Morse becomes second Statehouse Democrat from El Paso
Merrifield repeats in D-18; Gardner holds D-21 for Republicans

       John Morse rolled to an unexpectedly resounding conquest over incumbent District 11 State Senator Ed Jones in the Nov. 7 election, becoming the second Democrat to win state office in El Paso County.
       District 18 State Representative Michael Merrifield, whose district includes many of the same precincts as Morse's, had his easiest win ever in his third-term re- election bid, triumphing over politically inexperienced Republican challenger Kyle Fisk by a 61 to 39 percent margin.
       The only Republican to win in Statehouse districts that include the Westside was Bob Gardner, whose advantage in House District 21 over Democrat challenger Anna Lord was 59 to 41 percent.
       “I was as surprised as anybody,” Morse said after the election. “I was just hoping to win by 50 plus 1. It's pretty amazing.”
       One key to victory was “the work we did, walking, knocking on doors,” said the former police chief and Silver Key Senior Services CEO. “We asked people what was important to them instead of telling them what we wanted.” What he heard, he said, was that people want government action on five main areas - health care, jobs, growth, water and education.
       Jones, who had served one four-year term, had advocated parental choice in education and market solutions and deregulation to address economic issues.
       One of the key Democrat proposals has been health care for all Coloradans, but Morse said it will take a good year before a special panel finishes studying the issue in detail.
       In Merrifield's first race for office in 2002, he had barely defeated well-known Republican Dan Stuart. In 2004, he bested Kent Lambert (who won the District 14 seat this election) with 55 percent of the vote. Asked about his increasing victory spreads, Merrifield said he believes they indicate that “as people get to know me even better, they're becoming more satisfied.” This includes a large number of Republicans, he noted, in that his district has slightly more registered Republicans than Democrats.
       “The voters in my district are practical and pragmatic, not extreme right wing like my opponent (Fisk) was,” Merrifield said. The two had sparred briskly at a debate shortly before the election, at which Fisk called Merrifield's health care ideas “socialistic.”
       Gardner, who has served as a Republican campaign manager numerous times in the past but was running for office himself for the first time, termed his success “bittersweet… I was happy about my own win, but at the same time I'm disappointed and saddened by the loss of Ed Jones.”
       His district is roughly 2-1 Republican, which helped a lot, he said. At the same time, he'll be coming into the Statehouse in January at a time when the Democrats will control both houses and the governor's office.
       He tried to give the situation a positive spin. “It's a great opportunity to move forward, increase our numbers and reach out to voters with what our principles are,” he said.
       Also in the Nov. 7 election, two city ballot issues that city officials had warned would severely impact services citywide failed decisively. Both 200 and 201 lost with just 38 percent of the vote. The measures had been written by County Commissioner/ anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce.

Westside Pioneer article