Newell holds lead after provisionals counted, Clapp expected to concede

The long ballot count in the Senate District 26 race could be at an end, as a final count Tuesday night put Democrat Linda Newell 191 votes ahead of Republican Lauri Clapp, the Rocky Mountain News reported Wednesday afternoon. An automatic recount could commence as soon as Thursday, but a Republican official said it’s unlikely to change the results and suggested Clapp would concede to Newell “in the next day or so.”

Newell has held a slim lead — sometimes as little as 54 votes out of more than 60,000 cast — as Arapahoe County elections officials poured over as many as 4,000 provisional ballots in the two weeks since Election Day, but she withdrew her claim of victory over the elusive Clapp as the lead seesawed the day after the election. Both Clapp and Newell caucused with their parties as Republicans and Democrats organized the next legislative session, but incoming Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry last week held off making GOP committee assignments until the race is called.

Republican state Sen. Mike Kopp told the Rocky on Wednesday that Clapp’s concession is imminent, even if the results compel a recount — if the spread between candidates amounts to 0.5 percent of votes cast. As of 9:51 p.m. Tuesday night, the Arapahoe County Web site showed Newell with 50.18 percent vs. Clapp’s 49.82 percent, a 0.36 percent gap.

“You have to give credit to the Democrats for a very successful effort in that district in particular,” Kopp told the Rocky. “Our candidates faced a nearly overwhelming head wind.”

The heavily Republican district in the suburbs south of Denver has been represented by state Sen. Steve Ward, who gave up the seat to run for the GOP nomination for Congress in the 6th District. Ward lost that race to Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman, who easily won election.

Newell hadn’t yet claimed victory Wednesday afternoon but sounded a cautiously optimistic tone on her campaign Web site, asking supporters to “please join me in envisioning a smooth, fair and just result!”

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