What a heck happened with CD-7

by Leonid Balaban

Colorado CD-7 map

When Colorado 7th Congressional District (CD-7) was created after census in the year 2000, it was drawn up by courts in such a way that there was no clear advantage for either major political party. In fact, at the time when the first ever contest was held in that district in 2002, the party affiliation was almost evenly split between Democrats, Republicans and Independents. In that midterm election, Republican Bob Beauprez beat his Democratic challenger Mike Feeley by the slimmest margin of 122 votes out of over 172 thousand votes that were cast during that election day. In 2004, Beauprez

Bob Beauprez

ran already as an incumbent and his winning margin was a lot bigger than in his first contest. He beat his Democratic opponent Dave Thomas 55% to 43%, even though John Kerry beat President Bush in that district 51% to 48%. It is worth noting that the voter turnout in CD-7 during that election was almost 247 thousand, an increase of over 30%.

Yet, in 2006, Congressman Beauprez decided to run for the Governor of Colorado against the former Denver District attorney Bill Ritter. Initially, the district was still considered a lean-Republican, especially considering the fact that Republican Rick O’Donnell sailed through the primaries of his party without a real challenge, while Democrat Ed Perlmutter had a tough primary fight with 2 other contenders. However, the overall political environment was different from two years ago. Congressional Republicans were embroiled in multiple corruption scandals. The American electorate was generally unhappy with the Republican party and with the direction of the country as a whole. In fact, according to Real Clear Politics, as the 2006 midterm elections were approaching, Democrats were preferred over Republicans by an average of 11.5%, when it came to the general preference of control over Congress. Ironically, that was almost exactly the margin by which Perlmutter

Ed Perlmutter

Ed Perlmutter

beat O’Donnell, with the final result showing 54.9% for the Democrat and 42.1% for the Republican. Thus, we can see that this district has swung almost 180 degrees from the Republican control to the Democratic control.

Fast forwarding to 2008 Congressional race, this district is now listed as safe-Democratic by CQ politics. Perlmutter’s opponent, John Lerew, is virtually an unknown in the world of politics and is given 50-1 odds of winning this race. So what was before considered a balanced seat, is now trending heavily Democrat. Some attribute this to the increase of the Hispanic population in Commerce City and Aurora in Adams County, as well as a slight leftward lean in the Jefferson County portion of the seat. Others believe that the Democratic wave which began in 2006 is continuing in 2008 is the most contributing factor that causes this district to lean left on the political scale.

Could this Congressional seat become competitive, as it once was? Perhaps, but if the population change was in fact the most decisive factor, then this district might be in the Democratic hands for quite some time.

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6 Comments

Filed under Colorado, Democratic Party, Republican, Uncategorized, Voter Demographics

6 responses to “What a heck happened with CD-7

  1. Shawn_Scanlon

    I worked on the Feeley for Congress campaign in 2002 (if one Dem per precinct showed up rather than staying home, Mike would have won). So yeah, I remember how close this district was supposed to be.

    That said, Mike wasn’t a good fit for the district. He ran the margins up in Adams, but couldn’t keep up in JeffCo. I’ve lived in JeffCo most of my life, and CD-7 was tailor-made for a candidate like Ed. You’d be surprised at how many voters actually “know” Ed in the district; he has very high visibility and strength in the places that matter. Namely Golden and Central JeffCo.

    I love my peeps out in Adams, but we all know that any Democrat is gonna win that county.

  2. Stephen Noriega

    Leo,

    I think one of the reasons that CD-7 is safe-Democrat now has something to do with the person. Ed Perlmutter has snuggled up to the Adams and Jeffco Democrats well. In addition, he has maintained his local visibility, returning home every other week (except during important votes) and fielding constituents’ concerns. He can be seen at the flea market in Adams county and the many Starbucks throughout Jeffco. He still shops at his neighborhood grocery store (I know because that’s where I shop also) and takes time. He is growing a reutation as a popular, accessible politician and even Republicans continue to warm up to him.

  3. Lance Thibert

    It seems like CD-7 is one of those bellewether districts. It’s suburban, an even split between reps and dems, swung rep in 2002 and 2004, and went dem in 2006 and dems are favored in 2008. This election will be fought in the suburbs, if democrats can drive it to a draw, the urban vote will more than overwhelm the rural vote. The suburbs need to be soildly red for the republicans to win.

  4. Tony Robinson

    I remember the drama of CD-7 from the past two elections, as Leo describes. It was one of THE key national races back in 2006, when there was no presidential race to suck all the oxygen out of local race focus. Our elections class back in 2006 spent a good deal of time on this race and talking about how balanced the demographics were–so I think that it is indeed a a bit surprising how safe this district has become. Though changing demographics play a role–I don’t think this district has changed that fundamentally from 2004 and 2006, when it was noted for its demographic balance, party-wise.

    Rather, the real issues accounting for Perlmutter’s safety are:

    1) the tendency of incumbents of either party to win re-election, due to money advantage, constituent service, etc., etc., which some of the comments on this post talk about.

    2) The national climate of “damn the Republicans.”

    I don’t think underlying demographic changes are as powerful as these two points in explaining CD-7.

  5. npitman

    This is an interesting point and the comments make a lot of sense. It seems pretty obvious that in the local state races the democrats are going to pick up even more seats. I wonder what your thoughts are about the likely new district maps that will occur after the next census. It is tradition for the party in power to create maps which protect the most seats. Is this seat protected enough or will they try to attach the staunchest republican areas to a different republican leaning district?

  6. balaban13

    by Leonid Balaban

    If you look at the map that I have provided in the original post, this district appears to be weird looking. Having said that, it might just be left intact, since Dems now have a solid footing on it. Although Colorado is trending blue, it’s not as blue as Washington state or other north-eastern states. So, if they change this district to be even more blue than what it is right now, they might risk other CD going red.

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