Emma Hall cruised to a 23-point win over challenger Deron Dempsey in the Democratic primary for Boulder County coroner Tuesday night, ending what has been an unusually heated campaign.
Claiming 61.6 percent of the 19,710 ballots counted by 11 p.m., the incumbent Hall won so resoundingly that she had declared victory just after 7:45 p.m. — 45 minutes after initial results were posted, and more than an hour before Dempsey called her to concede.
"I'm really honored," said Hall, 37. "This is a career and a field that I'm absolutely passionate about, and have been my entire life. And this is a community that I really care about."
She said she expected a "pretty good spread" going into the primary, but was still nervous.
Primary election results
The following are election results from Boulder County and Longmont as of press time.
Boulder County coroner
Deron Dempsey: 7,576
Emma Hall: 12,134
Boulder County surveyor
Lee Stadele: 8,198
Sam Knight: 7,293
Longmont flood bond
See full Boulder County primary election results at bouldercounty.org/elections.
"I've stayed positive from the beginning," Hall said. "But it's politics, so you're always wondering up to the last minute."
Dempsey, also 37, said he was "disappointed" with Tuesday's result, but happy to have opened a dialogue about an office that's generally far from the public eye.
"I think we ran a good campaign, and we brought scrutiny to an office that needed it," he said. "I was hoping for a closer race and a victory, but I feel good that we did affect change just by having a conversation."
Much of that conversation, at least on Dempsey's end, surrounded accusations that Hall is difficult to work with, and lacks compassion for families.
He left the Boulder County Coroner's Office just months after Hall took over more than three years ago, and pointed to staff turnover as a cause for voters to be concerned about Hall's leadership.
Hall has also come under fire from the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank, which endorsed Dempsey and criticized her for what it estimates to be an 800 percent rise in denials on eye tissue donations under her watch.
"Boulder County stands out among the other 63 counties in the state," said Robert Austin, a spokesman for the eye bank, in an interview last month with the Camera.
"When 75 percent of your constituents are registered donors," Dempsey said Tuesday night, "you want to make sure that you're serving their wishes when it's appropriate to do so."
Hall, who on Tuesday joked to supporters that "the campaign is so weird for this type of position," acknowledged that she'd faced an uncommonly charged primary challenge.
"I guess I'm not really one that enjoys mudslinging in politics," she said. "It's definitely not been the approach I would have taken. My team and I have worked really hard to take the high road."
Hall sees some of the personality traits Dempsey called into question during the campaign, including compassion for families, as a particular strength.
"It's all about working with the families and trying to answer their questions," she said after claiming victory.
Hall cited the murder of a family friend 33 years ago — when Hall was just 4 years old — as her inspiration for seeking this line of work.
"I had so many questions as a child, and I wanted to make sure that their questions were answered," she told supporters.
In the next term, Hall said she looks forward to focusing on her own goals, and not having to spend so much time cleaning up for a previous regime that Hall claims left more than 40 boxes of incomplete case files.
"I walked into an office that needed complete restructuring," she said. "I was able to do that, but I wasn't able to really focus on the things I wanted to do. It was such a disaster."
Chief among those goals, Hall said, is starting a family liaison program, which she hopes will foster a more personal relationship between her office and the families it works with.
There is no Republican candidate, so Hall will run unopposed in the general election this November.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Alex Burness at 303-473-1389 or firstname.lastname@example.org.