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Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser wins reelection over Republican John Kellner

Republican John Kellner, left, challenged Democratic incumbent Phil Weiser to be Colorado’s Attorney General in the state’s 2022 elections. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News, file)

Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser won a second term on Tuesday by defeating Republican John Kellner, the top prosecutor in the 18th Judicial District.

Kellner conceded at about 9 p.m. when Weiser was leading with 55% of the vote to Kellner’s 43%.

In the final but unofficial count Wednesday morning, La Plata County reelected Weiser 58.87% to 38.75%. In Montezuma County, Kellner won 58.31% to 39.60%.

Republicans hoped Kellner would be able to beat Weiser by sticking to a message focused on rising crime in Colorado, even though the attorney general has limited jurisdiction over criminal matters. Weiser’s victory continues his trajectory as a rising Democratic star in Colorado.

The race between Kellner and Weiser was sometimes contentious, especially when the two candidates tangled on abortion access and fentanyl overdose deaths.

Kellner often attacked Weiser over criminal enforcement matters. Weiser criticized Kellner’s endorsement by the National Rifle Association and his support of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 precedent guaranteeing a minimal level of abortion access across the country.

Weiser spent nearly $4.3 million in his reelection bid, raising nearly $4.7 million for the contest through Oct. 26. Kellner struggled to raise money after entering the contest in late January, raising only about $350,000 through late October.

Much of Weiser’s spending went toward TV advertising. Democratic outside groups spent nearly $3 million on the contest in support of Weiser, compared with $1.7 million spent by Republican outside groups.

Democratic groups painted Kellner as someone who would work against abortion rights, though in debates he vowed to uphold a new state law guaranteeing those rights.

Republican groups criticized Weiser for his role as chairman of the Attorney General Alliance, which includes 48 state attorneys general. The group held its 2021 meeting in Maui and is sponsored by several corporations being sued by Weiser and other attorneys general. A campaign finance complaint filed against Weiser in connection with that meeting, however, was dismissed.

This is a developing story that will be updated.