11/04/2012 03:45 pm ET

In Colorado Elections Battle, Democrats Fight To Regain State House

As the battle for Colorado goes to the voters Tuesday, both turnout and the presidential race are major factors in both parties' playbooks.

Republicans recaptured the Colorado House of Representatives in 2010 by one seat after 197 votes in one district swung control to the GOP. But Republicans are struggling to keep control in 2012 after legislative redistricting that could help the Democrats regain a majority in the House. Republicans currently control the state House 33-32, while Democrats control the state Senate and the governor's office.

"We feel good, but you never know until the polls close," state House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) told HuffPost.

While many have focused on the decision by the Republican-controlled House to block legislation to legalize civil unions in Colorado, both Ferrandino and state House Speaker Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) insist that jobs and the economy remain the top issue for voters as they enter into the last days of the election. Both representatives note that education issues continue to dominate as well, with McNulty identifying growth in the technology and aerospace economy as key to the state.

The battle remains close. Both McNulty and Ferrandino said that the swing-state battle between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will have an impact on the race, and will likely help increase voter turnout. Ferrandino said that the Obama campaign has been mobilizing voters for his side, while McNulty said that the Romney vote is expected to help pull Republican state legislative candidates across the finish line. HuffPost Pollster estimates that Obama and Romney are in a virtual dead heat in Colorado.

Ferrandino, who would be the first openly gay House speaker in Colorado history, said Democrats are poised to focus on economic development issues if they recapture the majority, working with Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and the state Senate. At the same time, he noted that a Democratic House would continue to block GOP measures on abortion, voter identification and immigration.

McNulty pointed to the Republican majority's record of working with Democrats this year on a series of issues, including the budget and education. He said the GOP is also planning to focus on economic growth if it retains the majority this year.

"Our goal is work with our governor to improve Colorado's economic climate," McNulty said.

As McNulty promoted bipartisanship, Ferrandino painted the opposite picture.

"People are sick of the political fighting and bickering that is happening," Ferrandino said.

McNulty said that the 2012 race is notable due to the spending of outside groups on the state legislative races. While he said he understands the competitive nature of the races in the state, he expressed the concern that the precedent for outside spending to influence Colorado politics has been set.

"Once you head down that road," he said, "it is tough to turn back."



2012 Swing State Polls