The Denver Post‘s Dan Haley has one of the sharpest eyes on Colorado politics of any blog out there right now. Yesterday he scouted the 10 most significant state legislative races of the 2006 season – 5 each from the House and from the Senate – as the Republicans fight to regain majority status. (HT: Dead Governors)
Admittedly, Haley had to stretch to come up with 5 Senate races, as only 3 (and more likely 2) have a legitimate shot of changing hands: a potential pickup for the Dems in SD 11 in Colorado Springs and a potential pickup for the GOP in SD 21 in Jefferson County (the special election necessitated by Lakewood Democrat Sen. Deanna Hanna’s resignation following attempted extortion). You can make a case for my district – SD 20 (also in Jefferson County) – being a legitimate pickup. But the GOP got a late start here and has a formidable uphill challenge to face to get Dick Sargent to unseat Moe Keller.
On the House side, however, I think Haley truly overlooked one of Colorado’s most competitive and significant races for November: House District 29 in northern Jefferson County. One-term Democrat occupant Debbie Benefield beat incumbent Bob Briggs by 520 votes in 2004. This time around the Republicans have recruited a young and inspiring candidate named Affie Ellis. With a challenger of this caliber, Benefield will be hoping to win by as much as 50 votes this November.
A Native American woman with policy experience, a strong philosophy of limited government, and a well-articulated and positive message, Ellis is undoubtedly a rising star in the Colorado GOP. Her speech made a big splash at the Jefferson County Republican Assembly in early April. She announced her candidacy in February and within six weeks has reported raising more than $10,000 from a network of individuals in Colorado, her native Wyoming, and elsewhere. As of April 1, the Ellis campaign has more cash in the bank than her incumbent rival does.
The Daily Kos groupies already are trying to aim their big guns at her (but coming up blank). Watch out for the smear tactics, a sure sign the Dems are afraid of losing Benefield’s seat… and a sign that Affie must be doing something right. Right now, you have to put the race in the Tossup column.
Memo to Dan Haley: the race in HD 29 is one to keep an eye on.