By Jim Ellis
July 1, 2020 — While the pre-election coverage to yesterday’s Colorado primary focused on how former governor and presidential candidate John Hickenlooper would fare in the Democratic Senate primary – he would win 60-40 percent, which was certainly well below what original projections forecast – the real story came in the state’s Western Slope congressional district.There, five-term veteran Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) was soundly denied re-nomination by 2nd Amendment activist and local restaurant owner Lauren Boebert in the Republican congressional primary. When the final votes are counted, Boebert will break 54 percent of the vote of what looks to be about 120,000 cast votes, more than double the amount of the last GOP primary held here in 2016.
Boebert will spend well under $200,000 for her effort; long known as a local conservative activist, she made her money count with a pointed message to Republican primary voters. Her strategy was to create a negative image of Rep. Tipton for “siding with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and her squad” in relation to bailing out the city of Boulder, which is not in his 3rd District, how he “teamed with Nancy Pelosi to give amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants,” and “forced taxpayers to pay $1 billion for their housing.”
The race was relatively close in every place except Mesa County, which houses the district’s second largest city, Grand Junction. The area allowed her to build approximately 8,500 of her 9,600 vote spread against the incumbent, and defeating him despite Tipton carrying 19 of the district’s 29 counties. Totals are not complete due to the state’s all-mail voting system, but there is no doubt that Boebert has won.
The Democratic nominee, by virtue of a 61 percent win in her primary, is 2018 nominee Daine Mitsch Bush, who was planning for a re-match with Rep. Tipton. Now, she will have to reverse course to compete against a firebrand conservative who wears a firearm strapped to her right leg and owns a restaurant on I-70 called “The Shooters Grill.” This new open seat will be competitive, and colorful, in the fall.
Tipton becomes the fifth incumbent to be denied re-nomination, joining Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Steve King (R-IA), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), and Eliot Engel (D-NY). There are now 45 open House seats in this election cycle, with 33 coming from the Republican column.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R) now officially faces ex-governor Hickenlooper in what will be one of the most hotly contested races in the country. Post-primary polling will likely give Hickenlooper at least a slight early advantage.
In neighboring Utah, the Republican gubernatorial primary is very tight, as Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox maintains a small 11,000-plus vote lead over ex-governor Jon Huntsman as more mailed ballots stream into county election centers. Only about two-thirds of the votes have been tabulated and reported. This appears to be yet another race that will require days to determine a victor.
We have a winner in the 4th Congressional District Republican primary, however. Burgess Owens, a Salt Lake City businessman and retired NFL football player, won a strong 43-24-21 percent win over state Rep. Kim Coleman (R-West Jordan) and radio personality Jay Mcfarland. Trailing the field with 11 percent was businessman Trent Christensen. Owens now advances into the general election to challenge freshman Rep. Ben McAdams (R-Salt Lake City) in what will likely be a toss-up campaign.
The open 1st District is too close to call, as former foreign service officer Blake Moore maintains a lead of 576 votes over Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson with 73 percent of the precincts reporting returns. Former state agriculture commissioner Kerry Gibson trails Moore by more than 6,000 votes, while Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt finished a distant fourth. The winner becomes the prohibitive favorite for the general election and will claim the right to succeed retiring Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Brigham City).
Oklahoma voters also cast their nomination ballots, and most actually visited a polling place. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) was re-nominated for a fifth full term with a vote total approaching 75 percent. He will face former television news reporter Abby Broyles in the general election. Despite being 85 years of age, Sen. Inhofe is a clear favorite for re-election in November.
In the 5th Congressional District, Republican former lieutenant governor nominee Terry Neese placed first in the field of nine candidates, and she will face state Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-Oklahoma City) in the Aug. 25 runoff election. Neese finished first last night with 36 percent of the vote as compared to Sen. Bice’s 25 percent. Since neither were close to the 50 percent majority mark, the runoff is mandated.
The two finalists topped a field of nine Republican candidates. The winner faces freshman Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Oklahoma City) in what promises to be another hot general election campaign in a must-win district for the GOP.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Westville/Muskogee) was re-nominated with 80 percent of the vote, while veteran Rep. Tom Cole (R-Moore/Norman) took 76 percent in his 4th District re-nomination race. Reps. Kevin Hern (R-Tulsa) and Frank Lucas (R-Cheyenne) were unopposed in their respective primaries.
Elsewhere, we finally have a Democratic US Senate nominee in Kentucky. Election officials, one week after the primary was held, released the tabulated ballots that give retired Marine Corps helicopter pilot Amy McGrath a 45.4 – 42.6 percent victory over state Rep. Charles Booker (D-Louisville) in a race result that at this writing is still only unofficial. McGrath, after an unimpressive victory considering she outspent Booker by a 20:1 ratio, now faces Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R).
In New York, absentee ballots that will conclude several unfinished races are expected to be counted and released today.