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Politics and Government

A look at the long list of historical firsts Colorado reached with its 2018 elections

From the first transgender state representative to the first openly gay governor in the nation, there was a lot of ground broken on Nov. 6

Voters cast ballots at a polling location in Denver on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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Colorado voters helped make history in the 2018 midterms.

From the governor’s race to legislative contests — and plenty of races in between — voters picked candidates who represented firsts in Colorado politics. The biggest benchmarks came from Democrats who ran the table in major contests as part of the so-called blue wave.

Here is a look at the history made on Election Day:

Jared Polis

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis speaks at La Rumba in Denver on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Colorado’s first openly gay governor, Colorado’s first Jewish governor and the first openly gay governor in the U.S.

“Tonight, right here in Colorado we proved that no barriers should stand in the way of pursuing our dreams,” Polis said in his victory speech. “We proved we are an inclusive state that values every contribution regardless of someone’s sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The Democrat’s election made national news for the ceilings he broke. But it’s not the first time. Polis, a five-term Boulder congressman, also was the first non-incumbent openly gay candidate to win a seat in Congress, and the first openly gay parent in the chamber.

Joe Neguse

Democrat Joe Neguse addresses supporters after tonight’s victory. (John Frank, The Colorado Sun)

Colorado’s first black member of Congress

“Only in America is my family story possible,” Neguse said after he was declared the winner. “It is what makes this state and our nation so incredible.”

Neguse, a Democrat, handily defeated his GOP rival, Peter Yu, to fill the 2nd Congressional District seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis. His parents emigrated 35 years ago from the tiny East African country of Eritrea.

Brianna Titone

Democrat Brianna Titone, right, Colorado’s first transgender candidate for state representative, speaks to a crowd at a protest on the west steps of the Colorado Capitol in Denver, Nov 8, 2018. (Marvin Anani, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Colorado’s first transgender state lawmaker

“I don’t think being a transgender person was something that was an asset in the community, in the district,” Titone told The Colorado Sun. “If you look at the demographics there, and you look at the history and the strong conservative sentiments that come from the district, it’s not something that would be a winning thing.”

In 2016, Titone’s district, centered in Arvada, chose former Republican Rep. Lang Sias by 12 percentage points over his Democratic challenger. Titone appears to have won by just a few hundred votes.

MORE: Read more politics and government coverage from The Colorado Sun.

Jason Crow

U.S. Rep.-elect Jason Crow joined the Denver Protest to Protect Robert Muller on the west steps of the Colorado statehouse on Nov. 8, 2018. (Marvin Anani, Special to The Colorado Sun)

First Democrat to hold 6th Congressional District seat

“No political party has a monopoly on being right, and nobody understands that better than Coloradans,” Crow said at his election night party as he proclaimed victory over Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman.

The 6th District was created in 1983 and leaned heavily toward the GOP until 2012 when its boundaries were redrawn. Coffman was able to stave off well-funded challengers in 2014 and 2016, but lost by a wide margin to Crow on Nov. 6 in large part because of blowback toward President Donald Trump.

Jena Griswold

Jena Griswold, Democratic candidate for Colorado Secretary of State, at a Highlands Ranch event in September 2018. (Marvin Anani, Special to The Colorado Sun)

First Democratic woman Colorado secretary of state and the first Democrat elected to the job in 60 years

“Thanks to our demand that politics as usual is no longer accepted, we have changed the course of history,” Griswold said on election night. “We seized the opportunity with hard work, determination and pure grit. Together we did something that no one has been able to do for 60 years. Let that sink in. A Democrat has not won this seat since Dwight D. Eisenhower sat in the presidency.”

Griswold was the only woman candidate on the ballot for a statewide constitutional office, and in her victory speech she thanked supporters, saying, “We broke a glass ceiling.”

Phil Weiser

Democrat Phil Weiser, who is running for Colorado attorney general, speaks at La Rumba in Denver on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

First Jewish Colorado attorney general

“All across the state I told people about my family’s story,” Weiser said in his victory speech on election night. “About my grandmother giving birth to my mom in a concentration camp and being liberated the next day by the U.S. Army and coming to our nation for freedom and opportunity.”

In addition to being Colorado’s first Jewish attorney general, Weiser is the first Democrat to hold the post since Ken Salazar wat attorney general from 1999 to 2005.

Democratic Party

First time since 1936 Democrats have held both chambers of the Colorado General Assembly and all four elected statewide constitutional offices

Not since 1936 have Democrats held both chambers of the Colorado General Assembly and all statewide elected constitutional offices. Before then, they accomplished the feat only in 1916, 1912 and 1908 (and that’s back when the lieutenant governor was elected separately).

Colorado Democratic Party chair called the wins “a decisive and historic sweep.”

Colorado House

House Democrats choose their caucus’ new leaders on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Most women ever in Colorado House of Representatives

More women than ever will serve in the Colorado House when the General Assembly reconvenes on Jan. 4, according to House Democrats. Of the 65 members in the chamber, 33 will be women — 25 of those Democrats.

Those numbers assume Democrat Bri Buentello wins in House District 47, where she is in the lead though the contest hasn’t been called, and Republican Rep. Susan Beckman holds onto her seat in Arapahoe County, where she is leading her opponent in a tight race.

Updated at 11 a.m. on Nov. 13, 2018: This story has been corrected to reflect that there will be 33 women in the Colorado House when the legislature reconvenes on Jan. 4. 

Updated at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 14, 2018: This story has been updated to reflect that Ken Salazar was attorney general from 1999 to 2005.


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