Hanlon concedes Senate District 8 race after margin moves to Rankin’s favor
The close race for Colorado Senate District 8 is decided, and incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Rankin has won formal election to the seat that he was appointed to fill last year.
His challenger, Democrat Karl Hanlon, called Rankin Thursday morning to formally concede and offer congratulations.
“I got into this race to bring a new voice to rural Colorado and fight for working families on issues that matter to them,” Hanlon said in a message posted to his campaign Facebook page. “I’m really proud of the work my team has done to get us this far and all the supporters throughout the district who believed in a vision of change.
“While I wish the outcome had been different, I remained heartened by the tens of thousands of voters in Senate District 8 who made their voices heard,” Hanlon concluded.
With ballots still being counted Wednesday and early Thursday in the seven counties that make up SD 8, Rankin’s lead grew past the margin that would have triggered an automatic recount.
Vote tallies reported by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, as of just before 9:30 a.m. Thursday, gave Rankin 50.59% of the vote to Hanlon’s 49.41%, with 986 votes separating the two.
As of the Thursday morning report, Rankin had a total of 42,128 votes to Hanlon’s 41,142.
“I’m very humbled after going through this campaign, and know you should never take for granted the opportunity to serve,” Rankin said Thursday of earning the voters’ nod to keep the senate seat.
“My main issues really had to do with the state of the economy because of the COVID impact, which is not good,” said Rankin, who serves as the senior member on the state Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee. “There is a responsibility with that to help lead the discussion.”
Starting next week, the JBC will be having full-day meetings to start working on the budget and related bills. Rankin also applauded voter approval of Amendment B, repealing the Gallagher Amendment, which he said will go a long way to help with state education funding and help special districts maintain their tax bases.
That’s especially important for fire districts and the special Colorado Mountain College District, which stood to be severely impacted in coming years under Gallagher’s restrictions on maintaining residential property tax rates in Colorado.
Rankin said he also plans to introduce a new bill, titled Wildfire Mitigation, Detection and Suppression, which would dovetail with Gov. Jared Polis’s initiatives to better address wildfire protection in the state after a record wildfire season.
In close races, state law requires an automatic recount if the margin is within 0.5%. The margin between Rankin and Hanlon stands at 1.18% after the latest vote totals.
Senate District 8 includes Garfield, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt, Grand, Jackson and Summit counties.
“We knew it was going to be close, especially with 40% unaffiliated voters now in the district,” Rankin said late Wednesday afternoon. “We knew we had to get some of those votes to win.”
Rankin congratulated Hanlon on a “hard-fought campaign,” but decried some of the outside negative advertising directed at him.
“Karl and I had a civil campaign, but there were a lot of negative mailers, and that could have made a difference,” Rankin said of the close election.
Hanlon had taken the early lead Tuesday night based on returns from the mountain resort areas, but the race narrowed as returns came in from the more-conservative western parts of the district.
“This is a district that is really focused on the issues, and is trying to find a way to the candidate who can represent them on the issues that are really important to people,” Hanlon said on election night.
“I had always said when we talked about this race during the campaign that it would come down to a couple hundred votes,” Hanlon added in a follow-up interview on Wednesday.
Returns had Hanlon, from Carbondale, winning in Routt and Summit counties, while Rankin had the edge in Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Grand and Jackson counties.
Rankin, also from Carbondale, formerly served nine years in the state House of Representatives. He sought election to the SD 8 seat he was appointed to in January 2019, replacing disgraced former Sen. Randy Baumgardner who retired after sexual harassment allegations and a subsequent investigation.
Rankin defeated Debra Irvine of Breckenridge in the June Republican primary. He serves as the senior member of the Joint Budget Committee.
His wife, Joyce Rankin, won reelection Tuesday to the state Board of Education from Colorado’s Third District over Democrat Mayling Simpson of Steamboat Springs.
Hanlon is a municipal and special district government and water attorney, who currently serves as the contract city attorney for Glenwood Springs.
He and his wife, Sheryl Barto, run the Smiling Goat Ranch, which provides equine therapy services for autistic children and veterans with PTSD.
Hanlon ran for the 3rd Congressional District seat in 2018, losing in the primary to Diane Mitsch Bush. He won this year’s primary for the state senate seat over Democrat Arn Menconi of Eagle.
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Monday was the last day to mail-in a ballot for next week’s election, though ballots can still be dropped off and early voting started Monday.