Congressman Jared Polis becomes country's first openly gay elected governor

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DENVER (KKTV/AP) - Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis has defeated Republican state Treasurer Walker Stapleton in the Colorado governor's race.

Polis' victory Tuesday keeps the governor's seat in Democratic hands. The 43-year-old Polis will succeed the term-limited John Hickenlooper to become Colorado's first openly gay governor.

"Tonight, we reaffirm what an amazing state that we live in," Polis said to a cheering crowd after Stapleton conceded the race. "In Colorado, we dream, we dare and we do. Whether that’s embracing big ideas or hiking our amazing mountains. We don’t back down when something is challenging. We see problems as opportunities in our state of Colorado."

Polis is a five-term congressman and technology entrepreneur who promised to fight for universal health care, renewable energy standards, and publicly-funded preschool and kindergarten. He reiterated those vows in his victory speech Tuesday night.

"We want to make sure every child, regardless of the zip code they grow up in, has a great education beginning with full-day kindergarten. Today, I talked with Republican Rep. Jim Wilson of Salida to discuss the first steps of putting in place bipartisan support for full-day kindergarten for every child in Colorado. ... We will partner with [newly-elected Lt. Gov.] Dianne Primavera and all of you to save Coloradans, individuals and small businesses money on health care, and we won’t give up until no Coloradan has to worry about choosing between their life and their home."

Polis has vowed to stand up to President Donald Trump's efforts to dismantle former President Barack Obama's health care law.

His opponent, Stapleton, is a two-term state treasurer who campaigned on defending Colorado's constitutional restrictions on taxing and spending. The 44-year-old Stapleton insisted Polis' ideas for funding K-12 education, roads and energy would bankrupt the state.

Colorado has not had a Republican governor since 2007.