It’s been two full months since the last ranking of state senate races. A few candidates have been weeded out, and Colorado’s primary election is four weeks away. Republicans need to pull off the feat of winning four seats to regain the majority in the 35-seat upper chamber, which means they have to take 5 of the 6 competitive races (out of 19 total this cycle).
But it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility. In fact, based on recent fundraising reports, I feel more strongly about my prediction that there’s a better than even chance of a GOP takeover. Without further ado, here are the updated rankings of competitive state senate races, based on the likelihood of switching party control:
1. Senate District 6 (Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, Montrose, Ouray, San Juan, San Miguel) – DEM Prev rank: 1 A potentially tough GOP primary between Rep. Ellen Roberts and conservative Dean Boehler brings this race down a small notch, but at this point it still narrowly remains the Republicans’ best bet to switch into their column. Appointed Democrat incumbent Bruce Whitehead has a voter registration advantage that may be too tough to overcome in this political environment. Likely GOP pick-up
2. Senate District 16 (Boulder, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Grand, Jefferson, Summit) – DEM Prev rank: 2 Conservative Republican Tim Leonard avoided a primary and solidified his already good chances of picking up this mountain district for the GOP. At the end of the last reporting period, he narrowly held the distinction of having the most campaign cash in the bank. He is also blessed with the race being an open seat. Likely GOP pick-up
3. Senate District 20 (Jefferson) – DEM Prev rank: 3 Republican John Odom is right behind Leonard in the size of his campaign war chest, but the pace of his fundraising has slowed. In the meantime a bitter Democratic primary continues among two evenly matched candidates, liberal David Ruchman and former Rep. Cheri Jahn, whose combined cash trails Odom’s by a wide margin. Voter demographics are least favorable to Republicans of the six competitive races. Leans GOP pick-up
4. Senate District 5 (Alamosa, Chaffee, Conejos, Costilla, Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Mineral, Pitkin, Rio Grande, Saguache) – DEM Prev rank: 5 GOP candidate Bob Rankin has unified party support behind him and also has more than $50,000 in the bank. Republicans have a plurality of the district’s voters, but no legislative candidate has more money on hand than incumbent Democrat Senator Gail Schwartz. The GOP’s chances improve if Rankin can open up his pocketbook and add a significant amount more to close the gap. Toss-up: slight edge GOP pick-up
5. Senate District 11 (El Paso) – DEM Prev rank: 4 Democrat Senate majority leader John Morse has cut into rising Republican star Owen Hill‘s financial advantage. In this closely divided district, it will be a battle of incumbent name recognition versus the groundswell of grassroots Tea Party enthusiasm behind a fresh, capable challenger. Toss-up
6. Senate District 2 (Baca, Bent, Crowley, Custer, Fremont, Huerfano, Las Animas, Otero, Pueblo) – REP Prev rank: 7 Challenging for the only currently Republican seat in play, Democrat Gloria Stultz has begun making some significant noise in the fundraising department. Kevin Grantham maintains his cash edge on GOP rival Matt Heimerich, though neither of them has accrued much. If necessary, the real money would pour in for the primary winner before the homestretch of the election. And it might be necessary, as the Democrats appear determined at least to make this race interesting. Likely GOP hold
Off the list: Senate District 24 (Adams).
Stay tuned, I hope to update the state house rankings soon.