Rather than devote this post to the entire state—and I will devote more time to Colorado over the coming weeks—I wanted to make note of one particular part that may prove important in November. The other night, amidst all the droning of commentators during the convention coverage, Chuck Todd pointed to Pueblo as the one city he will be looking to as key. I thought I’d take a look at its recent history and demographics.
Pueblo is unusual when compared to most other western cities in that it has a long industrial history, centered around steel production. Lizza quotes Jim Carpenter, Governor Bill Ritter’s Chief of Staff who calls Pueblo “a rare sort of Western city whose politics are closer to those of a Rust Belt state than to those of the Rockies. It’s an old traditional blue-collar type of place. There were ethnic politics in Pueblo, blue collar politics. It was like Milwaukee. There was the Hispanic part of town, and the Italian part of town, and the Eastern European part of town.” The interesting thing about Pueblo is that it’s not only so different from the rest of the state but that it seems to be on a different trajectory. Whereas other Colorado cities are diversifying and thriving in the areas of green energy, the tech sector, and tourism/hospitality, Pueblo appears somewhat rooted in a more anachronistic economy. Nonetheless, given that it is still home to a sizable population (slightly over 100,000) its vote could prove crucial.
Demographically, Pueblo County is about 57% white and 38% Hispanic. Unlike some Hispanic communities that are filled with recent immigrants, the Hispanic community in this region tends to be multi-generational in its residence. This rootedness is personified in Democratic Congressman John Salazar whose family has farmed in the area for decades (he is also the brother of the state’s junior Senator, Ken Salazar). Given its working class population, the Pueblo area has been solidly Democratic in recent elections. Pueblo County last voted Republican at the presidential level in 1972. However, in 2004, Bush did better in the county (46%) than any Republican nominee since Reagan in 1984 so there has been some tightening.