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By Kurtis Lee, Los Angeles Times (MCT)

Rep. Cory Gardner, a Republican, swept to victory in Colorado’s much-watched U.S. Senate race, the Associated Press projected, defeating first-term incumbent Democrat Mark Udall after a furious campaign that drew a blizzard of money from candidates, parties and deep-pocketed outside groups.

As much as any other in the country, the race featured Democrats’ argument that Republicans were engaged in a war on women with their views on contraception, abortion rights and personhood measures. Gardner attempted to blunt the assault by reversing his views on “personhood” measures — which hold that human rights begin at conception — and calling for over-the counter dispensing of birth-control pills.

But, like other Republicans across the country, he also assailed the incumbent as an ally of President Barack Obama, whose popularity has fallen despite two successive wins in Colorado in presidential years.

For several months, polls had shown the Senate race mostly tied.

Udall, who was seeking a second term, framed the contest primarily on issues surrounding women’s reproductive rights in an effort to appeal to female voters from Arapahoe and Jefferson counties in Denver’s suburbs. He pushed the issues so hard that he lost the endorsement of the Denver Post, which dubbed him “Mark Uterus.” But Tuesday’s results showed Udall’s message falling short.

Jefferson and Arapahoe counties are demonstrative of the increasingly large and somewhat unpredictable impact that unaffiliated voters have on Colorado elections. The state is divided almost evenly into thirds between Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters.

Many political observers have thought the state was transforming from a purple toss-up to more blue, especially after Obama won the state in 2008 and 2012. But strong statewide discontent with Obama gave Colorado Republicans confidence.

“This is about going forward, not backward, and that’s where my opponent wants to take us, backward,” Udall, the son of former Rep. Morris Udall of Arizona, said Tuesday in his final campaign appearance, this one at the Auraria Campus in downtown Denver.

Gardner mostly remained out of the spotlight Tuesday, holding a pair of honk-and-waves with Republicans and spending time with his wife and three children. He gave up a safe House seat in eastern Colorado to challenge Udall.

Colorado’s race for governor was also competitive, with Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper seeking to stave off a challenge from former Republican Rep. Bob Beauprez.

Contentious battles over gun control in 2013 and renewable energy gave Republicans ammunition to attack Hickenlooper and Democrats as overplaying their hand.

Hickenlooper has touted his work in lowering Colorado’s jobless rate, as well as the job his administration did helping open dozens of roads after last year’s epic flooding.

“We made a lot of tough decisions in these past few years and I’m proud of the work we’ve done,” Hickenlooper said Tuesday.

AFP Photo/Ivan Couronne

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