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Colorado’s gubernatorial candidates in final push

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, right, shakes hands with his opponent, Republican candidate for governor Bob Beauprez, following a debate in October in Denver. Both candidates spent Sunday campaigning on the Front Range for the votes of late-deciders.

DENVER – Colorado’s gubernatorial contest remains too close to call with days before Election Day, and on Sunday both candidates made their final pitches to voters in this battleground swing state where Hispanics can play a crucial role in deciding the race.

Both Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican Bob Beauprez targeted the Latino vote on the contest’s final weekend, with Hickenlooper doing a brief Spanish-language interview urging Hispanic voters to come out in support for him. Beauprez visited a Mexican restaurant in the Denver suburb of Thornton, before visiting with campaign volunteers.

While both candidates expressed optimism, they’re now counting on their ground game to get every possible vote in a race that’s been too close for comfort for each side.

“The indications are that the Democrats are going to come out over the next couple of days,” Hickenlooper told The Associated Press. “We’ll see some significant returns. I mean, it’s always a concern ... if I wasn’t nervous, I wouldn’t be human. We are out trying to work as hard as we can every single day.”

Hickenlooper has made Colorado’s improving economy a major part of his argument to voters, citing the state’s 4.7 percent unemployment rate. It was just over 9 percent when he took office four years ago.

Beauprez has countered that the economic recovery has been spotty, with areas like Grand Junction and Colorado Springs still seeing slow growth.

The GOP holds an edge in voter turnout ahead of Tuesday, with Republican voters casting just over 100,000 more votes than Democrats. Beauprez, who lost his 2006 gubernatorial bid by 17 points, is confident that momentum is on his side. When he lost, it was a Democratic wave with an unpopular Republican president in his sixth year in office. Now, it’s Democrats who are in the defensive with an unpopular president in his sixth year.

“What a time we’ve got for Colorado to step up, make a statement, and we’re seeing this wave starting to crest across the country,” Beauprez said.

The Democrats’ optimism, however, is tempered by some anxiety over turnout so far. In addition to the close gubernatorial contest, Democrats are also trying to keep Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, who is locked in a tight race with Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner. The outcome can determine which party controls the Senate.

“I don’t have to tell you that the Senate is kind of balancing on what happens in Colorado,” former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told Democratic volunteers in Denver Sunday. “We know that this is a state that’s trending Democratic, we know that. But, you know, in these kinds of elections, off-year elections, not presidential, not as many people vote.”

The last time Republicans won the governor’s office was 2002, and Democrats have controlled both chambers of the Colorado Legislature for eight of the last 10 years.

Republicans say they’ve improved their get-out-the-vote efforts, but Democrats, who have touted theirs for years, believe they still have the edge.

“The ground game is our game,” Democratic Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told party loyalists at a Denver Mexican restaurant.

It’s just days before both parties know the verdict.

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