Clapp concedes, congratulates Newell in razor-thin Senate District 36 election

Republican Lauri Clapp conceded to Democrat Linda Newell Thursday morning after the final tally showed Newell with a 191-vote lead in the contest to represent state Senate District 36. The vote heads to an automatic recount because the margin falls within a statutory whisker — Newell leads by 0.36 percent out of more than 60,000 votes cast — but Clapp embraced the inevitable in a statement released by the Colorado Republican Party.

“While an election that is decided by less than 200 votes can at times be divisive,” Clapp said, “I extend my sincere congratulations to Linda, and wish her the very best.”

Newell and Clapp both caucused with their respective parties after the election, but Republican Senate leaders held off making committee assignments until after the District 36 race was decided. Democrats went ahead and treated Newell as the victor, assigning her to the Judiciary, Local Government and Energy, and Health and Human Services committees.

With Newell’s election official, Senate Democrats hold a majority of 21 seats to 14 in the upper chamber, an increase of one seat since the previous session.

Newell claimed victory on election night but the next morning withdrew it as the lead inched back and forth while the Arapahoe County clerk’s office sorted through absentee and provisional ballots, finally completing the count late Monday night. State law mandates a recount if the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent of the total vote, but Clapp said she doesn’t plan to contest the results. Clapp’s statement said she didn’t think it would be “in the interest of the public or the taxpayers to go through a lengthy or potentially divisive contested recount.”

The clerk’s office spent nearly two weeks examining provisional ballots — cast by voters whose names didn’t show up on poll books but who believed they were registered — with representatives from the Democratic and Republican parties and the parties’ attorneys weighing in to determine eligibility.

“I am convinced that the Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder, her staff, and the members of the bipartisan canvass board have done a good job in ensuring the accuracy and transparency of the election,” Clapp said.

The district includes parts of Centennial and Englewood in the south metro suburbs and has been represented by Republicans as long as local officials can remember. The incumbent state senator, Steve Ward, gave up the seat to run for Congress but lost in a primary to Secretary of State Mike Coffman, who easily won election to represent the 6th Congressional District.

Clapp has to be wondering whether her disappearance from the campaign trail in October cost enough votes to make the difference in so close an election.

On another note, Clapp’s gracious and timely concession serves as an example for at least one other Republican who lost a traditional GOP seat. That’s right, 15 days after losing her seat in a landslide, U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave still hasn’t concededor congratulated the winner, Democrat Betsy Markey.

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Ernest Luning

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