Republican John Kellner rides late surge to apparent victory in race for 18th DA; Jeff Baker wins continued seat on Arapahoe County Commission

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AURORA | Voters in the traditionally conservative communities that ring Aurora’s eastern and southern flanks pushed two local Republicans to apparent victory Friday evening in a pair of closely contested races that have been in limbo for more than a week.

Republican John Kellner appears to have edged Democrat Amy Padden in the contest to become the next District Attorney in the 18th Judicial District, and Republican Jeff Baker appears to have solidified a comeback in his bid to defend his seat on the Arapahoe County Board of commissioners against Democratic newcomer Idris Keith.

Following a final dump of outstanding military, overseas, provisional and cure ballots late Friday afternoon, Kellner led Padden by 1,418 votes, which meets the threshold to trigger an automatic recount in the race by 20 votes. The recount process is not expected to begin until local election audits are completed at the end of the month.

When reached by phone Friday, Kellner, who has spent the past eight years working as a chief deputy district attorney in the office he’s slated to assume, said he’s looking forward to ostensibly take the reins from his current boss, term-limited Republican George Brauchler.

“It hasn’t sunk in entirely yet,” he said from his Greenwood Village home. “It’s something you strive for for a long time, you hope for, you work for, and it’s just now reaching reality … I’m just really excited to get started.”

Kellner said he has yet to speak with Padden about the race. A spokesperson for Padden’s campaign said the Democrat is not planning on issuing any statements regarding the conclusion of the race until the recount process has started the week of Thanksgiving.

The race for the district attorney’s post has magnetized regional attention for months, with all manner of state and national figures flooding the race with endorsements and cash. The two candidates collectively raised  more than a quarter of a million dollars in the race, according to campaign finance records. A previous challenger who lost to Padden in a primary early this summer netted $252,000 alone.

Kellner is set to serve as the last DA of the 18th as it is currently arranged. Arapahoe County will be parceled out of the jurisdiction, which currently covers about 88% of Aurora, beginning in 2025. Voters in Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln Counties will hire a new district attorney for the novel 23rd judicial district in November 2024.

Baker, the incumbent on the five-person board of commissioners, worked past an early deficit on election night to beat Keith, a business attorney, by 165 votes. The race to represent the county’s far eastern district three will also go to a recount as required by state law due to current vote totals.

But Baker, who worked for the county for some two decades before he was first elected to the commission four years ago, said he does not expect a recount to greatly alter the current results.

“Recounts don’t normally, in my memory, change (totals) a whole lot,” he said by phone Friday. “I’m pretty relieved right now.”

Keith did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Baker added that he’s looking forward to continuing to work with his four fellow commissioners, one of whom will be new when she is sworn in early next year. Democrat Carrie Warren-Gully, a former director with the Littleton Public Schools Board of Education, beat incumbent Kathleen Conti to represent the southern portion of the county.

Baker said he emailed Warren-Gully to congratulate her on her victory earlier this week.

Democrats now have a 3-2 majority on the historically conservative board.