Winners and Losers, Part One (Or, Just the Winners)

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…


Michael Bennet

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.

John Hickenlooper

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.

Dan Maes

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.

Ed Perlmutter

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.

Cory Gardner

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).

Gail Schwartz

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.

Frank McNulty

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.

Libby Szabo

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.

48 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. WendyNorris says:

    He’s now the Doug Lamborn of CD4. Hope you’re happy Fort Collins.  

  2. gertie97 says:

    not really, because they just got to watch the money go by. The real dough goes to their corporate masters, wherever they are, and the station staffs will continue to be flogged until more layoffs happen.

    Until the Reagan deregulation, there was more local ownership of broadcast stations. Thanks to RR, not any more.

    • SSG_Dan says:

      …yes, the majority of it is being passed on to Virginia where Gannett’s secret underground fortress is located. But after talking to some of my peeps at the station, it seems like a nice chuck is going to be returned in more than a few ways.

      Not in the case of higher wages (except to the sales staff and their commissions) but the point is some of it’s sticking.

      And being passed on to the local workforce – I just got a call from the station to work on some spots!

      • gertie97 says:

        If Channel 9 is giving commissions for political ads, good on them.

        Over here in Tea Party central, pretty much all the political buys run through the sales manager and general manager of the three TVs and the two radio groups, each of which runs about six signals. The sales and/or general manager get a small cut, but the lion’s share goes off to corporate.

        • SSG_Dan says:

          …so some of those Dead Presidents made their way into the Colorado Economy.

          The other reason I got a call was that now that wave of sleazy ads has washed away, there’s tons of avails that need to be filled, and they need to crank out some high-end station promos.

  3. JeffcoDemo says:

    Just nitpickin here, but wouldn’t HD27 be considered the NE Section of Jefferson County?

    The central part of the County, HD23 and HD 24 proudly sent back Max and Andy, a good portion voted Cheri Jahn back to the Dome, and made up a good portion of Ed’s return trip to Washington.  

    Sounds good until you look at the Jeffco lineup, R up and down the ticket, every elected position.  Yes, the same county that was for Bennet and Obama can’t seem to generate any Dem love for the county candidates. Any. None. Zip. Nada.

  4. caroman says:

    I’m proud of the GOTV effort in Arapahoe County that beat Buck by 3 points.  Way to go!

  5. Ray Springfield says:

    Michael and ED

    So did my state hous rep.Fields

    So did my friends Crisanta and Angela, and Joe Miklosi, and many more.

    I’m relatively happy from my neck of the woods.

  6. UglyAmerican says:

    Pols, you make me laugh – to claim that Kennedy lost because she didn’t take the high road? She didn’t go negative soon enough to expose what a joke Stapleton is.

    Hick may have won in a walk but I can’t see how he tried to help the rest of the ticket. I would love to hear otherwise. Maybe he was just hoping Cary would lose so he could make her his budget person.  

  7. Irish Patti says:

    There is a Congressman by the name of Chris Murphy who is being groomed to knock out Joe Lieberman in 2012.

    I am thrilled that crazy Tancredo lost and we have a sane Senator in Michael Bennet.  

  8. Interlocken Loop says:

    Prematurely trumpeted the GOP takeover of the Senate and ended up with a net gain of only one.  Kopp’s poor leadership likely cost his party control of the Senate. Morgan Carroll and Brandon Shaffer clearly were on top of their games and Kopp wasn’t.

  9. Gilpin Guy says:

    assuming the provisional ballots go her way.  She ran a great campaign and was the better qualified candidate.  There was one innovation that she employed that I thought was really cool.  Instead of using robo calls for negative attacks against her opponent she used one robo to leave her phone number and website and asked them to give her a call to talk about their issues.  She said “I’m available to talk to you if you will call me”.  What a great way to solicit dialogue with the voters.  The goal of the call was to give voters access to the candidate and find out the candidate positions and proposed solutions.  It was a great robo call.

    There was a second robo call that I thought was equally strategic and well placed.  Gilpin County is a small county which is mostly composed of long distance commuters.  The local Democratic committee needed help to field volunteers to drive seniors to the polls or help people with ballots drop issues.  Jeanne put together a robo call targeted to Democrats in the county and gave them a phone number to call to get election help.  It was a great GOTV tactic.  I thought her communication strategies were winners.

  10. Interlocken Loop says:

    Steve Welchert directed Ed Perlmutters surprisingly large reelection victory as well as helping Gail schwartz

  11. Gilpin Guy says:

    Bennet winning is sweet vindication for Ritter.  This former superintendent of a major metro school district and a Ritter appointment is now ready to serve six years on the Senate Education Committee with at least the first two in a majority status.

    Hickenlooper, his political protГ©gГ©, will inherit a state that has difficult days ahead but has been steadied by Ritter’s unpopular but necessary policies.  Ritter might have been unpopular but I thought he was rock solid effective as a governor who took tough positions because that was what was required from him.  Ritter didn’t flinch in the face of difficult choices.  He made sure the gubernatorial election wasn’t about him.  I’d hire him in a heartbeat to be a CEO with executive experience.  He is going to go on to do some great things.

    Hickenlooper could be even more effective because of his support and should be a good partner to work with in the state legislature.

    Ritter wins big by being self sacrificing like the guys at the front of the landing boats as they hit Omaha Beach in Saving Private Ryan.  Ritter was an incredible and self-sacrificing leader.  His tenure was a success and his successor will be the beneficiary.

  12. Gilpin Guy says:

    Some people said that they did too much and other people are bitter that they didn’t do enough but the 111th Congress saved the country from a permanent depression and moved forward human progress on a number of issues.  The purpose of a huge majority is to get things done and the 111th did their job.  I wish they would have taken up immigration reform and cap and trade but they definitely swung the debate away from marriage protection amendments and disastrous corporate deregulation to legitimate issues like health care that effect the majority of the nation.  It was frustrating and exhilarating to watch the progress of this Congress.  Let them take up the Bush Tax Cuts in their lame duck session.  Let them expire either only for the rich or for everyone.  Finish with a flourish folks.

    Rolling Stone article on the 111th

  13. Ray Springfield says:

    I always do. Nevertheless, if I’m going to make a living I’m finding that I have to be ready to work with the other side.

    With the election results, we all should try to find ways to work together.

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