Colorado 2010 State Senate Showdown: First Quarter Look at Hot Races

Sometime late in the last decade, the good old Aughts, I set up the state of play as Colorado Republicans (currently 21-14 in the minority) seek to take back the state senate. Following the release of fourth quarter reports on the Secretary of State’s campaign finance site, I have ranked in order an updated list of the eight seats — out of 19 up for grabs — most likely to change party hands:

1. Senate District 6 (Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, Montrose, Ouray, San Juan, San Miguel) – DEM Republican state representative Ellen Roberts kept pace with appointed incumbent Democrat Bruce Whitehead. Both raised just over $15,000, with Roberts ahead in cash on hand by more than two-to-one. This seat remains the closest to an automatic party switch in the fall. Likely GOP pick-up

2. Senate District 16 (Boulder, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Grand, Jefferson, Summit) – DEM Conservative GOP newcomer Tim Leonard had $21,000 on hand to start the calendar year. Last week fellow Republican, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert (of Kobe Bryant fame), announced his bid to challenge Leonard in a primary. No Democrat has stepped up yet to fill the void left by Dan Gibbs’ decision not to seek an extra term. The longer the wait, the more the GOP’s edge grows. Leans GOP pick-up

3. Senate District 20 (Jefferson) – DEM This race moves up from #4, as moderate Democrat Cheri Jahn and liberal primary rival David Ruchman remain engaged in a primary where each candidate has about $20,000 on hand. Of the two, Jahn is closer to the political mold of retiring incumbent Maryanne “Moe” Keller. Meanwhile, Republican John Odom reports the second-most cash on hand of any state senate candidate in the field. Toss-up

4. Senate District 5 (Alamosa, Chaffee, Conejos, Costilla, Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Mineral, Pitkin, Rio Grande, Saguache) – DEM Incumbent Democrat Gail Schwartz’s impressive fourth quarter fundraising haul of nearly $48,000 ticks down the prospects for taking over this seat (dropping from #3). However, Schwartz’s $62,000 war chest is not so far ahead of Republican challenger Bob Rankin‘s $29,000 as it seems. From a fundraising standpoint, GOP primary contender Wayne Wolf hardly seems in the game ($1,468 raised, only $405 on hand). Toss-up: slight edge Dem hold

5. Senate District 11 (El Paso) – DEM In a district where independent voters may have a decisive edge, and incumbents aren’t necessarily safe, state senator John Morse is sitting in a desirable position … for now. Judging by his campaign finance report, it appears Republican challenger Owen Hill has waited until 2010 to get his fundraising underway. But he is a young, attractive candidate with a stellar resume and an impressive grassroots following of more than 500 on Facebook. Stay tuned. Toss-up: slight edge Dem hold

6. Senate District 15 (Larimer) – REP A relatively safe Republican district held by appointed incumbent Kevin Lundberg, this is the only GOP-held seat with a somewhat credible Democratic challenger. Richard Ball has about $17,500 in campaign cash on hand — compared to Lundberg’s $9,800. Edge: GOP hold

7. Senate District 2 (Baca, Bent, Crowley, Custer, Fremont, Huerfano, Las Animas, Otero, Pueblo) – REP The divided demographics of this district offer the most promising pick-up opportunity for Democrats, but no declared candidate has yet emerged on their side to threaten the term-limited Ken Kester’s seat. Republican Matt Heimerich ($5,900 on hand) got a later start in the race, but is making up fundraising ground on the more conservative Kevin Grantham ($9,900 on hand). Edge: GOP hold

8. Senate District 13 (Weld) – REP Just today, incumbent senator Scott Renfroe announced his decision to run for re-election in a district with more than 40 percent registered Republicans. Democrat challenger Ken Storck raked in a modest $5,535 in the fourth quarter and reports having just under $4,400 cash on hand. Leans GOP hold

Sometime in the next week I’ll update the state house races, too.

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