Ballot Watch: Mountain States
This is Ballot Watch. Today is the tenth in the series of articles on the upcoming ballot initiatives and some key local elections. In this article, we return to our geography-based collections of states, taken roughly eight at a time. Along with the Mountain States of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, we’re including the northern Plains states of North and South Dakota.
For many years, this region has been reliably Republican. However, demographic changes have made some of the states a lot more interesting. New Mexico voted for the Republican from 1968 (President Richard Nixon) to 1988 (President George H. W. Bush). Since 1992 (President Bill Clinton), however, New Mexico has voted for the Democratic Presidential candidate, with a slight excursion to the red column for President George W. Bush’s reëlection in 2004.
Colorado was once solidly red in Presidential elections. Since 1952 (President Dwight Eisenhower), Colorado has voted for the Democratic candidate for President only three times: 1964 (President Lyndon Johnson), 1992 and 2008 (President Barack Obama). However, changing Demo-graphics have made Colorado a swing state. Also, population growth has made it a medium-large prize: nine electoral votes. Look to Jefferson County (Monotreme’s home) as the bellwether county. This county includes the western Denver suburbs, and like the state and the country, is almost evenly split between Yangs and Kohms. Most of Jefferson County (in terms of population) is in Colorado’s 7th Congressional District (see below) with the less densely populated mountain regions in the 2nd, which is a Safe Democratic seat.
Idaho has voted for the Republican since the 1968 election. Montana also turned red in 1968 and only voted for the Democrat in 1992. North and South Dakota have both voted for the Republican since Wendell Willkie lost to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940, with the exception of giving their eight electoral votes to Johnson in 1964. Utah and Wyoming have an almost solid streak of voting Republican in Presidential elections as well, starting in 1952, but like many other Western states both took a brief walk on the blue side in 1964.
I’ve surveyed House race ratings from as many sources as I can find, and those who want to check on individual races can use the following links: Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball; Cook Political Report; New York Times; National Journal; Roll Call; Real Clear Politics (RCP).
Up to this week, there were two competitive House races in Colorado, but having a Coors changes the pundits’ viewpoint on things.
Congressional District 3, currently held by Representative Scott Tipton (R-Cortez), includes the cities of Pueblo, Durango and Grand Junction. The Western Slope (i.e., the state west of the Continental Divide, including Tipton’s home of Cortez) has long had a Sagebrush Rebellion-type Republican population, but the southern tier of counties (including the ranches of the San Luis Valley town of Alamosa and the mines, factories and agriculture near the city of Pueblo) are heavily Hispanic and are trending Democratic, which makes this district harder for Tipton to hold. Sabato, Cook, the New York Times and RCP all rate this as a “Republican leaning” seat but it could Tipton to Democrat Sal Pace, a state lawmaker from Pueblo.
Congressional District 6 is served by incumbent Representative Mike Coffman (R-Aurora), who with a DW-NOMINATE of 0.548 is in the top half of House Republicans on the first-dimension conservatism scale. His Democratic opponent is State Representative Joe Miklosi, who has with some success painted Coffman as a “Rush Limbaugh clone”. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has targeted this district for a Democratic takeover, especially since the Colorado Legislature gerrymandered the district into a strange backward “C” shape encompassing relatively liberal Denver suburbs to the north and east of the city. Sabato, Cook, RCP and Roll Call all rate this a tossup. The New York Times rates it a “Lean Republican”. Even in recent DCCC polling, Coffman enjoys a 42 percent to 39 percent advantage. It will be interesting to see which way the undecideds break, now that the election season is in full swing.
Until last week, Congressional District 7, served by Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden), was rated “safe Democratic” by Sabato, but in last week’s House rundown, they moved it to “Likely Democratic” which matches Cook, RCP and Roll Call. The reason? Huge amounts of money spent by challenger Joe Coors, Jr., who gave $350,000 to his own campaign. Perlmutter has a moderate DW-NOMINATE (–0.328, the 153rd most liberal House member). Coors is no moderate at all, coming from the brewing family which has dominated Colorado conservative political life for generations. His father Joe Coors, Sr., was a cofounder of the Heritage Foundation and wrote Lt. Col. Oliver North a check for $65,000 to buy a light plane for the use of the Nicaraguan Contras. His brother Pete Coors made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 2004. From a 1998 Los Angeles Times profile of the Coors family:
All five of Joe Coors’ sons, inspired by their mother, Holly, 67, are self-described, “born-again” Christian fundamentalists. Hard core.
The oldest son, Joe Jr., 45, for instance, even lists “Biblical Prophecy” as a hobby, along with golf, on his company resumé, and the whole family is awaiting Armageddon, which Joe Jr. believes will occur around the year 2000.
Coors has touted internal polling which shows him up by nine points, but the poll is from July, was released on Fox 31 news, and has no cross-tabs. Something has Sabato spooked, though.
There are three measures on the Colorado ballot: Amendment 64, to legalize marijuana, which we’ve covered in a previous Ballot Watch; Amendment 65, which tweaks campaign contributions and more importantly directs Colorado legislators to introduce bills opposing the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United; and a purely administrative measure.
In 2011, the Idaho Legislature passed a series of education reforms. Opponents, including the teachers’ unions, claim the reforms will weaken education. There are three referenda on the 2012 ballot which seek to overturn the State Legislature’s action: Propositions 1, 2 and 3. The bill which educators seek to overturn with Proposition 3 is interesting: it makes two online classes a requirement for graduation from an Idaho high school, and takes money away from living teachers to furnish Idaho students with laptops and/or tablets.
House Joint Resolution 2, the Idaho Hunting and Fishing Amendment, enshrines in the Idaho State Constitution the right to hunt, fish and trap.
The proposed amendment states:
The rights to hunt, fish and trap, including by the use of traditional methods are a valued part of the heritage of the state of Idaho and shall forever be preserved for the people and managed through the laws, rules and proclamations that preserve the future of hunting, fishing and trapping. Public hunting, fishing and trapping of wildlife shall be a preferred means of managing wildlife. The rights set forth herein do not create a right to trespass on private property, shall not affect rights to divert, appropriate and use water, or establish any minimum amount of water in any water body, shall not lead to a diminution of other private property rights, and shall not prevent the suspension or revocation, pursuant to statute enacted by the Legislature, of an individual’s hunting, fish or trapping license.
If this appears similar to Wyoming’s legislation (see below), perhaps it’s the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) again? Any time there are almost-identical bills passed by Republican-dominated legislators that purport to preserve rights that no one is trying to take away, ALEC is usually a prime suspect.
The fifth ballot measure, another Constitutional amendment (the “Idaho State Prison Control Amendment”, SJR 102), would give the state Department of Corrections control over parole and probation of felony prisoners.
Montana is another state, like Colorado, that is in the midst of a demographic transition from a strong ruby red to a more purple shade.
The race for Montana Governor is a tossup. In polling released this week, Democratic Attorney General Steve Bullock polled at 44 percent and former Representative Rick Hill (R) at 43 percent. Two percent say they will vote for the Libertarian candidate, and 11 percent are undecided. One troubling statistic for Hill: while Bullock has a +19 favorable/unfavorable differential, Hill is at only +1 percent, with about a third polled viewing him favorably, a third unfavorably, and a third with neutral feelings. On Capitol Hill, Hill was a moderate Republican, with a DW-NOMINATE of 0.495, close to the party’s average at the time he served (1997–2001).
Montana has only one Representative in the House. Montana’s At-Large House Representative, Denny Rehberg, is a relatively moderate Republican, scoring 0.357, 55th amongst House Republicans (249th overall in the House) on the DW-NOMINATE first-dimension scale. He’s retiring to run for the Senate against incumbent Senator Jon Tester, so the seat is open. Michael rated the Senate seat a tossup in his latest Senate Watch.
Republican Steve Daines and Democrat Kim Gillan are vying for Rehberg’s seat. Daines is a businessman from Bozeman who failed in his earlier run for Lieutenant Governor, while Gillan is a workforce training coördinator and State Senator from Billings. Recent polling released Saturday (by Mason-Dixon for Lee Newspapers) shows 46 percent of voters choosing Daines, 38 percent choosing Gillan, two percent voting for the Libertarian Party candidate, and a relatively large 14 percent undecided. Name recognition is a problem: 49 percent don’t recognize Gillan’s name, and 28 percent don’t know who Daines is.
The Helena Independent-Record quotes voter Lorraine Johnson:
It’s something I haven’t really heard a whole lot about; I’m still kind of ambivalent about that one. I’d kind of like to hear what they’re standing for.
So would we all, Lorraine.
There are five referenda on the Montana ballot this year. LR-120 is the Montana Parental Notification Measure which requires parental notification of a minor’s abortion, with the option for a judicial waiver. LR-121 requires proof of citizenship before receiving state services. LR-122 and LR-124 have been covered previously in our Ballot Watches on Obamacare and marijuana, respectively.
The Montana Corporate Contributions Initiative 166 is more complicated. You might remember that a Montana law which attempted to overrule the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United was invalidated by the United States Supreme Court on June 25. This law is more advisory in nature; like the Colorado law, it promotes further legislative study and compels Montana’s Congressional representatives to consider a legislative override of Citizens United.
In Congressional District 1, incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich is stepping down to run for Senate. (Michael rates this race Likely Democrat.) In a rare all-female race, Democratic Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham is up against Republican former State Rep. and former Gubernatorial candidate Janice Arnold-Jones and Green Party candidate Jeanne Pahls. While The New York Times and RealClearPolitics rate this “Leans Democratic”, Sabato has just moved it to “Safe Democratic”. An Albuquerque Journal poll from early September has Grisham up by 12 points, 46 percent to 34 percent. Sabato must be reading that lead as insurmountable, given the fundamentals of the district.
There are three bonds and five Constitutional Amendments on the ballot. All appear to be non-controversial.
In the At-Large Congressional seat, incumbent Republican Rick Berg is vacating the seat to run for Senate. Republican Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer faces former State Representative Pam Gulleson in the race, which has been overshadowed by the Senate contest (which Michael rates “Leans Republican” but notes the paucity of polling data).
Cook and Roll Call have this one at “Likely Republican”. RealClearPolitics rates it “Leans Republican”. No other sites list it as competitive. A June Mason-Dixon poll had Cramer up by 14, 49–35, but perhaps with the competitive Senate race some experts feel this seat is in play if a wave comes.
North Dakota has four measures on the November ballot.
Constitutional Measure 1 is an amendment that would remove the poll tax (!) and references to “paupers” and “idiots”. It seems non-controversial.
Constitutional Measure 2 is an amendment that requires the Governor and other members of the State Executive branch to take an oath of office.
Constitutional Measure 3 is an amendment which would add a new Section 29 to Article XI:
The right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices.
This is meant to ward off animal rights activists, and is sponsored by the North Dakota Farm Bureau.
Statutory Measure 4 would
prohibit smoking, including the use of electronic smoking devices, in public places and most places of employment in the state, including certain outdoor areas. It would provide notification and enforcement responsibilities, along with penalties for violations.
Statutory Measure 5 would
make it a class C felony for an individual to maliciously and intentionally harm a living dog, cat or horse and provide a court with certain sentencing options. The measure would not apply to production agriculture, or to lawful activities of hunters and trappers, licensed veterinarians, scientific researchers, or to individuals engaged in lawful defense of life or property.
Constitutional Amendments M, N, O and P are not from The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, but rather are housekeeping amendments to the State constitution. Referred Law 14 takes a portion of taxes for business incentives.
Initiated Measure 15 raises the state sales tax from four to five percent. An organization called Moving South Dakota Forward is promoting the initiative, which is supported by state educational associations. The Farm Bureau and the Retailers Association oppose the initiative.
Referred Law 16 is “an education reform act to establish a teacher scholarship program; create a program for math and science teacher bonuses; create a program for teacher merit bonuses; mandate a uniform teacher and principal evaluation system; and eliminate state requirements for teacher tenure”. It asks voters to approve a law already passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. Opposition has come from the South Dakota Education Association, which placed this attempt at a ballot veto of the legislation. I have not been able to find polling on these.
For many decades, Utah has had a comfortable time of setting Congressional district boundaries, with only three House seats. Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, though, Utah was the most populous three-seater, so it was widely expected to gain a fourth seat. (Recall the late-aughts initiative to give Utah one seat and the District of Columbia one seat each in order to get D.C. residents to ditch their polemical “Taxation without Representation” license plates.)
In April, I told you about Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, a rising Utah Republican star. She was a big hit at the Republican National Convention. Love (born Ludmya Bourdeau) is the Brooklyn-born daughter of Haitian immigrants who married LDS missionary Jason Love, became a Mormon convert and moved to Utah. There are no questions about her American citizenship. She is the mother of three.
At the state convention, Love was the dynamic speaker who wowed the delegates and wiped the floor with competing Tea Party-supported wannabes.
In the gerrymander after the 2010 Census, the Republican-dominated Utah Legislature (which reaches near-Soviet levels of groupthink) did their best to carve up incumbent Representative Jim Matheson’s (D-Salt Lake City) seat. The Matheson family has long been a dominant force in state Democratic politics; the Congressman’s father Scott was Governor of Utah from 1977 to 1985, and his brother Scott, Jr., is an Obama-appointed judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Sabato, Cook, and the New York Times all rate this as a tossup. RealClearPolitics rates it as “Leans Democratic”. A June Deseret News/KSL poll (both the newspaper and the TV station are owned by the LDS Church) showed Matheson with a commanding 53–38 lead. This was, of course, before The Speech, and Representative Matheson is in a district with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+20, the reddest of any Democrat-held seat.
Measure 1 (Wyoming Health Care Amendment) was already covered by DC in his Ballot Watch: Obamacare.
Measure 2 preserves the right of state residents to hunt, fish, and trap.
Article 1. Section 38. Right to hunt, fish and trap. The opportunity to harvest wild bird, fish and game is a heritage that shall forever be preserved to the individual citizens of the state and does not create a right to trespass on private property, diminish other private rights or diminish the duty of the state to manage wild bird, fish and game in such a manner that ensures adequate populations and sustained use.
Like so many ballot measures (for example, blocking imposition of Sharia Law), this “solves” a non-existent problem.
Measure 3 relates to court administration and appears uncontroversial.
- Three races make Colorado a congressional battleground
- Colorado’s congressional candidates trades barbs during debate
- Miklosi, Coors trending up in races for Congress