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Hickenlooper Is Apparent Winner in Colorado, NBC News Projects

In a rare bright spot for Democrats in this election cycle, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is the apparent winner against Republican Bob Beauprez in the Colorado gubernatorial race, NBC News projects.

Both candidates spent the final days of the razor tight race courting the state’s influential Hispanic voters, which could be the deciding factor in whether Hickenlooper gets a second term.

He has touted the state’s 4.7 percent unemployment rate, a significant drop from when he took office four years ago. But for Hickenlooper, whose popularity at one time spurred speculation about a future presidential run, the improving economy proved to be a secondary issue in the campaign.

He faced backlash for a strict gun law passed by the state legislature and signed a civil unions bill in 2013, though voters had banned same-sex marriage in a 2006 ballot initiative.

Beauprez focused the end of his campaign on the issue of crime and safety, hitting Hickenlooper for staying the execution of a convicted mass murderer and tying him to the killing of the governor’s prison chief, who was shot dead at his home by a former inmate. The attacks made Hickenlooper’s evolving stance on the death penalty play an unexpectedly large role in the campaign’s closing days.

2014-11-04~CO~G

-- Andrew Rafferty