Govs. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut and John Hickenlooper of Colorado, two Democrats who signed tough gun control measures in the wake of mass shootings in their states, both dispatched strong Republican challengers Wednesday, making for two silver linings in an election that saw no shortage of devastating blows for Democrats.
With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Hickenlooper leads Republican candidate Bob Beauprez 48.4 to 47 percent; the Associated Press projected late Wednesday morning that the governor would secure a second term. Beauprez threatened to topple Hickenlooper amid a conservative backlash to the governor's liberal stances on capital punishment, same-sex unions and gun control.
Months after the 2012 massacre of 12 people at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, Hickenlooper signed into law strict legislation expanding background checks and limiting ammunition clips. Coming a few months after Colorado voters approved the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, Hickenlooper's gun law seemed to signal a shift to the left in the battleground state. But later in 2013, Republicans successfully recalled two Democratic state senators who voted for the gun control measure, while a third resigned her seat to avoid a recall campaign. Throughout the 2014 cycle, polls indicated that Hickenlooper faced a formidable challenge from Beauprez, a former GOP congressman who lost his 2006 bid for governor by double digits. As he stared political defeat in the face, Hickenlooper stood by his gun control law, but told voters he wished he'd handled its passage better.
Surveys showed a statistically tied race heading into Election Day, and Hickenlooper's narrow victory underscores that Colorado remains a very purple state -- as does the victory last night of Republican congressman Cory Gardner, who toppled Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in one of the nation's most closely watched races.
Connecticut's Malloy was also in danger of falling to his Republican challenger this year. Facing off against businessman and former ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley, whom Malloy barely defeated in 2010, the governor trailed in some surveys, but ultimately prevailed by 51 to 48 percent; Foley conceded to Malloy in a statement Wednesday.
Malloy's victory comes a year and a half after he signed a sweeping law banning many high-capacity magazines and expanding background checks for gun purchases. Malloy signed the measure a little more than three months after 20 children and six staff members were slain by shooter Adam Lanza at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School. As Beauprez did with Hickenlooper's law in Colorado, Foley sharply criticized Malloy's gun safety measure during the campaign, castigating the law as political "grandstanding."
Another governor who signed stringent gun control legislation in 2013, New York's Andrew Cuomo, also won reelection Tuesday. Unlike Hickenlooper and Malloy, however, Cuomo was never in any serious danger of losing his job.