Colorado Republicans appeared poised to take control of the state House of Representatives late Wednesday as the Democratic incumbent conceded one of the last two outstanding legislative races and the Republican challenger maintained a narrow lead in the other.
Democratic state Rep. Dianne Primavera in Broomfield-centered House District 33 decided she could not overcome challenger Don Beezley's 330-vote advantage and called the Republican businessman to concede a little before 10 p.m. Wednesday, Broomfield County Democratic Party Chairman Matt Gray said.
According to the latest unofficial election results in the four counties that voted in the race, Beezley's name was checked on 17,894 ballots to Primavera's 17,564. There at least several hundred provisional ballots that have yet to be tallied.
"She looked at the numbers, and she doesn't want any ongoing drama," Gray said. "It's not like the race is legally over, but she's ready to move on."
Beezley said he had been confident throughout the day that he would maintain his lead, but it was a relief to start orientation for new legislators today with the campaign behind him.
"The goal was to win the race so we can bring a little balance to Colorado politics and try to move the state forward," he said.
As in House District 33, the candidates in Arvada's House District 29 are separated by a razor-thin margin. Robert Ramirez, the Republican challenger, has a 221-vote advantage over incumbent Democrat Debbie Benefield.
Winning both races would give the Republicans a 33-to-32 edge in the House, while the Democrats retain control of the Senate and the governor's office.
Political control of the Legislature could prove crucial in a year when lawmakers are charged with overseeing the congressional redistricting process based on the 2010 Census' population data.
Republicans, who early Wednesday announced they were now the majority party in the House before backing down later in the day, said they would move forward with the assumption that they would eventually win in both districts.
"Republicans are pretty confident they have the House until they see otherwise," said Randy Hildreth, communications director for the State House Republican Caucus. "We need to move forward."
So does Jeanne Nicholson, the Democratic commissioner in Gilpin County who is locked in her own nail-biter of a race in Senate District 16, which lies directly west of Boulder. She holds a 518-vote edge over her Republican opponent, Tim Leonard, out of nearly 60,000 votes cast.
A victory or loss by Nicholson won't affect power dynamics in the Colorado Senate, which will remain in Democratic hands this term, but she said she wants to get acquainted with the statehouse in case provisional ballots confirm her as the winner.
She said she's willing to wait to ensure the most accurate count is made.
"Let's just play it out," she said. "There's no point in yelling and screaming and saying I need to know sooner."
Leonard, a real estate developer who ran under the Republican banner in the evenly divided district that spans six counties from Jefferson to Summit, couldn't be reached Wednesday.
House District 33 and Senate District 16 are the only districts that reach into Boulder County that proved difficult for Democrats.
Democrats swept the trio of races that lie fully inside Boulder County. And State Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, beat her Republican opponent soundly in House District 13, which covers a wide swath of Boulder, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties, sweeping from Lyons in the north to Idaho Springs in the south.
University of Colorado political science chairman Ken Bickers said he wasn't entirely surprised that Republican dominance in races nationwide didn't fully penetrate Colorado's local races.
He said the trouble for the GOP began with unsuccessful Republican U.S. Senate candidate and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who found himself late in the campaign getting into trouble with women voters over some uncouth remarks he made and a date-rape case critics said he didn't try hard enough to prosecute.
Women may have consequently given more credence to female candidates such as Primavera and Benefield, Bickers said, who in any other year should have easily lost in a such a Republican-dominated election season.
"To the extent that happened, that might have arrested some of the (Republican) wave further down the ballot," the professor said. "The pieces are in place for a gendered story, but it's just a hypothesis at this point."
Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino contributed to this report.
Contact Camera Staff Writer John Aguilar at 303-473-1389 or firstname.lastname@example.org.