By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
On the eve of a midterm election that could dramatically alter the political landscape, the heads of both the Colorado Republican and Democrat parties were optimistic that today’s vote would go their way.
Colorado Democrat Party Chair Pat Waak spent yesterday appearing with Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., to help people canvass. She was “cautiously optimistic” that today’s voting would benefit Democrats, and was confident about the Democrat candidates’ chances in the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate race. However, Waak was concerned about several of the congressional contests and had “no clue” about some of the other races.
Meanwhile, Colorado Republican Party chair Richard Wadhams was convinced yesterday that Republicans in Colorado would win three U.S. House races and take the majority in the legislature. He compared Waak’s confidence that Democrat Michael Bennet would beat Republican Ken Buck in the U.S. Senate race to “whistling past the graveyard.”
“We have the momentum,” he said.
The Senate race between Bennet and Buck has been called “the closest Senate race in the entire country.” Wadhams and Waak both have lawyers ready to go in case a recount is needed.
Political pundit and Denver Daily News columnist Aaron Harber doubts there will be a recount. Even when Bill Owens defeated his Democrat rival in the 1998 gubernatorial race by only 8,300 votes, no recount was called.
Wadhams said he had no idea how the gubernatorial race between Democrat John Hickenlooper, Republican Dan Maes and American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo would play out. When Tancredo, a former Republican congressman, announced he would run for governor as a third party candidate because he didn’t believe Maes was electable, Wadhams publicly feuded with Tancredo for supposedly handing the election to Democrats. But now that Tancredo is polling within 10 points of Hickenlooper, Wadhams said he would be “delighted” if Tancredo won.
“Tancredo has done a great job in making himself the true challenger to Hickenlooper,” he said.
Harber believes Tancredo would likely win the gubernatorial race if he had one more week to gain momentum. But he added that Tancredo likely didn’t have enough time to secure enough votes, and that enough Republicans voted early for Maes to give Hickenlooper a victory.
Minor party status?
If Maes fails to get 10 percent of the vote, Republicans will be relegated to “minor party status” for the next four years. Being a minor party would mean that Republican candidates would appear at the bottom of future ballots with candidates from other groups like the Libertarian and the Green parties.
Wadhams said he has given little thought to the possibility of Republicans becoming a “minor party.” He believes the laws would be changed if Maes gets less than 10 percent of the vote.
But Waak didn’t think the possibility of Republicans losing its major party status would have a minor impact. She chalked up the possibility to “one more step in a series of missteps that have seemed to have happened for the Republicans.”
“That’s sort of what happens when leadership doesn’t take firm control over party process,” she said.
For his part, Harber also believes the laws will be changed to grant Republicans major party status if Maes doesn’t get 10 percent of the vote. The brouhaha over Maes needing 10 percent of the vote was likely pushed by Democrats hoping that it would scare enough people to vote for him over Tancredo, he said.
Waak and Wadhams both don’t believe the major initiatives on the ballot, from the tax-slashing measures known as the “Ugly 3” (Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101) to a backdoor attempt to outlaw abortion (Amendment 62), will pass. The Democratic and Republican parties generally don’t take stances on initiatives, choosing instead to focus on the races, Wadhams and Waak said.