5 takeaways from Colorado’s 2020 primary election
Tuesday’s statewide primary elections boasted record-high turnout and a short list of interesting contests in both parties. Here are hot takes on the results from members of The Denver Post’s politics team:
The unexpected marquee race
Colorado’s marquee matchup, watched closely in Washington, D.C., as well as here, was supposed to be the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. But when the dust had cleared, it was a congressional election in western Colorado that proved most fascinating.
Newcomer Lauren Boebert’s defeat of five-term U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in the 3rd Congressional District’s Republican primary shocked most political observers — along with Tipton, who skipped some candidate forums and didn’t campaign like an incumbent at risk.
Boebert owns a Rifle restaurant called Shooters Grill and gained prominence as a vocal advocate for Second Amendment rights. She portrayed Tipton, a solid conservative who backs President Donald Trump, as insufficient on both counts. She vowed to be a fighter, to do battle with liberals “for the heart and soul of our country.”
That passionate line of attack — painting Tipton as part of the establishment — worked with Republicans and unaffiliated voters who cast ballots. Now Boebert will face Diane Mitsch Bush, a Democratic former lawmaker who lost to Tipton in 2018.
The 3rd District could be close
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent several election cycles hoping there was a candidate who would make the 3rd District competitive. They finally found one, she just happens to be a Republican.
Immediately after Boebert’s win Tuesday night, Crystal Ball moved the race from the Likely Republican column to Leans Republican. Tipton won by 8 points in the general in 2018, and conventional wisdom says it will be closer with a nonincumbent running.
The DCCC wasted no time criticizing Boebert, and you can expect it to spend significant amounts of money to boost Mitsch Bush between now and November.
More Coloradans are voting in primaries
More than 1.4 million ballots were cast this month, an impressive 40%-plus turnout rate, according to the Secretary of State’s Office website. That’s about 300,000 more ballots than in the gubernatorial primary just two years ago, and it’s a new record for nonpresidential primaries in Colorado.
There’s no clear answer for why that is, but there is plenty of speculation out there, as our colleague John Aguilar wrote about Tuesday afternoon.
Despite that large number of votes cast, the counting process seemed to go smoothly — and quickly — Tuesday. That’s important at a time when mail ballots, the pride of Colorado’s electoral system, are under attack by some top Republicans.
Hick still has that election magic
John Hickenlooper was expected to win Tuesday. He was, perhaps, not expected to win 63 of Colorado’s 64 counties in the process.
Take liberal Boulder County, for example. Hickenlooper beat the progressive Andrew Romanoff by 6 percentage points, or nearly 4,000 votes, there. When Romanoff faced Michael Bennet, who’s ideologically similar to Hickenlooper, in 2010, Romanoff won Boulder County.
Or take Denver, another progressive hot spot. Romanoff won Denver in 2010 by 6 percentage points but lost it Tuesday by nearly 10.
It’s clear that despite a number of primary hiccups, Hickenlooper, who pointed out again Tuesday that he has never lost an election in Colorado, remains popular with the rank and file.
RMGO-backed candidates take a hit
The common denominator among a number of the Republicans who appeared headed to statehouse primary losses Tuesday was the support and financial backing of far-right groups such as Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and Republicans with ties to those groups.
That doesn’t bode well for House GOP Minority Leader Patrick Neville, who is closely affiliated with RMGO. The primary election results give traction to the threatened challenge for his leadership post from a faction of the GOP that thinks Republican lawmakers should have more leeway to represent their sometimes more moderate districts.
Candidates like incumbent Rep. Colin Larson of Littleton, who won his contested primary Tuesday, reject suggestions that they’re not conservative enough. And as Larson noted, primary voters agreed with him.
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