More than two weeks after Election Day, Democrat Jeanne Nicholson finally clinched the state Senate District 16 seat Wednesday after Republican hopeful Tim Leonard called her to concede the race.
Recent ballot counts, which included provisional ballots from several counties, increased Nicholson's lead from 500 votes to over 700, sealing her claim on the seat, according to Nicholson's campaign treasurer Don Parsons.
"I'm looking forward to getting off the campaign trail and into the legislature," Nicholson said of the win in a recent statement from state Democrats. "I worked in my community for 39 years, listening to my neighbors and working for them. I'm proud to bring my dedication to my constituents and understanding of my district to the state Capitol."
At press time, 406 ballots in Jefferson County remained to be counted. All six District 16 counties are required to report final numbers to the Colorado Secretary of State today.
In Summit County, Nicholson beat Leonard 5,246 votes to 4,204, according to final counts.
Leonard conceded the race publicly this week, acknowledging that there are not enough uncounted votes left to alter Nicholson's lead.
"We may have lost this battle, but the war needs us to be ever vigilant to the cause of liberty," Leonard said in a statement on his website. "We have gained many friends and patriots who we are proud to stand beside in the defense of the country of our Founding Fathers. And we will not be sidelined by a setback (although we will surely take some time off to recharge our batteries.)"
Leaders from both parties lauded the two candidates for their civil conduct during what turned out to be an extremely close and protracted race.
Nicholson will take the seat representing Clear Creek, Summit, Gilpin, Grand and parts of Jefferson and Boulder counties, vacated by Dan Gibbs, who ran unopposed for Summit County commissioner.
Nicholson will become the 20th Democratic senator in the state Legislature when she takes her seat in Denver in January for the 2011 session, helping the Dems maintain control of the chamber with a five-seat advantage over the GOP.
Democratic party leaders say a majority in the senate will allow the party some "flexibility" in the upcoming session.
"As Democrats we support a wide range of issues and we're not always going to agree on those issues," said Brian Magrath, executive director of the Democratic senate campaign fund. "But having the 20-15 majority allows us to still be able to get meaningful bills passed even though not all of us would be on board with specific bills. We're going to work really hard to get as much bi-partisan support as possible, but we are going to do what we think is right for Colorado."
The state House of Representatives majority hangs on the winner of the House District 29 seat, but Republicans say it will likely go their way.
"I think we're going to definitely have a majority in the House," Colorado Republican Chairman Dick Wadhams said. "Republicans will resist tax increases. Gov. Ritter and the Democratic majority has passed a lot of back-door tax increases without going to a vote of the people in previous sessions. I don't think that will happen in 2011 because I think the House (Republican) majority will stop that."
Nicholson served as Gilpin County Commissioner for two terms prior to this win and sits on the Gilpin County Board of Health. Nicholson has a track record as a commissioner of spearheading sustainable and renewable energy sources. A 39-year resident of District 16, who currently resides in Black Hawk, Nicholson served as a public health nurse and is also a former small business owner.
On the campaign trail Nicholson prioritized economic recovery and job creation, health care and the protection of Colorado's natural assets and water resources. She highlighted the importance of employment opportunities in the health care, renewable energy and forest health sectors. Nicholson said she would look to balance the state budget without raising taxes on small businesses or making cuts that could cause long-term damage to state departments and programs. She named the state corrections system as a place where spending might be reduced.
SDN reporter Caddie Nath can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.