Democratic leaders are praising a longtime pollster, whose groundbreaking research was instrumental in the Democrats’ historic 2004 takeover of the Colorado House and the party’s upper hand in the chamber ever since.

Pollster Andrew Myers, who’s battling cancer, was a key architect of data-driven campaign strategies that convinced voters in key state House districts, especially women, to vote for Democrats, according to people involved in the effort.

The result was not only the 2004 Democratic majority in the Colorado House but the launch of a string of wins that left Republicans in utter shock and made Colorado a national model for how Democrats can flip a red state.

“To say Andrew was instrumental to Colorado’s political transformation is an understatement,” said Alice Madden, who became Colorado House majority leader after the surprise 2004 election. “It is hard to convey the intensity of the 2004 campaign. Our small team of intrepid optimists spoke on the phone every single day (often more than once) for months and months. Not many believed in us; indeed, there were plenty who wanted to focus solely on winning the one seat needed to flip the Senate.  Frankly, it was soul-sucking at times. But Andrew’s clearly heartfelt presentations to our supporters always brought them back. When I would become doubtful myself, he would shore up my own faith, so we could continue the fight. 

“I had hopes and dreams of a progressive majority – Andrew’s polling in our underdog effort gave us the data, and the targeted messaging, we needed to make those dreams a reality.” 

“But well beyond polling numbers, Andrew’s instincts helped us hone our step-by-step campaign plan detailing how we could win a minimum of the five seats we needed.  His total commitment – right from the start – was key to building the monetary support we needed to run multiple, sophisticated campaigns across the state.”

Myers worked for top Democratic politicians nationally as well as the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and many other organizations.

He helped Colorado Democrats execute data-focused campaigns at a time when they weren’t the standard operating procedure they are today.

“Andrew’s insights and strategic skills were paramount to our getting the majority in 2004,” said Terrance Carroll, who was speaker of the Colorado House from 2009-2011. “He was one of the first people who really started doing micro-targeting and micro-messaging and things like that. And that was invaluable because instead of having a broad message for every Democratic seat, we were able to cater our messages to each particular House seat, thanks to Andrew’s work.”

Democrats say Myers is a big reason they retained power in the House after the watershed election of 2004.

“It only got more intense in 2006,” said Madden. “The Republicans were hellbent on winning back the legislature and we were no longer under the radar. Some of our team members changed but Andrew was there from the beginning. 

Democrats won a House Majority in 2006, again shocking Republicans, and have controlled the chamber consistently since then, with the exception of 2010, when a Tea Party wave, fueled by misinformation about Obamacare, put Republicans back in charge.

“Andrew is one of my favorite people on Earth (and not just because he has such a great name),” says Andrew Romanoff, who became House speaker for two terms after the Republicans were ousted in 2004. “Candid, insightful, funny–he’s a terrific ally, a good friend, and a huge part of our success.”

Myers on “Speed Dial”

Myers continued to advise top Democrats in the ensuing years, as Democratic victories became an expectation not a miracle.

“I would put Andrew as one of a handful of people who were really instrumental in thinking through, how do we message, how do we talk about things, to be able to connect to voters,” said Mark Ferrandino, who was speaker of the Colorado House from 2013 to 2015. “He’s strong-willed, opinionated, but also willing to go other ways when he didn’t get his way.

“If there was a question about the political ramifications of something, Andrew would be on the shortlist of people I would call to ask, given his detailed knowledge from all his Colorado research, what voters are going to think. And he would be one of those go-to people to ask and be a trusted adviser on those types of political conversations. He would always say, ‘You got to make your own calls on the policy,’ but he could always advise on the politics.

“He’s always someone I’d have on speed dial when we were trying to think through things.”

The Democrats’ focus on health care, as emphasized by Myers, left Republicans, such as then-state Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray), accusing Democrats of engaging in “gutter politics” for bringing up GOP votes against maternity care during an election.

Myers in 2010

Brophy has acknowledged the devastating impact of the strategy, saying in 2011 that when it comes to health care legislation, it’s “almost committing political suicide to vote against any of these touchy-feely mandates.”

Blue Power

Before the 2004 election, which also included Ken Salazar’s surprising victory over Pete Coors in Colorado’s U.S. Senate race, Colorado Democrats controlled the state House just twice during the previous four decades: once during President Johnson’s 1964 landslide and another after Watergate in 1974. Since 2004, Republicans took back the chamber for two years during the 2010 Tea Party wave.

Today, House Democrats hold their largest majority since 1959, and Democrats control all statewide governing bodies.

Myers set the table for the spread we see today, say Democrats.

“He laid the groundwork for the power Democrats hold in Colorado today,” said Carroll. “He is someone who doesn’t get enough credit for his role in this.”

Democrats like to talk about the laws they’ve been able to pass thanks to the elections Myers helped them win.

“Andrew’s legacy includes far more than November victories,” says Madden. “I think of all the good policy that stemmed from the 2004 election and beyond, the lives that were changed for the better, and we have Andrew Myers – my brother – to thank.”    

Carroll remembers how glad he was as a legislator to begin to “prioritize the budget in a way that put people first.”

“For me, in terms of the policy outcomes of it, we first started having conversations about real criminal justice reform, because we had the majority,” said Carroll. “We were able to do a much better job on policy related to social services. These are the things I care most about.”

Democrats talk about Myers, who’s a huge Grateful Dead fan, as a different kind of political consultant.

“Andrew is also one of the funniest, most down-to-earth people I’ve met in my life,” said Carroll. “He is who he is. He doesn’t try to put on airs. He isn’t pretentious. He’s just Andrew Myers.”

Graphic: Ballotpedia.org