- Former Gov. John Hickenlooper has defeated first-term GOP Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado’s US Senate race, per a projection by Decision Desk HQ.
- A former two-term mayor of Denver and the state’s governor from 2011 to 2019, Hickenlooper has a long track record in Colorado politics.
- Colorado – once a swing state – has become much more reliably Democratic at the federal and state levels since 2014.
- See the live coverage and full results from the US Senate elections.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Former Gov. John Hickenlooper has defeated GOP Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado’s US Senate race, according to a projection by Decision Desk HQ.
The upset marked the first seat of the evening to flip into Democratic control.
Colorado runs its elections almost entirely by mail, though in-person voting closed at 7:00 p.m. local time.
Gardner, who was elected to the Senate in 2014, was one of the most vulnerable incumbent GOP senators in this election because of the state’s Democratic shift and his strong alliance with President Donald Trump.
A former member of the Colorado House and the US House of Representatives, Gardner focused on energy policy and public lands â€” two key issues in Colorado â€” during his time in the Senate. Gardner voted in line with Trump 89% of the time since 2017, according to FiveThirtyEight. In 2019, the Lugar Centre at Georgetown University rated Gardner the third-most bipartisan member of the Senate.
Hickenlooper, who was the mayor of Denver from 2004 to 2010, served two terms as the state’s governor, from 2011 to 2019. He was elected as a statewide Democrat in 2010 and 2014 â€” two GOP-wave years â€” and was highly regarded as an effective, pragmatic governor.
Hickenlooper ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and announced his Senate campaign shortly after dropping out of that contest in August 2019.
He also faced some setbacks during his campaign. The state’s Independent Ethics Commission found him in contempt for defying a subpoena to appear before the panel. After he appeared to testify, the commission fined him for violating state ethics laws by accepting private flights and limousine trips as governor.
Yet he defeated Andrew Romanoff, his main opponent in the Democratic primary, by nearly 20 points. And now he’s unseated the Republican incumbent.
In addition to winning back the White House, regaining control of the Senate for the first time since 2015 was a top priority for Democrats.
Eight days before the election, the Senate confirmed Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, for the seat left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at age 87 from pancreatic cancer on September 18. Ginsburg’s death threw a stick of dynamite into an already supercharged election shaped by a deadly pandemic that has killed over 230,000 Americans.
Trump’s and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s posturing on the issue excited conservatives enthusiastic about the president getting to appoint a third justice in his first term but infuriated liberals who accused McConnell of hypocrisy after he refused to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, in 2016.
On September 21, Gardner said he would vote to confirm “a qualified nominee” to fill Ginsburg’s seat, spurring massive fundraising for Hickenlooper’s campaign and those of other prominent Democratic Senate candidates.
Since 2014, Colorado has rapidly transformed from a swing state to a much more reliably Democratic one at the federal and state levels.
A Democrat has carried Colorado in every presidential election since 2004; Hillary Clinton won the state by nearly 5 points in 2016. The state was rated as “likely Democratic” by The Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Centre for Politics and “solid Democratic” by Inside Elections.
Colorado’s shift toward Democrats and Hickenlooper’s track record of winning statewide elections as Democrat made this seat the most promising pick-up opportunity for Democrats and a must-win in the party’s quest to take back the Senate.
The money race
Hickenlooper raised $US39.8 million and spent $US35.7 million in the race compared with $US23.8 million raised and $US21.3 million spent for Gardner as of October 14, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Hickenlooper outraised Gardner nearly 3-to-1 in the third fundraising quarter, bringing in $US22.6 million compared with $US7.8 million for Gardner, Colorado Public Radio reported.
What the polling said
The latest polls found Hickenlooper leading Gardner by comfortable margins before Election Day.
The most recent poll, conducted by Morning Consult, found Hickenlooper ahead of Gardner by 8 points, 50% to 42%, among likely voters.
A poll conducted by RMG Research found Hickenlooper ahead by 9 points, 51% to 42%, among likely voters, while a survey from Colorado-based RBI Strategies and Research found Hickenlooper ahead by 14 points, 53% to 39%, among likely voters.
What experts said
According to FiveThirtyEight, Hickenlooper had an 85% chance of defeating Gardner. The former governor of Colorado was expected to receive 51% of the popular vote, enough to defeat Gardner and the third-party candidate in the race.
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