GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Carbondale businessman Bob Rankin sailed to an early victory over retired educator Jo Ann Baxter, a Democrat, in the race for the open state House District 57 seat.
"Since the registration was in my favor, the campaign was about learning the job, learning the issues," Rankin, a Republican, said Tuesday evening.
"It's totally about jobs and the economy, and looking for ways to make our communities more prosperous," he said.
The newly drawn boundaries for House District 57 take in Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties, where registered Republicans far outnumber Democrats.
Rankin collected a total of 16,745 votes in the three counties, 57 percent of the vote, compared to 11,396 for Baxter, or 39 percent, and 1,239 votes, 4 percent, for Libertarian Dan Enright of Silt.
Rankin won in all three counties, collecting 52 percent in Garfield County, 78 percent in Rio Blanco County and 64 percent in Moffat County.
He spent Tuesday evening socializing with fellow Garfield County Republicans at a reception held at the Ramada Inn, with his wife and campaign manager, Joyce Rankin.
"I've had a knot in my stomach for days," Bob Rankin said. "Now I feel relaxed."
Today he will be headed off to Denver for a legislative caucus meeting, starting his pre-session duties as a representative-elect.
Baxter and her husband, Brian, were also in Glenwood Springs for election night results, attending a Democratic Party event at the Glenwood Canyon Brewpub that was a mix of national-level joy and local-level despair.
"We did give people a choice," Baxter said of her candidacy. "And we brought my opponent more to the center than if there hadn't been a race. We broadened the discussion, and made sure there was a discussion."
Baxter expressed appreciation for Democrats in the three counties who worked for her, and noted that her campaign was far outspent by Rankin's.
Rankin said voters supported him because of his experience.
"Most of these folks are worried about their future, about their savings, their jobs," he said. "They know I understand the business environment, and they trust me to do as much as can be done."
Rankin, 69, is a retired engineer, corporate executive and small business owner who lives on Missouri Heights. In his campaign, he cited as his top issues the need for jobs, education reform and an overhaul of the state Constitution to unload or reform its restrictive fiscal amendments.