Senate District 32: The Democratic Primary’s Last Dash

Southwest Denver’s Senate District 32, now held by Democrat Dan Grossman (who decided not to run again despite not being term limited for personal reasons), has a three way primary between Fran Coleman, Jennifer Mello, and Chris Romer

It has been one of the hardest fought, yet cleanest races in the State, notwithstanding a last minute smear campaign, apparently from a Mello supporting 527 group in Thornton, which Mello herself has disavowed.The District

Senate District 32 is an odd one.  While its Southwest corner is in the quasi-suburban cop town that is part of House District 1, is spans a swath of predominantly Hispanic West Denver and then continues on through Washington Park, Belcaro, Cherry Creek and Congress Park.

In 2002, the last time the seat was up for election, Grossman had no Republican opposition and defeated his libertarian opponent 28,180 to 6,646.  Data from prior years aren’t comparable due to redistricting.

Who Are They?

Fran Coleman abandoned her seat as the incumbent in House District 1, where she served for seven years, to move up to the State Senate.  She has working class roots and retired from a life long career with the phone company.  She has held almost every position in the Denver Democratic party.  Coleman is endorsed by former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb.  Oddly, for a state senate candidate, she has taken a position on the War in Iraq, urging the nation to bring the troops home now.

Chris Romer, son of the former Democratic Governor of Colorado, Roy Romer, has referenced his experience as a businessman, in the municipal bond market, and as an advocate for Amendment 23, the initiative that prevented TABOR driven budget cuts from seriously cutting into spending on K-12 education.  Romer is also behind an initiative this election cycle to try to use oil and gas taxes in Colorado for schools.  Romer is endorsed by sitting Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, former Denver Mayor Federico Pena, and Congressman Mark Udall, among others.

Jennifer Mello is a dynamic rising star in Democratic party politics, who is well connected and an excellent campaigner, who has spent most of her adult life in politics or the public policy process.  She was a candidate for CU-Regent in 2004 and is endorsed by Emily’s List.  Former State Treasurer and former Democratic party gubenatorial candidate Gail Schoettler is at the top of Mello’s list of endorsements, which includes many minor elected officials, and 4th CD candidate Angie Paccione.

Colorado Luis has queried each of the candidates in the race on immigration, and posted the responses at Square State, with links to each response found here.

Campaign Finance

According to the Colorado Secretary of State, as of the last campaign finance report:

Fran Coleman has raised $35,379, Jennifer Mello has raised $55,850, and Chris Romer has raised $135,431 in this race, an aggregate total which is considerable for a state senate primary.

The three Democrats are competing for a chance to face David Lewis III, the Republican nominee, in the fall.  He has raised $108 so far in the race.  Republicans have chosen to focus their effort on the open House District 1 race, which was a Republican seat until Coleman came along, rather than the Senate District 32 race, which has more of the Democratic party heartland.

The Horse Race

The Senate District 32 races is primarily between Romer and Mello, with Coleman running a distant third.  Both Romer and Mello have gotten signs up, and visible supporters all over Denver, and throughout the District.  Coleman’s support, in contrast, appears to be concentrated with her base in House District 1.

The money numbers reflect conventional wisdom regarding each candidate’s chances in the race.  An early poll allegedly paid for the Coleman campaign, and leaked by one of her advisors, allegedly showed Coleman and Mello both lagging far behind Romer in the polls.

A commentator at Colorado Pols, which broke the news stated:

Colin Kennedy and Beth Monahan Fran Coleman’s top advisers insisted that Coleman do a poll. The cost of the poll was $6200. It was a five minute poll and asked questions about who they were going to vote. It also asked questions about possible ways to attack Romer and asked about his residence and experience. The results were that Coleman is behind even in Hispanic  precincts and Romer is ahead by over 20 points. Coleman is trailing in funds but even if she had to spend some of her own money she could certainly afford it. If one wonders why she spent money on a poll they should call Collin Kennedy and Beth Monahan and ask them.

(If true, this confirms Colin Kennedy’s reputation as one of the least competent campaign advisors in Colorado, and an unfortunate choice for Coleman.)

The fact that Mello won the top line in the caucus process that put her on the ballot, over long time party insider Fran Coleman (the vote was 129 to 85), hasn’t boded well for Coleman’s primary bid.  Romer petitioned onto the ballot, avoiding what would otherwise have been an unpredictable three way race in the caucus process.


Jennifer Mello disavowed a postcard attacking one of her opponents from Citizens for a Better Tomorrow in Thornton, CO, in a press release on August 5.  No such committee is registered with the Colorado Secretary of State. 

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