If he succeeds in his 2022 bid for re-election and carries out his full term, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) would become the longest-tenured U.S. Senator in Colorado history. The Colorado GOP is looking to prevent that from happening.
A Republican challenger to Bennet would have to win over an increasingly blue state that has a particular distaste for Donald Trump. No Republican running statewide in Colorado has won more than 45% of the vote in the last two elections.
“The state has become more difficult for Republicans,” Colorado political analyst Floyd Ciruli said. “And Mr. Trump doesn’t help. I won’t argue universally, but this is one state where he is an incredible net negative.”
So far, only three people have publicly announced their candidacy for Bennet’s Senate seat, but there are rumors of higher-profile candidates who could challenge him.
“The usual dynamic is that there will be somebody representing the Trump wing and then one or more candidates representing the establishment,” Ciruli said. “So, I have no doubt there will be a lively primary. I’m just not sure the ultimate winner of that primary will be able to gain any traction.”
While the road to unseat Bennet is arduous, Ciruli said there is some hope for Republicans. National Republican groups will be funneling money into congressional races across the country, especially any Senate races that look even slightly up for grabs.
However, it’s not clear that Bennet is vulnerable. University of Virginia’s Sabato’s Crystal Ball lists Bennet’s seat as safely Democrat and a June poll from research firm Global Strategy Group had Bennet leading a Republican challenger 48-40%.
(The poll also asked who voters would choose between Bennet and U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO); Bennet came out ahead 51-38%.)
Of course, before Republicans can measure their candidate against Bennet, they have to pick one to represent their party.
“I definitely think there could be a race, I just don’t see one at the moment,” Ciruli said.
Bremer is viewed by Republican pundits as the “establishment” candidate, but also worry that his connections to Trump might hurt his chances against Bennet.
In 2011 Bremer was elected as chair of the El Paso County GOP, and in 2016, Bremer worked for the Donald Trump presidential campaign. In December 2020 Bremer was named to a congressional committee studying U.S. Olympic reform by U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO).
Last year, Bremer was at the center of an intra-party controversy when U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), then acting as the state GOP chair, demanded Bremer include a Republican state senate candidate on the district’s primary ballot, even though the candidate did not meet the required vote threshold. Both sides threatened lawsuits over the conflict.
“The action they demand I take literally requires me to commit a crime,” Bremer said in April 2020. “This is the position that my party has put me in. The state party has not only commanded me to do something that is demonstrably not legal, they’ve put me in legal jeopardy.”
Aadland is an Army veteran from Pine, Colorado, who pursued a career in the oil and gas industry. Aadland only recently registered as a Republican and was inspired to run after attending a candidate training program from America First Republicans (AFR).
Aadland shares Stockham’s belief that the 2020 election was stolen by Democrats. In June, Aadland told the Jefferson County Men’s Club why he was running to unseat Bennet.
“This country is on the brink of being taken over by a communist government and perpetuating their communist agenda. We need to open up our eyes and be very aware of that. That’s what’s happening,” Aadland said. “The 2020 election, it was rigged. Absolutely rigged.”
Speaking with 710 KNUS radio host Peter Boyles on Wednesday, Aadland was critical of government censorship and overreach, calling it a crisis in the United States.
“I took an oath as an Army officer to defend the Constitution against enemies, foreign and domestic,” Aadland said. “I didn’t take an oath to serve a particular man or party. I am serving my country. We need others to do that. We need people to stand up right now. There’s no time to waste. We need to fix the Republican Party, but we need to unite as an American people like we’ve done during other crises.”
In 2018, Yu, a Republican businessman from Loveland, ran against U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) in Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District but lost handily.
In May, Yu told the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter that he learned a lot from his 2018 campaign and is ready to bounce back against Bennet in 2022.
“The truth is, this isn’t about a Republican winning a statewide race,” Yu told Wingerter. “It’s more about a representative who truly represents the people. We need to stop making it about party affiliation because it doesn’t matter if you have an R or a D next to your name when you go to vote. The reality is, we all have the exact same issues right now. We’re coming off a pandemic and we need to stop playing politics and stop playing the fear game, because that doesn’t help anyone.”
In 2018, Yu campaigned on securing the U.S.-Mexico border, promoting fossil fuel production, and repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Colorado state Rep. Ron Hanks (R-Cañon City) announced his candidacy with a bang in early October. Hanks, an election fraud conspiracist, began his campaign with a video of him exploding a copier machine labeled “Dominion Voting Machine” with a sniper rifle.
Hanks’ first year in the state House was mired in controversy. Hanks said the 3/5 compromise was not “impugning anybody’s humanity” and made jokes about lynching. He also crossed police barriers at the Jan. 6 insurrection, attended national voting fraud conspiracy conferences, and promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Gino Campana, a former Fort Collins City Council member and real estate developer, announced his candidacy in October.
Campana was appointed as chair of the Public Buildings Reform Board, a nonpartisan board that looks at reducing the federal government’s real estate holdings, by Donald Trump in 2020. In an interview with Colorado Politics Campana refused to discuss Trump.
“I’m not concerning myself with Trump right now,” Campana told Colorado Politics. “Trump’s going to do what Trump wants to do, when he wants to do it. What I’ll put a focus on is me as being the best candidate in the state of Colorado.”
Campana has said in radio appearances that the 2020 presidential election had fraud issues, and listed election integrity as a big issue in his campaign, along with getting manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., reducing inflation, and reducing crime.
Henry, an Army veteran and founder of a Colorado Springs non-profit called Helping Hands Helping the Community, is a political newcomer in Colorado. Henry announced her campaign for U.S. Senate in March.
According to her campaign website and Facebook page, Henry is a strong supporter of 2nd Amendment rights, law enforcement, and supporting the oil and gas industry. Henry also said in a June Facebook post that she turned down a campaign donation from a pharmaceutical company.
Editor’s Note: Ganahl announced her candidacy for Governor on Sept. 13, 2021. To read more about her, click here.
Ganahl is the University of Colorado Regent At-Large and is the sole Republican in a statewide-elected position left in Colorado.
First elected to the Board of Regents in 2016, Ganahl has been raising her profile in recent months by launching a podcast and an opinion column in the Denver Gazette. Political analysts say she appears to be gearing up for a statewide campaign, either to challenge Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) or Bennet.
Axios reported that Ganahl is almost certainly going to run for Governor, but Colorado Politics reported that Republican sources have heard she is considering a campaign for U.S. Senate or state treasurer.
Ganahl has dodged questions about whether she will run for re-election to the Board of Regents in 2022.
Ganahl is also the founder of Camp Bow Wow, a national pet care franchise, and SheFactor, a lifestyle brand for women. Ciruli said that her background could make her an appealing choice for Republicans for any statewide race.
“In terms of her visibility, of holding the only statewide position for Republicans, I think Ganahl checks of a lot of boxes for a party that needs some credibility,” Ciruli said.
Navarro was a Colorado state Representative from Pueblo, Colorado, from 2012 to 2017 but resigned her position to join the Trump administration. Currently, Navarro is the district director for Boebert’s congressional office.
During her 2016 state House race, Navarro said she supported 2nd Amendment rights and disagreed with government overregulating specific sources of energy.
Axios reported that Navarro could run for U.S. Senate, but Navarro has not confirmed her candidacy. On June 15 she did Tweet a screenshot of Colorado Pols’ estimation of the chances potential challengers have to unseat Bennet, which gave Navarro a 10% chance.
“Oh @coloradopols how you underestimate me. Trust me… if I decide to run your percentages are way off, but as for now I’m honored to work for @laurenboebert,” Navarro tweeted.
Ohhhh @coloradopols how you underestimate me. Trust me…if I decide to run your percentages are way off, but as for now I’m honored to work for @laurenboebert #colopolitics #cologop #gop pic.twitter.com/l3LZVrlE8Z— Clarice Navarro (@ClariceHD47) June 15, 2021
Caplis is a personal injury lawyer and a conservative radio host for 630 KHOW in Colorado.
Caplis has a long history of touting his desire to run for public office in Colorado, and he’s been accused of floating his name as a possible candidate simply to get attention.
Caplis said he was considering running for U.S. Senate in 2008 and in 2016, to challenge Bennet, but ended up not running. Both Axios and Colorado Politics have reported Caplis is considering a 2022 Senate run.
Editor’s Note: This piece will be continually updated as more Republican candidates announce their intentions for the 2022 Senate race.