Colorado State House Breakdown: Majority Up for Grabs, Tiny GOP Edge

On Thursday I updated the rankings of Colorado’s competitive state senate seats. After 15 weeks it’s also time to update the Colorado state house rankings.

A quick overview: There are 65 seats in the Colorado state house, and all of them are up for re-election every two years. State representatives are limited to four two-year terms of service. Currently, the Democratic majority holds 37 seats and Republicans 27, with one seat belonging to unaffiliated (and former Democrat) Kathleen Curry.

Fifty-two incumbents are running to retain their seats: 30 Democrats (including 2 vacancy appointments), 21 Republicans (including 2 vacancy appointments) and Curry. That leaves 7 open Democrat and 6 Republican seats.

Interestingly, Colorado Republicans are very close to running a 65-district strategy, as the GOP is fielding candidates everywhere except Boulder County’s House District 10. On the other hand, Democrats are competing in only 49 of 65 districts, conceding 16 races (including five with no incumbent) out of the gate by not fielding any candidates.

Given the dynamics shaping up through the end of April, I rate 30 of the 65 races as marginally competitive or better: 26 held by Democrats (21 incumbent, 5 open); 3 held by Republicans (2 incumbent, 1 open); and the unaffiliated seat. I have listed all 30 below in order that they are likely to switch party hands, but only include comment on the first 12.

As the spring finally dawns, it looks extremely narrowly like the GOP has just enough momentum to win a 33-31-1 majority heading into 2011. But plenty can happen between now and the time the final votes are cast in early November:

1. House District 27 (Jefferson) – DEM Prev rank: 2 No bias here, honestly. A strong fundraising quarter from challenger Libby Szabo already has her ahead of liberal incumbent Sara Gagliardi in a district that has a 36-32 Republican voter advantage. Likely GOP pick-up

2. House District 47 (Pueblo, Fremont) – DEM Prev rank: 1 Republican Keith Swerdfeger is still bringing money in strong, but now has two Democrats — Mark Maestas and Carole Partin — vying to take him on and make this one of the most closely watched races of the cycle. Leans GOP pick-up

3. House District 38 (Arapahoe, Jefferson) – DEM Prev rank: 6 Democrat Joe Rice is finally vulnerable with a credible Republican challenger in Kathleen Conti. This is Colorado’s most heavily Republican district not currently represented by a Republican (40-31). Leans GOP pick-up

4. House District 33 (Broomfield, Boulder, Adams, Weld) – DEM Prev rank: 3 Republican challenger Don Beezley is on a steady course to take out Rep. Dianne “Tax on a Fee” Primavera in a suburban district with a healthy amount of unaffiliated voters up for grabs. Leans GOP pick-up

5. House District 17 (El Paso) – DEM Prev rank: 4 Funds have not flown in heavily into either side of this race featuring two Republican challengers — Mark Barker and Kit Roupe — versus the most invisible incumbent, liberal Rep. Dennis Apuan. Democrats have the voter registration edge in this district, but Apuan didn’t beat Roupe by much in the strong Democrat year of 2008. Toss-up: slight edge GOP pick-up

6. House District 56 (Eagle, Summit, Lake) – DEM Prev rank: 8 With another decent fundraising take, Republican challenger Debra Irvine is keeping the heat on Rep. Christine Scanlan in this heavily unaffiliated district. Toss-up: slight edge GOP pick-up

7. House District 18 (El Paso) – DEM Prev rank: 9 The winds are still blowing strong in the Republican direction for this seat open due to term limits, but Democrat Pete Sandford still owns a fundraising advantage over Republican Karen Cullen. Toss-up: slight-edge Dem hold

8. House District 23 (Jefferson) – DEM Prev rank: 11 Appointed incumbent Democrat Max Tyler really may have stepped in it when he recently compared troubled students to “maggoty flour.” This has been a tough district for Republicans since 2004, but challenger Edgar Johansson has started to build a cash advantage over Tyler. Watch this one. Toss-up: slight edge Dem hold

9. House District 29 (Jefferson) – DEM Prev rank: 10 Despite the evenly-divided nature of the district’s voter registrations, northern Jefferson County is a tough nut for the GOP to crack against incumbent Democrat Debbie Benefield. Robert Ramirez is off to a good start to take a crack at victory, but needs to bring in more campaign funds in earnest. Toss-up: slight edge Dem hold

10. House District 64 (Otero, Las Animas, Prowers, Huerfano, Baca, Bent) – DEM Prev rank: N/A Democrat Rep. Wes McKinley’s district favors his party in registration by 42-35 over Republicans. Largely known as a maverick, he did cast the deciding vote for the Amazon tax. And GOP challenger Lisa Grace Kellogg looks like she will bring some money and determination to the race. Leans Dem hold

11. House District 52 (Larimer) – DEM Prev rank: 13 It took ’till nearly the last minute, but Democrat Rep. John Kefalas has a challenger in a district that tilts ever so slightly in the Democratic direction. First-term Fort Collins City Council member Aislinn Kottwitz has stepped into the breach. If Kottwitz can raise some campaign cash, this race could ascend the rankings. Leans Dem hold

12. House District 50 (Weld) – DEM Prev rank: 15 Conservative voter discontent in the greater Greeley area is growing. Unaffiliated voters make up 35 percent of District 50, with Democrats holding only a small edge over Republicans among active voters. Even with his stockpile of re-election funds, Democrat Rep. Jim Riesberg has started looking over his shoulder at local business owner and Republican challenger Bob Boswell. Leans Dem hold

13. House District 53 (Larimer) – DEM Prev rank: 14, Leans Dem hold – Rep. Randy Fischer over Dane Brandt
14. House District 59 (La Plata, Montezuma, Archuleta, San Juan) – REP Prev rank: 7, Leans GOP hold – Paul Brown over Brian O’Donnell
15. House District 31 (Adams) – DEM Prev rank: 17, Leans Dem hold – Rep. Judy Solano over Tom Janich
16. House District 26 (Jefferson) – DEM Prev rank: N/A Leans Dem hold – Rep. Andy Kerr over Mark Barrington
17. House District 11 (Boulder) – DEM Prev rank: 16 Likely Dem hold – Deb Gardner over Wes Whiteley
18. House District 30 (Adams) – REP Prev rank: N/A Likely GOP hold – Rep. Kevin Priola over Dave Rose, Laura Huerta or Mary Ellen Pollack
19. House District 3 (Denver) – DEM Prev rank: N/A Likely Dem hold – Rep. Daniel Kagan over Christine Mastin
20. House District 61 (Garfield, Pitkin, Gunnison, Eagle, Hinsdale) – UNA Prev rank: 5 Likely hold – Rep. Kathleen Curry over Luke Korkowski
21. House District 34 (Adams) – DEM Prev rank: N/A Likely Dem hold – Rep. John Soper over Brian van de Krol
22. House District 1 (Denver) – DEM Prev rank: 12 Likely Dem hold – Rep. Jeanne Labuda over Danny Stroud
23. House District 24 (Jefferson) – DEM Prev rank: N/A Likely Dem hold – Rep. Sue Schafer over Ron Webster
24. House District 41 (Arapahoe) – DEM Prev rank: N/A Likely Dem hold – Rep. Nancy Todd over Brad Wagnon or Arthur Carlson
25. House District 32 (Adams) – DEM Prev rank: N/A Likely Dem hold – Rep. Edward Casso over Kaarl Hoopes over Alexander Jacobson
26. House District 12 (Boulder) – DEM Prev rank: N/A Likely Dem hold – Jake Williams or Matt Jones over Jeffrey Ilseman (Republican) and Bo Shaffer (Libertarian)
27. House District 9 (Denver, Arapahoe) – DEM Prev rank: N/A Likely Dem hold – Rep. Joe Miklosi over C. J. Garbo
28. House District 22 (Jefferson) – REP Prev rank: N/A Likely GOP hold – Rep. Ken Summers over Chris Radeff
29. House District 6 (Denver) – DEM Prev rank: N/A Likely Dem hold – Rep. Lois Court over Joshua Sharf
30. House District 35 (Adams) – DEM Prev rank: N/A Likely Dem hold – Rep. Cherylin Peniston over Edgar Antillon or Eric Mercer

Two other great resources to bookmark for more information on state legislative races:

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