Colorado's “blue wave” that saw Democrats elected to a wide range of posts statewide extended to Arapahoe County, with Democrats upsetting incumbent Republicans in both the sheriff and county …
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Polls were indicating for weeks that Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman was likely to lose his 6th Congressional District seat, so his loss to Democrat Jason Crow on Nov. 6 didn't come as a shock to many who follow politics closely.
More of a surprise may have been the impact the blue wave had at the county level. Democrats defeated their Republican opponents for sheriff, clerk and assessor in a county in which the GOP has long dominated elected positions at that level.
“The blue wave hit Arapahoe and motivated a lot of new activists with energy and enthusiasm who worked for the Crow campaign or our district races,” Mary Ellen Wolf, Arapahoe County Democratic Party chair. “The results in CD6 exceeded our expectations, as did our results with county offices.”
Rich Sokol, Arapahoe County Republican Party chair, also said he hadn't expected the wave's force.
“I’d say it hit harder than we expected it to,” Sokol said. “I can’t imagine a scenario in which our county Sheriff Dave Walcher loses, or any of our county officials. They are so, in my opinion, better qualified than their opponents, but this wasn’t a year where qualifications, experience and know-how mattered as much as it usually does.”
Colorado's “blue wave” that saw Democrats elected to a wide range of posts statewide extended to Arapahoe County, with Democrats upsetting incumbent Republicans in the sheriff, county clerk and assessor races in the Nov. 6 election.
Democratic challenger Tyler Brown unseated Republican Dave Walcher as sheriff. Brown held 51.2 percent of the vote, compared to Walcher's 43.5 percent, in ballots counted as of the evening of Nov. 8. Libertarian candidate Eric Mulder received 5.3 percent of the vote.
Brown, a Centennial resident who is currently a police officer in the tiny town of Mountain View near I-70 and Sheridan Boulevard, said he wants sheriff's deputies to be seen as community partners.
“We've gotten away from that,” Brown said by phone on Election Night. “The issue is staffing — deputies are stretched thin, and they spend much of their time simply responding to calls for service. I want to bring up staffing so they can be out there connecting with the community.”
Brown said he also wants to change the way the county deals with the opioid epidemic, and shift priorities toward addiction counseling and mental health care over punishment.
“I want to work with the district attorney's office, too, so that we don't end up punishing people repeatedly for one incident,” Brown said. “If you get incarcerated for opioid possession, that's a felony, and now when you get out, you're going to have a hard time finding a job or a place to live. That exacerbates the recidivism rate.”
Brown praised Walcher for increasing the number of school resource officers deployed to Arapahoe County schools, and said he'd like to continue that trend.
Walcher declined to comment.
The often little-noticed office of county assessor also saw a surprise to many, with incumbent Republican Marc Scott ousted by newcomer Democrat PK Kaiser.
Kaiser, of Aurora, said his campaign worked to reach out to “diverse communities” who have seen less engagement with county officials.
“We've never seen town hall meetings or regular meetings where people can ask questions of their assessor,” Kaiser said by phone. “We want to be more present in the community — to get out of our office where people can interact with us.”
Kaiser also said he'd like to see the office, which evaluates real estate values to assign property tax bills, beef up its online presence.
“The Arapahoe County Assessor's website offers less information than those of surrounding counties, and I want to address that,” said Kaiser, who has worked in the real estate and finance industries.
Kaiser said he'd also like to work with the secretary of state to ensure that his office is keeping close track of newly incorporated home-based businesses, to make sure everyone is in compliance with tax law.
Scott, who held 46.3 percent of the vote to Kaiser's 53.7 percent as of Nov. 8, wasn't pleased about the outcome.
“I don't feel good about losing,” Scott said by phone on Election Night. “My opponent has no assessment experience. I have decades of experience. The voters didn't seem to care one way or another.”
Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder Matt Crane conceded his re-election bid on Nov. 9, as updated vote tallies the evening of Nov. 8 showed Democratic challenger Joan Lopez up by more than 5,000 votes, giving her a nearly 2 percentage point lead in the race. Crane had held a slight lead up to that point.
Lopez, reached by email on Nov. 10, said in a statement:
"It is such an honor to be elected as your next clerk and recorder. You placed your faith and trust in me and this is a responsibility that I do not take lightly. I will listen more than I talk and I will change what doesn't work, but most of all I will strive to represent you with the utmost decency and professionalism."
Serving as clerk and recorder was an honor, Crane said.
"I'm disappointed, but I'm so proud of the record of my office and my team over the last five years," Crane said. "It's too bad people let partisan politics come into a nonpartisan office."
Crane cited achievements during his tenure: becoming the first county in the state to complete a risk-limiting audit, overseeing a voter education effort that resulted high numbers of teenagers becoming pre-registered to vote, and being the first office in the state to employ automated kiosks for motor vehicle registration renewals, which he said was part of a dramatic drop in wait times at the DMV.
"People marched, fought and died for the right to vote, and helping facilitate that right was a great honor," Crane said.
Vote tallies were updated on Nov. 8 in three other close races:
Finishing the count
In addition to the uncounted votes, Crane said 1,700 ballots were sent out to overseas and deployed military voters that have not yet been returned, though he doesn't anticipate receiving all of them.
Roughly an additional 2,000 votes require additional verification, Crane said, because of a lack of signatures on ballots, or questionable signatures. Crane said his office reaches out to voters whose ballots have signature discrepancies, and they have until Nov. 14 to respond.
Arapahoe County saw 73 percent of active voters return ballots in 2018, Crane said. Crane said voters are listed as “inactive” if county election mail gets returned as undeliverable.
The turnout was higher than 2014, when 68 percent of voters returned a ballot, Crane said.
Arapahoe County has nearly 370,000 active voters among the roughly 495,000 residents who are eligible to vote, Crane said.
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