Thursday, July 18, 2013

Colorado Demographics, Again

Even though we're only midway through 2013, Colorado Republican politicians, past and present, are declaring for the races for their party's nominations for the 2014 election's big statewide offices of Governer and US Senator.  One of the remarks State Sen. Randy Baumgardner's made when he was tossing his hat in the ring for the US Senate seat -- and an impressive hat it is, oft noted upon down at the Statehouse -- struck me: "It's time you have somebody representing middle America, rural Colorado and working Colorado.... I am middle America. I ranch for a living. I'm connected to the land."  The thought struck me after I read this, how well do I represent Colorado voters relative to the so-far declared Republican candidates?

The three who have announced are former Rep. Tom Tancredo, State Sen. Greg Brophy, and State Sen. Randy Baumgardner.  Let me provide a quick demographic sketch for each.
  • Rep. Tancredo is a Colorado native, born in Denver in 1945.  He currently lives in Littleton, one of Denver's western suburbs.  Most of his adult life has been spent in politics: two terms in the Colorado House, ten years in the federal Department of Education, president of the Independence Institute (a libertarian-leaning think tank that lobbies on a variety of issues), four terms in the US House, founded the Team America PAC and the American Legacy Alliance Super PAC, ran for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008, and ran for Governor as the candidate for the American Constitution Party in 2010, but re-registered as a Republican pretty promptly after the election.
  • Sen. Brophy was born in Holyoke, Colorado in 1966 and currently lives near Wray, Colorado.  Wray is located in Yuma County, one of the Colorado counties that was part of a short-lived secession proposal earlier this summer.  Sen. Brophy currently manages his family farm, property that his grandmother homesteaded.  His campaign announcement tour visited Parker, Pueblo, Aspen, Rifle, Palisade, Glenwood Springs, Colorado Springs, and Loveland.  I note that although he has said his purpose is to listen -- and presumably represent -- all Coloradans, the tour avoided entirely the heavily-populated core of the Front Range corridor -- Denver, its western suburbs, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield.
  • Sen. Baumgardner was born in Bedford, Indiana in 1956.  With his wife, he owns and operates two ranches in central Colorado.  He worked for the Colorado Department of Transportation for ten years, and has served in the Colorado General Assembly since 2008.  Based on the quote up in the first paragraph, it seems clear that like Sen. Brophy, Sen. Baumgardner will push hard that his rural lifestyle is a important experience which should influence Colorado's voters favorably.
I was born in 1953; spent my childhood in a small town in Iowa, but my adult life in urban/suburban settings; I moved to Colorado 25 years ago; I have worked for large corporations, as an individual proprietor, and for the state government as a non-partisan legislative policy analyst for three years; sent two kids through Colorado's public K-12 system and assorted state universities or colleges (and taught a semester of calculus at the local community college);  I live in one of the Front Range counties (the 10 most populous counties, located along the I-25 urban corridor from Pueblo on the south to Fort Collins on the north, account for 80.8% of Colorado's population as of the 2010 census); politically I'm a pragmatist first and a strong believer that government ought to be simpler, which is not the same as smaller.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think there's a pretty simple case to be made that I'm much more representative of Colorado's voters, particularly the voters the Republicans need to win to reverse their recent problems with state-wide elections, than those three.  And that's a real problem for the Republicans.  Population growth, job growth (in absolute terms), wealth accumulation -- those are things that are being dominated by the Front Range.  The Republicans need to run candidates that can make a convincing argument that they understand and have a platform intended to deal with the problems of the Front Range.  A simple example is transportation.  A decade ago, it became apparent that adding lots more lane-miles wasn't an effective solution to all of the transportation needs of the rapidly growing population of the Front Range core around Denver.  As a result, voters in that core approved the FasTracks light rail system [1].  TTBOMK, the Republicans have never come to grips with the idea that people would chose something other than cars and roads.

A candidate for Governor or US Senate who runs on "I represent rural Colorado values," with an implied "I represent rural Colorado interests," is a losing proposition.  Colorado's population demographics have reached a tipping point, and the Republicans need to recognize it.  Until they do, they will continue to lose the big state-wide elections, and by an increasing margin.

[1] I'm a FasTracks fan.  I am so looking forward to the day when the Gold Line opens in Arvada in 2016, with a station within two miles of where I live, and trains that will reach downtown in 18 minutes in sun, rain, or snow.  The snow part in particular, since the Denver area roads are so crowded that a good snowstorm turns them into parking lots.

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