- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

DENVER (AP) - Colorado Democrats have a comfortable cushion in the state House that will boost their chances of retaining control there in November. But the party’s slim majority in the Senate hangs by a thread.

There are eight competitive Senate races, and Democrats need to win six to keep their one-seat majority. Races in Denver’s suburbs will determine which party controls the chamber.

Democrats have controlled the Senate since 2005. But Republicans feel they’re within striking distance of a majority, partly because two districts have open seats being vacated by term-limited Democrats - Sen. Lois Tochtrop in Thornton and Sen. Gail Schwartz in Snowmass Village.

Four Democrats are trying to keep their seats in suburban Jefferson County, a swing county that has seen intense campaigning. Those senators are Andy Kerr, Cheri Jahn, Rachel Zenzinger and Jeanne Nicholson.

“In many ways, Democrats are on defense a lot more than we are,” said Ryan Call, the state Republican Party chair.

In their pitch to voters, Republicans are criticizing legislation adopted by Democrats in the past two years as they controlled both houses.

Democrats have enacted gun control measures, lowered tuition for students in the country illegally, passed civil unions and set renewable energy standards for rural cooperatives.

Democrats insist those laws will win voters.

“I think we’ve done a pretty darn good job,” said Boulder Sen. Rollie Heath, the Democrats’ Senate leader. While Republicans may argue that Democrats went too far left, “I happen to think it’s a good spot in the middle,” Heath said.

Analysts have questioned whether more conservative candidates who won primaries against moderate Republicans in Jefferson County can win independent voters crucial to the district.

To the south, two Senate Republicans - George Rivera in Pueblo and Bernie Herpin in Colorado Springs - who replaced Democrats through recalls over gun-control measures face their first general-election test.

In the House, Democrats hold a 37-28 majority. While that seems like a heavy lift for Republicans, House Democrats pulled a similar feat two years ago, going from a one-seat minority to the current majority.

“A swing as big as this is not something that is unprecedented,” said Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino. “That being said, I feel very confident that we’re going to maintain the majority.”

At least nine House races are considered competitive, with incumbent Democrats running for re-election. They include Rep. Mike McLachlan in Durango; Rep. Dianne Primavera in Broomfield; Rep. Tony Exum in Colorado Springs; Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp in Arvada; and Rep. Brittany Pettersen in Lakewood. Each was elected two years ago.

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Find Ivan Moreno on Twitter: https://twitter.com/IvanJourno

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