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Ten Colorado Politicos to Watch in 2019

Dynamic duo Jared Polis and Dianne Primavera have quite the year ahead of them.
Dynamic duo Jared Polis and Dianne Primavera have quite the year ahead of them.
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There may not be a statewide election in 2019, but Denver Mayor Michael Hancock will ask voters to give him a third term in May, both the 2020 presidential and senatorial fields will start to take shape, and the state's GOP will begin the rebuilding process after November's Democratic sweep.

Oh, and Jared Polis takes control of the governor's mansion, armed with majorities in the state House and Senate. How will he and Democrats rule in year one of their so-called trifecta?

Here's our list of the ten politicos to watch in 2019:

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is seeking re-election in May.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is seeking re-election in May.
Brandon Marshall

Michael Hancock
Denver’s mayoral election is on May 7, and Mayor Hancock is in trouble as he seeks a third term in city hall. In the months since a former member of his security detail came forward with allegations of sexual harassment, the once-rising star in local politics has attracted at least eight challengers.

Hancock will probably face his most difficult electoral challenge since defeating Chris Romer for the job back in 2011. If he wins, he'll have to quell anxiety in this growing city about housing affordability.

Joe Neguse
The freshman 2nd District congressman has made a strong initial impression in Washington, getting a vice-chair post on the progressive caucus and already earning more than a handful of rising-star mentions in Democratic circles. Will he get on other high-profile committees in 2019? Will he become a regular cable news contributor? Could his name pop up regularly in the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez circles as a Democratic force to be reckoned with?

Neguse may be new to Washington, but if the start of his term is any indication, he’s on track to working his way into bigger roles in D.C.

Dianne Primavera during a campaign appearance.
Dianne Primavera during a campaign appearance.

Dianne Primavera
A veteran of the state House, the lieutenant governor-elect will be tasked with chairing key committees and helping Polis's agenda come to life. New Democratic majorities in the state House and Senate will help Primavera navigate the behind-the-scenes work often delegated to the lieutenant governor.

Primavera's inspiring battle with cancer has, by her own admission, made health care the policy issue closest to her heart. But one of the biggest challenges for Polis's right-hand woman is whether she can work with the legislature to improve health-care affordability.

Jovan Melton
Democrats have their own #MeToo problem in the state House, with Aurora state representative Melton in trouble after two prior domestic-violence charges surfaced. Melton easily won re-election in his blue-leaning District 41 seat in the fall despite the allegations surfacing just weeks before the November 6 vote.

But Democrats, who booted Representative Steve Lebsock for sexual-harassment allegations and hit back at GOP legislators for posting Brett Kavanaugh jokes online, have generally handled #MeToo issues better than their GOP counterparts. Melton, though, remains a sore spot for the party, and it'll probably be challenging for Dems to assert moral superiority on the issue as long as he is in the state legislature.

All eyes are on Polis this year.EXPAND
All eyes are on Polis this year.
Kenzie Bruce

Jared Polis
How will Polis govern in his first year in charge? Will he pass significant legislation in 2019 with more than nominal bipartisan support? The governor will certainly have his challenges in year one, and with Democrats controlling both the state House and Senate, Polis will have no one to blame but himself if his key promises fail to materialize.

If Polis isn't able to get things done in 2019, voters may ultimately blame Democrats at the ballot box in 2020.

Jeff Hays
How does the state GOP rebuild from its November disaster? The party appears to have taken an honest internal look at itself without throwing haymakers at Democrats or voters. Hays, the GOP state chairman, will be tasked with rebuilding the party from the ground up after the November 6 horror show.

Senator Cory Gardner has a tough road ahead of 2020.
Senator Cory Gardner has a tough road ahead of 2020.
Gage Skidmore

Cory Gardner
We think Gardner must push himself closer to the center in the lead-up to 2020 if he wants a shot at winning. As Mike Coffman’s defeat in the 6th Congressional District in the fall showed, however, even a more moderate Republican in an increasingly blue-leaning state in the age of Trump will face significant challenges — though two years is an eternity in modern politics, and Gardner has the charm and political know-how that Walker Stapleton lacked as the Republican standard-bearer in the midterms.

He's probably an underdog heading into his 2020 re-election fight, but if anyone has the charisma to flip the script, it's Gardner. He's got 23 months to smile his way through handshake lines, and he is undoubtedly a skilled and gifted politician whom state Republicans are probably happy to have as the face of the party.

But Gardner has been a little chummy with the Trump administration for moderate voters' taste — something that Democrats will pummel him on in the lead-up to 2020.

John Hickenlooper
Will he or won’t he? Look, it’s no coincidence that the soon-to-be former governor is randomly popping up in Iowa and New Hampshire (though they say there’s nothing quite like Des Moines in December). He’s hinted at his presidential run in conversations with the press and has formed an exploratory committee. Barring something unexpected, we think he’ll throw his hat in the ring (though his early numbers aren’t looking too hot).

By this time next year, we’ll be on the eve of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries, and we’ll probably have a decent idea of whether or not Hick's moderate and relatively popular eight years as Colorado's governor will garner traction in what’s expected to be a crowded field of national Democrats.

Trump might not even visit Colorado in 2019, but his impact on the state will be yuuuge.
Trump might not even visit Colorado in 2019, but his impact on the state will be yuuuge.
Gage Skidmore at Flikr

Donald Trump
There’s a chance that the commander-in-chief won’t even set foot in the Centennial State in 2019, but make no mistake about it: Trump will be the biggest influence on Colorado’s politics in 2019 and beyond.

Colorado’s midterms were a giant middle finger pointed in Trump’s direction. Conservative-leaning ideologies were supported in ballot measure votes, but Democrats swept every statewide office and won virtually every competitive congressional and state House and Senate seat. In an increasingly diverse and well-educated state like Colorado, Trump’s combative method of running the White House appeared to be toxic to down-ballot Colorado Republican candidates in 2018, and it probably won't help the GOP in the lead-up to 2020's key senatorial and presidential elections here.

One of the big things to watch will be whether Colorado is even considered competitive enough to warrant big national attention in 2020. After the midterm results in November, it’s safe to say that Colorado is a long shot — at best — for Trump and the GOP in 2020.

Crisanta Duran
Like Hick, this is another will-she-or-won't-she. The 38-year-old outgoing Democratic speaker of the house is considered one of the rising stars of the Democratic Party, and with Gardner looking vulnerable in 2020, could Duran become Colorado's first female senator? We'll probably find out this year if she's running, and we'll also probably get a solid idea about her chances and the primary field she'll be up against for the Dem nomination.

Duran's name has regularly been floated as a potential prime candidate for the Democratic nomination, and despite being on the younger side, she's spent nearly a decade in the state legislature, forming deep ties with labor unions and becoming the first Latina Speaker of the House. She certainly has the credentials to give Gardner a run for his money.

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