GOP Red Zone Facing More Competition; Dems Come Out Swinging at Rally
~ by Rick Langenberg ~
The Teller/El Paso County region, dubbed as an extinct area for Democrats, is commanding more attention in Colorado’s U.S. Senate 2020 race.
As the cliché goes, there are more donkeys than Democrats in the Pikes Peak region.
But don’t tell that to Democratic contenders for office in the 2020 election who are coming out swinging and party activists, even in our sizzling red zone. Local Republicans, who often had an uncompetitive terrain for Independence Day ceremonies and picnics, found themselves facing more competition this year.
In a recent pre-July 4 rally and forum held in Old Colorado City, Dem leaders had one overriding message: Pack your bags Senator Cory Gardner, as your days in office are numbered. In addition, familiar Democratic support for such signature party issues as climate change, a government-sponsored health care system, equal pay for women, green deal policies, opioid addiction, and a better tax system, echoed throughout the packed room loud and clear.
Our region may not be a prime spot for Democratic contenders, but with the state’s changing political alignment and a growing distaste for President Donald Trump, the stakes are changing. In fact, six Dem candidates for the highly touted U.S. Senate seat, made appearances at the pre-July 4th rally, held at a union hall in Old Colorado City. Moreover, the forum and summer picnic attracted a large crowd.
Those appearing included Democratic candidates Dan Baer, Trish Zornio, Stephanie Rose Spaulding, Lorena Garcia, Diana Bray and a representative for John Walsh.
Altogether, there is a possibility of more than 10 Dem candidates, as Gardner’s seat is considered one of the most vulnerable among incumbent senators facing re-election in the U.S next year. Another wild card candidate could be former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. According to recent press reports, Hickenlooper’s prospects as a presidential candidate are on life support. Some speculation exists that he could switch priorities and make a run for U.S. Senate, but Hickenlooper has denied such reports so far.
U.S. Senate candidate Trish Zornio, a scientist and University of Colorado professor, stressed the importance of climate change, health care and other key issues during a recent Democratic Party picnic in Old Colorado City. She is one of more than 10 official Democratic candidates trying to unseat incumbent Senator Cory Gardner. Standing in the background is party chairman Electra Johnson.
In any case, Democratic leaders in the region believe Gardner is in big trouble and his defeat will be a starting point in the Dems’ taking control of the U.S. Senate.
According to a recent poll, Gardner was listed as having a favorable rating of only a little more than 40 percent.
This fact was stressed strongly at the recent rally, as the Democratic candidates labeled Gardner as out of touch with the concerns of most citizens of Colorado. Even in the Pikes Peak region, Electra Johnson, the chairperson of the El Paso County Democratic Party, indicated that the Dems in the region are making major strides and are playing a key role in the outcome of state and national elections.
At the rally, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidates differed slightly on their signature priority issue, with climate change and health care gaining the most verbal support. “Climate change is the definitive issue of my generation,” said Trish Zornio, a scientist and University of Colorado professor, who actually appeared in Woodland Park last year. She and other Democratic candidates also put in a big plug for health care and education.
The issues of illegal immigration and gun restrictions appeared to garner the least amount of discussion, among the Democratic hopefuls. These are hot issues in Teller County, with a recent lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Teller sheriff’s involvement in the anti-immigration 287g federal enforcement program. Plus, concerns are high about Second Amendment gun ownership rights.
Gun restrictions are a subject that most Dem contenders are shying away from during this campaign go-around, at least in Colorado.
But most candidates weren’t afraid to take shots at Trump. “I want to restore human dignity and decency,” blasted U.S. Senate candidate Stephanie Rose Spaulding.
Spaulding, who previously tried to challenge incumbent Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn, emerged as probably the most charismatic speaker.
The candidates refrained from sparring with each other, and instead, told a few personal stories. Zornio noted that her parents recently got involved in a major motorcycle accident in Maine, an event that further reinforced her belief in the need for a better government-mandated health care system
Baer, who is gay and served as U.S. Ambassador under President Obama, described how the state has greatly progressed since the passage of Amendment 2 in the early 1990s, a law that denied rights for the LBGT community and even gave Colorado the image as a hate state. (Eventually, it was overturned by the Supreme Court.) If it wasn’t for this change in attitude and policies, Baer said he would have faced a dangerous economic and personal plight.
Big Inroads at the State Level
And the Dems are making major inroads at the state capitol, under the leadership of Governor Jared Polis, noted several Democratic state lawmakers.
State Senator Pete Lee noted that 462 bills were passed during the last legislative session. Out of this, he boasted of more than 10 key climate and green energy bills. Contrary to their Republican counterparts, the Democratic lawmakers described the session as extremely productive.
The campaign season will soon hit a high point as the caucus and assembly party frenzy gets underway at the beginning of next year.
For the early part of 2020, the Dems will steal much of the statewide show due to the competitive nature of the U.S. Senate race. Even in conservative El Paso and Teller counties, look for more picnics and forums that showcase these candidates.