2022 was a monumental year for elections in Colorado and one that took many by surprise. In what was expected to be a Republican-leaning year, Democratic candidates made big wins and gains across the board in what has been described as an "annhilation" and an "exctinction-level event" for the Colorado Republican Party. This article seeks to give readers detailed and in-depth maps to help show exactly where, how, and why Colorado's local blue wave happened as well as provide further information on the results of Colorado's many ballot measures from 2022.
2022 United States Senate Election in Colorado
After having won two narrow elections in Republican-leaning years, Michael Bennet was once again a Republican target in the 2022 midterms. Republicans hoped that rising costs of food and gas, the unpopularity of President Joe Biden, and a moderate candidate could flip the seat to them similar to Cory Gardner's 2014 victory. To this end, major Republicans backed construction company owner Joe O'Dea. The Republican primary proved more devisive than Republicans wanted, however, due in part to Democrats spending money to boost O'Dea's right wing opponent in hopes of an easier opponent for Bennet in the general. Ultimately, O'Dea won the Republican primary for the Senate nomination by just under 9% and positioned himself as a moderate alternative to Michael Bennet and other Democrats in the Senate.
Despite polls showing the race was close, and conventional wisdom favoring a close race, Joe O'Dea's campaign was easily defeated by Michael Bennet in the general election. Bennet won the first majority in his Senate career as well as the largest margin of victory for a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate in Colorado since Gary Hart's victory in 1974.
2022 United States House of Representatives Elections in Colorado
Following the 2020 US Census, Colorado gained another congressional district and a new map courtesy of the state's new nonpartisan redistricting committee. The new, and very competitive, 8th Congressional District and Lauren Boebert's 3rd Congressional District occupied the bulk of attention to Colorado's elections to the United States House of Representatives in 2022.
The new 8th Congressional District was created by out of the northern suburbs of Denver in Adams County and the city of Greeley in Weld County and then connecting them via snaking up through the various suburban and exurban communities laying astride US 85. The district would have narrowly voted for Biden and other Democratic candidates in the 2020 elections, and was thus seen as a potential Republican pickup opportunity in the case of a 2022 electoral sweep. With that in mind, Republicans nominated state senator Barbara Kirkmeyer to face Democratic state representative Yadira Caraveo. Going into election night, most polls and predictions had the race as either leaning or likely for Republicans, but in an upset Caraveo ended up winning 0.7% after several days of ballot counting.
Unlike the 8th Congressional District, the 3rd Congressional District on paper was not one that would be competitive in a Republican-leaning year like 2022. However, Lauren Boebert had proven to be a national center of attention for making many contraversial and conspiratorial statements as well as promoting the furthest right elements of the Republican Party. As a result, Boebert both drew a competitive primary from state senator Don Coram and a surprisingly-close race from former Aspen city councilmember Adam Frisch. Despite being outspent and considered a long shot candidate, Frisch ended up coming within a few hundred votes of unseating the Congresswoman in the closest race of 2022 in the House of Representatives.
2022 Colorado Gubernatorial Election
Incumbent Governor Jared Polis was widely expected to easily win re-election in spite of a national mood that favored Republicans due to his personal popularity in the state. On paper his opponent, Heidi Ganahl, was strong due to being the most recent Republican to have won a statewide election in Colorado: back in 2016 when she won an at-large seat on the University of Colorado's Board of Regents. Ganahl, however, proved to be a poor campaigner and dedicated time and resources to, among other things, promoting the hoax of schools installing litter boxes for use by students identifying as "furries." As expected, Polis cruised to re-election with the largest raw vote for a gubernatorial candidate in Colorado history and the largest margin of victory since the 1990 election.
2022 Attorney General Election
Like other incumbent Democratic candidates, Attorney General Phil Weiser benefited from the popularity of Jared Polis and his government when facing re-election in a Republican-leaning year. The Republican primary featured only a single candidate, district attorney for the 18th district of Colorado John Kellner. Kellner debated Weiser twice but, like other statewide Republican candidates in Colorado, was defeated by more than 10% in the general election.
2022 Secretary of State Election
In the wake of the 2020 Presidential election, a significant portion of the Republican Party began to spread dangerous lies about election tampering and rigging in hopes of discrediting the outcome they disagred with. These claims are wrong, and always have been, but unfortunately found a ready audience in the far right. One notable figure in this movement was Tina Peters, the former Mesa County clerk who is currently waiting trial later this year for felony indictments related to election tampering. Despite credible evidence of her wrongdoing, Peters built up a large following both in the Colorado Republican Party and nationwide, and ran for the Republican nomination for Colorado's Secretary of State in hopes of giving Colorado Democrats a slap in the face. Despite large amounts of money and news coverage, Peters ultimately lost the primary to the more moderate Pam Anderson, a former clerk for Jefferson County. Though her loss was nowhere near close, Peters alleged the loss was due to election tampering and paid for a costly recount in hopes of being declared the winner. She wasn't.
Meanwhile, incumbent Secretary of State Jena Griswold had spent much of the time since the 2020 elections raising her own national profile by defending the election results from accusations of rigging and promoting Colorado's mail ballot system as one of the best in the nation. In a trend that was repeated in other states in 2022, this stance against election denial helped boost Griswold to an easy win over Anderson.
2022 State Treasurer Election
As with other statewide incumbents, State Treasurer Dave Young benefited from a surprisingly-favorable environment for Democratic candidates in Colorado in 2022, especially with the coattails of Governor Polis's colossal win in the gubernatorial election. Young faced former state representative and 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Lang Sias and bested him by a margin of just over 10%. Young's wife, Mary Young, won re-election to Colorado's 50th House District at the same time, a district Dave Young once represented.
2022 Colorado Legislative Elections
The Colorado Democratic Party entered 2022 with a solid majority in the state house and a relatively narrow majority in the state senate, and Republicans sought to take both those majorities down. As recently as 2016, Republicans had managed to win control of the state senate and had been competitive in the state house for most of the past decade. With many narrowly-Democratic seats up for election in 2022, Republicans hoped it would give them an opening to start taking back the Colorado General Assembly. They failed.
In the State Senate, Republican hopes were dashed early as moderate Republican state senator Kevin Priola switched parties, giving the Democratic Party control of the 15th Senate District for the remainder of his term, which runs out in early 2025. On election night, Republican fortunes got even worse as Democratic candidates held on to every seat and flipped 2 Republican-held districts to give the Democratic Party a commanding hold on the Colorado Senate. Republican fortunes in the State House of Representatives were even more dire. IN a total shellacking, Republicans did not manage to flip a single seat from the Democratic Party while Democratic candidates flipped 5 seats from Republicans, including one (the 43rd) in the traditional Republican stronghold of Douglas County.
2022 State Board of Education Elections
Since 1950, Colorado has elected the members of its State Board of Education: the governing body for Colorado's Department of Education. Whenever Colorado has an even number of Congressional Districts, an at-large district is created to keep an odd number of members on the board. Due to Colorado gaining an 8th Congressional District after 2020, this meant 2022 would be the first time in several decades to elect an at-large member to the board, as well as electing a member to the new 8th district. The Democratic nominee for the at-large seat, like other statewide Democratic nominees, easily won the election while the Democratic nominee in the 8th district managed to pull off a narrow win similar to Caraveo's to give the Democratic Party control of 6 out of 9 seats on the board.
2022 CU Regents Elections
Like the State Board of Education, Colorado directly elects the Regents of the University of Colorado, the governing board of the University of Colorado system. Members are elected to staggered six-year terms and serve alongside three non-voting members that represent the staff, faculty, and students. With the addition of an 8th Congressional District, Heidi Ganahl's at-large seat was eliminated and a new election in the 8th district was held, alongside the usual elections. While Democratic candidates largely managed to win the 8th congressional district in 2022, it was the Republican candidate, Mark VanDriel, who won the seat on the CU Regents board. Following these elections, the CU Regents consist of 5 Democratic members and 4 Republicans.
Colorado Amendment D
As of 2022, the 18th Judicial District was comprised of Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln Counties. In 2020, the Colorado State Legislature passed House Bill 1026 (HB 1026), which was designed to remove Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln Counties from the 18th Judicial District and create a new 23rd Judicial District for the three counties on January 7, 2025. Under the bill, the 23rd Judicial District was set to be comprised of eight judges while the 18th Judicial District was set to have seven judges removed, meaning the number of district court judges in the state was set to increase by one.
Amendment D required the governor, by November 30, 2024, to designate judges from the 18th Judicial District to serve in the newly created 23rd Judicial District. Judges were required to establish residence in the 23rd district by January 7, 2025.
Colorado has had 22 judicial districts since 1964. The 18th Judicial District court was established in 1964 to serve Arapahoe and Douglas counties. Twenty days after the district was established, Elbert County was added to the district. In 1969, Lincoln County was added to the district. As of 2022, the 18th judicial district was comprised of 24 judges and one chief judge: 16 in Arapahoe County (including the chief judge), seven in Douglas County, and one each in Lincoln and Elbert counties.
Colorado Amendment E
Going into the election, veterans in Colorado who were rated as 100% permanently disabled qualified for a property tax exemption that exempts 50% of the first $200,000 of a property's actual value from property taxes. The amendment extended the tax exemption to the surviving spouse of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces who died in the line of duty or the spouse of a veteran who died from a service-related injury or disease. The exemption was extended to surviving spouses who receive dependency indemnity compensation from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
The state is required to reimburse local governments for reductions in revenue from property tax exemptions given to seniors and veterans with a disability. The Legislative Council Staff estimated that approval of the amendment would increase state expenditures by approximately $525,000 per year starting in fiscal year 2023-24 for local government reimbursements. The LCS estimated 883 surviving spouses would be able to claim the exemption under the amendment.
Colorado Amendment F
Going into the election, under the Colorado Constitution, a charitable organization needed to exist for five years before applying for a charitable gaming license, and managers or operators are prohibited from receiving payment for operating a charitable game.
The amendment would have lowered the number of years an organization must have existed before obtaining a charitable gaming license from five years to three years until January 1, 2025. After January 1, 2025, the amendment would have allowed the legislature to set in statute the length of time an organization must exist to obtain a charitable gaming license. Under the measure, managers and operators of gaming activities would have been limited to earning minimum wage until July 1, 2024, at which time the provision limiting the compensation of managers and operators to the applicable minimum wage was set to be automatically removed.
According to an analysis by the Legislative Council Staff, approval of the measure was expected to increase state revenue by $18,000 in FY 2022-23 and $22,200 in FY 2023-24 assuming an additional 188 and 222 licensees with the current $100 license fee. Approval of the measure was expected to increase state expenditures by $293,995 in FY 2022-23 and $420,109 in FY 2023-24 due to increased costs associated with implementing the new law.
Colorado Proposition 121
Proposition 121 decreased the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.40% for tax years commencing on or after January 1, 2022. Proposition 121 was also designed to reduce the tax rate for domestic and foreign C corporations operating in Colorado from 4.55% of Colorado net income to 4.40%.
Colorado Proposition 122
Proposition 122 decriminalized the personal use and possession (for adults age 21 and older) of the following hallucinogenic/entheogenic plants and fungi, which were classified as Schedule I controlled substances under state law going into the election: dimethyltryptamine (DMT); ibogaine; mescaline (excluding peyote); psilocybin; and psilocyn.
Anyone who completed a sentence following a conviction related to the personal use or possession of such psychedelic plants and fungi were set to be able to file a petition asking a court to seal the record of the conviction.
Proposition 122 was also designed to create a natural medicine services program for the supervised administration of such substances; create a framework for regulating the growth, distribution, and sale of such substances to permitted entities; and create the Natural Medicine Advisory Board to promulgate rules and implement the regulated access program.
The measure did not provide for retail sales of such psychedelic plants and fungi.
Colorado Proposition 123
The initiative created the State Affordable Housing Fund (SAHF) and dedicated one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) of state income tax revenue to fund affordable housing programs and projects. The initiative created the Affordable Housing Support Fund to receive 40% of funds in the SAHF and the Affordable Housing Financing Fund to receive 60% of funds in the SAHF.
Under Proposition 123, affordable housing was defined as rental housing that is "affordable to a household with an annual income of at or below 60% of the area median income, and that costs the household less than 30% of its monthly income," and "for-sale housing that could be purchased by a household with an annual income of at or below 100% of the area median income, for which the mortgage payment costs the household less than 30% of its monthly income."
Funds were set be used to:
- provide grants to local governments and loans to nonprofit organizations to acquire and maintain land for the development of affordable housing;
- create an affordable housing equity program to make equity investments in multi-family rental units to ensure that rent is no more than 30% of a household's income;
- create a concessionary debt program to provide debt financing for low- and middle-income multi-family rental developments and existing affordable housing projects;
- create an affordable home ownership program providing down-payment assistance for homebuyers meeting certain income requirements;
- create a grant program for local governments to increase capacity to process land use, permitting, and zoning applications for housing projects; and
- create a program to provide rental assistance, housing vouchers, and other case management for persons experiencing homelessness.
Colorado Proposition 124
Going into the election, retail liquor store licensees could open a maximum of three liquor stores in Colorado, with state law providing for up to four locations beginning in 2027. As of 2021, Colorado had 1,592 licensed retail liquor stores.
Proposition 124 was designed to incrementally increase the number of retail liquor store licenses an individual may own or hold a share in, as follows:
- up to eight licenses by December 31, 2026;
- up to 13 licenses by December 31, 2031;
- up to 20 licenses by December 31, 2036; and
- an unlimited number of licenses on or after January 1, 2037.
Colorado Proposition 125
Proposition 125 created a new fermented malt beverage and wine retailer license and provided for the automatic conversion of fermented malt beverage (FMB) licenses to the new fermented malt beverage and wine license on March 1, 2023. Under the initiative, grocery stores, convenience stores, and other businesses that are licensed to sell beer are allowed to also sell wine. Retailers with the license are allowed to offer tastings if approved by the local licensing authority.
Under the initiative, a new fermented malt beverage and wine retailer's license can not be issued to a location within 500 feet of a retail liquor store. A new retail liquor store license can not be issued to a location within 500 feet of a licensed fermented malt beverage and wine retailer.
Colorado Proposition 126
Proposition 126 would have allowed alcohol retailers and liquor-licensed businesses, such as grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, bars, and restaurants, to offer third-party delivery services for alcohol deliveries beginning March 1, 2023. Going into the election, retailers are allowed to deliver alcohol using a store-owned vehicle by an employee who is at least 21 years old. Alcohol delivery has been allowed by liquor stores since 1994, by wineries since 1997, and by grocery and convenience stores since 2019.
In 2020, Colorado allowed takeout and delivery of alcohol by bars and restaurants, with that law set to automatically repeal on July 1, 2025. Proposition 126 was designed to permanently allow bars and restaurants to offer alcohol takeout and delivery.
Colorado Proposition FF
The state's flat tax rate (4.55% as of 2022) is applied to an individual's federal taxable income. Federal taxable income is calculated by taking a filer's adjusted gross income minus a standard deduction or itemized deduction. As of 2022, the standard deduction was $12,950 for single filers or married filing separately and $25,900 for married filing jointly. Colorado House Bill 1311, enacted in 2021, created a limit on federal itemized deduction amounts that could be used to reduce state taxable income. Beginning in 2022, filers with adjusted gross incomes of $400,000 or more were limited to claiming itemized deductions of up to $30,000 for single filers or $60,000 for joint filers when calculating state taxable income.
Under Proposition FF, those with a taxable income of $300,000 or more (rather than the present law under which deduction limits applied to those with a taxable income of $400,000 or more) were limited to an itemized or standard deduction of $12,000 for single filers and $16,000 for joint filers.
State officials estimated these changes would increase state revenue by $100.7 million per year.
The measure was designed to create and fund the Healthy School Meals for All Program under the Department of Education to provide free school meals to all students in Colorado public schools, provide local food purchasing grants, and increase wages for employees that prepare and serve food.
Colorado Proposition GG
This measure was designed to require ballot titles and fiscal impact summaries for initiatives that increase or decrease the individual income tax rate to include a table showing the potential tax changes for those in different income categories under the proposed initiative. Changes were set to be expressed by a dollar amount and a plus sign (+) if taxes owed would be increased or a negative sign (-) if the taxes owed would be decreased.
The Colorado Title Board provides ballot titles (the question that appears on the ballot) for ballot initiatives in Colorado. The Director of Research of the Legislative Council, a nonpartisan service for the Colorado State Legislature, prepares fiscal summaries for ballot initiatives when the initiative is heard by the title board. Once an initiative has been approved for signature gathering, a full fiscal impact statement is prepared, which must be displayed on each section of the petition form during signature gathering. Additionally, the Legislative Council Staff prepares fiscal impact statements for all statewide ballot measures, which are published on the Legislative Council Staff website and summarized in the Colorado Blue Book, the state's voter guide.
Many thanks to Drew Savicki for providing the precinct shapefile that made these maps possible.