It would be premature to label Colorado’s Fourth District one of the nation's swing districts, but that could change as a result of the 2012 election season.
A court will decide the new outline of the district next month, but the district is undergoing a more profound transition. It is becoming the thing Iowa is supposed to be: A moderately conservative middle-American political testing ground, where unaffiliated independents make up roughly a third of the voters, where the still-mostly-white population is increasingly ethnically mixed and where high-tech and R&D industries are replacing manufacturing and farming as the main drivers of the economy. It’s a Republican district coveted by Democrats.
One of those Democrats is state Senate President Brandon Shaffer, who has been eyeing the district’s congressional seat for some time. This year he is running to unseat freshman Congressman Cory Gardner, who rode the Tea Party wave into office last year. Shaffer told the Colorado Independent that Gardner has misread the district. Shaffer says CD4 voters are looking not for hard-line ideologues but for problem-solvers who can balance priorities.
"People are angry at the extreme politics in Washington," Shaffer told the Colorado Independent. "I don't know this just because of the media. I know this from conversations I'm having at doors. They're angry and that's not going away."
Shaffer also knows that CD4 voters have a history with extreme politics that might play to his advantage.
The 2010 Fourth District contest drew national attention because in 2008, for the first time since the Nixon era, voters here sent a Democrat to represent them in Washington. Pro-gun successful entrepreneur Betsy Markey defeated incumbent social-conservative crusader Marilyn Musgrave. The district’s voters seemed fed up with political excess on the right, which appeared to mirror the mood of the country after the Bush years.
In November 2010, the same thing happened in CD4, except reversed. District voters saw excess on the left in federal stimulus spending and healthcare reform and threw out Markey to elect Gardner, a fresh-faced Republican state representative from rural Yuma County.
It's A Free Country is pairing with The American Independent News Network to cover the most captivating Congressional races from around the country.