Caldara believes the Democrats made highly effective use of new campaign finance laws, which sharply restrict how much candidates can raise for themselves but allow independent groups that are not under the control of candidates or parties to raise almost unlimited funds. He also credits the Democrats with a highly effective get-out-the- vote effort. "They targeted swing voters and found out what each voter's hot button was. It was very sophisticated. They outstrategized and outspent the Republicans."
Republicans are now regrouping and vowing to recruit stronger candidates and tap into their own network of wealthy supporters.
As for the Democrats, they'll have their own mountain to climb in 2006. Not only will they be defending their legislative majority, they'll also be trying to win back the governor's office after eight years of Bill Owens. "If we expect to continue to control the Legislature we can't rest on our laurels," says Huttner. "This is a state that's been under years of right-wing influence. We have to continue an aggressive strategy."
The four Democratic millionaires will still support the party, and other wealthy liberals have also reportedly expressed an interest. Huttner-who recently left his law practice to devote himself to ProgressNow full time-is also hoping to expand the Democrats' grassroots base. ProgressNow plans to soon launch local chapters in Colorado Springs and Grand Junction.
Al Yates says he'll never forget that fateful day in May when, as he says, the Republicans finally went too far. The spectacle of state senators shouting each other down, longtime legislative employees openly weeping, fists being shaken in anger-all of it still saddens him. "I have always considered myself to be bipartisan, so many of my friends were on the Republican side," says Yates. "It was as if I was seeing friends for whatever reason transformed into people I no longer knew. It left me with an impression that still haunts me." But while he's still relishing the election results that turned Colorado politics upside down, Yates warns that the Democrats will have to deliver if they want to keep their majorities at the state capitol. "The Democrats have to prove they're worthy of the election." m
Stuart Speers is a journalist living in Denver.