After Election Day 2000, local pundits predicted a "Permanent Republican Majority." El Paso County voters were represented by just a single, solitary Democrat: Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar. Republicans controlled every other partisan office on our ballot.
President-elect George W. Bush took Colorado and the nation (sort of). Both of our U.S. senators were Republican, joining GOP majorities in both houses of Congress. Joel Hefley was our "congressman for life," and his Republican Party dominated Colorado's delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Our governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and state treasurer were all members of the GOP, as were all 13 Pikes Peak-area state legislators and all five members of the El Paso County Commission.
What a difference eight years has made. President-elect Barack Obama handily won Colorado as well as the nation. Two Democrats, Salazar and Mark Udall, will be representing us in the U.S. Senate, and donkeys now outnumber elephants in our U.S. House delegation by a 5-2 margin. On the national front, Democrats command the upper chamber by at least 10 votes, and the House by more than 75.
Colorado's governor, lieutenant governor and treasurer are now all Democrats, and Bill Ritter will soon appoint a Democrat to fill the secretary of state vacancy created by Mike Coffman being elected to Congress. (Hopefully that appointment will be term-limited House Speaker Andrew Romanoff a good choice, since we need someone efficient and fearless to clean up our balloting process.) El Paso County's state Legislature delegation is no longer all Republican, with three Democrats elected from the state's largest GOP population: Sen. John Morse, Rep. Mike Merrifield and just-elected community activist Dennis Apuan.
In mid-January 2000, the Onion magazine published a spoof of a televised address by Bush "mere days from assuming the presidency": "Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Finally Over!" I thought it was funny back then. Not today, now that our lame-duck leader has harmed America's standing, both home and abroad. But with smart, dedicated citizens, Democrats and Republicans alike, flooding to Washington in the greatest numbers since John F. Kennedy was elected 48 long years ago, America once again will become a beacon of liberty and opportunity for all.
While it is too early to ruminate about a "Permanent Democratic Majority" at any level, this election has certainly transformed El Paso County. For the first time in more than a half-century, the Pikes Peak region is now a bi-partisan community which will be very healthy for our civic life.
And here is one prediction you can take to the bank: Within the next few years, the fiscally conservative, but socially moderate local wing of the GOP will take back control of their county party from the likes of Douglas Bruce and James Dobson. And that would really be something to celebrate.
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