Mixed bag 

Democrats seize the state House and Senate -- in Bush country

click to enlarge Lifelong Republican Stern Feinberg enjoys a cold Coors - at a GOP bash at the Sheraton hotel off Circle Drive and - Interstate 25. Downing the liquid gold didnt aid - candidate Coors. - MICHAEL DE YOANNA
  • Michael de Yoanna
  • Lifelong Republican Stern Feinberg enjoys a cold Coors at a GOP bash at the Sheraton hotel off Circle Drive and Interstate 25. Downing the liquid gold didnt aid candidate Coors.

While Coloradans sent George W. Bush to the White House for a second term, the state's voters also made some Democratic turns.

Voters decided against beer magnate Pete Coors as the replacement for Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, opting instead for Democratic Attorney General Ken Salazar by a margin of 50 percent to 47 percent.

Salazar is the first Hispanic ever elected by Colorado to the U.S. Senate.

Salazar's brother, John Salazar, also netted Democrats an additional seat in Congress, representing the Western Slope and Pueblo's Congressional District 3.

In District 5, representing the Colorado Springs area, Rep. Joel Hefley, a longtime Republican, kept his seat, embarking on his 19th year in Washington, D.C. There are now five Colorado Republicans in Congress and four Democrats. Hefley trounced Democrat Fred Hardee, capturing 70 percent of the vote.

Perhaps the most surprising outcome -- and the biggest upset for the GOP -- was that, as of press time, Democrats appeared to capture for the first time in 40 years both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate.

Rep. Michael Merrifield, El Paso County's lone Democrat in the Legislature, staved off intense opposition by newcomer Republican Kent Lambert, retaining his seat with almost 55 percent of the vote for District 18.

Merrifield hoped the results would prompt a major shift away from right-wing politics.

"It depends on Gov. [Bill] Owens," he said. "If he'd show some statesmanship and move to the middle, he might be able to leave his office in two years with some pride and honor by working with the Democrats."

In another state race, Republican Peggy Littleton won 70 percent of Colorado's vote for State Board of Education District 5, handily beating independent Karen Teja.

"I think I'm going to be a clear winner," Littleton predicted at a lively and focused Republican TV-viewing party at the Sheraton Colorado Springs Hotel before election results came in Tuesday night.

Statewide results come with an asterisk. The secretary of state's office was not reporting who won Wednesday morning and will not officially post election results until Nov. 18. Instead, the state's major news organizations tallied votes county by county.

"We get up in the morning and read the paper just like you do," said secretary of state spokeswoman Lisa Doran. The secretary of state, Donetta Davidson, spent Election Day in Arizona with her brother, who was in a coma following a motorcycle accident.

Of the more than 350,000 registered voters in El Paso County, more than 236,000 cast ballots -- a 67 percent voter turnout.

Republican Douglas Bruce, who was cautiously optimistic at the Sheraton before results were announced, successfully grabbed the District 2 county commissioner seat with 58 percent of the vote. Bob Null, one of two write-in candidates, received up to 13.5 percent of the write-in votes tallied.

The Rural Transportation Authority, authorizing as much as $1 billion in new spending to improve traffic congestion, won with almost 55 percent of the vote. The Public Health Protection Initiative allowing the county's Department of Health and Environment to seek grant revenue above limits imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, passed by an almost identical margin.

The School District 11 bond passed with around 54 percent of the vote, allowing the district to incur almost $132 million in new debt to maintain schools. But the accompanying Mill Levy Limit Override that would allow the school district to pay off this new debt by raising property taxes, failed, leaving the district with the ability to raise money but not spend it.

Several statewide ballot initiatives passed, including Amendment 35, the tax on tobacco; Amendment 37, renewable energy requirements; and Referendum B, obsolete constitutional provisions. Statewide ballot initiative losers included Amendment 34, removing barriers to construction lawsuits; Amendment 36, dividing Colorado's national Electoral College votes; and Referendum A, allowing changes to the state personnel system.

As for Colorado's choice for president, John F. Kerry, who conceded the election on Wednesday, received 46 percent of the vote to Bush's 53 percent. Ralph Nader took around 1 percent.

-- Dan Wilcock and Michael de Yoanna


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