Washington Week

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State of the State: Colorado

By Joan Greve
Washington Week Fellow

Washington Week is hitting the road again! We'll be talking to voters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Friday for a special half hour of Washington Week (check your local PBS listings!). To prepare for our trip, we investigated the lay of Colorado’s land ahead of the 2016 presidential election:



State Population: 5.46 million

As of 2015, over 5 million people live in Colorado, making it the 22nd most populous state of the U.S.

State Capital: Denver

Over 600,000 people live in Colorado’s capital city, where the state capitol building sits exactly one mile above sea level.

State Nickname: “Centennial State”

Colorado is known as the “Centennial State” because it joined the Union in 1876, exactly 100 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.



State Governor: John Hickenlooper (D)

The Democrat Hickenlooper has served as the state’s governor since 2011 and was considered to be a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton.

State Assembly Leaders: Sen. Bill Cadman (R) and Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D)

In true swing-state fashion, Colorado’s Senate and House of Representatives are controlled by opposing parties. The Republicans control the Senate, while the Democrats hold a majority in the House.

State Senators: Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R)
Colorado’s senators also reflect the state’s thoroughly purple politics: one Democrat and one Republican. Although Bennet faces reelection this year, Colorado’s purple representation in the Senate will likely stand, as the Democratic senator enjoys a 13-point advantage in the polls.



State’s Military Population: 37,731

According to a 2014 report, Colorado has the ninth-highest military population by state in America. This constituency, which skews Republican, could prove crucial in the purple state, a worrying prospect to GOP officials who fear Trump’s recent comments about a Gold Star family could alienate these voters. Unless Trump walks back some of those remarks, former Colorado GOP Chair Ryan Call said recently, “That’s something that will continue to really hurt him among veterans and active-duty military that call Colorado home.”

State’s Hispanic Population: 1,071,000

Colorado’s Hispanic population ranks as the eighth highest in the nation, which could help the Democrats, who often receive ballot bumps from voters of color. (President Obama won Hispanic voters nationally by a margin of 44 points in 2012.) But Colorado could prove an interesting test of this trend, given that the state’s Hispanic population “consists of both new immigrants as well as more conservative-leaning Hispanic Americans who have called Colorado home for generations,” according to Call.

State’s College-Educated Population: 37.5%

The U.S. Census reports that 37.5 percent of Colorado’s population has at least a bachelor’s degree, which could prove critical to Clinton. In a July CNN poll, the Democratic nominee bested Trump with college graduates by a commanding 23 points.



State Ballot Initiatives: Health, Death and Taxes

Colorado voters will be deciding more than their presidential preference in November. Seven initiatives will appear on the state’s ballot this year—addressing questions of healthcare, taxes and more. Initiative 143 would raise taxes on tobacco products in the state, while Initiative 20 would establish a state healthcare system known as ColoradoCare, and Initiative 101 would raise the state’s minimum wage to $12. Other issues to be addressed include medically-assisted suicide, presidential primaries and the process to change Colorado’s constitution.

State Caucus Winners: Bernie Sanders for the Democrats and Ted Cruz for the Republicans

Neither Clinton nor Trump won Colorado in their party primaries. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won the state’s caucus by a margin of 19 points, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz swept all of Colorado’s Republican delegates.

State’s 2016 Status: Battleground

Given its purple reputation and numerous communities, Colorado is expected to be a hotly contested state for the November election, even as recent polls show Clinton pulling ahead of Donald Trump by up to 10 points. (The lead recently prompted Clinton to pause campaign ads in the state.)

State’s Past Presidential Election Winners: Barack Obama (2012 and 2008) and George W. Bush (2004 and 2000)

President Barack Obama won the Centennial State in both of his elections, but that does not guarantee it will remain blue this year. President George W. Bush won Colorado in 2004 and 2000. In fact, Colorado’s most consistent election legacy may simply be choosing the winner.  The state has sided with the victor in eight of the last nine general elections -- only missing Bill Clinton’s reelection in 1996 -- which could be bad news for Trump.

Photos via Flickr