I have enjoyed the annual tradition of reviewing the past year as we enter the new one.
Here in Colorado, the reviews of 2013 have been justly dominated by the natural disasters our state withstood. And it truly took record breaking devastation from wildfires and floods to kick the political events that happened in 2013 down the list.
But once we get past the natural disasters of 2013, it’s clear that the political storms that swept through Colorado in 2013 were also historic.
Not only did the State Legislature garner national headlines with how it tackled gun control issues, but the way it went about it helped to set off recall elections of two state senators and the resignation of another.
It may seem that 2013 broke unprecedented political ground, not to be seen again.
While I am certainly no soothsayer, all signs point to 2013 being simply an entertaining opening act to what will likely be an even crazier 2014.
How, you may ask?
First, while gun control will not dominate the 2014 legislative session, because it’s an election year, the session will get contentious. The Democrats still hold a majority in the State Senate, although by a slim one vote advantage. That will mean signature pieces of legislation will require the Democratic caucus to work together without losing one vote. That won’t be easy since many State Senators face re-election in 2014 and may not want to jeopardize their status in competitive districts with votes on left leaning legislation.
One may think that the heat of the 2013 session and the upcoming 2014 election may cause Dems to ease up on the gas pedal on its agenda. However, retaining the majority in the Senate and House is not guaranteed, so many legislative leaders may be tempted, and justifiably so, to put the pedal to the metal and pass as much of the agenda as possible before it becomes impossible.
After the session, the heat should not waiver in Colorado politics. June GOP primaries for the nominees in the Gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races may become battles for the soul of the Republican Party.
While Tea Party activists still remain influential in the GOP, an increase in pragmatism among party leaders is showing a strong desire to find candidates who can actually win a general election. Tea Party purity tests in June’s primaries will help to write the negative ads for September. The only way to combat that is for the GOP to elect more moderate nominees. This battle will not be for the faint of heart, especially with national money looking to influence the race against Senator Mark Udall.
Finally, if a contentious legislative session and a battle for the soul of the Republican Party wasn’t enough, the issue of fracking should put 2014 over the top. The 2014 debate over fracking will make the 2013 debate over gun control look like a civilized bridal shower.
I do not come across this opinion lightly. I have moderated panels discussing both of these issues. Gun Control is an emotional and passionately debated issue, but fracking brings out a special brand of argumentation and pits two classic enemies against each other, environmentalists versus Big Oil. Consider also that Colorado, as it always seems to be, will be a national focal point for this debate as it will almost assuredly become a statewide ballot issue.
The Colorado political scene in 2013 set historic marks that seem hard to beat. But when you look at what 2014 is lined up to become, it’s logical to consider that we may soon long for the peace and quiet of 2013.
However, it may look politically, it is my sincere wish that you have a healthy and prosperous 2014 and a very happy New Year!