Democratic incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper narrowly won re-election after a race that was too close to call on Tuesday night. Hickenlooper faced off against former Congressman, Republican Bob Beauprez. It’s the second time Beauprez has lost the Governorship. Democratic Bill Ritter defeated him in 2006 by a much wider margin of double digits.
Many pundits were surprised at the intensity of the race, which was a nail biter until the end. The race wasn’t called by major news outlets until about 9:30am, more than twelve hours after polls closed.
“Most of all we want to thank Colorado,” said Hickenlooper. He went on to add that he was proud of running a positive campaign. “Now is not the time to be complacent, it is the moment to seize the bit and move forward. It’s that opportunity to come together as a state and seize this momentum that we have.”
It was the toughest challenge of Hickenlooper’s career in public office. He was easily elected to a first term as Governor. Prior to that, he spent eight years as the popular mayor of Denver. Merely months ago polls showed high favorability ratings for Hickenlooper and political observers expected him to easily skate to victory.
“He’s made some difficult decisions. With the death penalty and Nathan Dunlap,” said Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver). “He’s taken some courageous stands from personal belief system and I applaud him for that but it has been tough.”
During his tenure as Governor, Hickenlooper contended with tragedies such as the Aurora theater shooting, and the state’s most devastating wildfires and floods. But those issues didn’t define the race. It was marked by public safety, and the death penalty. Hickenlooper gave convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap a stay of execution, something Beauprez repeatedly criticized him for. Beauprez also highlighted the murder of Department of Corrections chief Tom Clements, who was gunned down by a parolee.
“My intention still is to raise the serious question about John Hickenlooper’s record on public safety,” said Beauprez during a recent debate. “I think that needs to be a Governor’s first responsibility--to protect and defend the safety of the citizens, on my watch that will absolutely be a priority.”
Others thought the stricter gun laws Democrats passed and the Governor signed into law played into the closeness of the race. Jason Krueger is an attorney and lives in Denver, but he grew up near Steamboat Springs and his family has a cattle ranch in Craig. He attended the Democratic watch party on election night.
“There’s a lot of gun owners out there, especially on the western slope. You know, it’s a second amendment right,” said Kreuger. “I respected what Hickenlooper did. I think it was the right thing to do. However I heard a lot of rumblings from my family and different parts of the state that this might cost him.”
Many saw the race more of a referendum on Hickenlooper rather than support for Beauprez. In the end, Hickenlooper bucked the GOP wave that took out many incumbents across the country, including Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Udall. Hickenlooper said the close victory wouldn’t change how he governs.
“I plan to try and bring people together collaboratively,” said Hickenlooper.
One issue surely to come up is the topic of oil and gas and fracking, something many in his party have criticized feeling he’s too closely tied to the energy industry. The Governor noted that many great people were not reelected into office, and any talented people were. He said no one party has a lock on all the answers and he looks forward to working with the state legislature.