Even before the conference room at the downtown Antlers Hilton hotel had filled, it was clear that the El Paso County Democratic Party was ready to celebrate — and election results on the national level certainly did nothing to dim that.
But it was in the state contests where the effect may be felt soonest, since victories in two local House districts are likely to help give Democrats control of that chamber in January. (They appear poised to hold onto the Senate, too.)
In House District 17, where political newcomer Tony Exum, a Democrat, is set to unseat Republican incumbent Mark Barker.
"My goal from the beginning has just been to hopefully help give people access to the things they need to improve their qualify of life; whether that’s an education, keeping their homes, healthcare — those things that impact people’s lives," said Exum in a quick interview with the Indy. "And just to vote smart on things that improve the quality of life; and things that don’t improve the quality of life, vote smart on those things, too. And do a lot of listening and not a lot of talking."
Meanwhile, having defeated GOP challenger Jennifer George in House District 18, incumbent Rep. Pete Lee said he plans to keep doing what he's been doing. "The big issue is the economy, Colorado’s economy, and job creation," Lee said. "So I wanna work across the aisle with our colleagues up there to see what we could do to invigorate Colorado’s economy and create more jobs."
And as far as the civil-unions bill that died so dramatically in the last session?
"It’ll pass," he said flatly.
(Seconds after this, screaming started in the main conference room as it was announced President Barack Obama had retained office.)
On a more nonpartisan note, Democrats — like folks the world over — were drawn to the triumph of Colorado's marijuana decriminalization bill, Amendment 64. With 63 percent of precincts reporting, it enjoyed a comfortable 53.6 percent to 47.4 percent lead.
"Make no mistake: Our victory tonight will change this country," wrote the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in an e-mail soon after the outcome was assured. "We have put a serious dent in the armor of our federal government's decades-old failed war on marijuana. Citizens in other states now know that if Coloradans can change their laws, they can too. Politicians are now realizing that making marijuana legal is in fact a mainstream, majority-support issue, and will begin to champion our position."
That said, local medical-marijuana advocates remained ambivalent. In one Facebook posting, Audrey Hatfield, president of Coloradans 4 Cannabis Patient Rights, wrote, "Congrats on winning A64! Time will tell ... Hopefully all the ended friendships and personal attacks where worth it all ..."
Ultimately, and regardless of any hoped-for outcomes, however, Exum seemed to say it best, when he responded to our question about how he was feeling: "You know, I was just happy the campaign was over."