by Leonid Balaban
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
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
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.