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It was the year of the woman and other revelations

For Democrats, it depended on which political beach you stood whether there was a blue wave or not. It was perhaps a wave; not a tsunami wave — but one strong enough to make a historic point in Colorado, if not completely in Chaffee Country.

Some statistics on this election from County Clerk and Recorder, Lori Mitchell, (who won re-election unopposed) are still awaiting final review. Mitchell’s prediction on turnout was spot on – she expected 80 percent or better – presidential election year levels – and it came in at about 82 percent.

Analysts will be looking at this mid-term for some time, its impact and what the motivators were for electors – outside the obvious one in the White House. In Colorado, it was a clean sweep for Democrats in House, Senate and of course, the Governor’s office.

Locally, one long-time I spoke with said locally, this election looked like many before in Chaffee County – which trends conservative/Republican outside of the population centers. Still, here, as statewide and across the country, the role of women in the political arena can’t be underestimated. |

It was arguably, the year of the woman. While the Chaffee County democratic women were not as successful as others in balloting across the state, it was, by many assessments, a demonstration of a motivated, active Democratic base. Country Democrats fielded candidates for the District 3 seat on the County Commission, Treasurer and in State House District Six; Kimberly Parker, Susan Shepherd and Erin Kelley, respectively, didn’t win. Kerry Donovan, incumbent in State Senate District 5, handily fended off a Republican challenger.

This election, local democrats point out, saw all the other democratic candidates winning their races, while in 2016, Keith Baker was the lone Democratic winner. Chaffee County was the only county in the Fifth Congressional District to go for Democrat Stephany Rose Spaulding; a University of Colorado professor and minister in Colorado Springs who challenged Doug Lamborn, the Trump acolyte and incumbent in the district that has always been represented by a Republican. Spaulding garnered an impressive nearly 127,000 votes against the 10-year incumbent, who garnered 184,000 votes.

Covering the race for about a year, provided some insight for me on how such races are strategized. For instance, the Lamborn campaign, despite promises, never responded to even basic policy questions, and stonewalled interview requests for articles for Ark Valley Voice and Colorado Central Magazine. Spaulding was very forthcoming with answers and she beat Lamborn in Chaffee County.

Combined with the nearly-successful GOP primary challenge to Lamborn earlier, it could be argued voter fatigue with Lamborn is increasing, even in staunchly Republican El Paso County. The Colorado Sun noted his margin of victory this time was a good deal less than two years ago, when he defeated former Gen. Irv Halter.

Dallas Jamison, Spaulding’s media advisor for five months of the campaign, said she saw a dramatic shift in the media from viewing Spaulding as a long shot to, “she’s a breath of fresh air in a region longing for new ideas.”

Jamison added, “Anyone who has met Stephany, whether that’s Ben & Jerry’s founder Ben Cohen or our next governor, Jared Polis, has been blown away by her intelligence, compassion and dedication to public service. She has unlimited opportunity in front of her and I’m sure she will find valuable ways to serve in the near future.”

Jamison said the campaign was able to shine a light on crucial issues that otherwise might not have received attention, such as the growing lack of affordability in the district. “I’m so grateful to have played a role in helping Stephany start a conversation about the future of our communities,” she added.

Another observation on Chaffee County results concerns the successful community-driven passage of Proposition 1A, to utilize a small increase in the local sales tax (one-quarter of one percent) to fund a conservation effort to help mitigate the threat of wildfire; and enhance protection of working lands, clean water and wildlife. It was, despite some local media opposition, a well-thought out measure that involved the input of some 1,500 residents, the result of the year-long Central Colorado Conservancy’s Envision Chafee County campaign.

Conservancy Executive Director Andrew Mackie was thankful for the support and commented that the passage of similar propositions in Denver and Park County shows the growing support for citizen-backed local conservation efforts.

The U.S. Congress will see about 120 women in the ranks next year, representing nearly 25 percent, compared with less than 10 percent in 2005. That it was the year of the woman is undeniable, and even candidates who lost found their awakened activism brought more voters to the polls than expected in many cases.

Nationally, Democrats took back the House of Representatives and Republicans added a few seats to their majority in the Senate, perhaps heralding more gridlock in the future. In Colorado, the blue trend statewide saw a sweep for democrats in the State House and Senate, and the first openly gay Governor, Jared Polis – all good news for progressives, some observers say, and ominous for Republicans.

Then there were the defeats for propositions to raise taxes – for our state’s poorly funded educational system and transportation improvements that proponents decried as short-sighted. And, while a measure to ban slavery in all forms passed easily, how do you explain that 35 percent of the electorate voted against it?

Politics, especially in the current hard partisan situation, is always a fluid environment, and it will be interesting how the hurly-burly plays out in the new year, in Colorado and in Washington.