State Rep. Scanlan says Dems need to counter tea-party energy in November

House District 56 state Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, mentioned by some observers as a possible Colorado Speaker of the House candidate if she survives a tea party challenge in November, doesn’t put much stock in Tuesday’s primary election results that showed her trailing tea party Republican Debra Irvine in the most populous county in her district.

In Eagle County, Scanlan got 1,187 votes Tuesday compared to Breckenridge painter and political newcomer Irvine – a tea party favorite – with 1,598. But both candidates were unopposed in the primary and there was only one contested local election – for county sheriff – and it was on the GOP side of the ticket.

But Scanlan is worried that tea party victories by Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck in the U.S. Senate race and Evergreen businessman Dan Maes over establishment candidates Jane Norton and Scott McInnis demonstrate a high level of engagement by Republicans that needs to be countered by equal amounts of enthusiasm by Democrats.

“What it means is November is going to go on voter turnout,” Scanlan said. “The tea party folks are activated and they’re going to show up at the polls and it’s who else?”

According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, 326,782 Democrats and 381,833 Republicans voted in their primaries Tuesday, out of 817,458 registered Democrats statewide and 855,667 registered Republicans. That’s about 40 percent turnout for the Dems and 45 percent for the Republicans.

The win by President Barack Obama-backed incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet over former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff may have brought out more Dems than pundits expected, but Scanlan worries about maintaining that level of engagement and battling complacency in the governor’s race, where Democratic Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper is the front-runner after Republican missteps.

“But for Bennet keeping that energy going and keeping folks motivated enough to turn out, I worry a little that Democrats will think Hickenlooper is a for-sure bet [for governor] and so maybe won’t show,” Scanlan said. “For me it all revolves around turnout.”

Scanlan added the Democratic base should be motivated by tea party disaffection and engagement in this election cycle, and no matter what happens in the governor’s race – whether American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo or Maes or both drop out – she said Democrats should not take a Hickenlooper win for granted.

“If both stay in, I do think it’s Hickenlooper,” Scanlan said. “If they drop out and another candidate is put forward, who knows? It’s still a wild ride from here.”

Buck on Tuesday night said Republicans would be able to reunite after the fractious Senate and gubernatorial primaries and reach out to the unaffiliated voters who make up the majority in some parts of the state, especially the mountain counties of the Western Slope.

“When people understand the differences between Ken Buck and Michael Bennet, Republicans will unite and we will be able to reach out to unaffiliated voters,” Buck told the Colorado Independent. “The contrast between a Colorado conservative and a Washington DC liberal is going to be stark for voters come November.”

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