DENVER – Democrat Bill Ritter won the state’s top spot by 15 percent as of midnight today, walking onto the victory stage to the beat of a drum roll, his smile lit by flashing lights.
“Thank you, Colorado,” said Ritter, a 50-year-old CSU alumnus. “We intend to govern the way we campaigned – to say every place in the state matters, every person in the state matters. We intend to govern a unified Colorado.”
Ritter’s main competitor, Republican Bob Beauprez’s speech was gracious, but marked at times by solemnity and worry.
“The toughest part is not for me; it’s for all of you who have contributed to the campaign,” Beauprez said on stage at the Denver Marriott Tech Center. “We have come up short. Tonight is Bill Ritter’s night. I believe that everything happens for a reason.”
Still cheered by his supporters, he also acknowledged the national sweep that the Democratic Party saw Tuesday night.
After a few more thank yous, Beauprez’s crowd began trickling out of the room.
Ritter will replace term-limited Republican Gov. Bill Owens. A majority of states have elected Democratic governors.
During the candidates’ campaigns, Ritter had been painted out to be a lax prosecutor of illegal immigrants who had committed felony crimes. Beauprez gained the nickname “Both-ways Bob” for his conflicting stances against Referendum C but pro-higher education.
Before the results were firm, Ritter’s son described the intensity of the wait.
“It’s kind of like studying for a test for seven months and then finding out how you did,” said August Ritter, the governor-elect’s son and a CSU student. “It’s like finals, times 10.”
Brian Ochsner, a Republican at Beauprez’s rally, said he was disappointed, but the landslide didn’t surprise him.
“Bush and Owens haven’t governed like traditional conservative Republicans,” he said. “I think people (in the Republican leadership) need to do soul searching about what we stand for. They have to give voters a reason to vote, and not just slander the opponent.”
Likewise, unincorporated Arapahoe County resident Fred Muld said his party has lost its identity.
“I kind of knew this would happen a few weeks ago,” he said. “The Republican Party has lost its platform due to Bill Owens supporting Referendum C. We have to regain our platform, and to do that (we must) become more conservative – less taxes and less government control.”
“It’s been a tough national environment for the Republican Party, but we just battled through,” said John Marshall, Beauprez’s campaign manager. “It’s been a tough battle. . We feel good about the effort.”
Governor Bill Owens said he’s leaving the public arena once his term is finished.
“I loved being governor, and I am looking forward to doing things in the private sector,” Gov. Bill Owens told the Collegian. “I wish I would have done a better job in terms of bringing more reform to higher education and accomplishing more with water.”
Before Beauprez stepped off of the stage and back into the private sector, he lamented the national shift to the left to fellow members of his ailing party.
“We have some work to do, Republicans,” Beauprez said. “There’s a wind blowing out there, and it’s not a good one. We are the party that respects life and traditional values. Let’s cling to those good traditions and values and work on communicating them more to come.”
Staff writers Taryn Clark and Emily Polak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.