With the dust from the 2010 election (mostly) settled, it’s time for our Winners & Losers. Today we’ll give you the Winners, and tomorrow, the Losers.
Click below to read about the big Winners of 2010…
In a huge Republican year, in the most expensive and competitive Senate race in the country, Bennet was elected in his first-ever campaign for office. Two years ago today, 99% of Coloradans had never heard of Michael Bennet. It’s been a wild ride since Gov. Bill Ritter first appointed Bennet to the seat, and Bennet got better as a speaker while becoming a powerhouse of a fundraiser. Love him or hate him, there’s little question that he’s one of the big winners of the 2010 election.
In 2005 there were a lot of political observers (including us) who thought that Hickenlooper passed up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to run for governor at the height of his popularity. The disastrous campaign of Republican Bob Beauprez basically handed Bill Ritter the keys to the Governor’s Mansion in 2006, but who could have guessed that Republicans would put up even less of a fight for an open governor’s seat just four years later. We’re not discounting the fact that Hickenlooper is a supremely gifted politician, but it must have been nice to have been perhaps the only Democrat in Colorado who really didn’t have much to worry about on Election Day.
Seriously, folks. Maes was perhaps the most unqualified candidate for the state’s highest office since…well, maybe ever. He wasn’t running to win anything, or even to prove anything to himself or anybody else. Dan Maes was running for office, quite simply, because he was able to keep his bills paid and see his goofy mug on television for 18 months. Say what you will about the man, and we’ve said plenty, but history will forever show that he was The Republican Nominee for Governor of Colorado in 2010. Not bad for a guy with a failing business who nobody had ever heard of before.
Colorado Television Stations
There are probably a lot of people whose jobs are safe for at least a few years thanks to the record-setting amount of money spent on TV ads in 2010.
Even though he had won two previous elections, and even though he was always considered the favorite to hold this seat, there was always a little uncertainty about whether CD-7 was really safe for Perlmutter or whether he had just survived in the past because of a good climate for Democrats and a poor group of Republican opponents. Consider that question answered once and for all. Despite running in a year that saw huge Republican gains nationwide, and despite a good (though definitely flawed) opponent in Republican Ryan Frazier, Perlmutter won re-election by 11 points. Think about that for a moment – in a district that is fairly competitive in terms of voter registration, and in a terrible year for Democratic incumbents, Perlmutter absolutely crushed Frazier. And not only that, but Perlmutter never had to fake being more conservative or alter his approach to do it. His natural and personable style, which he keeps going in off years with outreach initiatives like “Government in the Grocery,” are going to keep him in this seat as long as he wants-and it bodes well for Perlmutter as a candidate for higher office.
Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Gardner made scores of stupid, unforced errors and was solid but never particularly impressive in fundraising or messaging…but still he defeated Democrat Betsy Markey to win CD-4 by a 12-point margin. Gardner certainly deserves credit for his victory, but we can’t help but consider how awful his Republican primary challengers performed, and how his many mistakes just never seemed to become bigger errors. Politics is largely about taking advantage of the right opportunity, and Gardner certainly did that and more.
John Suthers, Scott Gessler, and Walker Stapleton
The Republican candidates for Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Treasurer, respectively, had different situations but benefitted from a similar voter reaction. With Democrats winning the race for Senate and Governor, there’s no question where the first protest vote landed from angry voters: The first state candidate they didn’t recognize. Suthers stepped up his game against a tough opponent, while Stapleton was perceived (fairly or not) as having taken the high road in a close fight. As for Gessler, in any other year, in any other race, there’s no reason he should have been elected after such a ludicrously bad campaign; without any real presence on TV, there’s no strategic reason why Gessler should have defeated incumbent Democrat Bernie Buescher. But Gessler (like Suthers and Stapleton) won because of what he was not: A Democrat. In a Republican year, voters chose Republicans in these three races in which they didn’t know much about any of the candidates.
Brandon Shaffer and Morgan Carroll
Senators Shaffer and Carroll put together a protection plan that held Democratic losses in the Colorado Senate to a single appointed seat picked up by the Republicans. In an election where Democrats inarguably suffered down the ballot from low-information protest votes against incumbents, protecting the Senate was a remarkable district-by-district feat shared by their winning candidates (below).
Senator Schwartz’s nail-biting win over wealthy challenger Bob Rankin helped Democrats stage a remarkably successful defense of the Colorado Senate this year. Schwartz is one of several Senate candidates, including John Morse in Colorado Springs and Jeanne Nicholson in the mountain towns, whose success means that Governor-elect Hickenlooper is more than just a talking veto pen.
Though he’s also earned a spot as a “Loser” as well (see tomorrow’s “Losers”), the new Speaker of the House still gets the credit for (barely) getting a majority of his House candidates over the finish line. We’ve been frank about our assessment of the quality of candidate recruitment for Republicans this year, but once that was on the table, give McNulty credit for keeping things together just enough to allow a GOP takeover.
Republicans have had a difficult decade in Jefferson County, long considered the most important county in Colorado for any statewide hopeful. We can’t tell you what’s going to become of Ms Szabo in the long term, given her penchant for weird political/religious zealotry (not to mention her poor decision-making on her direct mail pieces), but she worked incredibly hard to win her election in HD-27 and give the GOP a new foothold in the central part of the county.