As more and more of Colorado's 64 counties posted unofficial results Tuesday night, it was clear Colorado is a blue state as Democrats Joe Biden and former Gov. John Hickenlooper took insurmountable leads over the incumbent President Donald Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner, respectively.
The Associated Press called the state for the Democrats within the first hour after polls closed at 7 p.m.
"There’s a lot to do, and Lord knows the system in Washington is a broken mess," the new senator said in a statement at 8:30 p.m. "But I’m an optimist. I know this country is ready to begin a new chapter.
"So tonight, I pledge to you — I will work my heart out for this state that I love. And I will do everything I can to bring common sense and decency to our work."
In the much-watched 3rd Congressional District race on the Western Slope, Republican newcomer Lauren Boebert jumped out to 10-point lead early but the race tightened to as little as two points as the night progressed. Boebert, the gun-rights advocate and first-time candidate, held an 8,000 vote lead with 395,143 votes tabulated, counting two other candidates on the ballot. About 20% of the votes were still uncounted Tuesday night.
Mitsch Bush conceded early Wednesday morning.
"The voters have spoken," she said to her supporters. "I did not get enough votes to win. You all worked so hard. I am so honored and humbled by you giving me your hard earned money and all your time and energy.
"Thank you for believing in me."
Boebert said, "I am so thankful to everyone who supported my campaign for freedom and prosperity. This is a win for the steel workers in Pueblo and the ranchers in Craig and the peach farmers in Palisade and it's a win for every freedom-loving patriot who believes in the promise of America. Because of your support, I am heading to Washington to help secure our rights, drain the swamp and make sure our children never grow up in a socialist nation."
Colorado’s incumbent members of Congress appeared cruising to new terms, according to early results.
Ballot issues were also breaking left Tuesday night, with a late-term abortion ban trailing and a move to join the National Popular Vote Compact was passing. Meanwhile, repealing the Gallagher Amendment on property taxes was passing, along with an across-the-board cut in Colorado's income tax rate.
In the statehouse, Democrats appear likely to grow their majorities in both chambers, picking up a net of two in the Senate and one in the House.
The tightest race through most of the evening is Proposition 114, the reintroduction of wolves to the Western Slope. With more than 2.5 million votes counted an hour after the polls closed, the yes side had about 40,000 more votes than the no side.
Polling Sunday gave each of the two Democrats at the top of the ticket double-digit leads in a state that cleaned house on Republicans in statewide office two years ago.
Gardner ran with an unpopular president on his back, but he did little to show independence on the big issues that mattered. He rode a wave into the Senate in 2014 in the red tide caused the Affordable Care Act. In six years since, Republicans have neither repealed nor replaced it. They also haven't presented a plan of their own.
Gardner, like Trump and other Republicans pledged to defend preexisting conditions at the same time the administration is in court to kill Obamacare and its existing guarantees.
The Republican senator from Colorado offered a bill he said would protect preexisting conditions, but it never went anywhere.
Gov. Jared Polis, who wasn't on the ballot this time around, was encouraging Coloradans to vote on Zoom call with other top state Democrats Thursday.
"The stakes are so high in this election and it's likely to be extremely close," he predicted. "You don't want to look back next week or for the next four years and say, 'If only I had shown up.'"
On the same call Hickenlooper, like Biden has for days, turned first to COVID-19.
"We know that our country is in crisis from the pandemic and ensuing economic collapse that's already cost too many Coloradans too much," the former governor said. "From the wildfires we've seen this summer and fall there's a climate catastrophe on out doorstep, and that's why this election is so important."
Gardner's fellow senator, Michael Bennet, who's up for reelection in two years, said a huge turnout in Colorado could help the nation see improvements such as fighting climate change, universal health care, a justice system blind to race.
"We can be that place that in 50 years from people can point back to and say it was Colorado in 20202 that led the entire country and turned the page on Trumpism, and ignited a new progressive era for America," the senior senator said. "That's what I think is on the ballot today in our state. There's never been a better reason to vote."
State Republican Party chairman Ken Buck, the congressman from Windsor running for reelection Tuesday, did a Facebook video with Gardner, apparently near an interstate that wasn't explained in the video.
"On behalf of all Colorado Republicans, I want to thank Senator Cory Gardner for his decades of service to our state," he said. "Cory has consistently fought for opportunities to make life better for Coloradans by building a pathway for greater prosperity and opportunity for all. I hope his dedication to serve and produce results for Coloradans will continue well in to the future.
"This election cycle, Coloradans faced unprecedented challenges and obstacles and met them head on at every turn. I am very proud of the work that our volunteers, activists, and team across the state did to mobilize a historic number of voters to turnout and participate in this year's election."
The Colorado GOP had no public online celebrations scheduled Tuesday night.
Turnout was telling
The story of this election was turnout, which only sealed a blue outcome that was expected. By 10 a.m. Tuesday, more voters had cast ballots than in all of 2016, a turnout of 79.5%, and projected to be among the highest in the nation.
Momentum, numbers and money were clearly on the side of the blue team, not the red, this season.
As of Wednesday morning, registered Democrats had turned in 106,305 more ballots than Republicans.
Colorado, however, has 99,774 more Democrats than Republicans, but the early voting turnout rate wasn't that much different between the two: 81% by Republicans to 83% by Democrats..
The state's largest bloc, unaffiliated voters, turned out strong before the election: 1,065,739 votes, which is 70.6% of those who don't declare a party affiliation.
Republicans lost all the statewide races on the ballot in Colorado just two years ago.
Unaffiliated Coloradans have grown the fastest of the three since Trump's State of the Union speech on Feb. 4, Democrats have added voters, Republicans grew while the unaffiliated ranks swelled by 127,944.
Democrats have added 66,795, and Republican by just 26,715 registered members, according to the Secretary of State's office.
Before the polls closed Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, defending his Congressional District 6 seat for the first time, was ecstatic with the turnout, and said the president had a lot to do with it.
“President Trump sought to discredit our elections, but despite that - or in spite of it - Americans have turned out in record numbers," Crow, one of the House members who prosecuted the Trump impeached case in the Senate this year. "This is our democracy at work and we must never take it for granted.
“2020 is not a typical year, and it’s not going to be a typical election night, either. Because of the pandemic and record turnout, we may not know every result right away – it might take some time and a little extra patience. But make no mistake, while this year is different, our basic voting process remains the same. President Trump may try to call the election for himself before the night is over but we live in a democracy, not an autocracy."
Ain't over till it's over
This year's election is expected to be one of the most scrutinized in history, or at least as much as the 2000 recount in Florida.
The president has alleged that Democrats would try to steal the race. Trump made comments in the closing days of the campaign that signaled a plan to get the outcome to the Supreme Court, one-third of which he appointed.
Tuesday, however, isn't the last stop for the 2020 outcome, not officially.
"Election Night results are never final results,” Secretary of State Jena Griswold said, explaining the process.
After Election Day, Colorado voters are allowed to fix errors on their ballot to ensure it's counted, including, in the extreme, signatures that don't match.
Normally, voters have eight days, but this year they have nine, because a holiday, Veterans Day, falls on Nov. 11.
Fixed or "cured" ballots, as well as military and overseas absentee ballots, are due by Nov. 12, then the results are analyzed to ensure "a high level of statistical confidence," called a risk-limiting audit, the Secretary of State's Office said.
The election won't be officially certified until Nov. 30, unless there's a surprising recount.
The presidency, under the best of circumstances, won't be decided until Dec. 14, when the Electoral College votes are cast. Colorado has nine, awarded as a block to whoever wins the state popular vote, of the 270 needed to seat a president.
Democrats grew their majorities in the Colorado House and Senate Tuesday, it appears from preliminary numbers.
They came into the night with an insurmountable 41-24 advantage in the House and 19-16 in the upper chamber. They left lead 19-16 in the Senate and 42-23 in House.
Democrats tried to expand their map in the House targeting the college-educated voters in the traditionally Republican-leaning suburbs, where Trump has stumbled and pulled down Republican prospects down the ticket. That included flipping House District 38 in Centennial, represented by Republican Rep. Richard Champion of Columbine Valley. Democratic Rep. David Ortiz mounted built a lead over Champion, who got little to no support from Republican funders.
Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, the assistant Republican leader in the House, held on but faced a well-focused challenge from Jennifer Mitkowski. Democrats also targeted House District 22, where Republican Rep. Colin Larson of Littleton held off Democrat Mary Parker.
Republican hoped to pick up House District 25, but Democratic Rep. Lisa Cutter of Littleton won by 7 percentage points over Donald Rosier, and House District 37, where Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan won of Centennial was leading by 13 percentage points Tuesday night over Republican Caroline Cornell.
Democratic Rep. Brianna Titone, the state's first transgender legislators, easily won her rematch with Vicki Pyne two years ago for the Arvada-based House District 27, a contest settled by 439 votes last time around.
The Democratic majority in the upper chamber focused on three potential pickups:
Senate District 8 on the Western Slope Republican incumbent Bob Rankin lost his reelection to former congressional candidate Karl Hanlon, a rancher and city attorney for Glenwood Springs.
Senate District 25 in eastern Adams County incumbent Republican Kevin Priola held a narrow lead over Democrat Paula Dickerson.
Senate District 27 in Centennial saw Democrat Chris Kolker dispel former deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert, the Republican, for the seat formerly held by Republican Jack Tate, who didn't seek a second term.
Tuesday House Speaker KC Becker, a Democrat from Boulder, said her party's control of the legislature has resulted in advancements on environmental regulation and renewable energy, more affordable health care, criminal justice reforms, affordable housing and mental health funding.
"Legislatures across the country really have become incubators for tons of ideas that may get brought up in or Congress or maybe can't get done in Congress," she said Tuesday afternoon.
Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Democrat from Pueblo, said the country was at a juncture where it must reexamine its values and decide what kind of future the country has.
"For me. the America I want to live in and support I want to build back better," he said, borrowing the presidential nominee's campaign theme.