Colorado's Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper defied a Republican tide and won a second term as votes from liberal bastions of the state helped propel him
over Republican challenger Bob Beauprez.
Late votes tallied Wednesday in the Democratic strongholds of Denver and Boulder gave Hickenlooper, a former brewery owner turned Denver mayor and then governor, enough support to outlast his adversary after a bitter contest.
With just a few small rural counties not reporting, Hickenlooper led Beauprez 48% to 47% -- a margin of fewer than 26,000 votes out of nearly 1.9 million cast in Colorado's first all-mail election Tuesday.
At a morning news conference, Hickenlooper thanked his campaign staff and the voters of Colorado, but did not mention Beauprez.
"The voters of Colorado have spoken. We're incredibly grateful," Hickenlooper said, standing in the west foyer of the state Capitol alongside several members of his administration.
On Wednesday afternoon, Beauprez issued a statement to supporters conceding the race.
"We have been watching the results as votes continue to be counted and unfortunately at this point, even with a handful of counties still reporting, there just aren't enough options to get us across the finish line," Beauprez said. "I just spoke with Gov. Hickenlooper. We had a good conversation and I congratulated him on a hard-fought race."
Beauprez, who lost a 2006 bid for governor by double digits, had relentlessly castigated Hickenlooper's leadership style during the campaign, citing his sometimes wavering positions on new gun-control measures in the state and his decision to grant a temporary reprieve to a convicted murderer on death row.
By contrast, Hickenlooper, in a rare move for any politician, eschewed negative advertising in his campaign, instead focusing heavily on the state's economic vitality.
"I'm so proud we were able to run a positive campaign about the positive people of Colorado," Hickenlooper said Wednesday.
Hickenlooper "has always been this Chamber of Commerce, very business-friendly Democrat and never truly a hard-liner on the left," said Tom Cronin, a professor of political science at Colorado College.
The Republican effort nationwide to cast Democrats as staunch allies of an unpopular President Obama, as Rep. Cory Gardner did in his victory Tuesday over incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, never took hold in the governor's race.
"It's tough to make that sell that this governor is somehow beholden to the president, which at the federal level was a clear winning message," Cronin said.
Udall failed to win key suburban Denver swing counties, but Hickenlooper gained his edge against Beauprez in those areas.
In addition to winning Colorado's U.S. Senate seat on Tuesday, the state's Republicans also claimed victory in races for secretary of state and treasurer.