DENVER (Reuters) - Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has won re-election after a tense battle with former Republican U.S. Representative Bob Beauprez, handing Democrats a rare victory after they were pummeled in U.S. midterm elections on Tuesday.
More than 20 hours after polling centers closed, Beauprez told supporters on Wednesday there was no way he could catch the first-term incumbent and that he had called Hickenlooper to congratulate him on a hard-fought race.
Results trickled in through the night, reversing an early lead for Beauprez and dismaying Republicans who were otherwise elated after another former U.S. congressman, Cory Gardner, toppled Colorado Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Udall.
Returns posted on the Colorado secretary of state’s website showed Hickenlooper with about 48.5 percent of the vote, versus 47 percent for Beauprez, with 54 of 64 counties reporting.
“I think I can demonstrate that one with no sleep can still experience great joy,” Hickenlooper said at the state Capitol in Denver as his supporters clapped and sang: “Four more years!”
He vowed to work with Republicans, who could end up controlling one or both chambers of the state Legislature once the results of several local races are finalized.
“Now is not the time to sit back and relax,” Hickenlooper told the crowd. “It’s the time to seize the bit.”
The result of the gubernatorial race was a lift for Colorado Democrats who were stunned after the swing state’s voters ousted Udall in favor of Gardner in one of the biggest wins of the night for the Republican Party as it won control of the Senate.
Hickenlooper, 62, a former brew-pub magnate who ran for a second term on Colorado’s strong economic performance, faced controversies during his first term over a proposed school reform tax hike and stricter gun laws that were introduced after a movie theater shooting in the Denver suburb of Aurora.
Beauprez also criticized Hickenlooper’s support for a renewable energy mandate that Beauprez said would raise rates, as well as a failed $950 million tax hike for education reform proposed by the state’s Democratic-led Legislature.
On Wednesday, the 66-year-old rancher-turned-banker thanked supporters and said they had helped build a stronger Colorado. “Unfortunately at this point ... there just aren’t enough options to get us across the finish line,” Beauprez said.
Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Susan Heavey and Peter Cooney