Republicans dominate, but Democrats are a force in El Paso County.
El Paso County, with its county seat at Colorado Springs, produces more votes for the Republican Party than any other county in Colorado. That said, the county also contains a significant body of Democratic voters who dominate a considerable geographic portion of the county and win some important elections, mainly for the state Legislature, as a result.
A recent precinct-by-precinct study of El Paso County, using results from the 2018 election for governor, revealed that Democratic voters tend to be concentrated in the older parts of the county, particularly those with housing constructed in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Republicans, on the other hand, have mainly settled in the newer parts of the county, especially those developed from the end of World War II to the present day.
In the 2018 election for governor, Democrat Jared Polis won statewide but lost El Paso County to Republican Walker Stapleton 58.7% to 41.3%.
With the 2020 presidential election well underway (mail-in ballots for Colorado’s June 30th primary will be mailed early next month), let us look at where the Republicans and Democrats prevail in El Paso County — and therefore Colorado Springs — going from west to east.
Beginning in Ute Pass in the foothills of Pike’s Peak in the communities of Cascade, Chipeta Park, and Green Mountain Falls, the flavor is moderately Republican. The GOP candidate received 53.3% of the two-party vote compared to 46.7% for the Democrat.
On to Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City plus west Colorado Springs. These are some of the oldest communities in the state let alone El Paso County, with many structures dating to the late 1800s. Manitou Springs clocked in electorally at 67.9% Democratic and Old Colorado City and adjoining portions of west Colorado Springs at 65.0% Democratic.
Next there is the general downtown area of Colorado Springs, from below Cimarron Street on the south to Uintah Street on the north. Although there is much that is new and modern in the immediate downtown area, there is an amazing amount of turn of the 20th century housing in and adjacent to downtown. At a whopping 75.5%, it is the most Democratic part of El Paso County.
Just south of downtown is the old neighborhood of Ivywild, anchored by the repurposed former Ivywild Elementary School. This area voted 58.8% Democratic.
North of downtown sits one of the oldest and best preserved Victorian neighborhoods in Colorado Springs — the Old North End. It cast its ballots 65.5% Democratic. To the east is the Patty Jewett neighborhood, a group of early 20th century Victorian and Arts and Crafts homes opposite Patty Jewett municipal golf course. It voted 71.8% Democratic.
East of downtown is Shook’s Run, and east of there is southeast Colorado Springs, noted for its many economic and educational challenges. Here much of the housing is immediate post-World War II small ranch houses and apartment buildings. It is 60.4% Democratic.
And that is about it for solidly Democratic areas in Colorado Springs. Looking back at Manitou Springs, we see an east-to-west stretch of the city running through Manitou, Old Colorado City and downtown that ends in southeast Colorado Springs. This is the Democratic Party heartland in El Paso County.
Moving on, let us look for areas that are evenly split between the two political parties. One is due east of downtown and runs out to Union Boulevard. It has Constitution Avenue on the north and East Pikes Peak Avenue to the south. This mix of older and newer homes is just barely Democratic – a mere 52.6% Democratic to 47.4% Republican.
Another area showing something of a two-party balance is the town of Fountain in southern El Paso County. It is 54.5% Republican versus 45.5% Democratic. Move north of Fountain into Security and Widefield, however, and these two post-World War II communities are more strongly GOP at 57.2% Republican.
Speaking generally, as one moves north of downtown Colorado Springs, voting gets more Republican and stays that way. Rockrimmon, a large community west of I-25 and south of Woodmen Road, was 59.3% Republican. Also west of I-25, in the large ranch houses on the north side of Woodmen Valley Road, the tally was 65.5% Republican.
It is the same story on the east side of I-25 in the northern part of Colorado Springs. The large area of newish housing north of Austin Bluffs Parkway was 60.3% Republican. Other relatively new areas of construction were: Mountain Shadows, 62.1% Republican; Northgate, 71.0%t Republican; and Briargate, 64.3% Republican.
This preference for the GOP was also found near and along the border with Douglas County: Monument and Palmer Lake, 63.3% Republican; Lake Woodmoor, 70.3% Republican; and Black Forest, 75.8%t Republican.
In an effort to discover what is happening in a new and active part of Colorado Springs, the rapidly developing area east of Powers Boulevard to Marksheffle Road was studied. Apparently newcomers are Republicans — 60.8% Republican to be exact. Another newly developing area, Meridian Road north of Woodmen Road and U.S 24, came in at 73.9% Republican.
Although Republicanism is strongest to the north in El Paso County, there are two Republican areas southwest of downtown Colorado Springs. One is the Broadmoor area around The Broadmoor hotel. It was 59.8% Republican. The other was Broadmoor Bluffs at 63.0% Republican. Nearby Skyway is borderline at 51.8% Republican.
The last area to be considered is the eastern plains of El Paso County. As in all Colorado rural areas, these ranch lands and dry farms are the most Republican of all. They voted Republican for governor in 2018 with 79.5% of the vote, the highest figure, Republican or Democratic, in the study.
In our book, Colorado Politics and Policy: Governing a Purple State, we note that, in Colorado, the farther you go from the 16th Street mall in Denver, the more you find stalwart Republicans. The same is true in El Paso County. The farther you go in any direction from Poor Richard’s restaurant on North Tejon Street in downtown Colorado Springs, the more you find stalwart Republicans.
Tom Cronin and Bob Loevy are Colorado College political scientists who have been voting in El Paso County for many decades.