Democratic challenger Casey Tighe upset incumbent Republican John Odom by 738 votes in their race for a seat on the county commission, a contest so close the results weren’t finalized until two weeks after Election Day.
Tighe becomes only the second Democrat in more than a decade to join the three-member commission, in a stunning win for a political newcomer in a county that has traditionally leaned Republican.
“I'm happy with the outcome,” Tighe said. “I guess I can say I'm pleased with the way it turned out.”
The 313,622 votes cast in race were the most ever in a Jefferson County election, as 96 percent of registered voters cast ballots. All county residents vote for commission seats, though each commissioner represents a geographic district.
In final returns with provisional and overseas ballots recorded, Tighe received 136,131 votes, while Odom received 135,423. Tighe’s margin of victory was about 100 votes above the threshold that would have triggered an automatic recount.
On Nov. 20, Tighe had moved out to a 215-vote lead over Odom as county officials counted the remaining provisional ballots, reversing Odom’s election-night lead of 133 votes. A total of about 7,600 provisional ballots had been turned in.
Jeffco Deputy of Elections Josh Liss reported the final result in the District 2 commission race late in the afternoon the next day.
The three-member Board of Commissioners will now have its first Democrat since Kathy Hartman was elected in 2006. GOP incumbent Faye Griffin ran unopposed this year, and Republican Don Rosier, who unseated Hartman in 2010, was not up for election.
During the nail-biting two-week wait for the result, Tighe said he tried not to worry about the final tally.
“I had confidence they would count the ballots,” Tighe said. “I didn't have any control at that point; I was just waiting to see one way or the other.
“I was a little bit nervous, but I knew we had run a good campaign.”
Odom did not return repeated calls for comment after the final result was announced.
Although inexperienced politically, Tighe brought a legal background and a career as CDOT auditor to the race. Odom, a Republican who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by former commissioner Kevin McCasky, had the benefit of incumbency and a background as owner of a small business.
Tighe had promised to keep a closer eye on county spending and communicate more with constituents. Odom had pledged to continue his efforts to keep the county’s fiscal house in order and stressed his belief in private property, small government and entrepreneurism.
The rivals clashed over the wisdom of maintaining a county-level audit committee, which Tighe chaired for five years until the county commissioners disbanded it in 2011.
Now, Tighe is eager to get to work.
“I'm looking forward to getting to know the employees in the county and my fellow commissioners and hopefully get some good work done,” he said.
Tighe hopes to be able to resurrect the audit committee, saying it would bring more accountability to county government.
“One of the reasons I got into the race was I was on the audit committee as a volunteer,” he said. “I'm looking forward to bringing the audit committee back.”
Contact Ramsey Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. Follow him at Twitter.com/rscott42.