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Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a candidate in the 8th Congressional District, makes remarks to reporters Nov. 8, 2022, in Thornton. She will be the first Latina to represent Colorado in Congress. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Democrat Yadira Caraveo will be the first representative in Washington from Colorado’s new 8th Congressional District after she beat Republican state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer in a very close race.

Caraveo, who works as a pediatrician, will be the first Latina to represent Colorado in Congress. The 8th District’s population is nearly 39% Latino.

Caraveo, a state representative, was leading Kirkmeyer, a state senator, by less than 1 percentage point and fewer than 500 votes when Kirkmeyer conceded Wednesday night at about 6 p.m.”While this is not the outcome we hoped for, I am proud of our team and our campaign,” Kirkmeyer posted on Twitter.

Caraveo’s win also gives Democrats a better chance at holding onto their slim majority in Congress.

Yadira Caraveo talks to District 8 voters.
State Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, makes a stop as part of her campaign to represent Colorado’s 8th Congressional District. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

“In many ways, the story of my family is the story of this district — my parents immigrated here to afford us a better life,” Caraveo said in a written statement Wednesday. “And because of their hard work, I was able to go to college, become a doctor and live my version of the American Dream. But for too many people in Colorado, that dream has slipped out of reach. Our district deserves a leader who will fight to restore access to the American Dream for working families — a leader who will not side with wealthy donors and special interests.”

She added: “It’s the honor of my lifetime to receive this vote of confidence to serve working families from Greeley to Commerce City in Washington, D.C. I look forward to doing the hard work to fight for working families across every part of the 8th Congressional District.”

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Colorado received an eighth congressional district after the 2020 U.S. census due to the state’s population growth. The tossup 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 fully up for grabs, if not slightly leaning toward Republicans.

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.

But Caraveo’s campaign raised more money than Kirkmeyer’s, outspending her rival $2.6 million to $1.2 million through Oct. 19, according to federal campaign finance records analyzed by The Colorado Sun. 

Caraveo and her campaign aimed to attract the support of 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 in her congressional bid.

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“My message is that I come from (the) community,” she told reporters on Tuesday afternoon, before voting ended. “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.”

Caraveo said her campaign knocked on 295,000 doors, made 225,000 phone calls and sent over 340,000 text messages to voters. Getting out Latino voters in the district was especially important to Caraveo.

“As somebody who speaks Spanish, I’ve really been concentrating my efforts in the Spanish-speaking areas of the community,” Caraveo said on Tuesday. “In Commerce City, and then Greeley in particular.”

Kirkmeyer’s loss is another disappointment for Republicans, who suffered major defeats on Election Day. The Colorado GOP felt Kirkmeyer, who focused her campaign on inflation and crime, was likely to be a bright spot on an otherwise disappointing election night.

Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer, a state senator running to represent Colorado’s 8th Congressional District, speaks to voters on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, at a diner in Brighton. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Instead, Kirkmeyer’s loss adds to the nightmare that has been 2022 for the state’s Republicans. Kirkmeyer’s campaign said it conceded despite the narrow margin in the race because it felt it no longer had a path to victory.

Kirkmeyer, who lives in Brighton, still has two years left in her current four-year state Senate term.

Caraveo thanked the community in her victory statement.

“Together, we will fight to lower costs, make prescription drugs more affordable, make childcare and family leave more accessible, and fight for every person in America to, once again, have reproductive rights restored to them,” she wrote.

Jesse Paul

The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is...

Sandra Fish

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @fishnette