Colorado

From dKosopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Diaries and stories tagged as
"Colorado"
on Daily Kos:

most recent
most recs
front page


Colorado is the sublimely beautiful Rocky Mountain state east of Utah, north of New Mexico, west of Kansas and south of Wyoming. As of 2000, the state's population was 4,301,261.

The unanimous March 5, 2007 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lance v. Dennis tossed out a case brought by 4 Colorado Republicans to replace a redistricting plan ordered by a Colorado State Court in 2002 with one passed by a Republican-controlled state legislature in 2003.

To date, 34 Coloradans have been killed in the War in Iraq.

Contents

Political Climate

Colorado can be divided into five primary political micro-climates:

1.) liberal, solidly Democratic urban areas of Denver and Boulder
2.) socially conservative, solidly Republican Colorado Springs
3.) traditionally conservative, Republican-leaning rural areas on Western Slope and Eastern Plains
4.) moderate to conservative, Republican leaning Denver suburbs
5.) moderate to liberal, Democrat-leaning ski areas of Aspen and Vail

The conservative rural areas and Colorado Springs usually balance out liberal Denver/Boulder/Aspen. This puts the suburbs in the political limelight and most political battles take place here. Because the suburbs are moderate to conservative Republicans have an advantage, though moderate Democrats like new Governor Bill Ritter have fared considerably well. Because only two Democratic presidential candidates--Bill Clinton in 1992 and Lyndon Johson--Colorado is considered to be a "red state."

Colorado has undergone a sea change or sorts in the last four years. Democrats have grabbed a Senate seat, the state legislature, two Congressional seats, and the governor's mansion. Yet Colorado remains consistently conservative. In 2006 Colorado passed a Marriage Protection Amendment, defining marriage as solely between one man and one woman, and they failed an initiative to give gay couples marriage-like rights. This initiative was expected to pass but it failed 53%-47%. Colorado also failed an initiative to legalize up to an ounce of marijuana.

While still considered a "red state," Democrats continue to adapt to the political climate by adopting more moderate stances on abortion and gun rights and have had a great deal of success of late.

Geography

Colorado is one of only three states (the others are Wyoming and Utah) that have only lines of latitude and longitude for state borders. It stretches exactly from 37°N to 41°N, and 102°W to 109°W. The Four Corners Monument at its southwestern-most point is at 37°N and 109°W. East of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains are the Colorado Eastern Plains, the section of the Great Plains within Colorado at elevations ranging from 3,500 to 7,000 feet (1,000 to 2,000 m). Kansas and Nebraska border Colorado to the east. The plains are sparsely settled with most population along the South Platte and the Arkansas rivers and the I-70 corridor. Rainfall is meager, averaging about 15 inches (380 mm) annually. There is some irrigated farming, but much of the land is used for dryland farming or ranching.

The major cities and towns lie just east of the Front Range, in the I-25 corridor. The majority of the population of Colorado lives in this densely urbanized strip.

To the west lay the Colorado Front Range of the Rocky Mountains with notable peaks such as Long's Peak, Mount Evans, Pike's Peak, and the Spanish Peaks near Walsenburg in the south. This area drains to the east, is forested, and partially urbanized. With urbanization, utilization of the forest for timbering and grazing was retarded, which resulted in accumulation of fuel. During the drought of 2002 devastating forest fires swept this area.

To the west of the Front Range lies the Continental Divide. To the west of the Continental Divide is the Western Slope of Colorado. Water west of the Continental Divide drains into the Pacific Ocean via the Colorado River. The interior Rocky Mountains are several large parks or high broad basins. In the north, on the east side of the Continental Divide is North Park. North Park is drained by the North Platte River, which flows north into Wyoming. Just south but on the west side of the Continental Divide is Middle Park, drained by the Colorado River. South Park, Colorado basin is the headwaters of the South Platte River. To the south lies the San Luis Valley, the headwaters of the Rio Grande, which drains into New Mexico. Across the Sangre de Cristo Range to the east of the San Luis Valley lies the Wet Mountain Valley. These basins, particularly the San Luis Valley, lie along the Rio Grande Rift, a major geological formation, and its branches.

The Rocky Mountains within Colorado contain 54 peaks that are 14,000 feet (4270 m) or higher, known as fourteeners. The mountains are timbered with conifers and aspen to the tree-line, at an elevation of about 12,000 feet (4,000 m) in southern Colorado to about 10,500 feet (3,200 m) in northern Colorado; above this only alpine vegetation grows. The Rockies are snow-covered only in the winter; most snow melts by mid-August with the exception of a few small glaciers. The Colorado Mineral Belt, stretching from the San Juan Mountains in the southwest to Boulder and Central City on the front range, contains most of the historic gold and silver mining districts of Colorado.

The Western Slope is generally drained by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Notable to the south are the San Juan Mountains, an extremely rugged mountain range, and to the west of the San Juans, the Colorado Plateau, a high desert bordering Southern Utah. Grand Junction, Colorado is the largest city on the Western Slope. Grand Junction is served by Interstate Highway I-70. To the southeast of Grand Junction is Grand Mesa, a large flat-topped mountain. Further east are the ski resorts of Aspen, Colorado, Vail, Colorado, Crested Butte, Colorado, and Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The northwestern corner of Colorado bordering Northern Utah and Western Wyoming is mostly sparsely populated rangeland.

From west to east, the state consists of desert-like basins, turning into plateaus, then alpine mountains, and then the grasslands of the Great Plains. Mount Elbert is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains within the continental United States. The famous Pikes Peak is just west of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Its lone peak is visible from near the Kansas border on clear days.

History

Colorado was named for the Spanish word "Colorado," which means "reddish colored" that presumably refers to the red sandstone formations in the area or reddish brown color of the Colorado River. The territory that ultimately became Colorado was added to the United States by the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and the 1848 Mexican Cession. The Colorado Gold Rush of 1859 (see also Fifty-Niner) brought many settlers to the Denver area, though the population collapsed following an initial mining boom. The Colorado Territory was organized as a United States territory on February 28, 1861, and Colorado attained statehood August 1, 1876, (earning it the moniker the "Centennial State"). Colorado women were granted the right to vote starting on November 7, 1893.


Colorado's Congressional Delegation

U.S. Senators

U.S. Representatives


Colorado State Government

Administrative Branch

Legislative Branch

Colorado has a 35-member state Senate. Half the members are elected every two years to four year terms. Colorado has a 65-member state House. Members serve two year terms. Term limits apply to every state legislative position in Colorado. Districts are drawn by a state commission subject to relatively strict state constitutional guidelines. Vacancies are filled by the political party of the vacating legislator.

Judicial Branch

All state judges are appointed by the Governor from lists proposed by a judicial nominating commission, but are subject to retention elections periodicically in the part of the state in which they have jurisdiction (statewide for appellate judges). So far 6 of the 720 retention elections held in Colorado have resulted in a judge not being retained; all have been trial judges.

District Attorneys are elected on a regional basis by (usually) multi-county judicial district.

Other Multi-County Offices

Colorado also elects members of the State School Board and the University of Colorado Regents on partisan ballots partially at large and partially by Congressional District.

At a regional level, the metropolitian Denver "Regional Transporation District" has a board elected on a non-partisan basis in the several county area.

Colorado has Direct Democracy in spades, with recall elections, initiatives, and referrenda.

Local Government

Colorado has 64 counties, two of which, Denver and Broomfield, have integrated city and county governments. As in most counties in the United States, most power in county government lies with the county commissioners (either three or five in non-city and county governments), which with a couple of exceptions, are elected at large in a staggered fashion with elections held in even numbered years. Most counties also have a number of elected executive branch officials includes a Sheriff, an Assessor, a Treasurer, a Clerk and Recorder, a Surveyor, and a Coroner. All are partisan elected offices. The Clerk and Recorder's office conducts elections (except in Denver which has an a nonpartisan elected election commission).

In addition to Broomfield and Denver, Colorado has 268 incorporated municipalities. Colorado also has 2437 special districts and other local governments (most are school districts, or provide municipal type services such as fire protection, sewer and water service, parks and cemetaries to rural areas).

Related links


State Constitution

Colorado Constitution

The most salient features of Colorado's constitution, which are unique to Colorado, are its TABOR (Taxpayer's Bill of Rights) and Amendment 23 provisions.

TABOR limits government spending growth to inflation plus population growth and requires the refunding of any excess revenue. Because it limits spending, and not taxes, refunds can be required even when tax rates stay the same in good times. Douglas Bruce was the principal author of the measure. It also requires voter approval for tax increases. TABOR has a ratchet effect which permanently reduces the baseline for calculating its spending limits when a recession creates temporarily low revenues. TABOR is a core factor in the state's fiscal crisis. Until recently (when legislative slight of hand converted higher education facilities to "enterprise status"), tuition was counted as a form of tax revenue, so tuition hikes could not be used to make up for shortfalls in higher education spending out of general revenues.

Amendment 23 requires that K-12 education spending not be cut, and that it increase 1% a year for a number of years. This has impacted the state budget by forcing TABOR imposed budget cuts to come out of other parts of the budget. Given the limited flexibility of Medicaid and Corrections budgets (two of the three other big items in the state budget), and reluctance of the Republicans to cut Corrections, the bulk of TABOR imposed budget cuts have come out of higher education (the third big item other than K-12 education in the state budget).

The Electoral Process

Colorado's political parties have an unusually strong say in the nomination process.

The General Election in November contains candidates nominated by political parties and independent candidates. For races other than the Presidential race, the signature requirements for independent candidates are relatively stiff. Political party candidates must win a party primary.

Access to the party primary ballot is either by petition or through the caucus system. More than 95% of partisan candidates get onto the party primary ballot through the caucus system, rather than the more difficult route of a petition.

Caucuses begin at the precinct level which typically have turnout of about 1% of voters registered in the political party in question. These precinct caucuses in turn elect representatives to caucuses at high levels (county, state legislative districts, Congressional Districts and the State) on a proportional representation basis (e.g. if 60% of people in the caucus support a candidate for Governor, then 60% of the people who go to the next level will be backers of that candidate).

Candidates need 30% support in the caucuses to get on the primary ballot. A candidate who attempts to run in the caucuses but gets below a certain threshold, is not permitted to petition onto the ballot.

The City and County of Denver is an exception to the general rule. Its non-partisan elections are operated on a basis similar to that of France. All candidates run in a general election for each office. If no candidate wins a majority, the two two candidates face off in a runoff election held a few weeks later.

Notable Colorado Political Figures

John Hickenlooper is the popular and quirky Democratic Mayor of Denver. He was preceeded by Mayor Wellington Webb, also a Democrat, who is noted for having made the biggest impact on the City since Mayor Speer a century earlier. And, Democrat Federico Peña is another notable former Mayor of Denver who oversaw the successful construction of Denver International Airport, the largest public works project in the history of Colorado, and then was promoted to be United States Secretary of Transporation. Bill Ritter is the former District Attorney for Denver and is considering a run for Governor in 2006. Democrat Dennis Gallagher is the Denver auditor, but was famous before that for proposing and securing passage of a ballot initiative that places a disproportionate share of the property tax burden on business as opposed to residential taxpayers in the state.

Rutt Bridges is a one time U.S. Senate candidate (in the Democratic primary) and wealthy sponsor of the good government oriented, bipartisan leaning Bighorn Center, a think tank which has sponsored some good government voter initiatives. Jared Polis is an internet millionaire and former state school board member who was instrumental in providing funding for state legislative races in 2004.

Mike Miles was a primary contestant in the U.S. Senate race in 2004 who was popular with progressives but had trouble raising money. Gail Schoettler is a former Democratic candidate for Governor who was narrowly defeated by Bill Owens. Chris Gates is the chairman of the state Democratic party, who is lauded by some for the great gains the party has made in the state, but who is also disliked by many, especially progressives, for his impolitic and openly biased approach to recruiting candidates and favoring conservative over progressive factions in the party.

Democrat Stan Matsunaka is a former State Senate President who considered running for Governor and for U.S. Senate, but ended up facing Republican Marilyn Musgrave twice in the conservative 4th Congressional District and losing each time. Ken Gordon is a Democratic leader in the current State Senate and many think that he has his eyes on public office, in part because he frequently seaks out the media spotlight.

Dave Liniger is a wealthy ReMax real estate tycoon who briefly considered running for U.S. Senate on the Republican ticket in 2004. Pete Coors, the beer company CEO, eventually won the Republican nomination and lost in 2004. Marc Holtzman is the President of the University of Denver and an active candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2006.

Doug Bruce is currently a El Paso County (i.e. Colorado Springs) County Commissioner, but is famous for proposing Colorado's anti-tax Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) which has left Colorado struggling with artificial budget woes.

Links

Colorado Elections

Colorado Political Blogs

See also

Personal tools