In an election in which Democrats raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and were financially competitive with Republicans for the first time in at least 20 years, Republicans still soundly defeated their opponents in the Nov. 3 race for two county commissioner seats.
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Lora Thomas and George Teal each won by large margins in the at-large elections for the District 2 and District 3 seats. The third commissioner seat, held by Republican Abe Laydon, was not up for re-election.
Thomas, the incumbent for District 3, was up by more than 16 percentage points (58.3% to 41.7%) as of 10 p.m. Election Night, according to the county’s unofficial results, with about 97% of ballots counted. Her opponent, Democrat Darien Wilson, conceded the election shortly after the first round of results was released hours earlier.
Election night results in the race between Teal, a Castle Rock town council member, and Democrat Lisa Neal-Graves showed Teal winning by more than 12 percentage points (54.4% to 42.1%) in the District 2 race. Victoria Reynolds, the Libertarian candidate in the race, had garnered 3.5% of the vote. These three candidates were vying for commissioner Roger Partridge’s seat, who is term limited.
Democrats Neal-Graves and Wilson both raised significantly more contributions for their campaigns than past Democrats, with Neal-Graves actually outraising her Republican opponent. As of Oct. 30, Neal-Graves had raised $151,480 and Teal had raised $137,798.
While Wilson was competitive in fundraising early in the race, incumbent Thomas ended up raising about $64,760 more than her opponent. As of Oct. 30, Thomas had raised more than $201,000 and Wilson nearly $137,000.
Both races were largely impacted by the current commissioners’ decision in July to leave the Tri-County Health Department in a year. Democratic candidates criticized the move, and Republicans defended it. Commissioners have since said they would agree to a draft proposal from the health department on a way to stay together.
On Election Night, Thomas thanked her supporters for her win.
“I've just always been focused on doing good for Douglas County and maintaining the excellent lifestyle in this county, and the voters have said that's what they want, so we will continue doing that," Thomas said.
Thomas also said she hopes that now that the race is finished, the county can come together.
"This was pretty divisive in our community, and that bothered me the most," Thomas said about the campaign. "I want us to put that division behind us so we're all moving forward at the same time."
Wilson said she had hoped to see a closer race.
"It was a long shot from the beginning," she said. "I still feel like I gave them a run for their money and built that infrastructure (for future Democratic candidates)."
Neal-Graves said she would not concede "until the last vote is cast and counted."
"I'm disappointed but it's not unexpected," Neal-Graves said.
Neal-Graves’ campaign hoped that an endorsement from Republican Sheriff Tony Spurlock would help attract voters from across the aisle. Spurlock decided to endorse the Democrat because he felt she was a stronger candidate for law enforcement support, he said.
While Teal did not respond to requests for comment on election night, his campaign manager, Ryan Lynch said their team is pleased with these results.
"This outcome is a product of the hard work that George and his volunteers put in," Lynch said. "Everything is looking good."
District 2 encompasses southern and western Douglas County, including Castle Rock, Castle Pines, Larkspur, Perry Park and Roxborough.
District 3 includes Highlands Ranch and the area of unincorporated Douglas County south of Highlands Ranch between Castle Pines, Sedalia and Louviers.
Newly elected officials will be sworn in Jan. 12.
Thomas, who was elected to her commissioner seat in 2016, spent her first term focusing on transportation issues, the development of a new judicial district and water issues. She hopes to spend her second term helping the county recover from COVID-19 and focusing on water issues in northwest Douglas County, she said.
Throughout her campaign, Wilson promised to prioritize public health, bring local jobs to the county and conserve the county’s resources if elected.
Thomas and Wilson are both Highlands Ranch residents.
Teal said during his campaign that if elected, he would support Douglas County adopting a local version of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) and establishing Douglas County as a 2nd Amendment “sanctuary county” for gun rights.
Neal-Graves, the former chief innovation officer for state Attorney General Phil Weiser, said she planned to focus on innovation, transparency in government spending and balance of the county’ growth if elected.
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