Battleground HD 52 stays in Democratic hands

Rep. John Kefalas gives a high-five to Larimer County Democratic Chair Adam Bowan before taking the stage to make his victory speech on Election night. (Photo/Jason Kosena)
Rep. John Kefalas gives a high-five to Larimer County Democratic Chair Adam Bowan before taking the stage to make his victory speech on Election night. (Photo/Jason Kosena)
After narrowly winning a first term to the state House in 2006, Democrat John Kefalas won a resounding victory over moderate Republican Bob McCluskey for the House District 52 seat in Fort Collins.

Kefalas won the seat Tuesday night by a landslide, winning 59 percent of the vote compared to McCluskey’s 41 percent. The men battled for the same seat in 2004, when McCluskey won by 500 votes, and sparred again in 2006, when it was Kefalas who ran to victory with 53 percent of the vote.

“To me, this is an affirmation of the good work I have done for the people of Fort Collins and Northern Colorado during the last two years in Legislature,” Kefalas said Tuesday night after learning his victory was imminent. “We knocked on many doors this year and hit the ground hard. I think the extra effort is paying off. I also think it’s proof you can run a 100 percent, issues-based campaign.”

HD 52 covers the eastern and northern part of Fort Collins and is in many ways symbolic of Colorado’s growing nature as a swing state. Unlike HD 53, the other state legislative district in Fort Collins that has been in Democratic hands for decades, HD 52 has a more moderate voting block, which translates into closer elections and more attention from outside political groups. Although the district’s total registration numbers have reduced significantly in recent years, HD 52 remains essentially one-third Republican, one-third Democratic and one-third unaffiliated, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Targeted by both parties this year, the race saw the influx of spending by so-called 527 groups that flooded the race withtens of thousands of dollars against McCluskey, a former representative who served two terms in the state House. McCluskey, who was not helped by outside independent groups this year, contributed $65,000 to his own campaign, or nearly 60 percent of his total financing, according to Secretary of State records. McCluskey did not return a phone call for comment Tuesday morning.

In addition to the outside spending that aided his election bid, Kefalas was able to outraise McCluskey throughout the election, bringing in nearly $100,000 throughout the cycle.

Kefalas, who worked to strengthen uranium mining regulations in Colorado — which helped stop a proposed mine in northern Colorado earlier this year — and to reduce the cost of textbooks for college students during his first legislative term in Denver, said his next term will focus on transportation and health-care policy.

“I am working to establish the Colorado Railroad Authority which will help bring a 21st century, multi-modal transportation system to Colorado,” Kefalas said Tuesday night. “I also will continue my work with the Governor’s Office to bring back the earned income tax credit here in Colorado.”

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