Regional Election Summary: The Rocky Mountains
Republicans broke a two-decade Democratic hold on the governor's office with state Treasurer Bill Owens's narrow victory over Lt. Gov. Gail Schoettler (D). Owens, who won 49 percent to 48 percent, will fill the seat vacated by Gov. Roy Romer (D), who could not run again because of term limits. Romer remains general chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Owens won in one of closest races in recent Colorado history, and immediately appealed to his opponents in a victory address not delivered until 2 a.m. "For those Coloradans who did not vote for me, I'll reach out to you with this promise: I'll continue to work even harder for your support," Owens said.
In a state that has been trending Republican in recent years, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell won election for the first time under the GOP banner after switching parties in 1995. Campbell easily defeated Dottie Lamm (D), wife of former governor Dick Lamm.
In his defeat of Lamm, Campbell not only drew votes from the Republican base but also captured two-thirds of the state's large independent vote. The results, he said, showed that his support transcends party loyalties.
"People talk about the party switch. It didn't mean a darn thing," Campbell said.
Republican strength at the top of the ticket did not translate into gains in Colorado's House delegation, which remains split between two Democrats and four Republicans. State Rep. Mark Udall (D), son of former Arizona representative Morris K. "Mo" Udall (D), emphasized his environmental credentials in defeating Boulder Mayor Bob Greenlee (R) for the seat being vacated by Rep. David E. Skaggs (D). In suburban Denver, Tom Tancredo (R), the former director of a conservative think tank, defeated businessman Henry Strauss (D) to keep the other open House seat, currently held by retiring Rep. Dan Schaefer (R), in Republican hands.
Republicans captured all the political prizes, as expected, in the game of musical political chairs set off by the retirement of one-term GOP Gov. Phil Batt.
Sen. Dirk Kempthorne easily defeated former state Supreme Court justice Robert Huntley (D) to keep the governor's office in Republican hands.
Three-term Rep. Michael D. Crapo led the ticket, defeating Bill Mauk, the former Idaho Democratic Party chairman, to win Kempthorne's Senate seat. State House Speaker Michael Simpson easily pushed aside a challenge by former Democratic representative Richard H. Stallings to recapture his old House seat.
Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R), one of the most outspoken conservatives in the Class of 1994, won a lopsided victory over Democratic attorney Dan Williams in a race where President Clinton's behavior and a longtime affair Chenoweth had with a business associate were issues. "Idaho is the most Republican of Republican states and it continues to be a very Republican state," said Marty Peterson, a political analyst at the University of Idaho.
In the only notable race, freshman Rep. Rick Hill (R) won reelection to the state's at-large House seat, defeating Robert "Dusty" Deschamps (D), a former district attorney. With the help of television ads financed by the National Rifle Association, Hill drew 53 percent of the vote.
Republican Kenny Guinn, a former Las Vegas educator and utility executive, will become the state's first GOP governor in 16 years. He will replace retiring Democratic Gov. Robert J. Miller, who was barred from seeking a third term.
Sen. Harry M. Reid (D) appeared to have won a razor-thin victory over two-term Rep. John Ensign (R). Ensign, 40, a veterinarian, lost his first bid for the Senate to Reid, 58, a lawyer, who was first elected to the Senate in 1986. With 97 percent of the votes cast in Tuesday's election, the senator was leading by about 500 votes. "They said it would be close," said Reid. Exit polls said Reid benefited from the 51 percent of the state's voters who classified themselves as moderates.
Guinn, described as "the anointed one" because of his support from the state's dominant gambling industry, defeated Las Vegas Mayor Jan Laverty Jones, a Democrat who made a belated entry into the race and had won sympathy because of her fight with breast cancer. Guinn pulled about 52 percent of the vote to Jones's 42 percent, with "none of the above" and two third-party candidates drawing the rest.
Democrat Shelley Berkley, a university regent and an attorney, captured the Las Vegas House seat Ensign abandoned, defeating Republican former judge Don Chairez, who had received strong support from national Republicans.
The GOP maintained its lock on the Utah congressional delegation as Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R) handily won reelection along with the state's three U.S. representatives, all of them Republicans. In the only sharply contested race, freshman Rep. Merrill Cook (R) had an easier time than expected holding on to his Salt Lake City seat against a challenge from former teachers union president Lily Eskelsen (D).
Republicans had no trouble holding on to all the top seats in this state, where GOP registered voters outnumber Democrats nearly 2 to 1. Gov. Jim Geringer (R) easily won a second term, defeating state Sen. John Vinich (D). Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) won a third term to the state's sole House seat, beating journalist Scott Farris (D).
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