Colorado 4th District
The High Plains of eastern Colorado are dusty brown, gently rolling grasslands that seem flat but actually slope imperceptibly up toward the Rocky Mountains. The land is fertile, but dry. Rainfall is rare, the rivers are just a trickle most of the year, and in many places, groundwater is scarce. It is fine wheat country when irrigated, and one of the foremost beef-cattle regions. But it has been squeezed in recent decades by declining prices for wheat plus declining demand for beef and increased prices for water because of high demand in Denver and along the Front Range. Bitter confrontations have erupted over who gets access to the South Platte River, leading to limitations on pumping from the basin. Local farmers are now finding that the value of their water rights to metro Denver far exceeds what they could hope to gain by farming. Their neighbors condemn them for selling out and betraying a way of life that seems destined to decline. The prairie lands and small towns of the High Plains have small reminders of their past: the Pawnee National Grasslands, where antelope, coyotes, and prairie dogs still roam, and Burlington’s 1905 carousel, one of the few with the original paint. But the free market that once peopled the High Plains with farmers and ranchers and made it the scene of farm protests and revolts is now causing it to empty out and revert to untamed land, ready again for increasingly numerous buffalo, elk, deer and bighorn sheep.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 4th Congressional District of Colorado contains almost all of the High Plains plus the medium-sized and fast-growing developments around Greeley, Fort Collins and Loveland—the northern end of the densely populated Front Range, off Interstate 25 as it heads toward Cheyenne, Wyo. It includes all of fast-growing Larimer County east of the mountains and reaches into Boulder County to pick up the city of Longmont. Fort Collins became a center for California transplants seeking a different lifestyle at start-up telecommunications firms. It also is home to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab that conducts cutting-edge research to combat bioterrorism. To the east is Weld County, still mostly rural and more conservative in its politics. By heritage and usually by inclination, this was once reliably Republican territory, but it is getting friendlier to Democrats as liberal and independent-minded Denver residents migrate to northern Colorado for cheaper real estate. The district was evenly split in 1992, though it later gave solid margins to Bob Dole and George W. Bush. In 2008, Barack Obama won Larimer County with 54% of the vote, but McCain won the district, 50%-49%.