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Last update: Friday, November 18 at 2:30 p.m.
It seems like every general election gets billed by political pundits as the “most important” of our lifetimes. But the stakes of this year’s midterms are truly high: Control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate both hang in the balance—as does the Democrats’ universal hold on all of Colorado’s statewide elected offices.
Plenty of Centennial Staters felt the gravity of this year’s contests. According to the Colorado secretary of state’s office, 2,540,696 voters cast ballots in this year’s election, which represents 66.28 percent of all registered voters in our state.
So how did Coloradans vote? Here are the outcomes of Colorado’s and Denver’s most important races and ballot measure contests.
Colorado’s Congressional Races
Senator Michael Bennet (D, incumbent) defeated Joe O’Dea (R) and is headed to the Senate with a mandate for a third term in office, which will make him the longest-serving Colorado senator in decades. But while this result had once seemed a sure bet, the race appeared to get uncomfortably close for Bennet in recent months after moderate Republican Joe O’Dea secured his party’s nomination in the June primary.
Unlike more far-right challengers, O’Dea never questioned the validity of Biden’s victory in the 2020 election—a position that likely appealed to Colorado voters who have spurned election-deniers at the ballot box. In fact, Democratic-affiliated groups had spent millions trying to defeat O’Dea in the primary, hoping for a more radical right-leaning candidate like Ron Hanks to represent the Republican ticket. But even though O’Dea was probably not the candidate Bennet hoped to face, the incumbent didn’t aggressively campaign until relatively late, spending millions in TV ads during the past few months and launching fierce attacks against O’Dea on the topic of abortion. The incumbent managed to fend off his moderate challenger with a healthy vote margin.
By 8:09 p.m. when this race was decided, Bennet held a nearly 15 percentage point lead over O’Dea. That lead ended up settling to roughly 14 points by the time all votes were counted.
U.S. House of Representatives
Diana DeGette (D, incumbent) defeated Jennifer Qualteri (R). DeGette, the longest-serving member of the Colorado delegation (25 years), will return to the U.S. House of Representatives for a 14th term.
Joe Neguse (D, incumbent) defeated Marshall Dawson (R). Neguse will return to the U.S. House of Representatives for a third term.
Lauren Boebert (R, incumbent) defeated Adam Frisch (D) by a margin of less than 600 votes. The neck-and-neck contest between Boebert and Frisch had been a focus of national attention since Tuesday given Boebert’s profile as a conservative star—and the race’s potential to determine control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Before election day, most pollsters had anticipated a healthy margin of victory for the gun-toting, Trump-loving, president-heckling congresswoman who represents a broad swath of Colorado, stretching from the Western Slope to Pueblo to the state’s southern state line. Instead, her Democratic rival Adam Frisch, who had been an Aspen city councilman from 2011 to 2019 and ran to unseat Boebert while promising an end to what he called “angertainment” in politics, actually led Boebert in the vote tally through Tuesday and Wednesday. The result was especially surprising given that District 3’s lines were redrawn after the 2020 Census, and were generally understood to give Republicans even more of an advantage in the district. It took until Friday, November 18, when all counties had reported their votes, for any definitive outcome. That morning, Adam Frisch conceded defeat (Boebert had claimed victory the night before, November 17). But since the margin of victory was less than 0.5 percent, an automatic recount was triggered. If past recounts in Colorado are any indication, Frisch is not likely to make up his 554 vote deficit once all ballots are tallied once again.
Ken Buck (R, incumbent) defeated Ike McCorkle (D). Buck will return to the U.S. House of Representatives for a fifth term.
Doug Lamborn (R, incumbent) defeated David Torres (D). Lamborn will return to the U.S. House of Representatives for a ninth term.
Jason Crow (D, incumbent) defeated Steven Monahan (R). Crow, who flipped the District 6 (east Denver metro area) seat in 2018 and gained a national spotlight during the first impeachment trial of former President Trump, will return to the U.S. House of Representatives for a third term.
Brittany Pettersen (D) defeated Erik Aadland (R) to keep the District 7 seat blue. When Democratic U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter announced that he was retiring this year rather than seeking a ninth term, the seat in Colorado’s 7th Congressional District—which encompasses Denver’s western and northern suburbs—was left up for grabs for the first time since 2007.
Colorado State Senator Pettersen and Aadland, a veteran and businessman, battled it out for control of the vacant seat, with their campaigns spending more than $2.2 million and $1.2 million, respectively. In the end, the nearly 2–1 spending ratio against her opponent (and 13,000 more registered Democrats compared to Republicans in the district) likely helped propel Pettersen to victory, with at least a 20 point advantage when the race was declared at 9 p.m. That lead settled to roughly 15 points by the time all votes were counted.
Yadira Caraveo (D) defeated Barbara Kirkmeyer (R) and is headed to the U.S. House of Representatives for her first term. Until election day, this race had been considered a toss-up. Colorado’s newest congressional district, which was allotted to the state after the 2020 Census and drawn by an Independent Redistricting Commission, was always going to be competitive, given that it encompasses Commerce City and other Democratic-leaning suburbs north of Denver, but extends into the Conservative-leaning areas around Greeley. Both parties spent heavily in this race, which helps determine control of the U.S. House; both parties also nominated state lawmakers. Democrat Yadira Caraveo’s campaign spent nearly $2.6 million while Barbara Kirkmeyer’s campaign spent $1.25 million (although Kirkmeyer also had the support of numerous super PACs).
The vote was indeed tight, staying within a percentage point for much of Tuesday and Wednesday. In the end, Caraveo rode a blue wave in Colorado to victory, and her Republican opponent conceded just after 6 p.m. on November 9. Caraveo will be the first Latina from Colorado to represent the state in Congress.
Governor Jared Polis (D, incumbent) defeated Heidi Ganahl (R) and was re-elected to a second term. The Democratic incumbent, whose frequent public addresses during the pandemic raised his profile, and who has promised to lower housing and health care costs if re-elected, was always favored in this race. But that didn’t stop Republican challenger Heidi Ganahl—whose main platform included cutting taxes and increasing fossil fuel production—from dominating headlines with controversial remarks about transgender people, unsubstantiated claims about “furries” in schools, and, in the final days of her campaign, questions about Colorado’s election integrity. This focus on “woke-ism” and culture-war issues did not resonate with enough voters across Colorado to propel her into office. Just after 7:50 p.m, Governor Polis claimed victory and gave a speech in Denver, saying Colorado’s best days “are ahead.”
Secretary of State
Jena Griswold (D, incumbent) defeated Pam Anderson (R) and was re-elected to a second term as Colorado Secretary of State. Back in 2018, Jena Griswold’s defeat of then-incumbent Wayne Williams was seen as one of the more surprising results of that midterm election–as well as reflective of 2018’s “blue wave.” Since then, Griswold’s tenure as Colorado’s top election official has been noisy, and occasionally controversial, as 5280 detailed in a recent profile. This made Griswold vulnerable to her Republican opponent Pam Anderson, who was formerly Jefferson County Clerk, and had defeated the election-denying Tina Peters of Mesa County in the Republican primary. Anderson vowed to combat conspiracy theories, giving her a centrist appeal, as well as make the Secretary of State’s office less partisan–something Griswold has been accused of. These factors contributed to predictions of a close election. But the results on Tuesday revealed that Griswold still had the confidence of voters and the race wasn’t that close after all. She held a 12 point advantage around the time the race was called—a lead that settled to about 13 points by the time all votes were counted
Phil Weiser (D, incumbent) defeated John Kellner (R) and was re-elected to a second term as Colorado Attorney General. Like Griswold, Weiser won a tight election in 2018–in his case against Republican George Brauchler–and he became Colorado’s top law enforcement official. Weiser’s first term was notably marked by a successful suit against Purdue Pharma and other pharmaceutical companies for contributing to the opioid epidemic, and Weiser campaigned with the promise of more aggressively going after fentanyl traffickers. But it was on the topic of fentanyl that Weiser’s opponent John Kellner, who is currently the district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, said that the Democratic incumbent wasn’t doing or promising enough; Kellner, seizing upon the crime wave our state is experiencing, said he would do much more to crack down on crime than Weiser had. In the end, though, voters stuck by the incumbent, re-electing Weiser with a 11 point lead at the time the race was called around 9:25 p.m.
Dave Young (D, incumbent) defeated Lang Sias (R). Young will serve a second term as Colorado’s Treasurer, a role which, according to the state, serves the citizens of Colorado by “providing banking, investment, and accounting services for all funds and assets deposited in the Treasury.”
Statewide Ballot Measures
(Read More: Colorado’s 2022 Ballot Measures, Explained)
Proposition 121: Reducing the state income tax
This ballot measure passed. Coloradans clearly wanted a break in their taxes; the passage of this ballot measure means that our state income tax rate will be lowered from 4.55 percent to 4.4 percent. But this will only have a modest impact for the vast majority of Centennial Staters; about 75 percent of taxpayers will get a tax cut of less than $63 a year.
Proposition 122: Access to naturally occurring psychedelics
This ballot measure, known as the “Natural Medicine Health Act,” passed. Its passage bolsters Colorado’s reputation as a leader in drug policy reform: Just as it created a state-regulated cannabis market from scratch when voters legalized recreational cannabis in 2012, Proposition 122 tasks the state with creating a regulated system through which Coloradans can legally access psychedelic-assisted therapy. These services will become available at licensed “healing centers” as soon as late 2024. The Natural Medicine Health Act also removes criminal penalties for growing, gifting, and using a number of naturally occurring psychedelics—including psilocybin, psilocin, DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline (but excluding peyote)—for personal use.
The measure was backed, to the tune of $4.5 million, by a number of local advocates, but also out-of-state contributors like New Approach PAC, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, and a late, $1 million donation from Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS. The measure was opposed by a PAC called Protect Our Kids, some prominent bipartisan elected officials in Colorado, as well as a surprising number of local activists on the left who felt that the measure might create a corporate-dominated—and expensive—psychedelics industry in Colorado. These folks also fear that it will fail to reciprocate Indigenous stewards of plant medicines.
In the end, Colorado voters narrowly passed the measure, agreeing with the campaign’s message that various psychedelics can help address mental health challenges in our state. Proponents behind the measure claimed victory Wednesday evening, November 9.
Proposition 123: Use taxes for affordable housing
This ballot measure passed. Its passage means that, each year, the state will set aside 0.1 percent of state income tax revenue to fund affordable housing programs. These will include giving grants and loans to local governments and nonprofits to develop affordable housing; helping first-time homebuyers with down payments; and addressing homelessness through rental assistance and eviction defense. The programs are expected to receive $145 million for the 2022-’23 state budget year and $290 million in the years after that. The programs will be overseen by the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
Proposition 124: Expanding the number of liquor store locations
This ballot measure did not pass. This was the first of three alcohol-related ballot measures that all promised major changes to Colorado’s booze-buying landscape. Proposition 124 would have gradually lifted the limit on the number of liquor store licenses that a person or business could possess until 2037, at which time the limit would have been lifted entirely.
The main supporter of this measure was Total Wine & More, which chipped in more than $3 million to pass the measure, presumably because it would be able to open more stores in Colorado with the expanded number of allowed liquor store licenses. As 5280 reported prior to the election, many locally owned liquor stores opposed Prop 124 (as well as 125 and 126), fearing that the measures would primarily benefit large corporations looking to dominate Colorado’s alcohol economy, including companies with out-of-state headquarters like Total Wine & More. The failure of proposition 124 is the first indication that voters believe our state’s alcohol rules are fine as is. When this contest was called on Wednesday morning, the other two propositions were still too close to call.
Proposition 125: Allowing wine sales in grocery stores
This ballot measure passed. Proposition 125 was the only one of three alcohol-related ballot measures to pass in this year’s election. Proposition 125 will allow grocery and convenience stores to sell wine. But the vote was very close; it passed with 50.6 percent of the vote. Support for Proposition 125 largely came from corporate entities, which will likely benefit from its passage, including Target, Safeway, and Kroger. Locally-owned liquor stores had opposed the measure, warning that allowing large grocery stores to sell wine would imperil their businesses.
Proposition 126: Allowing third-party alcohol delivery
This ballot measure did not pass. Like Proposition 124, Colorado voters decided that current rules around alcohol—in this case, delivery of liquor—did not need to be changed. Currently, alcohol delivery can only be done through licensed stores like Argonaut Wine & Liquor in Denver. But corporations including DoorDash and Instacart poured money into the measure to try to expand alcohol delivery to gig workers. By 9 p.m. on Wednesday night, it became clear that the measure would not pass and alcohol delivery rules will remain as they are.
Amendment D: Reassign judges to the 23rd Judicial District
This amendment passed. Its passage means that the governor will reassign judges from the 18th Judicial District to the newly established 23rd Judicial District–which includes Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties. This will ensure a smooth transition for those judges and guarantees that the state can fill seats on the new district’s bench; it also prevents any litigation or uncertainty around assigning judges to the new judicial district, which the state Legislature created by law in 2020.
Amendment E: Extend a tax benefit to Gold Star spouses
This amendment passed. Its passage means that surviving spouses of service members who died in the line of duty and of veterans whose deaths stemmed from their service time will now qualify for a so-called homestead exemption in Colorado. The homestead exemption reduces property taxes owed on a homeowner’s primary residence by sparing 50 percent of the first $200,000 of the home’s value from taxation. For Gold Star spouses, this could result in a tax reduction worth upwards of $600 or more each year.
Amendment F: Changes to charitable gaming
This amendment did not pass. Its failure to earn 55 percent of the vote, which is necessary for voter-approved amendments, means that there will not be any update to Colorado’s rules around how nonprofit organizations can operate games of chance like bingo or raffles. This means that nonprofits must continually operate in Colorado for at least five years to run bingo and raffle games.
Proposition FF: Healthy school meals for all
This proposition passed. Its passage creates a new program—Healthy School Meals for All—that will offer, beginning in the 2023-’24 school year, free breakfasts and lunches to all public school students regardless of their family’s income. The program will be supported by restricting the state income tax deductions that the top five percent of earners in Colorado (those who have a federal taxable income of $300,000 a year or more) can take. The program will also provide grant funding to school meal providers.
Proposition GG: Add tax information to petitions and ballots
This proposition passed. Its passage requires a tax information table to be included on future petitions and ballots for any citizen-initiated measure that would change the individual tax rate. The tables in future elections will display the average change in taxes owed by taxpayers in each of eight different income brackets.
Denver Ballot Measures
(Read More: Denver’s 2022 Ballot Measures, Explained)
*The voting results on Denver’s ballot measures won’t be certain until the Denver Elections Division officially certifies the election outcomes on Tuesday, November 29. But as of Friday, November 18, all 287,846 ballots cast had been counted. Here are the results:
Initiated Ordinance 305: Eviction defense
This ballot measure, known as “No Eviction Without Representation,” did not pass. The Denver Elections Division reported that approximately 58 percent of voters had voted “no” on the measure. Its failure means that Denver will not provide free legal assistance to tenants facing eviction proceedings by collecting fees from landlords. The measure had been opposed by the Apartment Association of Metro Denver, which spent more than $180,000 in opposition, and had pointed out that Denver already has an eviction defense program that Denverites can access. The ACLU of Colorado and Democratic Socialists of America had supported the measure.
Initiated Ordinance 306: Recycling and composting
This ballot measure, known as “Waste No More,” passed. The Denver Elections Division reported that approximately 71 percent of voters had voted “yes” on the measure. It will require all Denver businesses and large apartment complexes to offer recycling and composting beginning in 2023. The program will be overseen by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI), which will also issue fines for noncompliance.
Initiated Ordinance 307: Sidewalk maintenance and fees
This ballot measure, known as “Denver Deserves Sidewalks,” passed. The Denver Elections Division reported that approximately 56 percent of voters voted “yes” on the measure. Its passage means that the responsibility of maintaining and repairing sidewalks will shift from homeowners to the city. All homeowners will be charged yearly fees to fund the city’s sidewalk maintenance program, with the totals calculated based upon the location of the homeowners’ properties and how they face public streets.
Referred Question 2I: Tax to fund libraries
This measure passed. It will require the city to raise an estimated $36 million to support Denver’s library system—including paying librarians more and investing in technology—by raising the mill levy by 1.5 on property taxes. This will increase property taxes by an estimated $4.19 per month for the average Denver homeowner. The Denver Elections Division reported that approximately 68 percent of voters had voted “yes” on the measure.
Referred Questions 2J & 2K: Allow Denver to keep climate and homelessness taxes
These two measures passed, which will allow Denver to keep (and spend) $1.3 million it had collected in sales taxes to fund homelessness initiatives, as well as another $1.3 million it had collected in sales taxes to fund Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency. Both Referred Questions 2J and 2K were on the ballot because of TABOR–the Taxpayer Bill of Rights–which requires such measures whenever the state or a local government in Colorado collects more money in taxes than that government body initially estimated. The Denver Elections Division reported that approximately 70% of voters had voted “yes” on both measures.
Referred Question 2L: Updating election and ballot rules in Denver
This measure passed, which will allow the city to update rules around ballot titles and election procedures like creating clearer ballot language and expanding signature-collecting timelines. This measure had come from a committee convened by Denver clerk and recorder Paul López and councilmember Kendra Black, who had looked at ways to “modernize” the county’s elections. Passage of this measure will enact some of that committee’s suggestions, including requiring ballot measures to have a single subject (to address only one area) and allowing the city to review ballot titles to ensure clear and concise language. Additionally, passage of Referred Question 2L will move up deadlines for candidates to be certified. The Denver Elections Division reported that approximately 80% of voters had voted “yes” on the measure.
Other Notable Results
Ballot Issue 300 in El Paso County: Allowing for recreational cannabis sales in Colorado Springs
Ballot Issue 300 did not pass. Voters in one of Colorado’s largest potential markets for retail marijuana, El Paso County, voted down a ballot measure that would have allowed for retail sales of marijuana in Colorado Springs. The result is surely a disappointment to many in the cannabis industry, which sunk more than $1 million into the campaign, and had hoped that retail pot sales in the Springs would help turn the tide of a struggling industry.
Control of Colorado’s Senate
Democrats will maintain control of Colorado’s Senate. This chamber had been the Republicans’ best hope to flip, or at the very least gain seats, but Democrats were instead the ones to gain seats. Two formerly red seats turned blue, giving the Dems a 23–12 majority.
Control of Colorado’s House
Democrats will maintain control of Colorado’s House. Not only did the results of statehouse races in Colorado reveal that Democrats had defended their control of the chamber, but the Dems received a 46-19 majority.