Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was declared the winner early Wednesday in his bid for reelection, one of the few bright spots for Democrats in a political year marked by a powerful Republican wave.
The Denver Post and KUSA-TV, the local NBC affiliate, both declared Mr. Hickenlooper the winner after he moved ahead by 22,264 votes with 93 percent of the vote counted. The Democratic governor led with 48.3 percent of the vote, while Republican Bob Beauprez trailed with 47.1 percent.
Mr. Beauprez had been hanging on to a slim lead late Tuesday, but a surge of eleventh-hour votes in liberal Denver and Boulder, spurred by the Democratic Party’s ground game, put Mr. Hickenlooper in the winner’s seat.
That same get-out-the-vote effort didn’t work Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who lost to GOP Rep. Cory Gardner, but an analysis of swing counties like Arapahoe, Jefferson and Larimer showed that a number of voters split their tickets, voting for the Democrat Hickenlooper and the Republican Gardner.
Mr. Hickenlooper didn’t run the aggressive “war on women” playbook embraced by the Udall camp, which appeared to backfire with voters. Instead, the governor played up his experience as a restaurant and brew-pub owner, with television ads showing him busily waiting tables and working the grill.
“Everything I learned about governing, I learned after I was laid off and started a restaurant,” Mr. Hickenlooper says as he shows customers to their booths.
That positive message apparently managed to overcome the flood of criticism he received when he granted an indefinite reprieve to Chuck E. Cheese killer Nathan Dunlap shortly before his August 2013 execution date. The Beauprez camp invoked the Dunlap reprieve in ads blasting Mr. Hickenlooper over public-safety issues.
While Mr. Hickenlooper, 62, is known for refusing to run negative ads, that didn’t stop liberal groups like the Democratic Governors Association from attacking Mr. Beauprez over his previous ownership of a bank in commercials that were criticized by local television fact-checkers as dishonest.
The race represents a second loss in the governor’s race for Mr. Beauprez, 66, a former congressman who lost in 2006 to former Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter.
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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