SD16, HD61 still up in the air as vote counting continues

The balance of power isn’t likely to change, but a few Colorado state legislative races are still up in the air nearly a week after last Tuesday’s midterm elections.

Jeanne Nicholson
In Senate District 16, where Democratic stalwart Dan Gibbs created a vacuum when he stepped down to run unopposed for Summit County commissioner, current Democratic Gilpin County Commissioner Jeanne Nicholson is clinging to about a 500-vote lead over Republican and Tea Party favorite Tim Leonard, a Colorado founder of the American Constitution Party.

Nicholson, a former county health nurse, says she doesn’t expect the SD16 race to be resolved for more than a week.

“What we know so far is that I am ahead with 537 more votes than my opponent, according to the clerk and recorder websites for all six of the counties [in the mountainous Front Range district]. What we don’t know is the full count for the provisional ballots and the mail-in ballots, military ballots, etc,” Nicholson said over the weekend.

The Boulder Daily Camera reported those numbers actually tightened over the weekend, but not enough to trigger an automatic recount. The paper reported a batch of uncounted Jefferson County ballots shrank Nicholson’s lead to just 452 votes, or 30,101 for Nicholson and 29,649 for Leonard.

“So we feel like we will not want to claim victory until we have that final result in out of respect for all of the people who voted in the election in Senate District 16, either for myself or my opponent and that we won’t know those final results and have an official announcement from the clerk and recorders’ offices and the Secretary of State until Nov. 19,” Nicholson told the Colorado Independent. “Of course, I’ll be delighted to represent all the citizens in the district if that is the wish of the voters.”

The results will not change the Democratic majority in the state Senate, where if Nicholson wins it will be a 20-15 edge. If Leonard somehow pulls it out, that margin will be a slightly tighter 19-16 majority.

In one key state House race, HD61, things are little more complicated, with write-in independent incumbent Kathleen Curry winning a court ruling Friday mandating that Colorado of Secretary of State Bernie Buescher must count ballots where voters wrote in Curry’s name but did not fill out a box or oval next to her name. Buescher had ruled those ballots would not count, and Curry sued. Now Buescher has until Wednesday to appeal.

Again, the balance of power is not expected to shift. After Tuesday, Republicans held a slim 33-32 majority in the House. A win by Curry over Democrat Roger Wilson would make that a 33-31-1 split in favor of the Republicans.

According to the website Real Aspen, Wilson was leading on Saturday with 9,496 votes to 9,001 for Curry, a difference of 495 votes. Real Aspen reported 29,390 ballots had been cast and only 27,389 had been counted.

“It is possible Curry may have received the greatest number of votes in the HD 61 race. Refusing to count these votes would thwart the clear intention of the electorate, as well as the intent of the election code,” Judge John W. Madden wrote in his decision on Friday.

“We hope the county clerks are allowed to do their job soon, and begin the count,” Curry told Real Aspen on Saturday. “The state could still delay this decision if they choose to fight against voter intent and appeal this ruling.”

Buescher originally ruled Curry, a three-term Democrat, switched to independent too late to have her name appear on the ballot, forcing her to run as a write-in. No write-in has ever won a state House seat, according to several sources, leaving Curry with a daunting uphill task. Her showing in Tuesday’s election has been surprising strong even give her name recognition.

Harvie Branscomb, Democratic chairman for House District 61, told the Denver Post on Sunday that all the ballots in the race should be recounted by hand, not just the 2,000 or so under votes for Curry that were thrown out because of Buescher’s ruling.

“I’m quite … opposed to partially recounting the contest,” Branscomb told the Post. “I really don’t think it’s fair for the court to say that the vote count can only go up for Kathleen Curry but it can’t go up for any other candidate.”

Colorado Democratic Party chairwoman Pat Waak told the paper she hasn’t yet decided whether to lobby Buescher to appeal the judge’s ruling.

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