John Hickenlooper won his primary but not without suffering some blows, something the top Democrats who recruited the former Colorado governor had hoped to avoid. Hickenlooper’s errors, while largely self-inflicted, could end up helping Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican who — given Colorado’s voting history — seems particularly vulnerable. In the western part of the state, an incumbent Republican congressman was ousted by a far-right challenger.
In another closely watched race, Republicans in Oklahoma City were unable to coalesce around one candidate on Tuesday and two candidates will head to a late August runoff for the chance to take on Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn, one of the biggest surprises for Democrats in the 2018 midterms, in November.
And in Utah, a former NFL player and Fox News commentator will take on a Democrat in another key pickup opportunity for the GOP.
A Republican incumbent falls
In the biggest surprise of the night, Rep. Scott Tipton, a Trump-backed congressman representing western Colorado, lost his primary to Lauren Boebert, a far-right owner of a gun-themed restaurant who most recently fought to keep her business open despite Colorado’s coronavirus regulations.
Tipton conceded to Boebert on Tuesday night, saying in a statement that Republicans in his district “have decided who they want to run against the Democrats this November. I want to congratulate Lauren Boebert and wish her and her supporters well.”
Trump endorsed Tipton on Monday in a tweet, but minutes after the congressman conceded, the Republican president lauded Boebert.
“Congratulations on a really great win,” he wrote, roughly 24 hours after he had endorsed Boebert’s opponent.
Boebert’s win is the latest example of a candidate who sympathizes with the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory winning Republican primaries. Boebert told an interviewer in May that she was “very familiar with” the conspiracy, adding that it was “only motivating and encouraging and bringing people together, stronger, and if this is real, then it could be really great for our country.”
Democrats swiftly slammed the newly minted Republican nominee, with Cheri Bustos, chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, quickly calling for Washington Republicans to “immediately disavow Lauren Boebert and her extremist, dangerous conspiracy theories.”
Hickenlooper exits primary bruised
Hickenlooper vanquished his Democratic primary opponent, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, on Tuesday.
But it wasn’t a clean win.
Hickenlooper, the establishment’s pick to face vulnerable Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and a candidate in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, stumbled repeatedly leading into Tuesday primary election, including angering activists with a bumbled answer on Black Lives Matter and the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission finding the former governor twice violated ethics laws in 2018.
“It’s going to take all of us together to beat Cory Gardner and bring about the change this country so desperately needs,” Hickenlooper said in a taped video. “I’ve never lost an election in this state, and I don’t intend to lose this one. There’s far too much at stake.”
Hickenlooper’s struggle to get out of the primary has clearly frustrated national Democrats, especially considering how critical defeating Gardner in November is to Democratic hopes of retaking the Senate. Without a Hickenlooper win, those chances are significantly harder.
And by struggling to get out of the primary, Hickenlooper has given Republicans more material against him over the next four months.
“If watching him fall apart under pressure these last few weeks is any indication, ‘hot mess’ Hickenlooper is in for a very bumpy ride,” Joanna Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said about the former governor’s win.
Oklahoma House Republicans hopefuls headed to runoff
No Republican vying for the chance to take on Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn in November was able to avoid a runoff on Tuesday, meaning state Sen. Stephanie Bice and businesswoman Terry Neese will face off against each other on August 25.
The winner of the Republican primary will take on Horn, whose ability to narrowly win in 2018 in the Oklahoma City district President Donald Trump carried by 13 points was arguably the biggest surprise for Democrats in the midterms.
The district has been in flux, as Oklahoma City and the nearby suburbs grow younger and better educated, two factors that help Democrats. But Horn benefited from Trump not being on the ballot in 2018, and Republicans hope Trump could boost the Republican in the district.
Bice and Neese were the two frontrunners in the primary headed into Tuesday’s voting. Bice is better financed, raising more than $1 million by the end of the pre-primary reporting period on June 10. But Neese was able to partly self-fund her primary bid, loaning her campaign $450,000 while raising around $532,000.
Republicans pick nominee in possible House pick-up
Utah Democrat Ben McAdams narrowly won his congressional seat in 2018 and Republicans hope to make him a one-term member.
And on Tuesday, the party picked their nominee: Former NFL player Burgess Owens, a Fox News commentator who raised the most money of all his Republican rivals headed into the primary.
Owens, who played a decade in the NFL as safety for the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders, bested state Rep. Kim Coleman to win the nomination.
Trump carried Utah’s 4th Congressional District by 7 points in 2016. And while McAdams won in 2018, his win was narrow, leading Republicans to see the district as a top target for the party this fall.
If Owens, who is Black, is able to defeat McAdams, he would become one of only a few Black Republicans in either legislative body on Capitol Hill.
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.
CNN’s Adam Levy and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.