Four years ago, Republican Jeff Baker ran for the county commissioner seat in the east Centennial and Aurora area, and he bested his Democratic opponent by 12 percentage points. This year, he and his …
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Four years ago, Republican Jeff Baker ran for the county commissioner seat in the east Centennial and Aurora area, and he bested his Democratic opponent by 12 percentage points.
This year, he and his new Democratic opponent, Idris Keith, were neck-and-neck in a race that sat in automatic recount territory as of the evening of Nov. 6, three days after Election Day.
And four years ago, Republican Kathleen Conti — a former representative in the Colorado General Assembly — ran unopposed for the county commissioner seat that covers Littleton, Englewood and west Centennial.
This year, her Democratic challenger, Carrie Warren-Gully, overtook her by 11 percentage points.
The results made for a dramatic shift in an election that also saw state House District 38 and state Senate District 27 — areas that overlap those county commisioner districts — flip to Democratic control.
Commissioners make up the governing body of a county, somewhat similar to city councils.
Keith pulled ahead in a narrow lead in early returns on Election Night, Nov. 3, with about 51.3% to Baker’s 48.7%. District 3 includes east Aurora, far east Centennial and roughly everything else in the county east of highway E-470.
By the afternoon of Nov. 5, Baker had pulled ahead, 50.1% to Keith’s 49.9%. Those were still the most recent returns posted as of Nov. 6. The difference was just 162 votes, a number that would trigger an automatic recount if the results had been final at that time.
By law, a recount would be held if the difference between their votes was less than or equal to one-half of 1% of the leader’s vote count, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. That threshold was about 203 votes as of Nov. 6 but would shift as more votes were counted.
As of the night of Nov. 4, Arapahoe County had at about 2,700 ballots left to be counted that could affect county-level races, according to a spokesperson for the clerk and recorder’s office.
And more than 6,200 ballots in the county remained to be “cured,” meaning corrected by voters due to problems such as signature discrepancies.
Ballots from Colorado citizens living outside the United States and active military personnel absent from Colorado were expected to arrive over roughly the next week, and it’s unclear how many ballots that would be, according to the clerk’s office.
Baker, the incumbent commissioner, had played up his experience in the county government — he has more than 21 years as an employee of Arapahoe County working in two different departments. He’s a resident of Centennial.
On Nov. 5, Baker said if he pulls off the win, “transportation by far is the No. 1 project I’d work on.”
“I’m pretty involved in Gun Club (Road) and Quincy (Avenue), the (improvement of the) intersection there,” Baker said, adding, “I’ll stay involved in that. I’m working with (Commissioner) Nancy Sharpe on the intersection of Belleview and I-25.”
In a Colorado Community Media questionnaire this fall, Baker said the county has “unsafe conditions on many streets and roadways.”
Keith, an Aurora resident, boasted about private-sector experience with “multimillion-dollar construction projects” and other matters involving commerce and trade in his Colorado Community Media questionnaire. He said he’s also worked with, and in, the public sector. Keith was waiting to comment on the results until they progressed further.
“Job creation and economic development top my agenda,” Keith said in a Colorado Community Media questionnaire this fall. “The cost of living has continued to increase, but wages have plateaued. Due to COVID, many people are unemployed or facing periods of unpaid furlough.”
Warren-Gully, the Democratic challenger, amassed a large early lead against Conti, the Republican incumbent, on Election Night.
By Nov. 5, that had whittled down a couple points but was still a wide margin. The race stood at 54.1% for Warren-Gully to 42.7% for Conti. Libertarian candidate Joshua Lallement garnered 3.2%.
District 1 includes Littleton, Sheridan, Englewood, west Centennial and Cherry Hills Village.
Conti, the incumbent, had played up her experience and the knowledge of county departments she gained in the last four years. She’s a resident of Littleton.
Warren-Gully, a Centennial resident, is a member of the Littleton Public Schools Board of Education.
Conti said if reelected, the top issue in her agenda would be maintaining or increasing “our current level of service to the citizens by protecting our county tax revenues from the state stealing it through unfunded mandates,” as stated in her response in a Colorado Community Media questionnaire. Conti did not respond when contacted for comment after Election Day.
On Nov. 5, Warren-Gully said an issue high on her priority list is “long-term planning” to maintain sustainable transportation infrastructure years down the road and keep the county’s buildings and ability to provide services in good shape.
“If you had asked me (my top priority) pre-pandemic when I first started on the campaign, I would definitely say it would be infrastructure. But now I am most concerned with making sure we are providing the social safety-net structure that we need in order to address the pandemic right now and in our economic recovery,” Warren-Gully said. “I know that will have to be our No. 1 focus right now. “
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