LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Rocky Mountain Gun Owners are celebrating two hard-fought primary victories in Jefferson County tonight, although one was far clearer than the other.
Newcomer Tony Sanchez, who just moved to Colorado last year, won an easy over on attorney Mario Nicolais in the race for the GOP nomination in state senate district 22.
Sanchez, who benefited from a number of RMGO’s direct mail pieces attacking Nicolais over his refusal to full out the group’s survey and his support for civil unions, doubled up Nicolais 66-33 percent with around 8,000 votes counted. However, Sanchez declined to go on camera when FOX31 Denver reached out to him Tuesday night.
An admittedly nervous Laura Woods, who beat Lang Sias in neighboring senate district 19 by a somewhat smaller margin, went on camera for the first time as a politician Tuesday night, saying her primary win “all started with the recalls,” speaking about her efforts to organize two recalls against Democratic senator Evie Hudak for her votes on stricter gun regulation. Hudak eventually resigned in November.
“We’re riding the conservative wave in Colorado,” Woods said. “We’re really excited to be here now.”
Senate Democrats might also be excited about Tuesday’s result, in large part because they believe both Sanchez and Woods are too conservative for the districts they are seeking to represent. If Democrats are able to defeat both candidates, it will go a long way in helping them hold onto their one-seat majority this November.
Some Republican analysts feel the same way.
“These are very competitive districts in a very competitive county,” former Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams said. “And if the wrong candidates win these primaries, they cannot win these competitive districts. Lang Sias can win. Mario Nicolais can win. Their opponents (Woods and Sanchez) cannot.”
With Nicolais headed for defeat early, Sias wasn’t far behind him, trailing Woods 55-45 percent with close to 10,000 ballots cast.
Sias conceded around 9:30 p.m., after both candidates waited to see if a significant number of votes remained uncounted. In the end, it seemed a 10-point margin would have been difficult to overcome.
Sias who lost a 2012 race for the same district to Hudak, has received some help from Colorado Concern, a group of area CEOs that’s spent money on his behalf through an independent committee. He was blasted by an RMGO mailer for accepted the contribution, with the organization pointing to the involvement of Tim Gill, who the mailer labeled a “liberal millionaire homosexual.”
The results again underscore the power of the RMGO machine in appealing to and turning out a smaller, more-conservative primary electorate with hard-edged advertising.
Moments after conceding to Sanchez, that was a topic Nicolais touched on.
“I’m not going to fault them (RMGO),” Nicolais said. “They understood that if they played in the primaries in a vacuum, where they were the only people who were sending out mail and such, they get to pick the candidates. I think one of the things you see in this particular primary is that this is absolutely their party.
“I was banking on there being outside money for someone who didn’t support personhood and someone who did support LGBT rights,” Nicolais continued, speaking about some of his more moderate stances on social issues. “I was wrong and Tony was right. So he won. That’s the bottom line.”
The general election will determine whether that’s good or bad for the GOP’s bottom line.