Democrats targeting Colorado congressional races |

Democrats targeting Colorado congressional races

DENVER ” Emboldened by their successes here last fall, Democrats are making two Republican seats in Colorado a priority in their quest to recapture the House next year, the House minority whip said Thursday.

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland said the Democrats could win the seats held by Republicans Reps. Bob Beauprez and Marilyn Musgrave in next year’s election and help the party gain the 15 seats to retake the majority in the House.

“We think Colorado is a red, white and blue state and we intend to mine gold here,” said Hoyer, pointing to the colors and big gold “C” in the middle of the Colorado state flag.

Colorado, like most Western states, remains red, or GOP, on the political map because voters backed President Bush in November. Blue denotes Democrat.

Colorado, though, also sent Democratic brothers Ken and John Salazar to Congress and gave Democrats control of both chambers of the state Legislature for the first time in 43 years. The state was one of the party’s few bright spots in an election that saw the GOP president return to the White House and the GOP majority in Congress grow.

“After the election, I felt like the most popular person in Washington because all the members of Congress wanted to know how we pulled off such a miracle in Colorado,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., who appeared with Hoyer at a press conference.

Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli said the Democrats’ success last year explains the visit by Hoyer so early in the election cycle.

“I definitely think you can expect to see the national party and special interest groups continuously between now and the election,” Ciruli said.

Republican consultant Katy Atkinson said the Democrats may hope there’s “some kind of magic that happened here they can tap into.”

“Republicans will want to banish that idea pretty quickly,” she added.

Hoyer, who is visiting other Western states, called Colorado “fertile ground for commonsense Democrats.” He and DeGette, the House chief deputy whip, called the 4th Congressional District seat, held by Musgrave, and 7th Congressional District seat, held by Beauprez, ripe opportunities for the party.

Beauprez, considering a run for governor, defeated Democrat Mike Feeley by only 121 votes to win his first term in 2002 in the newly drawn district. He got 54.7 percent of the vote in November, while Democrat Dave Thomas won 42.7 percent.

Democrats, though, hold a slight edge in voter registration in the district concentrated in the Denver metro area. Former legislators Ed Perlmutter and Peggy Lamm are looking at seeking the Democratic nomination.

Hoyer said Musgrave was vulnerable because she won re-election by just 51 percent over former state Sen. Stan Matsunaka, whom she bested by 13 percentage points in 2002.

Musgrave was targeted by a handful of Democratic millionaires who helped engineer their party’s takeover of the statehouse.

“I don’t think the Republicans are going to be caught napping again in that district,” Atkinson said.

DeGette said Democrats believe their party is more in line with voters’ moderate social views and their stances on maintaining Social Security in its current form and cutting the national debt.

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