The blue tsunami swept through Colorado on Election Day, leaving a few forlorn red islands in its wake. Voters forcibly retired three of our state’s nationally prominent moderate Republicans, replacing them with Democrats. Veteran congressman Mike Coffman lost to Jason Crow, former state treasurer Walker Stapleton lost to Jared Polis in the governor’s race and our own Wayne Williams took a beating, losing his job as secretary of state to Jena Griswold by 120,000 votes.
As I can testify from sad experience, losing an election is unpleasant. Imagine a very public job interview, with the outcome decided by thousands or even millions of people you’ve never met. Imagine being the target of unfounded rumors, accusations, innuendos and scurrilous social media posts. Imagine working your tail off in a demanding job, doing it well and then being fired or denied a promotion.
If you’ve ever been there, send an appreciative card to Coffman, Stapleton and Williams. And while you’re at it, send cards to all the Republicans and Democrats who ran spirited races in hopeless districts. Think of Stephany Rose Spaulding, who almost broke the magic 40 percent mark for a Democrat in Congressional District 5, or Denver Republican Casper Stockman, who has twice gone up against the formidable Diana DeGette.
Condolences are fine — but the election’s over. It’s time to move on to 2019 and 2020. Who will contest the three at-large seats on Colorado Springs City Council? Will anyone dare to run against the formidable John Suthers for mayor? Will the defeated Republican warriors rise from the ashes to run again, and maybe even win?
Losing an election is bad enough, but worse still when you’ve gained national attention for your competence in office and, worst of all when as secretary of state you have to certify your opponent’s victory. Williams has done so with good humor — as a public servant, not a partisan.
Yet, in some ways, the election went pretty well for the Williams family. While Wayne lost his $68,500 S.O.S. salary, spouse Holly won a seat on the El Paso County Commission, which pays $113,900. Wayne has a private law practice but he may still have time on his hands.
So here’s a suggestion: Run for city council in 2019. Merv Bennett is term-limited, so there’s an open seat. If Suthers is elected to a second and final term, Williams would be perfectly placed to run for mayor in 2023. It’d be a nice capstone to a decent political career, and the mayor’s job comes with a salary of $103,370.
Suthers has already launched his campaign. Fundraising letters went out a couple of months ago, and it’s hard to believe that he’ll have any serious opposition.
At-large council races often attract a crowd of hopefuls but incumbents Bill Murray and Tom Strand haven’t done anything to provoke public wrath. Murray’s well-deserved reputation as a political gadfly won’t hurt him. Local voters like having one or two political nihilists in local elected bodies (e.g., Helen Collins, Douglas Bruce, Charlie Duke), just as they tolerate a few Democrats. Murray fills both roles.
Fueled by younger voters (especially women), the blue wave may have staying power. Success is self-reinforcing — those Millennial voters aren’t going away, nor are the young leaders they put in office. Yet the wave can be stalled or reversed by the actions of two men: Donald Trump and Jared Polis.
The president only needs to keep on infuriating women, people of color, suburbanites, immigrants, liberals, the media and George Will. He ought to stop tweeting, but he’s having too much fun.
Jared Polis’ job is more difficult. Unaffiliated voters put him in office, and also helped defeat tax and anti-fracking initiatives. The governor’s friends are potentially his worst enemies — since Dems control both houses of the legislature, he’ll have to keep them from dumping deep blue bills on his desk. He’ll need to broker compromises on bills that affect the oil and gas industry, keep new gun control bills off the table for a couple of years and keep Democrats from being Democrats until after the presidential election.
And then? Will it be President Beto O’Rourke, President Donald Trump or President Oprah Winfrey? Will Trish Zornio replace Cory Gardner? Will the legislature backstop “Rocky Mountain High” by introducing a new state song?
“Blue, blue my world is blue…”