Colorado election: John Hickenlooper wins Colorado governor race

6:54 AM, Nov 3, 2010   |    comments
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Video: Gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo

Video: Hickenlooper interview

Video: Gov.-Elect Hickenlooper

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Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper won the gubernatorial race on Tuesday with 51 percent of the vote, beating Republican Dan Maes and third-party candidate Tom Tancredo.

The governor-elect told 9NEWS Wednesday morning that he knows he has a tough job ahead at the capitol, especially with the budget shortfall the state is currently facing.

"My goal is to sit down, not just with Democrats, but Republicans and independents and say what are our priorities?" Hickenlooper said. "If we're going to have to make these deep cuts, how can we do it in such a way we suffer the least damage? What are all of our priorities so we can get to somewhere close to a consensus on where we go?"

Hickenlooper says he enjoyed visiting the entire state during his campaign and hopes to pull together Coloradans from the Western Slope to the Eastern Plains.

"I want the people in Colorado to believe in their state government. I want people working for the state government to say, 'Alright, we're going to roll up our sleeves and help businesses grow,'" Hickenlooper said.

With the ongoing recession, Hickenlooper has been forced to make growing businesses his first priority. The governor-elect says he does not expect the state's economy to recover immediately.

"This is one of the most difficult economies we've had in almost 100 years and we're not going to fix it overnight. It's going to take everybody working together," he said.

Hickenlooper told supporters at a private party Tuesday evening, the election is just the beginning.

"I accept the challenge that you have entrusted me," Hickenlooper said in his victory speech. "To lead our state of Colorado!"

Hickenlooper gave the speech amid pandemonium at the Democratic headquarters.

"But as we said all along, this is not the end of our journey, this is the beginning, and it starts with bringing people together," Hickenlooper said. "To Dan Maes and Tom Tancredo, I have learned from both of you how much you love Colorado and I admire the tenacity of your supporters. Starting tonight, we set aside our differences and work together to rebuild hope in our state and get this economy back on track."

The governor-elect made sure to thank his supporters during his victory speech.

"I especially appreciate your commitment to keeping this a clean campaign," Hickenlooper said. "You have made history tonight by showing you can win with a message of what you want to do, not who you're against."

Hickenlooper added: "I may have had to take a few showers with my clothes on, but I'm proud to say that we won the support of Colorado without one single negative ad."

During his speech, when he thanked Gov. Bill Ritter, Hickenlooper ran over and gave him a bear hug.

"I was looking for him [Ritter] out there," he said pointing the crowd, "but he was right beside me. That's a lesson for everyone."

Meanwhile, Tancredo thanked and apologized to his supporters in his concession speech.

"It has been a wonderful ride," he said. "Nothing that I have ever done in politics or anything else that I can think of has equaled this in terms of the kind of outpouring of love and sentiment and spirit that we have seen in this campaign. I apologize to you for not being able to carry it to the finish line."

The Colorado governor's race played out more like a made-for-TV drama this political season, beginning back on Jan. 5 when Gov. Bill Ritter announced he would not seek re-election due to family reasons.

The Democratic Party turned its attention to Hickenlooper, who spent about a week mulling whether to throw his hat into the ring for a run at the governor's mansion.

Hickenlooper received pleas from President Barack Obama, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other prominent Colorado Democrats. The speculation came to an end on Jan. 12 as Hickenlooper posted his intentions on Facebook and then announced on the steps of the capitol he would indeed run for governor.

The Denver mayor went into fundraising mode, and quickly began to build his political war chest. He eventually made his way onto the General Election ballot after running unopposed in the Democratic Primary.

On the Republican side of the race, after former Sen. Minority Leader Josh Penry stepped aside, former Congressman Scott McInnis emerged as a frontrunner against outsider candidate Dan Maes, but allegations of plagiarism surfaced in a Denver Post report about McInnis on July 12.

McInnis had been accused of plagiarizing articles on Colorado water rights, which he was paid $300,000 to pen. But, he shrugged off the allegations as a "non-issue" and vowed to "make things right," but that didn't sit well with GOP voters. After blaming the plagiarism on a researcher who in turn said McInnis was lying, McInnis announced he would make arrangements to repay the $300,000.

Meanwhile, then-Republican Tom Tancredo began to call for McInnis to pull out of the race to allow for a candidate who he says could win in the General Election.  

Tancredo began vying for a spot on the November ballot, setting a deadline for Maes and McInnis to drop out of the race, and eventually considering a switch to the American Constitution Party in order to get his hat in the ring.

On July 29, Tancredo had officially left the party he represented as a U.S. Congressman, and was on the ballot as a member of the American Constitution Party.

Ultimately, the allegations sunk McInnis, as Maes narrowly edged him in the Republican Primary. Maes declared victory late in the evening of the Republican Primary on Aug. 10, with a 1 percent lead.

Maes called for Tancredo to drop out of the race, but the polls quickly began to tell a different story as Tancredo gained support and Maes saw his backing dissipate.

GOP Party leaders such as Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, former Sen. Hank Brown, Congressman Bob Beauprez and Congressman Mike Coffman withdrew their support for Maes in the days leading to the certification of the November ballot. Maes, however, refused to turn his back on his supporters who got him on the ballot. 

The three candidates faced off in a 9NEWS debate on Oct. 13, and shortly after that, Tancredo sliced into Hickenlooper's double-digit lead in the polls.

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