With state offices locked up, Colorado Democrats turn their eyes to local races

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs on Friday, June 25, 2021.

The Colorado Democratic Party has officially unveiled the details of its effort to win more local offices in some of the state’s purple and traditionally red counties.

The party’s “Colorado County Comeback” will initially focus on commissioner races in Garfield, Pueblo, Alamosa, Grand, Chaffee, Douglas, Park and El Paso counties.  

“We are going to be giving direct support for battleground counties and candidates,” said Democratic state party chair Shad Murib during a media call to share details of the plan. 

Murib said the party would work closely with candidates on everything from fundraising and messaging to coordinating with volunteers and creating and distributing campaign literature. 

“Of our 192 county commissioners, only 34 percent are Democrats,” said Murib, noting that the figures are even lower for other local offices such as county clerks and sheriffs.  

“Anybody who's involved in politics knows these folks are often the ones who don't receive the same level of training or assistance as our state House, state Senate, and statewide candidates do. And that era is coming to a close,” said Murib. 

This new push comes at a time when Democrats already hold every statewide elected office near supermajorities in the state legislature. Murib said he believes the next frontier of Colorado politics is local.

Republican state Sen. Perry Will, who is running for Garfield County commissioner in one of the targeted races, said he thinks Democrats are taking the wrong approach. 

“I don't look at (these local seats) as a partisan issue, and I know they do, but it's really not. It's about who can do the best for the county and the people that they represent there.” 

Right now Garfield’s commissioners are all Republicans, but the district is not deep red. It includes Democratic communities such as Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, as well as more conservative ones like Parachute and Rifle. Will said the county’s demographics are definitely changing. 

“It obviously used to be a really red county, but we used to have a red state too, and then we went from purple, now we're blue, I guess.” 

Will said he didn’t expect the Republican state party to take the same sort of interest in county-level races, but believes he will have the resources he needs to compete.

“It's like, let's put the right person in there for the right reasons. It shouldn't be about who's getting money and mailers and all this stuff and dark money,” said Will. “I think the public as a whole, they're tired of that.” 

In unveiling their new focus on counties, Colorado Democrats also formally retired the 546 Project, their effort to unseat Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert in the 3rd Congressional District.

Boebert, who’s attempting to switch districts, is currently competing in a GOP primary race across the state

“In 2024 Lauren Bobert moved away. That's a successful effort for the program,” said Murib   “She's blamed Democrats for her move, which I'm happy to take credit for.” 

Murib described that effort as an unprecedented investment by the party in Western and Southern Colorado, which he hopes will result in turning out more voters this November in places like Pueblo.