Voters surprised the entire country on November 8, and upsets piled up in Colorado as well. The Colorado Times Recorder interviewed two Democratic state House candidates — widely considered the deepest of underdogs — about their unexpected wins.
Stephanie Vigil is a community organizer, a renter, and an essential worker. She says she ran on the platform that all people are born with inherent worth and dignity, with the belief that there is no such thing as an undeserving child. Vigil made protecting the environment, strengthening public schools, and taking on housing justice the central tenants of her campaign.
Vigil won House District 16 by two percentage points over her GOP opponent, in the notoriously conservative El Paso County.
Vigil told Colorado Times Recorder she wasn’t surprised by her victory.
“So, so grateful and so excited and so proud of my city and my team and everybody who had a hand in it.,” she said. “Not surprised at all, I expected to win the whole time, but I understand that it was surprising to a lot of people, I think, around the state.”
Reflecting on the lessons she learned about her life and politics over the course of her campaign, Vigil pointed to how this experience shaped her personally.
“I have had to learn to be so persistent — almost to the point that you have to force somebody to tell you how to ask for a lot more than you think you’re supposed to ask for. Whether that’s getting people to turn out to volunteer or to donate or to connect with people because it’s a really big lift to flip a district.”
She continued, “And it’s a lot of work for the candidate, but, you know, you need help from people, you need a whole team. And I’m certainly more of a scrappy working-class person. I have a tendency to think I should do everything myself. And I had to unlearn some of that and to embrace that, you know, delegated things mentality. So I’ve definitely grown a lot as far as being able to tap into other people’s resources and believe that I’m doing the right thing because it’s for a good cause.”
Asked what her win suggested about her district, Vigil lit up.
“I think it’s just on the whole not as deeply conservative and Republican as we have told ourselves for so many years,” she says. “I think it’s just such an underdog mentality, and it’s true in certain parts of the county and the city, for sure. But it’s not such a deeply conservative stronghold that it’s pointless for anybody to run anywhere. And we’ve been going through this shift and this step forward for quite a while. I think it’s actually overdue for us to pick up a third Democratic seat in El Paso County. Obviously, I thought it was important. I kind of made it my baby in the last two years to get this done.”
She added, “I think we’re just honestly a lot more forward-thinking and diverse and open to new things than we give ourselves credit for. And I hope that everyone in the district and the people in the areas around us in the city start to look up and take notice of this, because frequently … people just think like, ‘well, yeah, I want to see X and Y change, right? I want to see more affordable housing. Obviously … but we live in a conservative town and nobody else here wants to do that.’ Like, interesting, because I just talked to the neighbors and they all me what you said. So maybe we’re just not coming right out and talking about the difficult issues with each other and we should.”
Bob Marshall was born and raised in Colorado. He left the state to attend Georgetown University before serving in the Marine Corps for six years on active duty. Marshall attended Cornell Law School in the years to follow, serving as the senior defense counsel and the station judge advocate at the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan, before returning to Colorado in 2004 to Highlands Ranch, where he lives today. A proud Republican for 30 years, Marshall left the GOP in 2017 after being disillusioned by Donald Trump’s pattern of bullying and verbal abuse. Marshall is projected to win, although the results have not officially confirmed that he will lead House District 43.
Asked by Colorado Times Recorder how he felt to have won this election, in a county known for being a Republican stronghold, Marshall also said he wasn’t surprised.
“I’m not really surprised, but it’s still not official.” He added, “Personally, I wasn’t that shocked. So many other people were.”
Marshall said that voters were surprising him long before they signed their ballots.
“You know, people who you think would support you don’t and people who you didn’t expect to support you come out of the woodwork and do so,” he said. “It’s kind of an interesting dynamic that people you come to rely on the most, who are doing the most, weren’t really people you had expected — and a lot of people you expected to help were nowhere to be found.”
When asked what his win suggests about his district, Marshall echoed much of the sentiment that led him to break from the Republican party.
“There’s a lot of unaffiliated [voters] who don’t like a lot of party politics and extremism,” he said. “If I win, there’s no way I won with just Democratic votes. We’re outnumbered. You know it’s true. Democrats in the district number only 22%. And so there’s no way I got 100% of the unaffiliated [votes] … there were quite a few Republicans who voted for me.”
Marshall also added: “When it comes to district turnout, we crushed that. We had, for a midterm election, a pretty decent turnout.”
You can track Marshall’s election here.