Colorado Votes: The Final Say

Listen Now
6min 34sec

At separate parties last night, Colorado’s Republicans and Democrats celebrated their victories, and licked their wounds. The state’s Congressional delegation had a uniformly good night, with all seven incumbents easily winning re-election. CPR's Ben Markus and Megan Verlee round up the rest of the results.

[The following is a transcript of the report]

Reporter Megan Verlee: The mood at the Democratic Party’s party started festive and never stopped. Early in the evening, state chair Rick Palacio warned the crowd not to party too hard, too early.

Rick Palacio, Democratic State Chair: "Make sure you pace yourself: one drink, and one water."

Reporter: Many in the room were bracing themselves for a long night, with fears of disputed results and unsettled victories. But as the returns came in, the cheers rose more and more frequently. And much sooner than expected, Palacio was announcing...

Palacio: "Colorado, the Denver Post called Colorado for Barack Obama..." [cheers]

Reporter: Preliminary numbers put Obama ahead in the state by 3 percent, meaning he won not just Democrats, but the majority of Colorado’s unaffiliated voters too. A decisive victory was more than many here expected. Self-described political junkie Kevin Rush said he arrived at the party in a state of anxiety.

Kevin Rush: "I was bracing for a really bad night just cause I’m a liberal and that’s what we do. And so, I’m surprised and giddy and all that. (:12)

Reporter: With the president’s second term assured, supporters like Sofia Solano, Shannon Jackson, and Megan Alcott have a lot they want Mr Obama to work on.

Sofia Solano: "So I really hope to see the DREAM Act be passed.”

Shannon Jackson: “I’m hoping he will make college cheaper, definitely.”

Megan Alcott: “Obamacare, we hope that goes forward, and preventative care being covered.”

Reporter: But Governor John Hickenlooper has words of caution for Democrats too eager to see last night’s victories as a mandate.

Governor John Hickenlooper: "I mean, this was not a landslide in any state, right? It was very close, and I think that’s a message. We, as Democrats have to reach out to Republicans and unaffiliated voters and say, ‘we realize we didn’t run the table. We’ve got to hear your voice, we’ve got to involve you in decisions, we’ve got to find the appropriate compromises.'"

Reporter: Last night’s results also reshuffled the balance of power in the Colorado statehouse, in Democrats’ favor. In the Senate, they added another seat to their majority. In the House, Democrats re-took control by a comfortable margin Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino is now poised to become Colorado’s first openly gay house Speaker. He attributes his party’s big win to the legislature’s very public breakdown over civil unions at the end of last session.

Rep Mark Ferrandino: "I think that kind of set the tone for this election, was people’s upset and mistrust and not really feeling confident with the leadership we had in the House of Representatives."

Reporter: Also in Democrats’ favor, though, is the fact that they won the battle to redraw the state legislative map. Republicans accuse Democrats of favoring themselves in the reshaped districts. Ferrandino disagrees.

Ferrandino: "We had competitive maps. These are not maps that assure a Democratic majority for a decade. These are maps that make sure you have to compete and have the best ideas."

Reporter: The first ideas on the agenda next year, now that Democrats control both chambers, are likely to be a tuition reduction for undocumented immigrant students, and the creation civil unions.

Reporter Ben Markus: And I’m Ben Markus with the Republicans, who were watching the returns from a ballroom at Mile High Field. The same place President Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination four years ago. Last night, the mood in the room got tense when the news networks projected that Obama had won the swing state of Pennsylvania. About an hour later Mitt Romney’s fate was sealed when he lost Ohio. And the Republicans in the room knew it.

The frustrations that had been building all night boiled over with boos, groans, and this:

Man in crowd: Welcome to hell!

The crowd which had packed the cavernous ballroom quickly thinned. Some Republican candidates that won their races stuck around. Like Cory Gardner, who held onto his northeast Colorado congressional seat. He says the Obama campaign successfully attacked Romney’s record and business dealings early and often.

Gardner: I think this President ran a very splintering campaign, attacking the character of two very fine Americans.

Clearly upset, he says that’s nothing to be proud of.

Gardner: And I think the President ought to be ashamed of the way he carried forward this campaign.

Earlier in the night Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call had boasted that a strong ground game would push Romney over the edge.

After the results were announced he declined to comment to the media. But in his final remarks to the few people left in the ballroom he said Colorado Republicans made twice as many calls as 2008 and 4 times as many door knocks.

Call: And the Colorado Republican Party invested more resources and direct candidate support than we have in over a decade. And this election as Mitt Romney so well described, we left everything on the field.

Despite the investment, the GOP lost control of the State House.

Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty says he spoke with his Democratic counterpart Mark Ferrandino, who will likely become the next Speaker.

McNulty: I called him to congratulate him and we had a chance to visit, he was very gracious and we look forward to working with each other and we’ll move forward from there.

McNulty says the vaunted Obama get-out-the-vote machine was as formidable as advertised. And it had an impact beyond the presidential campaign.

McNulty: They are remarkably effective at moving all of those votes down ballot and they did it again this year, some people said they couldn’t do it, but they did, and that had an effect across all these races.

Mr. Obama captured 50-percent of the Colorado vote to Romney’s 48-percent. Denver resident Lisa Teore came down to watch the returns with her fellow Republicans. She was downright angry with the results.

Teore: What do people not see? I mean between Russia, Libya, the Keystone pipeline, the jobs, Obamacare, you just keep going. It’s mind boggling, it’s mind boggling.

Mind boggling or not, Obama has won a second term, and Colorado Democrats now control both chambers of the state legislature.