Tight races still undecided in state Colorado House, Senate
DENVER, Colorado ” Two tight races in the state legislature remained undecided Wednesday, and while the outcome wasn’t expected to change the balance of power in the state House or Senate, Republicans stood to unseat an influential Democrat from Mesa County.
With 89 percent of the projected vote counted, Rep. Bernie Buescher was trailing his Republican challenger, Laura Bradford, by 583 votes.
Buescher has been in the running to replace Andrew Romanoff as House speaker and is a member of the influential budget committee. But Bradford criticized him, in part, for voting for Gov. Bill Ritter’s mill levy freeze plan to raise more money for schools. It prevents automatic decreases in tax rates when property values go up, leaving the owners of those properties with higher tax bills.
Ritter said losing Buescher would be a blow.
“Bernie was a great partner for us. He was a person whose public service I have long admired,” he said.
Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, told The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction that she would now try to become the next speaker to make sure the Western Slope was represented among the Democratic leaders who set the agenda in the legislature.
Democrats currently outnumber Republicans in the House 40-25 and in the Senate 20-15.
Republicans regained the seat they lost when Rep. Debbie Stafford of Aurora defected to the Democratic Party. Republican Cindy Acree defeated Democrat Karen Wilde 59-41 percent.
In Summit County, Democratic Rep. Christine Scanlan held on to her seat, beating newcomer Ali Hasan 54-46 percent.
In Colorado Springs, Republican Mark Waller, best known for defeating Rep. Doug Bruce in the primary, defeated Democrat Michelle Maksimowicz 67-33 percent.
Democrats had a chance of picking up an additional seat in the Senate. Linda Newell led former Republican state Rep. Lauri Clapp by just 81 votes in the Senate District 26 race in south suburban Denver. The seat has traditionally been held by a Republican, most recently Steve Ward, who failed in his attempt to replace Tom Tancredo in Congress.
Democratic Sen. Bob Bacon of Fort Collins defeated Republican challenger Matt Fries, 63 percent to 37.
In northwestern Colorado, Republican Rep. Al White made the jump to the Senate by beating Democrat Ken Brenner to replace the term-limited Jack Taylor.
In Arvada’s Senate District 19, Democrat Evie Hudak led Republican Libby Szabo 51 percent to 49 percent. It’s open because Democratic Sen. Sue Windels is term-limited.
Ritter said any shift in those numbers wasn’t a verdict on his administration but a reflection on individual races.
He said Colorado is nearly evenly divided among Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated voters who want “pragmatic, solution-driven leadership.”
Ritter said Democrats must be mindful that in Colorado, “we’re not red, we’re not blue, we’re a state with a significant number of independents and moderates who want you to govern well but want you to govern as a centrist and want you to tackle these big issues, these quality-of-life issues.”
Associated Press Writer Steven K. Paulson contributed to this report.