by Chet Hardin
El Paso County Republican Party Chairman Eli Bremer did his best to keep the crowd upbeat.
In the ballroom at the DoubleTree Hotel, the Republicans had hung a stage-wide flag. FOX News was on the TV as results rolled in.
Bremer called up to the stage the Republican candidates present who sailed to easy victories: County Commissioners Dennis Hisey and Amy Lathen, and state House Rep. Janak Joshi.
"God bless all of you for being here," Lathen told the crowd.
But there weren't very many high notes for the beleaguered Republicans. Before it was clear that they had lost the race for the White House, it was becoming clear that they were going to lose their one-seat majority in the state House.
In the two competitive House races the Republicans faced in the Pikes Peak region, they lost by sizable margins: Incumbent Rep. Mark Barker fell to newcomer Democrat Tony Exum Sr. in House District 17, while Jennifer George, the first-time candidate who raised an eye-popping $180,000 from 800 donors, failed in her bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Pete Lee in House District 18.
George's campaign wasn't here tonight; it opted to hold its Election Day party at the Ritz downtown.
County Commissioner Sallie Clark faced a challenge from former Democratic Party county Chairman John Morris but pulled off a victory, securing her place for a rare third term. Rare, because the voters also voted overwhelmingly in favor of ballot initiative 1B, which undid the 2010 term-limits ballot initiative that allowed for three terms.
Not many people were fazed by the result of 1B; County Commissioner Peggy Littleton pointed out that she always thought that the voters would vote to strike the term-limit extension. Lathen put it bluntly: "You can't spend two years telling the public how evil we are, and not expect that outcome."
"We put it back on the ballot for folks to get a second try at it," said Clark. "Obviously, my constituents felt that I have done a good job, and I will continue to do a good job for my constituents that I represent."
And Clark said she's excited to do that job.
"There are so many things going on," she said, such as the recovery from Waldo Canyon Fire, "that I want to see move in the right direction."
Clark pointed out that there were reasons to celebrate, including passage of the ballot initiative supporting the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority extension as well as the tax increase for the El Paso County Sheriff's office. "If people see a value in paying more taxes, and you put it on the ballot," she said, "they will vote in support."
And then, of course, there was the confirmation that House District 16 incumbent Joshi and newly elected HD 21 Rep. Lois Landgraf would be headed to the state Legislature — albeit in the minority party.
"We knew we had a lot of work ahead of us," said Joshi. "This just means that we have a lot of extra work."