Growth in southwest Weld County indicates that active Republican voters still outnumber the Democrats, and one analyst and an elected official don’t see that changing with the numbers continuing to shift in that part of the county.
“I think the long-term political ramifications of that is that a county that predominantly has been dominated politically in the Greeley metropolitan area, that’s going to shift and you see that now,” Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said. “Out of four state representatives in Weld County, only one (Democrat Dave Young) is out of Greeley now. That says it all. When I moved to Weld County (more than 25 years ago), the Democratic areas in the county were places like Erie, Firestone, Frederick, Dacono. Today, those are the fastest-growing Republican precincts.”
Six of the 10 fastest-growing municipalities in Colorado, based on growth from the 2000 and 2010 Census, are in Weld County. They are Firestone, Frederick, Johnstown, Severance, Erie and Lochbouie, meaning a good part of Weld’s immediate growth has been along the Interstate 25 corridor. In the tri-town, Frederick is estimating 3-4 percent growth per year, Dacono is looking at 3-5 percent, and Firestone says a conservative estimate for them is 3-5 percent growth.
Grant Nülle, a regional economist for the state’s demography office, said Weld County has continued to experience rapid growth over the last decade. The county’s most recent population count as of July 1, 2013, was at 269,785 — up from 252,837 in the 2010 Census.
“Both Larimer and Weld have diversified economies that have been growing pretty well relative to the rest of the state, and something that we’ve seen since the recession,” Nülle said. “Generally, the fastest counties are those in the Front Range. With Weld County, it’s particularly in the oil and gas sector where it’s seen so much growth.”
Former Colorado GOP chairman and Republican consultant Dick Wadhams doesn’t see more Democrats moving into the southwest Weld area.
“I don’t see it right now. I think there will still be a strong Republican advantage with that growth in southern Weld County,” Wadhams said. “It might not be as ideological Republican perhaps as you might find further north in the county, the longtime remnants. One thing for certain is that part of the county is going to continue to grow and it looks like it’s going to start overshadowing the city of Greeley more and more, I suppose that could change if Greeley has a spurt of growth, but at this moment it looks like southern Weld County is where the growth is going to be.”
According to the Weld County Clerk and Recorder’s office, among active voters there are 52,372 Republicans, 50,121 unaffiliated voters and 32,595 Democrats in Weld County. It’s becoming a reality that the unaffiliated voters are about to become the majority in Weld.
Dacono is the only town that has more active Democrats (629) than Republicans (592), but the unaffiliated voters still lead there with 797. In 2011, the unaffiliated voters in Dacono (467) were still in the majority over Republicans (428) and Democrats (375).
Mead has more than twice as many Republicans (1,048) as Democrats (450) in addition to 980 unaffiliated voters, while Firestone also has more Republicans (2,353) than unaffiliateds (2,206) and Democrats (1,515). The Republican Party in Mead grew by almost 250 voters, while the Democrats grew by only 120 voters since 2011. The unaffiliated voters in Mead grew from 624 in 2011 to its current number of 980.
Firestone had 1,054 Democrats, 1,705 Republicans and 1,401 unaffiliated voters in 2011.
“I think that many of these folks work in Denver, They live in the northern suburbs and southern Weld County and they’re still going to have basically conservative, fiscal tendencies,” Wadhams said. “Maybe they won’t be as conservative on social issues, but they’ll still be fiscal conservative that will lean voting Republican.”
Those working in the energy industry shouldn’t shift to Democrats, either, Wadhams said.
“Anybody associated with the energy industry is going to be prone to vote Republican,” Wadhams said.
Conway said the growth that’s occurring in the south part of Weld is young growth.
“If you talk to the state demographer, she’ll tell you that Weld County is attracting many new young transplants,” Conway said. “They’re 20 or early 30-somethings moving out of the Denver-metro area and moving north. They like the low tax environment, housing is more affordable. In the last 20 years, the communities that used to be Democratic areas — Erie, Firestone, Fort Lupton Frederick — are becoming more Republican. I think long term, this new growth is going to make Weld County even a stronger Republican county than it already is, and a more diverse county. The population center won’t be centered around one area, the Greeley-Evans area, It will be more dispersed around the county.”