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Colorado gubernatorial race one bright spot for Democrats

Incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper is the apparent winner in Colorado, defying a nationwide Republican sweep.

No bones about it: Tuesday night was an abysmal evening for the Democrats, all the way down the ticket. Republicans triumphed in a number of key gubernatorial races, including Wisconsin, Florida, Maryland, Kansas, Michigan, Illinois, and Massachusetts. But it wasn't a clean sweep, and a handful of Democratic governors lived to fight another day. One of those governors was Colorado's John Hickenlooper, the apparent victor in that state's gubernatorial race according to NBC News.

Colorado was never a sure thing for Democrats, and Hickenlooper seems to have eked out victory by the skin of his teeth. With 93% of the vote in, he leads Republican challenger Bob Beauprez by a one-point margin: Just 25,389 votes out of 1,792,303. And although the media and Hickenlooper himself have essentially declared the race over, Beauprez had not yet conceded as of Wednesday morning.

The final weeks of the race featured a commercial from the Beauprez campaign that some media outlets have compared to the infamous, racially charged Willie Horton ad from the 1988 presidential race. Beauprez's ad blames Hickenlooper for the release from prison of someone who later assassinated the executive director of Colorado prisons.

"With John Hickenlooper as governor, is your family safe?" the narrator asks.

The Beauprez campaign agreed to modify the original ad after Lisa Clements, the wife of the deceased, wrote an open letter criticizing the candidate for having "attempted to use our family's tragic loss for your personal and political gain."

But while the incident was undoubtedly embarrassing for the Beauprez campaign, Hickenlooper also had plenty to worry about. Immigration activists in Colorado warned that President Obama's decision to hold off on halting deportations could demoralize the Democratic Party's Latino base. Yet if the delay on executive action did have an effect on voter turnout, it does not appear to have made the difference in Colorado.