VOTE 2020: Hickenlooper defeats Gardner in Aurora, across Colorado


VOTE 2020-US Senate

US SenateArapahoe CountyDouglas CountyAdams CountyDenver CountyJefferson CountyStatewide
D-John Hickenlooper18393293464
R-Cory Gardner
U- Stephan "Seku" Evans83228773569391555857
L-Raymon Anthony Doane4364282439382431539537707

AURORA | Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has defeated incumbent Cory Gardner for the U.S. Senate seat that’s been one of the most closely watched in the nation this election cycle.

It’s the first Senate seat to flip, called by the Associated Press less than an hour after polls closed. As of 7:45 p.m Hickenlooper holds 54% of the statewide vote.

Wednesday morning, Hickenlooper’s lead had held.

Colorado has become reliably Democratic under Trump, and for that reason, Gardner is seen as one of the most vulnerable Republican senators seeking reelection as Democrats try to flip the U.S. Senate. Trump embraced Gardner as “behind him 100%” in February” an endorsement seized by Hickenlooper in his bid to replace Gardner.

Gardner recently has sought to distance himself from Trump, focusing instead on his sponsorship of a wildlands protection bill, now law, and two ethics law violations by Hickenlooper, a popular former two-term governor and Denver mayor. Hickenlooper zeroed in on Gardner’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and Gardner’s vote for Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Even though Hickenlooper would give Senate Democrats another vote, it’s unclear where Hickenlooper will come down on expanding the Supreme Court. In late September, he told the Colorado Sun he wasn’t willing to discuss the matter. 

To national media, Hickenlooper’s answers have been contradicting. He told the New York Times he’s open to the expansion, but told the Washington Post he worried about the precedent it might set. 

“As president, I could add five seats, but the next Republican president might then add six more,” he said.

Gardner’s vulnerability initially drew more than a dozen Colorado Democrats to seek their party’s nomination to face him this year. Hickenlooper, perhaps the most prominent Democrat in the state, initially passed, instead mounting a brief, ill-fated bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. But national Democrats convinced him to instead challenge Gardner.

The former governor had previously bemoaned negative partisan campaigning. But his race against Gardner swiftly turned nasty. The incumbent senator and his GOP allies highlighted how Hickenlooper was found to have twice violated state ethics law by the independent ethics commission. Hickenlooper, 68, improperly took a private flight and a limousine ride in Italy while governor, the commission found.

Hickenlooper dismissed the matter as a “technical” error. Gardner called Hickenlooper “the most corrupt governor in Colorado history.” Hickenlooper, admitting he was being negative this time, dismissed Gardner as a silver-tongued politician. Last week he released a video of himself reading Colorado-themed insults against Gardner that people had posted on Instagram.

The two men had worked well together and respected each other during Hickenlooper’s two terms as governor. But their increasingly barbed race was a reflection of the polarized turn in both national and state politics in recent years.

With Republicans struggling to hold Senate seats in conservative states such as Kansas and South Carolina, Gardner is considered the underdog in Colorado. Hickenlooper came to prominence in Colorado nearly 20 years ago when he became Denver mayor. His victory in the 2010 gubernatorial race helped establish Colorado as a politically competitive, slightly Democratic-leaning state. Democrats hope that he will now dispatch the most prominent remaining elected Republican.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report