Colorado's Primaries: Republicans moderated, won most Unaffiliated votes

July '22 Bulletin

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Colorado’s 2022 election primaries bring promising news for Republicans

by Mathew Groves, CADA VP
Legal, Regulatory & Compliance

While it’s sometimes easy to lose track for those who vote by mail-in ballot, Colorado’s primary night was Tuesday, June 28. One of the country’s latest primaries — where some start as early as March — Colorado’s primary comes with the net effect (sometimes good for TV watchers) of shortening the general election season.

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There are two things to notice here. One is the failure of Democratic efforts to influence Republican primaries. If you are registered Republican or Unaffiliated, you likely received mailers from “Colorado Republicans” telling you Ron Hanks and Greg Lopez were “too conservative for Colorado.”

These were not from the Colorado Republican Party, but rather a Democrat-influenced and -funded campaign to use reverse psychology on Republican primary voters. The mailers even had a union watermark.

Influencers hoped that Republican voters would choose the more conservative candidate to defeat the moderate candidate, who, in turn, would fare better in a general election. After spending about $11 million on this effort, the campaign failed and the moderate candidates prevailed, setting up competitive races in both seats.

The second observation is vote totals. Early indications were Republicans could compete in any seat up to those with a D+6 voter index. This means in a normal election, Democrats would win 53-47, or by six percentage points. This swing is largely attributable to national politics and economic conditions.

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However, Colorado has another variable to consider. It’s called open elections.

Colorado’s largest voting block is Unaffiliated voters. In primaries, they may return a Democrat or Republican ballot, but not both. In 2018 and 2020, most Unaffiliated voters turned in Democratic ballots. That changed last month.

As a result, two things happened. Unaffiliated voters helped the more moderate/business-friendly candidate prevail in both the governor and state senate races.

But it goes further. If you take vote totals from both primaries, 630,779 Republican ballots were returned, where Governor Polis received 520,769 ballots.

Republicans turned in 110,000 more ballots this cycle. That equates to a 9.5. percent advantage, meaning a default race would be competitive in Districts D+9.5, better than the anticipated D+6.

This trend holds in the U.S. Senate race, where Hanks and O’Dea combined for 630,927 votes, a net gain of 116,000 ballots. That would make Republicans competitive in a D+10 district.

We chose these two races for observation because they are statewide races. We will now look at 

competitive inter-party primaries at the House and Senate level.

Colorado Democratic primaries

We watched four state Democratic primaries this year, covering districts in east Denver, south Colorado Springs, North Garfield County and Northglenn/Adams County. In each district, unaffiliated voters who turned in Republican ballots had a huge impact.

By contrast, smaller Democratic vote totals allowed the more progressive branch of the party to elect more extreme candidates. So while the Republican party moderated in its successes, the Democratic party polarized its own.

This sets up a dynamic where Republicans have momentum in terms of total overall ballots. The residual matchups are likely to be more favorable as the moderate candidate is often a Republican. Naturally, this is a trend and not a guarantee.

Impact on dealers

The overall impact of these numbers is favorable to Colorado’s auto industry. First, we benefit from more moderate candidates who tend to align themselves with business interests over grassroots and social issues. The success of moderates indicates the economy and employment are at the forefront of voters’ minds. This is where Republicans tend to do very well.

The second effect is these numbers indicate Republicans have a real chance — barring any occurrences in the next four months — to retake the state, and perhaps the U.S. senates. This would create a split government, where Republicans tend to thrive.

While the governorship is unlikely to change hands and the President is not on the ballot this year,

holding one house in each branch is a significant improvement from where the legislature stands today.

Ballot initiatives

In elections where Democrats have prevailed, the party has typically attempted to cull Democratic voters to vote a straight-ticket ballot. This is done not by appealing to voters with candidates, but rather by running a host of liberal and progressive issues under Colorado’s ballot initiative process.

Many of those ballots have already been submitted, and still more are under review. As we get closer to the general election, CADA will issue an elections guide covering all of these issues, as well as the close candidate races. Meanwhile, contact Tim Jackson or Matthew Groves with any questions or for more information.

Get involved

CADA participates in state and federal elections through Colo CAR and NADA PAC. To get involved and help to shape the future of our state government, reach out to Tim Jackson ( CADA has a menu of options on how to get involved in a way that will benefit your dealership and the industry at large.