Wednesday, December 11, 2002

DENVER One lawsuit, one recount and 535 missing ballots later, Republican Bob Beauprez yesterday was declared the winner in Colorado’s newly drawn 7th Congressional District.

Unless, of course, something else comes up.

In the longest, most drawn-out race of the 2002 election cycle, Colorado Secretary of State Donetta Davidson finally made it official yesterday, 36 days after the Nov. 5 election.

The final count showed Mr. Beauprez the winner with 81,789 votes, putting him 121 ballots ahead of Democratic rival Mike Feeley.

Before Mr. Beauprez could be declared the winner, however, state elections officials had to count a last-minute cache of 535 uncounted votes discovered Monday in three early-voting machines in Jefferson County.

The newfound votes gave Mr. Feeley a net gain of one vote, but it wasn’t enough for him to overtake his Republican foe, who has clung to a 122-vote lead for the past two weeks.

A spokesman for Mr. Feeley said yesterday that the candidate called Mr. Beauprez to offer his congratulations, but declined further comment, saying it was “Bob’s day.”

Mr. Beauprez, a bank owner and former state Republican Party chairman, led by 386 votes after election night, but a final decision was delayed so that the state could count and verify 3,200 provisional ballots. Such ballots include those cast by voters whose registration records were misplaced or who lost their absentee-voter forms.

After a legal skirmish over which votes should be counted, Mr. Beauprez led by 122 votes out of 170,200 cast, a margin of victory of .015 percent and so close that it triggered a mandatory recount.

During that time, both candidates conducted themselves as if they had each won the race. Both flew to Washington to attend the House’s freshman orientation.

The tight race wasn’t entirely unexpected. The 7th District, which includes parts of suburban Jefferson, Arapahoe and Adams counties, boasts a voter-registration base evenly split between the two major parties.

Added to the state this year after the 2000 census gave Colorado another congressional seat, the district had its lines drawn by a district judge after the state legislature failed to agree on a plan.

Labeled a tossup, the race became the most expensive congressional contest in Colorado history after the national parties poured in money and advertising. The campaigns spent a combined $6 million.

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