State Sen. John Morse went to bed Tuesday night holding a lead of 104 votes over Republican challenger Owen Hill and expecting a recount in the Senate District 11 race. "We knew this was going to be close," Morse said before going home. "Maybe this is a wee bit closer than we'd like."
All that changed overnight, however, when a last dump of votes increased Morse's margin to 252 votes, not only securing his victory but, according to the party leader, giving Dems an 18-17 edge in the Senate. (Media hadn't been able to confirm that independently as of press time.) That's down from 21-14 the past two years, but a majority nonetheless.
So, with a Democratic governor and a Democratic majority in the Senate, what does Morse see as state government's agenda?
"The next two years, you will see us focus on the budget an awful lot, because we have to cut $1.2 billion while trying to maintain the services that we are providing now," Morse said. "That's cuts to K-12, that's cuts to higher education, that's cuts to prisons. There's no fluff to cut. So, that will be almost all-consuming."
Additionally, he said, the state will need to begin implementing the federal health care legislation.
Morse planned to report to Denver on Thursday to begin planning for a daunting session.
"I imagine it wasn't fun to be in government in the 1930s," said Morse of the difficult decisions facing the Legislature. "But I'd rather be the one that is making the decisions than Republicans."
Meanwhile, an exuberant but exhausted Pete Lee sailed to a substantial victory in state House District 18, defeating Republican Karen Cullen 55-45 percent. "I'm ecstatic, I'm humbled and I'm scared," he told the crowd of Democratic Party loyalists who had stayed on until the late counting of the ballots was apparently completed. "I don't underestimate in any way the challenges that we face. We have a difficult economy, to say the least. We have budgetary challenges. We have educational challenges."
Lee added that his victory was bittersweet, having seen two other local Dems fall in their election bids. His term-limited District 18 predecessor, Michael Merrifield, came up well short in his effort to be the first Democratic county commissioner in nearly four decades, and Dennis Apuan lost his District 17 seat to a Republican challenger after a single term.
"It is sad," Lee said, "to see people of that caliber not continuing to represent the people of El Paso County."