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Colorado Democrats Fall Short in Taking Control of State Government

Jason Salzman

“These results are disappointing," said Sarah Taylor-Nanista, director of Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado, in a statement. "We will not give up, we will not back down, and we will not be silenced. We will ensure that women’s health and rights are protected, and that people in Colorado are still able to get reproductive health care."

Democrats on Tuesday came one seat short of controlling the Colorado state government with the loss of a suburban state Senate seat east of Denver.

Colorado Democrats again lost one of the country’s most competitive congressional districts to U.S.  Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican who once used a Planned Parenthood logo in a campaign ad and then voted to defund the health-care organization.

Democrats, who already controlled the governor’s office and held a safe majority in the state House, needed to pick up one state Senate seat and hold on to two other competitive districts, to flip the Republicans’ one-seat edge in the chamber.

It initially looked as if they’d accomplished this by ousting state Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada). Woods was beaten by former state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, in a rematch of a 2014 race that Zenzingerlost by about 1 percent of votes cast.

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But state Rep. Kevin Priola (R-Henderson) defeated former Rep. Janise May of Adams County to win a state Senate district that lies mostly within the boundaries of Coffman’s congressional district.

President-elect Donald Trump did not figure prominently in the Priola race, but he was at the center of debate in the Coffman contest, with the incumbent facing repeated attacks for aligning with the mogul.

Coffman first dodged questions about Trump last year, then indicated in February he’d back the billionaire, before criticizing Trump, then saying he wouldn’t vote for him, and finally saying in October he might not vote for president at all.

Coffman’s anti-choice positions were highlighted by his Democratic opponents, but did not convince voters to send Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll to Congress.

Democrats had hoped to win the congressional seat after the 2010 Census, when it was redrawn from being predictably Republican to being perennially competitive.

But Coffman, who took over the district in 2008 from retiring conservative firebrand Tom Tancredo, took Spanish lessons, withdrew his support for a personhood abortion ban, and modified his anti-choice stance to include abortion exceptions for rape and incest.

After voting repeatedly to halt federal funding of Planned Parenthood, Coffman used a Planned Parenthood Action Fund logo in a 2015 campaign ad, only to return to Congress after the election and vote again to defund Planned Parenthood.

“These results are disappointing,” said Sarah Taylor-Nanista, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado, in a statement. “We will not give up, we will not back down, and we will not be silenced. We will ensure that women’s health and rights are protected, and that people in Colorado are still able to get reproductive health care.”

Coffman defeated former state Rep. Joe Miklosi in 2012 and former Democratic state House speaker Andrew Romanoff in 2014.

Colorado’s divided legislature will likely result in gridlock on most significant legislation.

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