Presidential prospects for Gov. Bill Owens, a leading conservative possibility for the 2008 Republican nomination, were not helped by this year's election outcome in his state of Colorado.
Although President Bush carried Colorado by five percentage points, otherwise the state was a rare disaster for Republicans. Democrats took away a U.S. Senate seat, captured one House seat and came close in another, and took over both previously Republican-controlled houses of the state legislature (the only such double switch in the nation).
Owens is blamed by Republican critics for supporting a state referendum that would have permitted the use of private contractors in Colorado, which now requires all work on government projects to be done by state employees. The state employees union mobilized a huge vote, defeating the referendum 3 to 2 and bringing many Democratic voters to the polls.
The loss for the U.S. Senate in Colorado by brewery owner Pete Coors continued a poor election record by rich self-financed candidates, particularly Republicans.
No self-financed Senate candidate was elected this year. The losers included Republicans Coors, Tim Michels in Wisconsin, Doug Gallagher in Florida, E.J. Pipkin in Maryland and Thomas Ravenel in South Carolina. Democratic self-funders Erskine Bowles in North Carolina and Blair Hull in Illinois also lost Senate contests.
Three Democratic self-financers won 2000 Senate races: Mark Dayton in Minnesota, Jon Corzine in New Jersey and Maria Cantwell in Washington (though she was later reimbursed by her campaign). No self-financing Republican has been elected to the Senate since 1998, when Peter Fitzgerald won in Illinois.