BY FREDA MIKLIN
When the final votes were counted last week, Governor-elect and former U.S. Rep. Jared Polis had bested former state treasurer Walker Stapleton by 10 percentage points statewide, out of 2.5 million votes cast. In Arapahoe County, where 271,140 voters participated in that race, the margin of victory for Polis was 17 percentage points.
Arapahoe County residents accounted for 70 percent of the ballots cast in the race for congressional district six that pitted incumbent Mike Coffman against U.S. Rep.-elect Jason Crow. Though Crow won the district by 11 points, he won in Arapahoe County by the same margin as did Polis over Stapleton, 17 points.
The results of the race for secretary of state reflected a similar pattern, with secretary of state-elect Jena Griswold beating incumbent Wayne Williams by a margin of eight percentage points statewide, compared to 15 points in Arapahoe County. The results in the state treasurer’s race, won by state Rep. Dave Young over real estate investor Brian Watson, followed the same blueprint. Most surprising to area residents was former CU law school dean state attorney general-elect Phil Weiser garnering 13 percentage points more than 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler in Arapahoe County. Weiser won statewide by only seven percentage points.
Final tallies in countywide races also confirmed preliminary results. Incumbents Democrats HD 3 Rep. Jeff Bridges, HD 41 Rep. Jovan Melton, and Arapahoe County District 4 Commissioner Nancy Jackson won their races handily. Republican incumbent HD 38 Rep. Sue Beckman held on by 374 votes to retain her office and much-loved Arapahoe County District 2 Commissioner Nancy Sharpe, who has held the offices of GV city councilor and mayor, in addition to two previous terms as commissioner, held on to her seat by 1.5 percentage points, after winning her two previous contests for the position by 23 points in 2010 and 22 points in 2014. Final results for other Republican incumbents contained no pleasant surprises for incumbents HD 37 Rep. Cole Wist, county sheriff Dave Walcher, assessor Marc Scott or clerk Matt Crane. All will be seeking new opportunities as HD 37 Rep.-elect Tom Sullivan, Arapahoe County Clerk-elect Joan Lopez, Arapahoe County Sheriff-elect Tyler Brown, and Arapahoe County Assessor-elect P.K. Kaiser prepare to move into their new offices.
In Cherry Hills Village, where all candidates for city council run at-large, the three incumbents in contested races ran as a team against three challengers who also ran as a team. The voters didn’t follow the candidates’ lead. Incumbent District 6 City Councilor Katy Brown was re-elected to a second (full) term, besting newcomer to politics public finance executive Zach Bishop. Former CHV city councilor Russell Stewart overcame incumbent mayor Laura Christman, who was seeking a third two-year term, while his Buell Mansion neighbor Afshin Safavi, also a political newcomer, unseated incumbent district 2 city councilor Mayor Pro-Tem Earl Hoellen, who sought a second four-year term. In something less than a landslide, Safavi’s margin over Hoellen was 59 votes, but as the Denver Broncos will attest, a win is a win.
Statewide constitutional amendments were generally viewed by Arapahoe County residents as they were by voters around the state. Though Amendment A lost decisively, one has to wonder about 77,509 people in Arapahoe County and 813,513 around the state who thought it was OK to retain involuntary servitude as a possible punishment for a crime. Amendment 73, which would have created significant differences in state income tax rates for residents who earn over $150,000, was strongly supported by local school superintendents. Voters rejected the huge change in tax policy by eight percentage points across the state, but only by four points in Arapahoe County. Likewise, Amendment 74 that would have required property owners to be compensated for any reduction in their property values caused by state laws or regulations, proved too squishy a proposition for voters across the state, losing by eight points. In Arapahoe County, voters viewed the proposition in a much more positive light, with a final tally of 49.6 percent in favor and 50.4 percent against. When it came to funding roads and transportation, voters in Arapahoe County sided with their partners around the state, sending a strong message to the legislature that they are going to have to figure out a solution to this problem themselves, as elected officials are expected to do everywhere. Voters balked at the idea of laying out financial breadcrumbs to mark a path for doing so.
Leaders of the major political parties in Colorado and Arapahoe County knew going into this election that voters in the county were registered 27 percent Republican, 33 percent Democrat and 38 percent unaffiliated. It was not a mystery where they needed to look for votes beyond their own base. Election results tell us that Arapahoe County unaffiliated voters swung left. Why that occurred is a matter for rampant speculation. It may have been the result of old-fashioned political tools like organization and money, supplies of which seemed to favor the Democrats. It may have been because newer voters in Arapahoe County are younger and more liberal. It may have been a sign that people are worried about the cost of health care and they perceive Democrats as being more empathetic to their cause. Of course, it could have been a reaction to President Trump’s immigration policies, since Aurora is the home of a large number of immigrants from Africa and Asia. That answer is left to party leaders to ponder and plan for as they prognosticate the 2020 election.
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