Republican Brian Davidson, who recently lost his challenge to Democrat Stephen Ludwig for University of Colorado at large regent, agrees with his former opponent on at least one point: Democrats did a better job getting out the vote. And he believes that in the down ballot contest, motivating voters to the polls is the most important factor, which cost him the election.
“Ultimately Republicans in general didn’t come out to vote as much as Democrats did on a percentage basis… and obviously I count on that,” Davidson said of the statewide race. He lost to Ludwig for a second time in what was once again a tight race.
Ludwig defeated Davidson 47.28 percent — 1,046,833 votes — to 44.69 percent — 989,467. Libertarian candidate Daniel Ong received 5.25 percent — 116,151 — and Tyler Belmont, an 18-year-old high school student who ran on the American Constitution Party ticket, garnered 2.78 percent, or 61,544 votes.
Preliminary results from the secretary of state’s office indicate that more Republicans actually voted in Colorado than Democrats. The latest numbers available show that 833,751 Republicans voted, compared to 808,804 Democrats. Final numbers won’t be available until Nov. 26. But the question rested with unaffiliated voters. Statistics show that 752,610 unaffiliated citizens voted this year in the general election. And exit polls have indicated that many of those unaffiliated voters leaned Democrat.
“It’s easier to talk about how the Democrats did very well,” explained Davidson. “They had an organized machine. And I think the Republican Party was very organized, it just didn’t hit the level and intensity that the Democratic Party displayed.”
Ludwig agreed, suggesting that his party’s ambition and President Barack Obama’s success in Colorado certainly helped propel him to victory: “To be blunt, most people don’t know what a regent is, and so there’s a lot of people that vote along party lines… And a strong performance by President Obama certainly helped.”
Ludwig will return to the nine-member governing body of the CU system, which sets tuition and the school’s $2.9 billion budget. He will be term limited following the six-year run.
He also defeated Davidson in 2006 when he won by four-tenths of one percentage point in an outcome that took three weeks to settle. Results weren’t quite as tight this year, but neither candidate officially knew their fate until they woke up on Wednesday morning.
“It’s not close at all compared to six years ago,” boasted Ludwig. “We got it figured out in a day rather than three weeks, so that was a huge improvement.”
Meanwhile, Davidson lamented, stating, “0 for two isn’t very fun.” He added that he does not plan to run for the position again.
Davidson acknowledged that historically, Democrats tend to undervote more on regent races, about 20 percent Democrat to 10 percent Republican. But there were also two third-party candidates to compete with, Davidson said.
“Sixty-thousand people voted for a high school student,” he quipped. “That’s fine. I think Tyler is a great guy, a great kid. But I bet you if you did a scientific analysis and you asked a thousand people who voted for him, did you know he’s in high school, 99 percent are going to tell you, ‘No, I didn’t.’”
Davidson said part of the problem is that so few people take the time to educate themselves on regents’ races. He said only about 20,000 people visited his website, out of 2.3 million voters.
“Where are you getting your information?” asked Davidson.
His perspective is that the loss means the board will continue to be out-of-touch with the needs of the university system. Davidson, a physician and faculty anesthesiologist at CU’s Anschutz Medical Campus, has always maintained that his experiences with the school made him the better candidate.
“I don’t think they know about the issues,” he said of the current board.
“…What I brought to the table was someone whose been in the system recently and can list practical problems that occur every day,” Davidson noted. “I just think most of them are so far removed from what the university does on a daily basis.”
Ludwig shrugged off the concerns, stating: “I think the voters spoke about what I’m focused on and what we need to worry about. I appreciate Brian’s efforts on the campaign trail, I know he’s passionate.”
Ludwig says he has two main priorities moving forward. The first is working with lawmakers and the business community to find a steady funding stream for higher education, which could come in the form of a tax increase. And the second is to work with community, education and civic leaders on developing cooperation between higher education and other systems in the state.
“I’m going to be continuing that work, educating people, getting them engaged in the conversation so that when we do find a solution, or a group of solutions, that the people aren’t like, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’”
Other Regent of the University of Colorado results:
• In the 3rd Congressional District, Republican Glenn Gallegos defeated Democrat Jessica Garrow, 53.3 percent to 46.7 percent;
• In the 5th Congressional District, Republican incumbent Kyle Hybl won with 70.6 percent of the vote. No Democrat ran; and
• In the 7th Congressional District, Democric incumbent Irene Griego defeated Republican Mary Dambman 51.8 percent to 40.6 percent.