DENVER – With less than a week to go before the June 26th primary election, Colorado Republicans continue to outpace their Democratic counterparts in early turnout results issued Wednesday by the Colorado Secretary of State.
Party-affiliated voters in the state’s 64 counties have cast a total of 319,069 total votes. GOP voters have submitted 182,585 primary ballots, while Democrats have cast 135,636 ballots, more than 25 percent less.
The 2012 election season lacks the marquee races – Governor, U.S. Senate, and the top state elected offices – that typically drive up intraparty competition and draw out fervent primary voters.
Not since 2000 has the primary ballot been so bottom-heavy, focusing more attention on down-ballot, local races at the state House and Senate levels in particular.
Individual races for a handful of offices have sparked controversy, and could drive up turnout in select districts. Republicans have seen at least two races turn white hot, with June’s primary election unlikely to settle down entrenched party voters – or cool conflicts initiated by intense back-and-forth volleys between rival candidates.
The GOP race for the at-large seat for the University of Colorado Board of Regents, the ballot’s only statewide offering this cycle, has encountered weeks of prominence in the media that could spur a late surge in turnout.
Republicans Matt Arnold and Brian Davidson are vying to face off against Democrat Stephen Ludwig, who defeated Davidson in a squeaker of a race in 2006. Arnold gained the top line on the primary ballot at the GOP state assembly in April, beating out Davidson.
Since then, however, a series of campaign-related controversies have tripped up Arnold, just as ballots for the June primary began to be distributed. Arnold, the former director of the Clear the Bench campaign, has vowed to stay in the race, despite the loss of prominent supporters who withdrew their endorsements in the run-up to June 26.
R Block Party’s Nikki Mata, however, believes that while races like the CU Regent contest have drawn increased scrutiny in recent weeks, the primary flare-ups – and turnouts – will probably be more localized in nature.
“People are settling in for the long haul and preparing to turn out to vote in November,” Mata said, suggesting that many Republicans might be conserving their energy for the November general election.
But in some Republican quarters, the real election is next Tuesday, and the stakes are just as high.
The House District 19 battle between House Majority Leader Amy Stephens and Rep. Marsha Looper has drawn months of attention in the conservative stronghold of El Paso County. Similarly, incumbent Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn (CD-5) faces unexpectedly stiff competition from businessman Robert Blaha, who has poured vast personal resources into his campaign’s coffers.
In 2010, 341,133 Democrats voted in the U.S. Senate primary between then-appointed U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. Republicans turned in 409,330 ballots in the U.S. Senate primary between Weld County DA Ken Buck and former Lt. Governor Jane Norton.