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Independents, Minor Parties Shape Colo. Governor's Race Going into Election Day

by Danielle Balderas, published

With Election Day just one day away, Colorado’s gubernatorial race is in a dead heat between incumbent John Hickenlooper (D) and Republican challenger Bob Beauprez. A recent poll conducted by PPD found 45 percent of likely voters support Hickenlooper while 44 percent support Beauprez. With a margin of error of 3.5 percent, this puts the race in a statistical tie.

Independent candidate Mike Dunafon is polling at 1 percent of the vote, as is Libertarian Mathew Hess. Green Party candidate Harry Hempy is polling at 2 percent. In the PPD poll, these third-party candidates hold 4 percent of the vote, making their performance a potentially decisive factor in who comes out on top.

However, a new poll just released by Quinnipiac shows Beauprez with a 5-point lead over Hickenlooper (45 to 40). Quinnipiac reports independent voters are split 38-38 between Hickenlooper and Beauprez.

According to Quinnipiac, “Just six days before Election Day, 88 percent of Colorado likely voters who name a candidate say their mind is made up, while 12 percent say they might change their mind.” This 12 percent will be crucial to deciding the hotly contested gubernatorial seat, and the third-party candidates will play a large role in determining Colorado's next governor.

Former Governor Bill Ritter Jr. (D) said in an interview with The Washington Post:

“I don’t think [Colorado] fits into a color-coded scheme...It’s a pragmatic state that is hard to couch in terms of red, purple or blue. It depends so much on the candidate and how they can resonate.”

As it stands, the polls oscillate between Harry Hempy (G) and Mathew Hess (L) as the leading third-party candidates, with Mike Dunafon consistently polling at 1 percent. In September, an NBC News/Marist poll showed third-party candidates commanding 9 percent of the vote, but just last week they released new results showing support for third-party candidates waning.

As the election nears, some voters who prefer a third-party candidate will jump ship to vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate given the close race. If Libertarian voters stay loyal to Dunafon or Hess, Beauprez's chances may dim. Similarly, Hempy's supporters may have found Hickenlooper more favorable if the race was one-on-one.

Image from left to right: John Hickenlooper (D), Harry Hempy (G), Matthew Hess (L), Bob Beauprez (R), Mike Dunafon (I)

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