Marilyn Musgrave was slightly ahead Tuesday night, but challenger Angie Paccione said the race was still in the air as of 12:25 a.m. today.
The Republican incumbent was leading Paccione, a Democrat, with 46 percent of the vote, compared to 43 percent for Paccione.
Colorado Reform Party candidate Eric Eidsness pulled in 11 percent.
“This was the worst year for Republicans since 1972. We’ve had a big hill to climb,” Musgrave said in a speech past midnight. “We’re still standing.”
The Republicans have held the 4th Congressional District seat for the past 34 years.
John Straayer, a CSU political science professor, said such a close race in a historically conservative district should serve as a caveat to the Republicans.
“The closeness of this race,” he said, “if that doesn’t send a message to the Republican Party, I don’t know what will.”
Paccione campaign manager James Thompson told the Collegian last week that the race would be “a dead heat.”
“We showed that Angie Paccione can give a good race and she can be a strong candidate,” Thompson said. “Eighteen months ago, people didn’t think we could do it.”
While the Musgrave and Paccione campaigns were still in limbo and very “excited,” waiting for the final count, Eidsness planned his next move.
“I’ll be back,” Eidsness said. “I don’t think either one of these women should be running for Congress.”
From the Alamo Room in the Fort Collins Lone Star Steakhouse, 100 W. Troutman Parkway, Eidsness and 16 campaign staffers, friends and family watched the latest polls over margaritas and draft beer.
“I think if you shaved your head you would have won,” joked staffer Kevin Houchin.
“Shaved head and a Harley tattoo,” added Eidsness’ daughter, Live.
Taking away at least 11 percent of the votes from the traditional parties, Eidsness considers his campaign a success.
“My votes were one buck a piece, and Marilyn’s cost 100 bucks a piece,” he said. “Great, huh?”
“Who ran the best campaign?” he quipped.
With such a tight race, the presence of a third party candidate can’t be ignored, Straayer said.
“I think he’s had a big impact in a couple ways,” he said. “Obviously, he took votes away from both parties.”
“I think he did an awful lot with very little money,” he added.
Republicans have held the 4th congressional seat since 1972, which gave Musgrave an advantage, Straayer said.
“(Eidsness) is picking up some of the dissatisfaction out there,” he said.
Eidsness credits exactly that for his success in taking 11 percent of votes from the Musgrave and Paccione, a percentage Straayer says is “more than normal.”
“If I only get 12 percent,” Eidsness said with a smirk, “well, no third party candidate gets that many votes.”
As friends began to filter out by 10 p.m., Eidsness plotted his next move, which involves getting together with Joe Lieberman.
“It is a lonely, lonely journey,” he said. “Next time, I’ll be over at CSU a lot more.”
Meanwhile, Maris Antolin, 16, a Poudre High School student and daughter of CSU biology professor Mike Antolin, was at the Paccione campaign party as a reward from her dad for all the canvassing and campaign work she did on behalf of the campaign.
Whatever the outcome of the race, it was well worth it for her.
“It’s important to have something you believe in,” she said.
City editor J. David McSwane can be reached at email@example.com.