Race for Arapahoe County commissioner heads for recount

District 3 seat on county board of elected leaders separated by just 165 votes


One of the south Denver metro area's tightest political races will come down to the wire in an automatic recount, the office of Arapahoe County's top elections official announced on Nov. 13.

“New totals indicate we will have a statutory mandatory recount for county commissioner District 3 between incumbent Jeff Baker and challenger Idris Keith,” the Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder's Office said in a tweet. “Baker (is) in the lead by 165 votes.”

By law, a recount would be held if the difference between their votes was less than or equal to one-half of 1% of the leader's vote count, according to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, which oversees elections. In this case, the threshold for a recount is roughly 205 votes. Commissioners make up the governing body of a county, somewhat similar to city councils.

Dec. 8 is the deadline for the clerk's office to complete a statutory — meaning required by law — recount of a race, according to a list of election-process deadlines from the county.

Keith, a Democrat, has held Baker, a Republican, to a surprisingly close race for the seat that represents east Aurora, far east Centennial, the Town of Foxfield and everything else in the county roughly east of highway E-470. Four years ago, Baker ran for the seat and bested his Democratic opponent by 12 percentage points.

District 3 includes areas that have historically been reliably red, such as Foxfield, southeast Centennial and the county's rural areas east of E-470. 

Recent years of Democratic gains in Arapahoe County seemed to culminate this Election Day, when Democrats flipped three local seats: county commissioner District 1, which includes reliably red parts of the Littleton and Cherry Hills Village areas; state House District 38 in Littleton and west Centennial; and state Senate District 27, whose borders encompass Centennial and nearby areas.

Demographic changes and, likely, backlash against President Donald Trump gave local Republicans an uphill battle, according to Dick Wadhams, political strategist and former chair of the Colorado Republican Party.

Baker, the incumbent commissioner, had played up his experience in the county government — he has more than 21 years as an employee of Arapahoe County working in two different departments. He's a resident of Centennial.

On Nov. 5, Baker said if he pulls off the win, “transportation by far is the No. 1 project I'd work on.”

“I'm pretty involved in Gun Club (Road) and Quincy (Avenue), the (improvement of the) intersection there,” Baker said, adding, “I'll stay involved in that. I'm working with (Commissioner) Nancy Sharpe on the intersection of Belleview and I-25.”

In a Colorado Community Media questionnaire this fall, Baker said the county has “unsafe conditions on many streets and roadways.”

Keith, an Aurora resident, boasted about private-sector experience with “multimillion-dollar construction projects” and other matters involving commerce and trade in his questionnaire. He said he's also worked with, and in, the public sector. In the days after Election Day, Keith was waiting to comment on the results until they progressed further.

“Job creation and economic development top my agenda,” Keith said in the questionnaire this fall. “The cost of living has continued to increase, but wages have plateaued. Due to COVID, many people are unemployed or facing periods of unpaid furlough.”

In Arapahoe County, one commissioner represents each of five districts, which are divided by population. Commissioners are elected to four-year terms.


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