The Associated Press has a quick recap of the most hotly contested races in Colorado this year. In addition to the Gubernatorial contest between Rep. Beauprez and Bill Ritter, there are these:

Congress, 3rd District. Incumbent John Salazar, a Democrat, is finishing his first term in a district that usually votes Republican.

Congress, 4th District. Incumbent Marilyn Musgrave, a Republican, has been described by some GOP analysts as one of the party’s most vulnerable members of Congress, although the district usually votes Republican.

Congress, 7th District. An open seat because incumbent Bob Beauprez, a Republican, is stepping down to run for governor. The district is about evenly divided among registered Republicans, Democrats and independents.

But the national races aren’t the only reason more eyes than usual will be on Colorado this November. The state legislature is the other reason. Democrats hold a one seat lead in the State Senate and a five seat lead in the House.

Many people see Colorado as a harbinger of sorts for the 2008 Presidential election. If the state goes blue in 2006, it may be a trend for the rest of the country. USA Today reported this week that the immigration debate has moved Colorado to center stage. The Wall. St. Journal (free link) compares 2006 to 1994, when the Democrats made key gains against Republicans, and reports:

Now the political energy is on Democrats’ side, among antiwar, environmental, abortion-rights and pro-immigration Hispanic groups, while Republicans worry that demoralized conservatives won’t vote. And where conservative talk-radio hosts emerged in 1994 to spread Republicans’ message, today liberal bloggers seek to do the same for Democrats.

Colorado has a strong progressive blogging base. Check out Square State, formerly known as Soapblox Colorado, which allows registered users to write their own diaries, a la Daily Kos. Progress Now, which serves as a communications team for the progressive community, provides daily news and action alerts to keep the bloggers informed and involved. These groups are not just online. Yesterday, they took their message to the Highlands Street Fair. Local candidates have also reached out to the blogosphere. My e-mail inbox regularly contains messages from the Peggy Lamm, Jay Fawcett, Angie Paccione and Bill Winters campaigns. Many candidates now have blogs or write on Daily Kos, My DD and other influential political blogs.

Progressive community blogging is people-powered politics. In Colorado and elsewhere, as the Journal notes, it indeed has emerged as a major counterforce to conservative talk radio. The conservatives either haven’t tried or haven’t been successful in establishing coordinated online communities. I’d like to see some numbers for how many Coloradans listen to talk radio vs. how many read politically oriented blogs.

Come November, it will be interesting to see the post-election analysis on the effect the net-roots movement had on our local elections. I suspect the candidates will be asking the same question.