DENVER – Republican incumbent Scott Tipton of Cortez was leading Tuesday night in the 3rd Congressional District, over a spirited challenge by Democrat Gail Schwartz.
Tipton was leading 55 percent to 40 percent, as of 10 p.m.
Schwartz declined to concede the race as of 10 p.m., noting that several key counties, including Pueblo, still needed to be counted.
What was supposed to be a sleepy race in the sprawling district turned into a battle, with Democrats and their allies targeting the race with a flood of mailers and advertising.
While the efforts breathed life into Schwartz’s campaign – at a time when Republicans were hoping for a lackluster race – it was still an uphill battle in the Republican-leaning district.
The Tipton campaign said Tuesday night it was hitting its goals, and that it felt “very good” about its position in winning the race.
Assuming Tipton holds on, he would be headed into his fourth term.
Schwartz, a former state senator from Crested Butte, announced her candidacy in April, meaning she had an uphill battle. But she posted impressive fundraising numbers, outpacing Tipton, despite her late entry into the race.
Schwartz took in about $1.5 million through Oct. 19, with $319,119 coming from political action committees.
Tipton – who has been fundraising since January 2015 – received about $1.6 million in contributions, with $715,405 coming from political action committees.
The House Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC, contributed about $2.2 million to advertising in support of Schwartz, and the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental organization, contributed about $127,000 to her advertising.
On the other side, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC, invested about $1.6 million to defend Tipton.
Final financial disclosures are expected in the coming weeks.
With an onslaught of help from environmental groups, Schwartz focused heavily on Tipton’s record, especially as it comes to public lands. She alleged throughout the campaign that he worked to sell public lands to private interests, which Tipton vehemently denied.
Schwartz also painted Tipton as someone adding to gridlock in Washington.
Tipton’s camp hit Schwartz for her support of the Affordable Care Act, which is blamed for insurance rate increases in rural Colorado.
They also pointed out that Schwartz supported state legislation that took aim at the coal industry.
A spokesman for Schwartz said she would not comment on the race until the morning.