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Political Trends To Watch From Colorado's 2014 Election

Grace Hood

From a national perspective, 2014 is seen as an election in which voters expressed their frustration with Democratic President Barack Obama and gridlock in Washington D.C., bringing a Republican majority to both the U.S. House and Senate. But in Colorado, the picture is more complicated.

While voters rejected Democratic incumbent Mark Udall and elected Republican Challenger Cory Gardner for the U.S. Senate, they voted by a small margin to keep Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper in power.

In an interview that aired on Morning Edition, Jody Hope Strogoff, publisher of the Colorado Statesman, said that there's something telling about how Colorado voters went for a split ticket for the top two races.

"I think it shows the independent streak in Colorado, the fact that this is still a purple state. And that this is a state where personality and performance perhaps matters more than political party or partisanship," she said.

Coloradans may see more of an "attitude adjustment" during the 2015 legislative session from Gov. Hickenlooper, according to Strogoff.

"He stressed that he's going to be trying to compromise more and listen more," she said. "He also said that one of the things he's learned is that he's got to invite people from all the different sides to the table while they're coming up with legislation. This was something that has been a misfire in the past." 

Hickenlooper will be administering in a much different environment in 2015 with a slim Republican Party majority in the Colorado Senate, and a Democratic majority in the Colorado House. Former Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, who is term limited, said during a Nov. 11 conference call with reporters that two key issues to watch will be the state budget and oil & gas legislation resulting from Gov. Hickenlooper task force.

Credit Grace Hood / KUNC

"Remember the first two years of Gov. Hickenlooper's first term was a split legislature. If you look at the number of bills that came to governor's desk, it's about the same as when we had one party controlling both chambers," said Ferrandino. "I think we'll see a lot of work get done in the legislature."

As Colorado turns the corner toward the 2016 general election, another key issue to watch will be what happens with immigration reform. Colorado's turnout for Latino voters was strong in 2014 — just as it was in 2012.While Latino voters supported Democrats over Republicans 2 to 1, Colorado's GOP made inroads with Latino voters.

Jill Hanauer, CEO of the left-leaning political strategy group Project New America, said Gardner succeeded largely by not addressing the issue of immigration.

"He tried to avoid it, he was trying to transcend that issue and I don't think it was a key part of that narrative," she said.

According to a Nov. 4 poll, the research group Latino Decisions reported that 45 percent of Latinos polled nationwide said immigration reform was their top issue. On Nov. 9, President Obama told CBS' Face The Nation that he plans to take executive action by the end of 2014, adding that he hopes Congress will also address the issue.

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