John Hickenlooper, after vowing during his 2020 presidential run that he had no interest in running for Senate, won his primary but not without suffering some blows, something the top Democrats who recruited the former Colorado governor had hoped to avoid. Hickenlooper’s errors, while largely self-inflicted, could end up helping Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican who — given Colorado’s voting history — seems particularly vulnerable.
In another closely watched race, Republicans in Oklahoma City were unable to coalesce around one candidate on Tuesday, meaning businesswoman Terry Neese will head to a late August runoff for the chance to take on Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn, one of the biggest surprises for Democrats in the 2018 midterms, in November.
Results are still coming in on a host of other state and congressional races in Oklahoma, Colorado and Utah, including whether Oklahoma voters want to expand Medicaid and who Utah Republicans want to represent the party in the open governor’s race.
Hickenlooper exits primary bruised
Hickenlooper vanquished his Democratic primary opponent, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, on Tuesday.
But it wasn’t a clean win.
Hickenlooper, the establishment’s pick to face vulnerable Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and a candidate in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, stumbled repeatedly leading into Tuesday primary election, including angering activists with a bumbled answer on Black Lives Matter and the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission finding the former governor twice violated ethics laws in 2018.
“It’s going to take all of us together to beat Cory Gardner and bring about the change this country so desperately needs,” Hickenlooper said in a taped video. “I’ve never lost an election in this state, and I don’t intend to lose this one. There’s far too much at stake.”
Hickenlooper’s struggle to get out of the primary has clearly frustrated national Democrats, especially considering how critical defeating Gardner in November is to Democratic hopes of retaking the Senate. Without a Hickenlooper win, those chances are significantly harder.
And by struggling to get out of the primary, Hickenlooper has given Republicans more material against him over the next four months.
“If watching him fall apart under pressure these last few weeks is any indication, ‘hot mess’ Hickenlooper is in for a very bumpy ride,” Joanna Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said about the former governor’s win.
Oklahoma House Republicans hopefuls headed to runoff
No Republican vying for the chance to take on Democrat Rep. Kendra Horn in November was able to avoid a runoff on Tuesday, meaning Neese will face a runoff on August 25 against a fellow Republican yet to be determined.
The winner of the Republican primary will take on Horn, whose ability to narrowly win in 2018 in the Oklahoma City district President Donald Trump carried by 13 points was arguably the biggest surprise for Democrats in the midterms.
The district has been in flux, as Oklahoma City and the nearby suburbs grow younger and better educated, two factors that help Democrats. But Horn benefited from Trump not being on the ballot in 2018, and Republicans hope Trump could boost the Republican in the district.
Neese was among the two most competitive candidates in the primary headed into Tuesday’s voting along with state State Sen. Stephanie Bice. Bice is better financed, raising more than $1 million by the end of the pre-primary reporting period on June 10. But Neese was able to partly self-fund her primary bid, loaning her campaign $450,000 while raising around $532,000.
This story is breaking and will be updated.
CNN’s Adam Levy contributed to this report.
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