Election: GOP’s Gardner beats Udall in heated U.S. Senate race
GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. — Republican Rep. Cory Gardner on Tuesday defeated first-term Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in one of the priciest U.S. Senate races in the nation.
The contest is considered a key battleground as Republicans seek to pick up six seats to take control of that chamber.
Gardner disavowed a state measure that would grant legal rights to fertilized eggs, outlawing abortion and possibly some forms of birth control — even though he supports similar federal legislation. After attacks from Udall, Gardner proposed allowing birth control pills to be bought over-the-counter.
Gardner began his campaign in March. In the campaign’s final weeks, he outraised Udall and had more than triple the incumbent’s cash on hand, a rare event for a challenger.
Michael Laughlin, 58, of Denver said he voted for Udall in hopes Democrats will keep control on the Senate.
“My biggest hope is that we don’t do more damage than we’ve already done,” he said. “A Republican Senate could turn back the hands of time in a number of different areas,” such as civil rights and the economy.
Julie English said she voted for Gardner in hopes of steering the country to the right.
“It’s gone far to the left,” said English, 54, who lives in the Denver suburb of Arvada. “Under this administration, it’s totally going the opposite of what this country is founded on.”
She said President Barack Obama has mishandled key issues, including the Ebola outbreak and illegal immigration.
The Colorado campaign has pivoted on women’s issues and the question of whether, as in Colorado’s last Senate contest, Democrats’ advantage on social issues and strong field operation will enable them to survive a difficult midterm environment. In 2010, Sen. Michael Bennet eked out a narrow victory against Republican challenger Ken Buck with that strategy. As head of the Democratic Party group that helps Senate campaigns, Bennet has tried to take the model national.
Udall’s re-election campaign was the clearest example of that strategy.
Within weeks of Gardner jumping into the race in late February, Udall began hammering the challenger on his past support of measures to grant legal rights to fertilized eggs, which could ban all abortions and many forms of contraception. But Gardner’s campaign felt it was ready for the attacks. Gardner opposes abortion, but he disavowed one so-called personhood measure and proposed making birth control pills available without a prescription.
Republicans took to mocking Udall’s focus on women’s issues, and even some Democrats are nervous he overplayed his hand by dedicating more than half of his television commercials to the subject.
Gardner, meanwhile, has a conservative voting record but has painted himself as “a different kind of Republican” by appearing in backdrops more associated with Democrats, like wind farms and mountain trails. His campaign played up his youth — he is 40 years old, Udall 64 — and optimistic demeanor.
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With a response rate to the 2020 Census survey below 40%, Pitkin County’s population appears to have been undercounted by at least 850 people.