Steamboat Springs Democrats won big Tuesday across the nation and in Colorado. Although that trend largely held in Routt County, on the whole, Northwest Colorado remained traditionally red and sent two Republicans to the Colorado General Assembly.
Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, and Grand County rancher Randy Baumgardner earned authoritative victories in Senate District 8 and House District 57, respectively.
The Senate District 8 race was an anomaly in Routt County. White's opponent, Ken Brenner, of Steamboat Springs, was the only Democrat on Tuesday's ballot who failed to win Routt County. White beat Brenner here by 965 votes, 6,672 to 5,707. It constituted a partisan reversal for Routt County, which favored a Democrat in the 2004 Senate District 8 race. That year, Routt County Democrat and rancher Jay Fetcher beat Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, by a count of 6,504 to 4,881 votes in Routt County.
In the weeks before Tuesday's election, both candidates discussed the possibility of Brenner enjoying trickle-down benefits from the popularity of President-elect Barack Obama. Although the Senate District 8 race tracked the presidential one closely in some counties - including Garfield County, where the presidential candidates amazingly tied and Brenner lost by only three votes - the "Obama factor" proved a non-factor. While Brenner lost Routt County, Obama won it by about 3,500 votes. In Eagle County, Obama beat John McCain by about 5,000 votes, but Brenner bested White by only about 400.
"Colorado's voting is all about unaffiliated voters," Brenner said Wednesday. "They don't vote party line. They vote each line, each issue."
Brenner called White on Wednesday to congratulate him and offer support on issues such as water and renewable energy. Brenner said he was disappointed to lose his home county.
"Probably the No. 1 thing is, you assume people know who you are, and they don't," Brenner said. "Even when you've lived here your whole life."
Although the Routt loss was disappointing, Brenner's huge losses in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties were most responsible for his defeat. White won the two counties by a combined 5,012 votes; his total margin of victory was 6,126 votes.
White said his victory in the face of such success for Democrats underscores his reputation as a moderate and bipartisan legislator.
Baumgardner will take White's seat in the state House in January, when White moves on to the Senate. Baumgardner said he would take a similar approach and promote legislation based not on its party, but on how it benefits the district.
"I'm not opposed for crossing the aisle," Baumgardner said Tuesday night.
Nowhere was Routt County more contrary than in the House District 57 race. Hagenbuch beat Baumgardner here, 7,508 to 4,426 votes. But Hagenbuch lost the district overall by a tally of 19,599 to 15,074 votes. If he could do it again, Hagenbuch said, he would have campaigned earlier and more often.