”
District 3 (Western Colorado and Pueblo)
Diane Mitsch Bush, D | Scott Tipton, R
Incumbent Scott Tipton, a Republican, will face Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush in the race for the Third, a huge district that spans all of western Colorado and even Pueblo. Tipton and Mitsch Bush are both former members of Colorado’s General Assembly. Tipton has held the U.S. House seat since 2010, and odds are good he’ll retain his seat in this right-leaning district.
District 4 (Eastern Plains)
Ken Buck, R | Karen McCormick, D
Republican Ken Buck is the incumbent in the race against Democrat Karen McCormick, a veterinarian from Longmont, in this deeply red district.
District 5 (Colorado Springs and west)
Doug Lamborn, R | Stephany Rose Spaulding, D
Republican incumbent Doug Lamborn will face Democrat Stephany Rose Spaulding in a race following a crowded primary for both. Lamborn has held his seat in the Fifth since 2007; Spaulding is a political newcomer who is a professor of women’s and ethnic studies at University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
District 6 (Aurora and Denver suburbs)
Mike Coffman, R | Jason Crow, D
Here’s the story out of District 6 the media tells every two years: Incumbent Mike Coffman is a Republican in a district with rapidly changing demographics — can he hang on to his seat? His opponent this time, attorney Jason Crow, a Democrat, seems to be posing a serious threat. He’s been neck-in-neck with Coffman this summer in polls.
District 7 (Lakewood and Denver suburbs)
Mark Barrington, R | Ed Perlmutter, D
Democrat Ed Perlmutter has held his seat in District 7 for more than a decade. The popular incumbent will face Republican Mark Barrington, a salesman from Lakewood.