The Democrats kept the governorship. They took the state Senate. And they defeated “bulletproof” U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora.
But the biggest sign that a “blue wave” swept Colorado in Tuesday’s election can be found in Adams and Arapahoe counties, where two incumbent Republican sheriffs were unseated by a pair of cops working in the tiny Denver suburb of Mountain View who ran as Democrats.
The upsets, which occurred in the kinds of races that aren’t typically decided on party lines, saw Rick Reigenborn, a part-time detective, unseat Adams County Sheriff Mike McIntosh and Tyler Brown, a police officer, beat Arapahoe County Sheriff David Walcher.
It was a “national avalanche of Democrats,” said Joe Webb, chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party.
“There were a lot of races that I thought we would not lose, that we did,” he said, pointing to the sheriff’s race in Arapahoe County. “Why, because he had the Democrat label next to his name? It was incredibly surprising.”
The wins by the two cops working in Mountain View — a town of about 500 people west of Denver with a police department known for issuing large numbers of traffic tickets — came on a night when Democrats also regained full control of the statehouse and swept the state’s constitutional offices. And it was an election that saw Democrat Jason Crow beat Coffman.
“We’re engaged as a country right now in politics, and people are looking at ways they can get involved,” Brown said. “And we saw a tremendous grassroots campaign.”
The ouster of the two Republican sheriffs, both nearing the end of their first elected terms, is notable because neither had a scandal or controversy tied to his name, which is often what it takes to see a sitting sheriff voted out of office, said Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, a Republican.
Walcher and Reigenborn received 51.17 percent and 52.36 percent of their home counties’ votes, respectively.
“We just didn’t see the conditions that typically cause a sheriff to be defeated, particularly a first-term sheriff,” Smith said.
Brown, 35, and Reigenborn, 54, acknowledged the blue wave, but they also pointed to what’s happening in national politics as the reason for voter engagement, as well as their grassroots campaigning for having boosted turnout.
Reigenborn, who retired as a patrol sergeant with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office in 2015, said that before the election, he walked an average of 6 to 7 miles a day after work to knock on doors, and that in more than six weeks, his campaign hit more than 10,000 houses.
“People were just engaged and very interested,” he said. “The general public is starting to see that the local government is where it starts.”
But that doesn’t make the defeats of Walcher and McIntosh any less stunning for the law enforcement community, which is not accustomed to seeing politics influence sheriff’s races as much as it did in Arapahoe and Adams counties.
After the election, the spokesman for the Adams County Sheriff’s Office reportedly sounded a sour note about the results on Facebook.
CBS Denver reported Thursday that Sgt. Jim Morgen wrote on social media that he was “so disgusted with Colorado and specifically Adams County voters that could only see a d. It makes me completely sick that some complete dumb ass will win as sheriff with no ability only and I mean only because he has a d in front of his name.”
The Denver Post could not independently verify the Facebook comments. When asked about it, Morgen said he saw the post on a private Facebook page, but did not address whether he wrote it before ending the call with a reporter.
Walcher declined to comment for this story. McIntosh could not be reached.
“Everyone was shocked over it,” said Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, a Democrat. “But they got caught up in a partisan wave.”
Pelle called Walcher and McIntosh “top-shelf sheriffs” and said he is “committed” to working with their successors.
“One of the things in the office of sheriff, we come from different parties, but that doesn’t typically define how we work together,” Smith added.
Staff writer Andrew Kenney contributed to this report.
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