CACI endorses 49 legislative candidates

The Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry has endorsed a slate of 49 incumbent and new legislative candidates for election to the Colorado General Assembly, of which 27 are incumbents and 22 are new candidates. Of the 49 total endorsements, 11 are Democrats and 38 are Republicans. The full slate of endorsements can be found on CACI’s full page ad on the website of The Colorado Statesman.

“CACI’s endorsement process has produced a bipartisan slate of very pro-business candidates, both incumbent and new, that the statewide business community now can work to elect to the Colorado General Assembly for the 2015 and 2016 session,” said Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Relations.

“The defining issues that separated those who were endorsed from those who were not included their positions on business tax exemptions and credits; the mining industry, especially coal; and local control vs. oil-and-gas production, particulary fracking,” Loren said.

However, the organization — which includes about 40 local chambers of commerce, about 30 trade associations and several local economic development organizations — did not endorse a candidate in Jefferson County’s Senate District 22, currently represented by Sen. Andy Kerr, a Democrat. Kerr represented a Lakewood House seat for three terms after being appointed to the seat because of a vacancy and was then elected in 2012 to the new SD 22 seat following reapportionment in 2011.

The Republican challenger is Tony Sanchez, who defeated more moderate Mario Nicolais in the June 24 Republican primary. Sanchez was endorsed by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

SD 22, which includes Lakewood, is nearly equally comprised of Democrats and Republicans. As of June, there were 27,835 registered Democrats, 27,494 registered Republicans, and 31,000 unaffiliated voters. It is considered a key seat in this year’s election, and if it changes from Democrat to Republican, could help the GOP capture control of the state senate, which is currently held by Democrats by just one seat.

In SD 19, CACI has endorsed incumbent Democratic Sen. Rachel Zenzinger over Tea Party endorsed Republican Laura Woods, a former court reporter. Woods defeated fellow Republican Lang Sias, a FedEx pilot, Colorado Air National Guard lieutenant colonel and combat naval aviator, in the June primary. Sias ran in 2012 for the SD 19 seat and was endorsed by CACI for the general election. He narrowly lost the race by 584 votes to Democrat Evie Hudak, a difference of 0.8 percent of the total 70,744 votes cast for the two candidates. Hudak resigned in late November in the face of a gun-rights recall effort spearheaded by the controversial gun-rights organization, RMGO.

Woods received top-of-the line billing for the primary ballot at the district’s March GOP Assembly and worked on the Hudak recall effort.

CACI’s endorsement of the Democratic candidate in SD 19 this year could parallel the political speculation that Zenzinger, an educator and former Arvada City Councilwoman, has a stronger shot of winning than her GOP challenger. Even though voter registration as of June shows more Republicans than Democrats in the district (28,395 to 22,678), the largest block of voters are unaffiliated (33,072) and are more likely to join moderate Republicans in voting for Democrat Zenzinger in the pivotal race.

Each candidate endorsed by CACI may receive up to $400 in support from the Colorado Business Political Action Committee (CBPAC), which is CACI’s political committee.

Incumbent Endorsements

The CACI lobbying team evaluated incumbents on their votes during the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions on key bills that were important to CACI’s agenda. Incumbents were also assessed in terms of how helpful they were to the CACI lobbyists in ways other than votes.

The CACI Board in May approved the slate of incumbent candidates for endorsements, based on recommendations of the CACI lobbying team. Incumbent legislators running for re-election were not interviewed (since they were originally interviewed when they first ran for the legislature).

New Candidate Endorsements

The July 18 issue of CACI’s Colorado Capitol Report carried an article that listed the 34 new candidates who were recently interviewed by the CACI lobbying team and a special Advisory Group of about 60 CACI members.

CACI’s intensive process to evaluate new candidates included the following:

• Research into the voter demographics and voting trends in a legislative district;
• Research into a candidate’s background;
• Research into fundraising by a candidate;
• Receiving a completed CACI questionnaire from the candidate; and
• Participating in an interview before the CACI lobbying team and members of the Advisory Group to CACI’s lobbying team.

CACI members who contributed $550 to the Colorado Business Political Action Committee were eligible to participate in the Advisory Group. The Advisory Group included representatives of such major economic sectors as oil-and-gas, mining, health and property insurance, transportation, bio-science and manufacturing.

After each interview, the lobbying team and the Advisory Group discussed the candidate and then made the decision on whether or not to recommend the candidate for endorsement. A two-thirds majority vote was required for the group to recommend a candidate.

The CACI Executive Committee at the end of July approved the slate of new candidates recommended for endorsement. The Board of Directors delegated to the Executive Committee the authority to make the endorsements of new candidates based on the recommendations of the CACI lobbying team and CACI members who participated in the interviews. After the Executive Committee approved the slate, it was sent to the full Board.

The CACI lobbying team will begin walking legislative districts with select candidates in key races to help them with their campaigns.

CACI was created in mid-1965 when Colorado’s business leaders merged the Colorado Chamber of Commerce with the Colorado Manufacturing Association.

CACI’s mission is to champion a healthy business environment. To achieve this mission, CACI has key four strategies: (1) maintain and improve the cost of doing business; (2) advocate a pro-business state government; (3) increase the quantity of educated, skilled workers; and (4) strengthen Colorado’s critical infrastructure (roads, water, telecommunications and energy).

Editor's Note: In the Senate District 24 CACI endorsement, the full name of the candidate is Beth Martinez Humenik.