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Parties fretting over prospects for legislative control

Colorado Capitol

Updated Nov. 5, 9:45 p.m. – Republican and Democratic legislative leaders Wednesday sweated through a long day of not knowing which party will control the 2015 General Assembly.

A late-evening Chalkbeat Colorado count of races already decided plus races still being counted indicated either party could end up with majority control of the House or Senate – or both.

The outcome depends on the final results in a few key races where vote counts have been slow, particularly in Adams County. Unofficial final results aren’t expected until Thursday.

Because of the uncertainly, party leaders have put off the caucus meetings at which next session’s leaders will be elected. Those meetings traditionally are held the Thursday after an election.

In the Senate, Republicans have won 17 seats, including those held by GOP senators who are in the middle of their terms and weren’t on the ballot. Republicans are narrowly leading in one race, the District 24 contest between GOP candidate Beth Martinez Humenik and Democrat Judy Solano.

Democrats have won 15 seats, including mid-term senators. They lead in two races that remain to be finally tabulated. Those are the District 20 race between Democratic Sen. Cheri Jahn and Republican Larry Queen, and the District 22 contest between Democratic Sen. Andy Kerr and GOP hopeful Tony Sanchez.

If Humenik holds her lead after Adams County finally finishes its count, the GOP will win 18-17 control of the Senate, even if Jahn and Kerr maintain their leads.

But if Solano wins her race, and Jahn and Kerr are the victors, Democrats win an 18-17 Senate majority.

The prospects are similarly complicated – and murky – in the House.

Democrats have won 31 seats and are leading narrowly in two others. Republicans have 29 clear victories and are leading in three close races. So, if the Democrats hold the two races in which they’re leading, they gain a 33-32 House majority. Those two races are District 3, where Rep. Daniel Kagan is ahead of Republican Candice Benge, and District 36, where Rep. Su Ryden has a narrow edge over Richard Bowman. Both districts are in Arapahoe County.

Republican control of both houses could have interesting implications for Colorado’s continued participation in the Common Core State Standards and the multi-state PARCC tests, as well as the amount of state testing and for such issues as tuition tax credits. Democratic majorities, or control of one House, would make new Republican education initiatives less likely to be successful.

In any event, Democrats will retain control of the Capitol’s first floor, given that Gov. John Hickenlooper has won a narrow victory.

Here are the key legislative races of interest to the education community. (All the incumbents are members of either the House or Senate education committees.)

State Senate

District 11 (Colorado Springs) – Democrat Mike Merrifield, former chair of the House Education Committee, faced GOP Sen. Bernie Herpin, who won election a year ago in a recall. – Merrifield won.

District 19 (Jeffco) – Appointed Democratic Sen. Rachel Zenzinger was challenged by GOP businesswoman Laura Woods. – Woods appears to have won narrowly.

District 22 (Jeffco) – Kerr, chair of the Senate Education Committee, faced GOP political newcomer Tony Sanchez. – Kerr was leading by about 1 percent.

District 24 – Solano, a long-time testing critic and former representative, battled GOP civic activist Beth Martinez Humenik. – Humenik was leading.

State House

District 22 (Jeffco) – GOP Rep. Justin Everett faced Democratic community activist Mary Parker. – Everett won.

District 28 (Jeffco) – Democratic Rep. Brittany Pettersen was opposed by GOP lawyer Stacia Kuhn. – Pettersen held her seat.

District 40 (Aurora) – Democratic Rep. John Buckner faced Republican JulieMarie Shepherd, an Aurora school board member. – Buckner won.

District 50 – Democratic Rep. Dave Young was challenged by GOP businessman Isaia Aricayos. – Young held his seat.

District 61 – Democratic Rep. Millie Hamner, chair of House Education, faced a repeat challenge from GOP artist Debra Irvine. – Hamner was victorious, albeit with a smaller-than-expected margin.

House Education members who won easily included Democratic Rep. Rhonda Fields of Aurora and Republican Rep. Kevin Priola of Henderson. Republican Jim Wilson of Salida was unopposed. And GOP House committee winner Chris Holbert of Douglas County coasted to an easy win in his bid for a Senate seat.

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