Three days after polls closed in Colorado, Democrats have declared victory in what was the state’s closest race.
In swingy House District 27, which covers Arvada and slivers of Wheat Ridge and Golden, Democrat Brianna Titone led Republican Vicki Pyne by just 194 votes Friday afternoon, with more than 48,000 counted. Earlier on Thursday, the candidates were only 12 votes apart.
By Friday night, the lead swelled to 368, a big enough margin for the Democrats and Titone to confidently declare they’d won.
“I want to thank everyone that supported me through this challenging campaign,” Titone tweeted Saturday morning. Thank you so much to my constituents for believing in me to be your elected leader. I’m honored to be and looking forward to serving and making Colorado a better place for all.”
The state Democratic Party also issued a news release calling the race for Titone.
Titone, a geologist and software developer, is Colorado’s first openly transgender candidate for state office. She will be become the first openly transgender legislator in state history and one of the first in the country.
Pyne works for Court Appointed Special Advocates for vulnerable children, a nonprofit serving Jefferson and Gilpin counties. She entered the race after incumbent Republican Lang Sias dropped his re-election bid to run unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor alongside Walker Stapleton.
Titone’s platform includes improving teacher pay and expanding reproductive and civil rights. She supports Colorado transitioning 100 percent off of fossil fuels. Pyne’s website says she supports improving the state’s education and transportation systems and expanding access to mental health care. She didn’t fill out candidate questionnaires issued by The Colorado Independent and The Denver Post.
As of Saturday morning, Titone had 24,833 votes to Pyne’s 24,465.
For several days it seemed possible the race would head to a recount. But a recount would only be triggered if the difference between the number of votes cast for each candidate is less than or equal to one half of one percent of however many votes the leader in the race has, according to the secretary of state.
Even when Titone led by 194 votes, the margin was too large to trigger a recount, and with
a 368-vote lead now, she’s cleared the threshold by an even wider margin.
It’s a significant red-to-blue flip. The district leans Republican and elected Lang Sias by 13 points in 2016; it elected Lizzy Szabo, also a Republican, by 10 points in 2012 and by 15 points in 2014. The last Democrat to represent HD27 was Sara Gagliardi, who left office in 2008.
There was not a whole lot hinging on this race, in terms of the balance of power at the Capitol. Democrats have already secured control of both chambers of the legislature, so a Pyne win would be but a dent in that power, while Titone’s would slightly reinforce it.
Titone ran a relentless ground game throughout her campaign and says she and supporters knocked on at least 30,000 doors. She also had a considerable head start on Pyne, who didn’t even enter the race until mid-August, six weeks after Titone and Sias both ran unopposed in their respective primaries.
Much of the media attention Titone’s gotten this cycle has concerned her status as a transgender woman. Last month, Virginia state lawmaker Danica Roem — who last year became the first openly transgender person in U.S. history elected to a state legislature — lent her celebrity status to Titone and several other local candidates during a campaign visit to Colorado.
But Titone said voters rarely asked her questions about her identity. “Once or twice,” she said.
“Most people did not bring it up,” Titone added. “If they misgendered me, I corrected them. But most of the people really focused on the issues that were important to them. I only brought (gender identity) up to people when they said they were enthusiastic about LGBT rights and civil rights.”
Though her gender was not a major part of her platform, she said she hopes her candidacy will inspire other transgender candidates and cisgender voters alike.
“I set out to be the example and be the brave person to stand up as my identity, to show people across the country that people like me can hold an office like this, and we can have relationships with people that may not understand us,” she said. “The more people we can reach and dispel the myths and all of that smoke and mirrors, that’s going to be a service for all the people not only here in Colorado, but across the county, to live their authentic lives.”