As the counting wraps up and decisions become decree, Colorado voters turned out in record numbers to make their choices known on Tuesday. The Colorado Politics staff offers their takes on who came out on top in the "most important election in our lifetimes"  this year.

Winners

Winner, Kent Thiry: The retired Davita CEO turned philanthropist and activist passed his fifth Colorado ballot initiative in four years, as voters gave the nod to Amendment B, the repeal of the Gallagher Amendment, by a wide margin.

In 2016, Thiry was the face of Proposition 107 to reinstitute Colorado’s presidential primaries. The same year, he also led Prop 108 to open major party primaries to unaffiliated voters.

Two years ago, he was the face of amendments Y and Z to name independent commissions to draft congressional and legislative districts, respectively.

The only race Thirty hasn’t put in the Colorado win column was when he briefly ran for governor as a moderate Republican in 2017.

— Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Winner, Jena Griswold: In her first major test with the eyes of the nation on Colorado, the first-term secretary of state delivered the election on time and without a hitch.

Colorado has been using mail ballots since 2014, while other states were pressed into more vote-at-home options because of COVID-19.

While the secretary of state coordinates the elections at the highest levels, it’s the staff of the county clerks and a legion of poll workers who make elections work — this year under duress from the president and those who think the election was rigged, on top of a deadly virus.

 Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Winner, Michael Fields: Two out of three ain’t bad.

The leader of Colorado Rising State Action, had his ups and downs, well, down on Tuesday, after leading the opposition to the Gallagher Amendment repeal, which passed easily.

Two other measures he backed, however — Proposition 116 to lower the state income tax rate and Proposition 117 to require voter approval for fees that will collect $100 million the first five years — were on their way to passage.

“It’s great news that every single Coloradan will be keeping a little bit more of the money they work hard for, especially while we’re still struggling with the economic impacts of the pandemic," Fields said on election night. "Coloradans are also clearly tired of the Legislature using fees as a way of getting around asking voters for approval when they want to grow spending, and they doubled down on their support for the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights.”

 Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Winner, Democrats: Voting down Trump, again, and vanquishing incumbent U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner was the plan, and success was the result.

While the top of the ticket flourished, former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush lost a Democratic pickup opportunity on the Western Slope, as newcomer Lauren Boebert took the seat.

The blue wave also lifted Proposition 113, pledging Colorado’s nine Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Colorado becomes the 15th state and Washington, D.C., have joined the charter, which now has 197 of the 270 it needs to take effect across the country.

As Democrats ruefully point out, the Republicans presidential nominee has only won the popular vote in one election since 1988.

— Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Winner, Lauren Boebert: The young, armed restaurant owner from Rifle is on her way to Washington after accomplishing something a Colorado politician hadn't done in nearly 50 years — taking out an incumbent in a primary. She might have gone down in Colorado political history as an asterisk, however, if she hadn't managed to transform the scrappy, insurgent campaign that defeated GOP stalwart Scott Tipton into a powerhouse general election operation that kept the district in Republican hands by besting Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush's second attempt to win the seat. After the devastation suffered by Colorado Republicans at the ballot box in the last two elections, the brash, outspoken Boebert is the new face of the GOP in the state.

— Ernest Luning, Colorado Politics

Winner, Jason Crow: It was an open question heading into this year's election whether the freshman Democrat who took out Mike Coffman in 2018 could defend the suburban 6th Congressional District swing seat he represents, since members of Congress who topple incumbents in wave years are most vulnerable in their first bid for reelection, as Betsy Markey can attest. But after building a portfolio of creative and often bipartisan legislation and being thrust into the national spotlight as one of just seven House members prosecuting Trump on impeachment charges, Crow sailed to a second term against an opponent who raised more than $1 million but ran a lackluster campaign.

It's worth noting Crow delivered a roughly 18-point win over Republican Steve House in a district that's still a battleground, on paper anyway, while Republican Doug Lamborn prevailed by about the same margin in the overwhelmingly Republican 5th Congressional District over underfunded Democratic challenger Jillian Freeland.

— Ernest Luning, Colorado Politics

Winner, Some workers: Proposition 118 creates a paid family and medical leave program guaranteeing at least 12 weeks off for an illness, to take care of a loved one or bond with a new child.

Colorado became the first state where voters passed such an insurance requirement.

For those who need it, however, it’s a lifeline, while allowing small businesses to compete against corporations with another benefit.

Other workers might not be so thrilled. They might have the benefit provided free or simply don’t think they need it, but they’ll be splitting the 0.9% dedication with their employer. Taxpayers will cover the employers' share if the business has 10 or fewer employees.

 Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Winner, Colorado canines: Statewide, voters were narrowly approving Proposition 114, which would reintroduce gray wolves to the Western Slope no later than 2023, while using taxpayer dollars to cover the damage caused to livestock.

Just 12,384 votes divided the pro- and anti-wolf sides out of more than 2.7 million ballots cast.

Meanwhile, Denver passed Ballot Measure 2J to get rid of the ban on pit bulls that’s been in place since 1989.

 Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Winner, Amendment B backers: They did what many have said couldn't be done: whack away at Colorado's legendary fiscal thicket. The Gallagher Amendment is one of the constitutional measures that require local and state government to get permission to make changes.

The Gallagher Amendment set a statewide equation of property versus business taxes that didn't work for most covered by it, proponents argued.

The campaign leaned heavily on the star power of Gov. Jared Polis, who's got political capital with the folks on the left who put in the work and money to get it passed.

 Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Winner, The first family: On top of Amendment B and Proposition EE, the governor had his hand in a number of successful campaigns. His biggest win, however, was as the political bandleader for the left as Democrats grew their majorities in the House and Senate.

The first gentleman, Marlon Reis, is an outspoken animal rights activist who was in the corner, and sometimes leading the charge, on Proposition 114, the wolf reintroduction bill that was in a close scrape but leading on Wednesday.

Only first pup Gia didn't have something to howl about post-election.

Polis likes to say he's the governor for all of Colorado. The Democrats just appreciate him more.

— Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Winner, Brianna Titone: Victory is the sweetest revenge. Colorado’s first transgender legislator won her rematch with Republican Vicki Pyne in House District 47, a race Titone won by just 439 votes two years ago.

She led by 2,328 Tuesday night. Titone also endured perhaps the most personal attack of the campaign season when Rep. Stephen Humphrey, a Republican from Severance, spoke on a robocall accusing Titone of pursuing a “radical sexual agenda.”

— Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Winner, Casino towns: In the shadows of this year’s elections, Colorado’s gambling towns — Cripple Creek, Central City and Black Hawk — picked up the right to vote on their own rules governing betting limits, hours of operation and the variety of games with the passage of Amendment 77.

The windfall would go to community colleges.

The state has steadily loosened the reins on games of chance since voters granted the three historic towns authority to offer low-stakes games in 1990.

 Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Winner, Tax haters: Amendment B and Propositions 116 and 117 each dealt with Colorado’s taxing and spending and each got the blessing of the electorate.

The Gallagher Amendment formulates property taxes between businesses and residents. Proposition 116 lowers the state flat income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55%, and Proposition 117 requires a statewide vote on fees that would collect more than $100 million in its first five years.

On the other hand, voters passed Proposition EE, which puts a $7 minimum on a pack of cigarettes and a tax on e-cigarettes and other nicotine products, to pay for education.

 Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Winner, Denver City Council: Ballot Measures 2C, 2E and 2G each expanded the power of Denver’s legislative branch and each received the go-ahead from voters Tuesday night.

Measure 2C grants the 13-member council the authority to hire professional services without needing approval from the executive branch, while 2E expands council members’ budgeting authority and 2G requires their approval for 14 key mayoral appointments.

— Alayna Alvarez, Colorado Politics

Winner, Denver’s homeless: A new solution to resolve Denver’s decadeslong homelessness problem was approved with the passage of Ballot Measure 2B. Revenue from the 0.25% sales tax hike is estimated to pool together roughly $40 million a year for housing, shelter and services to support job training and mental and physical health for the city’s unhoused residents.

There are more than 4,100 people experiencing homelessness in Denver, according to the latest Point-in-Time survey.

— Alayna Alvarez, Colorado Politics

Losers

Loser, Republicans: For two elections, the party of Reagan, which became the party of Trump, has slipped further behind.

The GOP is third behind unaffiliated voters and Democrats and is growing the slowest of the three.

In 2018, they lost the state Senate majority and the majority in the state’s congressional delegation. The GOP controlled half the statewide executive offices before that election and none after, while they’ve struggled for a decade to maintain leadership of the state party.

— Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Loser, Cory Gardner: He was practically given up for dead by his own party, the happy-go-lucky pride of Yuma.

He had been weighed down by an unpopular president and a state much bluer than when he narrowly upset Mark Udall six years ago.

On Tuesday night, Colorado’s highest-profile Republican got — to use the technical term — shellacked. He took a double-digit whupping from former Gov. John Hickenlooper.

 Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Loser, Kanye West: Sure, the entertainer and friend of President Trump said his candidacy was real and absolutely not a cynical attempt to lure away Black voters from Joe Biden. Never. Tuesday 5,784 Coloradans thought Mr. Kim Kardashian was a worthy successor to Trump.

— Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Loser, Smokers: Because Proposition EE passed, smokers will pay at least $7 for a pack of cigarettes, and the first tax levied on e-cigarettes. The money will fund education, including full-day preschool.

 Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Loser, Moderates: Those who tack to the center in both parties found themselves in respective scrapes Tuesday. Republican Kevin Priola, the incumbent in Senate District 25 in eastern Adams County, pulled out a narrow win over Democrat Paula Dickerson. Meanwhile, in Senate District 8 on the Western Slope, Republican incumbent Bob Rankin was leading in a tight race over former congressional candidate Karl Hanlon, a rancher and city attorney for Glenwood Springs.

Democrats also saw some of their more conciliatory partisans struggle on Election Day. Democratic incumbent Bri Buentello lost her House District 47 in Pueblo against GOP activist Stephanie Luck.

 Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Loser, Abortion opponents: The failure of Proposition 115, the proposed 22-week abortion ban, is the fourth straight loss for those trying to restrict the practice, after three more far-reaching attempts also failed.

“Personhood” measures, declaring a fetus a human with protected rights, failed in Colorado in 2008, 2010 and 2014.

The skirmishes, nonetheless, are important, if a conservative U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade and sends the issue back to the states to decide. Prop 115 failed 59% to 41%, which is in line with past margins around women’s reproductive rights.

 Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics

Loser, Casper Stockham: The district-hopping Republican congressional candidate qualifies for a special, lifetime achievement award after losing his third election in a row — in another landslide. Stockham has the distinction of being the only major party candidate in living memory to run for Congress in three different districts, something he accomplished in the space of just two years.  This time he challenged Democrat Ed Perlmutter in the 7th CD, losing once again. 

 Ernest Luning

Loser, Climate change skeptics: Anyone doubting or denying climate change who lives or visits Denver won’t be happy about paying a higher sales tax to help reduce the city’s climate footprint starting next year.

The passage of Ballot Measure 2A, a 0.25% sales tax increase, will begin allocating tax revenue in January to renewable energy efforts, including “steep reductions” in fossil fuel consumption and “significant improvements” in air and water quality. The measure, led by the Denver Climate Action Task Force and backed by Councilman Jolon Clark, was carried with 64% of the vote Tuesday night.

— Alayna Alvarez, Colorado Politics

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