U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper overcame a rocky month to defeat Andrew Romanoff in a Democratic primary Tuesday night, setting the stage for a much hyped and closely watched November faceoff with Sen. Cory Gardner.
As of 9 p.m., Hickenlooper had 473,507 votes, or 60% of the total. Romanoff had accumulated 318,036 votes, or about 40%.
“Thank you, Colorado,” Hickenlooper told supporters online Tuesday night. “For years I ran brewpubs. I wandered into politics because I believed I could make a difference for people and I’ve never quit believing that.”
Speaking to Romanoff’s fan base, Hickenlooper said, “I need each and every one of you to bring the same passion and energy you brought to Andrew’s campaign for the fight ahead. It’s going to take all of us together to beat Cory Gardner.”
Hickenlooper had been the front-runner since he entered the race in August, following an unsuccessful presidential run. He dominated the fundraising contest, pulled in endorsements from top Democrats across the country, and consistently led in the polls during his 10-month primary campaign.
Tuesday’s victory is a win for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic establishment, which convinced a reluctant Hickenlooper to run for the Senate seat, believing him to be a safe bet to beat Gardner.
But Hickenlooper enters the four-month-long general election campaign bruised by a brutal June, which began with him defying a subpoena. He was then held in contempt by the Independent Ethics Commission, found in violation of ethics laws, and faced a constant stream of headlines about racial gaffes dating back years.
Romanoff, a former Colorado House speaker and Mental Health Colorado president, was the favorite of progressives and grassroots activists due to his support for the Green New Deal climate plan and Medicare for All.
“Please do not take tonight’s defeat as a setback,” Romanoff told his supporters in a concession speech. “This is on me, and I accept responsibility for the outcome. I wish we could have done more. I’m not sure what that would have been.”
Hickenlooper begins the next phase of the Senate race with an edge over Gardner, a freshman senator from Yuma, due to the state’s recent Democratic tilt and the unpopularity of President Donald Trump here. On Monday, Trump reiterated his support for Gardner, whom he rallied with in Colorado Springs earlier this year.
“Senator Cory Gardner from Colorado is a GREAT Senator who always fights for the people of his state. He protects your (2nd Amendment), loves our Vets and Military, and cares deeply about our BEAUTIFUL public lands,” Trump tweeted.
Voter turnout in the Democratic primary race Tuesday broke a state record for nonpresidential primaries. Theories for why include the coronavirus pandemic, the intense political atmosphere, and recent voter registration increases.
About 20 Democrats ran for U.S. Senate in the 2020 race, but many bowed out after Hickenlooper entered in August. Eight remained until the spring, when only the moderate Hickenlooper and the progressive Romanoff made their way onto the ballot. An eleventh-hour court challenge to add other candidates who blamed the coronavirus pandemic for signature-gathering difficulties was rejected.
The head-to-head bout between Hickenlooper and Romanoff started quietly, with Hickenlooper the presumptive leader, then tightened throughout June as Hickenlooper stumbled over ethics travails and racial gaffes. Still, the scant polling in the race showed Hickenlooper leading by large margins up to Election Day.
It was also in the final month that the race turned costly. Television ads worth more than $10 million saturated the airwaves, most of them either attacking Hickenlooper or defending him, and most of them funded by partisan groups outside Colorado. Hickenlooper kept his ads positive, and his allies criticized Romanoff for releasing an attack ad in the middle of the month.
“I’ve never lost an election in this state,” Hickenlooper said Tuesday night, looking ahead to the Nov. 3 contest, “and I don’t intend to lose this one.”
This content was originally published here.