DENVER - Republicans in a pair of suburban Denver districts nominated conservative, pro-gun rights candidates Tuesday to represent them in races that could give the GOP a majority in the state Senate for the first time in a decade.
In Senate District 22, which covers Lakewood, Tony Sanchez defeated Mario Nicolais, a party attorney who helped draw maps during state redistricting in 2011.
In Senate District 19, which includes Arvada, Laura Woods defeated Lang Sias, a veteran of both Gulf Wars. Woods was involved in two recall petition efforts against former District 19 Sen. Evie Hudak.
Both districts are considered toss-ups, and political analysts saw the defeated Nicolais and Sias as more established candidates who could have attracted independent voters in November. Nicolais advocated passage of civil unions for gay couples last year, and Sias narrowly lost to Hudak in 2012.
Hudak was targeted for recall because she voted with fellow Democrats to pass gun-control laws last year. She resigned before signatures were turned in during the second recall effort.
Democrats selected Rachel Zenzinger to take her seat and keep a one-vote majority in the chamber.
Woods will now challenge Zenzinger.
Sanchez faces Democratic Sen. Andy Kerr. Neither Kerr nor Zenzinger had primary competition Tuesday.
In other legislative primaries Tuesday, the former executive director of the state Democratic Party, Alec Garnett, cruised to an easy win. He's running in a heavily Democratic central Denver House district currently held by Speaker Mark Ferrandino.
There were also eight Republican primaries in House districts. However, the GOP's chances of reclaiming control of the House are far slimmer than in the Senate.