Mountain: Incumbents Win Big by Stepping Away From Barack Obama

Posted November 7, 2012 at 6:20pm

Despite a pair of competitive House races in Colorado and a tossup Senate contest in Montana, voters in the mountain region stuck with their incumbents on Election Day.

Two Centennial State Republicans, Reps. Scott Tipton and Mike Coffman, fended off potentially serious challengers even as Colorado voters went with the Democratic ticket for the White House. Neither Sal Pace, the Democrat who took on Tipton, nor Joe Miklosi, Coffman’s opponent, rounded up enough votes from President Barack Obama’s coattails to gain victory.

Coffman, whose redrawn 6th district was more Democratic than it had been with the inclusion of Aurora, won with 49 percent to Miklosi’s 44 percent.

The contest in the expansive and largely rural 3rd district was even more decisive, with Tipton capturing 54 percent to Pace’s 41 percent. Pace, a state lawmaker, is a former aide to ex-Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.), whom Tipton beat in 2010.

In both Colorado races, negative ads, including many from outside groups, ruled the local airwaves.

As expected, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) held on to his seat in the 7th despite a challenge by deep-pocketed Republican Joe Coors Jr., who used some of his own fortune from the Coors brewing company to fund his effort.

In the Montana Senate race, incumbent Jon Tester (D) won a second term after the vote counting Wednesday showed him edging out Rep. Denny Rehberg (R). Proving correct observers who said it would be one of the closest Senate contests in the country, the race was called for Tester in the late morning Wednesday.

Tester, who first won his seat in 2006 with 49 percent of the vote, campaigned in Big Sky Country by putting plenty of distance between him and Obama, who lost the state as expected. Tester highlighted his disagreements with the Democratic administration over local and national matters.

“Jon took on the Obama administration to delist wolves, saying that’s ‘what’s right for Montana,’” one campaign ad said. “Voted for the Keystone pipeline … and voted in favor of a balanced budget amendment.”

Montana voters split their ballots, voting for Tester and Republican White House contender Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. In addition to holding on to the Montana seat, Senate Democrats managed to pick up two more seats in an election cycle that had seemed a steep climb for the party.

Even with Rehberg’s defeat, though, Montanans kept his House seat in the GOP camp. Republican businessman Steve Daines bested Democrat Kim Gillan, the state Senate Minority Whip, garnering 53 percent of the vote to her
43 percent.

In Utah’s closely watched tossup House race between Rep. Jim Matheson (D) and his Republican challenger, Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, the incumbent eked out a victory. Matheson, a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog coalition, collected 49 percent of the votes. Love, a speaker at the Republican National Convention this summer in Tampa who would have become the first black Republican woman to serve in Congress, received 48 percent of the vote.

In the Beehive State’s far less competitive Senate race, incumbent Orrin Hatch (R) cruised to victory over his Democratic challenger Scott Howell, a former state Senate Minority Leader. Hatch’s real race was his primary skirmish against ex-state Sen. Dan Liljenquist.

At 78, Hatch has said this term, his seventh, will be his last one.

Even less competitive than Hatch’s general election race, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso (R) won re-election with more than 75 percent of the vote, easily defeating the Democrat, Albany County Commissioner Tim Chestnut.

Wyoming also voted overwhelmingly for its House member, Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R), who won big over Democrat Chris Henrichsen, a political science professor.

Ditto for Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador (R), a freshman lawmaker who beat his Democratic challenger, former NFL wide receiver Jimmy Farris, and Rep. Mike Simpson (R), who trounced his challenger Democrat Nicole LeFavour. Each incumbent won more than 60 percent of the vote.