Last November, I'd say there were two states that were bright spots for Democrats--Illinois, where Barack Obama was elected to the Senate and the also very-talented Melissa Bean scored an upset bid to get elected to the House; and Colorado, where Ken Salazar picked up a GOP Senate seat, his brother John captured a GOP House seat, and the state Dem Party successfully fought off a GOP gerrymander of the state's congressional districts that would have placed another district, the ultra-competitive 7th, solidly in the GOP's corner.
So how have the state's Democrats responded to victory? This weekend, they ousted their party chairman, who had championed the idea of the party nominating electable candidates in the GOP-leaning state. Senator Salazar, in the Dem primary, defeated an anti-war teacher with no statewide campaign experience, Mike Miles; many Miles delegates were angered that the state party apparatus favored the more electable Salazar. Many Miles delegates were also prominent supporters of Dennis Kucinich for president, which gives a sense of where they stood on the political spectrum.
The Miles backers were always stronger with party activists than with the public at large; in 2004, the Colorado state Dem convention, responsive mostly to the party base, actually endorsed Miles over Salazar (Salazar won the primary by nearly 40 points). In the race for party chair, the Miles forces mobilized behind a little-known environmental activist, Pat Waak, who appears to have been elected by three votes. Waak has promised to do her best not to use the party apparatus to discourage the primary candidacies of far-left underdogs.comments powered by Disqus
Jeff Vanke - 3/8/2005
There was a parallel change in N.C. in the past few weeks. Since we still elect more Democratic state-wide officials than Republican, this is a bigger deal than would seem the case if you've completely written off the state as Republican. (We could probably cough up a couple more Republican Congressmen, for example.) At least some of the new leadership wants to make sure no more right-wingers like Erskine Bowles run (and lose to Republicans!) for Senate anymore.
Robert KC Johnson - 3/7/2005
Yes on Montana--had forgotten that one! For the Dem statewide and legislative candidates to do as well as they did there in the face of the Bush landslide in the state was very impressive.
Agree that the immediate and probably long-term impact of the upset is minimal. From the outside, though, it seemed like Gates did exactly what you want an effective party chair to do: rally the party behind winning candidates.
Jonathan Rees - 3/7/2005
As someone who supported Ken Salazar from the day he announced and is proud to be represented by both Salazars in Congress, I agree that the Miles people had and still have an annoying tendency to act morally superior.
That said, I don't think Gates losing will change anything. Three things gave Colorado Democrats a good Election Day last year: 1. The Salazars are rightfully extremely popular. [Both are just really nice guys.] 2. The Republicans in the State Legislature lost their minds last term (I could write about the disaster that will be college vouchers, but I'd get too depressed) and 3. Three Democratic millionaires gave a ton of money to fund state house candidates in a Presidential year. That effort surprised everyone and is widely regarded as the reason the Democrats took both houses. I believe our State House Speaker, Andrewe Romanoff, was responsible for picking the swing districts. He is absolutely the best politician I have ever heard and a name worth watching in the future.
PS I think Montana also belongs on the list of Democratic happy states too.
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