Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper wins second term | AspenTimes.com

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper wins second term

IVAN MORENO
Associated Press

DENVER — Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has won a second term, narrowly defeating Republican challenger Bob Beauprez in a campaign that had the incumbent on the ropes for his positions on the death penalty and gun-control legislation.

The contest was the toughest of Hickenlooper's career, and although he stumbled at times, his victory showed he continues to be a political force in the state. His win came in a big year for Republicans in Colorado and nationwide.

The race was much tighter than anyone expected, and it was too close to call until Wednesday morning.

"The voters in Colorado have spoken," Hickenlooper said during a victory speech just outside his Capitol office. "What I want to express first and foremost is gratitude. We're incredibly grateful that we have earned a second term as Colorado's governor."

It was an emotional celebration, with plenty of hugs among Hickenlooper and members of his cabinet, along with chants of "Four more years!" Several people from the administration were on the verge of tears.

Hickenlooper survived more than a year of attacks over his decision to indefinitely halt the execution of Nathan Dunlap, who was convicted of killing four people at a suburban Denver Chuck E. Cheese.

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Hickenlooper also weathered intense disapproval from Republicans over his party's wide-ranging 2013 legislative session, which saw new gun control laws, civil unions for gay couples, and tuition benefits and driving privileges for people in the country illegally.

Hickenlooper pledged to move forward and "not to dwell on the wedge issues that too often divide us."

"No one person, no one party has all the answers," he continued. "And we look forward to collaborating with the Legislature, the returning legislators, but also with the new legislators."

Democrats controlled the state House and Senate before the elections, but it remained unclear Wednesday whether they would retain power in both chambers.

Beauprez, a former congressman who makes his living as a buffalo rancher, sought to become the first Republican to win the governor's office since 2002. But Hickenlooper had history on his side: The last time Colorado voters booted an incumbent governor from office was in 1962.

Beauprez also hoped to cap a GOP resurgence that saw Rep. Cory Gardner defeat Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and Rep. Mike Coffman hold onto his suburban Denver congressional seat.

Many political observers wrote off Beauprez after a 2006 gubernatorial bid in which he lost by 17 points. That year, Beauprez faced a Democratic wave with an unpopular Republican president in his sixth year. Hickenlooper found himself in the same unfavorable political circumstances this year.

Hickenlooper campaigned on his leadership during some of the state's worst natural disasters, with historic wildfires and flooding in 2013. He also oversaw an improving state economy. Colorado now has an unemployment rate of 4.7 percent, compared with 9.1 percent when he took office.

But the election put Hickenlooper on unfamiliar ground, having easily won the Denver mayoral office twice and cruising into the governor's office four years ago.

This time, he never gained substantial separation from Beauprez. In fact, Hickenlooper made the race close with some controversial decisions, mainly his indefinite stay of Dunlap's execution.

The governor also appeared flustered this year during a talk with sheriffs who opposed the 2013 gun control legislation. He told them he would have reassessed his support for the legislation had he known the furor it would cause.

The election marked the first time Colorado mailed ballots to every registered elector and allowed Election Day registration.

According to exit polls, Hickenlooper had support from women, independent voters, and both voters who earn less than $50,000 and those who make $100,000 or more.

Beauprez received backing from voters who said the country was on the wrong track, and those with a negative view of the Obama administration.

The survey of 1,058 Colorado voters was conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research via landlines and cellular phones between Oct. 24 and Nov. 2.

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Associated Press writer Colleen Slevin contributed to this report.

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Find Ivan Moreno on Twitter: http://twitter.com/IvanJourno