Some Democrats in Colorado are feeling vulnerable for this 2014 election cycle, and it isn’t helping that one of their own is pushing anti-fracking ballot measures that Democrats fear are poised to rouse Republicans to the polls.
In 2008, Colorado began to “turn blue” with a famously concerted effort proclaimed the “Colorado Model” by which progressives systematically targeted the state with big government policy proposals that began to beat back the GOP primacy in the state.
The Democrats at last overstepped with their massively strict anti-gun policies, which resulted in the 2013 recall elections that toppled no less than the president of the state’s Senate, Democrat John Morse, and another Senator who backed the anti-gun measures.
Since then the GOP has looked poised to take back some political territory, and the 2014 elections promise to bring them gains. With Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper and Democrat Senator Mark Udall in tough races, something like this could help turn the tide away from their re-election efforts.
So, with the “nail-biting” elections everyone expects this year, Democrats are cross with Congressman Jared Polis who is pushing several anti-business and anti-energy ballot initiatives that he hopes will put restrictions on fracking for oil and gas in the state.
Polis lives in a district that has a lot of support for the idea. Four of the larger cities there have already passed local ordinances banning fracking. However, the idea is not popular statewide, and the ballot measures Polis backs are causing other Democrats some amount of heartburn.
As Time reports, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper “has spent the better part of the last month trying to come up with a legislative compromise so he could call the state legislature back into a special session” to come up with some compromise bill that would make Polis’s initiatives moot. However, the Gov. is fighting a ballot measure deadline of August 4, and getting the legislature to act before that seems remote.
It is also reported that several Democrats have tried to twist Polis’s arm to get him to drop the ballot initiatives, thus far to no effect.
Democrats fear these ballot measures could be a Republican “turn out machine:”
“The concern among many Democrats is that the ballot initiatives that we’re talking about are very, very appealing the farther left you go; troubling at the center; and on the right, they are turn out machines,” says Steve McMahon, a Democratic strategist and Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign manager. “If you’re in a safe district, you’re not concerned. But if you’re a Democrat that has to win statewide these things look a lot different.”
An important force behind Colorado’s economic turnaround has been the oil and gas industry, but here is a very rich Democrat Congressman in a very safe district making an enemy of the biggest force set to bring prosperity back to the state. It is something that Democrats think is the perfect issue to rouse Republicans.
The Colorado Petroleum Association characterized these ballot measures as a “gun to their head” in that instead of trying to craft legislation with input from the industry and the public alike, Polis is just trying to ram through ballot initiatives based only on his ideas and those of his left-wing supporters.
Showing what a hot-button issue it all is, opponents of the Polis-backed ballot measures have thus far raised more funds to fight the measures than the supporters of the move for restrictions.
Even as the energy industries in Texas, North Dakota, Canada, and other nearby areas are booming, heavy political restrictions in Colorado have kept the Centennial State in the back of the pack for enjoying the sort of benefits it might from fracking and other means of extracting fossil fuels. Polis’s ballot initiatives would further hamper an industry that is going great guns all around Colorado.
With the pressure that these ballot measures could bring to Republican voters to get out and vote, Democrats are running scared. Already Senator Mark Udall is neck-and-neck in the polls with challenger, Republican Cory Gardner. Incumbent Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper still leads his GOP opponent, Bob Beauprez, but only by some 5 percent – not a big lead for an incumbent.
These ballot measures could help bring Republicans to the polls for candidates down ballot, too. With Republicans under funded, this can only help the GOP. Still, only one House seat, Representative Mike Coffman’s, seems a safe Republican seat in House races. But no one expected the recall efforts to topple two state Senators, either.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.