DENVER (AP) — Colorado Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet won re-election Tuesday, defeating a dogged Republican challenger in Darryl Glenn, who was vastly out funded and struggled to make his bedrock conservatism appealing to centrist voters.

Until recent weeks, Colorado’s Senate race mostly was a sleeper — a far cry from a bitter 2014 race in which Republican Cory Gardner ousted incumbent Sen. Democrat Mark Udall, whose attempts to tie Gardner to restricting women’s health rights backfired.

Bennet once was considered among the Democrats’ most vulnerable senators. But top-name Colorado Republicans declined to enter the race, and Glenn triumphed on the strength of his bedrock conservatism.

Sen. Michael Bennet claims victory. (credit: CBS)

Sen. Michael Bennet claims victory. (credit: CBS)

Bennet’s fundraising prowess provided an early advantage against Glenn, an El Paso County commissioner who has never held statewide office and wasn’t backed by the Republican National Senatorial Committee.

Glenn’s grass-roots campaign struggled to compete until recently, and he only faced Bennet twice in debate. He went after the Democrat for his votes for the Iran nuclear deal and the Affordable Care Act and his support for clean energy regulations that threaten to put the state’s coal miners out of work. He called Bennet the quintessential Washington insider.

Two limited-government political action committees backed Glenn, who was endorsed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, with more than $3 million. Bennet raised more than $14 million.

Bennet stressed his work with Gardner on an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, defended the Iran deal and insisted the health care overhaul could be fixed to make premiums affordable. He campaigned on his willingness to work with Republicans in Washington on such issues as the farm bill and immigration, whereas Glenn stated emphatically early in the campaign that he was unlikely to work across the aisle.

Glenn called for the repeal of the health care program, an end to the “war on coal” and cuts in entitlement spending. On education and the economy, he argued that states best know how to fund schools and create jobs. He opposed amnesty for immigrants in the country without legal permission, in contrast to Bennet’s work with the so-called “Gang of Eight” on an immigration reform bill.

In recent weeks, Glenn struggled to explain his support for Donald Trump after the disclosure of Trump’s lewd remarks about women.

Colorado’s changing demographics worked in Bennet’s favor.

Hispanics and voters with college degrees came out strongly for Bennet, according to preliminary results of an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks.

The number of black voters in the survey was too small to draw conclusions about their support. White voters were nearly evenly split between Glenn, who is black, and Bennet.

Nearly six in 10 women backed Bennet, while about half of male voters did. Six in 10 voters who think of themselves as moderates supported Bennet, as did nine in 10 liberals. More than eight in 10 conservatives went for Glenn.

In 2009, then-Gov. Bill Ritter appointed Bennet to the Senate to replace Ken Salazar, who had been named interior secretary by President Barack Obama. In 2010, Bennet defeated Ken Buck to win a full term. He previously worked at an investment firm owned by billionaire Phil Anschutz and as Denver Public Schools superintendent.

By JAMES ANDERSON, Associated Press

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