Democrat Hickenlooper wins Colo. governor’s race

Colorado Democrat gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper, right, is greeted by Lucia Guzman and her "Elmo" as he arrives to do a honk and wave in Denver, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. (AP Photo/ Ed Andrieski)

DENVER (AP) – Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper won the Colorado governor’s race Tuesday after a campaign in which the GOP nominee imploded and a third-party candidate made a late surge.

The Democrat is a former brew pub owner who benefited from the collapse of GOP nominee Dan Maes and a split in the state Republican Party. Immigration hard-liner Tom Tancredo got in the race as a third-party candidate but couldn’t overcome Hickenlooper’s widespread popularity.

Maes won the Republican primary but suffered a series of campaign gaffes, including questions about his murky law enforcement history and his views on U.N. global warming conspiracies involving bicycles in Denver.

Hickenlooper replaces Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, who decided in not to run for re-election.

Hickenlooper refused to run attack ads against his opponents, saying Colorado’s economic problems are much more serious than individual concerns. During the campaign, he spoke about his experience losing his job as geologist and getting into the restaurant business.

Tancredo, a former Republican congressman, joined the race as an American Constitution Party candidate after Maes refused to drop out following gaffes and questions about his character. Unless Maes gets at least 10 percent of the vote, the state GOP will be listed as a minor party for the next four years.

Democratic political consultant Steve Welchert said Hickenlooper had an advantage with his business experience running a brew pub in Denver and his political experience running one of Colorado’s largest cities. He also got a free ride for most of the campaign, running as the “anti-politician politician” while the Republican party splintered into fighting between Tancredo and Maes.

“He had the luxury of not going on the attack while the two Republicans split the opposition vote,” Welchert said.

Hickenlooper, 58, brushed aside Tancredo’s claims that he runs a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants, saying Denver police referred 7,300 suspected illegal immigrants to federal immigration officials since 2006.

Hickenlooper said he would veto an immigration law like the one in Arizona that requires police to check immigration status, because the United States needs a nationwide policy.

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