Colorado Seen Trending Republican After Democratic Resignation

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Wednesday, 04 Dec 2013 08:32 AM

By John Gizzi

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Colorado has been rocked by the surprise resignation of Democratic state Sen. Evie Hudak, and Republicans from Denver to Washington have begun to seriously discuss whether this is the latest sign that the Centennial State is again trending Republican.

Hudak's Nov. 27 resignation — which puts Republicans in a stronger position to win control of the state Senate next year — occurred as the latest polls show Colorado's two top Democrats Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall — highly vulnerable to Republican challengers in 2014.

"Overreach" is a term Republicans in Colorado often use to characterize the major reason that Democrats are now facing major challenges to the lock they have held on major statewide offices for nearly a decade.

As former state Republican Chairman Dick Wadhams told Newsmax, "Democrats may very well have overreached when they pushed gun-control legislation through the Senate and when they supported a major tax increase for education that voters turned down by a margin of 2-to-1 last November."

Coming less than four months after two fellow senate Democrats were ousted in recall elections organized by gun owners and conservatives, Hudak was the target of a petition drive to place her on the ballot in a recall election.

Had the election been held and Hudak ousted, the state Senate's present one-seat Democratic edge — 18 seats to 17 in Republican hands — would have flipped to the Republicans, giving them control of the upper house of the legislature.

But the two-term senator chose to quit rather than fight.

"Hudak resigned because of the heat that a recall election would have generated," former Republican congressman and gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo told Newsmax. "She saw what happened to two of her colleagues and just did not want to go through that herself."

Under an established precedent for filling vacancies in the legislature, Democrats in Hudak's Jefferson County district will select a vacancy committee that, in turn, will pick a state senator to serve until elections next year.

Betting is strong that the Republican nominee in 2014 will be former U.S. Navy fighter pilot Lang Sias, who lost to Hudak last year by 584 votes in a race in which the Libertarian nominee drew 5,100 votes.

In the races for governor and U.S. Senator, a just-completed Quinnipiac Poll showed Republicans in a strong position to unseat both Hickenlooper and Udall.

With Hickenlooper's approval rating at 48 percent and disapproval at 46 percent, Quinnipiac found the governor leading Tancredo by a margin of 46 percent to 41 percent statewide among likely voters. The same poll showed Hickenlooper defeating Secretary of State Scott Gessler by 45 percent to 40 percent, state Sen. Greg Brophy 44 percent to 38 percent, and former state Senate GOP Leader Mike Kopp 44 percent to 40 percent.

A fifth contender could be Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who says he may be too busy to run if the alleged Aurora theater shooter is ruled fit to stand trial and he handles the prosecution.

As for Udall, Quinnipiac found him leading former Weld County District Attorney and 2010 GOP Senate nominee Ken Buck by a slim margin of 45 percent to 42 percent among likely voters.

The same survey showed Udall defeating state Sen. Owen Hill by 45 percent to 39 percent; state Sen. Randy Baumgardner 44 percent to 39 percent; and state Rep. Amy Stephens 45 percent to 38 percent.

When pitted by Quinnipiac against two businessmen and first-time candidates, Udall again has less-than-stellar margins, defeating Jaime McMillan by 43 percent to 40 percent, and Mark Aspiri, 45 percent to 36 percent.

"There should be a note of caution for Republicans who are brimming with optimism," Wadhams told Newsmax. "Because of [Hudak's] resignation and these poll numbers, Republicans should be not be lulled into believing that any Republican with a pulse can be elected. This is not a wholesale rejection of the Democrats.

"Republicans are challenged to nominate articulate candidates from the top down on the state ticket who have not demonstrated hostility to key groups of voters. They have to have the right candidates."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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