As promised, last week the state senate; this week the state house. Currently, the Democrats own the chamber by a 38-27 advantage. It’s a fairly safe bet that the Republicans will have more representatives than 27 come 2011. But winning back the majority will be a tough challenge, so just how many can they win?
All 65 seats are up every two-year cycle, and a lot of jockeying can still be expected to take place. Of current Republican-held seats, the only truly vulnerable one belongs to one-term incumbent Kevin Priola (HD 30, Adams County). On the other hand, based on voter registrations and incumbent strength, here are what I see as the dozen Democrat seats that are potential pick-ups — as you’ll see, some likelier than others:
1. House District 27 (Jefferson) You might say I am partial to this race because it’s my home district. But of all the Democrat-held seats, only one has a higher share of Republican registered voters than HD 27’s 35 percent. And incumbent Sara Gagliardi has a pro-Ritter voting record. A strong GOP candidate at the top of the ticket and/or a strong fiscally conservative Republican challenger should help swing this one back to the good guys. Leans GOP pick-up
2. House District 17 (El Paso) Looking for a possible rematch of 2008, hard-working GOP candidate Kit Roupe is vying against attorney and former police officer Mark Barker for the GOP nomination. Their goal is to take on the weakest incumbent in the field: liberal Democrat Dennis Apuan — whose narrow 2008 win during an Obama sweep looks mighty thin right now. Leans GOP pick-up
3. House District 38 (Arapahoe, Jefferson) Thirty-eight percent of the voters in this suburban district are Republican. A credible, fiscally conservative challenger who can point out the pro-Ritter votes of incumbent Joe Rice should reap the rewards of any GOP enthusiasm that may come in 2010. Toss-up: Slight edge GOP pick-up
4. House District 33 (Broomfield, Boulder, Adams, Weld) Republican challenger Don Beezley is off and running in an attempt to unseat two-termer Dianne Primavera in what was a strong GOP district until 2006. Toss-up: Slight edge GOP pick-up
After the first four, the real challenges begin….
5. House District 56 (Eagle, Summit, Lake) If incumbent Democrat Christine Scanlan opts to run for Senate District 16 — which will make that seat a difficult Republican pick-up — move this one up the list. If she stays put, slide it down. Toss-up: Slight edge Dem hold
6. House District 47 (Pueblo, Fremont) This is one of a few state house districts where the registrations have trended Republican, though Democrats still have the edge. Without term-limited incumbent Buffie McFadyen on the ticket and with a strong Republican contender in place, favorable winds certainly could push this race into the GOP column. Toss-up: Slight edge Dem hold
7. House District 18 (El Paso) Another chance for the Republicans to benefit from term limits resides in southwest El Paso County, where union-backed hellraiser Mike Merrifield steps down in 2010. The scenario here is much like HD 47, except there are fewer Republicans and more unaffiliated voters in HD 18. Toss-up: Slight edge Dem hold
8. House District 29 (Jefferson) Democrat incumbent Debbie Benefield figures to be tough to beat, but if the Republican Party can rally behind challenger Robert Ramirez with a strong, credible fiscally conservative message that appeals to independent voters, a win in north Jeffco probably would help seal a transfer of power in the Colorado House of Representatives. Leans Dem hold
9. House District 31 (Adams) A strong Republican wave behind a hard-working candidate could topple teachers union favorite Judy Solano, but I see nothing there at this point to convince me it’s more than a faint hope. Leans Dem hold
10. House District 50 (Weld) Republicans should be more competitive in Greeley and the surrounding area, but incumbent Democrat Jim Riesberg is one of the harder-working legislators on the scene. A mighty Republican electoral wave could unseat him in this somewhat heavily unaffiliated district, but several things would have to fall into place first. Leans Dem hold
11. House District 23 (Jefferson) A place-filler for economic illiteracy poster child Gwyn Green, incumbent Democrat Max Tyler has yet to face election on his own. But the GOP in the Lakewood/Golden area need to show they have overcome the divisive fallout of former Rep. Ramey Johnson’s bitter 2004 defeat and a slight dip in registered Republican voters. Likely Dem hold
12. House District 64 (Otero, Las Animas, Prowers, Huerfano, Baca, Bent) Of the dozen on the list, this southern Colorado district certainly feels the farthest from the State Capitol. Incumbent Democrat Wes McKinley is a man all his own, with 40 percent of district voters registered in his party. While he didn’t perform as strongly in 2008 as some of his fellow Democrat incumbents higher up the list, here’s guessing Obama withdrawal and anti-Ritter sentiment affects his chances less than theirs. Likely Dem hold
The gurus at State Bill Colorado have weighed in with some valuable insights and observations — as well as a complete list — of the 65 districts and potentially hot races. But in my opinion, they also have missed the boat a little bit by omitting from discussion HD 38, 47 and 18.
Okay, now it’s your turn to sound off on Round 2 of my political armchair quarterbacking. Since Rasmussen is a heck of a bigger deal than yours truly, your disagreement with any or all of my projections may just be spot-on.