Election 2018News

Trailing by slim margin, Joe Salazar says AG race isn’t over

Author: Ernest Luning - June 29, 2018 - Updated: June 30, 2018

Colorado State Rep. Joe Salazar (D-31st Dist.) accepts his nomination for Colorado Attorney General during the 2018 Colorado Democratic State Assembly at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield on April 14, 2018.
Photo by Andy Colwell for the Gazette

State Rep. Joe Salazar isn’t giving up yet.

The Thornton Democrat said Thursday he wants election officials to finish tabulating thousands of uncounted ballots statewide before deciding who won the primary for Colorado state attorney general, even though Salazar has trailed rival Phil Weiser by thousands of votes since soon after polls closed Tuesday night.

“This has been an exciting primary, and we are awaiting the final results of ballots that have yet to be counted. In Colorado, our vote is our voice, and every Coloradan deserves to have their voice heard in this election,” Salazar said in a statement.

“I’d like to thank Phil Weiser for also giving the time for every vote to be counted. As a fellow candidate for attorney general, he shares my belief that every vote matters, and I look forward to discussing the results of this election with him when they are final.”

Weiser, a former University of Colorado Law School dean whose campaign outspent Salazar’s by about 10-to-1, held a 5,131 vote lead late Thursday out of 590,895 cast — roughly a margin of 0.8 percent.

County clerks can accept ballots from military and overseas voters until July 5, the same deadline to process provisional ballots and for voters to “cure” ballots rejected because of missing or mismatching signatures.

More than 10,000 ballots hadn’t been counted by Thursday afternoon, according to the Salazar campaign and election officials, though it was unclear how many of those were cast in the Democratic primary.

By late Thursday, according to a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, officials in Montrose County had finished hand-counting several thousand Democratic ballots and reported the results, narrowing Weiser’s lead by a handful of votes.

Salazar’s campaign manager told Colorado Politics the campaign has been encouraging supporters to find out whether their ballots were processed, and to take steps to cure them if they weren’t.

“With a race this close, we can’t say what is going to happen,” Morgan Watters said in an interview. “We still have returns coming in. Every single one of those returns, our vote share ticks up a little bit. Regardless of the outcome, it is incredibly important for every single vote to count.”

The Weiser campaign had no comment.

As things stood late Thursday, the gap between Salazar and Weiser’s totals would have to be fewer than 1,500 votes to trigger an automatic recount under Colorado law. (The margin between the first- and second-place finisher has to less than or equal to 0.5 percent of the winning candidate’s total vote.)

Candidates can initiate a recount in races with wider margins, but if they do, they have to pay for it. A spokeswoman for the secretary of state told Colorado Politics the office couldn’t estimate the cost of a statewide recount, but she pointed to recent county-level recounts that cost several thousand dollars each.

The winner of the Democratic primary faces George Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District attorney who ran for governor last year before switching to the uncontested GOP primary for attorney general. Cynthia Coffman, the Republican incumbent, ran for governor instead of seeking a second term, but failed to make the primary.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.