The election results no one’s talking about

November 12, 2013

Which is the most important result of Tuesday’s election?

A. A Republican governor won a landslide election in a blue state.

B. A Democrat was elected governor in a purple state during intense criticism of a new federal government program.

C. An outspoken liberal Democrat was elected mayor in a big city — where opposition parties had been in power for 20 years.

D. An education funding amendment lost in a mountain state.

If you said D, you’re correct.

On Tuesday, Amendment 66 was defeated in Colorado, with preliminary results suggesting a drubbing of two-to-one opposed. It would have improved education funding with slight tax increases and changed Colorado’s flat tax to a two-tiered, progressive structure.

The goal was a major overhaul of education finance, with reduced disparities at the local level and increased spending — including funding for early childhood programs, rural education and at-risk youth programs

Millions of dollars poured into the state to support the amendment. High-profile backing came from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Melinda Gates. But the more than $10 million spent in support of the amendment wasn’t enough to convince skeptical voters.

The defeat of Amendment 66 should worry Democrats. This is about as close as you can get to the main thrust of the Democratic Party’s progressive agenda: raise taxes on wealthier people to fund investments in the future.

Even in liberal Boulder County, however, the measure barely eked out a majority. Outside of Boulder and Denver, the measure failed miserably, including in largely Latino counties, like Adams (35 percent in support to 65 percent opposed), Arapahoe (35 percent to 65 percent), and Pueblo. Pueblo, you may recall, is part of state Senate District 3 — where Democratic state Senator Angela Giron was recalled in September over her vote to ban high-capacity magazine clips.

After President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election and recent Democratic victories in New York City and Virginia, many on the left suggested that the country is becoming overwhelmingly liberal. But the Colorado elections are a cautionary tale.

The big, bold education investments requested — a key pillar of the progressive agenda — were rejected by two-thirds of Colorado’s voters, and quashed in key Hispanic counties.

It’s tempting to blame these results on an off-year electorate. But the truth is likely more complex. Coloradoans have passed a great deal of progressive change in a short time — universal background checks for gun purchases, civil unions, marijuana legalization, in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, and mail-in ballots statewide. Perhaps voters felt a proposed major restructure of education financing funded by increasing taxes was, finally, too much change.

The federal government shutdown and these recent recalls of state legislatures who had support stricter gun laws may have created an environment conducive to the status quo in the wake of partisan struggles. Or maybe the problems with the Affordable Care Act website made voters leery of big government programs or major restructuring of government services.

Whatever the motivation of Colorado voters, two things are clear. First, they weren’t ready to raise taxes to fund widely popular education investments. Second, between New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s 51 percent support from Latinos in his re-election victory and tepid support in Colorado for education investments in heavily Hispanic counties, it would be unwise for Democrats to assume Latinos are overwhelmingly liberal — or will be reliable Democratic partisans in future elections.


PHOTO (TOP): An election worker looks over ballots before depositing them in an outdoor ballot box at the Denver Elections Division headquarters in downtown Denver October 25, 2012. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

PHOTO (INSERT): New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who contributed heavily in support of the Colorado amendment, speaks at the opening of the Amazon Fashion Studio in the Brooklyn borough of New York, October 18, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

I don’t know where the impression ever came from in the first place that Latinos were primarily a “liberal” constituency …

Posted by Aquifer1 | Report as abusive

Maybe people are just tired of spending money on the offspring of fat, tattooed and drug abusing mothers. Two clichés come to mind, you can’t make a silk purse our of sow’s ear and spending more on education is simply ‘casting pearls before swine’.

Posted by sangell | Report as abusive

I am not a Colorado resident, but I’ll hazard a guess about how the state has voted lately. Maybe the “progressive” effort to increase taxes failed because it was an off-year election. In the last two presidential election years, Coloradans have supported President Obama, the most dirigiste and leftist U.S. head of state since at least FDR. Maybe the long-term trend is still for Coloradans to move politically to the left.

Some of the other items cited in the article, like homosexual unions, legalization marijuana, and mail-in ballots are not necessarily signs of victorious socialism. A Libertarian could have easily supported all three reforms.

However,given the mostly-leftward drift of the state, it can still be argued that it is headed the way of Illinois and the federal government. Undoubtedly, a large and growing “progressive” portion of Coloradans favor public fiscal recklessness (overspending, over-borrowing, vast unfunded pension- and health care-related liabilities); unlimited new public regulations on business activities; unchecked union power; government dependence; and, of course, higher taxes on those who are successful. The once-hardy Coloradan Westerners still want to have their own version of the French nanny state, no?

Posted by ExDemocrat | Report as abusive

Funding amendments are always difficult to pass, especially if the written language in the amendment is not clear and straightforward. I think the author is making this issue more important than warranted.

Posted by Reilly75 | Report as abusive

It is important, not just for Colorado but for the U.S. At the state and local levels, the budget cutters have been decimating education funding. The majority of our economic growth depends on technology which depends on eduction. The U.S. will no longer be the world’s leading economic power when today’s first graders are in the work force, unless we reverse this trend immediately.

Posted by QuietThinker | Report as abusive

While education is important, those with political ideologies are not bright enough to know what true education is. They are simply followers. Democrats espouse education as important but yet their actual implementation of it is very similar to that of the GOP. Children are taught to follow and comply with those in control and who know better than everyone else. Critical thinking is as much a hated skill by the DFL as it is for the GOP. It is because they both want power and money and to support corporations and wealthy people. A bright parent will educate their child in parallel to the public school system to make sure they get the real lessons and not just the lessons that make them dependents on the powerful. It’s fine to talk about technology and it’s importants, but when we manipulate markets and suppress alternative technologies to sustain old dilapidated and corrupt industries while teaching the kids to conform to frivilous consumerism, it’s difficult to believe anyone cares about education.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

Michelle keeps referring to Hispanic counties. Shouldn’t she be referring to American counties? Also, there is no such thing as a slight tax increase. It is either additional taxation or it isn’t. Would you rather have money or morals in education.

Posted by ArribaJuarez | Report as abusive

If we give the poor a quality & inexpensive education. How the heck are we supposed to have a permanent under class similar to indentured servants? Keep public education horrible and the poor smucks who attend those schools will remain poor smucks forever. Now.. if we could only find a way to make the ethnics attend the worst schools, while keeping the white schools semi descent we’ll be in business!

Posted by Duffman | Report as abusive

Most “education” funding doesn’t go towards education. It’s a giant backdoor for feel good programs. Education should not fund feeding the poor, providing transportation foo them, and providing baby sitting and entertainment. But it does. Why? Because “it’s for the kids” and no one can stand up to the lefties that drive this money machine. We also dumped our problem of how to take care of the indigent on our school systems. Our special education programs pump 10 times the money into a “student” that will never be a productive member of society and then leaves bright students with high potential with a class of 40 moronic undisciplined little monsters. The rest of the world is laughing at us as we become the dumbest nation in all of the economic countries. Our politicians should have some gonads and remove the indigent from our school systems and create real programs that will help them and let our other students flourish. They should create or modify the programs for helping the poor instead of hiding it in our school budgets. Most importantly we must change this social stigma we have created that makes even discussing problems and solutions politically incorrect.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

One data point does not constitute a trend.

That said, I wonder if folks don’t so much rebel against higher taxes for education, as higher taxes for more of the same result?

If ever there were a crying need for reform it’s in education but the facts are in America this is a local issue with largely local funding (yes, Special Ed. gets some state and national funding).

Nevertheless, local boards of education make the rules and deliver the results the populace, which puts these folks in charge deserve, e.g. an outcome where about 1/4 of students don’t graduate, and the aim is for all students to plan for college despite the realities of the Bell curve.

Posted by jbeech | Report as abusive