DENVER — Both Republicans and Democrats are claiming victory in the 2021 Colorado election and gearing up for the midterms next year.
Republicans are touting success in Aurora and Douglas County, while Democrats point to the failure of the statewide ballot measures and some local contests as their accomplishments.
“The big takeaway, I think, is that it was really kind of a mixed bag. Both sides had something to write home about and to feel proud of accomplishing,” said Ryan Winger, the director of data analysis for Magellan Strategies.
On the Republican side, conservatives won all four of the open seats on the Douglas County School Board with candidates who want to do away with masking requirements in schools.
“I think the four Republican candidates running for school board were very focused on defending the rights of parents, and parents in Colorado are tired of being told they have no business looking at their kids curriculum and they have no say over what happens in school with their children,” GOP chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown said.
She pointed to disciplined messaging as a strategy that worked this time around for her party.
Perhaps the more surprising win for Republicans was four of the five open seats on Aurora’s city council. Steve Sundberg, Jono Scott, Dustin Zvonek and Danielle Jurinsky came out on top of Tuesday’s elections.
This opens the door for Mayor Mike Coffman to potentially reintroduce his proposed camping ban, among other issues.
“Republicans now have a clear majority on the council, and our candidates, what they heard when they campaigned was safety. People wanted to elect someone who would keep our neighborhoods and our families safe,” Burton Brown said.
Republicans are also boasting wins in Westminster with the mayoral candidate and two at-large seats, all four of Loveland’s city council seats, Grand Junction and several smaller school boards.
“We’re really excited about all the flips that happened across the state for Republicans,” Burton Brown said.
Winger believes the Republican campaigns were successful in two major ways: They were well financed and well organized. They were also successful in drawing some unaffiliated voters to cast a ballot for their candidates.
“That’s the kind of campaign it’s going to take for Republican candidates next year to be successful,” Winger said.
Democrats, meanwhile, say despite being outspent on the statewide ballot issues, they were successful in their messaging and able to fight off both at the ballot box.
Union-backed candidates were able to hold on to seats on the Denver Public School Board as well as in Jefferson County. The progressives are also touting wins on the Larimer County School Board as a feather in their cap.
“We won and municipal races in communities where we don’t normally win, like Canyon City and Montrose County, and we also won in strongholds like Pueblo and Broomfield,” said David Pourshoushtari, the communications director for the Colorado Democratic Party
Democrats also saw victories in Delta County and Englewood with some of their candidates.
However, Pourshoushtari says this election proves that nothing can be taken for granted and that there is work to be done before the midterm elections to promote their message and prove their record.
“What progressives need to take away from this is that it’s time. We need to dust ourselves off, we need to organize and we need to talk to voters and make sure they know about all the good things that Democrats are delivering for them,” he said.
For the races each side lost, both accused the other of using money to buy the election.
After the election drama from last year, something that has been largely absent from discussions around this year’s results are claims of election fraud.
“I think it is very interesting that when Republicans lose, they call fraud. But when they win, all the sudden their fraud arguments just go out the window,” Pourshoushtari said.
Burton Brown, meanwhile, said in no uncertain terms that she is confident in Colorado’s elections but that there’s always ways to improve transparency and accountability.
“But we have to go cast a vote. That’s how we win. We can believe that here in Colorado, we’ve seen a bunch of Republican flips happen this year, and we can believe our votes count,” she said.
Winger, though, isn’t reading too far into Tuesday’s election as an indicator for how the midterms will go. That’s because the overall voter turnout and the types of people who cast a ballot in the midterm elections are different than in off-year elections.
“I don’t think it’s clear that one side or another has momentum going into the midterms, and honestly, I would caution anyone about reading too much into it,” he said.
For Tuesday’s election, victory is in the eye of the beholder as both Democrats and Republicans look ahead to next year.