BIDLACK | Money talks — about shifting politics | Opinion

Hal Bidlack

I have a dear friend named Jeff… no, wait, I should probably disguise his name, since he may not want my three readers to know his real name (Ed: don’t be modest, you have at least six readers). So, anyway, I have a dear friend named…Jeef… who has an interesting life. He has a van he fixed up as a small camper, and he drives places he thinks might be interesting and then he blogs about it weekly. Go ahead and stop reading for a bit and listen to some of his tails from the road; you’ll enjoy them. 

Jeef likes having missions (don’t we all?) and a mission he gave himself a few years back was to visit every town in America named “Aurora.” I like that idea, and it led Jeef to some interesting discoveries. The smallest Aurora, by the way, is in Nevada, with a population of, well, zero. The smallest inhabited Aurora is in Kansas, with 57 folks calling that place home.

We here in Colorado have the largest of all the Auroras, with a population of 381,000 or so. During my time working for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, I spent quite a few hours in Aurora, working on the then-planned new VA hospital. I worked closely with the office of then-U.S. Rep. (and now Aurora Mayor) Mike Coffman on lots and lots of issues surrounding that massive construction project. I met the congressman/mayor on several occasions, and I admire him for his military service and his overall work ethic, even as I disagree on him on many, many issues.

Coffman is not the mayor by choice in that his first choice was to stay in Congress back in 2018. But in that election, Coffman faced my old friend Jason Crow, who beat Coffman by 9 points. In addition to my admiration for his politics, I greatly respect Jason as a friend, distinguished combat vet, and all-around good guy. Therefore, you can imagine my delight in reading the Colorado Politics story in which the highly-respected Cook Political Report shifted the 6the Congressional district from “likely Democratic” to “solid Democrat.” That means, in political speak, that Jason Crow will be very, very tough to beat and that he is almost assured a second term in Congress (assuming Democrats mail in their ballots, which is a different column entirely). 

Assuming the Cook Political Report is correct, and it usually is, the significance of this shift goes beyond giving Jason Crow a better night’s sleep. Anyone with a phone and/or an email account — I’m guessing that is just about everyone — is aware there is an election coming up. My phone rings several times each day asking for money for various Democratic candidates (and, oddly, from time to time, a request for a donation to Trump, go figure). And the avalanche of political emails is massive (thank goodness for software that sorts out that stuff). Why all the contact efforts? Because running for office is expensive and the fuel of political campaigns is cash. 

During my own quixotic run for the Congress in Colorado Springs back in 2008, I remember my media person telling me excitedly that TV in this area is really cheap — only $65,000 per week of advertisements! That and other similar costs explains why back then I was one of the people making those irritating phone calls begging for cash. 

The costs in greater Denver/Aurora are much higher. Therefore, if the CD-6 race were truly competitive, the various political actors involved would be spending massive amounts of dollars to protect Crow’s seat. And some of that will still happen, but overall, I predict there will be less spending in Colorado by the national committees committed to supporting their party’s candidates. So, what does that mean? Well, Crow’s relative safety means the Democrats can spend money elsewhere, on races that are far more competitive and that might swing Democratic. And it’s pretty much the same thing for the GOP, as they will likely spend less on defeating Crow, as they may see those dollars as likely wasted.

In my campaign, we repeatedly asked the national Democratic folks for money and we were always turned down. They were not going to “waste” limited dollars on likely-doomed campaigns like mine. And they were right, of course, as I was walloped, and the money that I might have consumed got used other placed to better effects.

So, fundamentally, that simple posting by Cook and reported by Colorado Politics is a bellwether, signaling a fundamental shift in the Colorado political landscape. I’m quite sure Jason Crow will declare he is ignoring the Cook report, as he should. And his opponent, former GOP state Chair Steve House, will work hard (as I did in ’08) and will declare the Cook people to be biased, or aliens, or something, as he should. 

Ultimately, the echoes of the Cook Political Report document a changing Colorado background, which is good news for Jason Crow and bad news for the Republicans, both here and nationally. 

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.