DENVER (AP) — Colorado voters on Tuesday will pick between ex-Gov. John Hickenlooper and former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff as the Democratic nominee to take on Sen. Cory Gardner, one of the most vulnerable Republicans up for election this year with control of the Senate at stake.
The Democratic primary for Senate tops Colorado's primary election slate. The congressional party primaries on Tuesday are mostly a formality, with six of the state’s seven incumbents going unchallenged and their would-be challengers in November going unchallenged.
Only GOP Rep. Scott Tipton is facing a party opponent while two Democrats vie to run against him in November.
Colorado has shifted sharply leftward since Gardner won his 2014 election by less than two percentage points. No Republican has been elected to statewide office since then.
While Colorado has trended Democratic over the past decade, unaffiliated voters now make up 1.4 million along with 1.1 million Democrats and 969,000 Republicans. Total active registered voters are almost 3.5 million.
Hickenlooper has widespread name recognition, and he out-raised Romanoff by about seven-to-one. But a series of missteps by the former governor late in the campaign gave the apparent underdog Romanoff hope for an upset.
Hickenlooper defied a subpoena from the state’s independent ethics commission investigating private flights and travel perks he took as governor. The commission found Hickenlooper had violated the law by accepting one privately-funded flight and limousine trips.
Later, amid the protests over police violence against Black people, Hickenlooper garbled the meaning of the slogan “Black Lives Matter.” The following week, an African American Romanoff supporter tweeted a 6-year-old video of Hickenlooper jokingly comparing politicians to slaves being whipped to row “an ancient slave ship.”
Republicans have been openly rooting for Romanoff, fearing Hickenlooper’s money, moderate positions and popularity among Colorado’s general electorate. But Romanoff has argued that he has passion behind him and that Democrats won’t walk away from the Colorado seat, which is essential in their bid to regain control of the Senate.
In Colorado's U.S. House races, Tipton has represented the sprawling 3rd Congressional District encompassing southern and western Colorado since 2011. Endorsed months ago by President Donald Trump, he’s being accused of not being pro-Trump enough by primary opponent Lauren Boebert, a pistol-packing Rifle businesswoman who bristled at and defied government business closures intended to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
On the Democratic side, Diane Mitsch Bush, a former state lawmaker who lost to Tipton in 2018, and James Iacino, a Denver businessman who moved into the typically conservative district, are looking to flip the seat.
Colorado’s two other Republican incumbents, Rep. Doug Lamborn and Rep. Ken Buck, face no primary opposition and are expected to hold on to their seats.
In El Paso County’s 5th district, Democrat Jillian Freeland, an entrepreneur and retired midwife, is set to challenge Lamborn, who since 2007 has represented a district that’s home to a cluster of Air Force and Army installations as well as the Air Force Space Command.
Republicans are also betting on a November win in eastern Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, represented by Buck since 2015. Democrat Ike McCorkle is an 18-year Marine Corps veteran and Purple Heart recipient who served four tours of combat duty.
In Denver’s 1st District, Democratic Rep. Diane DeGette, who has served since 1997 and led questioning of federal coronavirus efforts at a congressional hearing last week, will go up against Republican Shane Bolling.
In the 2nd District, which includes Boulder, first-term Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse will face GOP candidate Charlie Winn, a retired Navy veteran and flight surgeon.
First-term Democratic Rep. Jason Crow and Republican Steve House, a former state GOP chair, are running unopposed in the 6th District.
Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter has represented Colorado’s 7th Congressional District since 2007. Also unopposed come Tuesday is Republican Casper Stockham, a Gulf War veteran and businessman who ran twice, unsuccessfully, against DeGette.
Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.