Hickenlooper finishes 1st

John Hickenlooper

Democrat John Hickenlooper ended up the clear winner in Tuesday’s race for Colorado governor even though he barely won 50 percent of the vote.

The Denver mayor pulled out the win because two conservatives in the race did just what some political observers predicted: They split the vote enough to give Hickenlooper the win.

As a result of the split, American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo came in second with 37 percent, while GOP candidate Dan Maes was a distant third with 11 percent of the vote. Had he not earned at least 10 percent, the Colorado Republican Party would have become a third party.

Hickenlooper said his first major task when taking office in January will be to deal with a projected $714 million budget shortfall, something outgoing Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter addressed earlier Tuesday in the last spending plan he’ll introduce as governor.

How the new governor would change that plan, if at all, is not yet known.

“The problems we face are too big for partisan politics,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “We’re facing a budget shortfall that threatens to hurt our schools and reduce opportunities for our kids to go to college. So tonight the political campaign is over, and the business of putting Colorado back to work begins.”

This year’s race for governor started out strangely and ended about the same way. It started last fall when Ritter was still planning to run for a second four-year term and the two major Republican candidates opposing him were from Grand Junction: former congressman Scott McInnis and state Sen. Josh Penry.

Penry soon thereafter dropped out of the race, and McInnis narrowly lost the August primary to Maes after a scandal broke that left the congressman admitting that a Glenwood Springs man he hired to do research on a series of water articles used 20-year-old writings without permission from its original author, who now sits on the Colorado Supreme Court.

As a result of Maes’ primary win, Tancredo entered the race, claiming that the Evergreen businessman didn’t have the wherewithal to defeat Hickenlooper, who was not challenged in his party after Ritter ended his re-election bid last December, citing the same reasons as Penry: family.

Despite all that, Hickenlooper led in the polls throughout the summer and fall, though Tancredo’s popularity began to surge as Maes’ support waned, primarily because he faced scandals of his own, including having to pay thousands of dollars in fines for repeated campaign finance violations.

Partly because of that comfortable margin in the polls, Hickenlooper was able to run a campaign free of negative ads, while Tancredo ran several attacking the Democrat and Republican in the race.

Maes never raised enough money to run television ads, negative or otherwise.

Hickenlooper and his lieutenant governor running mate Joe Garcia will be inaugurated on Jan. 11.


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