STEAMBOAT SPRINGS Despite losing his home county in a very tight race, Jack Taylor was poised to go back to Denver as a state Senator when he went to bed Tuesday night. Taylor was leading the Democratic candidate for District 8, Paul Ohri, by a slim majority early Wednesday morning, but the race was still much too close to call.
"We're waiting to see how the numbers come out," Taylor said. "I think it looks good."
Neither Jackson County nor Garfield County had completed their final counts as of early Wednesday morning. Garfield, with about 27,000 registered voters, could swing the district. Taylor was up by 899 votes with preliminary numbers from Garfield and Jackson counties.
Taylor would replace another Republican, Dave Wattenberg of Walden, in the Senate. Wattenberg was forced to leave office because of term limits.
Ohri was able to put up a strong fight in a number of counties with a majority of registered Republicans, but lost Eagle, which, with more than 21,000 registered voters, was seen as a swing county in the election.
"We're still holding out some hope Garfield County still has as much as 8,000 votes out but I really thought we'd win Eagle," Ohri said. "Still, I think we really held our own in the Republican counties."
Ohri actually won Routt County, Taylor's home county, by a slim margin. He took in 46.7 percent of the vote to 46.0 percent for Taylor. The difference amounted to about 70 votes.
Taylor served in the Colorado House of Representatives for eight years. He could not run again this year because of term limits.
Taylor was endorsed by popular Republican Congressman Scott McInnis, who won reelection to his U.S. Third District seat by a large margin Tuesday.
Libertarian candidate Michael Zuckerman has run a quiet campaign for the state Senate, taking no money and doing little actual campaigning beyond attending forums and speaking to the media. Zuckerman received less than 5 percent of the vote in most counties, including 3 percent in Routt County.
Taylor ran on a platform of cutting taxes and continuing to support tourism in the area. He also touted his experience on his family's farm as evidence of his ties to the agricultural community.
Throughout his campaign, Taylor stressed the importance of having someone with legislative experience going into the state Senate. Because all three of the members of the Legislature from northwest Colorado will be new to their positions, Taylor said that the residents of the area need to have someone in the Senate who knows how to get things done.
Ohri, a longtime Kremmling Realtor, identified growth, housing, education and water as the big issues for District 8. He served as Grand County Commissioner from 1987 to 1999, being named Colorado's "Commissioner of the Year" in 1993. He also is the president of the board of directors of the Colorado River Water Conservation District.
With the Republicans clinging to a 20 to 15 lead in the state Senate before the election, political action committees have been funneling money into potentially close races. Front Range groups ran ads in Routt County for both major party candidates, trying to sway the race. (Avi Salzman is a reporter for the Steamboat Springs Pilot/Today.)