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A wide-angle view of the House of Representatives as lawmakers try to wrap up the session in the State Capitol Monday, June 15, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Colorado Democrats were bracing for the possibility that they would lose seats in the state legislature on Election Day. Instead, the party expanded its already sizable majorities in the House and Senate. 

Democratic candidates flipped districts held by the GOP from Colorado Springs to Loveland to the Roaring Fork Valley, unseating Republican incumbents — including a representative expected to lead the House GOP caucus — and winning in areas considered conservative strongholds.

Some of the upsets can be attributed to last year’s once-in-a-decade redistricting process. Others are simply the result of Democrats winning in areas of the state that have backed Republicans in recent election cycles.

It appears some of the wins were surprises for both parties. 

A Colorado Sun analysis of political groups’ spending in state legislative contests showed that only one of the eight flipped House and Senate seats was the target of significant money. Another, House District 43 in Douglas County, which was supposed to favor the GOP by 7 percentage points, saw no outside spending at all.

Democrats flip five GOP House seats

Votes are still being tabulated, and county clerks have until Friday to count all cured and overseas and military ballots, but all of the close Colorado House races have been called in Democrats’ favor.

Because of the wins Democrats will have a 46-19 supermajority that will allow them to override vetoes without Republicans, as well as refer measures making constitutional changes to the ballot. That’s an increase of five seats over their current 41-24 majority in the chamber.

Here are the five House seats that flipped from Republicans to Democrats:

  • State Sen. Tammy Story defeated Republican Rep. Colin Larson in House District 25 in Jefferson County. The district leans 2 percentage points in Republicans’ favor, according to a nonpartisan analysis of election results from 2016 to 2020. Story ran for the House this year after being drawn into a highly Republican state Senate district during the redistricting process. Larson was expected to be in a House GOP leadership role. Story was leading by 2 percentage points as of Tuesday morning.
  • Democrat Bob Marshall defeated Republican Kurt Huffman in House District 43 in Douglas County. The district had been represented by Republican Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, of Highlands Ranch, who was elected Tuesday to the Senate. The district leans 7 percentage points in the GOP’s favor, according to the analysis of past election results. Marshall was winning by less than 1 percentage point as of Tuesday morning.
  • Democrat Elizabeth Velasco defeated Republican state Rep. Perry Will, of New Castle, in House District 57, which spans Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties and is centered on the Roaring Fork Valley. Will was expected to lose in the district, which favored Democrats by 16 percentage points after redistricting. Will was losing by 8 percentage points on Tuesday morning.
  • Democrat Stephanie Vigil defeated Republican Dave Donelson in House District 16 in El Paso County. It was an open seat that leaned 3 percentage points in Republicans’ favor after redistricting. Republican Andres Pico represents the district now but opted not to run for reelection this year. Vigil was winning by 2 percentage points on Tuesday morning.

One of the most notable seat flips happened in House District 19 based in Erie, where Republican Rep. Dan Woog lost to Democrat Jennifer Parenti in a district that leans 2 percentage points in the GOP’s favor.

Parenti’s victory — she was winning by 3 percentage points Tuesday morning — is ironic because Democratic Rep. Tracey Bernett, of Boulder County, changed her address to avoid running against Woog in House District 19, which was considered a Republican-leaning tossup. Her Longmont home was drawn into District 19 and out of House District 12, which she currently represents.

Bernett changed her address to a Louisville apartment to run again this year in District 12, which leans heavily in Democrats’ favor. Earlier this month, Boulder County prosecutors charged her with three felonies and two misdemeanors stemming from allegations that she never really moved into the apartment.

The Colorado Sun asked Bernett last week if she plans to continue serving in the statehouse given the allegations. She pulled a tiny piece of paper from her wallet and appeared to read from it — “I have counsel that’s handling this for me. I cannot comment.” — before walking away.

Republicans lose seats in the state Senate

In the Senate, Democrats will have a 23-12 advantage, one vote short of a supermajority, after Democrats flipped three districts from the GOP. 

Democrat Janice Marchman, a former school board member, beat Republican Sen. Rob Woodward, of Loveland, in Senate District 15, which spans from Loveland across western Boulder and Larimer counties, including the towns of Estes Park, Nederland, Lyons and Eldorado Springs. She was winning by nearly 1,000 votes on Tuesday morning in the district that was considered a total tossup — neither party held an advantage heading into Election Day.

Democratic Rep. Dylan Roberts beat out former Eagle Town Councilman Matt Solomon in Senate District 8 in northwest Colorado, which is currently represented by Republican Sen. Bob Rankin. Rankin was drawn into District 5 as part of the redistricting process but isn’t up for reelection until 2024. 

The new District 8 leans 7 percentage points in Democrats’ favor. Roberts was winning as of Tuesday morning by 12 percentage points.

The Marchman-Woodward and Roberts-Solomon races were considered two of seven competitive state Senate contests this year. Democrats needed to win two to keep their majority — which is currently 21-14 – in the chamber. Instead, Democrats won all seven. 

Another district that Democrats won on Election Day was District 11 in Colorado Springs. It’s currently represented by Democratic state Sen. Pete Lee, who wasn’t seeking reelection. State Rep. Tony Exum won in the district on Nov. 8, beating Republican Sen. Dennis Hisey, who moved into the district after he couldn’t run in his old district — District 2 — because of redistricting.

Democratic Sen. Faith Winter won on Nov. 8 in Colorado Senate District 25, which was redrawn during the redistricting process and centers on Broomfield, Westminster and Northglenn. She currently represents District 24. Right now, District 25 is represented by Sen. Kevin Priola, a Henderson Democrat who recently switched his party affiliation from Republican, giving Democrats another seat in the chamber.

Priola was drawn into District 13 during the redistricting process. The GOP-leaning seat is up for grabs in 2024 because Priola is term limited.

Republicans actually flipped one district blue. That was Senate District 4, Story’s old seat, where GOP Rep. Mark Baisley won on Election Day over Democrat Jeff Ravage. As we mentioned before, the district’s boundaries were redrawn last year to lean about 24 percentage points in the GOP’s favor. It spans from southwest Jefferson County into Park, Lake, Chaffee, Fremont, Teller and Custer counties.

Sandra Fish has covered government and politics in Iowa, Florida, New Mexico and Colorado. She was a full-time journalism instructor at the University of Colorado for eight years, and her work as appeared on CPR, KUNC, The Washington Post, Roll...

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....