Odd year elections always bring surprising results. Voter turnout is hard to predict and attention paid to issues can be sporadic at best. 2013 definitely lived up to expectations by providing a mixed bag of results from throughout the state.
Obviously, the 2013 election results will set a tone for the 2014 election, but in no way should anyone feel that what happened on Tuesday will be a certain blueprint for what will happen a year from now. Rather, we can look at three important takeaways from Tuesday night and how they may affect the campaigns building up to a year from now.
1. When it comes to education, reform is the word.
While the races were close, it’s clear that voters in Denver and in Douglas County both see reform as a good thing. Reformers now need to prove that reforms can deliver results, but voters are still seemingly big fans of the ideas reform represents.
I do wonder what these results will mean for teachers unions who fought hard in both counties against the candidates that were victorious. I am confident that the fight is far from over, but will some general election candidates next year see open support from teachers unions in a different light after these most recent losses?
And while the races were indeed close, I have to believe that the results will be encouraging for other reform candidates and proposals in other districts. Yes, Douglas County is more conservative than most other areas, but Denver is just the opposite. Reform isn’t necessarily a partisan issue at this point, so it will be interesting to watch the impact these victories have in other counties.
2. Education funding make sense on the local level
In the 2012 election, many local school districts and communities successfully increased mill levies and other school funding mechanisms. It seemed that Coloradans were fans of education and were willing to pay for it.
But in 2013, voters overwhelmingly voted down Amendment 66 which would have raised nearly one billion dollars for education funding in the state. I am confident that many education funding proponents wonder what could have changed so dramatically in just one year.
Personally, I don’t think much changed. Education funding has always done better at the local level. I think a key part of that support is due to local funding measures being focused and smaller in size. As frustrating as it may be for statewide education funding proponents, they may need to take a page from that same book and offer smaller and more focused proposals if they wish to see success on the larger stage. It’s not as if Coloradans are diametrically opposed to taxes, it is simply that like other moderate purple states, Colorado voters like to know exactly what they are paying for. When that is explained, tax measures tend to pass.
3. Rural Colorado is not ready to secede just yet
Eleven Colorado counties had secession measures on the 2013 ballot. While those counties may still be very frustrated with how rural values are represented in the state legislature, six of those counties voted down those measures on Tuesday.
That still means that five counties in Colorado did vote to secede. But the issue now will change from secession to what it should have turned to much sooner, how do rural voters find stronger influence in Denver. Between oil and gas drilling booming and agriculture issues still vital to Colorado’s economy, strong influence can still be had. That influence is going to take some finesse and political wherewithal to be realized, not threats to leave the state.
It seems that the election results can serve as a sign for both sides of the debate that the conversation is ready to evolve to something far more productive. But figuring out if there are leaders ready to get productive is the real question that remains to be answered.
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About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.