Less than 30 minutes after polls closed on Tuesday, news outlets declared former governor John Hickenlooper the victor of the Colorado Senate Democratic Primary over former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives Andrew Romanoff. As of 8:10 p.m., Hickenlooper had garnered 59.96 percent of the 740,880 votes cast.

“It has never been more clear that we have to say enough is enough,” Hickenlooper said. “We must come together to reclaim our country and assert the fundamental decency of a nation that looks out for its people, that treats everyone with respect, and lives up to the ideals of who we are as a country. Let me be clear: Change is coming and you and I are going to bring it together.”

When Hickenlooper entered the race last August following an unsuccessful presidential campaign, there were more than 10 candidates vying for the nomination. But his popularity throughout the state—thanks to two terms as Denver’s mayor and eight years in the governor’s mansion—made him the clear frontrunner. His introduction to the contest was also accompanied by an endorsement from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which came with it the promise of big-name endorsements—including those of U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren—and significant funding.

As many moderate candidates, such as former U.S. attorney John Walsh and erstwhile state senator Mike Johnston, dropped out of the race throughout the fall and winter, Romanoff garnered interest among the more progressive wing of the party with a platform centered around the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.  He was the only other candidate that secured enough support to make it onto the ballot.  

Still, a Hickenlooper victory always appeared likely—even after he was held in contempt by the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission for failing to show up for a hearing on whether he violated the state’s gift ban while governor and another investigation by the Colorado Sun and CBS4 discovered he accepted millions of dollars from corporations and nonprofits to fund initiatives that had almost no public oversight during his time as governor. Hickenlooper was also forced to apologize in recent weeks for a 2014 video that resurfaced in which he compared the relationship of a politician and their scheduling staff to that of a slave and a master

But none of that derailed his inevitable win. 

“This is obviously not the outcome I was hoping for,” Romanoff said. “I am committed to making sure Cory Gardner is a one term senator and that John Hickenlooper defeats him.”

Hickenlooper will now square off against Republican incumbent Cory Gardner in the general election, which will take place on November 3. Early polls indicate Hickenlooper holds a strong advantage over Gardner, who is one of just four Republicans to win a statewide race in Colorado during the past decade. The election is bound to receive outsized national attention, as Democrats will likely need to flip the seat if they hope to take control of the U.S. Senate.

“I have never lost an election in this state and I don’t intend to lose this one,” Hickenlooper said. “There is far too much at stake.”

Like Hickenlooper, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, the Republican who has held Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District since 2011, was expected to win his primary easily over challenger Lauren Boebert. But despite a steep disadvantage in fundraising, Boebert upset Tipton Tuesday night, claiming 54 percent of the vote by 9:16 p.m., forcing Tipton to concede.

“3rd District Republicans have decided who they want to run against the Democrats this November,” Tipton said in a statement. “I want to congratulate Lauren Boebert and wish her and her supporters well.”

Although Tipton received President Donald Trump’s endorsement, Boebert, who owns a restaurant in Rifle that allows servers to open carry firearms, positioned herself as the pro-Trump candidate. Borbert criticized Tipton for too frequently voting with Democrats, including his support of the bipartisan CARES Act, a coronavirus stimulus bill that Trump signed into law.

“I’m tired of compromise and I believe that the American people are tired of compromise,” Boebert told CPR earlier this month. “It’s never enough for the people on the left. We compromise with them far too much, and they always want more.”

Boebert will face Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, who won her primary Tuesday, in the general election in November.

Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan is the former digital editor of 5280.com and teaches journalism at Regis Jesuit High School.