U.S. Senate and House Races

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The results of yesterday’s midterm elections are mixed. Some Democratic incumbents on Colorado’s congressional delegation were ousted by Republican challengers, while others held on to their seats. And Colorado’s hotly contested Senate race is too close to call. We’ll hear more about the results of the House races in a moment from Colorado Public Radio’s Zachary Barr. But first, we get a report from Colorado Public Radio’s Anna Panoka on the Senate contest between Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Ken Buck.


With vote totals hovering around 47, 48 percent for both candidates, the winner of Colorado’s Senate race was still unclear as election night parties stretched into the early morning hours. Shortly after midnight Ken Buck campaign consultant Walt Klein took the stage at the Republican election night party in the Denver Tech Center and sent supporters home.

Walt Klein: There are still a lot of votes out there – we estimate maybe 100K or more yet to be counted.

Klein said some county clerks shut down their vote counting operations for the night and it could take a day or two to announce the winner of the race.

Walt Klein: We haven't predicted to anyone that Ken was going to win this in a landslide. As you know all polls showed that the race was likely to be close. So we've planned for that, it's probably more of a shock to people who were hear tonight than it was to people in the campaign in the war room.

A few miles north, in downtown Denver, Michael Bennet’s campaign spokesman Trevor Kincaid told reporters the party was also shutting down for the night.

Trevor Kincaid: Things are close, things are very close, but we remain confident when every single vote is counted Michael will come out on top and return to the U.S. Senate on behalf of Colorado.

Michael Bennet was appointed last year after Democrat Ken Salazar became Interior Secretary, and Bennet is seeking a full term in the Senate. Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck won support early on from Republicans associating with the Tea Party movement. People like Carl Langner of Loveland and his wife Anne, who volunteered for Buck’s campaign because they were upset with a Congress controlled by Democrats.

Carl Langner: You know we wanted all this spending and all this takeover of the health care system stopped – and they voted for it anyway. So we're mostly angry with them. We like Buck, but we're probably more angry with the Democrats.

Groups hoping to unseat Democrats around the country targeted Colorado’s Senate race. And as one of the closet in the nation, it got a lot of attention from outside organizations who spent millions of dollars on advertising for and against the candidates. Coloradans of all political persuasions said they grew tired of the constant negative ads in the weeks leading up to the election. Democratic party volunteer Sandra Roberts of Denver says she’s also saddened by the tone of voters looking for someone to blame for the nation’s economic woes.

Sandra Roberts: I can't even give you a word to describe what we're into - it's like an abyss. People don't seem to understand Obama didn't put us there. He's trying to help us come out. He's supporting those people who he believes will help us come out of it.

An automatic recount of Colorado’s Senate race would be triggered if the final vote tally ends up within half of one percentage point. Early this morning the Buck and Bennet campaigns weren’t saying if they plan to request a recount if the difference is larger than that -- only that they’re eager for elections officials to count all ballots in this tight race. I’m Anna Panoka, Colorado Public Radio News.

And I’m Zachary Barr.

Another tight race is in Colorado 3rd congressional district, which sprawls across much of western and southern Colorado. Republican Scott Tipton’s says he’s beaten the incumbent, Democrat John Salazar. Last night in Grand Junction Tipton spoke to supporters shortly after the first news outlet called the race in his favor.

Scott Tipton: We will no longer accept irresponsible spending. We will no longer accept building bigger government; we need to be creating payrolls right here on our main streets, creating jobs here at home.

With a 99% of precincts counted, Tipton’s up by around 10,000 votes. John Salazar still thinks he’s got a chance though. He went to bed last night without giving a concession speech. Tara Trujillo is Salazar’s spokeswoman.

Tara Trujillo: We have almost 5,000 ballots that have to be counted in Pueblo, and we’re waiting for several counties to report.

While Salazar’s camp holds out hope, another conservative Democrat’s loss was clear cut. Betsy Markey represented the fourth district, which covers the eastern plains and the northern front range. And like John Salazar, she also voted for the health care reform bill.

Betsy Markey: This is where I end the discussion about whether the policy of the health care bill was worth the politics of it. It was! And I am uniquely qualified to know that.

Markey was voted out of office after just one term, and with the election of Cory Gardner, the GOP takes back a district they had controlled for 36 years.

Cory Gardner: We will work together to solve our countries greatest challenges. To insure we balance the budget. To reduce spending. And to be the hardest working member of Congress you have ever seen.

In Colorado’s one other competitive U.S. House race, the Democratic candidate held on.

Ed Perlmutter: We’re apparently buckin’ the tide that exists out there.

Ed Perlmutter beat his Republican challenger Ryan Frazier in the 7th CD. That district is mostly urban, made up of metro Denver suburbs like Lakewood and Aurora. Perlmutter told his fans his next term is going to be focused on job creation.

Ed Perlmutter: It’s gonna be jobs by either getting credit more accessible to small businesses so they can buy inventory and hire new people. It’s going to be about manufacturing things in the United States and not overseas.

Perlmutter went on to say he’d like to see the country’s roads rebuilt, and its telecommunication and energy infrastructure improved. But starting in January, those costly objectives face a much bumpier path. The U.S. House will be controlled by the GOP. And many of it’s newest members -- like Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner -- have promised to shrink government and reduce spending.

Zachary Barr, Colorado Pubic Radio News.