Colorado is now a one-party state. The election of 2008 definitively put Democrats in the driver’s seat at both the state and federal levels.
In addition to their control of the state House, state Senate and governor’s mansion, this year Democrats added wins in the U.S. Senate race (Mark Udall) and 4th Congressional District (Betsy Markey). Of Colorado’s nine seats in the U.S. House and Senate, only Congressman Doug Lamborn and Congressman-elect Mike Coffman have “R”s next to their names.
I never served in the majority at the state House. When there were party-line votes, I knew only the losing end. As minority party members, we had to work twice as hard to accomplish half as much. Often, Republican-sponsored bills were killed, only to be resurrected and passed with Democratic sponsors. That’s what it means to be in the minority.
The voters put our party in the minority, so I didn’t resent the results. I figure that if the Republican Party wants to drive the agenda again, it needs to do a better job stating its case and convincing voters we’re up to the task. Elections have consequences, after all.
One thing I never got used to, however, is the majority party at the state Capitol blaming the minority party for what has happened on their watch. At the end of the last legislative session, for example, Gov. Ritter was asked why he didn’t have a plan to fix roads and bridges. His answer? the Republicans.
As the Denver Post reported, Ritter said, “I feel like this conversation broke down around politics, that we tried to get the Republicans interested in looking at how we would put together different pots of money ... We began our conversation very early in the session and could not get the Republican leadership to act on it at all.”
Let’s reiterate something: Ritter’s party is in the majority at the state Capitol. That means he can pass anything he wants without a single Republican vote. Yet, according to the governor, it’s somehow the fault of the party out of power when the party in power fails to do its job. What gives?
During budget debates, Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, was famous for giving speeches blaming Republicans for every manner of budget woe. I suppose in the first year of the Democrats’ reign, he could pull it off. By years two and three, though, it began to wear thin. Now, it’s simply not credible.
Why do I raise this? Not to open old wounds, but to call on our majority party to begin accepting responsibility for the state of our government. The privilege of control comes with ownership of results. And with even greater control after the 2008 elections, there are no longer any free passes for the majority party in Colorado.
The majority party ran on the promise that it would do a better job on issues like health care, education, transportation, jobs and the economy. Now it’s time to deliver. No more excuses.
Rob Witwer, who grew up in Evergreen and currently lives in Genesee, is the outgoing state representative for House District 25.