Monday, June 22, 2009

Can the GOP pick up a state House seat in Denver next year?

No Republicans have been elected to the state legislature from Denver this decade. But despite the seemingly long odds, Republicans will be looking at a couple potential pickups next year.

In particular, Colorado House Districts 1 and 3 in south Denver will be on the GOP’s radar screen next year, said Denver Republican Party Chair Ryan Call.

Of course, labeling the most GOP-friendly legislative districts in Denver seems tantamount to picking which cast members of “The Hills” are most likely to win an Academy Award. On election day 2008, registered Democrats easily outnumbered registered Republicans in every House district in Denver -- including Districts 1 and 3.

But House Districts 1 and 3 include neighborhoods in southwest Denver and Arapahoe County that are traditionally less liberal than in areas closer to the center of the city -- more suburban, with a comparatively older population. And as Call points out, the incumbent Democrats in HD-1 and HD-3 -- Jeanne Labuda and Daniel Kagan, respectively -- are both relatively weak.

As for who the GOP will field in the two districts, business consultant Danny Stroud tells Mile High Politics that he intends to run against Labuda in District 1. Paul Linton, who lost the 2008 HD-3 race to then-state Rep. Anne McGihon, is considered likely to run again in the district. (Linton didn't return a call seeking comment).

For their part, Denver Democrats aren’t dismissing the GOP’s chances in either district.

Last year, many Democrats were worried about a Republican upset in District 1. Labuda dashed those concerns on election day with 59 percent of the vote over Republican Tom Thomason, but similar concerns could pop up next year.

And in District 3, Kagan, shortly before he was appointed to the seat in March, voiced concerns that the district could go red next year.

“There was a lot of talk at the time of my appointment of House District 3 being a safe seat,” Kagan told Mile High Politics late last week. “And I deny it then and I continue to deny that there is any such thing as a safe seat.”

But Denver Democratic Party Chair Cindy Lowery said while "it's always good to be concerned," she voiced confidence that Democrats would hold on to both districts.

"I don't hear that there's a lot of concern about Labuda -- at least from what I'm hearing," Lowery said. "(And) I think that Daniel is a pretty safe Democrat."

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