Vail’s Kerry Donovan edges out Suppes
State senator District 5
Kerry Donovan (D): 27,044 votes, 49 percent
Don Suppes (R): 25,981, 47 percent
Lee Mulcahy (L): 2,339, 4 percent
As of 6 p.m. Wednesday
VAIL — The 24 hours after the polls closed were nail biters for Democrat Kerry Donovan of Vail.
At around 5:45 p.m. on Wednesday, the final votes were counted, confirming that Donovan would represent Colorado State Senate District 5, which includes Delta, Lake, Chaffee, Gunnison, Eagle, Pitkin and Hinsdale counties, beating out opponent Republican Don Suppes of Orchard City.
According to unofficial results, Donovan won with a total of 27,044 votes, with Suppes trailing with 25,981. Libertarian Lee Mulcahy of Aspen had 2,339 votes.
Wednesday evening, Donovan officially claimed the victory and thanked her supporters.
“I’m so honored to have the confidence of voters from Western Colorado to represent them in Denver,” said Donovan in a press release. “From building an economy that works for everyone and not just those at the very top, to ensuring that our public lands and water are protected and cared for, the needs of our region are diverse and I look forward to working on its behalf in the state Senate.”
A roller coaster ride
Suppes had led the race late Tuesday, staying ahead of Donovan by about 2,000 votes. He even declared his victory on his Facebook page.
However, into the early hours of Wednesday, it became clear that late returns from Pitkin and Gunnison counties might turn the tide. By 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Donovan led with 26,401 votes and 49 percent of the ballots. Suppes trailed at 751 votes behind and 47 percent, and Mulcahy got 2,232 votes and about 4 percent.
Suppes posted on his Facebook page: “A lot can change in seven hours. It seems late returns from Pitkin County may have cost us the race. It appears we may have lost by 750 votes out of over 50,000 votes cast.”
By late afternoon, the candidates were only waiting for 1,300 outstanding votes yet to be calculated in Gunnison County. When the final numbers came in, the results indicated that Donovan had won in the county — and therefore the race — by nearly 1,000 votes.
“We were just waiting to see what those numbers were looking like. We’ve worked so hard on this campaign to earn the trust and support of voters, and to see those final numbers — it was wonderful,” Donovan said, adding that the wait was worth it. “It was remarkable to see the number of voters for this historic turnout, and if that means it takes 24 hours longer, I can wait 24 hours for them to count those votes.”
Tight races in Colorado
The District 5 race was among those carefully watched because it could help decide if the Democrats or Republicans take control of the state Senate. In the last term, the Democrats held a slim 18-17 majority.
The widely varied political leanings of the Senate 5 counties became evident as the tallies came in. Suppes’ early lead was largely due to his nearly 6,500-vote victory in Delta County, his home county. He also won in Chaffee and Hinsdale counties. Donovan won Pitkin, Eagle and Lake counties early on by decisive margins, with Gunnison being added to that list last.
Donovan said she plans to represent the needs of Delta County, as well, and will continue building on relationships that she has made there. She attributed her victory to running an issues-based campaign and focusing campaign resources squarely on engaging in direct contact with voters.
“This race proves that finding common ground and shared values is stronger than the politics of cynicism,” Donovan said. “We are more than our partisan labels could ever imply. Coloradans work best when we work together, and that will be the spirit of my service to you in the state Senate.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.