Political upheaval and transformation in 2022 reveals movers and influencers in Colorado politics.
Colorado Politics identifies 10 individuals and groups who have had the biggest victories and had the most impact on state politics this year:
Governor Jared Polis
Polis, who started his second term in November when he was re-elected governor, won his race by 19.3 percentage points, ahead of his Republican opponent, Heidi Ganahl. It was the largest margin of victory of any statewide race in Colorado this year, contributing to a historic electoral success for the state’s Democrats.
Polis also fulfilled one of his long-awaited campaign promises this year, signing his free universal preschool program into law. This year, the policy has earned him a lot of national media attention, cementing his status as Colorado’s most visible leader and a mainstay in shaping the 2024 shortlist of potential presidential candidates.
Morgan Carroll, Chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party
Carroll led Colorado’s Democrats to victory in a remarkably successful election in which Democrats won every statewide job, adding two seats to their majority in the state Senate and a majority in the state Legislature. Five, won five of eight congressional seats and nearly defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert in the Third Congressional District. In Colorado, no side has come close to such a landslide victory in more than 50 years.
Following those historic victories, Carroll announced she would not seek re-election when the Colorado Democratic Party elects a new leader in April. Carroll, who has led the party for six years, said she was ready to pass the torch to a new chairman after she had achieved all the party goals she had set when she was first elected.
U.S. Representative Elect Yadira Caravio
Caraveo won Colorado’s newly formed 8th Congressional District in a pivotal race in November that helped determine the partisan divide in the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s one of the most contested congressional seats in the state, with the district’s population politically evenly split and nearly $18 million in outside money pouring into the race. Caraveo is a Democrat, beating Republican state Senator Barb Kirkmeyer by just 0.7 percentage points.
The win means Caraveo will become the first Latino and the first physician to represent Colorado in Congress. She also won significant support from Colorado’s Latino population — who voted for her 3-1, ahead of Kirkmeyer — and helped activate a largely untapped base of voters who typically Lack of political participation and representation.
U.S. Representative-elect Brittany Paterson
Another new congresswoman from Colorado, Paterson, won her 7th congressional district in November. Paterson has a 15-point lead over her Republican opponent, Eric Adland. While the district leans Democratic, Paterson faces the challenge of succeeding Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who has held the seat since 2007 but is not running for re-election.
In addition to winning the U.S. House of Representatives, Paterson has also made waves in the Colorado legislature this year as a state senator. She was one of the lead sponsors of the session defining House Bill 1326, a sweeping measure to address the state’s out-of-control fentanyl crisis. Paterson also sponsored successful bills granting state lawmakers paid family leave, prohibiting colleges from withholding diplomas for student debt and expanding protections from the Accidental Health Insurance Act.
Keep Colorado localized
The issues committee, Keeping Colorado Local, voted down two of three ballot measures aimed at expanding liquor sales and delivery, saying it would put small liquor stores out of business. Voters opposed measures aimed at allowing third-party liquor delivery and lifting restrictions on liquor stores run by one entity. A third, allowing the sale of wine in grocery stores, passed by just over 1 percentage point — the closest margin of any statewide ballot measure.
The group achieved this victory against a clear disadvantage — against multinational corporations such as DoorDash and Instacart, which have poured more than $26 million into campaigns supporting the ballot measure. By comparison, Keeping Colorado Local has only raised $900,000.
In an election in which conservative candidates and initiatives were largely rejected by Colorado voters, Caldara, president of the Independent Institute and Colorado Politics columnist, is persuading Coloradans to lower state income tax rates for the second time. His ballot measure, which cut the state income tax rate from 4.55 percent to 4.4 percent, passed by more than 30 percentage points and was the first ballot issue The Associated Press called for support on election night. Caldara partnered with State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) to support the measure.
The overwhelming success advances Caldara’s “Road to Zero” plan, which aims to gradually reduce Colorado’s income tax rate to zero. In 2020, Colorado voters also passed Caldara’s ballot measure, and he also worked with Sonnenberg to lower the tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55%.
Denver nonprofit Healthier Colorado is backing some of the biggest legislation in the state this year. The group is one of the core financial donors behind two successful ballot initiatives: Proposition 123, which directs taxable revenue to affordable housing, and Proposition FF, which provides free meals to public school students. Additionally, 26 of the 32 healthier Colorado bills lobbied for support in the state legislature have been signed into law, including implementing universal preschool education, automatic sealing of some criminal records and multiple reforms to the behavioral healthcare system.
The influence of a healthier Colorado is only expected to grow in the new year, with Democrats holding a strong majority in the state legislature and political leaders who say they plan to prioritize issues including affordable housing, health care and educate.
House Speaker Designate Julie McCluskie
McCluskey was nominated by her caucus to be speaker of the House of Representatives for the next legislative session after Democratic candidates dominated the November election and gave the state legislature a 46-19 supermajority. McCluskie beat two other Democratic candidates for the most powerful House job, contributing to electing all women to the top three leadership positions for the first time in the state’s history.
Before being nominated for speaker, McCluskey spent a year at the helm of the most powerful committee in the state legislature — the Joint Budget Committee, which oversees the state’s annual budget — where she sponsored 67 successful bills, the 2022 Most of any Colorado legislator.
Senate President Steve Feinberg
Feinberg was elected Senate president twice this year: first in February, when he was unanimously chosen to replace outgoing Sen. Leroy Garcia, and again in November, when his caucus nominated him Go on to hold the most prestigious job in the legislature. Feinberg’s Democratic caucus also had a resounding electoral success, picking up two seats after months of threatening a “red wave” that would wrest Republican control of the state Senate.
In addition to serving as Senate president, Feinberg passed 100 percent of the bills he introduced during that year’s legislative session. He was one of only 10 state legislators to achieve the feat, and he had the third-most bills with 21.
Rep. Mark Catlin
Catlin is the only Republican to hold a leadership position on a state House committee during the 2022 legislative session — a title he will retain next year despite Republicans losing seats in the legislature. Catlin’s appointment as the next Agriculture Committee vice chair makes him the only Republican member to serve as vice chair of any committee for three consecutive years. In addition to his legislative powers, Catlin was elected minority whip in a last-minute leadership reshuffle last month.
During the 2022 session, Catlin is one of the most bipartisan lawmakers in the state Capitol, and the bill he sponsored has 100 percent bipartisan support. Catlin, one of only three lawmakers to achieve the feat, sponsored the second-most bills with 22.