Election 2006: Winners

With the 2006 election now one week behind us (unless you’re the Denver Election Commission, that is), it’s time to take a look back at the Winners and Losers of the political season.

I’ve left out some of the more obvious awards – there’s no need to discuss Bill Ritter and Bob Beauprez as winners and losers – and tried to take a more in-depth look at why some people and organizations came out ahead in 2006, and why others did not. Some people, such as Marilyn Musgrave and Doug Lamborn, fell into both categories (winners and losers).

With that in mind, click below the fold to see the 2006 Election Winners…

Local Democratic Strategists
From Mary Alice Mandarich and Joan Fitz-Gerald on the Senate side, to Alice Madden and Andrew Romanoff in the House, Democrats recruited strong challengers, kept incumbents organized and well-funded, and executed their campaign plans to near perfection. The Democrats didn’t lose a single incumbent in either the House or Senate and managed to pick up a handful of seats as well, despite a Republican effort that spent millions upon millions of dollars. Unless Democrats really screw up in the next two years, the Republicans will have virtually no chance of taking back control of even one chamber of the legislature in 2008.

Alan Salazar
Rep. Mark Udall’s chief of staff took a leave of absence to guide the campaign of Ed Perlmutter in what turned out to be probably the smoothest, most well-run campaign of the year. The race in CD-7 was considered for most of the last two years to be the number one congressional race in the country, and Republican Rick O’Donnell had a huge money advantage over Perlmutter while watching the Democrats duke it out in a tough primary. Will Salazar take the reins of a statewide campaign for Udall in 2008? He certainly proved his worth.

Ed Perlmutter
The CD-7 seat was created with Perlmutter in mind, and four years later he proved why. Perlmutter ran a solid campaign, thanks in part to O’Donnell’s bumblings, and ended up with a surprisingly strong 13-point victory. Perlmutter’s victory was so impressive, in fact, that Republicans are going to have a hard time finding a strong candidate willing to take him on in 2008.

Tom Tancredo
In what turned out to be a banner year for Democrats nationwide, Tancredo barely had to lift his head off the pillow to win re-election once again in CD-6. He probably would have beaten Democrat Bill Winter anyway, but Winter’s weak campaign meant that Tancredo (and National Republicans) didn’t have to exert resources to stave off defeat. Democrat Angie Paccione may have lost to Republican Marilyn Musgrave in CD-4, for example, but Musgrave (and national Republicans) had to spend millions of dollars to keep her seat.

Bernie Buescher
Republicans spent an unheard-of amount of money in their effort to unseat Buescher in HD-55, but Buescher still won by nearly 10 points. His victory in 2004 was considered somewhat of an anomaly in heavily-Republican Grand Juncion. Now he’s just considered a proven winner.

Mike Coffman
Coffman really, really wanted to run for governor this year, but he balked in early 2005 when Bob Beauprez kicked his ball over the fence and told him to go home. With John Suthers uninspiring performance as a candidate for attorney general and Sen. Wayne Allard’s potted-plant personality, Coffman may be the best thing the GOP has going in Colorado after all.

Marc Holtzman/ Bob Schaffer
Schaffer supported Beauprez from day one, and Holtzman never even made it to a primary, but the political careers of both men were nevertheless given a boost by what happened on Election Day. The destruction of Bob Beauprez’s campaign made Holtzman look like a better option in retrospect, and Schaffer sailed to an easy victory for state school board while putting himself in position to be a Republican Party leader. Now that the traditional Republican powerbrokers have lost badly in two straight elections, elephants will be looking for new leaders. Both Holtzman and Schaffer