50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 38. Colorado

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

38. Colorado

Capital: Denver

Nickname: The Centennial State

Motto: Nil Sune Numine

(Nothing Without Providence)

About the State

Before Spanish conquistadors arrived in the region during the 17th century, Colorado had been home to Native Americans from various tribes including the Apache, Cheyenne and Ute.  Spain’s only attempt to establish a settlement north of the Arkansas River was near the modern-day city of Pueblo, but it did not last long and their only involvement in the area was fur trading with the indigenous population.  Colorado came under United States control in two distinct phases, starting with the north-eastern portion on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, which American believed to be part of the Louisiana purchase and later organised into the Missouri Territory.  There was a dispute with Spain about where the border between the two nations should lie and, as part of the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 that saw Florida become part of America, the US gave up all claims to land south and west of the Arkansas River.  Two years later, Mexico gained independence from Spain and it was not until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War, that the rest of Colorado became part of the United States.

In 1859, while Colorado was still partially in the Kansas Territory, there was a discovery of gold at Pike’s Peak which led to a rush of prospectors in search of fortune.  With Kansas going through the process of becoming a state – having resolved the slavery question within its borders – an attempt was made by the gold-seekers to form the Territory of Jefferson and a Provisional Government was setup.  However, Jefferson was never formally sanctioned by the Federal Government and, in 1861, just before leaving office James Buchanan organised the Colorado Territory, which had the same borders as the state has today.  From 1863 to 1865, the United States – as well as fighting the Civil War – were engaged in a conflict against Native American tribes in Colorado, including the Comanche, Cheyenne and Araphao.  On November 29th, 1864, the Territory militia carried out the Sand Creek Massacre, in which they destroyed a friendly village of Cheyenne and Araphao Native Americans, killing an estimated 70 to 163 people, most of whom were women or children.

On August 1st, 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a proclamation that made Colorado the 38th state of the Union, 100 years (and 28 days) after the Declaration of Independence, thus earning it the nickname of “The Centennial State”.  It is the 8th largest in area and its more than 5.1 million residents ranks it as the 22nd most populous state in America.  Since the 1859 gold rush, mining has continued to be a major part of Colorado’s economy and there are several energy companies headquartered in Denver, including Newmont Mining and Patina Oil and Gas.  Agriculture – in particular the production of corn, wheat and livestock – and telecommunications are also important sectors in the state, while the lack of other major cities in the vicinity (the nearest one of comparable size is Phoenix, Arizona, some 600 miles away) has helped the capital attract companies who are looking to do business in the Rocky Mountain states.  The Federal Government is also a major economic component of Colorado’s economy, with several agencies based there such as the North American Aerospace Defense Command; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and the United States Air Force Academy.

Unfortunately, Colorado has also been the site of three high-profile mass shootings over the last 13 years: the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 students and a teacher, as well as themselves;  in 2007, Matthew J. Murray took four lives and injured five more at a Youth With a Mission training center in Arvada and at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs; and most recently, in July of this year, a gunman murdered 12 and wounded 58 at a move theatre in Aurora, with one suspect – James Eagan Holmes – awaiting trial.

There are four “Big Four” sports teams, one in each league and all of whom are based in Denver: the Colorado Rockies (MLB); Denver Nuggets (NBA); Denver Broncos (NFL); and Colorado Avalanche; while the city also has the distinction of being the only places that has been awarded an Olympics (the Winter Games of 1976) but turned down the opportunity to host – doing so after the residents rejected them due to cost, pollution and the population boom they would bring.  Colorado is one of the Four Corner states along with Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, named for the fact that they all meet at a single point, the only place in America where four states do so.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes:9

2008 Result: Obama 53.5% McCain 44.9%

Latest Poll: Romney +4%

Between 1952 and 1988, the Republican candidate won Colorado in 9 of the 10 Presidential elections, with the only exception being when Lyndon B. Johnson carried the state for the Democrats in 1964.  President Clinton was victorious there in 1992, but lost the state to Bob Dole in 1996 and Colorado also voted for President George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, before Barack Obama carried it in the 2008 election.  If the President fails to win any of Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, then it will be imperative for him to carry Colorado (as well as Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire) if he is to win a second term in the White House.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There are no Senate elections in Colorado this November.  Of the seven Representatives the state has in the House, three of the current delegation are Democrats, alongside four Republicans.  The 3rd district, currently held by the GOP, and the 7th district, held by the Democrats, are both close races but are expected to re-elect their incumbent Congressmen; while the 6th District is a toss-up between Rep. Mike Coffman (R) and Joe Miklosi (D).

Ballot Measure: Amendment 64 to the Colorado constitution would legalise marijuana (including the use and possession of up to an ounce of the substance) in the state and the voters will decide if this initiative will be adopted, after rejecting a similar proposal in 2006.  The most recent poll on the issue suggests that the measure is likely to pass this November.

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