The race in Colorado’s new 8th Congressional District was too close to call Tuesday night, as Democrat Yadira Caraveo held a narrow lead over her Republican opponent, Barbara Kirkmeyer.
Just before 11 p.m., Caraveo, a state representative, had 49% of the vote to Kirkmeyer’s 47%. The Libertarian candidate, Richard Ward, had about 4% of the vote, according to results posted by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.
Republicans hoped their candidate, Kirkmeyer, a state senator, would be a bright spot on an otherwise disappointing Election Day for the GOP. And Democrats were pessimistic about their chances in the 8th District heading into the home stretch.
It’s unclear how many ballots still need to be counted in the district, which spans from the northeast Denver suburbs into Greeley. There are portions of Adams, Larimer and Weld counties in the district.
Colorado received an eighth congressional district after the 2020 U.S. census due to the state’s population growth. The district, which stretches from Denver’s northeast suburbs into Greeley, was drawn as part of last year’s once-in-a-decade redistricting process. It had a slight Democratic advantage, according to a nonpartisan legislative staff analysis of election results in the district from 2016 to 2020. But most national prognosticators considered the district a tossup.
Kirkmeyer benefited from national GOP help, while Caraveo’s campaign — which was always trailing in polling — was mostly left to fend for itself.
Kirkmeyer got help from the National Republican Congressional Committee to pay for more than $1.7 million in TV advertising starting in September. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee didn’t begin assisting Caraveo with TV advertising until mid-October.
Republican groups spent $10.2 million to support Kirkmeyer, compared with only $6.4 million for Democratic groups.
Caraveo outspent Kirkmeyer $2.6 million to $1.2 million through Oct. 19, according to federal campaign finance records analyzed by The Colorado Sun.
Kirkmeyer, a big oil and gas supporter, focused her campaign on inflation and crime, brushing off Democratic attacks over her stance on abortion and her leadership role in the 2013 attempt by 11 northern Colorado counties to pursue secession and form a 51st state.
In one of her closing TV ads, Kirkmeyer attacked Caraveo with the false claim that Caraveo supported a bill legalizing fentanyl possession. The bipartisan 2019 measure lessened the penalties for possession of up to 4 grams of the powerful opioid, making it a misdemeanor rather than a felony, but only for personal use.
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A measure passed by the legislature, in response to criticism about the 2019 bill, made it a felony to possess one or more grams for personal use and increased penalties for dealers. Caraveo voted for both. Kirkmeyer wasn’t a state lawmaker in 2019, but she voted against this year’s bill.
Kirkmeyer, speaking to supporters at a diner in Brighton on Monday, said a provision in the 2021 bill offering prosecutorial immunity to people who report an overdose is “essentially legalizing fentanyl.”
“If you’re not going to get arrested for killing someone by pushing poison on them, that’s essentially legalizing fentanyl,” she said. “Go look up the definition of legalize.”
Caraveo aimed to attract working-class families like the one she grew up in. She said she originally ran for the state House after hearing parents’ concerns about the high costs of health care and their concerns about getting a good education for their children. Her support of abortion rights also played a significant role.
“My message is that I come from (the) community,” she told reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “For me, it was about building on all of those experiences that I had taking care of them in my clinic and that I grew up with, seeing my parents have to have conversations around the kitchen room table about what we could afford to do.”
She said her campaign knocked on 295,000 doors, made 225,000 phone calls and sent over 340,000 text messages to voters. Caraveo said she’d continue knocking on doors as Election Day wound down.
Getting out Latino voters in the district was especially important to Caraveo in a district that was nearly 39% Latino.
“As somebody who speaks Spanish, I’ve really been concentrating my efforts in the Spanish-speaking areas of the community,” Caraveo said. “In Commerce City, and then Greeley in particular.”
Ballots will continue being counted on Wednesday.