Congressional incumbents easily win reelection

The Colorado Statesman

On a night when all eyes were on toss-up races across the state and nation, five of Colorado’s incumbent U.S. representatives quietly won reelection on Tuesday with decisive victories.

U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, Jared Polis, D-Boulder, Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, and Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, all claimed victory with little drama.

Freshman Congressman Tipton defeated state Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, 53.6 percent to 40.9 percent in the 3rd Congressional District. The two lawmakers — who previously served together in the state legislature — had engaged in a spirited contest, participated in several debates and leveled political punches throughout the election season.

But in the end, Tipton — the owner of a pottery shop who was elected in 2010 when he defeated Democrat John Salazar — triumphed over Pace, 179,745 votes to Pace’s 138,242. Unaffiliated candidate Tisha Casida garnered 3.1 percent with 10,538 votes, and Libertarian Gregory Gilman totaled 2.3 percent with 7,758 ballots cast.

Tipton took 16 of the counties in the sprawling Western Slope district, while Pace had only 13, including his own Pueblo County, which he won 52.3 percent to 42.4 percent. Tipton won his home county of Montezuma with 62.2 percent to 32.8 percent. He also crushed Pace in Republican-leaning Mesa County, 66.7 percent to 27.4 percent.

The race focused largely on economic issues, with both candidates alleging fiscal irresponsibility, inadequate tax policies and partisan gamesmanship. In his victory statement, Tipton said he is committed to finding solutions for the economy.

“In my second term I remain committed to working across the aisle towards common sense solutions to the problems facing the 3rd Congressional District,” he said. “We must jumpstart this economy and get Coloradans back to work.”

In his concession statement, Pace — who worked most of his life in the public sector — said he told Tipton that he must not forget the middle class as he moves forward.

“When I called Congressman Tipton Tuesday evening to congratulate him on his victory, I told him that the most important task now is to work together to solve the very real problems that face our country,” said Pace. “If we can’t get beyond the petty partisan bickering and gridlock then we’ll never be able to get Americans back to work, keep our commitment to preserve Medicare and Social Security, and strengthen the middle class.”

Bob Loevy, a long-time political science professor at Colorado College and a former member of last year’s Colorado Reapportionment Commission, said it is no surprise Republicans held the seat in CD 3. He said that while the district was designed to be a swing district, Democrats only win when there is a Democratic sweep, or when there are high-profile statewide races to ride. This year there were no such contests.

“With a strong incumbent… and virtually no coattails, naturally that was going to stay Republican…” opined Loevy.

2nd Congressional District

Polis defeated Republican challenger state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, in the 2nd Congressional District, 55.9 percent to 38.5 percent.

Republicans were more optimistic about the Democratic-leaning district this year after redistricting included about 43 percent of voters from Republican-leaning Larimer County. Voter registration showed a close split among voter — 34 percent Democrats, 32 percent Republicans and 34 percent unaffiliateds.

But as a social conservative who leans hard to the right, Lundberg had a difficult time convincing moderates. He acknowledged that, telling The Colorado Statesman, “It’s a tough district for liberty loving, small government advocates.”

In the end, Polis — a millionaire entrepreneur who was elected in 2008 — received 222,367 votes to 153,305. Libertarian Randy Luallin garnered 3.1 percent with 12,376 votes, and Green Party candidate Susan Hall totaled 2.3 percent with 9,346 ballots cast.

Polis won seven of the 10 counties that make up CD 2, including his own Boulder County, which he overwhelmingly won with 73.1 percent to 21.6 percent. For Lundberg to have stayed competitive, he needed to win Larimer County, but he lost with 46.5 percent to Polis’ 48 percent.

“I traveled frequently to all 10 counties in the district over the course of this campaign, and it didn’t matter if I was in Vail, Boulder or Fort Collins, I heard the same message,” Polis said in a statement. “Voters want leaders willing to put partisan agendas aside to move our country forward. I am looking forward to going back to Washington to do just that and begin the work of restoring fiscal integrity and keeping our economy growing by investing in our future.”

Lundberg, who will return to the state Legislature next year, said he was disappointed by the results.

“From my perspective, the people voted for more government, more control of their lives, and I think at the expense of our future generations,” he said.

4th Congressional District

Gardner claimed victory in the 4th Congressional District over Democratic state Senate President Brandon Shaffer of Longmont, with 58.5 percent to 36.7 percent.

U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner gives daughter, Alyson, a celebratory kiss after defeating state Rep. Sal Pace and winning a second term from CD 4. Wife Jaime and young son Thatcher, at left, share the stage at Mile High.
Photo by Jody hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Redistricting restructured the Eastern Plains district in such a way that 48 percent of the population is new to the district. But Gardner said that as he traveled, he found a common theme that helped propel him to victory.

U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner delivers remarks at the Colorado Republicans gathering on election night at Mile High. The CD 4 Republican easily defeated Democratic challenger Brandon Schafer in the newly configured congressional district. On stage with Gardner Tuesday night are members of his family, including wife Jaime and son Thatcher and daughter Alyson.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“We spent a lot of time in Douglas County and Elbert County, southern Colorado, the corner of Weld County that’s new, and it’s a district that represents true common sense conservative values, and that’s what we have been fighting for the past two years in Congress,” Gardner told reporters at a Colorado Republican Election Night party at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

In a statement, Gardner said he wants to put the election behind him to get to the work of Congress.

“It is time for us to come together, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans to tackle the many challenges facing our nation,” he stated. “We must grow the economy, put Coloradans back to work, and get control of our massive debt and deficit.”

Gardner — who served in the state House of Representatives before being elected to Congress in 2010 — won with 189,757 votes to 118,920. Libertarian Josh Gilliland received 3 percent with 9,776 votes, and American Constitution Party candidate Doug Aden earned 1.6 percent with 5,423 ballots cast.

Gardner trounced Shaffer in a county-by-county breakdown, winning 20 of the 22 counties that comprise CD 4. Shaffer only won his own Boulder County, 56.9 percent to 38.2 percent, and Las Animas County, 53.2 percent to 41.2 percent.

Shaffer — who will not return to the legislature next year — would not comment on the race when asked by The Colorado Statesman on Thursday. But in a statement he said: “I got into this race because I believe we need to put our partisan differences aside to serve the people of this country. We need to stop basing our vote on the letter behind the candidates’ names. We’re all in this together, and we need to get back to looking out for each other.”

5th Congressional District

Lamborn — who has held the Republican-leaning 5th Congressional District seat since 2007 — did not even face a Democratic challenger this year. He won with 65.2 percent of the vote and 191,198 ballots cast.

Unaffiliated candidate Dave Anderson garnered 17.3 percent with 50,876 votes, Libertarian Jim Pirtle earned 7.2 percent with 21,373 ballots, Green Party candidate Misha Luzov totaled 5.8 percent with 17,218 votes, and American Constitution Party candidate Kenneth Harvell received 4.2 percent and 12,324 ballots.

The race was so noncompetitive for Lamborn that he did not issue a victory statement. Instead, he spoke of the fate of the nation following President Barack Obama’s reelection.

“I wish President Obama well with our troubled economy,” stated Lamborn, who has undergone three sets of primaries during his congressional career. “I sincerely hope he will make an effort to work with Republicans in his second term. My Republican colleagues and I stand ready to work with him on reducing the deficit and getting spending under control. I believe those two things are absolutely essential to boosting our stagnant economy and creating jobs.”

“Republicans are looking for solutions, but not at the expense of compromising our bedrock principles on which we have been elected,” he concluded.

1st Congressional District

Another lackluster noncompetitive congressional race was in the Democratic-leaning 1st Congressional District where DeGette defeated Republican challenger Danny Stroud 68.1 percent to 27 percent.

Despite the beating, Stroud — the former chairman of the Denver Republican Party — said there were some positive takeaways for him, including the fact that he won Jefferson County, 53.1 percent to 41.9 percent. He said that while he knew he couldn’t defeat DeGette, he had still hoped to register some better numbers.

“Our goal from the very beginning was to change the paradigm and move the needle, but we weren’t able to do that, and so I’m disappointed in that regard,” he said.

DeGette mounted the votes, receiving 225,138 to 89,297. Libertarian Frank Atwood received 3.5 percent with 11,623 votes, and Green Party candidate Gary Swing totaled 1.3 percent with 4,422 votes.

Republicans had a bit of a better chance this year following redistricting, which gave CD 1 a few more registered Republicans by expanding slightly into neighboring Jefferson County. But the district still overwhelmingly leans Democrat, with 47 percent Democrat to 23 percent Republican.

DeGette — who has served the district since 1997 and has since become a chief deputy whip — said she is ready for another term.

“In my time in Congress, I have been proud to have fought for quality, affordable health care for all our families; led the charge on fulfilling the promise of ethical embryonic stem cell research; spearheaded major reforms to safeguard the food we serve our families; and been an unwavering advocate for women’s access to full reproductive health care,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to working side by side with the people of Colorado to face head-on the challenges that lie ahead, as we strive together to build a better state and a better nation for our families.”

Loevy, who was once DeGette’s political science professor at Colorado College and has closely watched her career, said the congresswoman’s only fear in CD 1 is that she might one day face a difficult primary. But he doubts that will happen anytime soon.

“She could have faced a minority threat, perhaps being dislodged by an African American, or a Hispanic candidate,” said Loevy. “But it doesn’t seem to be going that way in Denver. More and more minorities are moving to the suburbs out of the district… so even that threat has lessened.”

Peter@coloradostatesman.com