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Democrat Donald Valdez drops congressional bid, attempt to unseat Tipton in 3rd U.S. House district

Democrat Donald Valdez has ended his bid to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, opting instead to seek a third term in the state legislature. 

Valdez, of La Jara, announced his congressional campaign over the summer and was only able to raise about $25,000. He faced three others in the Democratic primary to face Tipton in 2020. 

Valdez said he was leaving the race because of threats to the aquifer in the San Luis Valley, a broad swath of which he represents. 

Sean Tonner, deputy chief of staff to former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, wants to drill a series of wells on his recently acquired Rancho Rosado and pipe 22,000 acre-feet of water a year around the Sangre de Cristos to the Front Range. (Owens is a principal at Tonner’s company, Renewable Water Resources.)

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Hickenlooper’s Colorado Senate bid ends another Democrat’s campaign

DENVER — John Hickenlooper’s Colorado Senate run has pushed another Democrat out of the party’s crowded primary.

Former U.S. Attorney John Walsh announced Wednesday he was suspending his campaign for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. Walsh endorsed Hickenlooper as the most electable Democrat in the field.

Hickenlooper is a former two-term Colorado governor who shrugged off Democratic pleas to challenge Gardner for a brief presidential bid. Last month he ended his White House ambitions and belatedly entered the Senate race. A dozen Democrats had already gotten in before Hickenlooper announced.

Walsh’s departure follows that of former State Sen. Mike Johnston, who dropped out last week because he didn’t want to attack Hickenlooper.

Gardner is considered the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the country.

Ex-Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says he’s running for Senate

DENVER — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday that he will run for the U.S. Senate, becoming the immediate front-runner in a crowded Democratic field vying for the right to challenge Republican incumbent Cory Gardner.

He made his announcement via a video message in which he blasted Washington lawmakers over soaring prescription drug prices, the failure to act on climate change and the use of public lands by developers.

“I know changing Washington is hard, but I want to give it a shot,” he says. “I’m not done fighting for the people of Colorado.”

Hickenlooper last year brushed off entreaties from Washington Democrats to challenge Gardner, widely seen as the most vulnerable Republican senator in the country. Instead he mounted a longshot presidential campaign that collapsed before it ended in mid-August. Many Colorado Democratic and Republican strategists began to view a Hickenlooper entry into the Senate race as inevitable at that point.

Hickenlooper, an oil geologist turned brewpub owner who decided to run for Denver mayor in 2003 and won two gubernatorial elections, has loomed over Colorado politics for two decades. But his moderate, consensus-oriented approach may not be as good a fit in a state shifting to the left. Numerous Democrats — all younger than the 67-year-old former governor — announced their challenges to Gardner after Hickenlooper shifted his sights to the White House, and none has indicated he or she would step aside now. Indeed, one, state Sen. Angela Williams, warned “this won’t be a coronation.”

Some of the candidates raised almost as much campaign money as Hickenlooper did in his brief presidential bid. But national Democrats have been nervous that a messy and expensive primary would lead to a damaged challenger facing Gardner, widely acknowledged as a skilled politician and fundraiser. Though he will have to fight for the nomination, Hickenlooper is widely viewed as the front-runner because of his high name identification in the state and good standing among its Democrats.

Though Hickenlooper initially strongly rejected the idea of running for the Senate, saying he wasn’t cut out for the job, he reined in his denials as his presidential campaign stumbled. Hickenlooper kept conversations open with the top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer, who continued to press him to run. Democratic groups commissioned polls to convince him that he’d be the favorite, and a group that advocates for scientific-minded members of Congress started a draft Hickenlooper campaign.

Hickenlooper was not very involved in the details of legislative horse-trading during his eight years as governor and is known to yearn for an executive role. But, given the record of his presidential run, the Senate race seemed like his best path to Washington. Republicans hope that the governor damaged his reputation with his presidential bid and that the Democratic Party’s generational struggles will wound him further in the primary.

John Hickenlooper drops out of 2020 presidential race

DENVER — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday ended his longshot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and said he may instead challenge one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans in 2020.

In a video message, Hickenlooper said he had heard from many in his state urging him to enter the Senate race.

“They remind me how much is at stake for our country. And our state,” he said. “I intend to give that some serious thought.”

Colorado’s shift to the left could put Sen. Cory Gardner’s seat in jeopardy for Republicans, and at least 10 Democrats have launched campaigns, setting up a competitive primary even before Hickenlooper, 67, makes a decision.

Hickenlooper became a leading figure in Colorado with his quirky, consensus-driven and unscripted approach to politics. He once jumped out of a plane to promote a ballot measure to increase state spending, and he won two statewide elections during years of Republican waves. He also was Denver’s mayor.

He began his White House campaign in March, promising to unite the country. Instead, he quickly became a political punch line.

Founding a series of brewpubs made Hickenlooper a multimillionaire. But shortly before taking his first trip to Iowa as a presidential candidate, he balked on national television at calling himself a capitalist. Then, at a CNN town hall, he recounted how he once took his mother to see a pornographic movie.

With the campaign struggling to raise money, his staff urged Hickenlooper to instead challenge Gardner. But Hickenlooper stayed in and hired another group of aides in a last-ditch effort to turn around his campaign.

He positioned himself as a common-sense candidate who couldn’t be labeled a “socialist” by Republicans. But Hickenlooper couldn’t make his voice heard in the crowded Democratic field of about two dozen candidates.

It didn’t help that, by Hickenlooper’s own admission, he was a mediocre debater and an erratic public speaker. In the end, he could not scrape together enough money for many of his trademark quirky ads, only launching one in which avid beer drinkers toast Hickenlooper by comparing him to favorite brews. He became the second Democrat to end a presidential bid after Rep. Eric Swalwell pulled out of the primary last month.

“While this campaign didn’t have the outcome we were hoping for, every moment has been worthwhile,” Hickenlooper tweeted on Thursday.

Republicans seized on the meltdown of Hickenlooper’s campaign as evidence the Democratic Party has become too radical. “A two-term governor of a swing state and #2020 presidential #Democrat candidate who was booed for warning against his party’s embrace of socialist policies has been forced out of the race,” tweeted Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump aide.

But Hickenlooper’s own supporters attributed his failure partly to the persistence of former Vice President Joe Biden’s strong position in the Democratic primary field. Hickenlooper launched his presidential bid presuming that the 76-year-old Biden would stumble, and the electorate would be hungry for another centrist with a track record of winning white moderates. But Biden remains in the lead in primary polls.

Hickenlooper softened his denials of interest in the Senate in recent weeks as his campaign finances dwindled and pressure increased from other Democrats. He met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who had urged Hickenlooper last year to challenge Gardner, shortly after a disappointing performance during the second Democratic debate in July. A former Hickenlooper strategist registered internet domains like “Hick4Senate.com” in the hopes of persuading him to run.

Hickenlooper also recently met with Colorado’s Democratic secretary of state, Jena Griswold, who was mulling a run against Gardner. Griswold last week announced she would not challenge Gardner. That decision led to widespread speculation among Colorado Democrats that Hickenlooper will eventually run. He has plenty of time to make up his mind — the primary is not until June 2020, and the former governor enjoys wide name recognition.

If he entered the Democratic primary, Hickenlooper would be “the absolute favorite,” said Mike Stratton, a veteran Democratic strategist in Denver.

Hickenlooper would also be the oldest candidate in the Senate race, competing against politicians whose recent fundraising hauls have matched or exceeded the $1 million that Hickenlooper raised for his presidential bid in the second quarter of the year.

Some of the Democrats in the Senate primary already began taking shots at Hickenlooper on Thursday.

“He spent his time in Iowa running for president and as governor working and campaigning against bold, progressive solutions that will move Colorado and the country forward,” said state Sen. Angela Williams in a statement. “If he’s going to switch gears and run for the Senate, he has a lot to explain to Colorado voters. This won’t be a coronation.”

Others have said they don’t intend to step aside even if the former governor runs.

“What I heard Gov. Hickenlooper tell everybody who asked is, he wasn’t cut out to be a senator and didn’t want the job,” said former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, one of the primary contenders, in a radio interview.

Hickenlooper got some support from one of his former presidential rivals. “I think it’s always good when anybody who has been a mayor is in the Senate because they have a little more of that background of getting things done,” said Pete Buttigieg during a campaign stop in Iowa. “Certainly, if he chooses to run, he’ll make an outstanding senator.”

Cory Gardner spars with Democrats in campaign stop at Minturn Saloon

MINTURN — Sen. Cory Gardner touted his bipartisan record on Tuesday night at the Minturn Saloon in a campaign stop that drew supporters and a sizeable Democratic contingent. 

Gardner, speaking to a crowd of about 60 that included local Democratic state lawmakers, Sen. Kerry Donovan of Vail and Rep. Dylan Roberts, faced a number of pointed questions from Eagle County residents, particularly on the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act and his stance on climate change. 

Joy Harrison, the former chair of the Eagle County Democrats, pleaded with Gardner to support the CORE Act in a seven-minute back-and-forth exchange.

“It’s an incredibly important bill that would preserve these incredible public lands for our kids and our kids’ kids,” Harrison said. “Your vote and your support is absolutely critical because Republican Senators, your colleagues, are looking to you to see what you will signal.”

“The CORE Act has supporters and it has people who don’t like it,” Gardner said. “I think what’s important in Colorado is that we find that way to find something that people can support. I think that’s incredibly important.” 

“You’re dismissing so much work and so much coalition-building that has gone into this,” Harrison said.  

“All I said is we’ve got to find a way to find something that works,” Gardner responded. 

“The work is already done,” Harrison said. 

Gardner then responded that he has heard concerns from the Forest Service and the Department of Defense on the bill, which would preserve 400,000 acres of public lands in Colorado. 

“To be clear, I do not oppose this bill,” Gardner said.  

“Will you come out and support it for all of us in the room?” Harrison asked. 

“Joy, give me a second,” Gardner said. “What I hear from people in the Defense Department, when they have concerns with it, I take them at their word. So we know there are issues.”

Gail Flesher also grilled Gardner on whether he supports the lawsuit that Colorado recently joined suing the Environmental Protection Agency over a new rule that would replace the 2015 Clean Power Plan.

“I voted that climate change is real. I think it’s very important that we work to address climate concerns.” Gardner said. “Here’s what I’m concerned about — regulations that people will testify will kill thousands and thousands of jobs. I’m not willing to destroy our economy.”

Touting his record

Gardner, before taking questions, said he’s proud of the work he’s done in the Senate. Among those accomplishments: Getting the Bureau of Land Management moved to Grand Junction from Washington, D.C., passing a law that aims to protect wildland firefighters by requiring agencies to outfit crews with GPS locators and deploy drones to scout and map blazes, and bringing broadband to rural communities. 

He also talked about getting sanctions passed against North Korea, joking that one of his proudest moments as a senator was calling Kim Jong Un “a whack job” in an MSNBC interview, and then having the North Korean leader respond to that quote by calling him a man “mixed in with human dirt, who has lost basic judgment and body hair.”

Gardner said he’s still got the quote framed on his wall. 

Of the BLM move, Gardner said: “I believe that we’ll have better decisions, we’ll have a better result when the BLM management is nearest the people and the land that they impact.”

He added: “Every single one of those things I talked about, it wasn’t done by a Republican or Democrat. It was done by Republicans and Democrats coming together. Because that’s how we solve problems in this country and that’s what I’m excited about and continue to stand for.”

Different takes

Donovan zinged Gardner on Twitter last month after the reinsurance bill she cosponsored to lower premiums for Coloradans was given a federal waiver. 

Gardner, in a video, touted his work on helping move the bill along, which Donovan took serious issue with.

“I think what was most frustrating about him filming a video, putting it up, and claiming credit for something that he’s actively trying to undermine and eliminate was the point of frustration,” she said. “We’re from different parties, we have different values, we can disagree and have different priorities. But don’t post on social claiming credit to do something. He clearly claims credit for reinsurance and he is trying to dismantle the ACA on which reinsurance depends on.”

Kaye Ferry, the chair of the Eagle County Republicans, who hosted the event, said Gardner’s message was positive and that he listened to his critics on Tuesday and tried to give honest answers. 

“He’s never really changed. He’s always been the same Cory all the way through,” she said. “So I think he listens and I think he responds and I think he tries to make the best of the situation, which he did tonight. Unfortunately, we have parts of the community that just aren’t satisfied with any answer you give them.”

Colorado moves presidential primaries to Super Tuesday

DENVER — Colorado is moving up its 2020 presidential primaries from June to Super Tuesday in March, hoping to lure major party contenders to the purple state.

Gov. Jared Polis made the announcement Tuesday, adding Colorado to at least 10 states conducting their presidential primaries on March 3.

Under voter initiatives approved in 2016, independent voters — Colorado’s largest voting bloc — can participate in one or the other of the major party primaries.

“I think we can really highlight Colorado as a key state because among the Super Tuesday states, Colorado is one of the only ones that is also a competitive state for November — a purple state,” Polis said.

Down-ballot races will continue to be held in June.

Critics of the previous system argued the presidential race was largely decided by the time Colorado held its June primaries.

The 2016 ballot measure created winner-take-all Colorado presidential primaries in 2020, instead of non-binding caucuses.

Proponents argued that change would inspire candidates to try to appeal to centrist voters in an increasingly polarized political climate.

The 2016 caucuses were messy: Democrats struggled to accommodate every voter, and Republicans didn’t choose presidential delegates because the national party insisted the vote be binding. Independent voters were left out in the cold.

Then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, now a presidential candidate, supported the changes, as did U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who also is expected to formally jump into the Democratic race.

Colorado held presidential primaries from 1992 to 2000 then dropped them to save money.

Giants California and Texas headline the list of Super Tuesday states.

Jared Polis sworn in as Colorado governor

DENVER — Colorado took a formal step to the left Tuesday with the inauguration of Democrat Jared Polis, the nation’s first openly gay governor whose overwhelming election victory and party’s consolidation of legislative control promise ambitious changes for energy and environmental regulation, health care and state-funded early childhood education.

Several thousand people gathered on the state Capitol’s west slope on a crisp morning to watch the ceremony under sunny skies. Current lawmakers and former governors attended under tight security that included closed streets.

Polis was accompanied by his partner, Marlon Reis, as he took the oath of office after a thunderous 21 cannon salute. Their children, Caspian and Cora, also attended.

Polis promised to pursue education for all children, affordable health care for more families and strict environmental protections.

“Right now our nation is experiencing a period of growing divisiveness,” Polis said. “But here in Colorado we choose a different path.

“We will never, ever be outworked,” he declared. “We will never be stunted by a lack of imagination.”

Polis is a wealthy tech and education entrepreneur and former five-term congressman from Boulder. He succeeds Gov. John Hickenlooper, a centrist Democrat, former Denver mayor, petroleum geologist and beer pub entrepreneur who served the maximum two terms. Hickenlooper is considering a 2020 presidential run.

Polis trounced then-state treasurer Walker Stapleton in November. Health care and Donald Trump’s presidency were the top issues in the campaign.

Polis’ inauguration marked a special day for LGBTQ advocates nationwide.

The planned festivities include an evening “Blue Sneaker Ball,” named after the footwear Polis sported during his campaign. Pop singer and LGBTQ activist Cyndi Lauper and the R&B combo Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats were scheduled to perform.

Former state Rep. Diane Primavera, a health care advocate, was sworn in as lieutenant governor. Primavera is a cancer survivor and most recently led Colorado’s Susan G. Komen Foundation chapter in its battle against breast cancer.

Polis has promised action on oil and gas drilling and on marijuana policy.

Hickenlooper brokered a tentative compromise on fracking between Colorado’s expanding $32 billion oil and gas industry and environmentalists opposed to drilling.

He also oversaw the creation of Colorado’s first-in-the-nation recreational marijuana market, which opened in 2014.

Polis once supported fracking limits but has abandoned the stance, saying there’s a place for Colorado oil and gas exports even as he pursues a 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2040. Democratic lawmakers are working this session to strengthen air and water quality rules for the fossil fuels industry.

Polis, who was a member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, says he’d pursue more industry financing opportunities and add autism to the qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.

Polis has called for universal health care, suggesting Colorado could partner with neighboring states to create a regional market. Lawmakers are studying a state-run insurance market for Colorado.

Polis and Democrats also will pursue funding for full-day kindergarten — and, if Polis gets his way, universal preschool, modeled after an Oklahoma program.

Polis earned his wealth by starting an internet company in college and revolutionizing the online greeting cards and floral retail industries. He served on the state board of education before going to Congress.

A one-on-one with Governor-elect Jared Polis

Governor-elect Jared Polis took some time this week to answer a few questions from the Glenwood Springs Post Independent about some regional issues, as he looks ahead to being the voice for Colorado, including the Western Slope, which was key in his election.

Though Polis edged out Republican candidate Walker Stapleton by just over 300 votes in Garfield County, the governor’s race was among the first called on Election Night. He ultimately received over 53 percent of the vote compared with Stapleton’s 43 percent.

He’s the first Democratic governor candidate to win in Garfield County since Hickenlooper’s inaugural win in 2010.

While Polis addressed some of the big issues facing voters throughout the campaign, on Monday he spoke specifically to what’s on the mind of many Western Slope residents. Those issues include rural economic development, the future of oil and gas development after the failure of Proposition 112, broadband access and more.

Proposition 112, in particular, was a contentious one.

It had sought to increase the minimum setback requirements for new oil and gas developments to at least 2,500 feet from occupied buildings and other vulnerable areas. The current setback rules, established by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in 2013, set a 500-foot statewide setback from residences, as well as a 1,000-foot setback from high occupancy buildings such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals.

While the statewide initiative was shot down by voters 55 percent to 45 percent, it fared slightly better in Garfield County, with 54 percent opposed to 46 percent in favor.

Garfield County currently ranks second in the state behind only Weld County in terms of gas production and sales for 2018, according to data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Following are the soon-to-be new governor’s thoughts on that and other economics-related issues.

How do you expect the issue regarding setbacks for the oil and gas industry to move forward?

Jared Polis: We’re looking forward to working with the industry and local communities to help set the parameters of local control. I am excited to work with every industry to create good jobs in Colorado. We want to make sure we empower communities to address certain conflicts on the ground, as well.

Do you think there is a possible compromise on the distance requirement?

Polis: I think there needs to be. I think there is a growing recognition in the oil and gas industry that they are tired of this instability and gambling their entire industry at the ballot box at great expense and risk. We are looking forward to including them in discussions with our county commissioners and city councils, as well as the environmental community, about how we can move forward together.

What are your plans to drive economic interests in rural and western Colorado communities?

Polis: I am passionate about economic development and jobs. … I am excited about empowering entrepreneurs in Western Colorado, as well as attracting big and large-scale employers to help provide good jobs in our communities that complement the amazing quality of life in Western Colorado.

How will broadband high-speed internet play into those plans?

Polis: High-speed internet is critical for location-independent employment. We look forward to working with the Legislature and through the state to expand high-speed internet connectivity options for many of our rural communities.

transportation funding

Two statewide transportation initiatives, Proposition 109 and 110, sought to increase funding for roads and multimodal projects through a statewide sales tax increase and/or billions in bonds. Both measures were shot down by voters by significant margins. However, each question fared slightly better in Garfield County, as local projects along the Interstate 70 corridor and State Highway 13 would have received funding.

How do you plan on addressing Colorado’s aging transportation infrastructure?

Polis: I think the voters were clear that they don’t want to bond with no revenue, and they don’t want to use a sales tax mechanism. We will be looking forward to working with Republicans and Democrats from across Colorado to figure out how people do want to pay for roads.

Are there any infrastructure projects on the Western Slope or I-70 corridor that you are looking to prioritize?

Polis: There is a big backlog not only in western Colorado but statewide, and we look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats to find the funding mechanisms to do it. Our critical artery of Highway 70 and the speed capacity, we want to continue to work on alternatives for. We want to work on increased tourism from the west instead of the east.

area trails

The LoVa, or Lower Valley Trail, was named among Gov. John Hickenlooper’s 16 in 2016, which listed 16 trail projects he wanted to prioritize for trail planning and construction, at least from New Castle to Glenwood Springs. It is now looking to be completed by the end of next year.

The trail, which has been discussed by officials throughout Garfield County for nearly two decades, will be designed to provide non-motorized access as I-70 remains the only way to get west from Glenwood Springs.

How important will trail connections such as this be for you, especially on the Western Slope?

Polis: We look forward to continuing to build on Hickenlooper’s legacy. We will certainly look at every project with a fresh set of eyes. We are certainly committed to improving the quality of life, as well as the tourism infrastructure, in western Colorado.

I ran on not only protecting our public lands, but improving access through hiking and biking and all of the great things we enjoy in our great outdoors. I look forward to continuing to work with nonprofits and our counties across western Colorado to improve access and safety on our trails.

EDUCATION FUNDING

State funding issues tied to Colorado tax laws continue to hinder school districts across Colorado. The Garfield School District Re-2 passed a mill levy override last week to ensure its teachers and staff are paid a competitive wage.

How will you attempt to address this as governor?

Polis: Congrats to Garfield Re-2 voters to step up, and a number of other districts across the state. Jefferson and Thompson counties’ voters passed mill levies to help make teacher pay more competitive. Of course, I look forward to working with teachers as well as Republicans and Democrats on a statewide funding solution to improve our schools.

azorn@citizentelegram.com

Trump has no sympathy for Colorado GOP candidate Mike Coffman

DENVER — Five-term Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman blamed his defeat in Colorado on resentment toward President Donald Trump — but Trump is offering no sympathy and accepting no responsibility.

“Too bad, Mike,” Trump said at a news conference Wednesday.

Coffman had held the suburban Denver district for a decade, holding off a series of Democratic challengers as the district turned more liberal and diverse. But dislike of Trump and mistrust of the GOP’s immigration policies proved too much this election, Coffman said after losing to first-time Democratic candidate Jason Crow on Tuesday.

“In this congressional district, in this race, it was a referendum on the president,” Coffman said. “In the end, the waves were too big for this ship to stay afloat.”

Trump on Wednesday listed Coffman and seven other Republicans who lost after distancing themselves from the president — refusing what Trump called “the embrace.”

“They did very poorly,” Trump said. “I’m not sure that I should be happy or sad, but I feel just fine about it.”

In his concession speech, Coffman remarked on the shifting demographics of his district, where one in five residents was born outside the United States. He said spending time with diverse communities made him a better congressman and a better person.

Coffman softened his position on immigration but said he could not overcome immigrants’ mistrust of his party.

“They believe that Republicans aren’t simply against illegal immigration but they are against immigrants,” he said.

Three other incumbent Republican congressmen won re-election in Colorado, but the rest of the state was trending blue. Democrats held on to the congressional district now represented by Jared Polis, who was elected governor, keeping the office in Democratic hands.

Democrats won the secretary of state and state treasurer’s offices and were leading in the race for attorney general. All three offices are now held by Republicans. Democrats also were on track to take over the state Senate from Republicans and expand their majority in the state House.

Coffman’s seat was one of more than two dozen that Democrats took from Republicans on Tuesday as the GOP lost control of the U.S. House. The telegenic Crow, an attorney, was the choice of national Democratic leaders to challenge the incumbent.

Both candidates are veterans: Crow is a former Army Ranger who served in Iran and Afghanistan, and Coffman is an Army and Marine veteran who served twice in Iraq.

Crow campaigned on his differences with Coffman on gun control, health care and immigration.

The Democrat called for expanded background checks on gun purchases and restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines, proposals that resonated in a district where a gunman opened fire in a movie theater in 2012, killing 12 people. The district also abuts Columbine High School, where two students killed 13 people in 1999.

Coffman opposed blanket gun restrictions but advocated for mental health and school safety measures.

Crow assailed Coffman for voting for the GOP tax measure that revoked tax penalties for those who don’t buy health insurance. It was a key provision of former President Barack Obama’s health care law, which Crow defended as a first step toward his goal of universal health care.

Coffman was booed at town halls last year for insisting that the health law be repealed, though he eventually voted against the GOP effort. He insisted that any replacement legislation guarantee coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Coffman cited his longtime advocacy for veterans, his military service and his occasional bucking of the GOP to try to persuade voters to keep him.

Crow depicted him as someone no longer able to act as a check on Trump and the Republican Party.

Voter Darnell Driskell said Trump was a big factor in his decision to support Crow.

“I don’t like the hate, you know what I’m saying?” Driskell said. “I don’t like the discomfort, I don’t like what he stands for and what he does, what he represents.”

Jeff Johnson, who voted for Coffman, said Trump didn’t figure into his choice. Johnson said he considers himself a conservative, not a Republican, and he votes for candidates who support his values.

About Trump, Johnson said, “He’s egotistical and he runs his mouth off, but look at the economy. The economy is a hell of a lot better than it was two years ago.”

Coffman also lost the crucial fundraising battle. With the support of gun control groups, Crow raised more than $5 million, while Coffman collected $3.4 million. Big Republican donor groups pulled out of Coffman’s campaign to focus on races they saw as more winnable, and he was outspent 3-to-1 on the airwaves.

Crow made scant mention of Trump in his victory speech but noted “the dark and uncertain political moment we find ourselves in.”

“You sent a message that democracy is alive and well in America and that you will not be silenced,” he told supporters.

Crow was more conciliatory than jubilant, praising Coffman as a hard worker who served his country with honor.

“Mike Coffman and his supporters are not our enemies. This is politics, not war, and I will never stop trying to find common ground wherever I can,” he said.

Julie McCluskie declares victory in House District 61 race to replace Hamner

Democrat and Dillon resident Julie McCluskie declared victory Tuesday night in her race to become the next state representative for Colorado House District 61.

Holding a commanding lead over her Republican challenger Mike Mason with 31,466 votes counted, McCluskie said she was “proud and honored” to be the next representative and serve the district she calls home.

“Together, we are going to work hard to make a difference for all the hard-working families in this district,” McCluskie said in a victory speech at the Democratic election party taking place at HighSide Brewery in Frisco. “I am going to work to give our kids the best public education possible, to fix our broken healthcare system, and protect the beautiful environment we call home.”

The district — which covers Summit, Lake and Pitkin counties and portions of Delta and Gunnison counties — has been represented by Democrat Millie Hamner since 2012. Hamner is vacating the seat due to term limits.