Big business is desperate to keep Colorado Senate in hands of GOP


Instead of embracing policies that will make their employees' lives better, big Colorado business interests are wasting piles of cash to try to keep Republicans in power.

Colorado Democrats could be on the verge of ushering in a new progressive era in the state — and deep-pocketed business interests are doing everything they can to keep that from happening.

Republicans are clinging to a one-seat advantage in the Colorado Senate. And big businesses, especially oil and gas companies, are shelling out big bucks to try to hold back the tide of likely Democratic victories in November. (Democrats already control the state House.)

"As of Oct. 1, businesses, business groups and c-level executives had contributed $2.53 million to the Senate Majority Fund, the organization supporting the efforts of Republicans to hang onto or add onto their 18-17 advantage in the upper chamber of the Senate," the Denver Business Journal reports.

Because Democratic candidates have been so successful raising money locally from voters, a couple of Colorado's toss-up Senate races have become wildly costly — often looking more like congressional races than state legislature races.

And to keep up, Republicans need a boost from lots of outside sources.

Between June 27 and through Oct. 15, outside groups had spent more than $4 million on the race in Colorado's State Senate District 24, in Adams County outside of Denver.

Most of that outside money, $2.7 million, was spent on behalf of Republican state Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, and $1.5 million went to her Democratic challenger, Faith Winter.

Martinez Humenik's position on energy policy closely reflects that of the oil and gas industries that so generously donated to her — such as opposing any statewide effort to extend drilling setbacks from schools or structures.

More than $14 million has already been spent on five key toss-up state Senate races this year, and that figure is likely to spike between now and Election Day.

Republican allies might be especially panicked now because, unlike a decade ago when Democrats last controlled all three branches of state government, Colorado Democrats today are poised to move the legislature in a distinctly progressive direction.

Colorado Democrats are ready to embrace a much bolder agenda of reform than they've pushed in recent years. And with Democrat Jared Polis leading the governor's race, Colorado Democrats have a very good chance of controlling all three branches of government come January.

For many deep-pocketed big business interests, the Republican-majority Colorado Senate has served as an effective political backstop in recent years.

In the last legislative session, for instance, the Democratic-majority state House passed a bill that would have let voters choose whether to close offshore tax havens for large Colorado companies. But the sensible bill was killed in the Colorado Senate.

By contrast, the Democratic agenda in 2019 could feature a host of needed reforms for hard-working families: a statewide paid leave system, a measure allowing communities to boost the minimum wages above the state level, and a new retirement savings system that would be accessible to all public- and private-sector employees.

But instead of embracing policies that will make their employees' lives better, big Colorado businesses are wasting piles of cash to try to keep Republicans in power.