BLUE, TOO: Democrat Joan Lopez poised to nab clerk’s seat from incumbent Matt Crane

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AURORA | It appears there will soon be a new Clerk and Recorder in Arapahoe County as a Democratic wave continues to wash across Colorado and the Aurora area.

Democrat Joan Lopez surged ahead of incumbent Republican Clerk Matt Crane Thursday afternoon after a large batch of outstanding ballots were tallied in Arapahoe County.

Despite trailing Crane throughout election night and all day Wednesday, Lopez’s vote count pulled ahead of Crane’s Thursday evening. 

As of 6:22 p.m. Thursday night, Lopez was about 5,101 votes, or 2 percentage points, ahead of Crane, according to the county clerk’s website. 

Lopez, an Aurora resident who has worked in the clerk and recorder’s office for nearly 20 years, unsuccessfully ran against Crane in 2014.

Crane, a Littleton resident who has worked in the clerk’s office since 2007, received an appointment to his post in March 2013, when previous Clerk and Recorder Nancy Doty won a seat on the Board of County Commissioners. 

Crane beat Lopez by about 15,000 votes, or 13 percentage points, in 2014.

About 52,000 more votes were cast in the clerk’s race this year than in 2014, records show.

Lopez was prepared for the race by Emerge Colorado, the local spoke of a national organization that trains and readies Democratic women to run for office.

Lopez did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday night.

Voter turnout in Arapahoe County was more than 64 percent this year, which is about 16 points higher than the national average. About 59 percent of voters turned out to vote across the state in this year’s Midterm Election, according to current stats listed on the Secretary of State’s website.

Lopez’s victory solidifies a nearly clean, Democratic sweep in the contested races for county offices this year. Democrats also defeated Republican incumbents in the races for sheriff and assessor in Arapahoe County. The local coroner and treasurer were also up for re-election, but both ran unopposed.

The only county Republican to apparently survive the Democratic onslaught was the incumbent County Commissioner in District 2, Nancy Sharpe. The former Mayor of Greenwood Village was about 1,000 votes up on her Democratic opponent, as of the latest returns.

In District 4, Democrat Nancy Jackson easily cruised to victory, earning more than twice as many votes as her GOP opponent.

Election results from Arapahoe County were slightly delayed on election night and early Wednesday morning after a hose broke on a machine that sorts and verifies mail-in ballots, Crane said. The machine was fixed early Wednesday, and the malfunction resulted in a roughly two-hour delay in vote counting.

Crane said he believes the election results reflect the deeply blue trends seen throughout the state and the county, and were not a referendum on the performance of his office.

“Obviously, it’s frustrating and disappointing, especially considering the record that we’ve built up over the last five years,” he said. “But then I realize the sentiment of this election has nothing to do with me … there was a wave that hit Colorado, that didn’t hit other places.

I have no doubt that this wasn’t about me and the way my office performs. It is what it is, but it’s frustrating.”

Currently, the vote discrepancy in Crane’s race does not meet the statistical trip-wire to trigger a recount, per state statute. Crane said he does not plan on calling for a recount, pending an unexpected change in the results.

At least two other races in Arapahoe County could be dragged on for several more days until vote counting officially ceases Nov. 14, Crane said. Candidates in a race for a city council seat in Cherry Hills Village are currently only separated by about a dozen votes, and the two candidates vying for state House District 38 are separated by about 500 votes, according to returns listed on the clerk’s website.

Crane said recounts are possible and may be required by state law in both contests.