GOP girds for losses in Colorado |

GOP girds for losses in Colorado

Steven K. Paulson

DENVER – Republicans are girding for possibly more losses in the Colorado Legislature, two years after losing control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 42 years.Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, said voters are in a foul mood over the war in Iraq and divisions within the party could cost Republicans more seats in Tuesday’s elections.”I think part of it is a national problem. People are upset with high gas prices, immigration and the war,” McElhany said.

Democrats control the Senate, 18-17, but veteran lawmaker Sen. Lew Entz, R-Hooper, is locked in a tight race with Democrat Gail Schwartz in southern Colorado and Sen. Ed Jones, R-Colorado Springs, is battling Democrat John Morse. Both races suggest it will be tough for the GOP to take back the Senate.Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden, said Democrats showed over the past two years that they could govern, winning voter approval for a plan asking them to give up an estimated $5 billion over the next five years to fix the state budget.She said Democrats also got legislation passed cracking down on illegal immigrants, dealing a blow to Republicans who had hoped to use that as a wedge issue to get their voters to the polls.House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, said Republicans have shifted their focus to House races. He said the party faithful has been responding to the possibility that Democrats could hold both houses and the governor’s office for the first time since John F. Kennedy was president. GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez has lagged behind Democrat Bill Ritter in recent polls.”There is no doubt we’re getting a lot more interest and we’ve been well funded because there is a lot of concern about that,” May said.

Democrats hold a 35-30 edge in the House, where May said polls show Republicans could lose two more seats without fresh resources.May said to regain control of the House, Republican candidates will have to win back some of the seats they lost two years ago when the GOP focused too strongly on re-electing President Bush and failed to see control of the House slipping from their hands until it was too late.”I’m very confident of taking a few seats from Democrats and some traditional Republican seats that will be back,” May said.Democrats have targeted former state Sens. Ken Chlouber and Dave Owen, Republicans who were forced out by term limits and are now running for House seats.Chlouber faces Democrat Dan Gibbs for the open seat representing Eagle, Lake and Summit counties and Owen is battling Rep. Jim Riesberg, the first Democrat in 16 years to win the seat in Weld County.

Republicans also want to win back the seat Rep. Gwyn Green, D-Golden, wrested from them two years ago as well as one held by Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton.Independent pollster Floyd Ciruli said Republicans in the Legislature are at risk because discontent with national GOP leaders is trickling down.”What you see is fired-up Democrats and Republicans somewhat divided and somewhat dispirited. There is simply no advantage for the Republican Party,” Ciruli said.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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