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Steamboat Springs After he emerged Tuesday night as the victor in the race for Senate District 8, Republican state Rep. Randy Baumgardner said he's eager to get back to work at the Capitol.
With 73 percent of precincts in the district reporting their vote totals, the rancher from Cowdrey was leading Democratic challenger Emily Tracy with 52 percent of the vote.
The unofficial vote tallies at 11 p.m. showed Baumgardner leading by more than 5,000 votes and cruising to a victory in five of the seven Northwest Colorado counties that make up Senate District 8.
Tracy was expected to carry Routt and Summit counties, but she ran up against a heavy Republican advantage in the district's other counties. Tracy won 52 percent of the vote in Routt County.
“It's been very exhausting, but the people of Northwest Colorado voted and made their choice,” Baumgardner said. “It was an honor to represent them as a state representative, and I'll continue to represent them as their state senator and give it 100 percent.”
Tracy called Baumgardner late Tuesday night to congratulate him on his victory after state Democratic Party officials told her they didn't see a path to victory in the race.
"I really enjoyed running in this race," Tracy said. "I met literally thousands of terrific people in this part of the state. It's almost priceless what you gain from that experience."
She said she plans to continue her work as a child protective services worker at the Colorado Post Adoption Resource Center.
Baumgardner, who has represented House District 57 since 2008, attributed his victory to his legislative experience.
“I think people like the way I represent them in this district, and they felt like my values were their values,” he said.
Baumgardner said his first priority in his new role at the statehouse will be to help grow the economy.
“We'll see if we can work to get business going a little better through whatever means we have to,” he said, listing deregulation and business incentives as policies he will pursue.
Tracy, a former Cañon City City Council member, courted independent voters in the district that historically has favored Republican candidates.
Tracy told voters her priorities as a legislator would be to promote sustainable tourism, maintain a strong agricultural industry and ensuring quality of education.
During the course of their four-month campaign, the two candidates sparred on a number of issues.
At a candidate's forum last month in Steamboat, Baumgardner and Tracy offered differing opinions on the role of local government in regulating the oil industry. It's a subject that has garnered much attention in Routt County this year as energy development inches closer to municipalities including Steamboat and Hayden, and the county's commissioners push for more power in regulating the industry alongside the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Tracy advocated for local governments to have a stronger voice in regulating oil and gas development.
Baumgardner said counties already have an adequate amount of control, and any additional regulations would be an unnecessary burden on business.
Her significant financial edge over the State Representative didn't give her an edge in the final vote tallies.
The candidates' latest campaign finance reports show Tracy raised $78,687 through Oct. 24, which is $17,300 more than the $61,387 Baumgardner raised during the entire campaign.
Baumgardner spent about $10,200 of his fundraising total during his heated Republican primary with Jean White.
Baumgardner said he was excited to win, but he wasn't expecting President Barack Obama to triumph against Republican challenger Mitt Romney and for several Democratic candidates to prevail in Northwest Colorado.
“I was surprised to see it turn out that way,” he said. “The voters decided who they wanted. It wasn't my choice, but he is the president and I will respect the office.”
The composition of voter registrations in the seven counties that make up Senate District 8 made Baumgardner an early favorite in the race and made Tracy's path to victory dependent on her earning the vote of the large unaffiliated population and a strong turnout of Democrats.
At the start of the campaign, 38 percent of the district's registered voters were Republican, 26 percent were Democrats and 35 percent were unaffiliated.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com