The dust has just about settled on the midterm elections in 2014, but it’s beginning to look like voter engagement was what suffered the most.

As of this writing, Governor Hickenlooper has hung on for his second term, but not without a considerable loss in percentage of voters.  Even though nearly 90,000 more people voted for the governor this year than in 2010, only 46% voted for John Hickenlooper this year, as opposed to 51% in 2010.  Losing 5% of the voters is a big deal; it amounts to thousands of votes, and we think this should be interpreted as a vote of no-confidence for the governor’s leadership regarding local control, fracking, cannabis and more.

2014 results here | 2010 results here

Clearly, voters were looking for someone to vote for, and they seemed to have found them in the third parties and independents.  This year, 4.72% of all voters chose someone other than the Demopublican candidates, whereas in 2010 (setting aside the Tancredo/Miller ticket, which was really just more Republican choices), third-party, unaffiliateds/independents and write-ins got somewhere around 1.42% of the total vote for governor.

This year was the Green Party’s return to the statewide ballot, the last time being in 2002 with the Forthofer/Winters ticket, which received 2.27% of the vote that year.  In 2014, Harry Hempy won 1.33% of the vote, putting him behind the Libertarian candidate and squarely ahead of the other Libertarian-but-running-Independent candidate.

Harry Hempy received 2,702 votes in Denver county alone, which meant that every registered Green in Denver voted for him, as well as some of our allies.  That means a 100 percent voter turnout from the Green Party in Denver county.  We take that to mean that our voters were so excited to see a statewide Green on the ballot that they all turned out to vote.  Thank you, Denver Greens!

It should be noted, however, that now control of the state legislature is divided.  The Democrats have retained control of the state house, while the Republicans are in the driver’s seat of the state senate.  Last year we pointed out that there was a growing disaffection with the new focus of the Democratic side of the legislature, which was focused almost exclusively on non-economic issues.  We are glad to see that some ground was made in restoring traditionally blue seats to the D side of the state house, but the Colorado Democratic Party should see this year’s struggles as a word to the wise.

U.S. Senate race

There was a curious pattern to the voting: people voting for the Democratic candidate seemed to care more about the governor’s race than the U.S. Senate, and for people voting Republican, the reverse was true.

Some 61,000 more people voted for Governor Hickenlooper than to retain Senator Udall. For Republicans, more than 42,000 voted for Rep. Cory Gardner than for Bob Beauprez. On the surface, it appears that people voting for Udall are more locally-oriented, while people voting for Gardner care more about national-level issues.

Can this curious result be blamed on the President’s performance?  Possibly.  In 2010, Michael Bennet received 48% of the vote, even with our own Bob Kinsey of the Green Party running, whereas in 2014, Mark Udall received 46% of the vote without any opposition from the left. Keep in mind that 2010 was only two years after President Obama’s election, and the honeymoon period with voters was still in full effect.

One interesting twist we saw nationwide was the approval of progressive policy positions from ballot initiatives, including four blood-red states passing minimum-wage hikes at more than 50% approval at least (Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota and Nebraska).  While Massachusetts voted in a Republican governor, they also approved mandatory paid sick leave.  Similarly, Amendment 67 (“personhood”) was soundly rejected by Colorado voters at 65% to 35%, which had to include Republican voters as well in order to reach that vote total.  It would appear that Republican voters are not quite the social conservative, anti-women people that the Udall campaign painted them to be.  This would also explain why Bob Beauprez was basically non-committal about any social issue, saying that his personal views went one way but that he would respect the law.

Perhaps the Republican machine listened to their base better than did the Democratic machine.  What’s true is that 2010 was proportionally better, even if there were more voters in 2014.  This year, the voter turnout was only 56%, whereas 2010’s turnout was a whopping 74%.  To drill down even further, Denver’s 2010 turnout was 71%, whereas the 2014 turnout was only 47%.

While more people were ready to vote, the choices were clearly unpalatable to them.  This is contrasted with the 100%-plus Green turnout for Harry Hempy.  Go Greens!

The Takeaway for the Green Party of Colorado

Here are some points about what we’ve learned in this year’s mid-term election

  • The populist progressive message is important to today’s voter.
  • The Green Party of Colorado should run candidates in every statewide election and possibly in every slot, nonpartisan or not.  The people have been waiting.
  • There are lots of social policy points of intersection with fellow Coloradans that vote for Republicans.
  • Right-leaning voters care an awful lot about jobs and the economy.
  • Direct democracy works, and the Green Party of Colorado would do well to follow our traditional method of moving progressive policy via coalition building work.
  • It’s time to tell pro-cannabis voters who voted Libertarian that while you can buy the pot, you should be able to afford the pot.  Vote the full range of your values, cannabis supporters!

It’s time to get to work, Greens!