Five Things We’re Watching on Election Night 2020

There are many things to watch on election night in 2020, both in Colorado and nationally. Given the amount of information, we’re highlighting the top five things we will be watching when the results roll in. 

Before diving into that, we wanted to highlight some key takeaways:

  • Across our family of organizations, we will spend roughly $1.5 million on state and local races, including the state’s largest effort to elect county commissioners; targeted communication to engage Latinx voters, including bilingual mailers, Spanish-language radio, and tailored messaging; and a comprehensive volunteer and member mobilization effort.
  • Our combined effort will contact over 400,000 voters, deliver hundreds of thousands of mail pieces, millions of digital impressions, and mobilize hundreds of volunteer shifts across the state.
  • Nationally, climate change is a top issue for voters and a strong majority — 66 percent of voters in a recent New York Times poll — support the Biden climate action plan.
  • A handful of state legislative races could determine the makeup of the majorities, including: Senate Districts 8, 25, and 27, and House Districts 27 and 38
  • Adams, Arapahoe, and Garfield counties are three of the five top oil and gas producing counties in Colorado and all have the potential for pro-conservation majorities on their county commissions.
  • Senator Cory Gardner’s greenwashing failed to move the needle, and he hasn’t led in a single public head-to-head poll against former Governor John Hickenlooper.
  • If Diane Mitsch Bush wins, nearly 90% of Colorado’s federally managed public lands will be in districts represented by a pro-conservation member of Congress.

To see how our efforts impacted the outcomes on Election night, here are the top five questions we will be watching on election night:

1. How will potential gains in the state chambers build momentum for climate action?

The Colorado State Legislature took major steps toward climate action in 2019 and 2020, and we will be watching to see how this might grow our pro-conservation majorities. In past election cycles, new champions have emerged and incumbents have lost their seats based on their conservation records. To continue this momentum, our organizations invested roughly $600,000 in state legislative races. If pro-conservation candidates are able to win in Senate Districts 8, 25, or 27,or House Districts 27 or 38, it will show a strong mandate from voters to continue bold action on climate change, protecting public land, and conserving Colorado’s water.

2. Will key counties have pro-conservation majorities? 

In Arapahoe county, the county commission majority is also in play and would be the first pro-conservatioin majority on the commission in recent memory. If they are successful in their elections, our three endorsed candidates, Carrie Warren-Gully, Idris Kieth, and Bill Holen, would be part of the pro-conservation majority in one of the state’s top-five oil and gas producing counties. Our $120,000 program highlights environmental issues and drives down-ballot turnout in this suburban swing county that is critical for statewide races and also contains two top-tier state senate races.

This effort is part of our multi-county program to create or protect pro-conservation majorities on critical county commissions. In addition to Arapahoe, we prioritized Jefferson, Adams, and Garfield counties with our $450,000 county program. These four counties all contain top-tier state Senate and House races, they are critical for winning statewide, and Adams, Arapahoe, and Garfield are three of the top five oil and gas producing counties in Colorado. This program is our organization’s largest ever investment at the county level and is the state’s largest effort to elect County Commissioners.

The math is clear: if pro-conservation candidates win these four counties, they will win the state and races up and down the ballot. By focusing our program on environmental issues, turning out voters, and ensuring they vote in down-ballot races, we ran a program that should benefit races up and down the ballot in the state’s most critical geographies.

3. What happens in Garfield County? 

Garfield County is central to multiple 2020 races as one of the more populous and diverse counties on the West Slope. It is also one of the top five oil and gas producing counties in Colorado and — while it has been traditionally considered deep red — it could be a very important indicator in this election. While flipping Garco is still a long shot, margins here will matter at every level of the ballot.

In addition to the Presidential and US Senate races, it is Lauren Boebert’s home turf, and how the county votes may be the determining factor in that race. Additionally, Garfield County may also be a critical factor in determining the makeup of the state Senate: it’s the largest county in Senate District 8, where both sides have spent heavily. The majority on the county commission is up for grabs, and if Beatriz Soto and Leslie Robinson are successful in their challenges, they would be the first female-majority on the Commission, and Beatriz would be the first woman of color elected to the Commission. 

Environmental issues are key to victory in all of these races. And with multiple fires devastating this part of the state, climate change will be front and center in voters’ minds, in addition to public lands, water, and energy issues, which candidates have prioritized throughout their campaigns.

In 2016, the average margin of victory for the GOP candidates in Garfield was 7.6 percent with a vote margin of nearly 2,000. In 2018, Governor Polis prevailed here by just 355 votes. The final margin here could decide races at the top of the ticket, the state Senate majority, and could make history on the county commission.

4. What’s up with all this turnout?

It’s safe to say that 2020 will be a high turnout year — the only outstanding questions are around who will turn out by the time polls close. And we’re keeping a close watch on two groups: voters under 35 and Latinx voters.

Record turnout among young voters would be a game changer in Colorado. With climate change consistently listed as the top issue for voters under 35, this will clearly benefit candidates who have prioritized this issue.

Latinx voter turnout may also reach record levels in Colorado, and these voters have a chance to be the difference maker in Adams and Garfield county in particular. We built on our long-term work organizing members of the Latinx community by running specific, bilingual programs to support our endorsed candidates, including a Spanish-language radio ad in Garfield county, bilingual mail, phones, texts, and other activity to engage Latinx voters in priority races.

5. What will happen with Denver’s Initiative 2A?

It’s a tough economy for a new sales tax, but Denverites care about climate action and Initiative 2A may have what it takes to pass. The measure would increase the sales tax in Denver by 0.25 percent with proceeds of between $36-45 million per year invested in climate change mitigation and adaptation policies. It could also be a new template for local action to combat climate change.

If Initiative 2A passes, the money it raises will fund Denver’s Climate Action Program, specifically job creation in renewable and clean energy technologies, increased investments in solar and renewables, neighborhood-based environmental and climate justice programs, adaptation and resiliency programs that help communities prepare for a changing climate, programs and services that provide affordable and reliable transportation choices, and energy efficiency upgrades.

Paid for by Conservation Colorado