Colorado Primary Race Will Determine Just How Much Trouble Democrats Are In

A Republican primary race in Colorado on Tuesday could indicate just how difficult it will be for Democrats to win in crucial midterm elections that are now less than five months away.

Four Republican candidates are battling for their party's nomination in the newly created 8th congressional district in what many believe will be one of the most competitive general election races in the country.

The 8th district's population is 39 percent Hispanic—the largest Hispanic population of any Colorado district—and will prove a key test of Democratic support among that key voting demographic.

The district also contains a plurality of unaffiliated voters with 44 percent of active registered voters neither Democrats nor Republicans, while 28 percent are registered Democrats and 25 percent are Republicans.

The Republican candidates are Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine, state Senator Barbara Kirkmeyer, Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann and Army veteran Tyler Allcorn.

The outcome of the general election is likely to depend heavily on which Republican wins on Tuesday and how the winning candidate approaches campaigning in the swing district.

Earlier this month, Republican Mayra Flores flipped a congressional seat in Texas' 34th district in a special election that some have seen as a warning sign for Democrats due to the fact that the district is heavily Hispanic.

More than one million voters in 43 states have also switched to the Republican Party over the past year, according to analysis from the Associated Press, and this shift has been particularly evident in the suburbs. That could have an important impact in close races.

The 8th district includes some suburbs north of Denver in Adams, Larimer and Weld counties and the AP spoke to voters in Larimer County, one of whom said the Democratic Party had "left me behind."

In another potential warning sign for Democrats, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race as a toss-up. It's not difficult to see why when voters' recent choices are taken into account.

Analysis carried out by nonpartisan redistricting staff in Colorado also shows that voters in the new district have backed both Democrats and Republicans in major races in recent years. That analysis shows the district leans toward Democrats by 1.3 percent but Cook found the race leans Republican by 1 point on its Partisan Voter Index (PVI).

In 2016, voters in the district supported former President Donald Trump by a margin of 1.7 percent but in the same year, they backed the re-election of U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat, by a margin of 2.3 percent.

Republican candidate for attorney general George Brauchler won in the new district in 2018 with a margin of 1.7 percent but in the same year, Democratic Governor Jared Polis won the support of voters there by a margin of 1.9 percent.

In 2020, voters in the new district supported Democrat John Hickenlooper for a U.S. Senate seat over Republican incumbent Senator Cory Gardner by a margin of 1.7 percent.

Each of the GOP candidates has been working to burnish their conservative credentials ahead of the primary and have hit some familiar conservative talking points.

Allcorn is in favor of building a wall along the U.S. southern border in an echo of Trump's major 2016 campaign theme.

Kirkmeyer previously supported the idea of allowing a ballot on whether 11 Colorado counties should secede and form a new state, while Saine has referred to "the Biden-Harris-Schumer-Pelosi gang's Socialist-Communist Agenda" in one of her flyers.

Kulmann's campaign literature says she wants to "fight against far-left and extreme policies like late-term abortion and federal funding for abortion." She has also said that more gun laws "won't stop evil people from doing evil things."

Democrats held their primary in April and chose state Representative Yadira Caraveo, a pediatrician. Both Caraveo and whoever wins the GOP primary on Tuesday will need the support of voters from outside their party base in order to win in November.

If the race continues to be a toss-up once Republicans have chosen their candidate, that is likely to be interpreted as a bad sign for Democrats in November and a Democratic loss there in the general election could indicate wider defeats.

The eventual Republican nominee will also need to appeal to unaffiliated and Hispanic voters, which could be more difficult following a primary campaign that focused heavily on appealing to the GOP's conservative base.

US Elections
In thus combination image, A voter fills out a ballot at the Ames Public Library on primary Election Day on June 7, 2022 in Ames, Iowa. A key primary will be held in Colorado's 8th congressional district on Tuesday and Joe Biden (Inset) prepares for meeting with other G7 leaders at Elmau Castle on June 28, 2022. Getty