DENVER — Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper won another four year term in a nail-biter midterm election that saw Democrats all around him and across the nation lose.
The Denver Post announcement came this morning as crucial county tallies piled up. It was a long night.
At 11:00 p.m., with the race essentially tied, Hickenlooper and Republican challenger Bob Beauprez, separated by only 1,320 votes, called it a night and told their supporters to go to bed. But vote counters stayed awake and three hours later reported that the governor had opened up a nearly 12,000 vote lead that would likely to continue to grow.
The latest results showed Hickenlooper with 873,790 and Beauprez with 862,488 votes.
Earlier in the night, as the clock ticked toward 10 p.m. at Union Station, Hickenlooper’s supporters were hopeful that the tide might turn in his favor.
“If anybody can pull from the independent voters, it will be Hickenlooper, based on his business background, his personality, his results — the fact that Colorado is the No. 1 state in job growth,” said Andrew McKay, who works in finance and said he largely breaks with his industry in supporting the Democratic incumbent.
Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia told the crowd that the campaign remained optimistic.
“We’re leading in several key countries, like JeffCo, Arapahoe, Larimer and Pueblo,” he said. “No candidate has ever won JeffCo, Arapahoe and Larimer and lost statewide — and we are leading in those counties.”
When Hickenlooper and Beauprez shut down their election parties, Hickenlooper’s at the renovated Union Station had begun to look more like a typical scene at a transit hub, with folks wrapping themselves in their coats, fighting sleep.
“I can’t believe I wore a necktie this whole night without a full conclusion,” Hickenlooper joked before thanking those gathered for their months, if not years, of support.
“Get a little sleep. I think I’m still going to be awake for a few more hours,” he said. “Thank you all, for everything you guys have done, for everything you stand for. You’re the reason why Colorado is by far the greatest state in America.”
Meanwhile, Beauprez was cloistered in his hotel room at the Denver Tech Center. His supporters gathered throughout the Hyatt Hotel showed a growing confidence that he ultimately will emerge as the next governor of Colorado. They were anxiously checking cell phones and tablets for results at the same time they were watching TV coverage.
Beauprez and his family took to the stage around 11:30 p.m. . He said he thought they’d be waiting for final results “into the wee hours of the morning” or even later today.
It wasn’t until very early this morning, as ballots were counted from Democratic-leaning counties, that Hickenlooper gained a lead of a few hundred and then several thousand votes.
Hickenlooper and Beauprez ran neck-and-neck during a campaign marked by controversial missteps by both candidates.
Speaking to The Colorado Independent before a campaign rally on the Auraria campus in Denver earlier in the day, Hickenlooper lamented the state of modern-day politics.
“This was the dirtiest campaign I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said of his battle with Beauprez. “It seems to be the way of politics today.”
Beauprez, a former 7th Congressional District congressman who lost his gubernatorial bid to Democrat Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter in 2006 by 17 points, gained ground quickly in this year’s race criticizing Hickenlooper’s decisions on capital punishment and gaffes he made explaining his decision on gun control bills to a group of sheriffs.
Hickenlooper came out in opposition to the death penalty, arguing that it was costly and an ineffective deterrent to crime. He said he would grant an indefinite stay of execution to Nathan Dunlap, who was convicted in the 1993 killings of four people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. He later told CNN that he would consider granting clemency to Dunlap if Beauprez won the election.
Hickenlooper also was caught on tape giving a clumsy, expletive-ridden apology to the sheriffs who are suing the state over the 2013 gun-control laws he signed after the Aurora theater shootings.
But he also was criticized for ads insinuating that Hickenlooper was soft on crime and at fault for the murder of Director of Corrections Tom Clements by a parolee released directly from solitary confinement onto the streets.
The burgeoning energy industry in Colorado also came into play.
Beauprez is a strong supporter of the oil and gas industry and expanded drilling in Colorado. Hickenlooper opposed anti-fracking efforts and eventually forged a compromise in early August that got all the fracking initiatives pulled from the ballots. Beauprez headlined a pro-coal rally and slammed Hickenlooper for what he called weak leadership.
Hickenlooper continued to emphasize that negative ads don’t enhance campaigns. He left the attacks up to outsiders — a strategy that left Beauprez’s highly conservative record largely undiscussed. Democrats ran ads criticizing Beauprez’s role in a failed community bank and his statements against abortion.
But the fact that Beauprez once postulated that citizens would line up like sheep to get microchips implanted in their brains, that President Barack Obama should be impeached, that maybe the secession of northern Colorado was a good idea or that Sharia law is creeping into the state and the nation never became major factors in the campaign.
Hickenlooper spent $5.1 million on his re-election bid, and Beauprez spent $2.4 million, including $844,000 in loans he made to his campaign, according to the most recent campaign spending reports.