- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

DENVER Colorado Republican Sen. Wayne Allard was declared the winner last night in his hard-fought bid for re-election, handing Republicans a critical victory in a race that initially appeared to be leaning Democratic.

With 71 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the election for Mr. Allard, who led Democrat Tom Strickland by 51 percent to 45 percent.

Mr. Allard's victory came as a surprise to some analysts, who noted that he had been trailing in the polls by as many as a half-dozen percentage points in the days leading up to the election.

"It definitely looks like Senator Allard is scoring what could be described in a way as an upset," said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli.

Meanwhile, the state's anti-bilingual education initiative, Amendment 31, was headed for defeat. With 60 percent of the precincts in, the measure, sponsored by California software millionaire Ron Unz, was losing 55 percent to 45 percent.

It would be the first defeat for Mr. Unz's measure, which won approval in California in 1998 and Arizona in 2000. A similar initiative, Question 2, was sailing toward victory in Massachusetts last night.

News outlets were reporting at press time that two-thirds of the 91,000 absentee ballots in Jefferson County have a typographical error that could open the door for the losing candidate to contest the outcome in especially close races.

The ballots tell voters to "mail by Saturday, Nov. 5." But Saturday was Nov. 2; yesterday, Election Day, was Nov. 5. Ballots mailed Nov. 5 will arrive too late to be counted.

The campaigns were urging volunteers to get voters to the polls yesterday to cast ballots in what analysts described as one of the closest races in the nation.

In the days before the race, Mr. Strickland led Mr. Allard by 1 or 2 percentage points, according to polls conducted by Denver polling firms. But the Democrat's lead fell well within the margin of error.

Analysts predicted the contest would boil down to undecided voters, who made up 12 percent of the electorate in the week before the election, according to Ciruli and Associates.

"Who's going to win? Who knows?" asked Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. "It's going down to the wire."

Few predicted the race would be so close six months ago, when Mr. Allard enjoyed a 20-point lead and the perks of incumbency. He defeated Mr. Strickland six years ago in another close race and his re-election seemed assured.

But Mr. Strickland's campaign hit early with a series of ads touting the candidate's experience as a crime-fighter with the U.S. attorney's office and playing up his endorsements by police.

The Strickland campaign also accused Mr. Allard of favoring corporations like telecommunications giant Qwest Communications International that donated money to his campaign.

But the Allard camp swung back with ads highlighting Mr. Strickland's one-day stock sale of Global Crossing Ltd., a company he represented, that netted him $25,000.

The Allard campaign also recycled its successful 1996 tactic of describing Mr. Strickland as a "millionaire lawyer-lobbyist." One ad showed a photo of Mr. Strickland's posh home.

Mr. Strickland, 50, a lawyer who served two years as U.S. attorney for Colorado, enjoyed last-minute campaign appearances from top Democrats, including actor Robert Redford.

Mr. Allard, 58, meanwhile, benefited from stops by President Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney. The incumbent also aired late ads featuring endorsements from popular Republicans Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Gov. Bill Owens.

The spate of negative ads drew protests from voters, who complained that the campaigns had become too nasty.

"I don't care what someone did in his past," said Scott Lang of Castle Rock. "I care what he's going to do for our future."

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