Tears were abundant Tuesday night at Jackson’s All-American Sports Grill in Greeley as GOP Rep. Marilyn Musgrave’s campaign party learned that opponent Democrat Betsy Markey will unseat the Republican Party for the first time since it took up its district reign in 1972.
Losing with approximately 43 percent of district votes, Musgrave will be forced to leave the position she has held since 2002.
A Weld County woman, makeup streaming and hands covering her face, said she could not look even at her friends as she stood in front of the podium that Musgrave had declared her unfounded victory just two hours before.
“I just don’t believe in this election,” the unnamed woman said. “I believe so much more in Republican ideals.”
She could not further vocalize her thoughts, she said, because she needed to pray.
Musgrave had kicked off the party with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance at 7 p.m. Tuesday, telling the waiting bar crowd that she was “confident that (she was) going to win tonight.”
“We are hoping that Weld County is going to continue to be a GOP county,” Musgrave told the approximately 200 people in attendance. “Has it been a tough race? You bet. But you know what? We’ve been here before. We survived.”
The year has been a challenging one for Republicans, as President Bush’s 8-year incumbency crawls to its end. And with national support for his presidency waning, a war in Iraq still ongoing and “an economy going sour,” said CSU political science professor John Straayer, the odds had appeared to be leaning in Markey’s favor.
“Musgrave has long defined herself as a single issue person, with that being her opposition to same-sex marriage,” Straayer said. “She’s had marginal success in diversifying, but that image continues to be a drag in her vote-getting ability.”
Early Tuesday evening, Musgrave had told the Collegian that she was maintaining her confidence.
“I think we’ve run a good campaign,” Musgrave said in an interview. “I’m looking forward to a win. There’s been a lot of work put in, a lot of good people helping out, so we’re hoping for the best.”
In the 2006 election – also close – Musgrave nearly lost her title in a neck-and-neck race with Democrat candidate Angie Paccoine. The results left her standing with 46 percent of the votes, and Paccoine boasting only three percent less. Votes for reform party candidate Eric Eidsnus made up the remaining 11 percent total.
“I don’t think this race really compares,” said Ed Jordan, Weld County Republicans chairman. “It’s a tough campaign, but I think Marilyn did real well this year //- better than last time. . I think she was more relaxed and able to communicate (with) the constituents a little better.”
Jordan said that the amount of voter participation in this election has been outstanding and far exceeds any past election he’s seen.
Andrew Kjellsen, UNC senior sports and exercise science major and Jackson’s bar employee, said he was disappointed that Musgrave did not pull out a victory.
He cited the economy as his main concern.
“I’m disappointed in tonight’s results,” he said. “In this district, especially, with what Markey has said, taxes are going to go up.”
Weld County Commissioner Bill Jerke stood in full support of Musgrave, saying that he believed Markey may not provide the same kind of legislative priorities that Musgrave has.
“We’ll expect good service (from Markey),” he said, “and we’ll also expect that she would listen to our viewpoints concerning all kinds of things that are of federal concern, such as water policy and energy exploration, those kind of key issues for this area.”
Musgrave did not reappear to speak to her supporters, but newly elected County Commissioner Tom Donnelly took the podium at the end of the night, thanking the crowd for their support in his win.
“I’m here to tell you that the Republican Party is well and alive,” he said. “Tonight we begin the process of creating a better and stronger America for tomorrow.”
News Editor Elyse Jarvis can be reached at email@example.com