A blue wave rushed over Colorado on Tuesday as a record number of midterm voters swept Democrats into the governor’s mansion and most other statewide offices.
Democrats and blue-leaning unaffiliated voters inundated ballots boxes as Democratic candidate Jared Polis easily became the nation’s first openly gay governor, while a Congressional district flipped blue and every other statewide office leaned for a Democrat as of late Tuesday.
About 87,000 more Democrats cast ballots than four years ago, along with an additional 147,000 unaffiliated voters – many of whom appeared to lean blue in the primaries five months ago.
Meanwhile, Republicans appeared missing in action – casting nearly 30,000 fewer ballots than in 2014, as of 8 p.m. Tuesday.
“The signs are showing the potential for a big Democratic year, a big Democratic election,” political scientist Robert Loevy said.
The blue wave came as more people cast ballots in Colorado and El Paso County than ever before in a midterm race.
Across the state, 2,301,035 people voted, more than 210,000 above the previous high in 2014, according to the Secretary of State's latest vote count at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
And in El Paso County, more than 25,000 additional people cast ballots this time than did four years ago. And just as they did statewide, Republicans failed to show the same enthusiasm as their Democratic and unaffiliated counterparts, tallying nearly 3,000 fewer voters this time than four years ago.
For many, the answer could be found living in the White House some 1,700 miles away.
Time and again on Tuesday, voters voiced less enthusiasm for a packed statewide ballot than a chance to send a message to President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans in control of Capitol Hill.
Never one to vote in a midterm election, Nicholas Ernster, 33, said he showed up to vote Tuesday to right the wrongs of 2016.
"It was an illegitimate election, and that brings about a lot of resistance," said Ernster, referring to Trump’s win in the presidential election two years ago. "He didn't win the popular vote, and now he gets to run amok."
He voted down the ballot for Democrats. And he said he'll continue doing so in midterms for the foreseeable future.
"I didn't realize how important they were," Ernster said. "This time around seemed pretty critical, and I imagine it's always been pretty critical — I just didn't realize it."
Trump factored almost as heavily into many Republicans' decisions Tuesday as well. Milan Cikanek, 59, praised the nation's economy and the president's strong anti-immigration rhetoric of late. He said he wants people to continue entering the country legally, just as he did 40 years ago when he arrived in the U.S. as a political refugee from Czechoslovakia.
"It's about equality," Milan Cikanek said.
"It's about coming here for the right reasons, not the wrong reasons," added his daughter, Stephanie Cikanek, 23.
On Tuesday, they were in the minority.
The late push by Trump to travel the nation in support of GOP candidates also may have hurt Republicans across Colorado, said Josh Dunn, political science professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. It was a message better suited to voters in the Rust Belt or the Deep South.
“Once again, Trump nationalized this election and Trump’s brand isn’t as popular in Colorado as it is in other parts of the country,” Dunn said.
“Colorado is what Democrats were hoping the rest of the country would do,” Dunn said. “But the rest of the country has been a little recalcitrant. In a lot of these races, Trump’s been very effective.”
And just as Trump's unpopularity played a role in Tuesday's Democratic sweep, so too did the state's strong voting protections, said Eric Walker, a spokesman for Colorado Democrats. That, coupled with Trump’s unpopularity here, served as a recipe for a blue Tuesday.
“When more people vote, Democrats tend to do better,” Walker said.
The blue wave came even though an expected rush of women voters never materialized in Colorado, despite marches after Trump’s election, the #MeToo movement and the contentious confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
More than 87,000 more women cast ballots than men – following a years-long trend in Colorado that has seen women far more consistently show up at the ballot boxes.
Still, the number of women known to vote this year dropped slightly from 52.2 percent to 51.3 percent – a difference possibly offset by a significant rise in the number of people whose genders are unknown by the Secretary of State’s office.
The record turnout also came without any hiccups in the state’s voting system, said Judd Choate, state elections director for the Colorado Secretary of State's office.
“It was a perfect election,” Choate said.
Anticipating a crush of voters, El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman opened two additional voter service and polling centers, where people could register to vote and cast ballots.
He also doubled the capacity of 28 such offices across the county. To do so, he closed three Department of Motor Vehicle offices and used their staffs to help count ballots and oversee polling places.
“It’s intense – I can feel the sense of urgency on both sides,” said Broerman around midday Tuesday.
Daniel Cole, spokesman for the Colorado Republican Party, acknowledged the GOP has work to do.
“The Democratic enthusiasm in this election was very high, and obviously, the Republicans couldn’t keep up,” said Cole. “The party in power always loses the first midterm election, after a president is elected. We took a shellacking in this election, just like Obama did in 2010.
“If we want to remain competitive here, we have our work cut out for or us.”