It was one of the few major races across the country on Tuesday. Republicans are also voting in the primaries on two major House battlegrounds, and former Utah Gov. John Huntsman is in a primary battle to get his old job back.
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Scott Tipton is about to lose the nomination for his position at the Western Colorado House in a shocking surprise. Lauren Boebert, a restaurant owner who advertises the fact that her service personnel open firearms, drove Tipton by 9 percentage points as of 11 pm EST.
But the Colorado Senate race was the most important race Tuesday because the state is essential to the Democrats’ path to the Senate majority. Hickenlooper entered the race last summer after his brief presidential nomination, and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee backed him immediately along with a handful of candidates who dropped out of the race to endorse Hickenlooper.
Hickenlooper was the prohibitive favorite for months, building on his successes in his two terms as governor and his universally identifiable name and positive image among state voters. But he had stumbled in the final stretch of the race, apologizing for racially callous comments and scorned by the state’s Independent Ethics Commission, which ruled that he had twice violated the state’s ethics laws as governor.
Those problems gave Romanoff a chance, and Republicans seized the opportunity to attack Hickenlooper, issuing negative announcements about him in the past two weeks. But Democrats from across the ideological spectrum, both nationally and locally, rallied around the former governor.
Romanoff, who has run on a liberal platform, argued that Hickenlooper’s moderate stances are not up to date and has said the ethics ruling shows that the former governor would put the seat in jeopardy. But many Democrats in the state argued that Hickenlooper was still the best candidate to face Gardner this fall.
Hickenlooper, in a statement released on Facebook after the race was called, tied Gardner to President Donald Trump and called for unity among Democrats for the fall.
“I have never lost an election in this state, and I do not intend to lose this one. There is too much at stake,” said Hickenlooper. “But this fight will not be easy. Donald Trump, the Republicans and their dark money groups are going to keep throwing away everything they have. Everything they have is going to be thrown at us because they may not defend Cory Gardner’s record.”
Romanoff granted the race to Hickenlooper and offered quick support, saying he called on the former governor to “pledge my full support for his career against Cory Gardner” and encouraged his followers to do the same.
Gardner ran unopposed in his primaries and begins the general election with a sizeable cash advantage over Hickenlooper. In a memorandum outlining his campaign view on the general election, Gardner’s general counsel Chris Hansen argued that Hickenlooper emerged “bruised and battered” from the primary.
“We have now seen enough to know that the 2020 version of the Hickenlooper Candidate is tired, unfocused and uninspiring,” said Hansen. “Cory Gardner, on the other hand, is an energetic, world-class activist who knows how to win a tough fight.”
Also on the ballot Tuesday, Huntsman is facing voters for the first time since he won reelection as governor in 2008, before leaving to become then-President Barack Obama’s ambassador to China and later as President Donald Trump’s ambassador. in Russia. He runs against Lt. Governor Spencer Cox and several other candidates, and the race has been competitive, despite Huntsman’s previous success in the state.
House Republicans will also reduce crowded fields into two main battlefield districts in Utah and Oklahoma.
Nine contenders compete to take on Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn, who caught the cycle mess two years ago when she ousted Republican Rep. Steve Russell in an Oklahoma City-based seat that backed Trump by 14 points.
That race is almost certain to head for a second lap on August 25. Former nominee Lieutenant Governor Terry Neese landed a spot Tuesday night, but the run for second place was too close.
On a Salt Lake City battlefield, four Republicans are vying for the opportunity to overthrow Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams. The main candidates are former NFL player Burgess Owens and state representative Kim Coleman, who has the backing of the political arm of the House Freedom Fund.
Voters in the district strongly favor Republicans, but Trump is not popular there. He won it by 7 points in 2016 after Mitt Romney led him by 37 points four years earlier.