In a night of many Republican victories, none was sweeter for those at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center on Tuesday than the Senate win by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).
Yuma resident Gardner defeated incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) in a race that weekend polls showed was separated by two percentage points. Gardner’s margin of victory turned out to be about 4.8 percentage points as of 1:50 a.m. today.
During the Republican victory celebration, everyone was a resident of Yuma, or wanted to be.
“Is anyone here from Yuma?” asked Gardner, to the cheers of hundreds packed into the Hyatt on election night. While Fox News called the race for Gardner earlier in the evening, it wasn’t until after 10 p.m. that Udall made his concession speech, and Gardner was on the stage at the Hyatt a few minutes later.
“Tonight, we shook up the Senate,” he said. “… As Republicans in Colorado, we’ve gotten used to the saying, ‘Wait until the next election.’ It finally happened!”
Although the crowd at the Hyatt had thinned a little by the time Gardner hit the stage, supporters were boisterous and thrilled with what some said was the election’s biggest prize: a Republican senator, Colorado’s first since Sens. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Wayne Allard ended their tenure in 2005 and 2009, respectively.
Gardner — currently Colorado’s 4th District Congressman who has been listed as the 10th most conservative member of what is perhaps U.S> history’s most conservative House — will go to Washington as part of a Republican majority, with Republicans picking up at least seven Senate seats.
Gardner recounted that he began his run for the Senate in Boulder nine months ago and realized then the great challenge “we would face to get to this day. … We have signed up to be the tip of the spear, the vanguard of the movement that is sweeping our nation, and fundamentally change the dysfunction of Washington, D.C.”
In his speech, he reached out to those who didn’t vote for him, stating that the people of Colorado are neither red nor blue, but that they have a message for Washington politicians: “Get your job done, and get the heck out of the way.”
The two-term Congressman who worked for three years as an aide in Allard’s Senate office called Washington “out of step, out of touch and out of time.”
“Tonight, we commit to building a government we can be proud of,” he said.
Of his victory, he said, “It was not a message for Republicans nor against Democrats, but a warning to those who fail to courageously act on our nation’s challenges.”
Gardner got into the Senate race relatively late, entering it in February after several Republicans had declared their intentions months earlier. Once he announced, however, his Republican challengers dropped out and endorsed his candidacy.
Gardner was attacked early and often on his support for a federal personhood bill at the same time that a state ballot initiative on personhood — which he said he opposed — was also in play for voters in Colorado.
The ballot measure, Amendment 67, was overwhelmingly rejected by voters Tuesday, 64 percent to 36 percent. The margin of defeat for Amendment 67 indicates that while voters don’t like the personhood idea (and have rejected it in three successive elections), its presence on the ballot did not carry over into enough votes for Udall — who pressed hard on the “war against women” message against Gardner — to change the outcome.
The Gardner-Udall race was the most expensive Senate race in state history, with nearly $29 million raised between the two candidates. Udall won the fundraising battle, bringing in more than $18 million, according to the website Open Secrets. Gardner, the site shows, raised $10.6 million as of the end of October. Among the top 10 Senate races in 2014, based on fundraising, the Colorado race ranked sixth at $29.8 million (which includes funds raised for minor party or independent candidates).