Democrats dominate down-ballot statewide races

In a break with past patterns, voters put Democrats into the offices of the attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer

Attorney General candidate Phil Weiser

This story will be updated.

Democrats seized control of Colorado’s attorney general and secretary of state offices Tuesday as Phil Weiser claimed victory over Republican rival George Brauchler and Jena Griswold ousted Republican incumbent Wayne Williams.

In the treasurer’s race, Democrat David Young defeated Republican Brian Watson by 50.1 to 47.9 percentage points.

Colorado has a history of sending Democrats to the Governor’s Mansion but putting Republicans for the offices of attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer. Tuesday night was a clean sweep for Democrats, who now also have the governorship and the statehouse. Voters also ousted Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in a night in this purple state took a decidedly blue turn.

Weiser, a former University of Colorado Law School dean and former deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama administration, becomes the first Democratic AG since Ken Salazar, who served from 1999 to 2005.

The Republican Attorneys General Association spent $1.7 million supporting Brauchler, the elected prosecutor in Colorado’s 18th Judicial District and an outspoken proponent on the death penalty. That was the most money the prosecutors’ group had spent in any state, Ballotpedia reports.

Brauchler and Weiser have starkly different philosophies. Weiser has said he entered the race specifically to act as a check on President Donald Trump’s policies, including his order to separate immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. He has said Colorado could be a model for the nation on how to be an inclusive society.

The race was one of a half dozen toss-up attorney general races in the nation in an era when states are increasingly are challenging the federal government. During the first two years of Trump’s presidency, attorneys general working together have filed or joined 61 suits against the administration, challenging rules such as the EPA rollback of Clean Air Act regulations and child separations at the border, USA Today reports.

In the secretary of state’s race, Griswold, 34 – who worked as a voting rights attorney in the Obama administration – claimed victory, saying that through pure grit, Democrats had taken a seat they hadn’t won in 60 years, and broke a glass ceiling along the way. “I am proud to stand up here as Colorado’s first Democratic woman secretary of state.“

“I think it’s pretty clear, when you look at the results, that people made the decision to shift to the Democratic Party on a lot of these issues and in a lot of these races,” Williams said. “I think a lot of that has to do with the national mood, and a lot of it had to do with the tremendous fundraising advantage the Democratic Party had, mostly from out-of-state money.”

Her message, she said, “is the same as it was 16 months ago. It’s about every eligible person … it’s about them having their voice heard in our elections. And dark money is corroding our democracy and has to stop!”

Incumbent Secretary of State Williams conceded Tuesday about two and half hours after polls closed.

Williams campaigned on his record of making Colorado’s elections among the best-run in the country, and given the state’s consistently high national rankings in election security and voter access, Griswold’s path to victory was considered steep. Nonetheless, the upstart Democrat hoped that a national anti-Trump sentiment and a fresh set of ideas would help carry her over the finish line.

On Tuesday night, she said she would start by expanding automatic voter registration and stopping the flow of dark money into Colorado politics.

Related: Voter access and election security take center stage in Colorado’s secretary of state race

As of this writing at 12:15 a.m., Democrat Dave Young was leading Republican Brian Watson in the state treasurer’s race 50.1 percent to 47 percent.

Young is a term-limited state representative who worked as a public school teacher for over two decades, and has said he wanted to roll back austerity measures lawmakers passed during the 2018 legislative session. Watson, who founded a real estate investment company in Denver, wants to take those measures even further, upping the retirement age and flat-lining retirement benefits.

Also as of this writing, Democrat Lesley Smith was leading with 50.2 percentage points to Republican Ken Montera’s 45.3 percent for the at-large seat on the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents.

Smith is an aquatic scientist who filmed a campaign ad in a SCUBA suit. She’s been a researcher and educator at CU-Boulder for the past 29 years, during which time she’s waded into local politics in several ways, most notably serving eight years on the board of the Boulder Valley School District and for the past four years on the city of Boulder’s Water Resources Advisory Board.

The Colorado Independent is a statewide online news source operating in a time when spin is plentiful, but factual, fair and unflinching news in the public interest is all too rare. Our award-winning team of veteran investigative and explanatory reporters and news columnists aims to amplify the voices of Coloradans whose stories are unheard, shine light on the relationships between people, power and policy, and hold public officials to account. We strive to report the news with context, social conscience, and soul, and to give Coloradans the insight they need to promote conversation, understanding and progress in this square, swing state we call home.

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