Divisive elections, including a contentious governor's race, and a series of scandals rocked Colorado politics in 2018. That, coupled with all the national political scandals, would be enough for anyone to quit politics altogether.
But through it all, Coloradans on both sides of the aisle had a lot of reasons to celebrate (though Democrats were the ones really celebrating in November). From voting in diverse candidates to prominent Republicans and Democrats proving they can work out their differences, Colorado showed its true colors this election season. Here are our the best moments in Colorado politics in 2018:
Avoiding the Ugly
Midterm elections around the U.S. were consumed by ugly and decidedly partisan accusations of fraud and state legislatures openly trying to strip power from incoming governors of a different party. While Wayne Williams, Colorado's Republican secretary of state and head of all elections, was voted out of office in November, transparent, safe and easy elections — thanks in large part to state Republicans, by the way — helped us avoid such nasty partisan fighting.
Amendments Y and Z passed in November, creating an independent commission of Democrats, Republican and unaffiliated voters that will be responsible for drawing Colorado’s congressional and state House and Senate district lines. It might sound like a relatively minor logistical exercise, but it’s a big deal and a step in the right direction to end an ugly, undemocratic practice that’s been exploited by parties all over the U.S. And Republicans and Democrats unanimously backed the measure, a rare feat in these polarized times.
Finally Abolishing Slavery
Unbeknownst to many Coloradans, the state constitution still allowed slavery — until an amendment this year finally abolished it. Much to our embarrassment, a similar amendment had come along before, but it was so confusing that voters actually maintained slavery in the constitution instead of abolishing it. Yes, Colorado was extremely late in finally getting this done, but it happened, and we're all the better for it.
From congressmen and -women of color to a transgender state House candidate who now represents a traditionally conservative district, voters approved the most diverse cast of candidates in recent memory. We also elected the first openly gay governor in U.S. history, which got us shout-outs on late-night TV shows. It's all a testament to our state's own increasing diversity, and something we should be proud of.
Cory Gardner and Marijuana
Early in 2018, Colorado's Republican senator threatened to withhold votes on federal judges if then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions pushed hard enough against legal weed after he revoked the Cole Memorandum. Although Gardner is still not the biggest proponent of legal marijuana, he is clearly willing to buck his own party’s leadership on this important issue.
Mike Coffman and Ethiopia
Mike Coffman was a popular politician, particularly among Aurora’s large Ethiopian and Eritrean communities. How popular? He's "a household name" in Ethiopian-American circles. Though the longtime representative of the 6th Congressional District went on to lose badly to Democratic challenger Jason Crow, Coffman's support in immigrant circles is a good reminder that politicians should always embrace diversity, regardless of their party affiliation.
Donna Lynne’s Tattoo
While the outgoing lieutenant governor didn’t come close to winning the June Democratic primary for governor, Lynne’s arm tattoo celebrating her campaign was pretty awesome. Depending on her outlook, the tattoo could be a painful reminder of a failed campaign or of a bold decision she once made. We hope she goes with the latter.
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Polis’s Sexuality as a Non-Issue
Jared Polis and Walker Stapleton engaged in some nasty exchanges during the gubernatorial race, and both backed horrendous ads about each other that included lies or gross exaggerations of the truth. But the one thing that never came up? Polis’s sexuality. It might seem like an obvious thing that would be avoided, but politics in America is an ugly business these days, and decency can be hard to come by.
Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet
Republican Senator Cory Gardner and Democratic Senator Michael Bennet often bring up their strong working relationship and regularly speak of their friendship. And it's not just for the cameras: They've co-sponsored several pieces of legislation in recent years, including an August amendment to maintain train development in the Southwest. We need more of this and less of the partisan bickering that President Trump stokes almost daily.
The Blue Wave
November 6 was the day that state Democrats had been dreaming of for decades. Save for a handful of ballot issues, they won everything they could’ve possibly hoped for — and then some. They got the governor’s mansion back, along with every statewide office, and finally flipped Coffman’s pesky congressional seat. But with great power comes great responsibility. Just a few years removed from messy recall elections and what was generally seen as an overstep of their power, Democrats have a second chance to rule. Let's hope, for everyone's sake, that they don't mess it up.