ARVADA, Colo. -- This state, where environmentalists and the extractive industries are so often at odds, has been a key battleground for the last few election cycles. And this suburb of Denver is a swing town in a swing county.
And if politicians were paying attention, they would find that voters here are not very happy at all.
Regardless of their political affiliation, it appears one thing most voters share, if they are following the campaigns at all, is disgust with the entire 2010 midterm election process.
Despite a cold front Monday night, several residents were willing to stop outside their local Safeway and talk about Colorado's political climate and how they are beleaguered by negative advertising this election season.
"I'm so fed up with the whole thing, so negative," said John Hyre, a 58-year-old who said he always votes Republican but won't this year. "It turned me off the process."
Hyre said he will be looking at candidates as individuals; however, he is the first to say that the spate of negative advertising is not making him feel good about any of the candidates.
For instance, Hyre points to a commercial on television where a woman talked about a convict getting approved for Viagra under the new health care program. The advertisement is being run against Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) and paid for by the American Action Network.
"Why did they have to go that deep? We've got worse things going on," Hyre said.
On Monday, KUSA-TV in Denver pulled the advertisement after determining that the claims made were false.
Arvada is in Jefferson County, which is considered one of three suburban swing counties around Denver where no single party has the advantage. There are six swing counties in the state, according to the Swing State Project.
In 2009, the U.S. Census estimated that more than half a million people lived in Jefferson County, making it the fourth most populous county in the state. And of the nearly 300,000 residents who voted in 2008, 53 percent voted for President Obama. In contrast, four years before, Jefferson County residents awarded 52 percent of the vote to George W. Bush.
This year the outcome in close state elections may rest on communities like Arvada, where voters' opinions are anything but unified.
Allen Schanot, an Arvada resident, sent in his ballot Saturday. The 59-year-old scientist labels himself an independent who chooses the best candidate to represent him regardless of party. He too said he is sickened by the spate of negative advertising, especially in the race between Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and Republican challenger Ken Buck, the Weld County district attorney.
"You watch the evening news and six consecutive negative ads attacking Buck or Bennet," Schanot said. "The negative advertising is totally ridiculous."
Worst of all, Schanot said, was the Supreme Court's decision to overturn legislation restricting election spending by corporations.
"The Supreme Court decision was just disastrous," Schanot said.
This year Schanot will be casting his vote for Bennet because he said he is displeased by Buck. He called the Republican "too over the top."
Schanot said that he is basically conservative in his views but thinks that some of the bailout packages like those for the auto industry were valuable. And he does not think the stimulus was a complete bust. While Schanot sees the good in both parties, he said he is disturbed by the herd mentality of the electorate and concerned that elected officials have forgotten that they work for the people.
As for which candidate Hyre is voting for in the Senate race, he said "it's a tossup." But he added that because he has been so turned off to politics he has not "gotten in to it that much. And I will," he promised.
Roger Fairchild, 66, stopped by Safeway to pick up pork chops to make for his young family's supper. The progressive Democrat said he is no Buck fan.
"It appalls me that people think so little they buy the lines of these extremist candidates. Ken Buck, for God's sake," he said. "All these guys wouldn't have come out of the woodwork. Probably Sarah Palin stirred them all up -- stirred the bottom of the barrel."
And Fairchild still believes in the president's vision for taking the country forward.
"I have not lost faith in Obama," he said.
"Just like everybody else, I hate the deficits," Fairchild continued. "I do not fault Obama for that, you can't move ahead without spending money." He also takes a longer view of the country's economic woes, pointing to the bailout beginning under President George W. Bush. "We probably would have had a financial crisis without it," he said.
As to his political party, "I am a progressive," Fairchild said. "I don't shirk from that label. I wish the Democrats wouldn't shirk from that. Of course, it's a conservative election."
Throughout the state, the topic of conversation in the election has been simply what Fairchild called "quote 'Obamacare,' the deficits and anger over government intrusion." He added that he has "never seen a rich Republican not take whatever money he can from the government."
Fairchild is genuinely perplexed by the anti-incumbent sentiment.
Meanwhile Don Gosbee, 58, an Arvada resident filled in his mail-in ballot Monday morning. As always, he is voting Republican and very much feels anti-incumbent and anti-Democrat.
As a small business owner, Gosbee said he is concerned about jobs and immigration but is especially vexed about all the things that affect small businesses, including the recently passed health care plan.
"I wasn't terribly thrilled with the Bush economics plan, but I'm very passionately unhappy with the Obama administration," Gosbee said.
Gosbee is voting a straight Republican ticket, he said "with one exception, a candidate who probably shouldn't have been put on the Republican ticket because he wasn't all that he had purported himself to be." That candidate is Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes, who has plummeted in the polls after being embroiled in scandals over his résumé and professional experience.
Hyre intends to vote but is still choosing his candidates. Already he knows that he will vote for Tom Tancredo, the former Republican congressman who is running for governor as the American Constitution Party candidate.
As for Schanot, when it came to his representative in Congress, he went with Republican Ryan Frazier instead of Perlmutter because the congressman's office did not handle a constituent issue that Schanot brought to his office.
Fairchild is concerned about Tuesday's outcome.
"I hope the bloodbath isn't as bad as it looks," Fairchild said.
In nearby Golden, the home of Coors beer and the seat of Jefferson County, the political landscape was a bit less determined and less aware.
Tony Halley, 20, a student at Red Rocks Community College, said he does not really care too much about politics and won't be voting next week. "I'm too young to care," he said. Halley added that he did vote as an independent in 2008.
Meanwhile Eric Buteyn, 28, a Democrat, said he has not really studied the issues and candidates yet but he will definitely vote by mail. Buteyn is thinking about traveling to Washington, D.C., for Saturday's Jon Stewart "Rally to Restore Sanity" and said he is fairly concerned about the political landscape this year.
"Hopefully Colorado can do its part to stay blue," he said.
Mary Jackson, 27, was sitting in a coffee shop on Washington Avenue. The 27-year-old confessed to not following this year's elections but added that she will probably vote -- and realizes that she needs to be better-informed.
"The older I get the more I realized I shouldn't just vote every four years," Jackson said.
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