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State Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, and state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, R-Brighton, in their legislative headshots. The two are running against each other in Colorado's new 8th Congressional District. (Handouts)

The race to represent Colorado’s new 8th Congressional District may be as competitive as it was promised to be. 

A poll conducted from July 26-Aug. 2 on behalf of Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo’s campaign showed her trailing her Republican opponent, state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, by 2 percentage points. That’s within the survey’s 4.4 percentage point margin of error.

Of the 500 likely voters polled, with an oversample of 100 Hispanic voters and 100 voters in Larimer and Weld counties, 44% said they would vote for Kirkmeyer while 42% said they would vote for Caraveo. That leaves 15% undecided or who refused to answer in the tossup district. (The total adds up to 101% because of rounding, the pollster says.)

The poll was conducted by Global Strategy Group, a Democratic firm with a B/C rating from FiveThirtyEight, a news site that uses statistics to report on politics and sports.

Caraveo’s campaign refused to release the poll’s cross tabs and full top lines to The Sun, which show all of the poll’s questions and the order in which they were asked. The campaign said no information or statements about the candidates were read to participants before they were asked how they would vote, a claim confirmed by The Sun. 

Kirkmeyer said she isn’t concerned about the numbers, which come about three months from Election Day. 

“I know what my polling numbers look like,” she said. “They’re fairly similar.”

It’s unusual for a campaign to release an internal poll showing their candidate trailing, but the latest survey indicates Caraveo is on much better footing in the 8th District, which was created during last year’s redistricting process and stretches from the northeast Denver suburbs into Greeley, than she was in mid-June.  

Another poll conducted from June 9 to 13 by Global Strategy Group on behalf of Caraveo’s campaign, but which was accidentally made public, showed Kirkmeyer beating Caraveo 44% to 36% in a hypothetical matchup, with 20% of those polled undecided or refusing to answer. 

The June survey was conducted before the June 28 primary and before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, two big factors expected to narrow the race.

Still, Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, a nonpartisan election prognosticator, moved the 8th District to a “leans Republican” rating from a tossup rating, saying it’s the sort of district that tends to vote for candidates in the opposition party midterm elections.

FiveThirtyEight’s election models indicate Kirkmeyer is slightly favored to win. The Cook Political Report, another nonpartisan prognosticator, labels the district a “toss up Republican” seat. 

An analysis by nonpartisan redistricting staff of the results of eight statewide races between 2016 and 2020 found that the 8th District leans 1.3 percentage points in Democrats’ favor. But the district’s voters are hardly predictable. 

In 2018, voters in the area that now makes up the 8th District backed Republican attorney general candidate George Brauchler by a margin of 1.7 percentage points, but voted in favor of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis by 1.9 percentage points

The new Global Strategy Group poll indicated abortion may be an issue that drives voters away from Kirkmeyer, who believes abortions should be outlawed except when the life of a mother is at risk.

Participants were asked if they’d be more likely to vote for a Democrat who supports President Joe Biden’s policies on taxes and inflation and who will fight to protect a woman’s right to choose an abortion or a Republican who will fight to lower taxes, combat inflation and vote to ban or criminalize abortion nationwide, even in cases of in rape or interest. Forty-six percent said they’d back the Democrat, while 41% said they’d vote for the Republican and 13% said they were undecided or refused to answer. 

A map of Colorado’s 8th Congressional District. (Screenshot)

The June poll also asked voters about the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned, with 54% saying they wouldn’t support that happening and 34% saying they would support it. Another 12% didn’t know or refused to answer. A majority of those polled in the June survey also said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who wants to ban or criminalize abortion.

Kirkmeyer said she isn’t concerned about how her position on abortion will affect her chances in November.

“I think it’s the only thing that they have to attack me on,” she said. “I’ve been very transparent, very open about my position on abortion. It’s a settled question in this state, so I don’t know why they want to keep bringing it back up other than for political reasons. People know who I am.”

The 8th District race, which could determine which party controls Congress, appears to be drawing millions in television ad spending. 

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a federal political action committee working to elect Republicans to the U.S. House, will go on the air after Labor Day, while ads from the House Majority PAC, its Democratic counterpart, are slated to begin in October. Together, the PACs have dedicated about $10 million to TV ads in Colorado.

The super PACs have yet to designate which congressional district they’re targeting with the spending, but most of the money will likely be directed at the new 8th Congressional District given that Colorado’s other congressional districts are less competitive. 

The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is...