There were hints in October that Arapahoe Republicans were in for another bad year. My precinct in Centennial, once as red as they come, blossomed with Obama yard signs. Then County Clerk Nancy Doty announced at the weekly GOP breakfast that voter registration in the county, which had tilted heavily our way until recently, now showed an edge of about 400 for the Dems.
According to the Clerk's official website, that edge is now almost 6000, and the new normal is depressingly evident in vote tallies from Nov. 4. The following summary is from a talk I gave to the Aurora Republican Forum last Saturday.
ARAPAHOE COUNTY VOTING TRENDS, 2002-2008
2008 Obama-D over McCain-R by 55-43% for President Udall-D over Schaffer-R by 54-42% for US Senate
2006 Ritter-D over Beauprez-R by 60-40% for Governor
2004 Bush-R over Kerry-D by 52-48% for President Salazar-D over Coors-R by 53-47% for US Senate
2002 Owens-R over Heath-D by 69-31% for Governor Allard-R over Strickland-D by 53-47% for US Senate
Another troubling indicator for Republicans is the erosion of their formerly unquestioned dominance of the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners. A switch of just 565 votes in Commissioner Rod Bockenfeld's narrow reelection victory this year would have given the Dems 3-2 control of that board.
When I came to the State Senate in SD-27 in 1998, SD-28 to the east of me and SD-26 to the west of me were both Republican seats and taken for granted as safe. No more. Sen. Nancy Spence, who succeeded me four years ago and won again comfortably this year, is it for Republicans from our county in the upper house.
First, Democrat Suzanne Williams took 28 from Bruce Cairns in 2004 and was easily reelected this year. And now, subject to a recount, it appears Democrat Linda Newell has won 26 from Lauri Clapp, who was seeking to hold the GOP seat for retiring Sen. Steve Ward.
HD-38, covering part of the same Littleton area as SD-26, went to Joe Rice and the Democrat in 2006 when former Republican House leader Joe Stengel was termed out.
What has caused the blueing of Arapahoe? It's obviously some combination of new residents moving in as others leave, younger voters coming of age as seniors pass from the scene, and superior competitiveness of Democrats among unaffiliated voters.
Only that third factor is in Republicans' control, but it needs to be a focus of soul-searching and new efforts, or Colorado's oldest county will continue changing its political complexion in a way that leaves conservative old-timers shaking their heads.